Wednesday, March 30, 2011

1st Shop Ride of 2011 - March 31 at 5:30PM

Well it is that time of year again where we all get to see what each other have been up to during the winter months.  It is now light until 7:45 and that means riding together after work is quite feasible.  Our road shop rides are every Thursday at 5:30 and will go out to 7 mile bridge on most rides and occasionally out the Fish Lake Trail.

The rides are free, informal and have a no drop policy which means that everyone who can make that distance are able to ride.  This is not a race, but a chance to meet other riders and enjoy riding together.  If a group gets too far ahead of the rest, then they stop and chat until everyone is on board.

There is some talk of a mountain bike ride during the week, but details are still being worked out.

The first ride of each month is considered a formal shop ride.  No, that does not mean showing up in a gown or tux, but that members of Team Two Wheel will be there and pizza will be served back at the shop after the ride.

Meet at Two Wheel Transit tomorrow, March 31 at 5:30PM for the first ride of the year.  The first formal ride will be next Thursday, April 7th.  Hope to see you there!

On the Backside of the Hill

Let me make something clear from the beginning. I've been licensed bike racer for over 25 years. That's over half my life, but not by much. I was never a great rider but trained and raced with some of the best the Pacific Northwest has produced. This includes Scooter, one of our new Team Two Wheel riders. I have felt the depths of pain, suffering, and desperation that cycling can give you in all kinds of conditions both mentally and physically. All that being said, I broke into another plain of pain last Wednesday afternoon. Here is how it came about.

On Sunday I told my teammates that my friend Dismount Dave (explanation for the nickname to come to you at a later blog) had a KTM Superduke and was willing to motor pace us sometime. I also mention to them that Wednesday looked like a good day after work to take him up on the offer if all goes well. On Wednesday I got off work at 2:30, and the sun was shining through the windshield of my work van as I was doing my last bit of paper work. I could feel a bead of sweat running down my side-burn. It was truly a welcoming feeling. I knew what I needed for my afternoon. No sooner had I reached for my phone to call Dismount when it began to ring. I look at the caller ID and it reads Scott McSpadden (Scooter).

"Hey Rider 2, ummm, I was wonder about what you said on Sunday, about Dismount motor pacing maybe on Wednesday. Is that still a possibility?"

"F-N-A cotton, I was just about to call him and see if he is still up to putting us through the spin cycle of anaerobic pain." The long awaited warmth of the sun may have accelerated my enthusiasm.

"Cool..umm.. let me know what he says. I don't want to inconvenience him or anything...but if he could, that would be great."

"Great? That would be better that dark chocolate poured all over our wives ................" Once again I blame the sun for my exuberance.

"Well.. and let me know what he says"

"Will do." I said after realizing I just stepped or maybe triple jumped over the line with him.

As it was, Dismount assured me that he would be happier than an Austrian drinking a Red Bull to motor pace us and he could meet us for an espresso at 4:15 to talk over how we wanted him to play the task master for the afternoon. Just like that, we were set. We meet for coffee but our conversation never touched on a game plan. It covered motorcycles, pro cycling, women, carbon fiber wheels and all things laced with testosterone. Once satisfied we had exhausted the topics at hand, we looked at each other with a smile and tossed the last drops of our espressos and maybe some back wash and slammed our cups on the table. We simultaneously wiped our lips on our arms. Scooter and I with our old racing team long sleeve jerseys and Dismount on his letter jacket. "Crap!" he says as transfers the smudge on his sleeve to his jeans. Scooter and I stand up and click with our cleated cycling shoes towards the exit. When we got outside I caught myself in a nerves stretch and said, "What's the plan?"

Silence. Then some facial jesters between the three of us followed by all of us trying to speak at once. At this very moment I had a rush of memories of motor pacing in my past. None of them pleasant. There will be no time or oxygen for the next hour and a half to share stories to help distract me from the great discomfort I was about to endure. What was I getting myself into? I hadn't motor paced in a decade at least. I knew the benefits were great but what's it going to do for a nearly half a century old man like me? I was about to find out the answers to those questions soon enough.

We agreed to ride down to the Hangman Valley and ride on the valley floor back and forth until we were completely drained. When we got to the starting point, I hopped on to the Superduke's wheel. This was not a delightful position to be in. You see, the back tire of that motorcycle was designed for track riding, meaning a very soft compound. Anything loose on the tarmac it ran over, it flung right in the person's face who is directly behind it and that was me at 28-32 mph for the next 5 miles. Wisely I figured out that a slight move to the right or left of the bike would prevent me from receiving a piece of gravel shot into my eye or shattering a tooth that was exposed from my gaping mouth trying to scoop in as much air as super charger on an old 440 Mopar.

At the end of the first run we stop to evaluate how we could improve on the flow of things. Scooter suggested we rotate so one person doesn't get all the work. I didn't put up a fight on that one. In fact, I wonder why I didn't give him an arm flip to have him pull threw earlier. I have no heart rate monitor but I can tell you that after 26 years of riding I know the metallic taste of going into an anaerobic state and it felt like I was sucking on a penny a majority of that first 5 miles.

Scooter and I shared the rest of the session by rotating behind or off to the side of the rear wheel of Dismount's Austrian gas powered steed. Scooter was finding himself up front more often then me as time went on. I was blown. Every 5 mile stretch we would stop and turn around to go the other direction and every time I got weaker and weaker. I run a 11-23 cluster because I prefer as tight as possible gearing I can get. Majority of that cassette is a 1 tooth difference. Well, by the end of an hour and a half it felt like 10 teeth difference between shifts. I got dropped twice and every muscle, connective tissue, and fiber in my legs were aching. I couldn't get enough oxygen. I was noxious from going to my limit to many times. I could not recover both long term and short term. I am officially old. Never in my life, not in a race or training have I ever felt so wasted and with no rebound. I'm on the back side of the hill. Will I do it again? Of course. Cycling is the most beautiful sport in the world and I will continue to do it until I get to the bottom of the back side of the hill and ride on the flats until I'm 6 feet under.
Rider 2

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

When Less is More

In When 16 is Not So Sweet I admitted that I still run tubes while blogging about repairing a flat on a 29" mountain bike tire prior to a ride.  I have been getting grief about that fact for several years, but have been reluctant to try something new. Since that blog, the same tire has flatted 2 more times so I finally gave up on that tire.  Since I was changing tires, it seemed like a good time to explore the world of tubeless mountain bike tires.  The stated advantages of tubeless mountain bike tires include the ability to run lower pressure to improve traction without risking a pinch flat, and added sealant makes them self-sealing when punctured by sharp objects.

