Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Red Trek FX 7.5

Big Wheel Rally 2009

Late summer 2007 found me desiring the perfect commuter.  I was considering a $300 hybrid that could be racked out and have parts replaced when needed.  Something relatively fast and the ability to carry my stuff to work and back and bring back some groceries.

My first and only stop was at Bike World on Urbandale Avenue.  Unfortunately, all the $300 hybrids had those cheap suspension forks (unnecessary weight).  Tom Laughead pointed to a candy apple red bike displayed on the west wall.  "This one has better wheels and tires, is much lighter and is much faster."  damn right!  Seduction by beauty and performance.  9 speed.  Carbon fork.  Those 24 poke Bontrager wheels and the 15.5" frame sealed my fate.  A great looking bike just my size.

I immediately sealed its fate.  "Rack it, put fenders on it, one of those Trek wireless computers, a bottle cage and prep it for sale."  I ordered a pair of Jand Commuter bags for this bicycle.  A set of those SPD/normal pedals replaced whatever was on it.  I did not even ride it until after the transaction was completed and I was out the door.

Monday October 15, 2007, was my first ride on it.  I assume it was a ride to work.  My Bike Log merely notes that "needs knobbies for mud".  The bike came with Bontrager Race Lite 700x35 tires.  I would later come to love these tires and have a set on Mary's road bike and my road bike.  Triple flat protection, more than once I have pulled a chunk of broken glass on of them without having a flat.  I have witnessed on my own and on others the center tread ripped, exposed chords and the tire still holding air.  The $45 bad ass tire.  Since my fenders were not in yet I told Bike World to cancel them and give me a set of Kenda Pro cross tires.

The Kendas are another tire I love.  A very narrow 700x35, they are inexpensive and good on snow and ice.  I appreciate how they squeak on ice, a sound that reminds me that I need to watch my speed and avoid sudden movements.

With very few exceptions this was the bike I rode til the end of the year. 

 This was my main bike for the beginning of 2008.  Here is the photo the Des Moines Register took of me for an article on freaks that ride bikes in the winter.  I cannot believe how yellow my rain coat is in this photo.  I predict that it will be white by the end of next year.  Bike log indicates photo take or appeared in the paper on January 30th.

In February I purchased a set of studded tires for this bike.  My crashing stopped by 99.9%  1st ride with those on the 19th.  This month also marked the first of my main mechanical issue of the bike...brakes.  This bike went through brake pads like no other.  Most likely because I rode it in crappy weather on dirty streets.  In the 8000 miles that I have put on the bike I may have replaced the pads almost 8 times or more.

The other issue I have experienced is the tendency of the free hub to freeze up and freewheel in both directions.  This happens early in the morning on my way to work.  It is below freezing outside.  Pedal and nothing happens except the chain moving.  Pawls are not engaging.  I end up walking to work.  Apparently water gets into the internals then freezes inside.  I have had the free hub cleaned, lubed and replaced about once a winter.  Last winter I had this done in October before it got cold.

The final and almost bicycle fatal issue is the fact that I put too many miles on the bike in crappy winter conditions.  Chain starts to stretch.  Cassette gets worn out.  Chain rings bend and start to look like shark teeth.  Front derailleur gets dirty and eventually stops working.  Steel surfaces rust.

So it was it this condition that I rode it during the winter of 2010/2011.  Basically a single speed.  I did not feel like replacing the chain before winter.  Front shifting died long ago.  But It made it.  I did not put the studded tires on it.  Skill over technology.  Even the day it snowed nearly a foot and shut the city down, Red got me to work on time. 

February 2, 2010, PFG Call Center 6200 Park Ave 615 am

The Blizzard of Feb 1st and 2nd.  Red made it.  It got me to work.  I could not take the trail because the snow was too deep.  Going down Thomas Beck Rd was an experience of silent white death.  The road was plowed and cleared.  I was fascinated by the drifting snow on the road wafting around like floating tiny diamonds.  And then the noise of the tires.  Squeaky.  HOLY CRAP!!!  That noise means that I am on ice going downhill at a high rate of speed.  Careful application of brakes to scrub away speed. 

