Monday, September 26, 2011

Days Without Riding and Records Broken or Not

Sunday I did not ride.  I had chances.  Everyday there are opportunities to ride.  Just did not feel like it.  First responsibility was a mere half mile away from home.  Second responsibility I pawned off on Mary.  I was dead.

I walked that half mile to Church.  Big day there.  First outdoor Mass at the new Grotto.  We usually walk to Church anyway.  If I rode I'd need to park it somewhere safe from the 800 people expected.  Walk.  Nothing to worry about. 

However, I was on my feet all day feeding these 800 people.  That wore me out.  Did a lot of walking that day fetching things we needed to feed the parish.  Then I walked home.

Mary greeted me.  It was my idea to have tacos.  I purchased a ton of cilantro and needed to use it.  So when she asked if I wanted to go to the store with her I said no.  I needed to veg in front of the computers and not deal with people.  I think I even napped. 

My cold was still sapping my energy.  Friday and Saturday I did not take very good care of myself.  I had 138 miles for the week.  On target for new annual record.  Current month looking like 600 miles.  No need to to ride for a short list of groceries.  Mary and Dora could handle it.  Perhaps if it was a flat ride I would have given it more thought.  The 2 miles to Hy Vee has very strong gravity on a serious of false flats.  The real hills on that route are better than the false flats.  But I was not motivated.  A day without riding.

This was the fourth day this year, 2011, that I did not ride.  The others are:
Jan 16-feeling ill
Apr 2--out of town
Aug 6--no reason

Better than last year.  2010 I missed 2 days in February because I went camping with my Scout Crew.  3 days in March, 1 due to rain and the other two at the end of the month for unknown reasons.  I never recorded why.  Weekend days at the end of the month.  Must have had all the food we needed and enough miles not to care.  Memorial day was another day without biking.  Then the broken collar bone on June 2.  I managed to ride once the next week and a few more times the following weeks.  No century weeks until Ragbrai.  I stopped looking.  No point.

So on this rainy eve as I feel the virus killing my throat and think about the coming winter I have a chance to reflect.  4 days without riding this year.  Not too shabby for me.  Years ago my mantra was ride once a week every week to set mileage records.  This forced me outside on the bike at least once a week.  It adds up in the end.  But those were 3000 mile years.  Now I am going to hit 6000+ miles for 2 years in a row.

The new mantra is to get 100 miles per week every week.  So far I have done this.  I would have been doing this since 'Brai 2010 but Christmas week cut me down to 87 miles. 

I also noticed that I reached my goal of 5600 miles for 2011 near the end of September.  I still have 3 full months to add to this.  Bonus miles.  I set new monthly records for every month but July.  Strange that a Ragbrai month I cannot set a new record.  Less than 800 miles.  Blame it on the heat.  Always next year to beat 857 miles.  My goal was for 900, 115 miles short.

This month will not set a new record.  Not even close.  672 miles is the standing September benchmark set last year.  I will barely achieve 600.  Still, that is a lot of goddamn riding in a busy month.

So my conservative estimate is 7000 miles for 2011.  Another 100 to wrap up September.  500 for October (636 in 2011).  400 for both November and December.  I've done this before.  Keep at the 100 per week and pray the snow does not get too deep.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Riding Etiquette:Safety Nazis and the Death of Civility

Shout, shout, let it all out.  These are the bikers I can do without.  Come on, I am faster than you, come on...

Move bitch.  Git out da way, git out da way

This posting was inspired by Jason Boten, friend, biker, father and bass player.  He has noted several times about the lack of friendliness on the trails.  recently, he remarked on Face Book, that "Good morning" has been replaced with "Morning" or "morn".

Whatever happened to hello?  Howdy?  Nice to see you?  Beautiful morning, don't you think?  With increasingly rare exception, it has been replaced with "ON YOUR LEFT!"

I really do not recall when it happened.  Possibly with the "Ride Right" campaign championed by Ragbrai.  The number of cyclists and the explosion of trails and trail users necessitated communication.  Collisions or near misses.  But good intentions pave the road to Hell.

It is very important to be aware of your surroundings while cycling or running.  It is very important to let those in your path become aware of your presence and intentions.  But do we need to be so damn rude?  Maybe they are not intending to be rude.  There are those bikers that wait a lifetime to yell "ON YOUR LEFT"!

Strip it down to its core, "ON YOUR LEFT" means "hey you, I am about to overtake you so please hold your line and let me through."  But sometimes I believe some people use those three words instead of saying what they really mean, "GET THE FUCK OUTTA MY WAY I AM ROLLING THROUGH FAST."

