Saturday, April 28, 2018

Final Ride For the Red Vittorias

The mighty Vittoria Rubino Slick.  Only one flat ever for me since I put them on in June of 2015.  The lack of rubber over those threads was not the cause of the flat tire. This tire retailed for $45 USD in Des Moines.  2708 miles hauling my fat arse.  I got more than my money's worth and I am not revealing that I paid much much less than retail for this tire.  But you would have too for the price I got it for.

After 2708 miles the Vittoria tires had their first flat.  And last one for that matter as they will swapped out before tomorrow's ride for the new pair I purchased last year.  I went another season waiting for that moment when I knew it was time.  Fortunately, I was a mere 9 miles away from home and had a pump, spare tube and 2 levers for just this sort of occasion.

We were on on fast bikes heading east on highway 5 heading to Indianola.  Just a mile outside Avon Lake and passing the on and off ramps for the bypass when it happened.  The ride got rough.  No noise or explosion, just a rough ride that tells one that the tube is out of air and the rim is riding on the tire only.  A quick glance down confirmed the suspicion.  Crap!  At least I had enough speed to finish crossing the last ramp and coax the bicycle to the shoulder away from traffic to amend the situation.

Look for a safe spot.  Up shift to smallest rear cog.  Stop on shoulder.  Move the brake's quick release lever to the top.  Flip bike upside down.  Remove wheel.  Run fingers over tire and visually look for the trouble maker.   Use two levers (tight tire as it is a 700x23) to remove one side of the tire.  Remove tube.  Run thumb through the inside of the tire to find the trouble maker.  Install new tube.  2 minutes of pumping.  Place wheel back on bicycle.  Forget to lower the brake's quickly release to the normal position.  Abort ride to Indianola and ride back home.

The Trouble Maker!  Blaming a pothole or rough road spot.

Yeah.  Abort.  The flat gave me an opportunity to examine the tire.  Threads were showing.  Not a time to go further.  Just get home.  New tires have been on the work stand for 11 months.  That was the last tube.  Not sure if I had patches on me.  Better safe than sorry.  About 2 miles into the return trip I recalled that I did not put the brake quick release back to normal.  Just as well I thought.  saves me a step when I take the wheel off to replace the tire at home.

Of course we detoured to Fareway and Graziano's on the way home.  Needed fixings for lunch and dinner.  The tire held.

Not a bad ride, BTW.  It was great.  I was strong and fast.  Climbed well.  Scored a GeoCouch.  Got home without further incident.  Tomorrow I will ride this bike again albeit with fresh new tires!

Nothing on TV anyway!

1 mile before the flat I scored this GeoCouch just east of the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative on the outskirts of Des Moines.  Yes, Iowa is a great place to study apes in their natural environment!  Despite this wasteland of debris I climbed a steep hill and descended at speed the other side and then rode on a highway for about a half mile before the tire suddenly went flat.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

I Forgot To Wear The Uniform

Yesterday was the annual Fun Haters Ride that is very popular with the people I like to ride with.  Mary and I caught up with our "team" and many friends and some people that we have not seen or communicated with in decades.  Since this was a party ride we did not dress up for a 30 or 60 or greater mile ride.  We wore what we put on in the morning.

Our first stop was a mere mile form our home.  Dora had us meet her and her friend at Truman's the new Full Court Press KC themed establishment next door to Mad Meatball in the former location of Margarita's Mexican Restaurant (RIP).  After a hearty lunch of buffalo wings, burgers and pizza we rolled north to the Triangle Tap about 5 or 6 miles north of our location.  There we caught DJ Chop Shop's set of mostly 80's tracks and the start of the ride.  The place was crowded!  Good times.

However, the same question kept coming up.  "Did you bike here, those are not bicycling clothes?'  Most of the people asking are what known as baggers whom ride loaded touring bicycles with coolers full of beer and rarely wear cycling jerseys.  Hi-viz yellow seemed to be the color of the day it seemed but that color stands out.  Other than that the dress code is lax in terms of cycling.  Well, black leggings or tights are the standard.  Mary and wore blue jeans.  I wore a hoodie.  Since the bike I rode had flat pedals I wore sneakers instead of cycling shoes.

Yeah, I rode.  14 miles.  No need to dress like it was the TdF.