By the time Spring rolled around the bike had over 900 miles on it for the year.  It has gone 8000 miles since that October day in 2007.  Time for a rest.  Time to rethink winter commuting.  Time for a new bike.

On St Patrick's Day I purchased a single speed bike.  I was counting on its simplicity to resolve the mechanical issues the FX had.  No derailleurs to rust and lock up.  Less stuff to lube.  No free hub to freeze up.  Easier to clean the chain.  Just replace brake pads.  I was able to remove the 4 bolts holding the rack on the FX and place it on the new bike without much effort.  I left the bags on the bike when I did this.  Lifted the rack bags and all!  Good plan until some bastard ripped the bike off form me.  Praise Jesus that I removed the panniers before the bike was stolen.  FUCKER

So I pulled Red out of the shed and paid my membership to the Bicycle Collective and got my hands really dirty.  First step was to replace the brakes.  Total replacement.  New cantilevers and pads.  New cables and housing.  Do it right.

Step 2 was the drive train.  This was major work.  Chain, cassette, chain rings, derailleurs, cables and cable housing.  I was hoping that the rear derailleur could be saved but the cable tension adjustment was rusted in it and broke off when we tried to remove it.  Good thing it did because the new cassette had much bigger cogs than the old one. 

Speaking of cassettes, the old one was missing teeth!

Big and middle ring were replaced.  Middle was bent and very, very worn out.  Big ring was in better shape but not much better.

Too Shimano's credit, the Deore 9 speed shifters still worked.  I am amazed.  They have been abused for 8000 miles.  When they finally go I will replace them with aluminum thumb shifters--easier to use and less complicated and will last a lifetime.

Another miracle is that the headset and bottom bracket are still good.  I should really replace them but I have dumped enough cash into the bike for now and need to get a new set of studded tires ASAP.

My hands are still dirty from all this work.  The cuts are healing.  But most importantly the bike bike is working.  Without the rack or bags on it it feels very fast.  Never have had the pleasure of riding it unburdened.  But a rack will be coming shortly.  Winter is fast approaching.  I hope the parts hold up for another 8000 miles.

Reporting for duty!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Prospects of a Long Winter

Two mornings in a row with temps in the 20s.  Winter commuter in the shop.  The bike I purchased in Spring for this winter stolen.  Only one set of studded tires with good studs.  Growing season has ended.  Bald eagles in Capital City.  Turkey buzzards long gone.  No more song birds singing sweetly in the morning air.  Crows flocking together like gang members.  Holidays demanding cash for all things non-bicycle related.  Full speed, no reserve.

I did not mind the past two mornings.  My attire was perfect.  Even wore my sandals, Smart Wool socks with liners and a thick pair for outer layer.  Never cold.  But this evening I saw the writing on the wall.  Brenton Bank Ice Skating Rink was open for business.  FUCK ;(

Already??  Come on.  Is it really that cold???

But this is Iowa and anything goes this time of year.  We have had the greatest autumn ever.  Rained maybe twice.  Snowed once and that did not stay around.  Convenient that it rained and snowed in the same 24 hour time period, thus avoiding prolonged agony.  And this happened in the middle of the week leaving the weekend perfect!  Thank you Lord.

What my brained damaged memory recalls is this.  I was married on November 24th.  It was a beautiful day in the 60s.  A few years latter and a few weeks before Thanksgiving my step grandfather died of congestive heart failure.  I drove to Ottumwa with my sister.  We could not do the speed limit because of snow.  In recent years the temps have been similar to this year's.  Perhaps more moisture.  The end of November of 08 brought 3.5" of snow that stayed until Spring.  In 2009 I rode a bicycle to Ottumwa with my son.  It was 36F.

