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Showing posts from April, 2018

Getting Better.

A little over 20 years ago I was in the middle of the Saudi Arabian desert at Prince Sultan Airbase, living in a tent. This was a few months after they blew up Khobar Towers, and the whole shebang keeping Saddam in his box was moved from Dhahran out to a place where there really was nothing to blow up except sand, scorpions, and snakes.

We lived in a giant complex of tents next to the airfield. They were kinda air-conditioned, except the overloaded power cables would blow up every day as soon as it got hot. It wasn't great for those of us that worked nights, as it would go from 90F to 130F in less than a minute. I would usually get dressed and go to work, because the power on that side was more reliable. Giant sandstorms like something out of The Scorpion King would kick up every now and again, usually immediately after you walked out of the shower tent. A couple tents down from mine, two guys got bitten by sand vipers attracted by mice living under the floorboards.

Don't get me…

Yeah, Probably The Right Choice.

When I made the decision to bail on Tuesday's ride because of the wind and headed for the trainer, I felt like a weakling.

"I used to ride in wind like this all of the time. You just put your head down and crank away. You may not get very far, but it will be a solid workout that will pay dividends in the future."

Fact is, my memory may have been a bit faulty there. I have never ridden in that kind of wind. Roofs were being blown off of houses. Trees were knocking out power lines. Cars were randomly changing lanes from the gusts. Trash cans and other normally-stationary objects were migrating from house to house. That was a "hunker down and wait it down and wait it out" kind of storm, not a "this is where I get my Belgianflahute card" kind of storm. We get wind in Southcentral Alaska. This was something... more.

Thanks to the extra weight, the earth has grown more attracted to me. However, even at my most corpulent couldn't have navigated a bike out i…

Breezy.

The wind battering my house woke me up at 3:00AM. I was not pleased. I listened to it for a while, then went back to sleep when I was fairly sure the walls weren't going to be blown over. When I finally got up, I went out to re-secure the plastic sheet covering all of the junk I removed from my garage the previous day. I don't really care about any of it, as it's all heading to the dump, but I figured the boxes will be easier to move if they're not soaked and falling apart.

I got ready for work, threw the bike on top of the car, and took the kids to school. When I dropped my youngest off, I considered taking the bike off of the roof. The wind was ripping through there, with nearby reports putting the gusts at about 45-50 MPH. Up on the hillside it was around 80MPH.

Because I'm all about cheating the wind, I had deep section carbon wheels on the bike, which are primarily used for spontaneous and unintentional direction changes. They're just great, big fucking sail…

The Responsible Thing.

I had a nice 2+ hour ride scheduled for Sunday. Maybe some hills. Maybe a loop of Anchorage. Not limited by the ruthless constraints of a training plan, I'd play it by ear.

I woke up and hobbled around, aching from the previous day's group ride. I was disgusted at myself. We hadn't ridden all that hard or all that long, so I should have been ready to go. My body wasn't feeling it. Eventually I loosened up somewhat. I knew a ride would make it feel even better.

I didn't ride.

Instead I threw myself into cleaning up the garage. Bikes and bike components were everywhere, left where they were thrown after the wreck last July. Piled haphazardly around them were the construction materials from the RV project. That where my mind was then. Hurt and not wanting to ever look at a bike again, I was more interested in keeping the project supplies out of the rain. The pile got bigger and bigger. The bikes became inaccessible, locked behind a wall of crap. Some of it was tools, so…

Moose Run.

I have no idea why I line up for these things.

The first race of the year is traditionally Moose Run, and because I'm a roadie I am somehow obligated to pin on a number for this one if I can't find an excuse not to.

I skip a lot of races every year for various reasons. I skip just about every stand-alone hill climb I can. I already know I'm fat and am fully aware of why, so the reminder is just counter-productive. I skip races because I'm working or out of town. I skip races because I just don't feel like it. I skip races because I think they just sound stupid (I'm looking at you, Potter Valley gravel grinder loopy race thing). I skip races because I fall down.

There are a lot of races I try to make. The Spring Stage Race. The Tour of Anchorage. Bodenburg. Point MacKenzie. Crits that don't involve falling down. I'm usually down for anything flat or gently rolling.

Yeah, and Moose Run.

Chris Knott went a step further. He flew down for it. Paid to fly his TT …

Towel Throwing.