Not Mary.  this is Ray, an friend from college that I have not seen for decades.  But this is how I dressed to ride a single speed for 14 miles.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

New Commute

My bike's new day care!  Mary photo bombing with her pink Windsor.

Change is the only constant in the universe.  In the corporate world it is even more true.  In the bicycle commuter world it is the truest of truths.  10 years ago it was two miles each.  A few years later it changed to six miles each way.  And then a February 5 years ago it changed in to 12 miles at its absolute minimum.  I expanded this to 15 miles each way during good weather (spring and summer).  This week brought the latest change.  Perhaps a completion of a circle or orbit.  2 miles each way.

When the corporate powers that be announced that this was going to happen I was ready.  A bit disappointed that this did not occur back in early December but glad that this was happening.  It was a long winter and with Spring not coming on stage for nearly half of its allotted time the move came as a relief.  When asked what my thoughts were I said that I was looking forward to sleeping in an extra hour.

Honestly, I have been keeping an eye for such an opportunity.  I needed to work closer to home.  Nothing left to prove.  Checking the spreadsheet for the Icy biking Winter Commuter Challenge, I have been averaging over 3000 miles riding to and fro work from October to the end of March for the past 4 or 5 years.  Those were the bad weather months.  3000 miles just commuting,  Lately it has been about 2.5 hours per day Monday through Friday.  Then add in the April through September, the good weather months, and 6000+ miles per year just commuting back and forth from work.  A good run it was.  I had back to back 10,000+ mile years and then back to back 9000+ mile years.  Only handful of times were truly awful.  Nothing left to prove.  Who knows, the commute may change in the future.

This winter was the worst.  It started out extremely cold.  -17*F or -27*C or 245.95 Kelvin.  Since we did not drive over NYE weekend the car would not start.  My NiteRider light battery would quit very early in the ride.  I was forced to take the bus for the first time ever and that cost me a half an hour at work.  Other days were too windy.  Fighting the 20+ mph northwest headwind to work lost its appeal quickly.  And then the snow,  If it snowed on the weekend the trails would not get cleared in a timely manner but no one told the trail users and by the time it was time to use them for work the surface would be cratered and rutted from footprints and tire tracks.  The day of freezing rain had me take the bus home from work.  And all this left me with a January and February that I'd only be able to bicycle to work two days a week.  March was a good month.

And then the phone call.  My old boss.  "Have you heard the rumors of you transferring back downtown?  They are true."  Out of the blue!  Of course, winter had to be almost over since this call was in late March.  It took almost a month.  I drove everyday my last week.  Office needed clearing out.  No more desire.  So good bye love, you were not real.

2 miles now.  The alarm was changed.  1 extra hour of sleep.  Coffee can be brewed at home if I want to use my own beans.  There was a concern that the dog would try to get me out of bed before the new alarm went off but Fritz adjusted.  Mary and I did a recon ride to the new place.  Lots of changes since I last worked there.  She normally takes 10th up but when passing 8th she made a comment.  But I thought it would be busy with all the Southsiders coming down the viaduct.  Found the new bike racks underneath a roof.  There is even a fixtation for quick adjustments and repairs.   Plenty of room for early bastards like me.  Other racks were spotted but I like my bike parked in a dry spot and out of street view. Took a different route home.  4 miles or so.

2 miles.  Guess what another benefit of a 2 mile bicycle commute is?  One can ride to work in the same clothing that they work in.  This is a time saver.  There are lockers and showers.  I put a lock on one locker but have very little desire to take a shower there.  Like Mary I just pulled a pair of winter warmth pants over my slacks for the cold rides to work this week.  By the end of the week that was no longer necessary.

2 miles.  Lights are another benefit.  They no longer need to be plugged in for recharge every night.  My ride time is now less than 16 minutes to work in the dark.  Used to be anywhere from an hour to an hours and a half.  One week of the new commute has the morning run time of the morning trip of the old commute.

2 miles.  I get home earlier.  I gained an hour of sleep and an hour of play.  Winning!

Downsides, there are a few.  I must stop eating unless I get home and change bikes and go for a long ride.  Or join a gym which I have no desire to do.  My caloric requirements have lowered quite a bit.  Gotta eat myself fitter.  Also Happy Hour.  I am out of work TOO EARLY for my favorite Happy Hour spots.

