Saturday, February 10, 2018

He Said it Was a Bad Idea

What 5.4" of fresh snow looks like after yours truly had to push through it.

Bookend commuting this week.  I rode Monday and Friday only.  Monday's ride home was one of the toughest if not the all time most difficult ride home ever for me.  Pretty sure I hit the Angina Zone a few times.  It was 11*F but it felt like 30*F because my body was producing a lot of heat.  So Tuesday I drove to give the city a chance to clean up the trails.  And Wednesday, too.  Thursday the Weather Guessers said we were due for another 8" of snow sometime Thursday night through Saturday so once again I drove so Mary and I could raid  a few grocery stores like Viking pillagers and be able to bunker down until Monday.  What a shame because Thursday would have been a great day to ride to and fro work.
The consensus at work was that it was a long long terrible week and that was on Tuesday morning.  The snow must have killed our spirits and work ethic.  Even Wednesday morning it felt like we had been there 200 years.  My lack of bicycling made it feel worse.  So I LMFAO when Bridget showed me this article Friday morning.  I have to admit that when traveling to work via automobile or car is a dangerous life threatening situation that you must do instead of remaining in the safety of your home until the streets are clean adds to our unhappiness.

Friday I rode and had a great ride to work for a winter day.  19*F with a favorable cross wind to work.  A bit of an interfering wind on the way home but I was going to meet friends at a local watering hole and took a great photo.

Back to the morning ride.  Just a minor dusting of snow overnight.  The trail was damn near perfect for what happened on Monday.  I had my clothing dialed in just right.  I was making good speed and very happy to be riding again.  It was Friday and I was going to have a great day!

Just a jet or so over 3.5 miles from my home lies the pedestrian bridge over the Raccoon River in Water Works Park.  As I approached the 90 degree right turn to cross said bridge, my lights illuminated another cyclist at the kybo.   When you gotta go you gotta go I thought.  We exchanged greetings and then he said "I think this was a bad idea."  That was his assessment of his situation.  I knew he was talking about riding his bicycle at what must have been 445 am on a trail still partially snow and ice covered and streets in worse shape.  It was a mere 19*F and if he was heading east or north into the wind, well, life had to suck.  "Tires, man, all about the tires," I said as I climbed to the top of the bridge.

In retrospect I should have stopped and asked if he needed help.  But then again he did not ask for help.  Not much I could have done for him.  I could have given him some cash or made a phone call for him.  I'm bare bones, riding clean.  Not even bothering to put the panniers on this bike.  Zero tools.  No food.  My water bottle probably was not frozen at that moment.  No extra clothing.  Time, I had none to spare.  Had to get to work on time and before I started getting cold.

A half a mile later I encountered Joe Ayers on a cross bike instead of a roadie.  There's snow and ice on the trail and Joe rides the appropriate bicycle.  We say hello.  I have not seen him all week so I actually said "Joe I presume!"  "Hi Chris!"  If something was amiss on the trail he would have said something.  After passing I thought that Joe could help the Bad Idea Man since Joe is retired and only riding for the sake of riding.

The rest of the trip was uneventful.  Once on University Ave I had to race to intersection to intersection to get off that road in case the snow plow was on my ass.  There were two plows working that road, blades down but not much snow to push.  They needed to drop a bit of salt and sand IMHO.  But The Red Phoenix climbed that hill quite well and then picked up speed once past the peak.

The last bit of the commute has me getting on the sidewalk/sidepath at 50th on the corner of the Sheraton Hotel.  There I saw my bad idea from Monday's ride home.  Perfectly preserved for all to see and a reminder of my failure/struggle/hubris/sin.  My tracks left from walking the bicycle when the sidepath was utterly useless.  They were several feet away from the path.  That's how far I had to get away from the shit the plow deposited on the trail.  I stopped for a few photos.  Amazingly straight for that death march.  A reminder that I should have gone straight to the trail and dealt with the 4 mph condition instead trying to cheat.
Great idea!  Needed this photo for FB's Bicycle Ride&Seek.  Fruit!
Tip The Cow by Single Speed Brewery, Cedar Falls, Iowa.  I had to go to Untapped and check my post there  because I could not remember the name of this.  Here is what UnTapped says about this one: "Have you ever reveled in the essence of a chocolate-covered espresso bean? How about in form of a beer? Here is your shot. This full bodied, creamy, Milk Stout has been touched by the gentle hand of Sidecar Coffee Roasters. A rich, but smooth option, boasting notes of roast and cocoa right alongside velvety sweetness."  Bad Idea.  Met Craig and Kim at Extra Innings then went to Mullets.  Damn near a quart of a coffee beer in this jar.  Meet the beer that kilt me!  After getting home I fell asleep on the couch and when I woke up to go to bed I could not find my glasses!  Found them the next day after a thorough search including moving the couch and leaving it like a ghost did it.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Well, it Was Safer Than Driving

Trek 7.5 FX with 700x35 Kenda Klondike studded tires.  great snow tires of the skinny variety.