In this case, the rims were tubeless ready, but still needed a special rim strip and valve stem to seal the inner portion of the rim.  The next detail was picking-out tubeless tires which have to be installed in a special way.

The tubeless tires have a special bead with a soft rubber compound that seals the tire against the rim for an airtight fit.  You also need to put some sealant juice like Bontrager Super Juice or Stans to seal any small leaks or punctures while riding.  Getting them to pop in place takes some high pressure and good technique.  Tom showed me a neat trick of brushing water mixed with dish soap on the bead to lubricate it so it will not get hung on the rim when seating.  The bead on the tires will seat when there is sufficient pressure added and make a rather surprising and unnerving loud pop.

Both tires installed and seemed to hold air on the 1st try, so I was anxious to try them out on the commute home from downtown.  I am fortunate, that if I commute on a mountain bike that I can include the HD trails so about 1/2 is on road and 1/2 is on dirt trails.  I normally ran about 50 psi in my tires to minimize the chance of a pinch flat.  This helped for flats, but made the tires hard as rocks and quite bouncy every time I hit rocks and tree roots.  It also did not do a lot for my traction on loose terrain like sand or gravel.

I played with different pressures and finally decided on 35 psi for the rear and 30 psi for the front and headed south for the bluff.  The ride was surprising supple and the wider footprint of the tires seemed to hook-up better in areas I had spun-out previously.  So far, so good.

My next test was the 24 hour course out in Riverside State Park.  Same results as before, but I found that I could ride through the rock gardens faster because of the supple ride and better traction the lower pressure gives.  Everyone who rides that course knows it can be punishing to riders, bike and tires but the tires seemed no worse for it today.  I cannot attest to the self-sealing aspect of the liquid sealant in each tire since I don't know whether anything punctured them during the rides.  All I know is that I did not flat with less than 36 psi in each tire.

Bottom line - there seems to be something to this tubeless thing where less is more.  I will keep testing the limits of the technology to the extent my humble riding abilities will allow and report back in the future.

Monday, March 28, 2011

New team jerseys. Coming soon.

Bike racing has a number of iconic jerseys. You'll see these somewhat frequently on club rides around the world. There's the Molteni jersey of Merckx. The La Vie Claire jersey of Hinault and LeMond.

But surprisingly, at least to the mighty Team Two Wheel, there's a jersey that's rarely seen on the roads, but arguably one of the most distinctive designs of all.

It was worn by stars with names like Millar, Gaul, Anderson, Pensec and Simpson, to name a few. This is the jersey of the Peugeot teams of the 70s and 80s.

While we are big believers of the need to earn a jersey before you wear a jersey (You won't see us wearing "replica" national team jerseys. Ever.), we're also students of cycling, and a nod to the past felt right.

So behold, the new Team Two Wheel jersey. We even sourced the original Peugeot and Michelin fonts and applied them to the TWT letterform. Nice. So black, white, and lots of negative space.

Let us know what you think. And if you're interested Two Wheel Transit will have very limited quantities for sale later this spring.

No word yet about whether this jersey means Mr. McSpadden, a.k.a "Scotter," will be climbing like Robert Millar by this May.

And enjoy some photos from back in the day.

From Two Wheel Transit

From Two Wheel Transit

From Two Wheel Transit

Saturday, March 26, 2011

I think we all can relate to Rider 3's blog yesterday about his rain-stricken ride. Sooner or later, the weather catches you less prepared than you'd like, and you just have to slog through. I got a reminder of that on Thursday evening, when Spokane Rocket Velo went for their first Chase The Sun ride, which is a loop north of Spokane.

We started at 6:30PM, knowing that we'd be riding in the dark by the end. Hey, no problem, I've got excellent lights and a custom hyper-reflective jacket. Chase The Sun is a no-drop ride, but that doesn't rule out some "random bursts of fast," as we call them, so I did want to bring my Trek road-racing bike, not my heavier jack-of-all-trades Soma Smoothie ES rain/commuting bike.

In the interest of full performance potential, I also removed the RoadRacer Mk. II full fenders from the Trek the night before. If it looked like rain, I planned to take the Soma, which has full fenders and can carry baggage (namely raingear).

Well, it didn't look like it was going to rain, but guess what? Yeah. I could describe the rest, but this video sums it up fairly well:

Sorry the music goes on after the video ends, I neglected to trim it at the end. Anyway, I did a thorough job of jinxing myself, huh? March is not to be underestimated!

Friday, March 25, 2011

Riders on the Storm

Last weekend, I got together with the core of Team Two Wheel for a ride on Sunday. I wish there was snappy video like mechBgon, but even if there had been a camera it wouldn’t have survived the onslaught that we endured. It would seem that if you had perfect prescience or the ability to track the weather systems and then go back in time, we managed to follow the exactly worst weather that the day had to offer. In fact, I was almost insulted by the pleasant spring afternoon that emerged after I spent hours in the freezing wind followed by freezing rain, freezing sleet, some freezing hail and generally freezing hell.

Here was the plan:
• Meet downtown since team sponsor The Scoop isn’t open on Sunday yet (winter hours, don’t ya know);
• Ride out to Cheney;
• Ride the short road race course from Frozen Flatlands;
• Ride home;
• Have a special and delicious meal together at Rider Two’s home prepared by Rider Two’s indulgent wife.

Sounds like a hella good plan right?