The black cycling cap I'd been wearing for the last few rides had bold white stripes of salt across it. I knew it was long overdue for a bath, as were my gloves and knee warmers. However, since I was there, I put on the crusty kit and pulled the bike off the top of the car.

The sunny weather had given way to low clouds. The temperature dropped five degrees compared to the previous week. The stiff wind was blowing in exactly the wrong direction, which is to say, it was blowing in all directions. I had been wearing a short-sleeved jersey with a base layer underneath it on every previous ride, but I quickly added a soft shell jacket to the mix.

The weather wasn't bad. It was just worse than it had been on previous days. It was just bad enough to add a bit of hesitation before I threw a leg over the top tube and clipped in. Chilly with 360° head winds can kill the momentum. Still, I had on my prom dress, so I guess I needed to go to the dance.

A gust here or there as the wind shifted…

Kick In The Pants.

If I'm completely honest with myself, I know I need a result.

It doesn't have to be a personal record. It doesn't even have to be near the podium. It just needs to be something that tells me all is not lost. That's really all I can hope for at this point.

The first race of the season is always a Moose Run time trial. Most of the time, it's a miserable affair. Time trials always are. However, time trials in southcentral Alaska in April are especially so. You see a lot of people (those with any sense) wearing warm cycling clothes like jackets and thermal tights. Idiots like me wear aerodynamic suits so our sweat freezes that much more quickly, hopefully reducing drag. Unless it's been a warm spring (and this hasn't been), there's snow lining the course, which makes it just a slight bit colder. Despite the best efforts of the course crew, the streets are rarely 100% swept. Sometimes the line through a turn is purely dictated by where the gravel isn't. Of…

First Ride.

Due to my magic time machine of banked blog posts, you're reading about my first ride of the season ten days after it happened.


Yep, my first ride was on April 13th. Friday the 13th, to be exact.

Cue the ominous music.

Actually, it was a beautiful day. The temperatures had shifted sufficiently in the past couple days to kill the residual glaciers that were left on the streets, leaving behind a few spots of over-tire fording, but mostly dry pavement. The street sweepers had cleaned off most of the streets in the more populated areas of the base well enough, with the rest being limited to the occasional gravel pile. Not bad. Not bad at all.

I brought the new Moots into work, because... Moots. I overdressed, and had to shed forty or so layers in the parking lot. I left the fenders off, figuring I would be fine with a little puddle spray. Plus, I didn't want to wait anymore. I wanted to ride.

I stared at my foot as I clipped in the left pedal, took a deep breath, and pushed off.

I had t…

Giddy With Anticipation.

An orange haze hung over Anchorage as I drove home after picking up the kids from school, a sure sign spring was here. Like the smell of melting dog poop, the dust clouds from the streets are a sure sign that the weather is finally shifted, but the air will likely be mostly solid particulate until the street sweepers finish cleaning the winter's debris from the roads. By late August, we're usually pretty good there. As risk-adverse as I am these days, even I had to admit it was time to hit the streets and get in some miles.

I rushed home, not to ride, but for a far grander purpose- to build. I received a notification at work that the Moots Compact frame had been delivered. I had a project.

I ran inside to find the box, changed quickly, and began ripping apart the packing materials like it was Christmas morning. The guy who sold it to me packed it extremely well, so it took a while to uncover the frame, but when the frame was finally free of bubble wrap, tape, and egg cartons... …

By The Time You Read This.

As I write this, I'm watching the street sweepers clean a winter's worth of sand and debris from the roads around Elmendorf. The base always is about 15 or 20 steps ahead of the municipality in this regard. By the time you read this, I'll probably have been on the road for about a week, having finally exhausted my list of excuses for not riding.

The ambient temperature is still a little low for me in my old age, but they are on the upswing. If I didn't ride on cold days, my season would be very short indeed. I'll just dress warm, shiver for a while, be comfortable for 15 minutes, overheat, start to sweat, and then shiver again.

I need to get out there. I need miles.

I need more than the trainer or a weekly visit to the Dome, which I skipped to watch Peter Sagan win Paris-Roubaix. Actually, I also opted for the trainer that morning because it was right in the middle of Mighty Mite weekend, two days of races and chaos and kids. It's fun and exhausting. So, as I wa…

Envy.

I stopped to think the other day. This bears noting, because I rarely do this. I often reflect long after bad decisions have irrevocably taken me down the path to ruin, but rarely do I pause to contemplate if the action that I am currently pursuing is the right one. Due to the fact this was a rare occasion, I drew it out and thunk on it real good.