Mileage is the biggest loser.  My 5 am math is telling me that I will be losing over 5000 miles per year with the new commute,  I plan on adding a longer loop once I get settled.  Back when I used to work there I would ride with Mary to Urbandale and then to work.  Maybe a 10 mile loop.  She now works just a few blocks away.  We could ride together and probably will but I seem to be out the door first.  For now I will just enjoy my new found freedom.

Stablemates.  So far I've encountered 5 other bikes at my new "bike day care" err bike rack.  Cool to see that there were at least 3 or 4 single speeds there.  One fatbike and a fat e-bike.  In the uncovered bike racks there were a few touring rigs.  One bike had a milk crate attached to the rear rack.  Panniers most have.  As for me, I rode the single speed from the photo 4 times and the Red Phoenix once when it was going to be a day of snow, sleet, freezing rain ect.  Currently, I am rebuilding my Trek Soho as a single speed (I hate its Nexus internal 7 speed hub) and start commuting that so the Gravity, the purple bike from the photo, can be serviced.  It needs a new headset and most likely a new BB.  IIRC it has over 10K on its clock.  A great commuter that taken a lot of abuse.

One last thing.  8th Street.  Do not take this after 530 am.  Lots of vehicles heading north.  A lot of 20 year old Ford Explorers and other assorted POS.  Not good for cyclists.  I've taken a different route each day and probably will not settle on one for a few weeks.  I do like taking the Principal River Walk, despite endless construction, most of the north and southbound part of the trip.  I have to hop the curb, a low curb, on 2nd to take Watson Powell Jr Way straight onto the campus or back onto the river walk area.  Less traffic lights.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Everyday People

Spring is always a wonderful day to be a bicycle commuter especially if one commutes by bicycle all winter long.  Finally the commute comes back to life.  No more dressing like an astronaut, tired and abused winter bike is given a much deserved rest and a faster good weather bike is chosen, the birds return and fill the air with their song and there is more daylight.  Although 2018 appears to have stalled the advent of Spring things are improving.  And more people are out.  Of course more people on bicycles.  From Stravacons to families with children on bicycles and pedestrians and dogwalkers.  And many of my friends.  Also more people walking the trails.  Here are a few of the interesting "everyday people" I encountered this week.

Ghost Faced Killer

Not on the trail but on the bus Wednesday morning because I did not feel like battling a 20 mph headwind tor 12+ miles just to get to work.  I forget what stop he got on the bus but it was an early one.  He sat in front of  me in the seat up front that faces the center aisle of the bus.  He was smiling.  But then he started moving his hands in front of his face and having a conversation with people we could not see.  This reminded me of my friend's son who is autistic and often waves his hands in front of his eyes for visual stimulation.  But this guy was having a conversation.  Was he talking to ghosts or invisible people?  He would laugh on occasion and the longer he was there the animated he became.  Perhaps he was reciting lines from a play, his voice never audible enough to comprehend.  Or preparing for a conversation that was going to occur when he got off the bus.  He never bothered anyone but the closer he got to his stop the more his hands looked like guns.  After he got off there was a collective sigh of relief.  I assumed that everyone on the bus knew him since I recognized most of the people in my field of vision from my January 2nd ride.  Nope.  He was new.  then I suggested that he really was not that different from others that just stare at their phones and electronic devices except that he never needs to plug into an electrical socket.


Jason and Cassandra

I've written about this couple before.  Their home is just off the trail south of the dog park north of the car wash.  If I am at the right time I encounter them walking their two Airedales at 515 am or so.  I've been riding past their home for 5 years now and we always say hello.  Occasionally I stop and we chat.  On other occasions Jason runs or bikes to work downtown and we stop and talk.  Nice guy.  He knows the name of my dog, asks where Mary is since until last November we rode together in the morning along this section of trail.  She now works at Unity Point at Methodist Hospital and no longer has a long commute.  I noticed that they are only walking one dog.  They explained that the female is 11 years old now and is undergoing acupuncture to relieve leg and back pain.  On Thursday Jason was running back from downtown and we stopped near the N Valley Dr intersection on the Walnut Creek Trail.  He inquired about my impending transfer to PFG and said he had a friend that just started there.  At that time I was not sure when the transfer was to take place because it appeared that my boss was delaying this change to ensure a smooth transistion and his boss, who had the idea of moving me, was on vacation.  Just goes to show that if you take the time to be friendly to those that you see on the trail they become your friends.  I will miss seeing them