Here was the reality:
• Meet downtown since team sponsor The Scoop isn’t open on Sunday. On the way there, notice that the wind is very biting and cold. Colder than the day before, even though the temperature was supposed to be 10+ degrees higher.
• Think about the amount of clothing you wore, based on a projected high temperature 10+ degrees higher than Saturday’s ride. Wish I had brought more clothing or different clothing or something.
• Ride out to Cheney – enjoy decent weather and good conversation; notice cooling temperature and building wind speed; contemplate a new nickname for myself or TP – Tailgunner – since both of us seem to be constantly working into the rear spot in the group the most protected from the wind.
• Have Rider 1 say, “Hey, I think you can take the city limit sign” as I was in the rear and no one ever sprints for city limit signs in our group. Brashly dart around group to be first to city limit sign, marking the first appearance at the front of the group since the ride began. Some would call this poor sportsmanship, but Rider Two defended it with Merckx’s words that a win is a win, no matter how gained. That’s why I like Rider Two and Merckx.
• Head out of town on the Frozen Flatlands short road race course with a serious tailwind. So serious that it incites Rider Two to take the pace up to 30-31 mph. Sustained for miles. That’s why I hate Rider Two. The group strings out into single file and I am second. The only good thing about that is that when I literally yell, “UNCLE”, Rider Two hears me and slows way down – to 28 mph.
• Turn the corner across the freeway and head directly into the teeth of a wailing, howling and cold headwind. Re-secure my spot at the back of the group whenever I can subtly take it from TP.
• Realize that Salnave Road back into town is going to be the most open and windy part of the trip. Dread it for miles before we get there, hate every foot of its undulating, miserable tarmac, and then, inexplicably, move to the front of the group next to Rider Two for the first time in 30 miles as the city limit sign appears. Discuss looming city limit sign with Rider Two and then not subtly brake to make sure that I don’t get there first, at the same time Rider Two brakes, which not subtly causes our teammates to exclaim as they ram up our proverbial tailpipes.
• Look at threatening sky and get pelted with first rain/ice/hail drops. Discuss quick stop at store to get food and install any additional clothing. Have sky open up and completely soak each of us in the few thousand yards between this discussion starting and the store.
• Stand at the store wondering if it would look bad to my teammates to call my wife and ask her to pick me up in Cheney. Stare back at shoppers pointedly looking at us or commenting on our idiocy as the wind/rain/sleet picked up velocity.
• Inadvisably leave the shelter of the store to ride back home, only to be greeted by increasing wind/rain/sleet/hail.
• Become completely and absolutely soaked to the bone from wet and wind. Wonder why we ride bikes except in August. Wonder why God hates us. Wonder what it would feel like to pull over and go to sleep in a ditch never to wake again. Wonder why we ever agreed to go on this stupid damn ride. Wonder why weather forecasters can’t ever get the forecast right. Wonder why we ever trust weather forecasters when we already know that they never get the forecast right. Wonder whether hypothermia can kill you at the same time you ride a bicycle. Wonder whether the drooling is helping or hurting the situation. Wonder when Cheney became 11,000 miles away from Spokane.
• Finally arrive back in Spokane as wind and rain subsides and the sun starts to come out.
• Coldly, numbly, haltingly peel off wet clothes with non-functioning fingers. Put on other clothes.
• Have a special and delicious meal together at Rider Two’s home prepared by Rider Two’s indulgent wife.
• Contemplate how you can go from feeling so bad to so good. Wonder whether it would be impolite to slowly and quietly get off of dining room chair at Rider Two’s home and go to sleep on the floor near the fireplace.

I guess the moral to the story is, all’s well that ends well. I guess it was a hella good plan.
Rider Three

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wine, Women and Wheels in Walla Walla

This is my first post as a member of Team Two Wheel. I am also a member of Zuster Cycling –a women’s team based in Spokane with a membership of avid road, mountain and cyclocross racers. In search of Spring, 10 of us roadies headed to Walla Walla last weekend for 3 days of riding the rolling rural roads in warm(er) temperatures.

Yes, there was some drinking of the fine beverages produced locally –we managed to visit 5 wineries in 2 days. No, we did not ride to the wineries. It is hard to fit more than 2 bottles in a jersey pocket, so we did our tasting in the afternoons after riding.

Our group rented a giant house south of town. Friday morning was sunny, but the blades of the wind turbines marching up the Oregon hillsides were generating some serious juice. We headed out on the Waitsburg Loop –a classic Walla Walla route on a must do list for rides in the region. After skirting around downtown Walla Walla, our ride mistress Nattie K. (a Cat. 2 road racer) sent 4 of us off the front with the idea of organizing a group to chase us down. After a half hour or so, we started chatting and sight seeing and sort of forgot about being the break away group. Before long, 2 members of the chasing peleton were in sight and we happily let them join the group and share the work for the remaining rollers on the way to Waitsburg. A “must see” in Waitsburg: there is a camel (1 hump) in a pasture just south of town. He is also sometimes seen strolling down the main drag with his owner.

After re-grouping, we started the return trip with a long climb out of Waitsburg. Remember the mention of the whirling wind turbines? Well now it was time to pay the piper. Four of us worked together into the gusty headwind howling up from the wilds of eastern Oregon. That song from the late 70’s started going through my head: “Short people got no reason…” Two riders in my group top out at about 5 foot 2 if they really tease out their hair. At 5 foot 9, their drafting effect on for me was limited to my hips and knees. Let’s just say that the fine wine drunk later in the day was earned and appreciated.

Saturday’s ride took us a way I had never ridden before. We made a loop out to the west and then headed south to Milton-Freewater. Does anyone know what the deal is with the frogs in Milton-Freewater? Not live frogs, these are human sized figures that pose in front of nearly every business in town. There is even one fishing off a bridge and another half way up a telephone pole.

Didn’t see one on a bike, though. We followed the road to its end at Harris Park as it wound up the Walla Walla River Canyon. A long gentle climb, a fun twisty decent, very few cars –big fun!

Our fantasy of spring riding died on Sunday when we rolled out into the 32 degree morning, rode around the block and back to the house to layer on more clothes. Mittened and balaclavaed, we headed south and east into the wheat fields and vineyards. The wind turbines were still –hallelujah – but heavy snow/rain clouds over the Blues suggested that we trim the ride from 50 to 35 miles. BTW, the little handlebar mounted Garmins are really great for this. All you need to do is hit the “home” button.

