Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Hoarding Season

Saturday morning I started sorting and doing a rough inventory in the garage.

I've been needed to do this for a while, or I would end up extra items that I didn't need. Actually, I really don't need any of it, but I want it. I want more.

I started with the front derailleurs, because that's what I picked up first. Braze-on and clamp mounts of various sizes. Apex, Rival, Force, and Red. I boxed them up as neatly as possible, knowing that organization would only last until the next bike build.

Then it was rear derailleurs. Short cage and medium cage, again spanning the full SRAM range. Box them up and set them aside.

Shifters. Brake calipers. Cranksets. Cassettes. Chains. Brake pads for aluminum rims. Brake pads for carbon rims. Tubular tires. Tubular glue. Tubular tape. Tubes. Tires. Valve extenders. Bottom brackets. Bar tape. Brake cables. Derailleur Cables. Brake housing. Derailleur housing. Housing ferrules. Cable crimps. The list is endless, and each item was noted and tucked away.

I'm hoarding. Some of it I can explain away because I run 10-speed drivetrains. The majority of my wheels are 10-speed, and replacing them would be cost prohibitive. I haven't found a compelling reason to move to an 11-speed drivetrain yet. Instead, I'm buying stocks of SRAM 10-speed components (when they're cheap) so I'm not forced to upgrade. Eventually SRAM will stop making 10-speed components, and stocks will dry up or prices will get ridiculous. It's that way for 8- and 9-speed components of a certain level now, and in time 10-speed components will follow the same pattern as stocks dry up. It's better to buy now at a reasonable price than wait until some eBay hack decides that they're old enough to be antiques.

Other stuff I buy because I consume a certain quantity of them every year. When I buy consumables and find a good price, I usually buy several so I save money in the long run. At least, that's what I tell myself.

The remainder is stuff I buy because I want to. No other reason. I'm a gear whore and I like buying stuff. Beats smoking when you compare ROI. Besides, bikes are awesome. Bikes are made of bike parts. Therefore, bike parts are awesome. It's science.

Once everything is sorted, I'll start bike building. I'm going to tear down Pete's old DBR bike that I've upgraded over the years and return it to a semi-original state so he can sell it on Craigslist. When that's done, I'll tear down the Cannondale System Six and build it up with the parts I removed from the DBR, so Pete will have a new bike to hide from his wife. Then I'll tear down my faithful Ridley Orion and build it up to sell. If I have time, I may pull down one of the frames off the garage ceiling and build that up too.

You know what? I'll still have enough components to build a handful of bikes after that. I have a theory about this. While they were thrown in a huge, disorganized pile, the various components had a huge bike parts orgy, copulating in an unprotected manner that resulted in a population explosion. Red begat Force. Force begat Rival. Rival begat Apex.

Now that they're organized, boxed up properly, and moved out to the suburbs, perhaps their hedonistic tendencies will be tempered somewhat.

...until I start buying again.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Surround-Sound Douchebaggery

Today I bought a surround-sound system for my trainer dungeon. It has a 5 DVD changer, 6 satellite speakers, a sub-woofer, and all sorts of features I'll never use.

To put this in perspective, the upstairs TV that the whole family uses is hooked up to the stereo that I bought in 1992.

Yeah, I'm a bastard.

In my defense, I bought it at a thrift store for $50. The real selling point for me was the optical input, which I can hook up to my Alienware computer. That will allow me to listen to all of the sound effects the guys at Zwift added into the game, which will make it easier to immerse myself in the experience and forget I'm on the trainer. I'm also hoping better positioning of the speakers will allow me to reduce the overall system volume. To hear above the jet-turbine roar of my LeMond trainer, I had to turn the volume on my studio monitors to ear-bleeding levels. At 3:30 AM, the rest of the family took issue with the noise.

Yeah, I'm a bastard.

I'm going to sneak in in the garage and hide it from the wife as long as possible. If she knew, she would immediately demand a system for upstairs. I wouldn't get away with a thrift-shop find, and the resulting project would likely bankrupt any number of small nations. Better to conceal it until I can cover it with a sufficient amount of sweat and dust to match the rest of the dungeon's accouterments. By then, she won't want anything to do with it or anything resembling it.

Yeah, I'm a bastard.

Because of the rain and temperatures, I'll be on the trainer tonight. With any luck, I'll be surrounded by computer-generated bird tweets and other noises. I'll be sweating away, enjoying technology that was developed in this century. Meanwhile, the rest of the family will be huddled around the radio, listening to Little Orphan Annie.