Had I known that the consistency of the snow was akin to that of fine sand I may have drove.  But no, I got to be that person who brushes of the "ride safe" comments with "have a safe slide home in your car" remarks.  And that was working well with reports of multiple car pile ups brought to us by the 3 to 5" of snow that hit the metro.  But then again Todd Adamson rode his Surly Krampus into a school bus last Monday and more or less left his face there and damaged several vertebrae and hurt a knee.  So now the ball is in my court.  "My tires say Klondike, what do yours say?"

I tried to escape work early but my boss asked me to do something for him which delayed my departure but almost an hour.  Eventually I got to leave only to have to walk back to my office twice.  First time was because I forgot my light.  Once I put that on the bike I had to return to my office to grab my helmet.  At least I got warmed up.  It was like 11*F but the lack of wind made it feel more like 30*F once I warmed up.

The trip around campus told the story of the ride home.  It would suck.  The bike moved usually slow.  Still possible but it would be a long journey.  Just get me to the trail.  I was stupid and decided to take my shortcut to avoid a few miles of trail in hope for better time.  Wrongo boyo!  The sidepath was worse than the trail and I actually had to walk it hoping that my co-workers would not see me.  It was not plowed and had the extra snow that the snowplows threw on it from clearing the streets.  What should I have expected.  It snowed steady from 9 am and did not let up until 5 pm.  It could have been worse.  I saw a man in a wheelchair waiting for a bus.  He had to roll to the entrance of ADP in order for the para-transit to pick him up.

I eventually made it to the trail by accessing it at Greenbelt Dr.  Of course someone and their dog had visited the trail first,  But this time the foot prints became a guide since determining what was trail and what was not trail surface was obscured by snow.  By now the bottom pedal stroke was hitting the snow.  I could hear the tires squeak as it rubbed against the snow.  My glasses fogged up constantly making it harder to stay on the trail and more difficult to maintain best possible speed.  Breaks, I took a few.

Wishful thinking had me half expecting Windsor Heights having cleared their section of trail.  Nope.  Decision time was approaching. I was averaging 3 to 4 mph.  This meant that if I continued on the trail I'd be out for two more hours unless Des Moines Park & Rec plowed the Walnut Creek and Bill Riley Trails.  Even if they did and another 2" of snow fell on them it would still be an improvement over Clive's unplowed Greenbelt and Windsor Heights.  But this was a gamble I could not afford to lose.  Ingersoll Ave became my choice.

About this time I heard a voice of another cyclist.  He was on a fatbike making about 1 or 2 more mph than I was but having issues.  He had to walk it up the incline underneath 63rd.  He had issues with the snow just like I did.  I felt a bit better.  Maybe it is not just me or the hybrid bicycle I was riding.  I added steam and caught up.  We chatted a bit.  He thought there would be more fatbikes out, too.  He had a quarter mile left to ride.  Lucky bastard.  I  had over 6 miles if I continued on the trail,  Decision made.  Hit the streets!

That gamble paid off.  I climbed Ingersoll Ave from 56th to Polk Blvd at 5 to 6 mph.  Not bad considering that the road could have used a plowing.  Nobody honked at me.  They did honk at the Subaru that blocked the intersection of 56th and Ingersoll to allow a black sporty car to back down and pick another route.  And I did see many cars stuck at intersections spinning their wheels and ruining transmissions.  It was a relief to reach Polk Blvd.  Now to find the bike lane!

But the bike lane was covered in snow.  I did my best to stay between the lane and the curb.  Not an easy feat because the snow was what we refer to as mousse.  But I soon heard the cavalry.  Three snow plows in echelon formation heading my way.  I got on the sidewalk and gave them a thumbs up.  Should be easier now.  And it was.  

Crossing MLK my objective was to reach the MLK Trail/sidepath.  Easier said than done.  17th was a mess.  Intersections were horrid.  Snow was pushed up high and I had to walk across them.  But the trail was plowed at one point.  A light up ahead gave away the oncoming bicycle.  Dude on a fattie not pedaling but pushing with one foot while seated.  Mechanical?