Park Ranger

Thursday, Water Works Park Bridge.  I caught up with a gentleman riding a Giant hybrid with yellow panniers.  I don't recall what started the conversation.  Perhaps I politely announced my intention to pass.  Hate to say this but he looked sorta homeless.  Scruffy beard, forest green jacket and possibly a tent on the rear rack.  But we started chatting for the next 3 miles.  Ends up he works for the National Parks as a ranger.  Just down in Des Moines because of a girlfriend.  He is from northern Minnesota and considers the weather her balmy.  This summer he will be back up north at a park near the Canadian border. we also discussed bike trails, touring and Ragbrai.  He loves rails-to-trails but never has done Ragbrai.  He would like to.  My turn approached and we exchanged names and I quickly forgot which is not unusual.


Thursday was a fun day.  After leaving work and dropping off my work clothing and the cold weather gear at home I headed off to the store.  First stop was at the Smoke Shack on SE 14th for a rumored vodka sale.  This involved taking the Des Moines River Trail and then sidewalk on SE 14th for a few blocks.  Watch out for the missing chunk of sidewalk.  I was able to score said vodka, UV Peach which goes well with OJ.  After the purchase as I walked outside the store there was a custom forest green Chevy or GMC Denali Tahoe.  The driver who just stepped out was the spitting image of General Colin Powell dressed as a pimp!  I stopped in my tracks for a micro second.  All that missing was a can with a huge fake diamond and a hat with a feather.  Red violet trousers with matching vest.  His jacket must have been inside the SUV.  A woman in shorts exited the passenger side door.  She was wearing a Department of Corrections ankle bracelet on one of her ankles.  I assume they stopped for smokes.

Bridge Beer and New Beer Thursday for UNTAPPD


My kind of people!  I eventually made my way to the new Hy Vee and on the way back I crossed the hump and got onto the Jackson St Bridge.  Two touring bicycles were parked there.  Kelly and Nancy!  What a pleasant surprise!  And I too was packing beer.  A stop was mandatory.  They were talking to a 55 y/o dude on roller blades. but Kelly had to take off to find a restroom so they left not long after I stopped.  So I talked to the skater.  We discussed architecture of DSM and roller blading marathons.  "Yes 26 miles.  Some can complete them in less than two hours.  just like bicycle racing, one goes down and takes out a lot of others."  "That proposed 50 story condo/apartment building for the East Village will cast a huge shadow on the EV.  It also looks like a prison I saw near Chicago.  Who wants to live in a prison structure?  Ruins the character of the EV.  Look at these new buildings across the river on 7th.  They look like turn of the century housing for factory workers or something built in Soviet Russia."  True.  But it was time to roll on.


Every now and then Craig and I randomly cross paths on the trail.  This time as I was going home he was leaving the ballpark, opening day for the Iowa Cubs,  Does not take much to twist each other's arms and say "Hey, let's grab a beer.  Just one."  We went to Extra Innings just south of Mullets and grabbed stools at the bar.  Eventually we text our respective significant others and told them to meet us there.  Mary was probably getting worried that I have not returned from the store.  Mary also honored my request to bring the red flasher I neglected to bring.  I could tell it would be dark before we left.  Always good to see Craig and Kim.  It prolly has been a few weeks.  This winter is lingering on forever and we have not had many opportunities to ride together or hang out as often.

They say it is going to warm up after today's snow.  I hope so.  I truly enjoy when the weather is nice enough to be able to talk to the people I meet on the trail instead of riding alone fighting for survival.  My long commute will end when I reach home on Friday.  5 years.  On the 16th I start working downtown and will have a mere 2 miles to ride each way.  This should give me an opportunity to ride with Mary in the morning and get home with lots of energy and a desire to grab a different bike and head back out on the trail to different locations and see other friends.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Another Ride on the DART

The arm that secures the bicycle via the front wheel cannot get in proper position because the Salsa Anything Cage is in the way.  Front panniers would interfere as well.

Two this week actually.  Wednesday because I had seven quarters and desired extra sleep and coffee over battling the headwind of 20 mph for 12+ miles.  Friday because I had seven quarters and wanted more sleep.  Both times I rode my single speed to DART Central and placed my bike on the rack but rode the bike home from work.

First of all, this is convenient on those days that I have no desire to bike to work.  Also during an ice storm that left trails and sidewalks totally useless I found it an safer way to get home from work.  I am grateful for the service in these situations.  But.....

