Sunday, July 31, 2005

State Crit Report

It is about time. Finally a decent race on what is probably the best crit of the season. Those Velo Bellas really know how to sponsor a race. Last year was miserable racing in pouring rain, and a teammate broke his collarbone in a nasty crash. This year the weather was perfect.

For a change, I actually rode to the race. Normally I baby my racing tires, but I really wanted a good workout, and I figured there was just as much risk of flatting during the race as riding to it. The race was held at the U of M campus, about ten miles from home. After a long wait to register, I pre-rode the course for a half hour. At this point, I had no regrets about riding to the race. Had I not, I would have been poorly warmed up. The course was in rather rough shape, with every manhole cover and bump clearly marked in fluorescent orange paint. This made me a bit nervous that it would cause riders to be a bit squirrelly in avoiding the "obstacles."

I had a good place to start, in the front row. As the race began, the first lap was a reasonable pace as everyone settled in, but then the pace quickly escalated. By the third lap, it was positively painful. Miraculously I hung on after a few guys were shelled, and the pace calmed down. This particular course had a nasty hairpin turn in it. I think four guys went down during this race. Somehow, the pack was able to avoid a mass pile-up. My goals for this race were not to crash, not to cause a crash, and to finish with the pack. I knew on a flat course, I had no hope of placing. I should also mention that this race was 40 minutes. Most Tuesday night crits are a half hour. Anyway, I met my goals- which was all I could ask for.

When I analyzed the heart rate data, I noticed something a bit bizarre: my average heart rate was 179 bpm while my max was only 186. Usually I push it into the 190s for the max. I also was amazed that I held a 179 average over 40 minutes. With the average and max so close, it also shows I really wasn't recovering very well. I'm not sure what this means, so I'll have to do a bit of research.

Anyway, I consider the day a success. Two more races and the season is done.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

State Criterium- Tomorrow

Tomorrow looks like a ridiculously hot day for the crit at the U of M. Fortunately for us geezers on the wrong side of 30, we race first. Last year, that meant we raced in the driving rain, while everyone else had sunny weather. This year should bring good weather.

My expectations are rather low for this race. This is usually one of the most crash prone races of the season. The last two years brought riders down very near me. With the crazy hairpin turn they usually have, someone invariably ends up in the flowerbeds.

I rode maybe twenty miles last night, and I'm staying off my bike today. Even at the leisurely pace we rode the 80-some miles on Wednesday, my legs still don't have the snap that I like the day before a race. My heart rate hasn't been above 150 since Tuesday evening. I felt sluggish on Thursday and Friday, and today, while stuck indoors at work all day, I feel like a houseplant. After tomorrow, there are only two more races at Rosemount, and then the season is finished. I am actually looking forward to the end, so I can resume commuting and riding indiscriminately. I don't like this business of "pacing myself" so I have something left on race day- especially considering how little I actually do have left.

This year has been much better than last... and there is always my mantra, "there is always next year."

With Few Exceptions...

...the more enthusiastic about something, the more zealously evangelical, the more foaming-at-the-mouth religious, the less interested my wife usually is. The latest casualty to this phenomenon is the set of bullhorns I insisted on installing on her commuter/beater bike. Actually, it is less a matter of taste and more a matter of fit for her. Today her new Modolos arrived- as sweet of a set of ergonomic bars as there ever were. Trouble is, it is no quick feat to swap out bars- especially with an old-school Cinelli stem (that is not open face). Double especially since I'd routed the cables internally with the horns. Triple so in that I cannot reuse the bar tape. Quadruple in that the housings needed to be cut down. Tip: rather than donating a kidney to purchase a Park Tool cable cutter, the Dremel-wannabe works just fine. I think I'll wait to make sure everything is positioned well before I tape them up. I'm no longer swimming in extra rolls.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

RAGBRAI Day Pass- Algona to Northwood

Several months ago, my parents told us that the ride was stopping overnight in their town of 2000 people. There would be an estimated 10,000 riders that would turn the small town into something of a tent city. The town had been on the route before, but never as an overnight stop. This was history in the making. We simply had to attend.

I've never ridden RAGBRAI before, but having lived in Iowa, I was familiar with the phenomenon, albeit as an outsider. I had all sorts of preconceived ideas about what it would be like. I was even somewhat ambivalent about the idea. We knew we didn't have the time for the entire week-long ride, so we opted for a day pass. I realize many people ride "unofficially," but since my parents were volunteers, and since we could, we applied for a day pass. The process was so complicated that I understood why some people poached the ride. Additionally, the week passes were full- so apparently they didn't want or need any additional money.

My wife and I drove down to stay with my parents, who live in Northwood, after the Rosemount crit. I had considered taking a fixed gear for RAGBRAI, but it was enough effort squeezing my racing bike and my wife's road bike into the back of the Toyota. I took along my regular wheels as well, since I didn't want to risk cutting up my racing tires. We unpacked and prepared for tomorrow's 6am departure for Algona.