Maybe people do not even think about it.  They merely utter at assorted volumes the call because it has been pummelled into their brains by Safety Nazis.  A catch phrase for the Give Me Convenience or Give me Death culture.

I usually say "howdy" or "good morning" or, if feeling particularly articulate "guten morgan".  If they appear to be of South of the Border descent, "con permisso".  What an elegant and civilized phrase the latter is.  With your permission may I pass?

This really a simple act. All that needs to be done is a simple announcement of your presence.  Be friendly about it.

Just to illustrate this point I would like to make a short film where people in non-biking settings shout "ON YOUR LEFT" as a greeting.  Perhaps get people exiting a church and while shaking hands with the pastor exclaim 'ON YOUR LEFT"  Or a business setting.  Or a host/hostest sitting customers at a restaurants.

Ride Right and the Further Escalation of Safety Nazis.  I recall the scene of leaving Storm Lake during the 2010 edition of Ragbrai.  We happened to get on route at 730 am.  Way late or too early to avoid the ugliest form of 'Brai.  The Herd.

The route was 6 bikes wide and taking both lanes of the road.  My mind recalls that the majority of the riders wore blue shirts.  Within a few minutes chaos hit.  3 water bottles from 3 different bikes fell onto the ground about the same instant.  Some of the water hit me.

Don't get me wrong, I can tolerate sloppy bikemanship after years of pilgrimages to the Cumming Tap.  But at 740 am Ragbrai Day 2 (for them, Day 4or 5 for me), this was inexcusable and dangerous.

Then that foul noise hit hard.  Like a fart at the front of the unemployment line it wafted through the herd.  "CAR UP!"  The visually impaired and the easily distracted do need this warning.  In the age of smart phones and ADD people display a lack of concentration of the task at hand, namely, riding a bicycle without colliding with other bikes, objects, people and vehicles coming in from the opposite direction.

But the Safety Nazis failed to establish how often "CAR UP" needs to be called out.  How far should the intervals be when the "CAR UP" alarm is necessary.  As any study of large group dynamics will reveal, there are many in any group of random people that feel it is their God given or genetic coded duty to scream "CAR UP" at volume.  Some people think that despite the person two bicycle lengths in front of them sounding the alarm that IF they themselves fail for repeat the call the incoming vehicle will wipe out 30 bikes and smear blood for 2 miles down the road.

On this particular morning it was my sister.  Patty is an up and coming cyclist.  The biking bug is firmly planted.  But her insecurity in control and unfulfilled maternal instinct  can sometimes be quite annoying.

Understand that my family, Mary, Quin and Timmy have had 3 wonderful days on empty highways.  We were the only bikes.  It was glorious riding from Des Moines to Storm Lake.  But now we were adrift in a sea of road hogs and bottle droppers and the fear that someone would get hurt was becoming unbearable.  I really needed a Valium.  And at the very moment that my anxiety was peaking "CAR UP"  was shouted into my ear by my only sibling after hearing it from 30 people in front of me.

The solution came as quick as a slap in the face.  Get the fuck out now!  As my right hand pushed the shifter forward and my left hand moved the rear, I told Timmy, my stoker on our loaded touring tandem, "we are going to bust a move now!  I am moving this pig ALL THE WAY TO THE LEFT, plant the wheels 2 inches from the white line and we will pass everyone we see until this crowd is long behind us."  "OK Dad", he replied.  And so we did.  Mary and Quin managed to keep up with us.  the only people that passed us were pace lines.  We even received a few compliments on our speed.  People on stick bikes are always in awe when baggers smoke the route.  Most importantly, we were in a safer position on the route and I felt better.  I felt bad for dropping Patty but sometimes survival takes precedent over other issues.

Much later on the Great Western Trail I explained this to her in a simpler way.  Just another bar to bar run/bike ride.  We left the Safety Shack and there were incoming bikes.  "BIKES UP" she shouted, again in my ear.  I think I may have slammed on the brakes.  My retort was thus, "There will be thousands of bicycle on the trail today, many "UP".  We can see them, please refrain from calling them out."  Curt but to the point and totally necessary.  I think she got the message.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tire Troubles

There are only two points of contact that a bicycle should ever make with the road.  These are the front and rear tires.  One should pay careful attention to them before, during and after each ride.  Failure to do so can make for a very miserable ride.  Here are a few stories of my inability to check my tires before leaving on a ride.

(First, I have a photo of Brad Dagget with a duct taped tire on Ragbrai.  I think he rode it for two days.  Someday I will find this photo and post it.)

My story begins here...At the bottom of a hill with a dead tire.  It was Ragbrai sometime in the early 90s.  Where it was I can not be certain.  However, I recall it was in between two rolling hills.  Mary and I were on the Fisher Gemini tandem.  We used Tioga City Slickers 26x1.25 tires.  I loved them.  Smooth yet with sipes for blasting away rain.  I do not recall one ever going flat.  Also rubber, shit sidewall.  That is what ended my favorite tires.

