Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Weekend Update

Friday started out early, as I had an appointment at Rasmussen's for a bike fitting with Donny Quixote. The session started out with Donny attaching a road bike wheel to my Karate Monkey since my bike wouldn't fit the trainer. It looked rather odd to say the least. He conducted a brief interview, asking me about what issues I was having, and took my measurements. Adjustments led to additional questions and more adjustments. In the end, my seat is now higher (to eliminate the knee pain, and move some of the work from my hamstrings to my quadriceps), I have a different saddle (same width, but slightly more padding to assist with comfort on longer rides), and new grips (to adjust my shoulder and arm position, and to help with some hand numbness issues). The seat height was the biggest change, and although I expected a change, I thought he would set it lower. I have about 30 miles on the new positioning and it does feel better. However, it will take some time to get used to the change in my center of gravity as well as some time to get my quadriceps built up for riding longer distances.

After my fitting, I loaded my bike on the Explorer and headed north of Ames pick up friend Paul and his friend Cory and head off to TransIowa v4. Paul and Corey were both riding, and I was volunteering my time to assist with the event. We had a pre-race meeting at T-Bocks in Decorah on Friday night and then went back to the hotel so Paul and Cory could prep for an early 4 AM start. We were up at 3 AM Saturday morning, and I followed Paul, Corey and some others to the start line. Temps were in the mid 30s, and the winds were out of the west at well over 20 MPH. After the start, I packed all of our stuff up, checked out of the hotel and headed off to man the check point at Wadena, Iowa. The checkpoint was officially open from 9 AM to 2 PM. However, due to the head and crosswinds the riders were subjected to, the first riders did not arrive until around 12:15 PM. In the end, only 23 riders made it to the checkpoint on time. Of those that did arrive, only 17 decided to continue on towards checkpoint two. The road conditions were on everyone's mind after the soaking the area received over the previous two days. However, the wind is what sapped the strength of most of the riders that day.

Paul and Corey ended up pulling out about 80 miles in after it became apparent that they were not going to be able to make the checkpoint in time. After they received a ride to checkpoint 1, we stood around, drank some beers with the other riders and headed off to checkpoint 2 in Earlville, Iowa. While checking in with the RD, I was informed that they were marking yet another detour in the route near the Buchanan county border due to flooding. We arrived in Earlville a while later, and met up with Joe (a fellow Karate Monkey owner) and some others at a nice park and waited for the riders to arrive. During this time, Paul decided to put another 4 miles on his bike and get his dirty century in towards the Cup O Dirt. The RD's showed up a while later and we determined that the race was down to just 5 riders. After having some beers, and some delicious stakes courtesy of Joe's grill, we decided to head for home as 10:00 PM would be the earliest the riders could arrive. After a stop for food and caffeine in Cedar Falls, I dropped Corey off in Nevada, Paul off in Gilbert and made my way home, pulling into the driveway at 1 AM, tired, but happy.

In the end, the race was called 40 miles into the 3rd leg due to treacherous conditions. As TransIowa participants are routinely subjected to some of the "best" level B and C roads that the state has to offer, this was saying a lot for the conditions. The winner of the event was John Gorrilla, closely followed by Joe Kucharski and Charlie Farrow for second and third place respectively. Fourth place finisher Charles Parsons arrived about 75 minutes later with fifth and final finisher Corey Godfrey
arriving another two hours after Parsons.

My time volunteering for TransIowa was time well spent. I had the opportunity to support friend, make a new one, meet some people who I knew only through blog postings, as well as see some incredible athletes driven to their limits. As a bike person, the array of bikes and setups people used during the event was an incredibly interesting thing to see as well. If I don't participate in next year's TI (and that thought is running through my head), I will definitely volunteer again.

Photos I took at Checkpoint 1
Guitar Ted's detailed analysis of the events
MTBR TI thread

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Busier week

On Monday night, I went to Paglai's pizza for the PRC/All 9 Yards Women's Team sponsored talk on group riding. USAC Cat 1 racer Lou Waugamann gave a good talk on group riding and race tactics. Turnout was good and covered everyone from recreational riders, to racers, as well as a few of us ultra endurance nuts. Congrats to everyone involved for putting this on.

