Saturday, December 30, 2017

9000 miles, Lost Mojo, Broken Freewheel and Wounded Knee

As the 2017 riding season comes to an end, December 31st 11:59:59 pm, so did my main bicycle and my left knee.  And my desire to ride.  I've experienced all of this before but this time ignored the warning signs.

Mojo, Where Art Thou??

How much, how much do you need?  I hit a wall.  Started with that bastard northwest wind.  One morning I decided to sleep in.  Had no desire to ride 12+ miles into a headwind.  It must have been a 24 mph wind.  Just get dropped off with the bike at work and ride it home.  And one day leads to another.  That was the 4th of December.  Add Christmas break and the day it was below zerex and I only rode both sides the commute 4 times for the entire month.  That's really bad for me.  This has been the biggest slump in bicycling for me in a decade.

Crap Freewheel

This is the freewheel after 6505 miles.  That'll do, that'll do.

If you ever need a SS freewheel I recommend these.  Just stop using it when it begins to freewheel in both directions.

For those that do not know what I am writing about, in easiest terms, pawls are part of the ratcheting system that engages and disengages inside a freewheel or freehub that allows the chain to move the sprocket.  Ever listen to a Campy hub coast by you and hear that buzz?  Or any other bicycle for that matter that uses this system.  Over time and use the pawls stop engaging and the chain moves but the gears just freewheel in both directions and the bike runs out of momentum it stops and tips over.  Or the pawls refuse to disengage and the wheel locks up.  It has always been the former for Mary and I.  Usually on a miserably cold day at 5 am on our way to work.  Make a phone call.

So during the month when the temperature began to drop I noticed that the single speed commuter of mine was having this issue.  Always on the left down stroke.  When the bike should have offered resistance it was like the bottom fell off and a my foot went to the bottom of the stroke at light speed.  WHAM!  But then it would behave normally for a few miles and then WHAM!  I did not think about it too much.  It was time for a new chain anyway so might as well get a new freewheel.  The friendly folks at Modern Bike fixed me up despite no Saturday deliver.  Had to wait a week to find the time to wrench.

About the freewheel....I discovered that I did not have the freewheel remover required for the ACS Crossfire.  So I took it to Fred's about a mile from home and across the river.  Brad and I are friends and he knows how much I ride and how many bicycles I own, rather, he knows I own a lot.  He looked at it and said "theoretically you should take this off every 1000 miles and soak it in a solvent and clean it up.  It's pretty gunked up."

My response, "I have over 5000 miles on this freewheel so theoretically I would have to do this 5 times a year."

"You have 5000 miles on this for this year?  What about your other bikes?"

"Two others have over 1000.  My other bikes much less.  The single speed is my main commuter.  I'd rather replace the freewheel for $20 than do that much maintenance.  My time is valuable and I am lazy."

Wounded Knee

But I continued to ride this bike until it got colder and then I started riding another bike to work.  But it was too late.  One Saturday I woke up and could not bend my left knee.  What now?  Has the gout travel up to my knee?  I have not drank heavily lately and I am taking meds for this.  The stiffness and pain reminded my of the time my statin tried to kill my legs.  But I am on another cholesterol medicine without that side effect.  I was stumped and limping and unable to ride.  That day I could not complete an upstroke with the left leg.  Too painful.  Sunday I put a half mile in but it was a painful half mile.  Let it rest.

Monday Mary dropped me and a bike off at work but I decided to have her pick me up because we had Dora's band concert to attend and I lacked the confidence that I would make it home in time.  Tuesday the same but I rode home.  The first two miles were painful but I eventually rode off the pain.  I rode real slow, like 8 mph average.  Wednesday the same but I decided to preempt the pain with Aleve.  I could feel the knee and leg come back on line and I gobbled 3 during work and 4 more before I left work.  Did not really help and then I noticed that my legs were starting to swell.  Take and extra dialectic.  Thursday I slept in again and was dropped off and rode home.  Much better ride until I stopped at Hy Vee.  After shopping I could barely ride home the last mile or so.  And Friday I wimped out again for the morning commute but rode home.   The leg and knee felt good.  It finally dawned on me that I had a hyperextended knee from that bad freewheel.

Our plan Friday was to see the new Star Wars movie, The Last Jedi at 10 pm.  I took a nap after dinner.  Well my body went into repair mode and the mile ride to the theater was painful.  I rode with Mary and Dora.  After the movie I felt better riding home.  weird.  Must have the two beers that I drank during the Last Jedi.  The best part of riding a bicycle to a Star Wars film is that feeling one gets when riding home.  I felt like a Jedi in an X-Wing!