How many miles I had on these I cannot recall.  My record keeping back then was not as dogmatic as today.  But the magic number of miles was reached as we were speeding downhill.

I can always tell when a tire is going flat or needs replacement.  The ride goes to hell immediately.  Sometimes slowly.  Gotta have a sensitive ass for this.  "Just does not feel right" is something that cannot be placed in words.  If one is lucky this "feeling" can be detected in time to replace said tire before becoming stranded.  The tread is reaching the life limit and beginning to flatten (not air loss) and lose its crown. 

But on this ride we did not have that luxury.  I felt it as we were passing someone.  More feedback from the road.  A little squishy when we brought the bike back to the right after passing.  Then the ride really got rough.  Time to pull over.  Yep, totally flat.  Sidewall gave out and the tube tried to go through the hole.  Quick inventory revealed that we were hosed.  Only a tube, some levers and a pump.  We needed a tire.  Back then a foldable tire for $25 would have been the lifesaver.  But I have yet to carry one and to this day do not.  Note to self: GET A DAMN TIRE TO CARRY ON RAGBRAI.

So looking stupid on the side of the road we stood watching everyone fly by.  Nobody asked us if we needed help yet alone stop to help.  And then a man on a Basso pulling a Burley touring trailer stopped.  Hammerman, he called himself.  He happened to have a Specialized Fatboy slick.  Just the ticket.  Miracle at $20.  We were back on the road.

Years later, perhaps 2006, that might have been the same tire that exploded on Kramer's ride to Ames.  We stopped for a safety meeting, large group dynamics require such, and a beer or two just before we were to hit 415.  Then the explosion.  Whenever I hear a tire blow up I look in the direction of my bike.  Sure enough, the boom was in the same area as the tandem.  Yep, sidewall hole.  We abandoned the ISU game/ride and did the dollar bill trick.  Wrapped the tube with the bill at the area of the sidewall hole.  First time I did this.

This lasted quite a long way.  Mary and I got almost to the trestle on the Neal Smith Trail when it gave up.  Called my sister Patty for the air strike.  New tire time.  A set of Serfas were next. 

I really wanted another set of Fatboys.  They lasted for a decade.  I found in my garage a wheel with a Bike World repair tag dated 1996.  I knew that it once held the Fatboy.  But Bike World was out of them and I was not in the mood to drive to Irwins or Rassy's.  Serfas had a 26x1.25 for a reasonable price.  If they crapped out too soon then I'd get the Fatboys or something better.

Crap out time happened at 1500 miles.  But most of those miles were loaded touring miles and sometimes on shit roads and often at high speeds.  Should I complain?  We got 2 Ragbrais out of them.  Mary and I got an outstanding, make that an outfuckingstanding and sublime ride to, during and back to DSM Human Bike In (Grinnel) a month prior.  Fast and overloaded on crap roads.

It was not really a crap out but a warning.  Ragbrai Day One.  We were about 2 or 3 miles south of Yale on the Raccoon Trail hiding from rain underneath the trees.  Not long after the rain stopped and we started rolling that same bad feeling hit.  We stopped.  Losing air.  Fortunately we were prepared having 2 tubes and a floor pump.  I we carry everything else might as well have a floor pump.  They come in handy and give a perfect excuse to stop riding and help someone.

Being very close to Yale we opted for pumping the tire back up and getting to the bar in Yale.  Changing tires is a messy process.  A beer and decent setting to do this work is preferable to trail side.  We had to pump it up twice.

It was a simple puncture as the solo hole in the tube revealed.  Save it for patching, we or someone may need it later.  Check the in the middle of the tire for the trouble maker and the inside of the tire before replacing the tube.

As simple of a repair it was did not leave us with feelings of absolute joy.  A dark cloud on the horizon was in the form of purple splotches on the tire.  Maybe we ran over some fresh paint in Panora when we stopped at the depot for a beer.  Lots of paint there.  But the front tire was free of this.  I tried to ignore this.

Literally we turned around at this point.  Joe Bridgeman called and suggested that we go back to Redfield and hook up.  Other baggers would be there that night.  Fine.  Safety in numbers and an opportunity to look for purple paint.

No purple paint at the depot.  Joe said that the tire was displaying the "warning" strip.  Crabb laughed and told us of his "green" tire.  Shit.  Day One with a dieing tire.

