Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Still Hating the Rain

Spent most of the day staring out the window at work.  "When's this shit gonna end?"  Des Moines received .82" of rain on the 23rd of December.  Sure, that would be a lot of snow.  But I can handle the snow.  Snow does not penetrate and seep through my clothing.  Snow does not flood trails for over a week.  I've got a bike for snow.  Several.

Light rain on the way to work.  Second time this week.  The carbon Rod is completely covered with sand and mud from the previous rain.  I really need to give that bike a proper and thorough cleaning.  Today I took the Soho for its ability to haul stuff dry and its fenders.  The rain was not bad.  Merely persistent.  Lots of earth worms out.  Warm December.  That was fine with me because for the past two days dozens of robins have been hanging outside at work.  Guess they will get a chance to eat.

But every time I looked outside the rain was worse and worse and the sky darker and darker.  This is suicide weather.  Almost.  The sky will clear up.  It's not like it will rain every day for a season.  Or will it?  It either needs to freeze or dry up.

Most people were like "Thank God it is not snow."  Muggle. They lack the magic and the understanding.  They will grab an umbrella and go to their cars then drive home, eat and watch TV.  They lack the magic.  Sure, people are traveling for the Christmas holiday.  Sure snow would make roads slick.  But snowy roads and better than flooded roads.  Iowa is supersaturated with rain.  Streets are still closed from last week's rain.  Rivers are high.  Rain is the last thing Iowa needs now.

Talked to head of IT.  He expressed my sentiments.  Rain sucks.  This time of year snow is better.  "I've a garage full of devices for winter.  Skis, snowshoes, toboggans.  There are no outdoor activities for rain.  No sports.  Nothing."  Truer words have never been spoken.  He understood.

I screwed around long enough at work to leave when the rain turned to snow.  Prayers answered.  Harsh reward but better than rain.  A 23 mph NW wind would have to be fought for almost 2 miles before I turned my back to the wind and headed east on Clive's Greenbelt Trail.  The snow hurt but it was better than rain.

The trail was spotted with many large puddles from the earlier rain.  Nothing unexpected.  The tributaries into Walnut Creek were running full speed and the creek itself looked high.  Maybe the mud I collected from exploring last week's flood will wash off.  Maybe not.  I wanted to stop and take photos but decided that it would be better to make forward progress and get home.  By now everyone knows what flooded traisl look like.  The creek is turning into a river again.  Everyone will see sooner than you think.

By the time I got to Ingersoll the flakes were huge.  Some survived on my gloves and on the bike.  It was beautiful but I lacked the luxury of enjoying the splendor of this experience.  Ingersoll is a narrow climb from 59th to Polk Blvd.  Pay attention to the road, hug the curb.  Despite the signs indication that this was a "bike route" and that people were to "share the road" it is dangerous.  Had the trail not been flooded I would not be here.  Pull off and turn all the lights and flashers on.  Despite adequate daylight I will take no chances.

From Polk Blvd to 42nd the grade is reduced and I can rest.  Then I must  run the gauntlet.  Sure there is a bike lake but parked cars and cars pulling onto the road from my right and heavy traffic on my left puts me on high alert.  One car door, one drunk pulling out of Zimm's or Wellmans or some business could be the death of me or worse.  I did not get to enjoy the downhill.

I do not feel comfortable or smile until I reach 17th where I hang a right and then a left on Locust or Walnut, I forget which but another right at 16th takes me to MLK and the trail/sidepath where I can relax a bit. 2 miles to go.  Still snowing but not as hard.  New danger, look to left for turning cars, look ahead for people walking with umbrellas obscuring their view.  The closest I come to a crash is when a homeless guy on a woman's Raleigh fails to stop at the light on 11th.  Had his QT cup with him.  Needs caffeine I guess.

Just a day's commute.  Another day choosing not to drive.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Killed Two bikes in One Week

On a brighter day...

People always ask me when I am going to purchase a "gravel bike."  My usual reply is that I find it easy enough to destroy bicycles and bike parts without intentionally riding them for hours and hours on bike eating roads.  Love to have a cyclocross bike just as a fast commuter that could be fitted with studded tires but I doubt I'd ever truly use it for gravel.  Besides, limestone dust probably is not the best for my lungs.

So the two bikes we use that have the most miles on them took huge proverbial dumps this week.  The type of ride ending, season ending break downs that a holiday like Christmas can cause.  The last think we need to do right before the holiday is dump more cashola into bicycles.

