The Trek Century Challenge

About a month ago, I got a notification from Strava about a challenge for the month of July. Ride 100 miles, and you can earn a t-shirt, and some badging. If you complete 500, or 1,000 miles, you get an opportunity to win a slick bike, and a chance to tour their design center.

Since I have been riding consistently again, I figured why not, so I signed up. At the end of 3 weeks, I had a total of 96 miles, and feeling pretty good about myself.

Continue reading →

A very sad thought …

As I am finally getting my stepfather’s estate in order (it is largely in the hands of the realtor now) I have begun bicycling again. I dusted off my mountain bike, a 2014 vintage Specialized Crave that I enjoy riding, but I find that I don’t do as much offroad riding as I thought I would.

Prolly because my fond memories were from nearly 20 years ago, when I was much more mobile, and in far better shape. Ah, the joys of late middle age.

Continue reading →

Bicycle Maintenance

Tuesday, I took a break from walking/hiking and got the Mountain Bike down. A modest 10.1 mile loop, including an 800 ft climb to get into the park, and my butt was kicked. There is a big difference in the muscles you use to hike the same trail you ride up, and dayum, it was a brutal day.

Of course, since this is the first time I had the Specialized Crave Expert out in a while, I noticed that I had been a laggard on my maintenance. Yes, the last time out it was slightly muddy, so the bike was a bit, uh, ugly, but nothing was broken.

However, it became clear that the shifters needed to be tweaked. After shifting up, there was a slight noise from the derailleur, hinting that the indexing was ever so slightly off. So up on the rack it went. Then I noticed that the chain was pretty dry, so I got out the degreaser, and the wash bucket out, and gave it a good cleaning. After drying it off, and a few trips up and down the street to work the water out of the chain, I liberally applied my latest lube of choice, Purple Extreme, and I noticed that the rear brake pads were about shagged. Less than a half mm remaining.

Fortunately, I had a spare set, and they were brain dead simple to replace, taking longer to remove and replace the rear wheel than to swap the well worn pads with fresh ones, and I was back on the road. The bonus is that where I thought I needed to bleed the disc lines, the new pads returned the firm feel at the lever. Cool.

Tomorrow, I will slather on the sun screen and head out for another butt kicker ride. One day, I will finally replace the tires with something more appropriate to our baked, clay-hard terrain. But that is for a different session

Insane bicyclist

This morning, I saw quite possibly the most ballsy, insane bicyclist I have seen in a LONG time. And that is saying something.

As I exited off of 280 at Lawrence Expressway, this dude on his bike pulled off of Lawrence behind me. The light changed, and he kept taking the whole lane, turning left on to Stevens Creek. See the picture below:

Looks innocuous enough, but after passing under Lawrence Expressway, you get to deal with quite possibly the worst intersection in the valley. You have traffic wanting to merge into the onramp for 280 North, you have traffic turning right from the Lawrence Expressway wanting to merge left onto Stevens Creek, and you have us brave souls who actually work at Keysight or Agilent, and have to turn right. This Google Earth view of the crunch area, with the “Green” bike lane shows the chaos.

That little strip of bike lane has a never ending, criss-crossing of cars whose drivers are impatient, and grumpy.

This cyclist followed me onto Stevens Creek, and turned right into the Agilent/Keysight parking lot.

A ballsy, and extremely dangerous maneuver.

Bad Day of Cycling

Statistically, the more you ride, the more likely it is that something bad will happen. Bicycling is no different. Every time I set out on the road, I realize that things can go horribly wrong.

Today, that was put to the test.

I started off on my usual 33+ mile loop, with a twist. The prevalent winds are southerly, meaning that the first half of the ride is usually with a moderate but steady tail wind. Today, the wind direction was reversed, with a southerly wind, blowing in my face for the first 13 miles. For that entire stretch, I was picturing the return path, wind at my back, and racking up the record segments in Strava, but it was not meant to be.

As I was restarting from a red light on Butterfield road in Morgan Hill, my right foot slipped out of the cleat, and in what felt like slow motion, I lost my balance, and fell.

Hard.

Fortunately, I didn’t do the dumb thing, remove my hands from my handlebars to break my fall, or I would probably have broken my wrist. 240# falling is plenty of force to do serious damage.

But plenty of bad things did happen. I landed first on my right elbow, scraping it up. Apparently I bruised it well as is has swollen up to the size of a golfball. Not too painful, and I can move it fine, so apart from some soreness, it doesn’t feel broken.