I checked daily.  No bike shops until we actually hit Ragbrai proper.  Bagging out to 'Brai always is an off route experience.  And once tasted, going on route sucks.  Somehow the tire lasted and still holds air to this day although we have not ridden the bike much since returning.  I was planning to purchase a new tire in Atlantic but ended up buying a spoke instead.  The mechanic did not mention the tire.  I had two rolls of electrical tap for "booting" the tire and I could always cut up the old tube for more patching.  Lucky roll of the dice.  I should have replaced the bastard.

I think we put 330 miles on the tire since the warning strip was exposed.

Enter the Kenda Qwest.  My Giant Via Raw came shod with these.  Kenda advertises these as "flat resistant" commuter and touring tires.  Crabb said he gets about 3000 miles out of them before they become flat prone.  I got 2500.

This is a weird one.  The bike sat inside all weekend.  Monday morning it has a flat.  Later in the week I replace the tube.  The first morning I grab the bike it has a noticeable lump in the ride, rear wheel.  I stop.  Tire not flat or low on air and nothing rubbing.  I continue to work.  Once at work I see it.  A damn bulge.  this does not look promising, err good promises.  I make it home and do a few errands on it.  I end up with 20 miles on it.  Got caught a block away from House of Bricks when the hissing started.

And to be a bad boy I rode the bastard home on the flat.  I felt like Franz finishing a race.  The tire was dead anyway.  Short 2 mile ride.  I stood up to keep more weight on the front tire.  As long as the tire stayed on the rim the wheel would be OK.  Not that I recommend this but I have been known to do this especially when I flat one mile shy of work in the morning.  Avoid bumps and take it slow and easy.  Faster than walking.  And who the hell am going to call at 130 am?  Or 530 am if I am going to work?  Never have damaged a rim but use your own judgement and I am not responsible for the destruction of your $1000 carbon fiber rims if you try to imitate me.

If you ride 700c wheels I recommend Bontrager's Hardcase and RaceLite tires.  Triple flat protection they claim.  I believe them.  These are what Trek puts on their mid to higher end bikes  Grey sidewalls.  Flay smooth black strip in the middle of the tire.  I've pulled chunks of broken glass out of mine.  The tire was not punctured.  HOWEVER, they have a limited life span.

Mary got about 3000 out of hers before I got tired of fixing flats.  My 35s actually had tread separation.  The black tread got a rip and cords were exposed.  The tire did not go flat.  Just a rough ride, something wrong here feeling and DAMN THE TIRE IS COMING APART!  I did not try to see how many miles I could get out of this but I think it had more than enough to get me home if I was in Cumming.  Sean from Newton can also attest to this ability of the Bontragers to hold air while exposing cords.  We have one pair left and they have 3000 miles on them.  I think I can feel the t6rerad wearing away on back.  Not as smooth as it used to be.

A Bontrager HC with a "patch".  Owner said he'd get 30+ miles out of before it needed attention.  he rode this for several 30 mile trips

Lesson here:  Check your tires before each ride, Replace if necessary.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Of injured Leg, Jordan Creek trail and East Village Bicycle Rack Testing

Took it easy over the weekend.  The week started out awesome.  Labor Day I rode to Altoona with Brad O.  Had my hundred for the week by Thursday.  Two major Hy Vee raids.  But something happened to my left leg.  Thursday morning it hurt to move.  Friday morning was worse.  Still rode to work and hit Hy Vee again.  Tried to drink away the pain that evening but I was too tired.  With the weekly goal met I decided to lay low until the leg healed.

At first I thought I blew my knee out.  Isolation the pain was not accurate or easy.  Every time I got up it hurt like hell.  Sore, stiff, useless.  Had to lean the bike severely to get on.  Yet riding was ok.  Don't push too much.  Ride a bike with gears.  Getting up and down was the worst.

I think it happened Wednesday night.  From my bed I got up and leaned forward to get something off my dresser.  The first motion I recall now was accompanied by a "shit that hurt" pain in the upper left thigh.  Overstretched.  And now that I have thought about it, my leg felt like it does after doing 6 sets of 17 stories of stairs at the Qwest Building for mountain hiking training.  Always two days later the legs refuse to move.  But I did not think of that at the time.  Nope.  I ignored the pain and tried to take it as easy as possible.

So Saturday's ride was an easy one.  Took the light weight carbon racer and 30 gears up Ingersoll to Zimm's and watched the Iowa/ISU game.  Stephanie Shearer's idea.  But every time I got up the leg hurt and was stiff.  Beer was no help.

Sunday morning was the worst.  REAL STIFF.  The 1/2 mile walk to Church was slow, long and painful.  Kneeling was not bad but getting up and down was.  Time for serious drugs and maybe a doctors appointment.

