Saturday, March 17, 2018

Bicycle Faith

The leaf skimmed across the road from the curb to right in front of my front wheel.  I could have avoided it but I nailed the bastard right in the middle as it was perfectly lined up in my path.  A soft crunch and I am not sure if the rear wheel rolled over it.  But then the sound of that leaf skimming the road behind me.  It followed for quite awhile.  I was on the single speed climbing up University Ave around 530 AM.  The wind was directly on my back at 20 mph so the leaf  had no issues following me.  With the single speed there's always a compromise between choosing gear that balances climb and top end speed.  I deferred a bit on climb at the sacrifice of flat speed since I have a few hills.  But the 20T or 19T, I forget what freewheel I put on, will not allow me to ride routes with steep hills like the Loess Hills or the Iowa side of the Mississippi River.  What a shame because I'd love to tour on this beast.  But I can climb the hills I find in town and have a decent commuting cruising speed of 14-18 mph while carrying bags.  At this moment I was doing 10 mph.

Consideration of stopping to photograph that leaf was given a brief debate in my head.  I even took the first right to perform the U-turn required for the photo but a white Baker Group pick-up truck was waiting at the light, driver feeding his nicotine addiction with his morning smoke.  Early riser and probably a hard working person off for the finish the work week in need of that cigarette for the the final 8 hours of earning his keep.  I never stopped and continued up the hill.  Soon I'd cross 35th and be able to enjoy the tailwind.  The Devil would demand payment when I rolled home at 3 PM.

It was a day to assess things and make proper decisions.  All week the Weather Guessers said it was going to rain, freezing rain and snow and have a strong wind from the east.  But as Friday approached it was apparent that I would be able to get to work dry but have a messy ride home.  "Wintry Mix" they called it.

I had two options.  The Winter Bike with its studded tires or the single speed with bags and the ability to handle sloppy roads and rain.  Ice was my only concern.  The Red Phoenix is great on ice but slow and I'd need to transfer panniers to its rack, the Vanquish has road tires and be a dangerous gamble in such conditions although it would be alright on an inch or two of snow.  But the temperature was to rise to 40*F by the time I was to get off.  And Ed Wilson said that the ground is too warm for ice to remain and be an issue.  The freezing precipitation was to hit early and then rain and then a dry spell before the rain resumed.  I chose the faster bike, the one with the panniers already on since I needed to stop at the store on my way home.

The die was cast.  Informed decision, years of experience and proper equipment and the Rule of 3:  30 days without food, 3 days without water, 3 hours without heat, 3 minutes without air.  I certainly would make it home in less than 3 hours or find a bar to hole up in until the airstrike would pick me up.

So that damn leaf.  Looked like the leaf Peter Saville had Trevor Key photograph for the cover of True Faith by New Order.  Apparently he was sitting in his car when the leaf floated by him.  I wish I would have taken that photo.  "I feel so extraordinary, something's got a hold of me.  I get this feeling I'm in motion, a certain sense of liberty."  Yes, that's it, True faith.  The feeling one gets when on a bicycle.  I get nervous when I drive especially during winter.  Too many fools are allowed to drive.  Think about it.  One could not only wreck their vehicle but quite possibly damage or destroy others' vehicles, knock down utility poles leaving people powerless and kill people!  In Des Moines, Iowa, 45.5 car wrecks per inch of snow.  On a bicycle I just look stupid and I take paths away free of automobiles.  I have more faith in the safety on my bicycle than any car.  But I may get wet and cold.

Sunrise while at work.

This morning I rolled by the stains left by a foo foo SUV that rammed into the back of another car in front of Outback on University Ave.  3 pm this occurred.  It was sunny and dry.  One lane of traffic disturbed.  Tow truck and cops.  They let the woman open up the rear hatch to grab her shit before they hauled the SUV away.  I wish I saw her in hand cuffs,  "Sorry, Miss, but you FAILED as an operator of a motorized vehicle and by law we need to send you to jail for 3 days to make the roads safer for others and to give you a chance to reflect upon your dangerous driving habits."