We somehow left on time, despite the early hour, and drove to Algona. I was shocked to see acres and acres of huge windmills on a series of "wind farms." I had been almost 14 years since I'd really been anywhere in Iowa beyond the three mile corridor off I35 to my parents' house. They practically live on the border. As approached Algona, there appeared to be a long caravan of RVs, buses, and support vehicles headed the opposite direction to set up camps for the impending onslaught or riders later in the day. This also raised a bit of anxiety that we would be quite late to leave.

We actually were ready to ride the 82 mile leg shortly before 8am. The weather was quite cool- almost cold- and we had nothing but our summer gear. We easily found the route out of Algona, and started toward Titonka, the first stop. There were all kinds of bikes and cyclists- as far as the eye could see, stretched out across the ribbon of county blacktops and back roads. Many rode two or three abreast, rendering passing a lane-changing proposition. It felt like riding in a rush hour traffic snarl of bikes. Comfortable speeds seemed to range in the 16-18 mph range- without appearing crazed or frenetic. This did not appear to be a good place to try a rotating paceline to maintain a 20+ mph average with a group or racing buddies. In fact, even at its slower speeds, it felt more dangerous than the previous night's race.

We had a fun ride, soaking in the sights and ambience of the ride. As we crossed I35, I was a bit sad that our ride was so close to being finished. When we rolled into Northwood, I could barely recognize the town. Streets had been blocked off downtown for two stages and a huge "beer garden." The high school grounds, the fairgrounds, and the city park were converted into tent cities. Tents and RVs were parked on many yards. Porta-potties were everywhere. This was probably the most people that had ever been in town in its history. Food and beer were plentiful- and dirt cheap.

In the evening, the Governor's wife (apparently the governor couldn't make it) presented Bob Breedlove's family with a plaque and a proclamation honoring today as Bob Breedlove day, in recognition of his death a few months ago. It was very emotional for his family. I thought it was a bit creepy that all sorts of people were wearing orange T-shirts in his honor that read, "It's another day in paradise." Apparently, that was his favorite quote.

A few general observations: the average age of a RAGBRAI rider was much older than I'd imagined. I'd guess it was closer to 45, if not older. Also, there were riders from all over the country- Texas, California, Florida, Ohio, everywhere. Oddly, there seemed to be a bizarre crossover with stereotypic Sturgis, Harley-riding bike culture. While still clad in plenty of lycra, these weren't your effete, stuck-up elitist, road bikers. I also saw plenty of old road bikes, tandems, and what you would call a tandem for three, recumbents, recumbent tandems, mountain bikes, cruisers, and the most hardcore of all, in my opinion: the tourers that carried all their own gear without benefit of a support truck (or bus, or RV).

In all, it was a great time- something that should be experienced for at least a day, by anyone interested in crazy organized ride culture.

Titonka- The first town on the route
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Woden- Another tiny village

Lake Mills

Me- (I ran into four other GP guys- that I didn't even know)

More Lake Mills

Northwood- A happening place for a night

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Rosemount- Week Three

I had another good night at Rosemount. For whatever reasons, I struggled with this race series last year. I am beginning to believe it was all psychological, as the routes really haven't changed. This week, I wasted a lot of energy in the wind- and it was windy- chasing down a few little breaks, but I was able to recover without blowing up. Considering how little training I have been doing, I consider my finishes to be a great success.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Commute Map

I found a cool site that allows for plotting and saving routes using Google maps. Here is my "normal" commute route. I'd give a tip of the hat to the site, but apparently they are ironing out the bugs and it isn't fully functional, yet. Of course, today we car pooled. We are heading down to RAGBRAI after Rosemount.

Have Bolt Cutter, Will Travel

As we were walking down Lyndale to patronize Herkimer on Saturday night, a man who appeared a bit rough around the edges was riding his bike toward us on the sidewalk, carrying a bolt cutter with a three-foot handle and a "broken" bike lock. This thing looked like it was capable of cutting through anything. A carload of guys was parked nearby. He seemed to know them and he offered to sell them the cutter- actually said they would cut through anything. Granted the bike he was riding wasn't the greatest, but I was very curious what was going on. Frankly, the cutter was probably worth more than the bike. If he stole the bike, why was he carrying the cut cable lock- much less the cutter? Perhaps he merely lost his key? The appearance of impropriety was overwhelming, and if he had lost his key, this guy had absolutely no shame.

Anyway, it was an oddly disturbing sight. Suddenly none of the bikes with cable locks appeared safe.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Wet Saturday

Last night I overhauled the front brake on my rain bike. The middle portion was flopping around, and it wouldn't disengage- so it would rub on the wheel after each time it was used. The Park Tool website walked me through it- again. Their site is truly an internet treasure.

