Saturday, March 30, 2013

Seasonal Change of Bikes

Winter for a full year it felt.  I used 3 bikes to get me through it.  A Trek FX 7.5 hybrid with 700x35, Trek 920 MTB with studded tires and a Trek 520 touring bike with 4 panniers and 700x35 road tires.  All slow.  Up until mid February I had a 12 mile round trip commute.  Roughly 30 minutes mostly trail.  By the time snow hit the 520 went into storage.  From mid February on my commute doubled.  More street than trail once Clive Greenbelt was covered with snow.

This week I put the 920 away and busted out another Trek.  Yeah, I have many Treks, I seem to collect them over the years and they never leave.  Road bike this time.  Took a ride to adjust to a skinny tire beast.  First, the handlebars are not nearly as wide as the FX's.  I replaced 2200's stock bars almost 2 decades ago with Scott Drop Ins. A little wider than the stock but not nearly as wide as hybrid or MTB bars.

Foot goes into the spokes.  Slow speed maneuvering is trickier on a roadie.  No more turning the front wheel 90 degrees and pedaling lest toes and spokes are not necessary. Sidewalk U-turns not recommended unless attention to detail is a priority.Why was I on a sidewalk anyway?  Oh yes, construction on Walnut St.

Brakes.  Winter riding destroys bicycles.  Unless you bring the bike inside after every commute and hose it down and lubricate everything and replace worn out parts before they become an issue, commuting in the 6 months of winter ages bikes and components quickly.  Brake pads are the first to die.  All the sand and grit the city dumps on the streets sticks to the braking surfaces and grinds up the pads.  I suppose disc brakes are just as susceptible to this since they are just as exposed to the elements.  If you ride 100+ miles per week in  winter and use disc brakes please contact me.  That being said, as soon as one grabs their road bike from its winter slumber they should notice, assuming that the bike was put away in good condition, that it feels brand spanking new.  Shifts nice, rides smoothly and they first time you operate the brakes you either get launched off the bars or wonder why the rear wheel locked up for 5".  The later for me.  making a quick right turn off a busy street something felt strange.  "HEY DUMBASS, LET OFF THE REAR BRAKE!!" the 2200 shouted.  Original 1994 pads, too.  I love good brakes but get too used to crappy worn brakes because of winter.  Lesson learned.

But the best thing is how it feels.  Light, fast, smooth, new, different.  It is like going outside with having to dress like an Arctic explorer.  Literally shedding pounds and resistance.  I do not want to even look at the FX until it is time to fix it up for next winter.  I really don't want to look at the 520 until it is time to bag and it won't be bagging time for a month or so.  Until then I am going to enjoy speed even if I have to don a backpack.   

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Back on the Pedals Again

Under the SE 6th bridge along the Des Moines River Trail.  The latest graffiti.  Fitting.

Took some time off the bike.  Damn near gave up.  Started innocently enough.  Woke up with a killer headache and decided to sleep an extra hour instead of riding in 20F weather with a NW 24 mph..  Or woke up and it's a cold wet snow.  Fuck it, sleep an extra hour.  Or gotta drive 90 miles after work best save an hour and drive to work.  Then it became the Sudafed/Claritin Blues.  My allergies/immune system went ballistic due to exposure to dust and mold (90 miles away) that I almost went through a box of Kleenex over the weekend.  Just take the pills, sleep in an extra hour and do not aggravate things by riding an hour and 6 minutes in 20F weather with a NW 24 mph headwind.  Rest and live.

Some people call it smack, junk, dope.  Automobiles are very addictive.  This one is too.

I blame the truck.  It's comfortable.  The heater is divine.  Stereo.  A place for my coffee.  Did I say it has a heater???  4WD.  Huge and I will live if some fucktard plows into me.  She's an easy lover.  Heroin.  Did I say that could sleep in an extra hour?  Arrive to work dressed for work?  Honestly, I really don't want to ride that 12 miles any more.

But I need to.  I don't care about the price of gas.  Still cheap.  Keep the rpms low.  Charles Lindbergh and Chuck Sweeney taught me that trick.  I will buy a beer for the first person who can tell me about the references I just made.  Think Pacific Ocean not Atlantic.