Tuesday night I cleaned up the Karate Monkey and relubed the chain and the rest of the driveline. Sunday's ride had left it pretty well encrusted, so the easiest thing to do was use a low pressure hose and some elbow grease. I also needed it cleaned off to take it into Rasmussen's to have a bent spoke replaced and the rear mech adjusted. I need to invest in a work stand and a book or two so I can start to do this kind of work myself.

With the Monkey out of service, I took the Paramount and went on the Wednesday night ritual ride. The weather was beautiful and about 50 riders showed up at the start in front of the Ritual Cafe (thanks for staying open late for us!). The ride is billed as being a recovery ride at a social pace. Social pace can mean different things to different people however. The group of 50 broke into two groups in Waterworks Park as some of us wanted to get a few more miles in, and opted to ride the back loop first rather than the trail. We had a good sized group riding together for most of the ride, using the trails and the roads around Moffit Lake. We had an impromptu sprint up a hill by Browns Woods state park. I made a feeble attempt to catch Lou after letting him get out in front of me a bit. Needless to say I lost that "race". After the ride, I went with Rick, Sweet Jane and Donny Q over to A Dong for some post ride dinner.

Tonight, I'll be working the registration table for the first race of the PRC Race Like a Girl series.

Monday, April 21, 2008

April Gravel Hundy: Building the Church

I've had a lot of time to think and reflect on things riding the rural roads of Iowa the last four months. Much of this occurs during the periods of the ride when I am mentally "down". The typical themes are usually "What am I doing here?" and "Why am I doing this to my body?". This reminded me of a song on one of my favorite Steve Vai albums, Real Illusions: Reflections. The opening song is titled "Building the Church". Steve has detailed his thoughts and notes about the track . One paragraph in particular really sums up the last few months of riding for me.

"The name of the Church is “Under It All.” This is where the towns people are enticed to enter and be subjected to the enchanting and engaging music of Pomposh, which in turn seduces them to see and speak of their inner selves things that they were not aware of."

The building of muscle, the stretching of sinew, hours spent in the saddle, the constant mental struggles. This is the "church" I've been visiting once a month since the start of the year, accustoming myself to its music, made by my tires crunching against the gravel, chain and sprockets singing at my feet. I am certainly starting to see myself become capable of things I didn't think were possible a few short months ago. On January's ride, I was so excited to even be in the game, that I was able ignore the problems that occurred. On February's ride, I found both physical and mental weak spots that made me not want to continue. On Graid in March, I was doing well until poor planning and mental weakness caused me to drop out short of my goal. On yesterday's ride, I finally started to see what I am capable of if I get into the right frame of mind and focus on me and not on anyone else. Determination can overpower the body's exhaustion. Even the worst sections of road have a good line.

Tom Anderson and I have a really good ride on Sunday. For the day, we rode just short of 20 miles of pavement, 35 miles of actual gravel, and the remainder of the mileage came in the form of an often thin line of rideable gravel between the ditch and the highway; what Tom Anderson and I came to call "graveltrack" or "shoulder track". From a mental standpoint this was the most difficult part of the ride, as the comfort of the pavement was sitting no more than 6 inches from our tires for the better part of half of a day. It was much harder to ride on than a regular gravel road due to the narrowness of many portions. 45+ miles of dead straight single track gets really old after a while.

The next month's challenge is a big one. Dirty Kanza. A 200 mile self supported gravel road race taking place in the Flint Hills area of Kansas. I signed up for this event almost the minute it opened earlier this year. Even after all of the riding, I might have bitten off more than I can chew. I have no delusions of winning. At this point, crossing the finish line within the time limits will be a win. One month left to prepare for the pain.

Photos from the ride are here. Ride route is located here courtesy of Tom's GPS.

Mayor's Ride

My son and I left the house around 8:00 AM to ride down to the mayor's ride. On Friday night, Conor had decided that we should ride downtown, rather than drive. Somewhat right before we went to bed, he remembered that we no longer live 3 miles from downtown. We were greeted by temps in the low 40s and light fog. I gave him the warmer of my sets of riding clothes, prepped the bikes and we were off. We took the Trestle to Trestle and the Neal Smith trail down to the start, grabbed some coffee and a muffin at the downtown Amici Espresso and registered for the ride. A little bit of drizzle at the start and then nothing but gray overcast and some wind for the remainder of the ride. The ride itself was pretty uneventful. Lots of chatting among people as we took a leisurely ride around town. They took riders through a couple of hilly areas that caught many people unprepared. I saw a number of people walking their bikes up the hill on 56th Street.