Finally on Saturday I could ride with speed.  Leg still not 100%.  I can feel the repair work occurring and every nerve coming back online.  I still stumbled every now and then.  Slow to get up and down but I can ride again pain free.

The day I replaced the freewheel and chain was the day my knee said it was fine to ride with speed.  I took this photo during Lady G Hoegaarden's birthday bash stop on WW Bridge.  Kevin, another Commuter of the Year, gave this beer to me.  I love the colors in this photo.  12/16/2017 and we did not need winter clothing to ride bicycles!

Mojo Found

On my way to my sister's house on Christmas Eve. Stopped to have a Shiner Holiday Cheer.  Very possible that this could have been my last ride of the year.  Mojo not quite there.

This is true.  I had a dream Thursday night/Friday morning.  I was at an establishment with other cyclists and someone asked me if I had 9000 miles for the year.  Yes I replied and then the alarm went off.  Turn on the radio to get the weather report.  Check the phone for wind direction.  Fresh snow but the Red Phoenix was rebuilt way back in October for days of ice and snow.  And I thought about it.  this was the last chance.  I was sitting at 8973 miles for 2017.

Time was definitely a precious resource that I did not possess very much of.  It was Friday December 29th.  The forecasted high was 16F.  It was 11F at that moment and thankfully the wind was from the East or at my back.  Radar was clear for the metro.  I laid there in agony.  So easy to stay under the covers and drive.  I could a 14 miler on Saturday and another on Sunday.  But the forecast labeled those days miserably cold and more snow was on the way.  Do or die!  And call about transferring to the downtown location.

So I rode.  And it felt great.  And I felt safe on my studded tires.  The previous day's car commute was hell with slick roads and too many other cars around me.  WHO 1040 radio described the carnage as "tons of wrecks."  I saw a four vehicle pile up on I-235.  I had to abort my left turn onto Westown Prky because if attempted the Taurus would have gone sideways.  This was on 22nd St in WDM.  But the bicycle gave me no issues.  As I always tell muggles, "When you drive during bad winter weather you risk causing thousands of dollars of damage, destroying your vehicle or others and possibly killing people.  On a bicycle properly set up (studded tires ect) you just look stupid to those without the knowledge of the magic."

I got to work on bicycle for the fourth time this month, the last day.  Was I cold?  No but a bit sweaty.  Hard to perfectly dial in the clothing.  My legs hurt because I had not really ridden as of late and the heavy reinforced tires (I placed liners in them last year to stop the flats with the intention of purchasing new tires, guess what?  I saved money!).

Some muggle asked how winter effects bicycle tires.  "Car tires deform (I think she meant deflate)" she stated.  My reply..."I squeeze them in the morning and if necessary pump them up in the comfort of my own home."  This is another advantage of commuting via bicycle.  I don't need no unreliable gas station air machine.  Worse comes to worse I'll grab different bicycle.  And then there is parking, I park next to the door at work.

I got the 27 miles on the way home.  Even stopped at Windsor Heights Hy Vee for two bottles of Italian sparkling wine (faux champagne but clocks in at 7.5%) to add to my New Years Eve arsenal.  The photo is on top.  9001 miles for 2017.  I foresee about another 6.

Happy New Years, bitches!!!

Sunday, December 3, 2017

December 2nd Outstanding Day To Bicycle Des Moines!

The candy cane.  I was not present when Joe gave this to Mary and when we rode back to our house after the bridge I thought that something was falling out of pannier!

It was a beautiful day in Des Moines, Iowa, to ride a bicycle.  Not that we did a lot of miles but we spent it with friends and enjoyed the outdoors without coats or snow for the first Saturday of December.  Two major events: Lady Hoegaarden's Birthday Bash on the Water Works Bridge and the 3rd Annual Beaverdale Bikes Holiday Bike Ride in the Beaverdale neighborhood that evening.  Mary and rode over 28 miles on our commuters, mine a single speed.

Water Works Bridge.  That's me up front in red standing behind Bill L in the Kyle's Bikes kit.  Plenty of room to ride through.

Spoon was the best dressed on the bridge.  Failed to see him in Beaverdale.  Perhaps he had too much fun!

Homer said that he would be at Water Works Bridge at 1 pm for Lady Hoegaarden's birthday celebration.  This is a popular stop for cyclists in the DSM Metro area.  I admit that the bridge gets a bit congested but the only people that complain about it are uptight cyclists with sand up their bums.  Funny, most of these people complain that the surface of the bridge is too rough for their bicycles.  The people taking wedding photos, a large group, just smiled as they filed by our rampage of baggers.  We were just celebrating life and enjoying the warmth and sun and each other.  Soon enough we will be hibernating indoors at home when Winter arrives.