Like Ed said, the strong east wind delayed the rain, ice ect for a few hours.  The center of the low pressure must have been southwest of Des Moines given how the bands of precip were hitting us from the southeast in a counter clockwise spin.  And like he said a dry period hit and I made my move and left work.  Apprehensive I was, hearing reports that ice was sticking to cars.  The fact that it was a few degrees colder than my 430 AM journey to work did not make me feel any better. It was now 34*F.  When I left my home it was 36*F.  And that damn wind was now in my face.  But the pavement was merely wet.  Icicles were hanging from the bumpers of cars, along fences and signs.  Could be interesting.

Along the Clive Greenbelt.  Felt weird seeing ice while riding wondering if at any moment black ice would wipe me out.

The short cut was taken to the Clive Greenbelt.  Extra caution was used to cross the pedestrian sidepath over I-80/35 but no ice was present.  Remember, bridges freeze before roads!  Then that damn wind.  I get on University at ADP, across the street from Outback and head for the left turn lane  to take 107th to Greenbelt Dr where i catch the trail proper.  Wow, I was slow but no one was behind me.  A bit disappointed that the large red fox did not grace me with its presence as I entered the trail.  However, the trail was just wet and I did not slide and crash onto the wooden fence and tumble down into Walnut Creek.

The trail was empty.  One one set of dog walkers.  No bicycles, imagine that, until I got out of Windsor Heights.  Somewhere before Grand Ave I ran into Jason.  Jason's house borders the trail south of the dog park.  In the mornings if I am at the right time, I see him and his wife Cassandra walking their Airedales on the trail.  They even put blue lights on the dog collars.  Jason works downtown and often runs to and fro work.  Today he was on a fendered Surly.  We stopped and talked.  Been a long winter and I'm either ahead of schedule or behind in the morning so I have not seen them for quite a while.  He said their female dog is now 11 and has a bad back or hip so they only walk the male dog currently.  Jason also warned me that ice was on the Water Works bridge.  After parting I saw a regular commuter not looking too happy.  It was beginning to sprinkle.  6 miles to go.

Underneath Grand Ave

The sprinkles added sleet or frozen water chunks to the mix which stung my face.  I thought of Steve Cannon and the adhesive layer he wears on his face while racing the Iditarod and other frozen trails from hell.  I could use that stuff right about now.  Keep head down, there's no one there to collide with.  Sure enough, ice slush on the WW bridge but the Marathons held firm.  Then a voice...

Paul, another Commuter of the Year, pulled up.  Awesome!  I slowed him down as we rode the next 3 miles together.  He was on his Redline crossbike taking the long way home.  Been sometime we had seen each other.  Good to chat with him but I had to hang a left on the Green Bridge and head to Hy Vee for dinner supplies.

I text Mary and gave her my location and she got to the store in time for me to check out and load my bike,  but it was raining like hell now!  Back inside and to the bar!!!  Got to love a grocery store with a bar.  Gotta ride this storm out on a dry bar stool while pissing everyone off with our wet clothing.  By this time I was wet.  Gloves were the worst.  Thought about stripping off the wet clothes on the bike but it was too cold for them to dry.  Regarding the bikes, I left the damn key for my lock on my desk at work.  Had to fake it like it was locked up.  Mary, similarly, left her lock at home so she bungeed her bike to mine!  Yes, Des Moines, you could have stolen two single speed bikes full for dirty work clothing, tortillas, buffalo chicken mix and bleu cheese dressing and spinach.  My deception worked and the bikes were still there.

Zoinks from Iowa Brewing Co.  This quote is from Untappd "A like totally like session-able like Session IPA. With like loads of Mosaic hops! Oh yeah, some Citra too to like bring up the background. This beer is like great for hanging out with your best buds and doggy bud too! Sandwiches, pie, waffles, eggs, milk, dog food, doggy snacks"

I had Iowa Brewing Co's Zoinks which is a delicious IPA.  Mary, a Blue Moon since the 420 Bar was ciderless.  I liked my beer and try to drink Iowa beers whenever possible.  F other states!

The rain quit when we made our escape for home.  I had time to shower and start laundry before Mary got the text.  Our daughter and son in-law were at Mullets, like to see us.  Well, I'm clean and dry and the rain has stopped, why not?  When we left there there was a nice light show south of us.  Someone was getting hit with a thunderstorm.  There was a lot of hail on our deck so apparently we ducked out another storm while enjoying beer at Mullets. 5 minutes later while we were safely inside and our bicycles put away the storm hit.  Sustained hail and rain.  I opened the front door to watch and Fritz joined me confused about the white ice balls filling the sidewalks and street and the racket of it nailing the house.