Conor doesn't realize it but he's a stronger rider than he gives himself credit for. This was only his second ride of the year, and he rode downtown wiithout taking any breaks, and he rode the entire 20 mile loop of the mayor's ride without stopping, or walking his bike, including the climb up 56th street. All of this on a 12 speed with a 12-21 rear cassette. It's obvious that it's time to put a little bit of TLC into the bike he's riding. The handlebars need to be rewrapped, the driveline and frame could use a good cleaning, and the derailers need some adjustment as well.

Tonight we're headed over to a talk at Paglai's Pizza on group riding and etiquette. Lou Waugamann is the presenter. Conor had mentioned that he's not comfortable riding with groups of people and that he has problems holding a straight line with riding. We discussed some ways to better control his bike and ride straighter (don't stare at your front wheel), and the fact that practice makes perfect. This talk couldn't have come at a better time for him. Lou has a lot of experience, so it will be good for Conor to take advantage of that.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Nice Rack (and a taco)

Blur of activity yesterday. Quick set of emails to the CITA mailing list resulted in the first Taco Ride of the year. Four of us (Jim, Jim, Sam and myself) left Rasmussen's at 5:30 PM for a solid 90 minutes of dirt riding on the Center Trails. They are MUCH faster without a foot of snow on them. Even after the rain last weekend they were in good shape. We picked up a few riders here and there on the trail, and ended the ride with five of us sitting at Griff's in Valley Junction drinking a couple of beers and eating a couple of tacos. My legs felt really good yesterday. It appears that the Denman's beatdowns that Cam and Pete gave me this winter have paid off. Every one else was ready t go for tacos, and I was ready for more riding since the weather was good and it was still light outside. I still need to work on my bike handling obstacle jumping skills a bit more. Tight turns on the 29er still feel a bit sluggish.

My Arkel pannier order arrived yesterday. I picked up a set of their GT-54 touring panniers, along with a small handlebar bag, and a Tailrider. I have had good luck with their (now discontinued) Samurai bags when I had my trike, so it was easy to go to them again for additional bags for the Long Haul Trucker. The quality and attention to detail on the bags is exceptional. If you need panniers, I highly recommend looking at their lineup. They are not the cheapest panniers available, but they are top notch and they come with a great warranty as well. To get the handlebar bag to fit, I think I'm going to need one of these. I wish it came in silver to match the rest of the bike hardware, but I'll deal with that when the time comes.

My Surly front Nice Rack arrived at Rassy's yesterday as well. Took a look at it and started the install after getting back home from the Taco ride. I quickly decided that I needed to wait until I was a bit less tired to keep working on it. It took a bit of time, and some reworking of my front fender mounts, but it's mounted, and not moving anywhere for the forseeable future. The rack comes with a dizzying array of mounting hardware. For my install, I used 4 offset brackets, some 3 mm and 2 mm spacers, and the appropriate bolts. I used two longer bolts to remount the brackets for the front fender stays since the rack used the same moubnts. I can definitely feel the extra 3 lbs of weight moving the bike around the garage. Once the back rack arrives, I can get it installed and then load up the panniers and take it out for a good test ride. I also took the time to make some more adjustments to my Brooks B17 saddle. Feels much better now that I'm not sliding down onto the horn so much.

Busy week ahead. Mayor's Annual Ride for Trails on Saturday morning. Fun Hater's Ride Saturday afternoon April's Dirty Century on Sunday. Fit session with DQ on Friday morning and then help with TransIowa through Sunday. Gonna need to keep the coffee pot well stocked this week.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Easy day

Rode to work today, guiding the Long Haul Trucker south into today's endless 25 mph wind. I wore street clothes again, because I could, and I wanted to. Took my share of the lane, because it's my right, and I wanted to. Left the office, rode to Barr and picked up a chainring bolt tool, and two new chainring bolts. Headed west (young man) on the Clive Greenbelt trail, turned north onto NW 142nd, rode north on NW 128th street and then home. The tailwind allowed me to spin out the LHT while in street shoes. Solid steel feels great rocketing along smooth pavement. The brakes are not quite up to slowing down, so it's time to look into some Koolstop pads before calipers are harder to get to.