Farm Bureau finely put the bicycle rack out.  I have only bitched about it since February.  Time to put up or shut up.

It has been 9 days since I have been on a bike.  The last ride was to Blazing Saddles to meet former co-workers.  Trust me.  Better to ride a bike to a bar than to drive.  Cabs are better still.  So the remaining days I drove.  Weekends were shitty so I did not ride.  Even the television stopped me from riding.  I watched The Pacific dvd series from HBO when I could have been out there riding.  But last week I needed to be elsewhere and the bike would not cut it.  And this dust/mold exposure almost wiped me out.  I have going to bed as early as 730 pm.

The bridge on the Des Moines River Trail

So today I made the effort.  Put the bike with studded tires away for the season and grabbed a road bike.  My 2200.  Aired the tires.  Road to my bank and hit the ATM.  Road back south and purchased required items for dinner at B&B.  Then I hit the Des Moines River Trail.  8.1 miles.  Felt great.  Just like old time.  Nearly got hit by a Buick downtown but that is to be expected.  One thing I did while I drove was to be aware of what drivers do not see.  That bastard would never have pulled out in front of me if I was in my truck.  But bikes are stealthy.  Never forget that.

Bad Dogs, Bad Owners

I have been chased by dogs countless times.  I have been bitten while riding once.  It was a Lab.  It was healed next to its owner as I passed.  But because the bad owner did not have it leashed it chased me and bit me.

Countless times I have ridden passed someone walking a dog and that dog is on its rear legs choking itself as it tries to break free to bite, lick, tackle, say hello, piss on me.  Just a cheap leash between me and Fido.  They need tasers.  Or I do.  "CALM THE FUCK DOWN!"  ZAPPPPPPPPP!!!

I know there is a fallacy in my next argument but I firmly believe that hunting dogs are the worst dogs.  I had a Lab once.  Once.  Great outside.  Took it MTBing with me all the time.  George went to the lean to with me a few times.  Unleashed.  Let her in the house and she turned into the Tasmanian Devil.  Grogan's dog, Marley.  What was that...some sort of retriever.  My mother's last few dogs, all hunting breeds.

So today I am riding and two large dobermans enter the street unleashed.  I keep an eye on them.  The owner appears as the red one spots me.  But before it changed expression the owner shouts something, both dogs turn toward him and get in a truck.  They never looked at me again.

5 minutes later Joe Whitey is walking his leashed yellow Lab.  He needed to hold the leash with both hands to hold ground.  The dog is in the classic 2 legs up and choking position despite Mr. Whitey commands.

My dog you ask?  A Great Pyrenees   Bred to protect sheep from bears and wolves.  Capable of killing both.  I am a bad owner.  I never trained her and at 13 years she is not about to be trained.  But on a leash she she is gentle to the human walking with her.  At 125 lbs without such a calm nature she'd tackle the bicyclist and drag her master/mistress with her.  Inside the house she has always been well behaved unless food is left out.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

CheaterMode II

One ride this week.  It was to a gay bar to meet old co-workers.  Even then it was hell.  30 mph headwind and occasional attacks from the sand blaster.  No, just the sand from the streets blown into my face so hard that I had to use my right hand to protect it.

Shit weather and obligations.  Woke up Monday and it was cold and snowing.  Wet slick snow.  Sleep more and drive.  I had to use 4WD to get up Ingersoll.

Tuesday.  Cold and windy.  24 mph wind from the NW would add another 20 to 30 minutes to the commute.  Needed to drive truck to childhood home and evacuate furniture and other lost dusty treasures.  Riding a bicycle to work would delay my departure by over an hour.  Drive.  Perfect excuses

Wednesday.  Really cold, teens, with strong headwind to work, again.  Sleep.  Drive.

Thursday.  Another run to Ottumwa.  Another load of childhood memories and shit to haul back.  Drive again.

Friday.  Got home late.  Pick Timmy up after work.  Drive.