So now we are a week away from Turkey Day.  One last feast before December.  Forecast looks good.  4 days off in a row, perhaps some good riding awaits.  Time to get snow bikes ready.  Last chance to get new winter gear.  We will need it.  I seriously doubt that Autumn will blend into Spring come March or April.  Just hoping that it is no worse than last year.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

A Ride Up North

Sunday November 6, 2011

Mary and I take the tandem up north on the Neal Smith Trail. It was her idea, a chance to see how the new connection to Ankey progressed.  I suggested that once in Ankeny we should push further north by finding the beginning of the High Trestle Trail and take that to the Polk City turn off (the Oasis).  A promising beautiful day with a great ride plan.

We took the Cannondale.  Fast and confident.  No bags or unnecessary shit to slow us down.  Racing bike for two.  Today's journey would be that bike's 3rd venture in that region.

With the levy repair completed we joined the NST near Lutheran Hospital.  Noticed a new pole at the begining of the trail at "Adultery Row" as Jason Boten once remarked.  Nothing to note about the trail that has nort been said before.  Almost everything south of Sycamore Access needs to be repaved.  Especially the section that parallels I-80.

I will not that the powers that be repaved the part of the trail that the semi truck destroyed when some selfish asshole cut him off and his truck fell off the freeway.  Someone's head needs to roll.  But then again IF mjore semi's fell off the freeway perhaps more sections of the trail would be repaved.  Food for thought.

The turn to Ankeny is shortly after SA.  Unfortunately for us, a huge John Deere tractor was pulling dual anhydrous amonia tanks and it's deadly cargo wafted out direction.  "Should not be breathing this," I remarked.  Mary, a farmer's daughter affirmed my comment.  Cancer surely awaits us.

When the air cleared we arrived at the climb up to Oralabor Rd or as I call it Oralsex Rd.  Just a gentle spin upwards.  Probably fun to scream down.  We were not destined to do this.

Travelling along the trail along side Oral Sex Rd we stopped at a GitnGo.  Mary needed to relieve herself in the store's clean facilities.  We also consulted the map created by the Collective.  Since few roads are labeled on the map we had no clue where we were let alone where to turn.  We ventured further East to State Street, Road or Ave.  Mary noticed a water park and thought that this was the one we parked at when Joe Hildreth drove us to the trail.  It was not.  We then continued north to old Ankeny.

1st St.  Somewhere on 1st was the trail head.  We found it.  19 miles from the start of our journey.  Not really much.  A photo opportunity was ruin by a bicycle parked on the bike sculpture that I wanted to lean out tandem on.  No big deal.  Target acquire.  6.9 miles to the Oasis.

This was virgin trail for us.  We have ridden parts of the trail for years but never the very begining.  Not much to see.  Residential.  Eventually we found the aquatic center we started at on Labor Day weekend with Joe and Donnie Hildreth.  Soon we were out of the suburb.

I remember crossing the Irvindale intersection and looking back south.  This was the road that we should have taken from the GitnGo.  Noted for next time.  What was now on my mind was the wind.  Yesterday it was from the South.  Today the West.  terrible speed sucking cross wind.  Our speed was slow and I worried about time.  If Mary was worried she never let me know.  It took forever to travel those 6.9 miles.

I wonder who put this here??

Once at the Oasis we rested a bit.  Noting the position of the Sun I thought we were screwed.  Daylight Savings Time ended during our sleep.  It would be dark early.  By the grace of God, as we remounted the bike and turned West toward Polk City our speed picked up considerably.  Perhaps we had a better profile.  Perhaps the landscape blocked the wind.  Perhaps the wind switched directions.  I do not know.  I merely placed the bike in big ring and hauled ass the 2.5 miles to Polk City.

Familiar turf.  We split a $5 Footlong at subway, a spicy Italina on flat bread.  Purchaed two quarts of Dew at Kum&Go.  This is generally our PC Meal.  Since I am not consuming carbs, I did not eat the bread.  this was the first thing I had to eat since 10 am.  It was now 230 pm and we were 28 miles into our trip.

We took the trail back, catching the NST after Casey's.  Fun to do the bunny hills.  Nice to be away from traffic.  At the bottom of the prarie we see the original bearded one. Scott S heading north!