Do they have to use diesel engines?  Both times this week I felt nauseous during and after my ride for several hours.  I could smell diesel fumes until noon over 5 hours after I got off the bus and rode 2+ miles to complete my commute to work.  That and my susceptibility to motion sickness but the fumes.  I cannot fathom the damage to people who ride the bus everyday for 5 days a week.  Or the drivers.  Poison.

My other issue is with the bicycle racks.  They are easy to use but do not work well with bikes that have front racks.  The arm that secures to the front wheel cannot move past front racks or Salsa Anything cages.  I did not notice this on Wednesday I was distracted by the arm on the rear rack not working, extending, so the driver got out and helped me move the bike to the front rack.  But on Friday I did notice this.  The bike did stay put for both trips but I will obviously take a different bike if I need to take the bus again.  Perhaps an arm that locks to the top tube would be better.

For the immediate future this will be a non-issue for me.  My long commute ends on Friday.  The next bus I am likely to ride will be ones in cities that I visit when I choose to fly to.

Apologies for the crappy photo.  Had just a second to take it and I freaked the driver out.  had to explain that I photograph everything.

House of Pain

There is a place if you really have to go.  A place where character is revealed.  A place of honor.  A place of humility.  If you absolutely, positively have to train for something other than riding a bicycle and get your fat ass in shape ASAP, then this is the place.  A decade ago I went here to get in shape for two weeks of self contained backpacking/hiking through the Philmont Scout Ranch in Sangre Cristo region of the Rocky Mountains in New Mexico.  Base camp was at 5000 ft and we hiked as high as 12,444 ft.  The phrase "how up is up" was coined our our journey up Mnt Baldy.  It worked.  I met weight, had no issues with altitude and was in perhaps the greatest shape of my adult life.  This place is the the old Northwestern Bell building now named the Century Link building in downtown Des Moines.

We start at the bottom, Basement Level 3, and walk the stairs to the roof and back down to B3.  IIRC it is 17 stories.  When training for the mountains we would do this 6 times.  6 times in one evening.  The closer we would get to the date of our event the more we punished ourselves.  We would wear hiking boots not light weight trainers.  We would also wear our backpacks with 50 lb of gear.  6 times up and 6 times down schlepping 50 lbs on our backs.

The day after doing this my legs would feel like I did a very long and hard bicycle ride.  Sore and sometimes not wanting to move or get up and down,  Two days after the stairs sessions my torso would fall out of bed and the legs would not move!  Always the second day after.  Legs on total repair mode.  Getting up and down made me look like a 115 year old man!  Of course, practice makes perfect and after several sessions at the House of Pain it would not be as bad afterwards.

So this Wednesday Donnie told me to get my ass there.  I probably have done these stairs two or three times after our trip so it's been a decade.  And I need to do this just to lose the weight that bicycling and my lifestyle is not doing.  Since this was the first time I would arrive at the House of Pain via bicycle I decided to use my hiking boots,  These are the upgraded ones that I took to Philmont.  It was cold outside and I really did not want to change shoes.  Just remove the out warmth layers I was biking in then hit the stairs.  Two members of the Violators or Mary's Heroes or whatever we call our Off Route Ragbrai Team were there two.  Donnie's third week in a row.  I'm the "newbie."  Lots of people who were training for Climb for Air were there as well (they are climbing the stairs at 801 Grand PFG today).  Great, I can suffer with company.

I only did two sets.  Next week more.  As usual I spent too much time talking and that energy would have been better served for my legs and cardiovascular system.  but it has been a long winter and I have not been able to chat with Donnie of Joe.  I have off route ragbrai ideas that I need to share ect.  I did however, do better than some skinny people and that helped my pride.

After the second set I knew it was time to go.  First of all I already had 20 miles + on the bike, a single speed, and just 2 or 4 more to get home.  And then at 345 am that fookin' alarm would go off and I would have to ride 12.5 miles to work, work 8 hours and ride 15 home on most likely a windy day.  None of the others here in the House of Pain were going to do that.  Others were dropping out, too.  Cut losses and build up.  Maybe 3 or 4 times next week.

Thursday my legs were sore.  Felt like I did a hard long bike ride.  Getting up and down hurt a bit but I could ride strong.  I felt strong.  Friday my legs still hurt but not as bad if I had done 6 set of stairs.  And right now the pain is receding.  Until next time...