The subject of this flurry of cranial activity was bikes. Huge surprise there. More specifically, it was the recent purchase of the two Moots and the still-unfinished Lynskey. Drilling it down even further, it was "what the hell was I thinking?" At it's root, it boiled down to what exactly motivated all of this.

Let's review. As stated before, I have several bikes. More than a couple. Slightly less than a hectare. I like most of my bikes. Some I like far more than others, but they all have their assigned duties. After years of buying and selling (at a loss) many different bikes from many different manufacturers, I thought I&#…

Evolution.

So I made the completely irresponsible decision to buy two new-to-me bikes. Financially it was a horrible decision, as I certainly could have found better uses for the money. On the practical side, there is no reasonable justification as I have more bikes than I can ride and less than zero space to store any additions.

And yet, I want them.

Fair enough. I bow to your superior reasoning, sir.

Now I'm faced with the onerous task of making room for them. With this firmly in mind, I went shopping.

I was at the Trek store the other day, and they had a couple clearance tables. Dangerous places, those clearance tables. On one table was a bin of Bontrager stems. Not the best or lightest stems, but certainly serviceable when you're experimenting with fit. I bought a couple of different lengths. On another table, there was a set of Shimano ST-R700 10 speed shifters, new in a slightly squished box, for much, much less than the list price that nobody, and I mean nobody in their right mind pai…

Let's Try This Again.

Yeah, the scam Moots Vamoots RSL Disc was just too good to be true. It was as close to a future-proof bike as I could get, and maybe I'll get there one day, but I think my original plan of going with yesterday's technology is still sound. I think I'll have just as much fun on a caliper bike, and I can use the several thousand dollar savings to... I don't know... feed my family or something.

Still, despite my financial limitations, I want to ride bikes that have been created by no-shit craftsmen, who are widely recognized for their skill, honestly care about what they're making, and just love bikes. I recognize these guys can be found all over the world, although certain bike-mad countries and regions seem to make more than their share of them. When you get into the world of titanium bikes, the list of builders gets much, much smaller. There's certain skills and equipment required to do titanium well, which narrows the list even more. Then there's the quality…

Almost Got Me.

It was too good to be true.

A pawn shop owner in Ontario, Canada was closing down and liquidating his inventory on eBay. Among the items was a 2012 Moots Vamoots RSL. He was leaving the country, so he wanted to liquidate as much as possible. The price was half of what they normally go for.

My first thought? Stolen.

His seller reputation was solid. He has thousands of transactions with no negatives in the last couple years. Hmmm...

He accepted PayPal, which theoretically gave me double buyer protection when combined with eBay. Hmmm...

That's a really nice bike. I can replace a lot of plastic bikes and be completely happy with the race performance of that Moots. Maybe it's time. Hmmm...

I jumped, and he promptly sent me an email describing how to wire the payment outside of eBay to a bank in Italy. It's all legit, and you'll get an email from eBay telling you so in a few minutes. Wait, what about PayPal and that protective stuff? Hmmm...

The eBay email arrived from a regular eB…

With The Impulse Control Of Donald Trump.

It's a bad habit, and one I share with the President.

Once I consider something, it becomes possible, and once it's possible, I immediately set things in motion to make it happen. Rarely do I consider the long-term consequences, because I'm more bigly than that.

I really like bikes. I have six of them that can be taken down and ridden right now. I have one that will require a couple hours of work and a minor part or two. I have one in transit at the moment that will likely only need a couple minor tweaks before it's road ready.

I like experimenting with different frames. Different manufacturers. Different materials. Some I've really, really liked. Some I wish I would have passed on. But hey, I learned something from each and every one of them. It's been an expensive education, for sure, but it's only taken me 15 years to become a sophomore. Such rapid progress has not been duplicated in any other academic endeavor I've attempted.

As I mentioned in my last p…

Taking Stock.

I have a few bikes. Far too many, according to some. Far too few, according to others.

I started thinking about this the other day, which is always a dangerous thing.

Maybe I do have too many bikes. Then again, maybe the number is right and they're just the wrong bikes. Some I like better than others, so I ride them more. Some are used for very specific tasks, and perform admirably in those roles. I realized years ago that I didn't need the latest and greatest, but rather solid and dependable. Aerodynamic frame design really no longer thrills me, because quite frankly I find them a pain in the ass to work on. A good old fashioned English thread bottom bracket is stiff enough for me for the vast majority of my sprinting. Maybe I'm just getting old, but I'm at the point where I just want to ride my bikes and not worry about the rest of it.