This rest of the trip was unremarkable.  A fun ride in beautiful autmn weather.  We filmed our selves descending the dam.  Descending the Wall

We goit home before dark.  I think it was around 4 pm.  Only one phone call.  Our neighbor saying that she did not need one of our children to clean her house.  Mary prepped lasagna before we started so all we had to do was throw it into the oven.  I was tired and hungry.  50 miles can do that to you!

Despite riding over 50 miles we barely touched our water

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Why I'd Rather Ride When It Snows

Rain in the 40s this time of year is the WORST.  No matter how I dress for it I get wet.  My glasses get wet and my vision fails.  Gotta have some sort eye protection even if contacts are worn.  Just like fighting off 100 chihuahuas, kill 45 and there are still 55 left.  Rain and wetness seep into even the smallest microscopic hole in fabric.  It ruins bikes.  Nobody wants to be in it unless it had been 100F and 200% humidity.  40s and rain is cold and miserable.  So it was yesterday.

Snow on the other hand is a different beast.  It can be breath taking beautiful.  People actually want to be outside and play in it.  Peaceful is a word to describe it.  Most importantly, I can dress for it.

Yesterday.   November 8, The Year of Our Lord 2011.  Forecast called for rain and then snow.  Lots of each.  I had enough clothing in my lockers at work to last a few days.  We probably had enough food to get by or a quick stop at Grazianos or B&B Supermarket could be done without much effort.  I did not want to ride my 520 and get it wet and rusty.  So I had to ride a bicycle without racks and bags.

Choices were slim.  One mtb with a flat.  One mtb that I do not ride to work unless no other bikes are functioning for the conditions.  One commuter stolen.  One commuter with flat tire and awaiting new cassette and chain.  One commuter without tires awaiting rebuild.  Road bikes in similar situations.  One that does not see rain.  One awaiting chain tool.  One in need of a few parts.  Another awaiting rebuild.

Mary was taking her winter commuter.  Joe a mtb.  That left the recently acquired Raleigh-LTD3.  A good choice for a shit day.  Internal gearing and fenders.  Only $40 invested into it.  It has taking me to Cumming and back.  Tires hold air.  A rack and bags would be a nice option but yesterday that was not going to happen.

Raleigh LTD-3 day of purchase with the 520.  Handle bar position has been corrected 1/2 hour after photo was taken.
 The rain was light when I left home for work.  Misty.  Heavy mist sorta light drizzle.  Not bad.  I watched the weather reports all day at work.  There was a possibility that there would be a window of dryness for the commute home.  When I rolled out of the call center a little before 3 pm, I missed that opportunity.  Light rain again.

It was what the Navajos call a "female rain".  Light and gentle.  Nourishing for the earth and its plant life and water ways.  Never violent.  Just never ending nagging wetness.  A "male rain" is a violent gully washer.  Quick and full of thunder and lightning.  Not unlike a torrent of cussing from and angry man.  Soon the sun pops out and all is forgotten.  Nope, this bitch was a woman.

Resigning myself to the inevitable I rode home quickly.  I stopped underneath the Indianola/3rd St bridge to remove glass from a broken Budweiser bottle that some thoughtless asshole smashed.  A second stop at Grazianos for Italian sausage, marinara and roasted red bell peppers.  My last stop was at the VFW hall for the election.  I was the 25th person to vote there.  4pm.

Once home I put on dry clothing and plugged my phone in and made some tea.  Almost, almost fell asleep watching tv while the tea seeped in my mug.  The rain never ended.  It picked up a bit and the wind got worse.

It was nearly 630pm when I started dinner.  The kids were having hot dogs.  I was not.  I cooked the sausage link in the oven and then sliced it up into small pieces to mix in the marinara with the roasted peppers.  Low carb tasty goodness.  Mary would like this I hoped despite the lack of pasta and bread.

Mary was scheduled off at 6pm.  I was expecting her to be home about 7pm.  At 647pm I went back to my bedroom and saw that I had a new text on my charging phone.  It was from Mary.  "Flat tire.  Walking".  612pm  FUCK

I immediately called her.  "Where are you?'