Soon I was at SW 5th and it was plowed to the Jackson St Bridge.  My ticket home.  I stopped for a photo.  The photo does not describe the hell I went through but it is a reminder.  Whatever they call the trail on the south bank of the Raccoon River was plowed at one point and it was easy riding until I reached Mullets.  Mullets was closed due to the weather.  SE 1st was clear so I took it to Jackson and then cut over to 3rd but it was a mess and I walked that block or so.  Got to my street and took the sidewalk.  Not shoveled except for our portion but the lack of car and footprints made it rideable as opposed to the street which was an awful mess.  As I pulled up to my home the mobile rang.  I knew who was calling and I'd be inside with her in 30 seconds.

Honestly, one of the toughest rides in my life.  At least I survived unscathed and can brag about it.  Whisky, I need whisky and a large glass of water.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Crunchy Snow

The sound of the furnace announced that my slumber was nearly over.  The wind was still strong and a world in white greeted me earlier when I took the dog out about midnight.  A fine layer of fresh snow on top of fresh rain.  But snow and ice do not bother me.  I have a bicycle for that.  It was 30*F at 4 am, the high of the day for me.

I had hoped for a bit more warmth and packed the single speed (non-winter tires) instead of removing the panniers and placing them on the winter bike.  Damn the lack of bags, roll on a naked bicycle!  All I needed was my wallet and mobile phone.  I've enough clean clothes at work for the rest of the week.

That damn wind.  Strong from the north.  I would take the full brunt of it as a broadside as I headed west along the river.  Every north turn would be miserable.  Just keep pedaling....

Approaching the bridge over the river in Water Works Park two dim lights were heading my way from the opposite bank.  Only one person I know that routinely rides with the weakest lights possible.  That person is David L.  His commute is about the same distance as mine, 12 to 15 miles depending on the route.  He lives in Urbandale and rides to the State House on one of several older MTBs while wearing a backpack.  No racks, no bags, rather, a large stuffed backpack.  Seems miserable, I prefer the bike schelp my stuff.  I am not a mule unless I take a rackless roadie.  But he is out almost every day even in winter.  The trail is a bit out of his way so sometimes he takes the streets.  I want to see him on New Battery Day.  David is one of the few cyclists I truly respect.  Plodding along in the snow on an old bike and dim lights.  He stopped to talk on the bridge.  Said he was having a great ride and enjoyed the crunchy snow.  Tailwinds are great mood enhancers.  We parted and I wondered if I'd see him on the reserves ride.

So now I had his tracks to stare at.  Also had fox tracks and the occasional deer tracks and a few rabbit paw prints to stare at.  But then I realized that there was was a second and third set of bicycle tracks on the trail.  Appeared to belong to a road bike.  Given how straight they were I was 99% certain that they belonged to Joe Ayers.  Joe is retired and rides every morning for about 20 miles unless the weather is bad.  I see him most mornings.  Today he turned around at the bridge.  His tracks left the trail at Pal Joey's where we have parted ways before.  It had to be him.

My winter route has me exiting the trail at 22nd/86th St.  I  then get on University and take it all the way to work.  Today I did something I normally despise.  I took the side walk all the way to 50th before crossing to the other side and taking the sidepath.  Why?  Traffic was light as usual.  However, the street was icky and wet.  What little snow we had was mixed with salt and sand and made a dark slush on the the side of the road where I'd likely ride.  For once, and thanks to the Sun's love and the rain, the sidewalk was free of snow with the exception of the fresh stuff.  I opted to keep the bike clean.  It was my pit stop just before getting off the trail.  The back of the cassette was still shiny like new.  It would be a shame to get road spluge on it.  I hate to surrender the road but the sidewalk was clean.

I parked against the building beneath the overhang.  Normally I only park there if there is any or will be any precipitation.  There was and would be none but the bike rack had snow around it so leaving it empty would not hinder the maintenance team from cleaning the snow up.  Todd parked his Krampus likewise.  Unfortunately, they did not remove the snow.  Oh well, the warm up later this week will.

Today was one of the rare days that it was warmer when I left for work that it was when I left for home.  30*F at 430 am.  27*F at 330 pm.  The promised sunshine never appeared.  At least I had the tailwind to push me home.  The snow on the trail melted a bit leaving ice in its place.  The bike's studded tires gave that ice no quarter and I remained upright the entire journey home.  Not even a slip.  I will have that same ice to look forward to tomorrow in the dark and hopefully the promised warm up will finish it off by the time I leave work.

