Monday, March 28, 2016

Typical Spring Commute

Typical early Spring commute home from work. Had to use the touring panniers until I get new commuter bags for this bike. Found the map I used for The Ragbrai 2015 inside one of them still in a sealed Zip-Loc baggie.

Made the mistake of putting them on the bike as I was ready to leave the house.  Simple design but requires a hex wrench to adjust.  The tool hunt and work delayed take off by up to 10 minutes.  At least i finished my ice coffee (cold left over from Sunday coffee plus half n half).

Mary and I rode together.  Saw lots of rabbits and deer and one other bike.  We also saw Jason and Cassandra walking their Airedales.  Instead of parting at the 8 mile mark I continued with Mary on the Clive Greenbelt adding 3 extra miles.  Been a long time since I have done this.  I need the extra miles.

It was 30F this morning so I wore a jacket, extra layer for the legs, balaclava, fleece, gloves and head band.  On the return I stuffed most of that in the bags.   It was in the low 60s when I left work..

Stopped at Barr Bike for a Cateye computer and 2 cages since this bike is new. Had Mary meet me at Windsor Heights Hy Vee because we needed bread and wine. Picked up 6 bottles of wine so I could get the 10% discount and the canvas wine bottle bag (holds 6) for free. Dropped everything off at home and then hit the corner store to pick up soda for Mary and Coca-Cola for my rum. 32 mile day for this single speed.

Waiting for the day that I can where the same clothing to work that I wear home but without hat, gloves, long pants and jacket.

Outside Graziano's  Only carrying 2 2 lt bottles of soda and my jacket but should have straightened the bag out before the photo was taken. 

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Gravity of Not Paying Attention

repair stand
We all do our own stunts.  One time on The Ragbrai I watched Colin Lamb go off the pavement at speed on a crowded downhill into the ditch only to emerge back on the road a few seconds later.  It was as if I was watching Bill Johnson disappear into the woods and re-emerge back on his skis full speed and win the race.  I've also seen Colin miss a turn near the marina on the Neal Smith Trail and get nailed in the back by his bike mid-air and land on his face,  Not pretty but no injuries or broken bike.
And then there was Steve Fuller, perhaps the greatest Iowa cyclist since Bob Breedlove.  A month or so before his big race he rides right into a concrete medium on 42nd street and destroys a wheel.  Happens to the best of us.

I've done this myself on occasion.  Drifted on and fought my way back on or eject myself from the bike to save myself from certain doom.  I broke my clavicle when I went off the road and onto a sidewalk.  Today was the same.

Going down the sidepath along 128th in Clive I picked up a lot of speed as I was heading to the Greenbelt trail.  I could see the trail and knew that in a few microseconds I would be squeezing the brake levers toward the bike and scrubbing speed and momentum to make a 90 degree right turn at an intersection almost totally blind on my left.

Point of Impact
But then the ride felt rough,  I was on the grass and headed toward an intersecting side walk that was several inches above the surface I was now riding on,  No time to react!

There was a very loud high pitch noise followed by roughness and then I stopped still upright.  I thought that the noise might have been my frame breaking.  Looking down it was apparent that the front tire exploded.  Good thing I packed tire repair kit and a pump.  I walked the bike to the Greenbelt and leaned it against the sign and began repairs.

Front flat tire.  Wheel a lttle out of true.  rear tire still good.  Frame and fork undamaged.  Panniers busted.  Right shoulder sore.  I torqued muscles Monday morning when i threw on a backpack.  Today it was better but the impact of the incident did not do it any favor.  I had levers, a new tube, a pump and a bungee cord.  Cancel planned ride to Cumming and text Mary.  I'll wait for her here since she will be riding by about as soon as I was done with repairs.

I discovered a real advantage of disc brakes.  They make removing and installing wheels easier!  No more releasing brakes.