Tuesday the Heavy Commuter, the 2011 Trek Soho, was the first to die.  Purchased brand new in February, it languished in the Warehouse for 4 years, I put 4550 miles on the beast.  Overbuilt and geared poorly but weatherproof with its internal gearing and drum brakes it has nearly half of the miles I have amassed for 2015.  On this day the crank was ruined.  My bad most likely.  I did 2 pedal swaps about 100 miles ago.  Today as I was pulling off the sidewalk to hit the "walk" button on the traffic control pole the rear wheel bogged down in the wet grass.  remember, it rained 4" over the weekend.  Add more power to the pedal stroke.  THUNK!!  Foot goes to the ground and bike stops.  A quickly glance down shows the pedal on the grass and a shiny hole where it should be.  Stripped threads.  Of course the right side crank not the cheap left side crank.  It never felt loose and the last pedal change was way over 1000 miles ago.  8 miles from home.  I elect to push the bastard across the street and coast underneath the overpass, 73rd/Buffalo Rd by Wal Mart and assess the situation.

Definitely stripped.  Unpedalable with my huge boots.  The pedal will go back in but there is quite a bit of resistance.  8 mile walk or phone call or finish ruining the crank.  I chose the latter.  The crank is ruined anyway.  I tried to line the pedal up the straightest way possible but it went in crooked.  get it tight because the climb up Ingersoll will be a bitch and torque will be required.

Made it home without further incidence.  Explored the flooded Walnut Creek Trail.  It was BAD.  Retrieved a growler and had it filled at Court Avenue Brew Pub.  Standard house brand crank ruined.  Was thinking about something with a smaller ring anyway.  Guess that will happen.  Might as well have them look at the BB since I have forded a few flooded trails this year. Honestly, I had been considering adding a front rack on this bike and making it the dedicated cargo bike especially once Hy Vee opens up downtown.  I need something faster.  Tomorrow I will ride a different bike.

Dried mud from Tuesday.  I took it for a spin to the barbershop and butcher this morning despite the crooked pedal.

Mary's commuter is an experiment in frugality and single-speed technology.  The worst thing about winter is the destruction snow and ice and salt and sand do to bicycles.  Chains, cables, derailleurs and brakes take a huge beating during this season.  So if she rode a single-speed it goes to reason that there would be less stuff to be destroyed.  Last winter I merely replaced the chain with a rustproof chain and 2 spokes in May after the first 5000 miles were ridden.  Cheap and easy.  Her bike easily has 5000 more miles on it for a total of 10K since early September 2014.

Friday was the Windsor's day to die.  Mary beat me out of the house and on to the road.  I would catch up.  Today she must have felt better because it took over 9 miles to catch her instead of the 3 from the day before.  The headwind finally calmed down, too, it had been a brutal week in the mornings.  But when I finally did reach her she was texting me.  "Horrible grinding sound and the bike barely moves."  It happened after she hit the tracks near 515 Brewery.

I shook the crank to see if it was the BB.  Solid, no movement.  The rear wheel spun but when ridden it sounded horrid.  Time to face the facts.  "You need to call someone to pick you up and take you to work.  Walk the bike back to 515 and chain it up.  Give me the good lights and battery in  case of theft.  I'll snag the car after work and pick you and the bike up."  Really not more we could do.  It was cold, the coldest day of the season and we had been outside for nearly an hour.

Mary and the bike got home.  I plan just to purchase a new wheel for the bike and perhaps have someone repack the old wheel.  10,000 miles of rain and snow and flooded trails.  We have had Shimano freehubs freeze up on us before, freewheeling in both directions.  A single-speed coaster brake hub with 10K probably needs grease, too.  Already had the replacement bike in my mind before she called for the airstrike.  The Bianchi will be used until the wheel is replaced/repaired.  Commuting all year is tough on riders and bicycles.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Rainy Days and Mondays....

The last of the snow in the Des Moines Metro

3.82" of rain since Saturday in Des Moines.  That puts a damper on things such as my quest for 10,000 miles this year and trails to ride on.  Almost every major trail system in the Des Moines metro area has been closed due to flooding.  Water Works Park flooded so much that the annual Jolly Holiday Lights tour had to be closed and electronics  evacuated.  The Raccoon River is angry, Walnut Creek is now a river.  But we rode to work anyway.

This morning's rain was light and not bad.  It's just that all the detours we had to take added time and exposure to the rain.  I had the foresight to pack clothes to ride home in.  But I left the good lights at home in case they got to wet and ruined.  We took Ingersoll to Grand at 63rd.  Then Grand to 8th and down hill to Buffalo Rd.  Mary took Swanson.  She discovered that the tunnels under I-80/35 were flooded.

On the Way home I took Westown Pkwy/Buffalo Rd to Wal Mart then inspected the trail toward 63rd.  the Walnut was still a river so I took the old detour then Ingersoll.  To my displeasure, the batteries for my front light were dead, their last juice used for the ride to work.  This necessitated a stop at Dollar General after a brief trip down Ingersoll sans front light.  Yes, I was THAT bike.