One last note.  My footwear was perfect.  I wore my decades old Sorel boots with liners, a pair of Smart Wool sock liners and a new pair of cold weather socks that Mary gave me for Christmas.  When I took my boots and socks off at home I noticed that my feet were dry.  Not only did they stay warm but dry as well.  The liner in the boots wicked all the sweat from my feet as evidenced by the moist bottom of the liners.

Good day to ride despite the strong north wind.  Tomorrow the wind is supposed to be weaker.  I hope so.  I'm sick of fighting it.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

I Should Really Ride To the Pub More Often

The winter bike at CabCo
Another awful week.  Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I did not ride to work.  Too damn cold and windy.  I can handle -5*F if there is not a 24 mph headwind all the way to work.  So I opted to drive.  Wednesday after work Court Avenue Brewery had a Mug Club party.  Well, I can handle a 3 mile round trip.  Four mugs later I enjoyed a tailwind home.  But despite seeing friends and enjoying the fruits of the brew master arriving home was the best part.

Right to left: Sam, Randy and me.  There was a strange woman at the bar who offered to take our photo out of the blue.  Something about memories she said.  At first we thought she was going to use her phone but she clarified and used Randy's iPhone albeit backwards until he explained how to work it.  An odd experience of kindness.  Before she did that when I was at the bar placing my order she looked at me and smiled like we knew each other but I have never seen her before.  I will refrain from judgement because I do not know what was going through her mind or her state of mental health.  We all thought it was a bit weird. 

Mark Reeder: Mauerstadt.  Walled City for English speakers.  Mark is from Manchester UK and got stranded in Berlin about 1979 and was in various German bands at the time and Shark Vegas.  later he made a name for himself remixing tracks for other bands.  His association with the band New Order has led to some incredible music.  Two New Order tracks appear on Mauerstadt, Academic and the Game.

Technique by New Order.  The band took 1988 off and flew to Ibiza to record this lp in a shitty studio that had a swimming pool and a 24 hour bar.  Instead of working on the lp they discovered ecstasy and partied every night for 6 months before packing it in (only a demo for Fine Time and 16 drum tracks to show for their effort) and returned to England and finishing the lp at Peter Gabriel's brand new state of the art Real World Studio.  Needless to say they tore the studio up when they had two busloads of Manchester's finest acid house ravers come celebrate the completion of the record.  Technique brings the warm Ibiza sun into the stereo.  Hooky mentions in his book, The Hacienda How not to Run a Club, that they last saw Nico (Velvet Underground) alive in Ibiza.  A day or two later she died from a head injury caused by a bicycle crash.  No helmet.
Two packages arrived on my doorstep while I was hoisting the mug.  Both were vinyl records.  One I ordered from Germany way back in December, Mark Reeder's Mauerstadt, his 2017 lp of electronic dance mixes and collaborations with other bands.  The other was New Order's Technique, the Ibiza classic missing from my rebuilding of the vinyl collection.  Damn, go for a beer and come home to prizes!  I have one more package somewhere between here and the UK.  I should go to the pub again!

More importantly, this really motivated me to ride to work again.  Well, maybe the fact that Thursday morning it was to be like 22*F with less of a interfering wind.  One of my theories is that riding on cold mornings with a slight hangover is good because my body is usually warmer when I am hungover.  However, I was not hungover.  I feel like such a damn slacker.  This is my worst January since I became a full time commuter.  I've missed 7 commutes to work this month.  Then again so have a lot of my hardcore friends.  Life goes on.

My regular commuter aka the Single Speed
Thursday.s ride was good.  The strong southwest wind hindered my progress but I left early enough to get there in time to enjoy coffee before having to become productive.  I should have not ridden the winter bike.  It is really slow thanks to its studded tires that have additional flat protection added to them.  I meant to replace them this season but never pulled the trigger.  But it was a good work out that I needed.  On the way home I took a shortcut, University to 109th and then got on the trail at 107th.  As I got on the trail between two houses I spotted a red fox in the woods across Walnut Creek.  Unfortunately, it ran off before I could get close enough for a photo.  So I have seen three species of canine on the Clive Greenbelt: fox, coyote and domesticated dogs.  Later not too far away I ran into a herd of deer.  Must have been 20 of them.  Never seen that many on the Greenbelt before.  Oddly enough, when I was on the Walnut Creek Trail after N Valley Dr I saw another large herd of deer, perhaps 20+.  Deer on the move in large numbers.  Maybe they drank beer last night!