The pump I carry with me is amazing.  It got the tire to near 90 psi quickly and almost effortlessly.  I wish the name of the pump was still on it because I plan to replace it with the same whenever the time comes, hopefully many years from now.  The smile on my face disappeared when I checked the tire.  Bulge!  The collision with concrete ripped the sidewall.  Let air out and put in a boot.  No tire boot, no tape so  American greenback was used.  Let's see.  $20 bill, $20 bill, $20 bill, $1 bill, BINGO!.  I wrapped George around the section of the tube that would be the the neighborhood of the tire tear.  Second time ever for this trick.  I needed to go at least 5 miles to Barr Bike to purchase replacement tire.  It worked but the dollar was ripped in half.  I plan to tape it together and write "Where's George?  He was wrapped around my tube when I put it in my tire!" on it.  Hopefully a cyclist will get it.

The blue buckets are rainproof.  Once home I left the bags outside and then placed on on Mary's snow bike for the photo.
The panniers.  these were a cheap set that I paid Donnie Hildreth $20 for.  He used them once on The Ragbrai and decide that he needed an upgrade.  I have used them for commuting and shopping for at least 3 or 4 years.  They were in perfect condition when they came into my possession.  But years of overloading, riding in winter, carrying up to 6 bottles of wine in each, full of beer and ice for party rides, tons of groceries and general over packing have taken their toll.  The impact of the sidewalk was the final straw for one side and whatever held it together on back tore in two.  I had to use a bungee cord to hold it up.

Been watching this rip grow.  Usually I have a bungee placed on the rack as support.
Frankly, I am glad these bags are dead.  They look like crap and were going to die soon. Sun faded and ripped.  No good or in shape for the life that I use them for.  I think I joked with someone on Thursday that Friday would be their last ride.  Lucky that it happened right there and then instead of a grocery run or late at night on a drunken bicycle expedition. They did their duty well.  They hauled tons of stuff.  Carried my work necessities to and fro in the worst and best of weather and provided me with great joy and service.  They easily went from bike to bike.  But I pushed them beyond their limits time and time again.  Never cause me to crash even when they gave up the ghost.  Now I have an excuse to get something else.  

 Mary arrived about the time I was finishing up and we rode together to Barr Bike.  She purchased a new tire, Continental Ultra Sport (cheap) and two tubes.  I really have not decided what I want to do with this bike.  It came with 700x28s and can take 29v1.7s if I so desire.  So a cheap 28 will make the nut and get me home and around until I make that decision.  Next week I'll put a set of 32s that Sean Johnson gave me.  They will be needed for the Cedar Valley Nature Trail on the Fools Ride.

In the end the bike did what it is supposed to do.  the tire and tube adsorbed the impact and gave up their lives to save the fork and the frame and myself.  The wheel to did its job.  A small dent is on it indicating that it took part of the brunt to save the rest of the bike and myself.  Apparently the rear wheel got involved judging by the loose spokes I discovered after getting home and placing the bike on the stand.  wheels are cheaper to replace than frames or whole bikes.  upgrade is in the wind!


Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Windy Day: Devil To Pay

So the weather turns and Spring starts slipping away and some damn low or high pressure front invades Iowa and the Weather Announcers chant rain and wind.  Fortunately, it was dry when we woke up and the wind was from the east.  Tailwind.  But the forecast called for rain and stronger wind.  I checked radar and decided that a road bike would be OK.

Usual morning screwing around before I threw a leg over the carbon Rod and planted my ass on the saddle.  Mary needed bags so she took her Windsor single speed.  No sooner than we hit the trail the first drops of rain appear.   But I knew this would be light and would not last.  The radar show a green mass drifting northeast.  We were heading west.  The tailwind had us trucking.  But the trail was getting wet and Mary had to stop under the Fleur Viaduct to put a rain jacket on.  My filthy white wind breaker kept me dry.  The wind was howling.  A pieced of the metal roof of the warehouse was rattling so much I thought people were tearing up the building.  No sooner than we resumed the rain subsided and the moon became visible.  But the wind pushed us westward with a smile.  It knew we'd have to pay.  I got to work in near record time.  it was a great commute.  Little effort, beat the rain and coffee was ready when I got there.

Whenever I had the chance I checked the radar.  The system we collided with before the Fleur Viaduct headed east.  Then high pressure came in and kept everything up north beyond highway 30.   Screw those people, Des Moines is dry.  But the wind increased.