Nearly a quart of Busch Light for $5.  Just need one.

SAFE!!  28 miles.  Got to see friends and family.  A few beers and a burger.  Most importantly, not getting stranded under a bridge during a violent storm nor having to deal with a bicycle sliding on an icy surface.  So the gamble paid off.  Faith in my ability to properly gauge the weather prevailed once again.  But Lord, can it warm up for good now, please?

Sunday, March 11, 2018

The 1000th Mile For 2018

Roslyn Rose Gose by Court Avenue Brewing Co.  Very good!

Not an easy 2 and a half months for cycling but I have reached the 1000th mile for the year.  I have a quiver of four bicycles that I have ridden all year to get to the K mark.  The year began with temperatures down to -15*F, powerful NW winds averaging 20 mph as a headwind to work and then later snow and ice.  I could easily get to work during ice storms but getting home is difficult because the trails are worthless and the streets are full of cars after work.  Some weeks I'd ride to work only twice a week.  One day I drove because I was deathly ill and left work two hours later.  Another day I took off for a doctor visit.  I think I only have had two complete weeks of commuting via bicycle this year.  Basically, I I am about two weeks behind in mileage from previous years.  No big deal.  no reward of cash for that achievement, only personal satisfaction.

So what have I been riding?  Obviously, the Trek 7.5 that has rolled with studded tires for the past 10 winters is in second place with 412 miles.  My Gravity Vanquish single speed cyclocross bicycle is in first place with 452 miles.  This has been my main commuter for the past 2 years.  I love its simplicity i.e. ease of maintenance.  My main roadie, LeMond Versailles has been out twice gathering 77 miles.  And the newcomer, the Verenti Substance is trailing with 69 miles.

So Saturday I finally did it.  Should have been Friday evening since we were invited to the Cumming Tap for Colin's birthday but both Mary and I were dead tired after a long work week and Mary had a near death experience with a car on her way home.  Cut loses and rest.  I think we fell asleep watching Fred Armisen's special on NetFlix.

16 lbs of dog food.  Not visible are the coffee grinder, beach towel and the jacket and gloves i removed at the previous stop.  The temperature exceeded expectations at reached 47*F today.  Mary's Windsor mixte single speed is on the left side, twisted fender and all.

Marco's Pizza on University Ave across from Hy Vee, Windsor Heights.  Our first visit.  The pizza was good.  This pie and two drinks less than $20.

Without fanfare, the last 9 miles needed for the 1000th was a typical Saturday grocery run.  We took single speeds to Windsor Heights and raided Wal Mart and Hy Vee, dined at Marco's Pizza.  Dog food, a coffee grinder were needed.  On the way back we stopped on Water Works Bridge and chatted with Dave Humes and Sally Spenser, a couple of Quad City Goons who were on their way to the S.P.E.R.M. Ride (St Patrick's easy Ride in March) or rather waiting for the ride to catch up with them.  We would have joined them but we opted for a productive day.

I lacked the patience to retake this photo.  It was crappy and shaky.  But make it black & white and few other editing tricks and it is almost acceptable.

After leaving the bridge we productively rode to Court Avenue Brewing Co and downed a few mugs of their new Roslyn Rose Gose complete with rose petals.  Then off to home to grill a pair of New York Strips acquired from B&B Supermarket.  No need to venture out again.  Miles fulfilled, livers sated and bellies full.  Movie on tv and off to bed.  Wake up with every clock wrong and fresh snow.  Along the way I forgot about the 1000th mile.  I was happy to be outside riding with Mary.  Normally I would have toasted that achievement with my first beer but we did not.  On to the next thousand miles.

Someones garbage in front of my drive way.  A piece of foam.  I needed this photo for Bicycle ride & Seek on Face Book.  I did put this in the rubbish bin afterwards.

Sunday, March 4, 2018

Fenders Ride

The perfect storm.  Discovered a new brewery through Face Book.  It is in Polk City.  Damn, that's a legit one day out and back bicycle ride from our home.  Mix in the forecast of a warm sunny day in early March, never mind the wind and we got plans!  Told the 16 year old daughter that she would be on her own for the afternoon.  She had to work anyway.