I can’t say enough about the quality of riding around Walla Walla in every direction. Tons of rural roads, very little traffic, gorgeous scenery, a milder climate and it is only a short 2 and a ½ hour drive away. This is the 3rd year I have gone for early season training. I am heading down again for a weekend in April. And oh yeah, those wineries. On this trip, we sampled the product at Bergavin, Tertullia, Dusted Valley, Patit Creek and CAVU. The winemaker and owners were pouring at 4 of the 5 wineries. I mention them all by name because their wines are terrific, they are small business owners and if you support the Buy Local and Farm to Table movements, visiting these wineries and buying some wine (which you will once you taste it) is a great way to do it.

As my husband always says to me when I head out the door on a ride, “Keep the rubber side down.”

-Wella Clairol

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Spring Classics

Before I launch into the Spring Classics love-fest, take a look at Two Wheel Transit's Premier Mechanic build a bike from start to finish:

You should know that most shops don't spend the time to do all that you see here. You really are getting a better product with this level of professionalism, just so you know.

But back to the Spring Classics. This is the time of year that is my favorite for cycling. Not my personal cycling, which tends to be slow and painful, but to watch cycling on television. The Spring Classics are an incredible string of races, week after week, that add up to the best time of year to love this sport.

Here is the line-up:

March 19, Saturday - Milan-San Remo
March 27, Sunday - Ghent-Wevelgem
April 3, Sunday - Tour of Flanders
April 10, Sunday - Paris-Roubaix
April 17, Sunday - Amstel Gold Race
April 20, Wednesday - Le Fleche Wallone
April 24, Sunday - Liege-Bastogne-Liege

Just looking at the line-up makes me all tingly. It is just a joy to behold. Yes, yes, I love watching the Tour de France unfold over three weeks, and I enjoy the majesty and brutality of the Giro and even sometimes the idiocy of the Vuelta, but if I have to pick, I will take the spring classics.

In cycling the "Grand Tours" stand apart, but there are five Monuments of Cycling and the spring classics hold four of those five - Milan-San Remo, Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, and Liege-Bastogne-Liege (the fifth is the fall classic, Giro de Lombardia).

These spring classics favor riders who are the hard men of the sport. Guys who thrive in wind and rain and mud. Guys who are strong enough to handle the elements and the punchy, almost stupid, climbs that dominate these regions. The hills tend to be "short", which is a comparison to the mountain climbs of the tours, since they are half a kilometer to a touch over 2 kilometers (compared to 20-40 kms for Tour climbs), but they make up for it by being brutally steep (many of them with pitches 15-25%) and repetitious. Although, to be fair, not all feature these climbs. One just features a ridiculous length (Milan-San Remo - 300 kilometers/180 miles, but just a few climbs - two in the last 20 km) or the most brutal surface you could decide to race over - Pave (the famous cobblestones of Paris-Roubaix).

And the variety of roads, conditions and weather means that a number of riders will shine over the next few weeks. And not the prissy little climbers who don't have enough body fat to keep them from being blown sideways off the road in a wind, but the real men of cycling who get those prissy climbers to the base of the tour climbs. The real men who labor all year for their few weeks of glory. And that glory is upon us. Let's enjoy it.
Rider Three

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Bill Gets a New Bike - Part 3

In Part 2 of this series, Bill expresses his dreams and desires to Glen about his new bike and then stands there waiting to watch him build it.  Glen gently moves Bill out the door and gets to work.  With Bill out of the way, the real work starts....

Prior to my formal fitting/planning session with Glen, I felt I had talked things over with riding buddies enough that I had a pretty concrete idea of what I wanted, and a fairly precise way to describe it. After years of managing commercial printing facilities, I am comfortable talking over things with highly skilled people and then staying out of the way so they can do their job.

But after my ideas had left my head, and Glen was in the process of turning them into a bike, I realized that I had also managed to build up a fairly good set of expectations. These expectations stem partially from the fantasy
bike I had built in my head and in part from hearing how much other Elephant owners love their bikes.

Then it dawned on me that even though the bike is being built just for me, I don¹t really get to test-ride the thing. Not to get overly dramatic but it is sort of like an arranged marriage; there is no comparison-shopping going
on here. You meet with your matchmaker, tell them your hopes and dreams, and they go find, or in this case make, the one that is just for you.  (For the record, I used to work with someone who had an arranged marriage and from all indications they were both wonderfully happy.)

While I¹ve been sitting in this valley of the unknown, Glen has sent me a few pictures.

Just to make sure we had all the clearance issues worked out I dropped off some bits and pieces and got to see even more progress.

It is odd to see something that, for a few years now, has been an abstract notion in my head all of the sudden come to life.

Now all I need to do is keep my excitement and fears equally in check for just a little longer.

Next, Bill gets his bike.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday ride report: Riverside trails

A week ago, Riverside State Park had a fair amount of snowpack when I visited the outer loop of the 24-hour course. This week I wanted to give you a report on the whole course, and I know how to motivate myself:

Recovery food!

720p resolution is recommended. If you just want to see the inner-loop highlights, skip forward to about 3m 30sec. As you can see, this time the camera was helmet-mounted, but still suffers from vibration in rough areas.

The report: the outer loop is almost clear of snowpack, but Little Vietnam is currently closed because the river's high. The inner loop has one sizeable section with lots of snowpack, but is otherwise quite good. If you want to go ride XC in Riverside, it's ready. Do keep your eyes open for newly-fallen trees, horseback riders, and Turnip ;)

the trail opposite the gun club is temporarily closed due to high water

Oh, and speaking of water... if you ride the river loop and drop in at the Bowl & Pitcher location to get water, the regular fountains aren't turned on yet. But this one is working:

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Saturday ride report

Chad, Alan and I rode the Hangman loop today. Conditions were very nice, and we saw some cyclists out there (was that you in the valley, Connor?). I had the camera along again, as well as the Garmin, so I pieced together another video for you:

On our way to meet up with Chad, Alan and I went up Southeast Boulevard. The bike lane on Southeast has quite a bit of silt, some gravel, and a few pinecone minefields, so if you'll be riding on Southeast, expect debris, and keep a sharp eye out for dislodged chunks of asphalt from the potholes on the descent, as well as the potholes and gaping pavement seams themselves.

Friday, March 18, 2011

When 16 Is Not So Sweet

The longer I hang around cyclists, the more I learn that there are two camps for everything.