Yeah, I'm a bastard.

Monday, October 5, 2015


Years ago, I wrote a few articles on basic alpine ski racing technique. This was just a way of getting cheap race skis, and in no way was a reflection of my ability or certification level. The information contained in the articles was mostly derivative, so I'm relatively sure no lawsuits are forthcoming from people that followed my advice. In one, I focused basic stance. Nothing earth-shattering there, but I basically hit on the one concept I use for all sports- functional tension.
I wish I had a fluid riding style, but I usually engage too many muscles and waste too much energy needlessly with bad form. The more I focus on it, the worse I ride- or so it seems. I'm amazed by the style and skills of riders like new World Champion Peter Sagan. It all looks so effortless for them. They are connected to the bike in a way that makes it another appendage. My bike looks like it's desperately trying to escape the flailing tub of lard on top of it.
There's a disconnect there that's rooted firmly between my ears. I tend to think about stuff too much, analyzing the approach and potential results. I tense up when I should stay loose. I grab brakes when I should just let the tires roll. My elbows lock. My torso seizes. I'm my own worst enemy.
That's probably why riding off pavement never really took hold with me. I was constantly over-analyzing every rock and root, ensuring that my body was properly knotted to inflict maximum damage. Tips thrown my way were immediately applied with little success. I just never got good enough to get over myself and just ride.
I do get glimmers of it on the road once in a while. My Star of David pedaling pattern mellows into circles for a mile or so, or I manage to arc a turn without melding the brake levers into the bar tape. I allow the bike to move underneath me instinctually. It's a fleeting experience that usually ends in me going over the handlebars or sliding across the pavement, but it's fun while it lasts.
Despite my desperate attempts to prevent it, it's raining and cold. Trainer season may be upon me. Whatever fluidity I may have developed over the summer will fade faster than my tan lines. I may dig out the rollers to try to stall the decline, but after I ride into the walls a few times steering to make that turn I saw on the DVD or Zwift, I may just stick to a more fixed training method to prevent further bodily injury. My form will suffer. By spring, it will have degraded to the point baby moose floundering in the snow will look down on my uncoordinated efforts.
It happens every year.
I'll never be smooth like Sagan, but maybe next year I'll get a little better. Maybe the year after that, I'll take another step. At that pace, I might approach some semblance of good form by the time I become one of those ancient cyclists that everyone finds inspiring because they're still moving.
It's a goal to work towards.

Friday, October 2, 2015

On the Road Again

The sky was blue, with temperatures in the mid-40s. The roads were almost completely dry, with the occasional puddle to avoid. The snow was receding from the roads, and small white piles were all that indicated someone once shoveled the sidewalks. It was like spring had returned, except in spring the piles are black with dirt.
Initially I thought I overdressed, but a few miles down the road I felt the wind and was glad I had that extra layer. As I rode across base and towards the mountains, the snow got progressively deeper and closer to the road. The bike path I took for a short distance had half-frozen ice patches in the shade, so I decided to alter my route somewhat. Instead of the circuit I've done dozens of times this year, I rode the gold-standard of Anchorage time trial courses. It was there and clear, so I took advantage.
I wasn't riding fast, but I was riding.
I rode this same course seven years during the my first bike race. I was fat and out of shape, despite having ridden regularly for a few years before that. I had no reason to go faster, so I didn't. Racing gave me a reason.
Today I wasn't trying, and I rode faster than I did on that day. I didn't notice this until afterwards, because I was too busy enjoying the ride. I'm sure people who drove by probably thought I was suffering by the look on my face, but I was truly happy.
I was riding.

I may get in other pavement rides this fall, or I may be doomed to the trainer. Today I grabbed the chance at riding, and was rewarded for it.
Today was also the birthday of the girl who was my initial inspiration for racing. Nine years has gone by far too quickly, but thanks to that decision I feel younger today than I did then.
Yay bikes.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

More of the Same

Snow again.

This morning it was sticking. I had to clear off the cars and shovel the driveway. Not much, maybe an inch of heavy, wet snow, but it was accumulating.

By noon, it was melting. By the time I got off work, most of the roads around base were dry enough to ride on. That is, if you dodged the numerous puddles that either hide a deep pothole or just a lot of wet. This time of year, it's better to dodge than take the chance.