I considered watching a bit of the TdF at a local theater, but it was a time trial- not exactly the most exciting thing to watch. Rather, my wife and I planned an early ride. We finally started at nine, since I'm always fiddling with something last minute. We rode around the lakes and picked up the Greenway, headed east to the trail by the LRT, followed the LRT to the river, headed toward downtown and pickup up the commuter line. The sky was very cloudy, and we debated whether to toss in the Hopkins loop. She said it looked like one of those days when it would be cloudy all day, but never rain. We went for it.

We stopped by a ball field to take a brief break. It looked like rain was imminent. My wife believed we were past the point of no return, that we were better off continuing the loop- rather than turning back. We finally reached the Greenway, or whatever that leg of the trail is called by the Supervalue warehouse, and headed east. As we rode, it became darker and darker, especially in the north. As we approached Calhoun, it was dark as night. Streetlights came on. We could smell rain, and then we felt the drops. We cut through the lot to follow Calhoun, and the sky opened, releasing pouring rain. We took off to the south side of the lake, and then cut around to pick up Xerxes. We were completely soaked, could barely see a thing, and were essentially running without brakes (no big deal for me riding fixed, but my wife had her road bike).

We finally made it home and watched a bit of the weather on TV after we showered. You'd have thought it was the storm of the century, judging by the coverage. It was just a summer thunderstorm. Later I went down to clean the bikes. It was a quick task, since the rain had largely cleaned both of them.

I think it was the most rain I'd ever ridden in. It was actually rather fun. Then again, we were only riding home. My shoes will probably stay wet for a week!

Friday, July 22, 2005

Mixing It Up

On the commute home, I decided to explore yet another alternative route. I took Randolf from Sheppard Road. I quickly learned it went uphill after 35E. I turned north on Lexington to catch Summit and took Mississippi Blvd to the Marshall Bridge. I considered following the river all the way through downtown to pick up the commuter trail near the homeless shelters, but I'd had enough hills for one day. Marshall turns into Lake, and I swear motorists have never seen a bike before on Lake Street. I caught Minnehaha to swing over the the Greenway at Hiawatha. I had planned to take Bryant home, but they just repaved it, and it was a pea gravel pit- so I followed the lakes home. At this point my cell phoned started ringing like crazy and I had a bunch of work issues to sort out. It was too late on a Friday for this sort of drama. Unbelievably, this route through civilization probably only took ten more minutes than the boondocks route I usually take. My Polar told me there was an additional hundred feet of elevation gain, which is odd, since it seemed like much more.


I woke up before the alarm this morning- 5:15. I was in an inexplicably sour mood, and my day had not even begun. I checked the weather online. Last night the forecast was for scattered showers this morning. As I refreshed the web page, the forecast for rain was magically transformed into a "partly cloudy" forecast. My excuse to drive was suddenly shattered, and I reluctantly trudged into action. Compounding my ennui was the fact that it is noticeably darker in the morning.

Anyway, I saddled up and took off. The roads were very quiet- almost deserted. I was feeling like my commute was very desolate- certainly not like taking the freeway during peak rush hour traffic. As I silently approached the Ford factory, I noticed a doe and two young deer hanging out on the factory lawn. While this was across the street from the Mississippi River, it was an odd juxtaposition, considering what a sprawling industrial antithesis to nature lay beyond the factory fence. Seeing them completely changed my mood.

The rest of the commute seemed to change with my mood. Two older guys who looked like white-haired mafia dons were walking along the path, and both waved at me. I saw more bikes out than I've ever seen during a morning commute, and most smiled and waved at me. The same guy that I always see drinking a Pepsi and reading the paper on a picnic table by the river was positioned as usual. Finally, my one-eared rabbit friend was in his usual spot by Highway 61. I even caught all greens to effortlessly cross I94. This should be a great day.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


Yesterday I had a nice post-work ride on my geared bike. I rode downtown, followed the river to Crosby Farms, and back home along the lakes- almost 40 miles. I tried out my rarely used 11-21 cog, and was quickly reminded why this sits in my parts cabinet. The gearing is way too steep. At the time of purchase, I wanted a 16 tooth in the cassette- but at what cost? My lowest gear becomes 39X21 rather than 39X25 on my climbing wheels, or 39X23 on my crit wheels. Of course I've never actually used the lowest gear in a crit, but a 25 is nice on something like Ramsey hill after a long ride. The other issue is that the other two cassettes are Dura Ace, while the 11-21 is an SRAM. I didn't figure I'd need to save any weight with gearing that steep, but it isn't as quiet as the DA.

When I caught the road around Lake Calhoun, I caught the draft of some couple in a Toyota. I know it probably isn't the smartest thing in the world to draft cars, but it was nice picking up a free ride at 25-30 mph against the wind. When we stopped at the light between Calhoun and Harriet, he rolled down the window and asked me if 25mph was OK. He obviously recognized the effects of drafting. I said it was fine- and coincidentally, it was the speed limit. I followed him to my turn-off and he waved good-bye. It is rare to experience such a symbiotic relationship with motorists.