After an hour or so Mary and took off for home to prepare for the Beaverdale Christmas lights bike ride.  Basically, we need to let the dog out and grab lights and extra clothing for the temperature drop after sunset.  We planned to meet our Ragbrai crew (funny thing is that we ride the week of Ragbrai but rarely see Ragbrai proper) at the Triangle Tap.  They were not there so we headed to Beaverdale instead.  They were not there but were at Captain Roy's.  we must have just missed them since only two bicycles were there when we rolled by.  Mary and decided to make Reed's Hollow our HQ until the other arrived.

Holiday Cheer!
Never been here before probably because Beaverdale is not really in our travel path.  Nice place.  Mary had a cider and I had Shiner's Holiday Cheer draft.  First one of the season.  Donnie then text and asked where everybody was and I went outside to Beaverdale Bikes to fetch him.  Then the others arrived: Joe, Nick, Kevin and Mike.  They had some moonshine made with Everclear that tasted like applesauce.  Dangerous.  I stayed with beer.

From the FaceBook event announcement.

Amy and Don, Team Mystery Machine, our old teammates.

Don and a good look at the lights.

Action shot during the ride.

Time to ride.  The sidewalk was packed with bicycles!  Must have been 200 people.  Just saddle up and get in the flow.  Many cyclists have decorated their bicycles and themselves.  As for us, Mary had a candy cane that Joe placed on her panniers and I wore a Santa hat.  The neighborhood outdid itself with lights!  I failed to take any photos as not wanting to stop and lose my friends or cause a crash.  I was amazed how many houses were ready for Christmas and had the Spirit.  Home owners stood outside or in their doorways and waved at us.

Afterwards we regrouped at Saints for a post ride brew and food.Then the chilly ride home.  I definitely plan to do this ride next year.  Maybe we'll add lights to our bicycles.

How many warm weekends will we enjoy before Winter arrives?  Few and fewer.  We will adjust.  Just hope for an early Spring.

Special thank you to the people I stole these images from.  You are the best!

Saturday, December 2, 2017

"Where You Heading So Early?"

445 am.  Last morning ride of the week.  30 something degrees Fahrenheit.  Trying not to over exert myself as I seemed to have picked up a virus and am really tired of coughing seizures.  Riding on the Meredith Trail along the Raccoon River when I spot a bicyclist underneath the 7th St bridge.  He had his bike leaning against the bridge supports a few yards away from the trail.  Never seen this one before.  One thing one does when commuting the same circuit at the same time day after day is recognize the other trail users.  At any moment I was expecting to see Joe Ayers on some refitted classic roadie and the bright headlamp as his only illumination but I saw this guy first.

He was messing around with the bike of his back pack.  A black bike with no discernible branding decals on it.  A few reflective strips of tape and no lights.  Probably a homeless person or a newly "forced to bike" person, dead car or OWI.  Poverty victim.  Perhaps a fisherman but it's a little cold for that activity.  I see them occasionally here.  I see them all.  And bridges are popular overnights for the homeless.  Perhaps he hit Thirsty Thursday a little too hard and had to take a nap.

I pass and look on.  Up ahead there are two headlights next to the trail at the old depot now home of a disaster service and TopBun food truck.  Police?  No.  Perhaps they are here to pick up the cyclist I just saw.  Roll on, coffee awaits.

A minute later I hear a voice.  Sounded like someone in his 20s, jubilant and happy before the an extra 20 years cripples him with the weight of the world and cynicism.  For a moment I thought it was one of Jay Pontier's twins, Alex or Nathan.  Drama and theater kids now well into adulthood.  No, someone else.

"What brings you out so early in the morning?"

My reply was short, "Gotta go to work."

"Oh the old grind.  Have a nice day." And he pulls ahead.  I should have said more but then again I was ill.

Wonderful attitude he had.  I wish all cyclist were this friendly.  I see people with thousands of dollars worth of bikes and gear who won't say hello or dim their bright lights when encountered.  Lost in their own world.  But this guy's bike was a real piece of work.  Basic late 80s or early 90s hybrid without lights or markings.  The rear derailleur was gone so the chain was shortened to make a single speed wrapped around the 12T or 13T of a rusty freewheel or cassette.  But damn, he made it work!  When he got in front of me and my bright lights I saw how he survived in the dark.  His backpack was completely covered with reflective tape.  A 12" by 12" square of silver/white reflectivity.  Brilliant!  Literally.  My lights still lit that backpack up 1/2 mile away.  Just proves my opinion that it is better to be seen from behind than to be seen from the front.  You can avoid what is ahead of you but not what is behind.

I was hoping to see Joe and wonder if this guy asked him why he was riding this early.  Joe would say "I ride 20 miles every day at this time.  I'm retired."  Maybe another day....