Also, as I fell, I couldn’t keep my head up, so it had hard (and I mean hard) contact with the asphalt. Rung my bell a bit, but the helmet took almost all the force.

I got up, and walked my bike across the intersection, and took stock. A water bottle was left in the road (more on that in a moment), I was missing a lens from my prescription sports glasses, I was dripping blood from my elbow, I knew I cracked my head, and the chain was off the bike.

A few drivers who saw the incident asked if I needed help, which I declined, as I was more embarrassed than anything else.

Of course, the water bottle that popped out was my $25 “Cleantech” bottle that allows it to be easily cleaned and disinfected. Some asshole car driver ran over it. Hard for me to believe that was an accident as it was in a turn only lane. Fortunately, the fucker didn’t run over the corrective lens, so I was able to get my prescription sports glasses back together.

My helmet took the brunt of the head bounce, and did its job. The energy dissipating styrofoam dissipated energy, breaking, and preventing my head from a really nasty bounce.

My elbow is sore, and swollen, but it doesn’t feel broken. The anticoagulants I take mean that minor scrapes often bleed enough that I look like I battled an axe-wielding serial killer. However, a shower, and some ginger clean up and it looks fine.

I am sure to be really sore. I will need to buy a new water bottle (I am really pissed about that), and a new helmet (c’est la vie, it did it’s job, and now it will be tossed). A quick look at the bike in a stand and nothing looks bent, thus I am pretty sure I will be able to get back on as soon as my aches and pains are gone.

What I am really pissed about? More than anything else, is the fact that an opportunity to fly back, with a strong tailwind, and to set some personal records on Strava all the way home. Oh well, I got 14.7 miles out of my planned/expected 33. I shouldn’t complain too much.

A tough ride

After yesterday morning where I spend a few hours doing bicycle maintenance, I got a good mountain bike ride in. Alas, I forgot to turn on Strava, so I get no credit. Today, I headed out for a ride.

I left around 9:00AM. A little late for me, and I considered a mountain bike ride. Alas, a flat rear tire guided me to the roadbike this morning.

The ride started well, 65F, almost no wind, headed out to my usual loop, through Morgan Hill and back up Coyote Creek trail.

The lack of wind was welcome, but shortly into the ride, the heat started rising. My two water bottles were going to be a problem. Killed the smaller one at the start of the Coyote Creek trail. Ugh.

A little wind picked up, but not really an issue. The temperature was rising quickly. I paused at the Coyote Ranch to rest, and checked the temperature. Ugh, 90F already at 10:30. This was at mile 24.5.

As I got out on Monterey Highway, I made a judgement call, and instead of the full 33.1 mile loop, I bailed and cut off at Bernal Road, and headed to Santa Teresa and home.

30.1 miles, 2 hours, a lot of fatigue. A brutal ride. Done.

Bicycling Magazine – what world do they inhabit?

I have posted about the ridiculousness of Bicycling Magazine in the past. I do not purposefully subscribe, but instead I get a copy with my Performance Bicycle membership.

Every month, this rubbish appears at my house. This month’s edition has a giant picture of a rear cassette from SRAM that has 11 speeds. Of course, you have to go to page 94 to figure out why the fuck they have this (hint: it is a way to have only one chainring on your crank, and still ride a wide variety of terrain. Of course, they say that unless you are a novice, or have very specific needs, don’t buy it).

On the cover there are leaders for:

  • A pizza that is rocket fuel for riding (It is a restaurant in San Francisco making a wood-fired Naples style pizza)
  • Pot and riding (in states where recreational marijuana is allowed, and yes, WADA will still fuck up your shit if you compete and piss positive.)
  • And, a lame link to one of their Q&A’s on what to do if you get dropped.

Yes, the last one. I had to look it up. It is referring to being on a group ride, and being dropped means that on a climb, you lag and they all tear off ahead. How to handle that (just keep riding, no need to apologize, because some of us are fat fucks that can’t climb worth shit.

Of course there are plenty of reviews of bikes. Herein lies my biggest grief about this magazine. Virtually all the bikes they test and review are $2800 and above. Yes, some times they go bargain shopping, but far more likely what they are reviewing is a $6K bike.

Seriously, their attitude is that you don’t get into anything worth riding until you are well above $3,500. That is just fucking whacked.

s-works-webWould I be able to tell the difference between my $1200 Lemond Buenos Aires and a Specialized S-Works? Yep. Would I be able to discern an $8K price differential? Nope.