Saturday came and we waited until 11 am or so to roll out on fast bikes.  The first thing I did was strip off my jacket and gloves once on our back deck.  These would not be needed.  Mary stared at me in disgust.  "You'll need them.  I need them."  It was a sunny 55*F right now.  "Nope, taking these off now prevents me from stopping and taking them off 3 miles from now."  Is not the ideal clothing for cycling to make you feel as cold as you feel if it was 30* colder but you had more layers on?  Dead useless weight I did not want or need to carry.

Which route to take.  The easy and safest way to take would be the Neal Smith Trail.  Recent snow and ice and the fact that it is near the end of winter and the trail does not get plowed or cleared of snow and ice made us apprehensive about using the Neal Smith.  The trail is heavily shaded as well and it has been a long, long winter.   Reports have been few and the report of a massive ice patch in one section albeit a section we would not be using was disheartening.  See photo below.

Photo stolen from Bike Iowa's FB post

So we opted for a longer route that we mainly reserve for riding to the High Trestle or Firetrucker Brewery in Ankeny.  Basically get to Birdland Marina and head north on Penn and later Cornell and take that all the way to NE 60th and hang a Louie to NW 6th Dr and then a right and head north all the way through Saylor Township and finally hit Oralabor Rd in Ankeny.  Once there take the sidepaths all the way to the HTT and hang a left.  Another left at the Oasis, R38 or NW Sheldahl Rd,  and nice county road into Polk City.  Fenders is located next to Papa's Pizzeria on the square.  Fast and safe and traffic not bad.

Had the Oasis to ourselves!

We did not realize that the tailwind was pushing us until we stopped at the Oasis.  Should have known when I coasted at 20 mph for about 3/4 of a mile into the Oasis.  I thought the bikes would fall over from where we parked them.  This is a bad sign.  Riding home is gonna hurt!  Should have realized by the faces of the cyclists we encountered headed to Ankeny but I dismissed them as being old and out of shape.  The county road curves south so we felt the full force of the SE 20 to 35 mph wind.  At one point I thought that my front wheel was disintegrating but it was the wind.  Glad I do not have bladed spokes.

Dark Side Untappd Badge because Fenders' Night Tracks is a dark beer
Bar Explorer Untappd Badge
Fenders is a "Verified Venue" for Untappd

Finding the Source Untappd Badge

Ah...a well deserved beer or three!  We parked by the front door.  There were two Trek fatbikes there as well.  The first thing we noticed was the bicycle decor on the walls.  I regret not taking photos.  Nice touch!  We were able to belly up to the bar.  My first was the Night Tracks Black IPA.  Did the obligatory UNTAPPD check in and earned 5 badges for that first beer!  Mary had the cider from Wilson's Orchard, a guest tap.  I chastised her for not getting the local and her second was the Blonde Ale.  My second was the Bridge Road American Brown Ale.  And my third and last was the 8:13 American Pale Ale named after the time the owner/partner's daughter was born.  All these beers were great and I recommend that you visit Fenders.  We have to convince our friends to ride here with us.

Night Tracks

Bridge Road


So dude who was slinging the beer, I forgot to ask for his name or if he was the owner of co-owner or partner, is a cyclist.  He used to commute 17 miles one way to Meredith in downtown Des Moines.  Great to have a fellow rider behind the beer.  Even better to talk bicycles with someone in the know.  They have yet to install ornate tap handles but he said that they were thinking about using the downtube and seat tube of bicycles that had the braze ons for cages.  The threaded braze ons could be used to bolt on the name of the brew.  Cool idea.  We quizzed him about the NST but the fatbike couple gave us some intel.  They were visiting from Coon Rapids and pointed in all sorts of directions but said there was only one ice patch by a bridge.  They did mention something about a large tree being down but they were able to ride around that obstacle.  We were also told about a safer route to the NST.  But we opted for our regular route of taking 3rd St/415 to the trail connection.  Time to roll.