I stopped at Windsor Heights Hy Vee.  Needed a large bag of dog food for Fritz and a carton of half and half for Saturday's and Sunday's coffee.  I was supposed to pick up something for dinner but was uninspired and came home with no food in my panniers.  Send Mary out for pizza.

Friday I threw caution to the wind and rode my regular commuter.  My average speed improved greatly.  Since I saw all the trouble spots the day before I knew where to use discretion.  Good Lord it felt great!  Amazing how a different set of tires can make a difference.  Remarkably, the winter bike is lighter.  Goes to show that wheel weight and rolling resistance affect speed the most.  Unremarkable ride to work except for the bonus of speed.  On the way how the temp had risen to 47*F and the reduction of snow was very apparent.  Ice and snow on the trails was greatly eliminated and road bikers were seen.  Once again I stopped at Windsor Heights Hy Vee for groceries.  Fritz should work for TSA or law enforcement because he spent a lot of time sniffing my panniers.  I had sausages and a whole chicken in them.

The forecast for the rest of the month looks good.  I'm only 180 miles behind last year.  I think I can make that up if I so desire.  I am considering transferring to downtown which would reduce my commute to less than 5 miles per day.  That would free up a lot of time for other things or better rides.  It also would kill any chance of reaching 10,000 miles in a year again.  Is there room for one more go?

Saturday, January 13, 2018

Those Epic Winter Commutes

Rider welcome!
More blowing than snow.
A few years back it started snowing like a son of a bitch while I was at work.  Must have began about 2 pm.  Although I left in daylight I stopped and turned on all my lights.  Visibility was close to zero.  Downtown Des Moines businesses closed early and told all their employees to GTFO.  Traffic was horrid.  Grid lock.

I took my short cut and rode on Westown Pkwy and Buffalo Rd to get to the trail in Windsor Heights.  Because of poor planning I had to stop at Boulevard Sports to pick up a set of studded tires for my winter commuter.  I was riding my 520 with touring tires.  No issues.  There may have been 3" of snow.

Crossing Grand Ave near the Art Center traffic was back up in both directions as far as the eye could see.  I had to weave between the cars.  I was laughing.  A little bit later as I was on the Bill Riley Trail I encountered another cycling commuter and we both greeted and saluted each other.  He looked at me and said "They call us stupid.  Who is stupid today?"  True.  We were not only safe, making forward progress but relatively on time and stress free.  The snowy world was beautiful.  Such a gorgeous world to be in.  We laughed at the plight of all the muggles stuck on the streets in their steel and plastic cages and rode off in different directions.

When I got to Mullets I had a powerful thirst hit me.  It was the feeling one gets when they do something epic and extraordinary.  I just cycled through one of the worst snow storms in the metro and came out the other side safe and in a great mood.  Celebrate success a former supervisor of mine used to say.  Damn right, time for Fireball and beer!  My timing could not have been better.  As I entered the establishment a song from my favorite and just started.  Am I in heaven?  Now it's Iowa.

The Germans used to call this a "birthday party."  If one crashed their plane or were shot down but made it back everyone would make sure you got real drunk to celebrate the fact that you got another lease on life.  Well I beat the odds once again.

Thursday was another one of those rides.  Doom and gloom in the forecast.  Supposed to rain all night and then have a sudden  severe drop in temperature to below freezing and snow.  Somehow it was still 42*F when I left and the rain was over except for a mist.  I could take a roadie, I thought before remembering that the temp was going to fall through the floor and I'll need extra clothing for the ride home.

And the temperature did drop.  It dropped to 24*F by the time I got to work.  Yes, 18*F drop in an hour and a half.  I remember the wind picking up when I was about 3 miles into it.  A few miles later I felt the cold on my chest.  9 miles into it the sleeves on my jacket were icing up.  At one point when I hit the brakes the right (rear) brake lever was frozen and would not move for a moment.  I saw ice on the streets for my last two miles but this did not concern me since I was riding on studded tires.

When the muggles at work asked me if I rode the bicycle to work they were amazed.  I told them that my tires say Klondike on them, what do yours say?  Honestly, I feel safer biking on days like this because if I drove I could possibly damage my vehicle, damage other peoples' property and possibly kill someone.  On a bicycle I just look stupid to those that lack the knowledge and magic, muggles.

When the snow began we stared from the inside of the building with coffee in our hands.  Looks bad.  Looks to be more than an inch or two that they forecasted.  "you going to be safe riding home?" the cagers asked.  Yes.  "Safer than you," I replied, "You have to deal with each other, I get an empty trail."  Over 55 Crashes  See?