It was cooler and windy.  A NW wind at 20 mph.  So once home I secured the car and picked up Mary.  I was willing to bet that her clothing was still wet and it would take her 2 hours to get home.  Oh well, stereo and heat and the ability to pick up pizza on the trip back.  She appreciated the gesture.

On our way to pick up the pies we checked out Swanson Blvd.  We saw the Rookie, Anders' place of business, sports memorabilia.  Then a red flasher.  It was Anders riding home from work.  His trail decimated by the flooding.  Mary confessed that she was cheating and I felt bad there was not room for him in the Taurus.  I admire his dedication to commuting.  A lesser person would have gotten a ride.

But I was not done riding.  I had to fill a growler.  Java the Hutt debuted at Court Avenue Brewing Co. today.  I missed the party but was still able to get the beer.  Also needed soda for the family.  Mary needed caffeine.

They said we would have received 40" of snow if it was colder.  I think I would have preferred that to the rain.  Snow I can brush off myself.  Rain penetrates to the bone.  Snow does not flood trails.  Rain does.  2015, the Year of Trail Floods.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Last Flats of the Year..These Aren't the Double F's That I was Looking For

The Fixtation at work.  This I like!

The more you ride the greater the chances that a tire will go flat.  This week we had two bikes that went flat on the same day.  I'm thinking the odds for another flat tire in 2015 are now very, very slim but we still have about another 1000 miles left between us for the year.

Tuesday was Two Flats For Tuesday Day.  Paranoid about snow and ice we took the "winter" commuters.  Mine, the trusty Red Phoenix, the battered 2008 Trek FX 7.5 that only gets ridden in the worst of it and rebuilt, shoddily every October/November.  Its studded tires never come off and they are still good for Winter III.  Mary rode the Bianchi Boardwalk with the impractical Tiki bars and a worn out set of cheap Chinese studded tire.  Sure, the studs are gone on it but the tread is excellent for snow and mud and perhaps ice.  Maybe not taking a wooden bridge at speed on an icy morning as her crash indicated but those tires proved to be decent when the bike was just a hack for going to the store pulling a Burley.

Nothing unusual about the 15 mile ride to work except the giant F150 in our neighborhood had a window smashed out.  8 hours later I found Red laying on its side at the bike rack.  Totally forgot to use the kickstand and backed it in.  The strong west wind got it.  Picked it up and noticed that the front tire seemed a bit low.  I did have a spare tube, levers and pump on the bike.  I could fix this.  Instead I used the nice bike fixtation that my employer, Farm Bureau, provided for the 6 to 9 people that bike to work.  Today only one other rode to work.  Nice pump but no gauge.  I pumped it until it felt HARD and rolled off.  7 miles later at Hy Vee the tire still felt good.  Loaded groceries into the bags and continued home for 8 more miles without issue.

Once home I showered and dressed in clean clothes and then prepared a Szechuan chicken stir fry dinner.  The phone rang when it was almost ready.  mary.  Normally she would text so this was important.  Yep.  She was 5 miles away from home with a flat tire.  I laughed.  She said she would walk it since all her flat fixing gear was in her other bike.  I said I'd meet her.

The Bianchi.  originally bought it for tooling around town but I added the rack in November to make it a winter bike.  I will probably exchange the handle bars for flat bars for better performance.  Too upright for 30 to 50 mile days.

By the time I reapplied cold weather biking gear and strapped the floor pump to the back of Red and met her she had walked two miles.  I met her at Water Works Park and George Flagg Rd.  We had a great view of the Holly Jolly Lights but that was not our concern.  I pumped her rear tire and hoped it would last.  Then put more air in my front tire for good measure.

We got a half mile.  Damn.  This time I had her stay on the bike while I pumped and then told her to ride as fast as she could go until it was too low to ride.  She got a mile but we only had 2 more to roll.  I rode one handed as the pump was in the other hand.  I'd be damned if I was going to take the time to fix this flat on a cold night when dinner was ready.  Tomorrow she can ride her regular commuter as I was planning to ride mine.

Needless to say we stopped twice more, the last time we were 1/2 mile from home and the air would last.

Santa ordering new tires for the Bianchi.

I put both bikes away.  The next day I ordered a new set of studded tires from Modern Bike.  $132 including the $6.99 for delivery which saves me the hassle of finding the time to pick them up and carrying them home.  Also it guarantees that these tires will not be needed for the remainder of this winter season.  Small price to pay for a warm winter.  We should get 5 seasons out of these tires.