Quin wanted to treat Mary to breakfast at Mullets.  So while changing clothes I decided to take a skeletal muscle relaxer.  I need to say this now, aspirin, Tylenol, Motrin, Aleve and band aids are never available in my house when I need them.  I have to use the heavy artillery and then go purchase what I needed 3 days prior.  So I took the monster that previously would leave me sleeping on the floor and took the single speed to Mullets.

The first full pedal stroke HURT.  When my left leg was at the apex of the cycle IT SCREAMED.  This lasted for 3 rotations.  I made it to Mullets a little slower than normal.

We met Craig Lein there.  He still looked like he was on the road to the game, Hawkeye flag on his 520.  Craig had the meatloaf, Mary and I the breakfast burritos and Diet Coke.  No beer needed now. 

Since there were three of us now, I had a sufficient amount of people for my latest video project.  We rode to the East Village and filmed ourselves using the artsy fartsy bicycle racks.  At first I liked the idea of artist designing places to park and lock my bike to.  However, most of these suck as if the artist never rode a bicycle yet alone parked one.  My videos can be found on YouTube, "East Village Bike Rack Test" by Pyrtwist.  I probably pissed off some people for this but it had to be said.  My only regret is that I need to go back to The Locust Tap and reshoot the scene.  I have some good ideas.  If interested leave me a note.

Craig suggested that we next visit the 9/11 memorial at the Statehouse.  We rode up Grand.  Leg was fine.  Camera captured the scene and children bitched at the bandwidth I hogged while up loading.  YouTube, "9/11 Memorial at Iowa Statehouse" by Pyrtwist.

Since we were in BFE and I only had serious medicine, Mary and I rode to Walgreens for Aleve.  Here I received a phone call from Brad O.  "Wanna ride the Jordan Creek Trail?"  "Give me 30 minutes so I can get home and swap bikes.  Meet at Mullets."  Agreed.

To get to the Jordan Creek Trail we took the Gray's Lake Bypass, Riley, Walnut Creek trails.  A quick stop for beer at Giff's 5th St Pub and then side path action.

This was the 3rd of 4th time I had done this trail.  The first time was years before the mall was even conceived.  Last year Mary and explored it and decided that if we ever did it again it would be with the largest Sharpie money can buy.  The trail was poorly marked and confusing.  We'd find ourselves miles off course in someones backyard.  This time was much better.

The trail is now marked.  Salute to Central Iowa Trails or whoever placed the Central Iowa Trails signs/posts/markers.  Easy to read and we never got lost.  We circled the mall and headed home.  A 32 mile journey from Mullets.

My only complaint is that the intersections are rough.  They should smooth out where the trail meets the road.  Also, much of this trail is a side path along EP Tru.  I was very tempted to get off the trail and take the road instead, sparing my bike and body constant abuse.  This is one trail that the cheap hybrid with the cheap RST front suspension fork would be the weapon of choice.  I lived, we all lived and the bikes did not break.

Monday morning came too quickly.  But when I rolled out of bed my leg did not scream at me.  I could still feel pain in the upper left thigh but I was no longer limping.  Guess a xanax, 6 Aleve, 2 Fat Tires and 40 miles is therapeutic.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shopping via Bicycle

It has been a year since we last used the car for shopping.  For some odd reason in the winter of 2009 I pondered the question of whether or not I could bike in a ton of groceries.  2000 lbs pedaled in.  In January 2010 I logged every pound of goods brought home.

Using a basic Excel spread sheet I documented every "food run" our house hold bicycled in.  Originally, this spread sheet recorded the date, the bike, use of the Burley trailer, weight in food, liters of liquid, store frequented and how much it cost.  By 2011 I dropped the costs and added bottle/can deposit refunds and carry out pizzas.  The reporter from the Des Moines Register laughed when I told him that recorded how many pounds of groceries we biked in and asked why.  Simple, to show the world that it can be done.

It is a bitch.  It makes shopping a tad bit more burdensome.  Not only do I have to keep the cost in my head but now I need to keep track of the weight as it goes into the cart.  This is the worst issue.  That and physically entering the data on to the spread sheet.

One of the greatest benefits of shopping with a bike instead of a car is parking.  One can real close to the store front on a bike.  many places provide a bike rack.  Other than that the good old lean and lock system.  This is sometimes better on the bike than bike racks.  Some bike rack designers/builders have no clue on what they are doing.

Of course, the environmental benefits and the health benefits (EXERCISE) are good reasons on their own to do this.  In the age of climate change and diabetes anything that gets one off their ass and moving with dumping pollutants and wasting gasoline is admirable.  I do it for the health benefits.  I also ride because I enjoy it more than driving a car.