When I got off it was up to 20 mph with gusts up to 28 mph.  I've ridden further in worse longer distances.  Those times I've been healthier.  Those times I did not have a heavy laptop bag hanging on me full of rain gear I did not need and dirty work clothing.  Those times my right shoulder was not in pain from pulled muscle.  But I was on a fast bike and I could suffer through it.  And the weather was so bad the trail would be empty, which is a good thing, and I would not feel embarrassed.

Long slow 15 miles.  My only regret was that my average speed, which I was proud of in the morning, was slowly wilting away.  I felt like shit and my should hurt and I had something like 5 lb hanging off my left shoulder and sitting on my back.  Monday I rode the same bike but put a back pack on to ferry work clothes to my job.  when I threw it on I torqued my right neck/shoulder/back muscles.  I was not able to ride in the drops.  The Carbon Rod was brand new in 1994.  The stem goes low.  Reaching the brakehoods or even reaching the brakes puts the body in an aerodynamic position and one that would cause my right shoulder muscles to scream.  So I was an upright as possible riding into a sustained 20 mph headwind.

Slow going.  had to mentally divide the mileage into samll chunks to make the 15 miles seem easier.  Think of landmarks.  In 5 miles I'd be at the bridge after 86th.  5 more I'd be on the Bill Riley Trail near the Art Center turn.  Another 5 I'd be home.  Keep pushin' on!

No one was on the trail except for a few walkers and dogs.  As I was approaching SW 30th after exiting Water Works Park i encountered a MTBer who had taken the new trail.  When I caught up with him i said something stupid like, "nice wind today."  He replied that we should deploy sails.  Both of us were heading due east into the wind.  We laughed.  "At least we are out riding," he commented.

Yes, but I had a feeling his decision to ride was a choice.  Mine was not.  I chose not to own a car which limits me to buses, bumming rides or buses.  I hate buses and begging for rides.  Bicycle is my only option.  Even on shitty days like this.

"Could be stuck on 235," I replied.  He was not commuting,  He was trying to enjoy himself.

Then he told me to have a good ride.  I never looked back.  I thought he'd kick my ass.  He was thin and full kick.  I'm fat and wearing baggy clothes.  Warm, yes, aerodynamic no.  But somehow I pulled ahead and never saw him again.  small victory.  Fatass with bum ticker beats thin full kit dude on MTB in 20 mph headwind.  Road bike!  Two mile later I finally looked behind.  He must have turned off.

1 mile later i was home.  Had enough time to shower and start dinner and fix my daughter's flat tire.  She succedded in riding her bike to a bald rear tire.  Good job!  At least it was an easy fix.  Better than riding in that damn headwind.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Not Enough Blood

This week I finally had the courage to look up my condition and learn what it was all about.  My friend Joe Shearer who is perhaps 20 years my junior just went through the same issue I've been dealing with but with great sorrow I must relate that his is much worse and they will have to crack open his chest to fix it instead of shoving a platinum hose to the offending artery  His LAD is clogged.  Left Anterior Descending artery.  Look that stuff up for not only is important it is very interesting.  So where am I?

Uncontrolled hypertension leading to increase of muscle mass to one part of my heart and restricted blood flow to the lower heart from the OM1 and OM2 branches of the Left Circumflex Artery.  I've been told that I have "stable angina."  During high heart rpm not enough blood is getting to certain heart muscles and I experience discomfort.  It is my hope that all the drugs I am prescribed will reduce the size of the enlargement and increase blood flow.

I only notice this when biking hard.  The rest of the time I am not that physical.  So it seemed strange that I experienced this problem when riding to a friend's house yesterday afternoon on a roadie.  I basically did nothing all day and then donned a backpack and rode up Ingersoll Ave in a headwind.  I've battled headwind all week and climbed steeper hills and even taken a heavier and slower bike.  Bummed.