Food was on our mind.  When we pulled into Polk City we immediately noticed that the Subway was missing.  "That goddamn downtown Hy Vee struck again!" Mary who laughed.  We were later told that it was relocated to the new strip mall near the Casey's.  Makes sense, better traffic and visibility.  We would have ate at Papa's but we had pizza for breakfast.  Taco Casa was the chosen destination for food since I needed a photo of a taco and it was close to the Triangle Tap.  Satisfied we could make it there we said our good byes and rolled toward the trail.

Our break from the wind!

Early open on Saturday!

At the Sand Bar Grill

Not too far into this Mary said something about stopping at the marina and I said no but then I saw that the Sand Bar Grill was open so I said STOP.  I had their bleu cheese burger and Mary had an order of chicken strips and fries.  No Coast from Peace Tree for me.  We enjoyed our visit and wondered what friends we could get to ride here with us when the weather is better.  Bellies full, liver punished time to roll.

The Neal Smith was in great shape as far as winter was concerned.  Only one ice patch was encountered at Cherry Glenn campground and it was not bad as we could dodge the ice spots with ease.  Soon we encountered the tree that the Coon Rapids riders warned us about.  We were able to ride between the fallen tree and its stump without unclipping.  The wind, however, was bad.  Keep head down, ride in drops if necessary and grind it out.  Keep pushing on.  Read the trail markers and add two miles because that is the difference between the end of the trail and our home.  Yeah, 21 miles to go!!

Sycamore Access.  Construction about done on the road and the trail is open.  No detour!

Last stop was the Triangle Tap.  I feel bad that I have not taken very many opportunities to stop at this bicycle friendly watering hole.  Sure enough there were other cyclists here including Derrick Spoon, Iowa Weasel and George 'Old Man River.' were among the crowd.  Hard to stay for just one but we were exhausted and the temperature would prolly drop after the third round.  One Summer Shandy a piece for both of us.  Time to squeeze the last of the daylight and warmth for the trip home 6 miles maybe.  Remember who left their gloves and jacket behind??

44 miles.  Three beer stops.  Maybe seven badges from Untapped.  First trip on the NST for the new season and in reality for ages.  Even got to see some friends.  A day well spent!!

Author's Note:  It seems that these early season road bike adventures involve wind.  Our last outing on these bikes, Summerset Trail, was a day in which we fought the wind all the way down and then it switch while we ate and we had to fight it all the way home!

Saturday, March 3, 2018

True Substance

Well I did it again.  N+1.  Acquired a new bicycle.  Not that I really needed one.  Just something to fill a certain niche.  Something that is a step closer to the perfect bicycle.  Something faster than the current touring bike.  Something that will allow me to procrastinate on fixing the others.  From the UK I present the Verenti Substance.

I found this bicycle on the Northern Ireland bicycle website ChainReactionCycles.  They started out small and then figured out to use the internet and became a wonderful supplier of bicycles and bicycle accessories.  But researching the bike I found out that Verenti is the house brand of another UK recreational supplier name Wiggle.  Wiggle had a better price so there I went and clicked BUY NOW.  The name Verenti is a play on letters for the Latin word for Truth but due to legal and copyright issues they spelled it differently.

What drew my attention is that Verenti has named several of their bicycles after album titles of the band New Order.  Substance, Technique and Movement.  How could I not support this?

Now many of my readers or people who will see me on this will attack me and say "hey bastard, what about the LBS??  Ihey need your money!!"  My answer is below.  Also, I am accessorizing it from LBS.  Already made two stops at Barr for flasher, computer and cages.

1988 Trek 820 Europa Cycles
1989 Trek 7000 Europa Cycles
1990 used 1986 Trek 7000 Europa Cycles
1991 Gary Fisher tandem Bike World
1993(?) Cannondale R400 used Bike World
1994 Trek 2200 Bike World
1996 Trek 930 Bike World
1996 Trek 520 used Barr Bicycle
1997 Schwinn Stardust Barr Bicycle
somewhere in the 90s two Trek mountain Cub kids bikes Bicycle World
Early 2000s two youth MTBs 1 from Bike World Warehouse the other Barr
2001 Cannondale RT3000 tandem Bike World
Sometime in the mid 2000s a BMX bike Rassy's
2007 Trek 1600 Bike World
2007 Trek FX 7.5 Bike World
2008 LeMond Versailles Bike World
2011 Giant Via Bike World
2015 Trek Soho Bike World Warehouse
several from the Collective
2015 Specialized Crossroads from Fred's

I think that is it.