The grocery getters are primarily our bikes that have racks and panniers.  Jand Commuter bags have an amazing ability to swallow pounds and pounds of goods.  If necessary something can be strapped on top of the rack. Our touring bike with front bags is a nice choice.  I like to pack 2lt bottles in the front bags.

The Burley trailer, originally purchased to haul children, carries large bulky items and can be pulled by any number of our bikes.  We removed the seat years ago to make more space.  For example, 25 lb bags of kitty litter and 20 lb bags of dog food fit nicely in the Burley.  Also, a large tub full of beverage bottles and cans fit securely inside and on the home bound trip can hold groceries safely.

I have trucked in up to 69 lb on a bike without the trailer by myself.  Not that I'd like to do that again with my current stable of bikes but it is possible.  Ass heavy.  My Trek FX 7.5, probably the bike that soloed in the most, has a very noticeable ass wiggles when loaded with 20lb of chicken and 10lb of misc and a few 2lts of pop.  The Gian Via, uses the same rack and bags is more stable feeling but still gets very rear heavy.

Often Mary and I bring in 30 lb with a pair of bikes sans Burley.  This is a bit safer and we can carry more back home than alone.

Been known to haul in 70 lb plus 8lts in the Burley.But the Burley's main purpose is to rid out home of bottles and cans.  Fetching dog food and cat litter is another special use of the trailer.  Not that it is necessary for the latter items.  More than once I have left the store with a 20lb bag for the pets in one pannier and other items in the bag's twin.  Balancing is crucial.

I frequent Hy Vee, Fareway and Dollar General.  Dahls is a store of last resort because of pricing (Tidy Cat is cheapest here despite higher prices on almost everything else).  B&B SuperMarket and Grazianos are the neighborhood stores that we shop at a few times a week. 

The closest Hy Vee is a 4 mile round trip.  This involves a false flat and a hill or two and TRAFFIC.  Sidewalk action sometimes.  Ride time to and fro Park Ave Hy Vee averages about 29 minutes.  During winter it is more difficult to go to so we use the HV in Windsor Heights.

Windsor Heights HV is a 17 mile round trip.  HOWEVER, with the exception of two half mile road sections, between our house and the trail and between the trail and the store, this trip is all trail.  As such it is a pleasant ride.  I prefer to ride the 13 extra miles because it is quieter, safer and avoids an energy sucking false flat.  The various municipalities do a wonderful job clearing the trails.

I've talked to other riders who also shop at this Hy Vee and they go there despite closer locations.

2009 3000 lb 865 Lt 1 ton reached in October
2010 as of 9/8 2656 lb 817 Lt 1 ton reached in June

So far 25 pizzas delivered home!

Monday, September 5, 2011

Labor Day Weekend

August lacks holidays.  The good holidays that give people the day of from work yet pay them for it.  So many possible bike rides and adventures.  I have been looking at the calendar, "My God, it's full of 3 day weekends!"  Well one, anyway.  Labor Day should be the first Monday of every month, the second if it falls on New Year's Day.


My road bike was steed of choice.  Spend way too much time on a heavy bagged single speed.  My 520 is still in the basement waiting for tires and tubes.  Now it is time for speed and distance.

Friday night I ride to Sam H's house.  He lives on Coventry Rd south of County Line Rd.  South of the Zoo it is in Warren County.  No trails between us.  Night time on a Friday night with traffic.  Safety vest and flashers.  No need for fancy lights. There will be an abundance of street lights and headlights.

The ride there was uneventful.  No one hit me or yelled something or threw garbage in my direction.  just a climb out of Little Italy to Park Ave.  A few slight hills to Army Post.  Major intersection but controlled by lights.  I took SE6th to Lacona then SE8th to Watrous then back to SE6/5th.  Crossed Army Post Rd with relative ease only to be disturbed by a phone call.  Keith E wanted to know if I needed a ride to Sam's.  Maybe for the ride back and "I got to go I am crossing Army Post at night on a bike while talking on a cell phone.  this does not look good to car drivers."

There is a nice downhill followed by a steep climb to the stop sign and turn.  Big ring for speed then jam up and work through the gears.  the rest of the trip is wide open with light traffic and a few rollers on the final stretch.  6.2 miles.  keg of homebrew, pork loin and chicken on the grill.  Cigars as well.

Keith gave me a ride home.  We had to stop and look at his daughters bike.  It will be going to Ames.  Test ride reveals that the seat is extremely uncomfortable and the bike will not shift.  Not my problem now.

Saturday it rained most of the day.  I did not mind this.  I was hungover anyway, devoid of energy.  I did make a run for caffeine after the rain ended that evening.  4 miles added to the Via.