26 versus 29 inch mountain bike wheels, compact versus triple cranksets, tube versus tube-less tires and bike pumps versus CO2 cartridges - can't we all just get along?  Arguments regarding pneumatic devices aside, there is truly a difference when it comes to choosing a CO2 cartridge size for your mountain bike.  The volume of cartridges is measured in grams and common sizes are 12, 16, 20 and 25 grams. 

We do not see 12 gram cartridges used much anymore and they were most likely available because that is what BB guns used when we were growing up and trying to shoot each other's eyes out.  16 gram cartridges are slightly larger than the 12 and great for re-inflating a 700-23 road tire or 26x1.5 inch mountain bike tire to a respectable pressure.  What they are not great for is refilling a large volume tire like a 26x2.5 or 29 inch tube, commonly referred to as a 2 Niner.

Some of us have to learn things the hard way and it was my turn this weekend.  I went to go ride my Gary Fisher Superfly with 29 inch tires on the Bluff and found the rear to be Superflat.  Not to worry, I had a spare tube (yes I still run tubes) and a whopping two, 16 gram CO2 cartridges.  I thought I would slap the tube in, hit it with all 16 grams of CO2 and go tear-up the Bluff.  That would leave me a spare just in case I got another flat during the ride.

Needless to say, the single 16 gram cartridge gave me just enough pressure to give some shape to that big 29" tire, but not enough to make me feel like a pinch-flat wasn't just over the rock.  What to do; use the second cartridge and hope I did not re-puncture, or keep one in the bag and pray I did not get a pinch flat?

The obvious solution is to carry the right size cartridge and get on with life - which in this case is a 25 gram cartridge.  Whoa, not so fast my CPA brain screams.  Which is the best value?  Is it less expensive to use 2 of the 16 grams or one 25 gram?  Let's compare prices.

A 16g sells for about $3, a 20g sells for $6, and a 25g sells for about $12.  In geek terms, this translates to a cost per gram (CPG) of 19 cents, 30 cents, and 48 cents respectively.  Are you beginning to see a pattern?  From a cost perspective, you are still ahead if you use 25 grams of 2 - 16 gram cartridges and waste the remaining 7 grams "playing" with the cat at home. 

The choice is yours whether you want to bother with 2 CO2 cartriges each time you fill or go for the gusto with one big one.  Either way, make sure you have enough CO2 for the job or plan on carrying a portable pump to top-off the tire to the desired pressure.

I got lucky on my ride on the Bluff last weekend; one cartridge and no pinch flat.  Next time though, there will be more cartridges available when I take the big 29" wheels out for a spin.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

To be Seen AND Heard.

"How is it you see every cyclist that runs a red light, rides the wrong way, etc...but didn't see the one you just ran over?"
 I ride to work nearly every day. Don't take this as immodest, but I like to be seen. There are too many ghost bikes around town. The common denominator from the drivers, "I didn't see him." Apparently, not being seen is viable, consequence-absolving excuse. I minimize that excuse by being visible, HIGHLY visible. I ride with lights on, day or night, wear a bright yellow jacket with reflective striping with a supplemental reflective vest in the dark. I ride down Cedar from the South Hill every morning. I usually travel at the speed limit so I am out in the lane enough to be seen at all intersection. I make sure that I am seen with BRIGHT lights. On the handle bars I have a Cygolite "Hi-Flux" 150 lumen LED headlight, on my helmet I have a Cygolite "MilliOn" 200 lumen LED headlight. During daylight hours I run the helmet light on flash mode. This gets the attention a little better by putting something uncommon in the drivers field of view. At night, I leave it
on normal "high" mode. The advantage of a helmet light is that the light goes where you look, it illuminates the driver so you know he sees you (and nothing else for several moments later!) another advantage is that it puts a light above parked cars for when you ride downtown.

Planet Bike "Blinky-5" LED

Bontrager "Flair 3"

On the back of my bike, I have a Planet Bike "Blinky-5" LED light on my rack, a Bontrager "Flair 3" (w/2 -half watt LEDs) and a Planet Bike "Super Blinky" (w/1 -half watt LED) on my seat post, and Bontrager "Road Beacon" bar end lights (available for either drop or straight bars) and D.O.T. reflective tape on my panniers and fender. All of my lights run on rechargeable batteries to lower operating cost and environmental impact. There is a plethora of lights on the market, these are just the lights that I currently use.

 Planet Bike "Super Blinky"
 Delta "Airzound" 105 db air horn

I also have something that allows me to not only be seen, but also to be heard. I have recently acquired a Delta "Airzound" 105 db air horn. It is designed specifically for a bicycle with the horn and trigger on the handle bars and a pop-bottle air tank that fits in a bottle cage. The whole thing weighs about 7 oz. You can recharge the air tank with your floor pump. Somebody asked me, "How long does the tank last?" I said, "Depends on traffic!"

Lights don't come cheap. I purchased each component one at a time to minimize the personal economic impact. But comparatively speaking, the price of the lights is significantly lower than the cost of being hit by a car. The Cygolite "MilliOn" runs around $120, the Hi-Flux about $80, the "Super Blinky" and "Flair 3" about $25 each and the "Blinky 5" about $17 and the "Bar End Beacon" are $20. The Air Horn is about $40. A bright yellow jacket will run you from $35 ~$200 . One ride in an ambulance is nearly a grand. You do the math. Each time you see a car suddenly hit the brakes, you can be assured that the lights just have paid for themselves.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Bill Gets a New Bike - Part 2

This is the second part of a series where Bill Bloom is describing the process of having a bike built by local builder, Glen Copus of Elephant Cycles.  Read the 1st posting here if you missed it.

Deciding what kind of frame I wanted wasn¹t all that complicated. After many
hours of pondering options, usually while in the saddle, I felt that I had
distilled it down to a fairly reasonable request.

Glen asked me to bring my '83 Cannondale touring bike and ¹07 Trek 5000 over
to his shop so he could measure them. He asked what I liked about each bike
and what I wanted on my Elephant.

Since it has wider 32mm tires, fenders, and racks, the Cannondale is my
go-to bike when it is raining, need to carry bags or will spend more than a
couple of miles on gravel roads. While the Cannondale serves its purpose
just fine, it really is more of a functional than fun bike.

