Saturday, March 3, 2012


Pride of the Fleet chained together like the hearts that beat them on this pre-Spring day

Another cold Saturday morning.  It has been a great week but as usual the wind picks up Friday and we wake up below freezing Saturday morning with a 20 mph from the north.  The forecast improves once the weekend is over, 64F for Tuesday's high.  But we made it March.  Two set of studded tires are by the back door with prospects of returning to the shed or basement soon.  Songbirds are chattering away.  Things are turning green and some plants are surfacing from the ground.  Spring awaking, frühlingserwachen as our German brethren would say.

We wake up about 7 am.  That means I slept in for 3 hours!  Little Ewok is making her needs known before we leave the comfort of the bed.  But that cat failed to  understand that in order to be fed some human needs to leave the house and purchase cat food.  Dog food is gone as well but Heidi remains on the floor in front of the tv.  Eventually I exit the bed and and grab a knife and left over chicken breast.

"here, enjoy the cooked version of what you would be eating if you existed in the state of nature."  I plop a large chunk in Heidi's bowl and they summon her.  This will by us some precious time before we have to leave the house.  Besides,  I give left overs 48 hours in the fridge before I refuse to eat them.  After 48 hours they aint kosher for me.

The plan was a simple one.  Hit 2 credit unions and one bank and then stop at Dollar General for tooth paste, shampoo animal food.  Small load that can be carried in back packs.  Why not take road bikes?  Been quite some time since we experienced the joy of riding something other than a mule.

Road bikes are me favorite.  Fast and efficient.  99.99% of energy put into pedalling is converted into momentum.  I push myself harder on these than I do on other bikes.  Better reward for the effort.  Sleek and sexy.  Fast and unforgiving.  Never mundane.  The Ferrari of bicycles.

I have filled a water bottle and took off for 100 mile ride on a road bike.  All I need is cash, a phone, sunglasses and a tire repair kit, which fits nicely in a small bag under the saddle.  What more does a person need to enjoy biking in its purest form?  Remind me to put Osceola on my list for destinations this year.  Warren County offers the best county roads in Iowa for long rides.  Hills, baby, hills!  Road bikes eat them up with greed!

Now other bikes have their merits.  Mtbs on single track are quite outstanding.  But whenever I have the time for that or am in the mood for off road it is too wet.  Can't destroy the trail!  Touring bikes offer freedom at the sacrifice of performance.  Unless you have Sheldon Brown's touring bike, a road bike with a credit card.  And the list goes on, so many types of bicycles these days that my fingers would go numb before I am done.  Let's just say that the roads were clear, the sky was blue and it was time to ride something different.

I do not recall when i last took the stick bike out.  Possibly November or even December given the merciful warm winter we are almost done with.  But January and February I have ridden only a hybrid and a touring bike and my Raleigh 3 speed.  I think I took a tandem out.  But once I get the bike log off my dead computer I will not be sure.  Basically I have ridden heavy slow bikes that merely have been used for grocery runs and commuting to work.

Mary and my fast bikes have been nestled in hibernation.  Just sitting there with tires slowly deflating.  I pulled the computer for my LeMond Versailles out of the drawer.  Clock still on Daylight Savings Time or whatever is not the time now, an hour ahead.  Stupid of me to change it since DST or Standard Time is going to "Spring Forward" in a couple of weeks.  But I did.  I also reset the odometer.  1197 miles last year.  That is almost average for the bike.  I got in in 2007 and still have the original tires and brake pads on it.  Pristine!  Mary's Trek 1600 had 3733 miles on it from last year.  The year before maybe 4K.  Both bikes still had front and rear lights on.  This is a minor miracle because we have been cannibalizing the other bikes to keep our commuters illuminated.  Tires definitely needed air.  Both bikes still had mud on them from last year.  Note to self: purchase proper bike washing soap.

The first thing we noted is that the bikes felt a bit twitchy.  Given that these bikes are considerably lighter than the commuters this is no surprise.  Put more weight on the handle bars.  The second thing we noticed is how damn smooth they felt.  As if angels were pushing us!  Quite too, having not suffered the abuse of riding through rain and snow and all the shit on the roads from winter.  No noisy knobbies either.

The elation ended at the end of the street.  North head wind was there to greet us.  Until we got to the Raccoon River Bridge.  The never ending weather battle in Iowa is the north/south wind.  Winter trying to make another push into the state.  Better than the tornadoes that sacked the states south and east of here.  But it seems like there has not been a day without a strong wind this week.  Wednesday I think it was 28 mph sustained with gusts up to 60 mph.  And yours truly had to ride into it all the way to work.  After work things calmed down to 44 mph gusts.  I deployed sailed and enjoyed the ride home.  But now we had 3+ miles until the shelter of the trail.

I could bore you the details of the rest of the trip.  First stop was at the Greater Iowa Credit Union on 22nd St in West Des Moines.  We took the trail to Wal Mart and then rode up Buffalo Ave and waited 5 minutes at the stop light at 22nd.  There was one bike chained up to the tree at the credit union.

The next stop was in Urbandale near Bike World.  So instead of retracing our pedal strokes we opted fro crossing Buffalo and doing some parking lot and frontage road action to University where we crossed by Hardees and did a bit of lawn action to get to the Clive Greenbelt.  This trail to Windsor Heights trail and then to Hickman ect a bit of residential.

Other things we noticed.  Mary's brakes are lacking again.  She averages 3 to 4K a year.  Her computer was not calibrated properly.  It was set for a 26x1.5 tire not a 700x25.  The brakes on the Versailles almost sent me over the bars!  Damn, I love strong brakes!  So another repair on the list of things I should be doing instead of blogging.  STI road shifters do not work well with severe winter mittens.  Mary did not want a smaller pair of gloves today since the temp was still below 30F when we left. 

A very pleasant 24.5 miles.  We even stopped at B&B for Italian sausage for two meals this weekend, chili and pasta.  Felt very very good to be on the Versailles again.  I should be on older road bikes but they are in various states of repair.  My Campy bike needs the chain whacked 2 links or so and the rear hub bearings repacked.  The 560, ultra twitchy lugged steel classic Trek needs a new derailleur and the drop out bent back thanks to a son of mine.  My theory is to ride the older bikes first and wait until Spring rains wash the streets clean before busting out the good bikes.  But I have been very lazy this winter keeping commuters running.  Spring Awaking, time to move!

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