Sunday was the big day.  Tuesday I put forth the proposition to Joe H about riding to the High Trestle bridge in the evening to be there at night in its luminous blue light glory.  He agreed and we discussed this throughout the week. 

Craig Lein also invited me on a ride to the same destination but a different route.  he was testing a route up to BRR that required gravel.  I had to lector at Church at 10 and would set his launch time back considerably.

Joe picked Mary and I at 459 pm Sunday evening.  he was one minute early.  After saying he could not do this because of his job, he called at 2pm.  Mary and I were napping after lunch.  We went to Church, came home and made lunch then I went to bed.  We could not move.  But the sound of my phone going off woke us up.  The ride was on and he'd be there at 5pm.  Road bikes only due to the space limitations of his Honda CRV.  His brother Donnie would meet us at the swimming pool in Ankeny.  Both are brothers with Sam--breed like rabbits, spread like cancer, eat like locust.

I take 3 sets of lights.  Two flashers and my high beam TurboCat.  I charged the battery a few days in advance.  Turning the night time into the day for this ride.  Mary took a pair of flashers, Joe and Donnie had similar set ups.

Joe and Donnie carried one tube each as did I.  Joe brought a very nice and handy mini-pump complete with pressure gauge.  I had two CO2 cartridges.  Within a half mile of the parking lot I flatted out.  Punctured rear tire.  I sat on the trail, nowhere to pull over, and changed the tube.  Puncture was spotted and cleaned.  Saved to old tube for patching (I took it with me instead of littering).  Joe's mini-pump was THE BOMB!  110 psi in what seemed like 2 minutes max!  Save the CO2.  The tire held although I was paranoid about another flat.

6 miles into the ride the Oasis appears.  We just rode the section of the trail I have never used.    The Oasis is at the intersection that leads to Polk City.  We saved 20 miles just from driving to Ankeny.  Lori Edwards is there and we have a beer.  She and her crew have been out since Friday and are working there way back home.  She was surprised that we stayed for only one beer.  Lori also reported seeing my sister in Madrid. 

Slater we stopped at the pool shelter.  Joe went to Casey's for a 12 pack.  Donnie was running low.  I was feeling like shit.  Joe and Mary were having the competition on who could ride the fastest.  There was a headwind too.  We had "dinner" at Slater.  Bite sized Cliff Bars from UAR, Powerbars and a triple espresso GU packet washed down with a Busch Light.  Yummy!

I felt much better when the riding resumed.  Madrid would be our next stop.  We chose to forgo the Flat Tire Lounge opted for the downtown Labor Day WeekEnd Celebration.  There was a beer garden with a band.  This had been going on since Friday.  a three day drunk in Madrid.  It was Sunday night and I was told not to get beer tickets.

Someone recognized Joe from his Tall Dog jersey and gave us a metric shitload of drink tickets!  Later that night a woman tapped me on the shoulder and gave me her tickets.  Scott S and Julie H reached the beer garden when we did.  No one gave them tickets.  Walter and Tasha arrived via tandem  They were camping at Swede Point.  easy ride back.  We stilled had another 24 miles to go and THEN a drive to DSM.

Fortunately, we only stayed for three before heading to our objective: The Bridge.  I brought along my video camera and held it while recording my ride across the bridge.  This is posted on YouTube.  We tried this before.  Success during a daylight ride on tandem.  Failure at night on Ragbrai as I could not turn the camera on  Too dark to figure out that the power button needs to be manually operated.  I barely made it to the end of the lights before the batteries died.  Maybe on my birthday ride.

On the way in two large pickups full of bicycles parked in the nearby lot.  There were people and families walking to the bridge.  This trail is busy at night.  we were not the last to visit or leave.  There were campfires on the sandbars below.  I cannot emphasize what a big attraction this pedestrian/bicycle bridge is.

Stopped at The Flat Tire Lounge on the way back before riding back with Scott and Julie.  It was a fast ride.  We were cold.  Mary and I failed to bring jackets or warm weather gear.  But we survived.  No more flats.  No beer stops.  We got home at 245 am.

Brad O called Sunday afternoon to ask me to ride with him to Martinsdale.  Plans were already set in motion but I said how about Monday morning.  9 am seemed like a good time.  I woke up at 845 am.  Needed water.  Needed to upload the video and photos from last night.  Brad calls.  It'll be an hour.  Need breakfast too.  We met at Mullets at 10.  Road bikes again.

He was pissed off that Mullets was closed at 10 am.  "It is Monday," I reminded him.  "Oh."  We crossed the river and took Scott St to the Gay Lea Wilson trail head.  Today we went to Altoona and got lost on a residential trail.

It was another gorgeous day.  I wore my Jenna's Ride long sleeve shirt.  A few bikes here and there.  Runners and walkers too.  You make a trail, people will use it. 