The bike was at home. The bag o' kit was at home. The night was tied up with parent-teacher conferences so I could hear about how much they like having my child in their class and what positive energy they bring to the learning experience. I think I'm supposed to nod and smile at that point, but I usually stifle a yawn and manage to look supremely uninterested.

Once again, the night's workout belonged to the virtual world of Zwift. Unlike the previous excursions, I wasn't interested in sprinting or extended efforts. This was a measured, easy ride to recover and maybe be in some recovered shape for the slim chance of a ride on pavement.

I'm still hoping. I still want to believe that I'm not completely banished to stationary sweating. Even if it's a road I've ridden countless times before (and it will be), it's far superior to the trainer dungeon. There will plenty of time for Zwift and old race videos in the coming months.

Given the choice, a roadie prefers the road.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Well, That Went to Shit Quickly

I sharp kick to the ribs woke me this morning. My toddler son was claiming his territory in the bed, and I was left with a small strand at the edge. Balancing precariously, cheeks hanging out in space, I noticed I had 15 minutes before the alarm would go off. I would be forced to hit the snooze button before it woke the little terror. I listened to the sound of the rain falling on the roof with a sense of resignation. I knew there would be no road riding today.

I left the bag of cycling kit next to the computer desk. The Storck remained in the garage, where there was less chance of it growing rust. The newly-trued front wheel stayed in the back of the car. The bits and pieces that supported my routine of after-work rides remained untouched.

On my drive in, the rain chained to snow. It wasn't sticking, but it was snow. I couldn't see the mountains, but I know they got hammered with heavy, wet snow.

It's a little early for this. I still want to ride on the road. I'm not likely going to be skiing any earlier this year, so this is wasted white stuff. Save it for when it will hang around for a while.

After work, I got on the trainer for another round of Zwift. I explored some functions, and got in some decent intensity- certainly more than I would have gotten on the road.

Still, not the same. Not even close.

I'm already regretting the nice days I didn't ride.

Maybe, just maybe, there's a handful of rides on the other side of this crappy weather before winter finally closes in.

I sure hope so.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Not According to Plan

I was riding a large training volume level towards the end of the summer, and the plan was to slowly wean myself off of that as I rolled into the trainer season. Everything was going great, until it rained. Then it rained again. Then it rained some more. Usually rain doesn't stop me from riding, but when the temperatures get to the low 40s and high 30s, I realize it's not sustainable for me. I'll get in one good, if low-intensity ride, and then I'll spend the next couple days with a back in knots and a hesitance to ride again. String a couple of those rides together, and I usually end up sick for a week. I'm a weakling in that way.
Friday it was pouring and I had a sick child to deal with, so I didn't ride. Saturday I managed a good workout on the trainer, and somewhere during that time I waived at Noah as he floated by with all of his animal friends. Sunday was more of the same, so I procrastinated until the exact moment where it was too late to start anything. That took precise planning and a decisive lack of action to pull off, but I've shown a certain abundance of aptitude at it recently.
Usually our wet season is mid July to late August. September is usually pretty dry and progressively colder. This year we had a fairly dry July and August, and a very wet September. The getting colder thing is still in effect, and the combination has driven all motivation from my body.
I'm still eating like I'm riding an average of two hours a day, but I'm turning the pedals for maybe a quarter of that. I have to get this under control, or I'll start packing on some serious weight. Since I can't do much about the riding volume, I guess I'm going to be hungry for the foreseeable future. I'll probably be walking down the diet aids aisle at Walmart, wondering if their claims of "eat all you want and still lose weight" are valid. In my depleted state, I'll probably start to believe them. It's not going to be pretty.
That is, if I stick to any sort of plan that results in actual weight loss. I could always just give up and wait for the New Year to try to diet. Didn't work last year or the year before, but that doesn't mean it's not a valid strategy. With my advanced procrastination talents, I'm sure I could put off starting a diet for a few months. Perhaps, with a little more effort on my part, I could delay not eating so much until next season, when those extra calories will be needed. I'm just carbo-loading for next season, so I can unleash all of that stored energy in one powerful burst. It will be spectacular.
At least, that's what I tell myself as I shovel down handfuls of Goldfish crackers while sitting on the sofa and watching Yo Gabba Gabba with my son. This will all pay off in the future. How, I'm not exactly sure, but it will pay off. If it's not in the plan, then the plan is wrong, because Goldfish are awesome. Sitting on the couch is awesome. DJ Lance and the rest of the Yo Gabba Gabba crew are awesome.
...or am I missing something here?