Legs feel pretty good after Sylvan Island, but I can tell that the race worked them over good. Still not happy with how I feel, so I called DQ and arranged a fit session with him next Friday morning, before I leave to help out with TransIowa.

Monday, April 14, 2008

IMBCS #1 - Sylvan Stampede

Despite all of the rain that the area had received in the last 3 days, the 4th Annual Sylvan Stampede went off as scheduled yesterday. A large number of riders showed up from all over to participate in the event. I arrived at the event around 8 AM so that I could get my bike reassembled and get some laps in before the racing started. As I did this I was reminded of three common rules: Make a list. Pack well before the event. Double check your bike before you leave. Arriving at the race site, I realized that I had forgotten to pack a set of bike shorts in my bag. Not good. Thankfully, Rick from QFORC was willing to run home, and loan me a pair of shorts so that I could race. I owe him a drink or two if they are in town for our events later this year. Looking my bike over before heading on the course, I also realized that I was missing a chain ring bolt. The mechanic that was set up did not have any with him, so I tightened the other three the best that I could, and raced with them. I'l be picking up a proper tool and some loctite this week to make sure that doesn't happen again.

After all of the crap that Cam Kirkpatrick and Pete Basso fed me all winter, I decided to go ahead and race in the sport class. It seemed like a waste of time to enter a race and only ride for 7 miles. I had decided to start in the back and lay low so I wouldn't hold anyone up. However, adrenaline got the better of me at the start and I made a reasonably hard charge out of the starting area towards the funnel at the end. After the first lap, I could tell that I had gone out too hard and I backed down for the second lap so that I had a reasonable chance of finishing the race. Racing at the site of an old steel mill makes for some unique terrain. There were a large number of roots, hunks of concrete, and other things challenging you at every turn. I really started to feel my lack of conditioning around lap 4. I have been riding 60 and 100 mile gravel grinders a lot more than I have been 17 mile off road sprints. I'll have to start riding the center trails a lot more (and a lot harder) if I plan on getting any better. I also noticed that I was having issues keeping my speed and momentum up on the tighter sections of the course. I may have to check with some local 29er riders for some hints on how to improve my performance there.

I'm still trying to figure out where I finished in the pack. I know times of people behind me, and I know times of some people that were pulled. However, I can't find my name on the results page, nor can I remember what my chip number was so I could look my time up by that. Hopefully the folks at FORC can get it all straightened out. Overall, I'm happy with how my first race went. It's obvious that I'm not 23 any more, and that I have a lot of learning to do about how to race a mountain bike, but I finished the entire race, I only crashed once (damn tree), and I didn't get lapped by the winner. My family had a good time watching me race as well, and it was certainly nice hearing them cheer for me as I passed the spectator area. Unfortunately, our crack media crew left the camera in the car, so I don't have any photos to post. Hopefully I can track some down, as there were a number of still and digital cameras on the course during the race. Next race is Camp Inagawanis near Waverly on May 4th. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Hump Day

Finished up the fender install on the Surly last night. I think I have about 3.5 hours into installing the fenders. Not that I couldn't have finished them sooner, but I wanted the installation performed properly, so I took the time to do it. Getting a longer bolt for the fork crown and spacers for the rear fenders took a bit of time (and an extra bike ride) as well. However, I'm happy with the results. The rear fender was definitely harder to get lined up since it covers more of the wheel, there were more attachments to deal with, and I had to think about how I wanted to deal with the rear fender stays and their interaction with the quick release and derailer. I ended up using the rack stays and eliminating all of my issues. In the spirit of the internet, I tracked down excellent installation instructions and photos from both the Velo Orange Blog and from SconnyBoy's blog.