I could not wait to get out.  I wanted to hit the trail before everyone and their niece and their 3 dogs stepped on every possible square inch of snow covered trail.  I wanted virgin snow covered trail to myself.  On the Greenbelt I saw one set of boot tracks and paw prints on both sides of the trail.  There also was a fatbike track.  So all in all the trail was in good shape.  Two people on MTBs were attempting to ride on the ice covered walnut Creek near 73rd St.  Fools, the ice is less than 12 hours old.  It was maybe 13*F now and dropping.  Later I saw a fatbiker.

The wind was at least 26 mph from the NW.  I had a tail wind of sorts.  I did not have to fight it.  I encountered a man on a crossbike heading west into the wind  on the Bill Riley Trail as it parallels the Raccoon River.  I've seen him before.  We always nod or do a finger wave whenever we cross paths.  Today I said howdy.  His response was classic, Quote of the Winter.  "THIS WIND CAN EAT A DICK!!!!"  True.
Great parking.  Thought I'd see some fatbikes here.


New England IPA.  Probably the finest IPA I've ever had.  Well done, Confluence, well done!

Two miles later I was at Confluence Brewing Company.  Time to celebrate.  Time for my birthday party!  It was the release of Chewbocka Winter Bock in cans.  As expected, I had the only bicycle there until Mary showed up.  Where are all the fatbikes?  Russ met me there as he said on FaceBook.  I missed two other friends because we left after 4 beers.  Mary had only two.  Had to get dinner.  Had to work tomorrow.

1.5 miles later we were at Mullets but it was closed.  I am glad I decided to stop at Confluence.  Mullets closed for the safety of their employees.  It may have been 6 pm.  I don't blame them.  But of the Beacon of Light establishments play for weary travelers?  Damn, 15 miles into this bitch of a ride and no joy here.  I admit I was very disappointed.  I even thought about taking my Mullets Mason Jar there for $5 beers.  Frozen pizza from the gas station.  At least it was DiGiorno.  As far as booze, could have stopped at Extra Innings.

My ride that day.  Good on the way to work.  Great on the ride home.  Not that I want to do this day after day.  But every now and then during this season I feel the need.  I miss warm weather.  Spring cannot get here soon enough.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

9000 miles, Lost Mojo, Broken Freewheel and Wounded Knee

As the 2017 riding season comes to an end, December 31st 11:59:59 pm, so did my main bicycle and my left knee.  And my desire to ride.  I've experienced all of this before but this time ignored the warning signs.

Mojo, Where Art Thou??

How much, how much do you need?  I hit a wall.  Started with that bastard northwest wind.  One morning I decided to sleep in.  Had no desire to ride 12+ miles into a headwind.  It must have been a 24 mph wind.  Just get dropped off with the bike at work and ride it home.  And one day leads to another.  That was the 4th of December.  Add Christmas break and the day it was below zerex and I only rode both sides the commute 4 times for the entire month.  That's really bad for me.  This has been the biggest slump in bicycling for me in a decade.

Crap Freewheel

This is the freewheel after 6505 miles.  That'll do, that'll do.

If you ever need a SS freewheel I recommend these.  Just stop using it when it begins to freewheel in both directions.

For those that do not know what I am writing about, in easiest terms, pawls are part of the ratcheting system that engages and disengages inside a freewheel or freehub that allows the chain to move the sprocket.  Ever listen to a Campy hub coast by you and hear that buzz?  Or any other bicycle for that matter that uses this system.  Over time and use the pawls stop engaging and the chain moves but the gears just freewheel in both directions and the bike runs out of momentum it stops and tips over.  Or the pawls refuse to disengage and the wheel locks up.  It has always been the former for Mary and I.  Usually on a miserably cold day at 5 am on our way to work.  Make a phone call.

So during the month when the temperature began to drop I noticed that the single speed commuter of mine was having this issue.  Always on the left down stroke.  When the bike should have offered resistance it was like the bottom fell off and a my foot went to the bottom of the stroke at light speed.  WHAM!  But then it would behave normally for a few miles and then WHAM!  I did not think about it too much.  It was time for a new chain anyway so might as well get a new freewheel.  The friendly folks at Modern Bike fixed me up despite no Saturday deliver.  Had to wait a week to find the time to wrench.