I am 13 miles shy of 1200 miles for the year.  This has been the first week in a long time that I did not get 100 miles.  Sure, I will get the 13 this weekend, but that would only put me at 16 for the week.  Have not been this bad since mid January through March of 2007.  Even in June of 2010 with a broken collar bone I made an effort.

This was called Spring Break for many.  Felt like Winter Break.  Always next week...It's been Winter for a full year, I've done enough.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Radio Dead Iowa

Been in cheater mode too much lately.  One thing I notice about driving cars is that I drive with one hand on the wheel and one on the "seek" button on the radio.  If I am on a long trip I will bring a CD or 2.  But CDs are a pain in the ass.  i always worry about scratching them.  Dropping them too.  So I play with the radio.

Honestly, I can't find a fucking station to make my ears happy.  I have been bombarded with classic rock all my life.  It's what we play at work.  So that kills 94.9, 93.3 and 100.3.  The last one plays the same songs every day.  I could go the rest of my life without ever having to listen to Styx, Queen, Kansas REO Speedwagon again.  93.3 plays Elton John every hour on the hour.  It's dull.  I dislike modern hip/hop/rap/Beyonce/bling that seems to be popular.  I wish Train and all the wannabes would get hit by a train for being over played.  Bruno can go to Mars and stay there.  Lazer FM?  See classic rock and add wannabe.  Never cared for grunge.  Not extreme enough.

The other evening I ended up on a KJJY country station because I liked the guitar and the fact that all of these songs were new to me.  But since then I swear they played 10 minutes of commercials.  Never again.

I tried 99.1 KFMG but usually they are playing songs in Spanish when I am out in the vehicle.  Not my ear candy although I heard a great Columbian band doing a Eurodisco track but the announce did not state their name slow and clear enough for the gringo to catch.

That brings me back to public radio.  Tuned in to some great music last night only to be destroyed by a pledge drive.  the one time I actually tune it in I get the commercial!  So I hit "seek" again.

Today I settled on 89.3.  Old rap and dance tracks and hip hop.  "Lady's Night" added some pleasure.  Dora thought I had lost it.

Who knows.  Two weeks ago I had the children's station on.  Beats Kate Perry and Smelly Clarksen.  Still have not heard the harlem Scuffle or Crazy Frog.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

This Week the Body...

Last two weeks the bike got the worst of it.  Two flats, both front and rear.  Then the rear wheel became toast.  This does not cover the need to replace the brakes, chain, cassette and every cable.  Shifters should also be replaced.  But sans flats and broken wheels I can ride the red bike.  This week the bike tried to kill me.

Monday began with a work out.  Rode the blue ice bike to work because of ice fears.  Heavier with heavy studded tires my quads were killing me all day.  After getting home I chose the red bike for downtown shenanigans. Fine and dandy.  Faster, lighter better.  But I misjudged a curb and crashed.  I landed on my left side, forearm and chest first.

Standing up I saw another issue.  The end of the handle bars were at the 11 and 5 o'clock position.  I tried to straighten that out to no avail.  Even holding the front wheel between my legs and using all my force failed to move the bars a millimeter   Fuck it.  I rode home that way.  1 and a half miles with my left at 11 o'clock and my right at 5. That takes skill.  Skill.  Streets and trail, snow and ice and darkness.  Once home my son Quin tried to fix it.  He failed.  Had to use tools.  Two bolts, simple.  Never had to do that before.  Tight!

Taking a shower the next day revealed the full extent of the damage.  Apparently, the two red welts below my left breast indicated that I landed on the handle bars.  Those welts are about the size of Nipples.  Not the huge giant nipples Craig Lien likes but small round man size nipples.  I will not be topless for a while.  Needless to say my ribs hurt a bit too.

My left arm took the rest of the force. It hurt to fully extend it while riding and doing simple tasks at work.  Slight bruise.  No new nipples.

The next morning I rode it to work.  Good ride.  Much better than riding the ice bike 12 miles.  Except for one 10 yard stretch on Ashworth.  Riding along on the empty street and BAM!  The rear wheel slid out from underneath me and I land on my left butt cheek and watch the bike slide forward on its side, component side up. Yes, the same ass cheek that took a hellish crash 4 years ago.  Still hurts.  Still cannot sit still for extended periods of time.  Still hate to sit in cars because of it.  Nothing can be done to fix it without evasive surgery or drugs.  Both options are not for me.  Avoid the knife, drugs are for serious medical conditions only.