Rode the bike into work this morning and I'm pleased with the results. The only noise I heard was when a rock was kicked up into the fender. We'll see how they hold up long term. If I run into issues with the bolts getting loose, I'll add a bit of loctite to the recipe. Speaking of commuting, for the first time ever, I rode into work with "normal" clothes. No lycra, no performance fabrics. Just jeans, a t-shirt, light coat, street shoes, gloves and a helmet with a hat underneath. It was definitely a different experience, and the weather was perfect for it this morning at 28F or so to start. I kept the jacket unzipped a bit, and rode at a fairly sedate pace. It was an interesting experience. I think I'll be doing more of that, or just changing shirts when I get to work . It's quicker, and a lot less hassle once I get to the office.

I'll likely spend tomorrow going over the Karate Monkey in preparation for the Sylvan Stampede this weekend in the Quad Cities. Looking at the forecast, it's going be wet through Saturday evening. Chances of the race happening don't look too good.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Excitement with a capital "Blah"

Read the race recaps from Altoona and Big Creek this weekend. Looks like it was a lot of fun for all involved. Wish I could have made it out to watch and cheer people on, but plans are plans. Rode to the hardware store to get some longer bolts to mount fenders on the LHT. Got all Type-A on the fender alignment and managed to finish up the front fender this evening. Decided to call it a night and work on the rear fender tomorrow and Wednesday. Looks to be wet tomorrow, so no TNWC for me. First IMBCS race is this weekend in the Quad Cities. It appears that I should race sport just so I can get more laps in exchange for my entry fee, even if it means taking a pounding. Oh well, we'll ease into things.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Mojo JoJo

A old rider once mentioned that you cannot chose your mojo, your mojo chooses you. I found this little dromedary camel in the street riding around this morning. I initially passed him up, but something told me to turn around and pick him up. Looking up some facts about camels I'm finding a lot of reasons to believe that this is an appropriate mojo. My height (6'1") is about the same height as a camel at the shoulder. Dromedaries are warmer climate camels, and I'm definitely more a fan of the heat than the cold. I tend to be able to ride quite a while without drinking a lot. Dromedaries are able to maintain speeds of 8-9 mph for hours at a time. As I tend to like endurance riding events, I also tend to maintain a steady speed for hours at a time as well. Taking all of this into account, this small camel is now my mojo. His name is JoJo.

Trail work day

Rode the Monkey with the Bob trailer in tow to do some trail work at Denman's Woods today. There were some problem areas that needed addressing, and with the bodies that showed up, it only took a couple of hours of effort to get things cleaned up, ridable and safe for everyone. Items addressed included bracing a log feature so that it didn't wiggle around, cleaning up an area that had developed too many alternate lines, removing a downed tree, and rerouting a section of trail around an eroded area. Photos I took are here

Got about 2 hours of riding time in today, all of it towing a 13 lb trailer with 30 - 40 lbs of tools in it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Beautiful day

Good day today. Took off at 7 AM with my son Conor for a 25 mile ride, with a stop at the Saylorville Township Fire Department for a pancake breakfast. This was Conor's first ride of the year, and I was really proud of how well he rode. He was smart and asked to take a break when his legs or butt were getting a little weary. He kept a good steady pace for all of the ride, and didn't complain about the hills we rode up. Leaving the breakfast we rode home into a pretty stiff SSW wind. I let him go first as we were on riding on 66th Street, which is a pretty busy two lane road, and he kept trucking into the head wind. I hope to get out on more rides with him as the year progresses. For me, they are generally recovery level rides, but I enjoy spending the time with him. The scary part is that he can wear most of my clothing, and is getting close to me in bike size.

During the afternoon, I attempted to install the fenders on my LHT without much success, then rode with my wife to the grocery store to put our first load of groceries (and a 30 lb box of cat litter) in the Bob trailer. The Bob is going to take some getting used to. I like how it tracks when unloaded, but with heavier loads, it really tries to drag the back end of the bike around a lot more than I expected, especially going around corners. Headed to Denman's tomorrow morning for some trail work, so I'll hook it to the Monkey and see how it handles. I'll toss some tools in the Bob and head out for coffee in the morning, and then make my way to the trails for the work at 10:00 AM. If anyone else has nothing going in, we can always use an extra hand or two. The more the merrier.