I don't normally condone drafting cars, since they can stop more quickly than a bike, but this guy apparently recognized what was going on.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Rosemount Crit- Week 2

Today started out a bit strangely. For all the chest-beating bravado at the fixed gear forum about "riding drunk," I found out that a guy I work with broke his neck last night when he crashed his bike. To be fair, later information revealed the accident involved no other vehicles, and he had no spinal cord injuries. When a co-worker phoned him in the hospital, he actually answered the phone. It was an ugly start to my day.

I had packed my bike. I hadn't felt great yesterday, and actually painted the door trim on the garage rather than bike. My plan was to see how I felt after work. I actually managed to put the thoughts of the accident out of my head, and I was feeling decent enough to race. I headed down to Rosemount with low expectations. My only hope was that they staked out an "easy" course with no crazy corners in it.

It was in the 80s and windy when I arrived. They set up a very fast course with a long straight to the finish- with the wind. We had a field close to 30. The race started with the usual "I don't want to pull already" first lap. Everybody settled in, and the pace took off. All attacks were quickly shut down, unlike last week. I stayed out of the wind, and explored different positioning. My legs were good, and I wasn't feeling like my eyes were bleeding during any accelerations. I love racing when I feel like I still have some headroom- that I'm not racing at the edge of my abilities. Gradually a few guys were shaken off the back, especially during the prime laps. We had the usual slow final lap until all hell broke lose, and everyone fought for positioning through the final turns into the straightaway finish. I was blocked, and the sprint was already on. Another finish with the pack, but the way this season has been, I can't complain.

I hung around to watch the next races, the open 35+ and the 3,4,5. I timed their laps, which were slower than ours. Theirs appeared to be a more tactical race, and I almost regretted not doing two races. A teammate that raced with me said he began the second race. He said it was slower, but he only lasted three laps. I didn't ask why. Maybe next week I'll subject myself to the abuse.

Monday, July 18, 2005

Retro Rider

I took an early Sunday recovery ride- not that I'm recovering from anything substantial, but it was already hot, and I wanted to keep some legs for Rosemount Tuesday. I took the Prologue out with the 16 tooth cog. This pretty much limited me to a high cadence and low speed- virtually eliminating any possibility of me becoming a hammerhead. I was uninspired, so I took the Greenway to the trail along the LRT. I encountered a misplaced pair of road bikers who had no idea what routes went where, so I lead them on a little loop along the river, then back to the entrance of the Cedar Lake Trail in downtown.

Riding a bit further, I encountered an older man, probably in his 70s, in great shape, on a very vintage touring bike. He commented on my bike and we struck up a conversation where he recounted bicycling all over europe with his sons last year. He was very interesting, and it was refreshing to encounter another end of the biking spectrum. Ponce De Leon had it completely wrong: cycling brings us to the Fountain of Youth.

Friday, July 15, 2005


This year, my parents are actually involved in RAGBRAI. It stops, as in camps out, in my hometown. This is a first. Other years it has passed through, but this year it stops overnight. Since the town is three miles from the Minnesota border and it rarely camps out in a town this small, my guess is it will never occur again. This, of course, means my wife and I must ride.

I have a real ambivalence about RAGBRAI. I've always believed it was more of a party on wheels than about biking, but I've already shed much of my purist roots, and am willing to approach this with an open mind. Something about sharing the road with 10,000 other riders makes me somewhat apprehensive. I should probably mention that we are only riding one day. I've taken far too much time off to take an entire week. I'm also too misanthropic to enjoy spending a week in such close quarters with thousands of other riders. I had the misfortune of racing in the Firehouse 50 a few years ago- a mass start race with about a thousand racers. I've also ridden the Lakeville Ironman a few times, which draws maybe 3000 riders. At times, it was worse than riding in heavy traffic. I can't imagine the scale as it approaches 10,000 people.

Last time RAGBRAI passed through town, one of the big wigs from the Register sampled my mother's pecan pie, and wrote an article insisting it was the best pie of the entire ride. People from all over the country wrote to ask for her secret recipe. She was inexplicably left out as an official pie baker this year- probably due to small-town politics. Also, the town has only about 2000 residents. RAGBRAI apparently requires about 2500 volunteers- so everyone is involved. Already they have enlisted help from law enforcement from all over the area. Somehow, "Barney" and his lone sidekick won't be able to provide campground security for thousands of riders.

I'm seriously contemplating riding the 85 miles fixed. I don't even want to worry about my Look. Our day of riding is the day after a local crit, and a few days before the State Championship Criterium. I'll want to take it a bit easy anyway.

Thursday, July 14, 2005

All Day Training

It is a beautiful day today... perfect for a commute- if I didn't have an all-day training that I really don't want to attend. The training is out of the office. The relevence of this training to my job is minimal. Everyone I supervise is out of town for a work retreat. I guess I can't delegate my attendance to someone else.

Here's to hoping this thing ends early this afternoon!