It's fairly bad that I have to sit down and think about how many bikes I have at the moment.
It's a lot of bikes. What's wor…

It Took Longer To Write This Post.

I got home a half hour earlier than the family. I quickly changed and ran downstairs to the garage. All of the parts and tools were ready, so I just had to throw the ti bike in the work stand and get to wrenching.

The broken shifter came off easily. Snip the respective derailleur and brake cables, loosen the binding bolts, feel the cable through the housing and out of the shifter, loosen the one bolt that hold the shifter to the bar, and I'm done. The housings and bar tape stay in place, because they're in good condition and I'm lazy.

I reused the brake cable, because it was in good shape and I could feed it back through the housing without fraying the hell out of it. The derailleur cable? Not so much. No matter. The new shifter went on about as fast as the old one came off. I spent more time adjusting the rear derailleur than I did installing the shifter, because I suck at it. Eventually I got it to sound somewhat less like a washing machine full of bricks, so I called it g…

Saddle Redux.

So, I've spent a couple months on the Specialized Power Saddle, and my lady parts haven't fallen off. I take that as a good sign. It took me a while to find a position I like with it, because each time I tried a small adjustment I'd have to go through a week of trainer rides to ensure I hadn't made a horrible, horrible mistake. Then I'd find something else I didn't like and start the process over again. Eventually I found an alignment that I can honestly say works more or less OK on the trainer, but I'm not sure it will translate to the road.

I haven't even begun testing the Shimano PRO Stealth yet. I'm hoping that since it is a similar design to the Specialized, I will at least have a rough starting point. My lack of experience with the Shimano didn't prevent me from buying a second one, because I am stupid. That, and I couldn't bring myself to put a Specialized saddle on a Trek. I may exclusively wear Specialized shoes, but mixing the brand…

Get On With It Already.

I haven't worked in a place with windows for 18 years. Come to think of it, the places I worked in before that had bars and paint over the glass. This was probably to prevent the casual passer-by from seeing me sleep. So pretty much for the past 26 years, if I wanted to see what the weather was like outside, I had to rouse myself from my slumber and amble out and see. Is it sunny? I had no idea most of the time. More often than not I would walk outside fully kitted for a ride and expect to see sun, only to find cold rain. Or I would be suited up for rain and step out onto dry roads. It kept things interesting.

Recently I moved to a new office where my snoring wouldn't disturb anyone else. I'm thoughtful that way. In this office are the feeds from a handful of external security cameras. This is as close to window as I've ever had. I now can know, within seconds from waking, exactly what the weather is like outside. I can see if the roads are dry. It's amazing, and ye…

Primed For... Something.

On the banister in my house separating the staircase and the living room is a pile. Imagine that, a pile of something in my house. Who'da thunk?

This particular pile is new bike parts, which also isn't all that unique. On the bottom is the Shimano Pro Stealth saddle, still waiting for me to give it a try. Also in the box is the race number holder for the saddle, which I think is one of the cooler features of the Stealth. It's not that I've done any races that have issued race placards in the last few years, but if I do one in the future, I'll have that covered. I may just make one for giggles and try to start a trend. More likely people will just laugh at me. It wouldn't be the first time.

On top of the Shimano box are two SRAM boxes with brand-spanking-new right shifters. I think I'll try to slap one on the ti road bike tonight and start the rehabilitation project. Even if the bike isn't 100% ready for the road, it will at least be rideable. To be honest…

I'll Get To It Later.

I broke my right shifter on the ti bike over two weeks ago. I ordered a replacement the next day, plus another one for good measure, both of which came in a couple days later. Amazing turnaround there.

The bike is still broken, thrown unceremoniously on the floor of the garage, another obstacle to negotiate when I dare to venture past the relative safety of the trainer dungeon. I usually have to step over it to grab my faithful Madone 5.2 Pro for the weekly ride at the Dome. Each time a rush of shame and regret washes over me, partially because of the state of my trusty ti road bike (filthy and broken) and partially because of the state of my Madone (filthy).

Washing the bikes in the winter is never an easy thing for me, because of the lack of available floor space. Most of them are in good shape because wash them before the weather gets too bad and hang them up, but the ones I ride right up until the ice and snow close in generally stay crusty and greasy until I rebuild them in the spr…