Take it easy.  Don't push myself to and through that threshold.  Recover.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Nemesis Cars

Small penis man rather drive a Vette

I am not superstitious but I notice patterns.  When the turkey vultures disappear and bald eagles appear I know it is going to be cold for 6 months.  When it snows over an inch I know that there will be car wrecks in double digits.  When I see a late model black Toyota Camry I know that the driver will be rude.  So on the Face Book group Icy Bike Winter Commuter Challenge I asked if it was just the fore mentioned climate changer or other vehicles that are the enemy of bicyclists.

I made the Camry Enemies List way back in 2008 or 2009 when Mary and I joined a Punk Rock Cyclists group ride one sunny afternoon.  Should have known better.  Large group of stick bikes riding to the southwest county roads of the metro.  Unfortunately, this involved crossing Park Ave at or around rush hour and blowing through a red light en mass.  But the bad confrontation occurred on the return.  For some reason, probably due to flooding in Water Works Park and George Flagg Dr we had to take Park Ave to SW 30th.  I was in a group of 3 or 4 and we were hugging the curb to share the road with our cager friends.

A black Camry came along side and its window rolled down.  A white man in business clothes formal spoke to me.  "GET OFF THE STREET IT'S DANGEROUS!  IT'S NOT SAFE!  YOU DON'T BELONG HERE!"  He was actually causing the danger forcing those cars behind him to slow down for his safety lecture.

I replied with the same exact words he spoke to me. "I have a right to this road so fuck off!"

Well, he did not like that one bit and threatened to call the police on me.  I told him to take his meds and have a good day.  Finally he left.

Ever since then black Toyota Camry's have been my nemesis.  I have not had an encounter with this particular person again that I am aware of.  But every now and then i encounter one on my way to work.  Usually the last mile in the dark about 530 am.  I'll be riding on the empty 4 lane Westown Pkwy crossing I-35/80 when the Toyota will approach me from behind.  Despite two westbound lanes this car thinks it needs to be in the right lane and not the left lane and therefore passes me very closely.  As a result I get closer and closer to the left lane to establish my space.  Last week the bastard honked at me followed by a white late model Camry passing close.  I know I am very visible since people I work with pass me and and I ask if I am hard to see.  No I am not.

Smugness hurts

To my surprise other commuters have different nemesis cars.

Paul from Des Moines (my town) reports that it is the jeep grand cherokee (intentionally lower case for Paul) driven by "real assets to the gene pool."

Uni-body.  Do not crash or it will be totaled.

Jeff also listed another SUV and Dodge Rams. " I've had a few run ins with new Explorer drivers. I won't even mention Dodge/Ram pick up drivers, negative experiences with them is pretty ubiquitous."  He continues, " Just to reinforce my point about Ram drivers, a kind gentleman pulled into me while driving a red Ram pick up between the time I wrote that and now. He was coming out of an alley, looked at me coming down the road, pulled out a little bit more, looked at me, pulled out a little bit more, looked at me, then he pulled out once I was beside him. No contact, but WTF? Maybe we need a more stringent helmet law around here, I'm sure that would fix the driver problem."

Never used for anything but grocery runs and moving divorced friend to apartments

Dads driving mini-vans were listed.

More complaints about SUVs especially those with tinted windows.

Usually driven by women

Teenage drugstore Cowboys driving  rusty pickups.

And another complaint about mid-size sedans (possibly a Camry).

A RAV4 got a mention as a Toyota driven by a crazy person.

Finally I like to mention that there is a white work van that harasses cars not bikes.  this van with a ladder on top exits I-235 at 50th and turns west on Westown Pkwy.  I've seen this happen many times.  He/she drives too fast, tailgates and once almost lost control.  Someone who used to work at my place of employment was a victim of this once or twice.  The strange thing is that this van leaves me alone, changes lanes when passing me and never honks at me.  Now if Mike was in his Mustang the fool would be on his bumper.

So maybe it is the driver not the particular model of vehicle.  Of course.  Humans behaving badly.  This time behind the wheel.  The story of humanity.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Late Night On the Trail

All about the right tracks.  Not too many words, good rhythm and pitch ect.