About the freewheel....I discovered that I did not have the freewheel remover required for the ACS Crossfire.  So I took it to Fred's about a mile from home and across the river.  Brad and I are friends and he knows how much I ride and how many bicycles I own, rather, he knows I own a lot.  He looked at it and said "theoretically you should take this off every 1000 miles and soak it in a solvent and clean it up.  It's pretty gunked up."

My response, "I have over 5000 miles on this freewheel so theoretically I would have to do this 5 times a year."

"You have 5000 miles on this for this year?  What about your other bikes?"

"Two others have over 1000.  My other bikes much less.  The single speed is my main commuter.  I'd rather replace the freewheel for $20 than do that much maintenance.  My time is valuable and I am lazy."

Wounded Knee

But I continued to ride this bike until it got colder and then I started riding another bike to work.  But it was too late.  One Saturday I woke up and could not bend my left knee.  What now?  Has the gout travel up to my knee?  I have not drank heavily lately and I am taking meds for this.  The stiffness and pain reminded my of the time my statin tried to kill my legs.  But I am on another cholesterol medicine without that side effect.  I was stumped and limping and unable to ride.  That day I could not complete an upstroke with the left leg.  Too painful.  Sunday I put a half mile in but it was a painful half mile.  Let it rest.

Monday Mary dropped me and a bike off at work but I decided to have her pick me up because we had Dora's band concert to attend and I lacked the confidence that I would make it home in time.  Tuesday the same but I rode home.  The first two miles were painful but I eventually rode off the pain.  I rode real slow, like 8 mph average.  Wednesday the same but I decided to preempt the pain with Aleve.  I could feel the knee and leg come back on line and I gobbled 3 during work and 4 more before I left work.  Did not really help and then I noticed that my legs were starting to swell.  Take and extra dialectic.  Thursday I slept in again and was dropped off and rode home.  Much better ride until I stopped at Hy Vee.  After shopping I could barely ride home the last mile or so.  And Friday I wimped out again for the morning commute but rode home.   The leg and knee felt good.  It finally dawned on me that I had a hyperextended knee from that bad freewheel.

Our plan Friday was to see the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi at 10 pm.  I took a nap after dinner.  Well my body went into repair mode and the mile ride to the theater was painful.  I rode with Mary and Dora.  After the movie I felt better riding home.  weird.  Must have the two beers that I drank during the Last Jedi.  The best part of riding a bicycle to a Star Wars film is that feeling one gets when riding home.  I felt like a Jedi in an X-Wing!

Finally on Saturday I could ride with speed.  Leg still not 100%.  I can feel the repair work occurring and every nerve coming back online.  I still stumbled every now and then.  Slow to get up and down but I can ride again pain free.

The day I replaced the freewheel and chain was the day my knee said it was fine to ride with speed.  I took this photo during Lady G Hoegaarden's birthday bash stop on WW Bridge.  Kevin, another Commuter of the Year, gave this beer to me.  I love the colors in this photo.  12/16/2017 and we did not need winter clothing to ride bicycles!

Mojo Found

On my way to my sister's house on Christmas Eve. Stopped to have a Shiner Holiday Cheer.  Very possible that this could have been my last ride of the year.  Mojo not quite there.

This is true.  I had a dream Thursday night/Friday morning.  I was at an establishment with other cyclists and someone asked me if I had 9000 miles for the year.  Yes I replied and then the alarm went off.  Turn on the radio to get the weather report.  Check the phone for wind direction.  Fresh snow but the Red Phoenix was rebuilt way back in October for days of ice and snow.  And I thought about it.  this was the last chance.  I was sitting at 8973 miles for 2017.

Time was definitely a precious resource that I did not possess very much of.  It was Friday December 29th.  The forecasted high was 16F.  It was 11F at that moment and thankfully the wind was from the East or at my back.  Radar was clear for the metro.  I laid there in agony.  So easy to stay under the covers and drive.  I could a 14 miler on Saturday and another on Sunday.  But the forecast labeled those days miserably cold and more snow was on the way.  Do or die!  And call about transferring to the downtown location.

So I rode.  And it felt great.  And I felt safe on my studded tires.  The previous day's car commute was hell with slick roads and too many other cars around me.  WHO 1040 radio described the carnage as "tons of wrecks."  I saw a four vehicle pile up on I-235.  I had to abort my left turn onto Westown Prky because if attempted the Taurus would have gone sideways.  This was on 22nd St in WDM.  But the bicycle gave me no issues.  As I always tell muggles, "When you drive during bad winter weather you risk causing thousands of dollars of damage, destroying your vehicle or others and possibly killing people.  On a bicycle properly set up (studded tires ect) you just look stupid to those without the knowledge of the magic."