The funny thing: For the last 3 months, I have received an: “Act NOW!” letter to renew my subscription. Really, like I want to spend $20 a year on this rag.

Last article I read: On the benefit of going to bicycle mechanic school. Starts with a tale of a 26 year old racer who has been on the pro circuit since she was 13. Never twisted a wrench, it was done by her father or a mechanic. So she went to school.

Seriously, if you don’t have enough mechanical intuition to do the basics (adjust cables, change and adjust brakes, lubricate bearings, true wheels), just take it to a shop. For fuck’s sake, you don’t need to go to school for that shit.

Specialized Invades Santa Teresa Park

Today I did a mountain bike ride in my local park. As I was wending my way around the park, I noticed something odd. I passed an amazing amount of cyclocross bikes on the trail.

Trust me, if someone is off road, doing some serious dirt riding with drop bars, it is a a cyclocross bike. I mention this, as I see maybe one a year. Tops.

Today, I saw at least 6 in about 5 miles of trail riding. About 1/2 way through my ride I rode past a huge tent, with Specialized emblazoned all over the side. I asked one of the people with a black Specialized T-shirt on (who was carrying some beer) what this was all about.

A closed event, hosted by Specialized for their dealers to become familiar with the 2016 series of bikes. There were stations to setup suspension, to adjust bikes, tons of food, and probably 200 bicycles.

Cool place to do it. Santa Teresa park has a pretty wide variety of trails. From tight technical single track, wide open fire roads, some gnarly rocky downhills, and even some good roads to ride on for those inclined to try the road bikes.

I was totes jelly.

Product Review – Wahoo Fitness Cycling sensors

I grew up bicycling, and returned to it semi seriously many times. Gear is important, and the changes in gear have been stunning. I remember my first good road bike, splurging for clipless shoes and pedals. My first cycling computer. A tiny Cateye thing. Worked great, put several thousand miles on it.

Fast forward to today. Cycling computers are so 1990's. There are still dedicated cycling computers, with Garmin making some strong contenders.

However, the competition from a good smartphone is fierce. Built in GPS, accelerometers, mapping, and an always on internet connection combine to make it formidable. However, the smartphone's achilles heel is not having sensors for wheel speed, cadence, and heart rate.

No more is that an issue. Wahoo Fitness makes a line of cadence, speed sensors, heart rate sensors, and even a really cool device that mounts on the handlebars and mirrors what their app is displaying, so you don't have to keep the phone on your handlebars.

I currently have the Heart Rate sensor and the Speed and Cadence sensor. They both connect via Bluetooth, and are compatible with several tracker applications on your phone.

Connecting the sensors is easy, they pair painlessly, and are recognized in both the Wahoo Fitness tracker application, as well as in the Strava application. Several others are listed, but these are the two I use.

It is a huge advantage to track these signals. As a heart attack survivor, it is doubly helpful to track my heart rate. It is good to monitor ramp rates, peak effort, and other statistics that are important to track.

There is a downside though. The heart rate monitor sensor is a battery hog. I have yet to get more than 2 months out of a fresh CR2032 battery. My old Polar heart rate monitor went at least 9 months of nearly daily jogging.

Still, it is a good time to be a cyclist.

The Long Slog of Getting back into Shape

Every so often I get tired of be a fat slob, and need to get back into shape. This time, months of moving, living in a crappy apartment, and high stress at work has lead to me, uh, putting on a few pounds. When the 40″ waist jeans stopped fitting, and the 42″ pants were getting snug, it was time to do something.

So, I fired up the diet tracker, started counting calories, and exercising regularly.

It is amazing how difficult it can be to get in the groove. About 3 weeks ago, I started cycling again, I got the mountain bike out and started humping it. First getting out on the drainage canals in the Santa Teresa foothills, it was a good mellow, and very flat ride. After 3 or 4 of these, I was getting bored.

I tossed in a few longer rides, mostly road. Better, but still not satisfying. I mean, why ride a mountain bike if you are just doing flat stuff, right?

So I have started grinding it out in Santa Teresa Park. A kick ass climb to get there (up Bernal road) a real grueling ride. Then some trails including some climbs and downhills. Good single-track, enough to challenge, but not killer.

Today was my 3rd trip up, and I made it to the stop sign before I needed to pause. I am looking forward to finally being able to clear it to the top without stopping. Maybe another week.

If you are interested, you can follow me on Strava.

And now I am down almost 6 pounds in a week. Sadly, I am sure that is mostly water weight.

A long way to go, but it feels good to start