Colin put the challenge out on Face Book, how could we refuse?  Make the 23 mile round trip to The Cumming Tap for karaoke.   He is a good singer and I've been practicing my Stevie nicks in a Cajun accent a lot.  But it was going to be a long day.  Had to ride 12 miles to work by 6am and 15 miles home at 330 pm.  Let dog out and prep a fresh horse for a ride that would most likely last until midnight.  And prep my 9 pm meds.  Reason enough to stay home.  But if I have learned anything lately it is this, when a friend has a crazy idea for fun the right decision is to go with it.  Better to regret something you did do than something you did not do.

I left the speed of the Carbon Rod at home for the $600 Mistake.  The Soho commuter is currently the only functioning bicycle in my fleet with a rack/panniers and without studded tires.  I have grown weary of its Nexus 7 speed internal hub and the bike's weight.  Heavy and slow and with a crooked pedal do to the crank been egged out.  The crank's replacement is on my to do list.  But the panniers were essential.  Needed warmth layers for the trip home and the ability to carry a growler and few other adult bevies.

The IP was Orlandos.  6pm.  Just a 5 mile ride from home.  I left home at 530 and had a quick stop at Confluence for the growler refill, Campfire Black Lager.  Curiosity had me check out the new trail from SW 30th to the Great Western Trailhead on Flagg.  Although unpaved this path makes getting to Orlando's a straight shot and cut nearly a mile off of my ride.  Unfortunately, the orange fencing on the west end indicates that the trail was not finished yet, missing the October 2015 deadline, But I had zero issues and Mary and I took it on the way home.  Lots of deer here.  I did miss checking out the action on Water Works Bridge.  But I cut a mile off.  The trail is not paved but relatively smooth and hard packed.  It will be a beautiful place to be when Spring is established.  I returned today for the photo.  Yes, muddy but not deep or megasloppy.

The new trail.  Water Works Bypass?

Colin was standing at the path's entrance to the establishment.  And then Mary showed up a few minutes later.  Excellent timing!  She did not leave her job in Urbandale until 5 pm and headed directly to Orlando's.  I purchased two slices of pizza for the price of one (last two and old) as they were most likely the only food we would have until we got home.  Time to roll.

It had been a while since I have ridden the GWT at night.  Two things I noticed.  First, a  chorus of frogs singing almost the entire route.  Awaken from their long winter nap I was glad to here them.  Secondly, the never ending arms race for the brightest bicycle light was still raging.  I kept my NiteRider off to spare the battery for the ride home when it would be most important.  We somehow made it all the way without going blind.  One stop at the Safety Shack to relieve the pressure in the growler and then the last 3+ miles to the Tap.

Colin and his biggest fan acting naturally!

We got there before 9 pm as the Croat Connection was setting up and were able to secure a table and a round of Fat Tires.  The crowd, mostly locals and no cyclists, spilled in and the tunes were mostly country and/or western.  It was going to be up to us to make it weird.  Colin went up maybe 10 times and the crowd loved him.  I went up once toward the end of stay and took a piss on Stevie Nick's Edge of Seventeen.  My fears of getting lynched afterwards were unfounded and when packing up the bikes for the return two women expressed regret that we were leaving.  It was late.

Farewell photo as we left the Tap.

But before these shenanigans I text Donnie to join us.  He never replied but appeared.  And Chad showed up as well.  Chad rode back with us and played 80's rap/hip hop at volume on his bike.  Brilliant!  Could not ask for better tunes for that brisk ride home.  As usual, we were the last people on the trail and the only ones at the Safety Shack.  Finished the growler and watched street races on the other side of the field.  Kids these days....doing what I did back in high school.

It was a quarter after 2 when we rolled by Orlando's.  Colin wanted to stop for the warmth but we assured him it was closed and the Casey's was probably closed as well.  He stopped nevertheless while Mary and rolled on taking the new trail to save time.

Famished was our condition when we finally reached home.  Absolutely no ready to eat food.  No where to find food at 3 am on bicycle.  So I grilled brat burgers.  3 am working the grill.  Neighbors probably had good dreams as the aroma wafted in the night/morning air.

Dump the ice out and put everything back in the bucket for tomorrow cleaning can wait.  Or later today...
Looking forward to doing this again.  I hope others will join us in this adventurous fun.