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Time Trial Commute

I popped a 15t cog on the rear the other day- what a difference it made on this inaugaral ride. The 16 is too easy, the 14 too tall on hills, but the 15 is just right. It was sunny and windless and I was eager to ride to work- so eager that a block away I needed to return for my back pack. I thought I was traveling a bit light. I'd have no flat kit, no keys for work, no cell phone, no repair tools.

Normally my commute takes roughly an hour and fifteen minutes. I ride like a diesel engine- smooth and steady- heart rate in the 110-120s. My goal today was to make the 20 mile trip in under an hour. I've come within a handful of minutes in the past, but have never been successful. I'm sure I could do it with relative ease on my geared bike. Riding fixed only adds to the challenge.

The other challenge is stoplights. Part of my game involves following the lights. Unfortunately, I hit a few long red lights on Minnehaha Parkway. I figured I could make it up later. I made great time and was at Warner Road at 50 minutes with nothing between me and work but a long light at a busy intersection, two huge hills, and the mess of crossing I94. At the light at Highway 61, I spied I guy on a Litespeed. He served as a nice rabbit as I flew up the hill. I checked my watch, and it wasn't looking good. I was lucky to catch all greens on the series of lights to cross 94 and rolled into work at 1:04. I'm guessing I spent four minutes stopped- that if I had a computer I'd show an average speed very close to 20 mph.

One of these days I'll make my time.

Rosemount Crit- Week One

OK, that's more like it. It was hotter than hell and neither shade nor breeze to cool things down. Tonight I raced the Master's 4/5. I was a bit tired from the past two days, but figured everyone else would be beaten up from Sunday. I didn't win or place, but I finished with the pack. I took an early pull (bad idea) and caught some wind here and there, but I might as well work to make things interesting. The course was rather fast- there were no crazy turns set up this week. Rosemount is on a closed driving course where people learn how to drive trucks and where police practice high speed chases. Each week, they use pylons to set up slightly different courses. This was my kind of course.

I didn't have the legs to do a second race- so I watched as two teammates were taken out by a racer taking a bad line out of a corner in the 35+ race. Crashing sucks.

When I returned home and downloaded the heartrate data, my average heart rate for the race was 180- a new record average, if I recall. My high was 193. I love it when everything pops in place and I don't blow up. Maybe next week I'll be more rested and can use smarter tactics. Then again, everyone is probably thinking that right about now.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

"Cars-R- Coffins" Sticker on an SUV

I'm not kidding. I actually saw that yesterday. I just don't understand. Nobody is that ironic. What does it mean? Somebody please explain it to me. Is the implication that if you are not in an SUV you are more likely to die?

Keep those stickers on your bike buddy... you scare me!

Monday, July 11, 2005

Hopkins Criterium

This crit combined the Masters 4/5 with the 50+ race. Combined- meaning that everyone started together. The 50+ race was open- meaning that it didn't matter what category a racer was. We started with a cartoonishly large field, maybe 50 or 60 riders. The course itself was about .8 kilometers long- maybe a half mile. By 9:30am, it was already very hot and humid.

Have I set the stage for my excuses yet? Here's what happened: it started out screamingly fast. Usually there is a bit of a roll-out for a crit, particularly with such a huge field. The speed did not relent. I followed the wheel of a guy from LSC that I knew to be a very strong rider. I believe he was the top ranked rider in his class prior to this race. The course was rather wide and easy, and I remember last year that I could take the corners with no braking. Unfortunately, with such a huge field, the accordion effect was in full force, and I had to sprint out of each corner at 30+ mph. With such a small course, I had no recovery time, and my lack of training and targeted preparation began to take its toll. I was getting cooked. And then it happened. I was caught behind a crash on the far side of the course.

The crash interrupted things just enough so a few of us lost contact with the main pack. I was with a strong rider from Birchwood, and we worked together to pick up a few stragglers, including the guy from LSC. What we didn't know was occurring was that there was a breakaway that was closing in on us as we were chasing the main group. Eventually we were pulled.

I found out later that 2/3 of the field was pulled, according to another blog I read. Also, Charlie Townsend was the winner of 50+, and I believe he came in first overall. I don't know what category he races, but under ordinary circumstances I would never be in the same race with Charlie. I'm sure his participation really helped drive the tempo into the stratosphere.

At least I was in good company when I was pulled. There is another race Tuesday, from a series that is usually a suffer fest for me. Something to definitely look forward to. I now remember how burned out on racing I was last year in mid-July.