So I am in the right lane of Ashworth westbound watching my bike slide forward on black ice created by drifting snow.  Thank God that no automobiles were behind me when this happened.  Get up and ride on.  Handle bars are ok.  Nothing wrong with the bike.  Watch out for ice.

The next day the unexpected happened on familiar turf.  530 am on the Bill Riley Trail I encounter a woman walking a dog.  Nothing unusual.  They were standing on the side of the trail waiting for me to pass having seen my lights and knowing that I was approaching.  I apologized for the brightness as I passed.  Looks like a Labrador.  I thought that I encountered them before but did not dwell on that thought as I passed them.  Then the paw steps, the mutt was chasing me.  I could hear her attempt to recall the dog unsuccessfully. Standard Operating Procedure is for me to slow down and/or stop so human can reunite with pet.  Thus I did this.  AND THE BASTARD BIT ME!  Fucker!  I reported this to her and she apologized, said it's never happened before blah blah blah...  No blood.  So I rolled on.  Don't have time for this.  Must get to work.  Once in adequate light I saw that my pants were ripped by Fido.

Thursday and Friday were good days.  No flats, no crashes, no dog attacks.  I hope next week is better.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Friday's Been Sucking Lately

What's it been?  Two weeks?  Two weeks since I committed myself to a commute twice as long as before.  Two weeks of riding to and fro West Des Moines.  Two weeks of snow.  I knew as soon as I agreed to take the job that the drought would end.  Been tested by cold, wind and snow yet I prevailed.  Now equipment.  I work at 5400 University Ave, West Des Moines.

Getting to work has not been the issue.  Nobody out when I ride so sharing the road is safe.  I take the trail to 63rd and Grand then Ashworth all the way from 8th St to 50th.  42 blocks.  If the trail is covered with unrideable snow or snow that slows me down to single digits then I head downtown, High, Ingersoll Grand to 8th finally Ashworth.  Nice 4 lane.  Getting home is another story.

On good days I catch the Clive Greenbelt at 128th and trail it all the way to Mullets.  An easy 1/2 mile of street action is all the remains from there.  But Clive does not clear the snow from the trail.  I had to become creative.  Westown Pkwy to 50th and following Wildman's advice, Pleasant to 45th, turn right on Woodland and take that to 28th, turn right again and left on Ashworth.  By that time Ashworth has calmed down.  This is now my route.  Nobody has honked.  Nobody has pushed me off the road.  Nobody has thrown bottles at me.  Faster than the Greenbelt.

My first Friday I literally followed his advice and found Vine to get to Valley Junction so I could get on the trail.  "It will be cleared," Craig Ulhman assured me.  Nope.  Two miles of relatively deep snow (for a bicycle) that had been trampled on.  Worst condition for a skinny tire bike, 700x35.  Even the 26 studded tires would have trouble.  The problem is that the tires cannot find the surface.  When they do they soon hit a spot that someone's foot or track crushed the snow down and the rear tire gets hung up.  It's like riding on sand.  Slow, energy taxing.  6 mph at redline.  Fortunately the city had it plowed at the Raccoon River bridge.  I stopped at Mullets for a break.  Mary and the kids joined and we had dinner.

Rested and refueled I threw a leg over Red and headed home.  Something was not right.  Front flat!  WTF?!?!??  Glass?  Sabotage?  Sidewall gash?  Sharp ice?  Hard to see what is below the snow.  Could be anything.  Fuck it.  Ride the bitch home and fix it after the snow melts off the bike and warms up.  That was two days later.  Nice to have spare bicycles.  Two patches for two separate punctures fixed that flat.  I put another 130 miles on it since Sunday.