Two words: Incredibly Hot

Photo credit: Scott Schuman

What is better than a beautiful girl on a bike? There is just something about this photo. Her eyes, the jeans, the coat. Simply scrumptious. Scott Schuman has photos of many stylish people on his blog, The Sartorialist. Click the title to this post to see all of the stylish people with bikes. Oddsmakers place my chances of being on his blog at about 50,000:1

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Unique experiences

Left the house at 7:30 AM. Temp was almost 40 with a slight wind. Rode towards the office and made a detour up the street to Amici Espresso to snag a scone. I noted rain in the forecast, but wasn't too concerned about it as I'd just be getting wet on the way home. Rain started failing pretty heavily starting around noon, and didn't show any signs of letting up for the remainder of the day. I peered outside about 2:30 PM and was greeted with the sight of snowflakes that appeared to be the size of my palm raining down from the sky. No ordinary snowflakes, these apparently had weight due to the speed they were falling at. I decided to leave the office at 3:30 since I hadn't taken a lunch break, and the snow was getting heavier, and it was, despite the assurances of the weathermen, starting to accumulate.

I suited up, let some air out of the tires on the LHT and headed out into the mess. The roads were very wet, and sloppy. My Oakley's were quickly getting covered in a thick layer of snow and steam, and my eyes were getting pelted by huge snow flakes. I stopped briefly to clear my glasses and continue my ride home. As the vehicles pelted me with slush as they sped past, I missed the accident occurring at the intersection up ahead. I arrived on the scene at the same time as the police officer and proceeded to thread my way through the accident scene while the cars were forced to sit and wait. Leaving the scene, I look ahead at the cars coming down the hill (too fast for conditions) towards the accident scene and I'm confronted with something I hoped to never see: A school bus fishtailing downhill towards me. As I considered my choices (keep riding straight, or dive to the ditch) the driver managed to get the bus under control and not hit any of the cars stopped ahead of him. Cresting the hill, I was forced to pull over for the paramedic, fire truck and ambulance headed towards the accident. It was interesting that I pulled over and stopped immediately, while the automobiles continued to travel forward until the last possible moment. (As an aside, what is it with people and not pulling over for emergency vehicles these days?). At this point, I turned onto a side street and finished my ride home.

Sitting here now, my lawn is completely covered in snow. Hopefully it's gone by tomorrow morning, so my commute is dry. Lucky for me, my fenders show up tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

I'm feeling Surly today

My Surly Long Haul Trucker was ready to pick up from Rasmussen's last Thursday. Due to the lovely spring mix of rain, sleet and snow that was blanketing the fair city of Dead Moans, I decided to return on Friday to pick it up. I have used it as my commuting bike the last two days. I also managed to take a nice hour and a half ride on it. My impressions about it so far are positive. Surly really hit the nail on the head when naming this particular bike. You sit high, just like you would in a truck. You get a chance to look around at your surroundings a bit more rather than concentrating on the wheel or the pavement directly in front of you. javascript:void(0)

The bike has a pace and momentum that is all its own. It feels slower to accelerate than any of my other bikes, including the Karate Monkey. Once you get it moving the bike automatically settles into what I consider "the right pace". This pace is not too fast, nor too slow. It's a pace that really makes you think that the time you arrive at your destination will be the right time, no matter what the clock might say. It's also a pace that doesn't want to make you dive into corners aggressively either. Once the bike has the racks on and loaded, or I have the Bob trailer (which my wife told me to order) attached and loaded down, the gearing is going to be about right.

The Brooks saddle and bar tape were two things I changed out from the stock bike. I really like how the honey Brooks B17 looks on the bike, and the extra expense of the Brooks bar tape was worth it to make the bike look complete. The Brooks will take a bit of adjustment to get so it feels good. Everyone complains about how hard the Brooks saddles are, and after my ride yesterday, I can understand it to some extent. However, I also know that issues were related to my position on the saddle, rather than something about the saddle itself. I moved the saddle forward a small amount before this mornings commute, and I hardly noticed it was there. I'll put a few more miles on this weekend and see how it feels. I ordered some nice wide metal fenders from Velo Orange earlier in the week. They should be here on Friday. Having commuted without them in the light snow on Tuesday, I'm anxious to get them installed. They definitely keep the bike cleaner, and my feet drier.