M-"Just past the trestle." (please look back on older blog posts about my dislike of the use of the word trestle)

There are many "trestles".  I had I in mind.  The bridge on the Trestle to Trestle trail or InterUrban trail.  "Which one?"

"The rail bridge."

4.5 miles away from home on the Bill Riley Trail.  Target located.

"I can walk."

"Bullshit.  I will be right there with the pump."

It was dark thanks to the return of Standard Time and the Earth's rotation on its axis this time of year.  I grabbed the 520 and threw the pump in a rear pannier and then dressed.  I wore my water proof hiking boots that have taken me to 12,441 feet above sea level in the Rookie Mountains and through all of last winter in Iowa.  Although SPD pedals are on the 520 currently, I can manage.

It was pissing with rain and wind.  Heading north to Mullets and the trail sucked.  Glad Mary is walking south.  By the time I reached the trail, 1/2 mile, my glasses were useless and counterproductive.  I guess they kept my eyeballs free of rain but my vision was greatly impaired.

I was 3.4 miles out when I saw the flasher.  Chances are that it was her.  No one else would be out in this shit this late.  It was her. Amen.  I was impressed that she walked a mile to my prepping and 3+ miles.

Rear tire.  Shit!  If it was the front we could swap tires for tomorrow's snow ride.  I really did not want to change a tube after this. 

Locating the stem was the first task.  Then ripping off my now getting soaked gloves.  I think it was still in the 40s.  65 psi could not be reached fast enough.    "One mile to the Fleur Viaduct.  Get there as fast as you can."

Put the pump back in the bag.  Struggle getting wet gloves back on.  Noticed that her rear flasher was not on.  Get rolling.

She got over a half mile.  At least she crossed 30th.  "I don't want to ruin the rim," Mary said when I caught up with her walking.  My take off was slow.  Good attitude, caring for the wheel.  I have been know to ride 2 to 3 miles on a flat to get to work on time.  The tire dies before the wheel.  "Turn your flasher on and straddle the bike while I pump."

This time we got as far as Fleur.  The stem was sitting very low in the tire.  I just kept my gloves off.  Too much hastle.  Just wanted to get home and eat and dry off.  In reverse order, dry then eat.  "One and a half miles to next underpass (dry spot).  Go Go Go!!"

She made it but stopped about ground zero of the broken Bud bottle explosion.  Final airing of the tire.  We were .8 miles from home.  She could do this.  No where else to stop.  She made it.  Thank you Lord.

I wa soaked and tired.  But tomorrow's commute needed to be addressed.  Another commuter out of service.  The 520 was wet and was equipted with tires that would be worthless in snow.  I was too tired to change tires and tubes.  Musical bikes.

Simple solution.  Mary would ride Katie/Joe's Trek 830 mtb.  He would ride the Raleigh 2 miles to work downtown.  And I would pull my seldom used mtb out of the shed and ride it.

We woke up about 230 am.  the dog needed out.  Around 3 am she was barking a lot.  At 4 am I got up.  Wow.  We got a lot of snow.  Joe got up early too.  I re-explained the bike situation.  Made sure that everyone had a lock.

I left home at 520 am.  I rode in the tracks created by cars.  Despite the large amount of snow, 3.7" the road was very very wet with puddles.  The trail was pure wet virgin snow.

It was a beautiful ride on the trail.  So much snow that I did not need my light.  I turned it off and looked for animal tracks.  No human had been out yet.  I blazed this trail.

All good things come to an end.  Mine ended near the Ikes when I left water Works park and got on Flagg then Park ave.  Enough cars had been on the road to facilitate more melting than what had occured on the trail.  Now my ass was getting wet.  My comfortable turning lane that I ride the  half mile of Park Ave was sluch and snow covered.  I opted for the side walk just to stay away from cars.  The last stretch of Park Ave has no side walk so I rode over the snow covered grass.  I was on a mtb, I can ride anywhere.

I amde it to work on time.  As promised by the weather folks the roads were snow free by the time I got done working.  the sun was out and it felt good to ride home.  Pick up a tube and think about dinner..  And be glad the rain had ended.