Two stops.  The first was at the bench by the marker of the 1877 train crash that killed 7 people and hurt 40.  The wall holding the culvert washed away during a a very wet month.  Welcome to Iowa.  It used to be a wetland.

The second stop was on the return.  We stopped at SE6th and MLK and decided to grab a beer at Capital Pub and Hot Dog Co.  Still no bike racks but we enjoyed Chicago dogs and fries under the 312 umbrella on the patio.  A great way to end a wonder 25 mile ride.  And for once, I was not drenched in sweat.  Gotta love cools temps.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Of Rods and Cones

Photoreceptors convert electromagnetic radiation into stimulants that trigger biological processes involved in sensation known as sight.  Rods and cones absorb photons and turn them into information used to form a representation of the visual world.

Not long after purchasing a Trek 820 in 1988 I discovered that it was necessary to ride in environments deprived of sufficient photons to be considered safe.  Yep, Che was night riding.  I fell in love with it.  Never seemed a burden.  Perhaps I loved to be cloaked in darkness.  Most of the time, however, it was a not a choice if I was to ride with my friend and bicycle mentor Robert Prunty.

I think the northern regions of Iowa have less daylight and more winter.  But these conditions forged great nachtjager biking skills.  I always had to wait for rob to get home from work, placate his wife and children before venturing outside.  We road mountain bikes. 

We did not have lights or flashers.  Wilde Sau as the Germans would say.  Reliance on whatever ambient light the world offered and a keen ability to see in the dark.  Winter riding was easiest.

During the night in winter "white" usually meant trail.  "Black" usually meant tree.  The learning curb is quite easy.  And I think it still holds true today.  After moving to Fat City (DSM) in 1991, Rob and I rode the Raccoon Trail one winter night.  It was snowing.  Beautiful scenery.  So peaceful.  The exception to the rule of the first two sentences of this paragraph was experienced that ride.

While the trail was white and trees and bone breaking obstacles were black there were rideable portions of the trail that were not white.  The approaches to every bridge were black.  About a 3 foot stretch every time.  So here we were, I on a stealthy black Trek 7000 and Rob on a twitchy super fast Windsor road frame with flat bars and a set of knobbies (dangerous at slow speed but get that bike rolling with speed and the rockets were lit).  Testosterone edging us faster until the black patch appeared.

Always the leap of faith, jumping the Abyss, trust whenever the eyes report one thing yet the brain says that aint true keep going.  Like riding through a mirage of a brick wall.  See the bridge and see the black and heart rate jumps dramatically as the brain fights with itself.  "Stop you fucktard, you are going to die!  This will hurt BAD!!!"  Yet the rational hemisphere says "the trail elevates ever so slightly before the bridge and the snow does not accumulate there.  Go on, do not slow down.  Speed up, it's cold out here and there is a warm bar with food ahead."

After that ride I decided to acquire lights.  My first lights were those Specialized ones that looked similar to a Star Trek phaser.  4 AAs, shit output.  Needed two of them.  yet I used them for a few years.  Vetta rear flashers soon were obtained.  The big leap was in 1996.

That year I purchased the Stealth + Secret Weapon system from TurboCat.  Bright bastards with 3+ hours of run time.  Rechargeable lead acid batteries.  Flood light, high beam and a helmet mount.  3 lights at once to provide excessive amounts of protons to help my rods and cones represent the outside world to my brain.  I fell in love with them and have used them for over a decade.

One drawback.  They need to be recharged after every use.  And entropy, the more the batteries are recharged the less charges they have left.  Finite.  The latter issue is not really a BFD.  Interstate Batteries have gladly sold me replacements for $25.  It is just the fact that I cannot put the bike away "wet" as it were.  Gotta take the F'ing battery off and plug it in.

I only use these lights for "serious" night missions.  I went back to AA fun.

Sure, I could fork out $500 for a generator hub wheel lighting system.  But I have other priorities.  Probably cheaper to wait for Bike World's Warehouse blowout sale in the spring and purchase a bike with that system and take the desired parts off and put it on the nachtrad.  Or replace AAs a few times a year.

The only issue I have commuting is with joggers.  They are stealthy.  They RARELY wear reflective clothing or have lights.  Easier to spot deer.  My head lamp (AAAs) spots deer eyes quite well.  Now I thought about riding every morning with the retina burning TurboCats, hit the bastards at maximum wattage (lumens) and say "I only use these because you dress like ninjas."  But that would be mean and I'd have to recharge the battery and the Second Law of Thermodynamics would be bothering me.  Winter is coming.  Only the professionals will be out there.  I can live with AA flashers til then. 

White is trail, black is jogger.