So there's a bicycle named after a New Order lp that has disc brakes, wide tires, braze on for front and rear racks and a Tiagra 2x10 groupo, how could I resist?  Given that it is last year's  model and 40% off thus below the $800 tariff/import fee threshold, why not??  Reviews have been positive.  this could become my fast touring bike, gravel racer or geared commuter.  Basically, it is a steel frame bicycle with disc brakes, rack mounts and the newer style of STI brake/shifters that have the cables routed underneath the bar wrap.  I'm have tempted to swap its parts with the LeMond.

Once fully assembled it sat there for like a week.

Ordered on a Thursday it arrived on the Following Wednesday.  Incredible!  I went home sick that day.  I guess when I puked in my office my boss realized that I should be there.  went straight home and straight to bed.  Fritz started barking later I saw the box outside in my back yard as i instructed DHL.  I love DHL.  Most carry bag services will just leave a not on your door and tell you to go to their place to pick up the goods.  not DHL.  they will call you at 630 am and say they are coming.  This time they texted me and asked how i wanted this handled.  my reply, carry it through the gate and leave it next to my trash receptacles.  They understood and honored my request.

Bubble wrap

The box was filled with airbags which was used for a photo.  The box contained a plastic flimsey with the packing checklist that was signed off and signed by the person that assembled and packed the bike.  The Shimano instructions for the various components were included.  Nice!  Overall, I was impressed with the packaging.  Having received several bicycles from Bikes Direct, this was impressive.  Assembling was easy though the hardest part was removing the protective wrap and cutting all the twit ties.  Other than that put front wheel on, put handle bars on.  Put pedals on.  I was surprised that the tires did not need airing.  Because I was ill and the weather was shit I had to wait a few days before the maiden voyage.  One last shout out to Wiggle.  the "MADE IN TIAWAN" sticker was placed on the the bottom of the BB instead of the head tube!  Nice!!  I may leave it on!!

The maiden voyage happened about 6 am on a Sunday morning.  Had to go to my ATM to find out how bad my spending was.  Had to stop at the store for something. Rolled downtown and took a few photos for Bicycle Ride & Seek, the best reason to be on FaceBook.  First thing I noticed was that the bike fit me very well.  The smallest frame available was a 50 cm and they asked what my inseam was.  I must have received the shortest stem.  My hands naturally fell into the brake hoods.  Another thing, they asked what side i wanted the front brake lever on.  Interesting...  Later that day Mary and rode to TNT Vietnamese restaurant.  Think I rode a total of 20 miles that day.  Then more crap weather.

The bicycle rack behind Iowa Heart Hospital

Friday was its second outing.  Had an appointment at Iowa heart hospital.  6 month check up.  I like getting there an hour early so I can meditate and calm down and then brag about riding a bicycle to visit my cardiologist.  I do stand by what I said that bicycling prevented my heart attack despite a clogged artery.  it certainly gave me strength to survive.  After the all clear, heart and lungs sounded good and EKG was good but BP still a bit high I was allowed to leave.  First trip was for breakfast at fuzzy Tacos because i could not think of anywhere else to go and I needed to end the fast RIGHT NOW.  Also stopped next door at DSM Brew for the coffee I had avoided until after Iowa Heart.  Then some photos for Ride&Seek and finally a visit to Gomez barber on the south side.  Next was to meet Craig for a ride to Cumming but we found a kewl spot for a few beers and then a bottle of wine at Jasper Winery.  Avoid riding past Confluence so we could get to Court Avenue Brew Pub for mugs and wings.  It was a windy day anyway.  Mary met us there and we drank are fill, rode our separate ways and went to bed.  Successful ride.

Craig's 520 hidden in this photo from secret location.

OF NOTE  We picked up a take and bake pizza at Hy Vee and managed to carry it home on the back of Mary's single speed without bungee cords.  I tied two plastic grocery bags together and used them as a makeshift strap.  the pizza never fell off the bike!


Originally I billed this as my fast touring bicycle.  I am hoping that Mary will want one since she could use a new touring bike.  But she is thrifty and I will have to put some TLC in hers to erase winter abuse.  I am considering the Gent's Race in April if a team needs a helping hand.