I got to work on bicycle for the fourth time this month, the last day.  Was I cold?  No but a bit sweaty.  Hard to perfectly dial in the clothing.  My legs hurt because I had not really ridden as of late and the heavy reinforced tires (I placed liners in them last year to stop the flats with the intention of purchasing new tires, guess what?  I saved money!).

Some muggle asked how winter effects bicycle tires.  "Car tires deform (I think she meant deflate)" she stated.  My reply..."I squeeze them in the morning and if necessary pump them up in the comfort of my own home."  This is another advantage of commuting via bicycle.  I don't need no unreliable gas station air machine.  Worse comes to worse I'll grab different bicycle.  And then there is parking, I park next to the door at work.

I got the 27 miles on the way home.  Even stopped at Windsor Heights Hy Vee for two bottles of Italian sparkling wine (faux champagne but clocks in at 7.5%) to add to my New Years Eve arsenal.  The photo is on top.  9001 miles for 2017.  I foresee about another 6.

Happy New Years, bitches!!!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 2nd Outstanding Day To Bicycle Des Moines!

The candy cane.  I was not present when Joe gave this to Mary and when we rode back to our house after the bridge I thought that something was falling out of pannier!

It was a beautiful day in Des Moines, Iowa, to ride a bicycle.  Not that we did a lot of miles but we spent it with friends and enjoyed the outdoors without coats or snow for the first Saturday of December.  Two major events: Lady Hoegaarden's Birthday Bash on the Water Works Bridge and the 3rd Annual Beaverdale Bikes Holiday Bike Ride in the Beaverdale neighborhood that evening.  Mary and rode over 28 miles on our commuters, mine a single speed.

Water Works Bridge.  That's me up front in red standing behind Bill L in the Kyle's Bikes kit.  Plenty of room to ride through.

Spoon was the best dressed on the bridge.  Failed to see him in Beaverdale.  Perhaps he had too much fun!

Homer said that he would be at Water Works Bridge at 1 pm for Lady Hoegaarden's birthday celebration.  This is a popular stop for cyclists in the DSM Metro area.  I admit that the bridge gets a bit congested but the only people that complain about it are uptight cyclists with sand up their bums.  Funny, most of these people complain that the surface of the bridge is too rough for their bicycles.  The people taking wedding photos, a large group, just smiled as they filed by our rampage of baggers.  We were just celebrating life and enjoying the warmth and sun and each other.  Soon enough we will be hibernating indoors at home when Winter arrives.

After an hour or so Mary and took off for home to prepare for the Beaverdale Christmas lights bike ride.  Basically, we need to let the dog out and grab lights and extra clothing for the temperature drop after sunset.  We planned to meet our Ragbrai crew (funny thing is that we ride the week of Ragbrai but rarely see Ragbrai proper) at the Triangle Tap.  They were not there so we headed to Beaverdale instead.  They were not there but were at Captain Roy's.  we must have just missed them since only two bicycles were there when we rolled by.  Mary and decided to make Reed's Hollow our HQ until the other arrived.

Holiday Cheer!
Never been here before probably because Beaverdale is not really in our travel path.  Nice place.  Mary had a cider and I had Shiner's Holiday Cheer draft.  First one of the season.  Donnie then text and asked where everybody was and I went outside to Beaverdale Bikes to fetch him.  Then the others arrived: Joe, Nick, Kevin and Mike.  They had some moonshine made with Everclear that tasted like applesauce.  Dangerous.  I stayed with beer.

From the FaceBook event announcement.

Amy and Don, Team Mystery Machine, our old teammates.

Don and a good look at the lights.

Action shot during the ride.

Time to ride.  The sidewalk was packed with bicycles!  Must have been 200 people.  Just saddle up and get in the flow.  Many cyclists have decorated their bicycles and themselves.  As for us, Mary had a candy cane that Joe placed on her panniers and I wore a Santa hat.  The neighborhood outdid itself with lights!  I failed to take any photos as not wanting to stop and lose my friends or cause a crash.  I was amazed how many houses were ready for Christmas and had the Spirit.  Home owners stood outside or in their doorways and waved at us.

Afterwards we regrouped at Saints for a post ride brew and food.Then the chilly ride home.  I definitely plan to do this ride next year.  Maybe we'll add lights to our bicycles.

How many warm weekends will we enjoy before Winter arrives?  Few and fewer.  We will adjust.  Just hope for an early Spring.

Special thank you to the people I stole these images from.  You are the best!