This week I noticed that the rear wheel was slightly out of true.  It hit the brake pads.  But I just adjusted the brake cables.  Flintstone action not good in winter.  I like the ability to through myself over the bars if necessary.  But whenever I got home from the hour+ commute home I just put the bike away.  Readjust cable later.  True the wheel later.  I did check for broken spokes.  None found.  The red bike had only had 1 broken spoke in its 12K miles.  I disconnected the rear brake.  80% of stopping power comes from the front anyway and mine are great.  just one more month and red goes offline and gets rebuilt.  New brakes on the list.  The wheel goes in for bearings.  New cassette, chain and now shifters.  One more month.

Now back on Ashworth.  Favorable crosswind.  Cars not an issue.  I begin the countdown to 8th St.  20 more blocks form 28th.  14 from 22nd.  My speed is around 20 mph.  Hauling ass.  Almost there.  I can almost see my turn.  3 blocks to go!  Gonna make it!  survived the "busy" street in pre-rush hour.  Then I notice that the ride quality has greatly diminished.  Rough now.  Pull over.  Rear tire completely flat.  Time to walk.

Get on the sidewalk.  Might as well take the time to see what caused it.  I found a bit of wire almost dead center between the two "B"s of the Bontrager icon on the hub.  Now I found the reason.  Keep walking.  If it would have been in the morning I might have been tempted to finish the commute by riding on it.  But the tire has only 700 miles on it.  I can walk.  Rasmussen's is near.  I take this time to return a missed phone call.  Joe Hildreth wanted to know if they had slaves in pre-Soviet Russia.  Strange question and totally out of the blue.  I doubt they did since socially they were 200 or 300 years behind the rest of Europa and in economic matters.  Almost feudal with plenty of peasants to exploit and little industrialization.

On Grand a decision had to be made.  Originally I planned to stop at Rassey's and purchase a tube and fix it there myself borrowing a floor pump.  Then I remembered that I had CO2, levers and a patch kit.  I could stop and fix it at Charlie's Filling Station instead and enjoy a cool, crisp refreshing beer.  What could possibly be the harm in that.  Charlie's wins!  I stationed myself in the smoking lounge.

There is a problem with patching a tube with CO2.  That problem is find the puncture in the tube.  The wire was thinner than a staple.  Despite my amazing lungs I could not inflate the tube enough to find the hole.  I lacked a new tube and lacked a second cartridge.  I had to go to Rasmussen's for a tube.  I also purchased a new mini-pump.  I think it is rated to 160 psi.  I only needed 80 but did not want to kill my arm pumping the bastard.  I even got a discount.  Total was $32.  The pump alone was $40.  I left a happy customer.

I was not a happy bicycle owner.  The flat was important only because it revealed that the rear wheel was toast. The braking surface was separating from the rim.  It looked like I took a screw driver and bent the lip of the rim back.  It looked like I dropped 100' and landed on a curb.  Dangerous.  However, this was not the cause of the flat.  The tire was not damaged.  And the tire remained beaded on the way home.

With the battery icon on red I called the Bicycle Collective.  I did not have the funds for a proper wheel replacement.  I just need a 9 speed 700C wheel to get me through to Spring when the Red Phoenix will be put away until i decide to repair it.  Let's see, winter 2011/12 and 2012/13 since last rebuild.  Yes, service time.  Just a month or two more.  Brad had a new one.  Remove the cassette and place it on new freehub and I bought Red some more time!  This was completed after 8pm.  Sorry Brad, I like your late hours UNLESS I want to ride with you earlier.  Where else in DSM can someone find a bike shop open after 8pm?  Yeah I could have done it immediately.  I should have done it at Rassey's when I was there.  But I had a wife and kids to feed thus lacked the time.  Besides, I needed to think about it.

Look at that gap!  Time bomb.  Catastrophic wheel failure has always been a nightmare for me.  I would have not noticed this if  it was not for the flat.

So I said farewell to an old friend.  I do realize that it was a third tier wheel in the Bontrager/Trek line up but it was sexy.  12000+ miles with only one broken spoke.  I may have had the freehub replaced twice.  It had seen action in every winter since 2007/08.  I wanted to keep it.  Hang it on the shed..  Clean it up and place it on the wall as an art project.  Honor it for selfless service to the bitter frozen end.  Mary said no.