Saturday, July 09, 2005

One Man's Trash- Revisited

I forgot to mention that I spent my Friday evening swapping tires around the three commuter bikes in the basement. My training wheels for my Look have used the same Vittoria Rubino Pro Slicks for, well, a long time, and the rear was completely squared off. While I have more racing tires than I know what to do with, I don't have that many decent foldable tires for training, so I tossed a Vittoria Action HSD on the rear. This prompted me to inspect all my tires. My main commuter still had a Vittoria Open Corsa CX- which is far to fragile for commuting, although to date it has been impervious to flatting. It was thoroughly squared off. I tossed a cheapo Continental 2000 wire bead tire on the rear. My wife's commuter, which has yet to make the trip as a commuter since she still rides her road bike, had a beautiful set of Pariba Pro Course handmade tires. She's had good luck with them, but is a bit nervous about changing the rear if she flats, since it requires the wrench. I swapped an Armadillo off the front of one of the commuter tires, leaving me the other on the rear of my rain bike. If I get the Paribas off altogether, I'll have a tire shortage.

But that is not the point of this post. I had offered to give a friend the Raleigh Carlton that I rescued from a freeway overpass last autumn. This bike was stripped of every part that wasn't galvanically bonded on. I managed to drag it home and liberate most of the remaining parts. To be fair, this required some use of a hacksaw and Dremel, but I still couldn't free the seatpost. The fork was bent beyond repair, but I kept it for reference to locate a replacement with a suitable steerer. The tubing is Reynolds 531, and it has a 120mm rear. It isn't exactly a new bike. The paint was oxidized, but it had no dents and no rust. It was sized like a 58 cm frame, but it had the longest headtube I've ever seen on a non-custom bike.

I abandoned the project after I located the Schwinn frameset. I offered the Raleigh to a friend who also rides fixed. He finally came around to pick it up last night. Hopefully it will be reincarnated.

Hopkins Crit- Great Expectations

Tomorrow is the Hopkins Crit- my best results from last year for a ROY event were at Hopkins. I placed something like 6th or 8th. Last year, our team had the sandbagger to end all sandbaggers. He was way off the front. After a prime sprint, I found myself ahead of the pack with a Loon State (or was he with Tonka?) guy that I wasn't particularly fond of. He wanted me to help him work, but I was a bit idiotic and didn't really want to help chase down my own teammate. I really should have been more selfish. I quickly regretted my actions, as I don't think we could have ever caught him, and we did we were summarily nabbed by a chase group. I won't make the same mistake this year. Then again, we really don't have a team this year, and we definitely don't have any tactics. The other mistake I made last year was that I felt so good after the first race, that I decided to do an open master's race (in addition to the M 4/5). What a nightmare. It was insanely fast. It probably didn't help that my decision was a bit impulsive and my legs were already a bit cooked.

As if I'm not feeling old enough post-birthday, we'll be having the fifty-plus guys with us during our race tomorrow. I hope we don't start at the same time. I can't remember how this was handled last year.

I am really looking forward to this race. It is flat and non-technical- my specialty. Hopefully it is so fast that it wears down the sprinters.

One Man's Trash

The weather held out just fine for my commute home. In fact there was no hint of a storm. I took Grand Avenue up the hill to Summit and stopped at Grand Performance to pick up some new SPD-L cleats for my "commuter shoes"- my Sidi Energy that have seen their better days. GP is the main team sponsor, and I like to give them as much business as possible (and they give me a team discount). I rode my Schwinn Prologue conversion. As I entered the shop, a 40-something guy sitting on the sofa told me he "used to have a frame just like that." I asked if it was the same color. When he responded affirmatively, I joked that it probably was his old frame. He mentioned that he had placed a "Coke" sticker on the top tube. I mentioned that I had removed a "Coke" sticker.

Tale of the Prologue Conversion

At this point we realized it had been his old frameset. He said he threw it away years ago, and that he had a matching time trial frameset as well. I told him how I purchased this from an employee of Carlson Cyclery who had placed an ad at Craig's List, and that last time I was at Carlson's, they still had the TT frameset. He went on to tell old war stories about the bike's past-life experiences. He seemed to appreciate that fact that it had been rescued from certain demise- that it lives on as a work horse commuter.

By the way, when I purchased the cleats and they were ringing me up, the shop guy asked what category I raced. This made me wonder if they give more of a discount based on racing category. The way this season has been going, I should be paying more than full retail.

Friday, July 08, 2005

Harm Reduction

I had a nice ride in to work, although the forecast is questionable for the return home. Along Shepard road I passed a few guys sleeping on park benches- presumably homeless. My experience working in social services has left me with much ambivalence about "homelessness." It seems that at some level, homelessness is a choice. There are plenty of resources and programs available for those "willing to participate." I'll skip the circumstances that must result in an individual having no friends in the world willing to help them out by providing a couch to crash on. I'll ignore the barriers to housing created by having felonies on one's record. I won't even mention that one's socio-economic circumstances have a strong influence on whether or not someone is even convicted of a felony. I just want to consider the issues of chemical dependency for a moment.