My Trek makes me truly happy.  Not to get too dorky, but with that bike it
so easy for my mind to go where it wants to go; I just forget the bike is
there. It is comfortable on longer rides, solid on fast descents, and even
when I¹m feeling sluggish on the hills it always has that spring to it. It
is only a humble TCT 5000 (I¹m scared to imagine what a "real" Madone would
be like). The only place it seems to be wanting is when the road stops being

I explained to Glen that in a perfect world I want the new bike to feel like
my Trek, but be able to accommodate my 42mm wide studded tires, take a rear
rack and feel fairly stable on a gravel road.

Without much more conversation than that I had let Glen know what I wanted
the bike to do and simply left the how to up to him. I¹m sure Glen would
be happy to talk about tubing types and fork rake and Alex Singer¹s
philosophy of frame building, but other than repeating something I had read
I would really have no idea what I¹m talking about.

For the next segment - The build begins. And yes it will have pictures.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

First Post from TP


Even though I've been racing for several years I'm kind of a "Boner Stabone" when it comes to race strategy and tactics. Try as I might, I'm just a slow learner. However, what I can do is recognize when somebody else makes an awesome race move and say, "holy crap that was awesome!" This is percisely what happened when I saw the clip of Stehen Roche pulling a "Silky Alice" on the rest of the bunch to win the 87 world championship road race. Enjoy this classic clip with commentary.

Watch and Learn boyyeee!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Quick Bluff Update

The bluff off of High Drive in now officially snow-free as of 12:30 Sunday.  Rode end-to-end without touching a single ice crystal.  Most sections are tacky and fast, but watch for slicky mud on the shaded sections above the golf course.  There are still trees across some trails and a brand new tree fall across the power line road to the south.  That makes 2 in about 100 yards.

Random Thoughts

It has been considered the last refuge of the blogger to throw together random bits of nonsense and call it a post, but who am I to suggest that I am any better than the average blogger sitting in the basement wearing only jammies and dorito dust? Certainly not I. It would be elitist or potentially un-American to suggest I am any better than my brethren bloggers (estimated to be at over 150 million), so as a acknowledgment of my humanity, I bring you random flotsam and jetsam of cycling.

Cyclocross Racing on Universal Sports - Rider 2 is the one who brought this to my attention, but a lot of the World Cup Cyclocross racing coverage on Universal Sports (Channel $$ on cable or $$$$$ for HD on cable) does not include commentary. Or more specifically, it doesn't include any english-speaking commentary. The native broadcast language is in the background but it is unusually pleasant to watch the race, have your own thoughts and just experience the race. Also, I know that Portland thinks they invented cyclocross racing and it has become as trendy to follow as Charlie Sheen on Twitter, but watching the racing at the World Cup level is really awe inspiring. It is a sport of very, very tough men and women.

Cycling Commentary
- I shouldn't complain, but I am going to. I love the amount of cycling on TV now. Who would have guessed 10 years ago that daily coverage of both Paris-Nice and Tirreno-Adriatica would be on TV? Not me. This week, however, I have watched some spring classics from the 80's on DVD while on the trainer and 2010 coverage of these races this week. If I had the time, I am confident that I could take the commentary of Paul Sherwin off any one of these races and dub it onto another race and you would not notice it. Honestly, he needs a writer to come up with some new shtick. It is time. Even Bob Roll is getting seriously repetitive. Bob needs to go back on whatever he was consuming during his VeloNews days.

Alberto Contador
- Really?

Franco Pellizoti
- Is this a surprise?

Best new cycling nickname
- Ricardo "Refrigerator" Ricco. Don't worry, he isn't going to die so we can start making fun of him.

The Derrailleur That Everybody (or Nobody) Needs
- Have you seen the Lightweight Rear Derrilleur? Bikes getting more expensive deserves some consideration of its own, but where did a rear derrailleur come from that costs $1,445? For ONLY the rear derrailleur. Shouldn't that come with a free bike attached, or an illegal act of human reproductive nature? (Did you see how sensitive I have become?) And what makes it worth that? It weighs a scant 120 grams, which is admittedly 30 grams less (yes, 1 ounce less) than a Campagnolo Super Record 11 rear derrailleur, although at a $1,000 premium. Or how about this comparison - SRAM Rival - Weight 183 disgusting grams (a full 2.2! ounces more) but is less than the sales tax on the Lightweight derraileur at only $83. Madness I tell you, madness!

Something else you may not need, but should want, but not really
- Have you noticed "Mad Fiber" wheels popping up on show bikes this year? Taking a run at the Lightweight world of wheels may not be too newsworthy, except this is a Seattle company. Huh? I thought Germans had cornered the market on crazy carbon fiber manufacturing, but no, we have a local entry. I feel like buying some just to support our Washington State economy. Do you think my wife will go for that argument? No, I didn't think so either. Anyway, check out Mad Fiber Wheels. I can't help myself. I want some.

Pro Peloton Bikes - Have you looked at the field of bikes this season? There are more good looking bikes in the peloton this year than I remember from any prior season. Chock-a-block full.

Other stuff
- Honestly, I could go on for hours. Just ask my wife or children or my bartender. How about Jens Voigt at Paris-Nice Stage 1, or the unfairness of moving Criterium International to a location where Jens won't get his record-breaking 6th win. How about Lance's sudden retirement? How about Floyd Landis' interview with Kimmage, or more specifically the transcript thereof? How about the sucky weather this winter for riding? How about the awesome season of bike racing coming up around Spokane this year? How about the cool expansion of Team Two Wheel this year? And the cool blog posts from the Team so far, and the technology behind mechBgon's video? And we haven't even started in on mountain bikes . . .
Rider Three

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Riverside mountain-bike trails report

Anyone getting Spring fever yet? If you like to mountain-bike on Riverside's trail system, here's a quick report: there's still snowpack in some areas, but you'll be able to find mostly-clear trails if you want to ride. The corn snow and ice is actually fairly rideable too. Do throw on your seatpost fender to deal with the mud, and keep your eyes open for the freshly-downed trees.

Sorry the video quality's not very good this time :(

That's the "outer loop" of the Round and Round 24-hour course, which many of you will recognize. Surprisingly, Little Vietnam is neither flooded nor particularly muddy. Surfaces are soft and power-hungry in most places.

looking back, just before Devil's Down

The video was shot with the ContourHD 1080p on a frame mount this time. For mountain biking, the frame mount is an improvement over the handlebar mount because it's less sensitive to large steering movements, but I'll have to pick up a helmet mount... it's still too much vibration for enjoyable viewing.

The video above is shot in full 1080p resolution at 30 frames per second. As reports led me to expect, this results in a Jell-O effect when the camera's having the stuffings beaten out of it being moved around quickly. Next on the agenda: the Action HD 720p resolution with the 60fps framerate, which is reportedly pretty smooth for trail videos.

Ok, related product plug: the Finish Line brush set is great for you fearless mud riders (and you know who you are). I think we're down to one set, but I'll make sure we get some more in. I use these a lot in our repair shop, especially the large one for the rims and frame, and the loop-shaped one behind cranks and between spoke flanges.

yeah, I'm parking THAT in my living room... NOT.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Weekend Entertainment

I don't know what your weekend will hold, but just in case the weather is bad and you need to spend time on the trainer or in the gym, please consider the following. Now that I am having a harder time getting to the line first out on the road, I think that I found my new sport.

Friday, March 11, 2011

And Now For Something Completely Different . . .

For those of you who cycle with Rider 2, you know that he has an interesting and eclectic take on things sometimes. I think he has ably demonstrated that today.

Pigs in Zen
Pigs in the mud
When he tires
Pigs in Zen
Pigs in Zen
Pigs eat s#*t
But only when he hungers
Pigs in Zen
Pigs in Zen
I know about the pain
And the suffering and being cold
The pig is led to the slaughter
This he says is the price some pay
For the cycling (simple) life
That's proof for him
Pig's in Zen
Talkin' bout the pig
The pig
The pig

So, yes, I sampled an old Jane's Addiction lyrics. What's that got to do with cycling other than me substituting the word cycling in the later part of the song. Well blog readers, I will tell you.

There are a small group of riders that love the true grit of cycling in bad conditions. You know, winds, rain, sleet, hail, mud and other appalling conditions that keep most people at home on the couch watching a "Glee" marathon on the Oxygen Channel. I am a Pig in Zen kind of guy. I love the slop. Races like Tour of Flanders, Paris-Roubaix, and Gent-Wewelgem are my favorite races of the year to watch and follow. And yes, I have found fellow Pigs to surround myself with. One that suddenly who comes to mind is a man know in these parts as Dismount Dave. (A name that maybe explained at a later blog). Dismount can tell you who won any spring classic of any year and give you a quick run down of the race in a blink of cobblestone dust in your eye. He is a Pig in Zen.

Another person who comes to mind is JB. He a MR(morning ride) guy and when the wind kicks up on a ride, he immediately goes to the front and taps out a rhythm that most of those pesky climbers begin to whimper like a 5 year old who was told they were not getting any ice cream when they are at The Scoop. Brutal. Now that we are quickly approaching spring racing here in the Inland Northwest, I thought I would share an experience with you about me in a Pig in Zen moment.

It was Frozen Flatlands 2010. The Saturday road race. The conditions at the start was cool and windy. So far so good for Pigs. We rolled out of the mighty town of Cheney and crossed the railroad tracks on the outskirts of town and the officials car horn blares. The race begins. As usual a few sacrificial lambs jump and try to get away. The typical chase downs and attacks happen for the first 1/4 of the race. Just as we make a right turn towards Plaza, hail comes dumping out of the sky and accompanied with a nasty head wind. I move to the front part of the pack and notice about 10 other riders doing the same. Mud is flying all over the place. It's on our glasses, jerseys and in our gaping mouths trying to take in as much oxygen as our orifices that God has gifted us can get. From the back of the pack I hear the familiar whimper.

I look back after a couple of miles of to see the what the damage had been done from the Pigs in the front. Half of the group is gone. I look around at my fellow competitors and we all seem to have the same expression on our faces. Pigs in the mud, unashamed. Pigs in Zen. As the race progressed, we ran into another wind infested hail storm and once again, the pace picks up and I move to the front to shed those who may not like to eat the crap off my wheel. There are again other Pigs with the same idea. This goes on for the next 5 miles. I am starting to feel the affects of the 12-mile time trail that we did 3 hours ago. I feel the hunger knocks coming uninvited into my body. If I eat now it might show some weakness and someone might attack. I know the pain and the suffering very well. I have been there before. The 1 K sign appears and the pace slows down. I decide make a jump for it with 600 meters to go. I am the pig led to slaughter and with 50 meters to go the gap I had from my initial jump diminished rapidly. Like a nightmare in slow motion I helplessly watch my comrade pigs pass me. That is the price I pay for living the cycling life. That's proof for me that I am a Pig....Pig in Zen...talkin' bout the

Rider 2

Thursday, March 10, 2011

No. 1 from the Archives - Hey, Rider Number 153!

This is a bit of an O. Henry story from Team Member Scooter. I think you will be amazed, surprised and a bit impressed . . .

In the 80’s and into the 90’s, Spokane was home to one of the larger Pro/Am stage races in the nation. It was the Washington Trust Classic, ending its final year in existence as The Northwest Classic. The exact year it ended, I can no longer remember.

This race had it all. Grueling road races, a circuit race, and some of the greatest criterium racing I have seen anywhere. There was a chance for glory no matter what style of rider. However, most experienced pain in constant variety. But at least it was constant, and you could count on it.

We had world champions, grand tour winners, old euro dogs who scratched a living as workers in the continental pro peloton and were finishing up careers with US domestic teams, and of course the countless numbers of strange full/part time racers hoping to make a better life out of all the years of sacrificing and suffering. This is a quick bit about one of these characters who took the seriousness of the Inland Northwest a little too lightly.

The week of racing was a long one. All the stages were classic courses, and everyone wanted to win one and fought bravely for them. The circuit race on the boulevards, and the Manito criterium, were not races where you could sit back and hide. So late in the week by the time the Mt. Spokane road stage came, that finished at the top of Mt. Spokane, most riders were pretty cooked and a bit delirious. But none so much as this poor fellow. A local rider, known by the nickname “Hater”, was making his way past Kirk’s lodge on Mt. Spokane, when he began to pass a dropped rider who was clearly not a climbing specialist, who could not quite keep his bike going straight, and was well on his way to losing his wits all together. As Hater was passing him, this fading rider asked, “Are the follow cars behind you? I want to abandon.” Despite his nickname, Hater quickly started trying to convince this suffering guy to not drop out. Hater told him that he was a great criterium rider and that he just needed to finish the day to be able to take part in the downtown crit the next day. The rider responded, “There’s a crit tomorrow? Well maybe.”