Most residential programs require that participants be chemical free- that they abstain from drugs and alcohol. From a cost-benefit analysis, it just isn't worth it for many people. It becomes preferable to sleep on a park bench. There are very few programs that provide basic food and housing to ensure that an individual's basic survival needs are met, while tolerating some chemical or alcohol use. For whatever reason, our society views these "wet houses" as institutionalized forms of "enabling." We really like to stick it to people with chemical dependency. This is in glaring contradiction to our wide-spread use of "harm reduction" in almost every other aspect of life. We have all sorts of low-fat or sugar-free junk food. We raised the speed limits of our freeways, while adding seatbelt laws and tossing airbags in most vehicles. We eat very unhealthy diets while stuffing our bodies with medications to control cholesterol and acid reflux. We market "light" cigarettes, decaf coffee, near-beer, I-Can't-Believe-It's-Not-Butter, Diet Coke. We use very poorly written computer operating systems (albeit, relatively easy to use) while plugging holes with anti-virus software, spyware scanners, and firewalls.

Harm reduction is everywhere. Well, almost everywhere. I definitely saw two guys sleeping very peacefully on benches this morning. As long as they aren't smashing bottles on the bike lanes...

Thursday, July 07, 2005

This Is Your Birthday Song

Yesterday I had a perfect commute: cloudless and windless with a temperature that was ideal. As I was leaving the office, by way of the main entrance, I was accosted by a dozen co-workers who sang a quick birthday song- the one that goes, "This is your birthday song, It isn't very long." I don't know why I always find that so amusing. It was probably the best harmonizing that crew had ever been able to muster. Then again, a few key employees were missing from the spectacle. Bottom line: I had to endure no snide comments about looking like "a bug," and they neglected to make any references to my biking attire.

Progress has been made.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Gears, Tears, and Fears- Finale

I showed up at GT&F to get a hard workout in after my miserable appearance in Northfield yesterday. After I signed in, the leader told me I needed a map because the route was different. I grabbed a map. It turned out the route headed towards where I work. There was no way I was biking anywhere near my commute, not to mention the reliance of this ride on bike trails. I was annoyed, so I took off solo for a Dakota County ride. I tried to be discreet. I regretted not wearing a better jersey- I never wear my team jersey to another club's ride. I usually go out of my way to wear my dorkiest jersey possible to GT&F.

I hadn't checked out the map too closely, as I met the GT&F riders heading toward St. Paul on Highway 13 as I was heading the other direction. I don't know if they recognized me, or what they thought, but I didn't really care. They are rather a cliquish bunch of the best of days. I did an out and back on 13, and as I was heading up the hill coming out of Mendota, I caught some guy wearing a Saunier Duval-Prodir kit. He followed me to 35 E and said goodbye as I turned off to cross the bridge. I explored an alternate route for my commute by taking Otto to Seventh to some other street to god-knows-where to Victoria to Summit. It would be quite hilly taking it fixed. I took Summit to Mississippli Blvd, crossed using the bike bridge near the freaky aluminum museum by the U, and ended up on West River Road. This time, I was caught by the Saunier Duval-Prodir dude, and we ended up riding together for a few miles.

He became quite talkative at the coincidence of having just seen me in Mendota Heights, and now Minneapolis. We headed the same route to the commuter trail, though he turned off toward Hopkins and I headed toward the Greenway to cut through the parking lot to catch the road by Calhoun, then Harriet. He seemed like a nice guy and a strong rider, although he might do well to get rid of the iPod while he is on the road. And Saunier Duval-Prodir? They'll be lucky if they even win a stage, on this, their first Tour.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

Northfield Excuses, Lame Excuses

Northfield Crit Report-

OK- Last year I was pulled from this race- and less than a week later placed 6th or 8th or something like that at Hopkins. This year just didn't feel right. I completely blew up, and for some strange reason, my heart rate was hovering around 135 a half hour later when I was in my car. My body was not its normal self. Blame it on lack of training, but hey, I tried.

This summer has felt like a long vacation. We went to Paris, Chicago, Alaska, had two long visits from relatives staying with us. It has been a wonderful summer, but I haven't been able to follow much of a structured training program. Frankly, family is and should be, more important than amateur racing. At work, the receptionist was joking that I don't work there anymore. At least I have Hopkins next week, then the Rosemount series begins on Tuesdays. There is plenty more suffering to endure.

Saturday, July 02, 2005

Acting Like a Whiney Oppressed Minority

(BTW- apparently "whiny" can be spelled either way. Who knew?)

OK- I anticipated the ride home, expecting a showdown at the orange fence. I had righteousness on my side, and my wife truly was my better half on this sunny day- since I was in poor form. As we approached the portion of the fence where we could step over, a skinny young security guard in his security guard polo shirt- sporting an enormous neck brace (worthy of a thousand bad lawyer jokes) efficiently intercepted me after I entered the forbidden zone. He told us we couldn't enter. I suggested there were no signs, no alternate routes, that there was no access to the road, and on and on. He must have been well trained, since he didn't discuss any of this and told me if we didn't leave he'd call the police.

This brought out the worst in me. I suggested that he do that, and that the police would do nothing about the situation (which was probably true if my work experience with police was any indication how these situations were dealt with). My wife suggested that we just go, but of course, I was just getting started. Eventually her good sense prevailed, but not before the security guard disclosed that the reason the area was fenced off was that it contained thousands of dollars of fireworks for the Taste of Minnesota festival directly across the river.

My wife and I found our way across Shepard Road, then back to the open portion of the bike trail. Of course this debacle was incomplete, and my wife chastised me by using my own advise against me- that I need to pick and choose my battles more carefully. She went on to point out that I had a chip on my shoulder about biking that gets played out here and elsewhere, and that I have negativity associated with that. She even brought up the point that rather than advocating for biking in any positive or meaningful way, my asshole behavior toward the security guard could just as easily provoke him to resent bikes, or to buzz the next cyclist he encountered. I didn't exactly like hearing all that, especially right at that point- ironically as we took the tunnel under 35E, that must have cost at least a hundred thousand dollars to improve the safety of the bike paths.

We had a rather sullen ride home, which was as easily attributed to a Friday commute and the fact that she has been far too busy with relatives staying with us to sneak much biking into her schedule. After we returned home, I took a solo ride to clear my head. By now, things were sinking in. Somehow, I had turned into the opposite of the crazy drivers that love to point out when a biker rolls through a stop sign. I was going out of my way to highlight the indignities endured while commuting. For whatever reason, I have a very different, more laid-back attitude while on my road bike. But commuting by bike- that is a noble endeavor that emboldened my sense of self-righteousness- and it was bringing out a nasty side that was looking for trouble among those (motorists or security guards) worthy of my ire. It certainly does nothing to further the advocacy of cyclists' rights. And it reflects poorly upon my character.

I hereby resolve to focus on the positive aspects of cycling and to not go out of my way to look for the rare transgressions against cyclists- the exceptions to the rule. Let's face it, thousands of cars pass us without incident. I ride thousands of trouble-free miles. Why do I even provoke security guards? I will do my best to not focus on the injustices. I will not advocate for "getting even." I will not act like this is a battle between good and evil. Far from the cosmic proportions it can be blown up to be, most people really don't care. I really doubt it is easy to make much of a difference on the street by yelling at a driver. The best way to make a difference is probably to set a good example. Trouble is, it is far less immediately satisfying.

On a lighter note, I saw a 60-something year-old woman on a bike with a large basket with a radio riding in my neighborhood. Later, I saw her at Lunds loading her basket with groceries. In the grand scheme of things, it is way cooler than seeing someone in a full CSC kit riding a Cervelo. And I somehow don't think she views the world with the same antagonism I've been fixated on lately.

Friday, July 01, 2005

This Is Getting Old

This morning, my wife and I commuted together- a first for us. It was overcast, but dry. Anyway, we encountered the penned off parking lot again. We moved a barricade and biked through the forbidden zone. As we were climbing over the fence on the opposite side, a rotund security guard waddled out of his car at the far end of the lot and yelled something at us that was lost in the wind. I smiled and waved, and yelled back. We resumed our commute and discussed tactics for our return trip home. I'll feel even more justified in my disobedience riding westbound, since it is illegal to ride against traffic.

I still can't figure out what is so special that they need to pay a security guard to watch the orange zone. There is no work occurring inside the area. I left another message for "Tom" of the city of Saint Paul, giving him a few more details highlighting the absurdity of the situation. My ordeal is almost over. I guess I just need to ride home, then maybe commute on Wednesday of next week, allegedly the last day of "parking lot closure."

Second Class Citizen, Redux

OK, I actually did call the city and was directed to the "Rights of Way" department and spoke with "Tom," who agreed the situation on the commuter trail was a problem. He said he'd look into it.

On my way home, when I encountered the penned in area, I noticed they had fastened my previous exit point (which I was now attempting to enter) to a steel railing by the river's edge (mental note to self: bring a knife tomorrow). With my original plan thwarted, I stepped over/through the orange construction fence. There were no work vehicles within, and no construction was being done. Some band was playing across the river at Harriet Island, and it appeared they were still setting up for Taste of Minnesota.

I rode through the quarantine zone to the other side when I noticed another biker from the other direction sizing up his options. He cut through the area I was planning to exit when out of nowhere a security guard approached and yelled that he couldn't enter. I approached the guard and asked him why they couldn't have left the bike path clear. He replied that it made too much sense. He then went on to ask, "Shouldn't bikes be using the road anyway?" I explained that there was no way to the other side of the median and that it was extremely dangerous to ride against traffic- particularly on that stretch that has no shoulder and has a posted limit of 50mph (or maybe it is 45). Anyway, he was quite pleasant.

While riding away I recalled the sign at the other end referencing "Parking Lot Closed, June 29 - July 6"- even though the fenced area certainly exceeded the lot. Perhaps they were only trying to prevent people from parking there during the Taste of Minnesota across the river. At any rate, at present they are unnecessarily blocking access to a bike path without providing any safe detour. And there is yet to be a visible reason for such obstruction. They will need to do better than that before I respect their fence.