Hater continued on his way, but heard from way back, just as he was entering the treed steep section, “Hey, Rider Number 153! I think I’m going to make it!” Well Hater should have felt good about that, just breathing new life into that poor dude. And he could remember that when he saw his old suffering companion battling for wins in the European spring classics, and stages in the Tour de France. Maybe he took comfort in the idea that he brought George Hincapie to the next level in his career.
Scooter (Not Hater)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Crankset Conundrum

Triple Crankset
A simple question is all it takes to start a spirited and polarizing discussion.  Ask a group of people whether Van Halen was better with David Lee Roth or Sammy Hagar as lead singer - usually the group splits down the middle with each being convinced it is right.  Ask a group of cyclist whether a triple or double crankset is superior and you are likely to start a riot.

 Every day we are asked whether we recommend a road bike with triple or compact front gearing and we always answer with "It depends".  The factors for consideration include: where, how and what you ride.  Before advances with 10 speed cassettes and compact gearing  you had to choose between a double (usually a 40, 52 tooth combination) or triple setup.  Of the two, the most versatile combination was a triple crankset setup up in front with a 7, 8, or 9 speed cassette in the rear.  This combination provided a low ratio for climbing and a high ratio for hauling on the flats or down-hill.  The drawback is that you end-up doing a lot of shifting, the front response can be slow; gear ratio redundancy and more metal means more weight.

Compact Double Crankset

Most often the recommendation is to use a Compact Double combination (more about what that entails later.)  The one exception where a triple is always indicated is when the cyclist is planning to use the bike for touring with panniers or a trailer.  The additional weight of a loaded bike up long grades requires some pretty low gearing to be usable.

Since the introduction of the 10 speed rear cassette in 1997 the gearing choices became a little more complex.  Compact double chainring combinations of 50/ 34 tooth rings started showing up on production bikes in the early-to-mid 2000s.  This combined with a 10 speed rear range of 11 to 28 provides a wide range of gear ratios without the drawbacks of the triple chainring listed above.  But, customers appear to have anxiety at the thought of losing their granny or bail-out gear ratio for very steep/long climbs on the bike.  Bikes have also become lighter as a general rule which allows the rider to push a slightly higher gear up hill. Usually a compact double provides adequate low-end for most cyclist.

A great way to prove this for yourself is to use a gearing calculation program to compare different configurations of the respective systems.  This particular site has been around since 1996 and provides a lot of useful information.

A Trek Madone 4.5 Triple comes standard with a 50/39/30 chainrings and an 11-28, 10 speed cassette for a total of 30 ratio combinations.  This provides a low of 88 inches traveled per pedal rotation to a high of 375 inches traveled.  Unfortunately there are 7 ratios that are so similar they are considered duplicate ratios. Also, it requires using all three chainrings to complete a sequential shift pattern for the 1st 8 ratios - that is a lot of shifting up front.

By comparison, a Trek Madone 4.5 Compact comes standard with a 50/34 chainrings and an 11-28, 10 speed cassette for a total of 20 ratio combinations.  This provides a low of 100 inches traveled per pedal rotation (a difference of (13%) to the same high of 375 inches traveled.  This combination has only  two ratios that are close enough to be duplicates.

The difference in low speed between the compact and the triple is less than 1 mph at 80 rpm for these bikes.  In the end it comes down to personal preference and what you are most comfortable with using.  If you are considering an new bike or changing your gearing then test ride two bikes in the same day to compare.  Then you can experience the difference and decide which is for you.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Bill Gets a New Bike

Bill Bloom is a local cyclist and advocate who is having a custom frame built by Glen Copus of Elephant Cycles.  Bill agreed to write about his experience in a series for the blog.

I recently bumped into Geoff as we were both squeezing a quick ride into one of winter¹s brief moments of sun, reasonable temperatures and clear roads. I could not visit for long because after I returned home I was leaving to get fitted for my Elephant Bicycle. For those not in-the-know, Elephant Bikes (www, are the creation of Glen Copus, a Spokane based frame builder. Geoff suggested that folks might be curious about the
process so I agreed to share mine in Two Wheel Transit's Shop Blog.

Why I wanted a custom-built bike.
It¹s local. I am an unabashed supporter of local commerce. Although I do not have a particularly large bike budget, I want to support folks like Two Wheel Transit and Glen because not only can they provide me with stuff like
tubes, tires, bike frames and tandems, but they are also tremendous sources of bike knowledge. Dave must wince (and Geoff must smile) whenever I come into the shop holding a bunch of previously connected parts from one of our family¹s dozen or so bikes.  I love being around folks like Glen and the gang at Two Wheel who have so much knowledge and experience where I only have curiosity.

The second reason to get a custom frame is to get something I don¹t already have and is not readily available right off the shelf. For the record, I am a recreational rider of road bikes. Although I do not race, I enjoy pushing myself physically and like big climbs. Personally it doesn¹t get much better than being out on the Palouse with friends or
family: short rides or long hauls, it¹s all good. My favorite bike is my Trek 5000, Trek¹s entry level all carbon bike. I love this bike. It is comfortable for hours, loves to climb and fits me perfectly. It only lacks the clearance for wider tires that I prefer on the gravel roads and a way to carry bags for the occasional overnighter. When the weather gets wet or there are bags to be carried, I turn to my 1980-something Cannondale touring bike. While this bike never lets me down and I love it¹s exquisite provenance, I really prefer a bike with a sportier geometry.

I ride with studded tires in the winter, although the only frame I have that will fit them is my bedraggled Nishiki/frankenbike commuter.

For my next entry I will go through a greatly abbreviated version of how I decided what kind of bike I wanted and about  working with Glen.

(Editors Note: Glen is a world-class builder who has worked with the likes of Bontrager and Serotta.  John Speare wrote a great article about Glen last year.

Bill Bloom