Friday, April 29, 2011

Just a Few Minutes After You Ride

As cyclists, we love to ride. Some of us want to ride faster, some ride longer. Most of us would like to ride more often. It is very easy to focus on the riding part of cycling and ignore some other important pieces of overall fitness, flexibility and core strengthening. They do however have a direct correlation to your riding, in terms of speed, endurance and comfort. This short blog will focus on flexibility.

Cycling is a sport that inherently leads to tighter muscles, especially the hamstrings and hip flexors. Each pedal stroke the hamstrings are shortened and never fully extended. Similarly, the hip flexors go through the same process with each rotation. This is why those first strides of the triathlete are so awkward when they transition from the bikeIt. The hamstrings and hip flexors are tight after 100 miles of riding and suddenly the demands on those muscles is totally different. Running requires those muscles to fully extend with each stride.

But tight hamstrings and hip flexors effect a rider too. If your hamstrings are tight you will have more trouble maintaining a compact position down on the handlebars. Tight hamstrings also resist the extension of the leg by the quadriceps and thus decrease your power on the down stroke. Similarly tight hip flexors resist the power generated by your butt muscles.

It is easy to stretch these muscles and it only takes a few minutes after your ride. 

You can look up stretching routines for these muscles on the internet or just about any training book. (Here is one I found:

Most trainers recommend holding the stretch for 10-15 seconds. You should not bounce in your stretches or push so hard it hurts because that might injure the muscle you are trying to stretch.  Done properly, the stretches should not hurt, but you should be able to feel a definite tension in the muscle you are working. Hip flexors (these get stretched with most quad stretches), hamstrings and for good measure throw in a back stretch and the calves. It will take less than 5 minutes.

Here is a link to some words about stretching by Andy Pruitt.

Dr. Bruce

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Mythbusters, Investigate 29 Inch Wheels

I stated in When 16 is not So Sweet that there appear to be two camps for everything cycling related -mountain bike wheel size is no exception.  26" wheels has been the standard since the dawn of time and have been proven as a reliable and quick setup.  According to cycling legend Gary Fisher, the reason 26" wheels were used was due to the fact that they were plentiful from the cruiser era and you could get knobby tires in that size; not because they were deemed to be the optimal off-road diameter. In the bigger is better camp, 29" wheels rule and provide some distinct advantages over their smaller diameter cousin. Wikipedia provides a thorough dissertation on the history of mountain bike wheel sizes and arguments for and against each standard.

These are better rolling over and through obstacles, larger contact patch for braking, turning and climbing and a more stable ride through loose terrain.  My experience with 29" Gary Fisher bikes is that they are more forgiving and faster because they allow you to maintain momentum through the course.  They are essentially 700c wheels with big knobby tires  wrapped around them.  I am not the fastest rider out there and have a tendency to pick really bad lines through the baby head rocks in Riverside State Park.  But because I am riding a 29" wheel set I am not punished (other than verbally) as badly as I would be on smaller wheels.  I just roll through it and hope to do better next lap.

There are a couple of myths that people like to toss about regarding 29" wheels that need to be busted.  The first is that you have to be a "tall rider" to appreciate and utilize the larger wheel.  Tell that to Emily Batty who at 5'2" just smoked her competition in the Sea Otter Classic on a Trek/Fisher 29er and not by just a little bit.  The geometry and handling of Trek/Fisher 29' bikes benefit all riders at all levels period.

The second myth relates to greater rotating mass at the outer diameter, so they they are harder to turn, slower to accelerate in sprints, out of turns and up hills.  The physics don't lie, there is greater rotating mass, but Trek/Fisher have compensated for any associated issues with very innovative frame and shock combinations.  On the flip side, greater rotating mass is less susceptible to deflections and decelerations so it still enables it to be a faster bike since you can carry more speed over the entire course on average.

Physics aside, the only way to validate these claims is by riding bikes with of each wheel size on the same course on the same day.  Trek Factory Demo Day provides this very opportunity on May 20 and 21 at the airstrip in Riverside State Park.  As a bonus, the 24 Hour course will be marked that weekend for those who want to get a few practice laps.  Stop by the shop for more details.

In the meantime, the debate rages.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Brief Riverside trail conditions report

I went out to Riverside after work, and did most of the 24-hour course. As you'd expect, there are big standing puddles on the forest doubletracks. I wouldn't call it muddy in the proper sense; you and your bike will just get sprayed with lots of silty water, as opposed to "frosted" with caked-on mud. For the near future, expect to get fairly wet.

On my way to the Start/Finish area, I looked down into Little Vietnam and saw that the singletrack by the river has extensive standing water. I also saw one of the Rangers' signs saying that the area's closed until the water goes down. So I suggest bypassing Little Vietnam for now, whether you see a Trail Closed sign or not (evidently people are tearing them down)... just cruise downriver on the Centennial Trail and jump onto the inner loop from there.

If the Saddle Fits...

Bontrager Affinity Saddle Review.

Since returning to cycling in the last few years I have noticed many changes in equipment.  One major change was the saddle designs that most bike racers have now.  The new designs looked lighter and appear to alleviate the discomforts and pain of racing and training - some that is.

Fear held me back - specifically,  the fear of change that can delay the inevitable move to something better.  I have had a Rolls saddle since the late eighties and only used another brand once in 1994 when my team and sponsors gave me an ultimatum while on the national race circuit.  Since they controlled the flow of money while we were on the road, they controlled whether we could eat.  So  I quickly complied, switched saddles, and was immediately sorry.  

I experienced problems with the new saddle that would not be well received in a blog post, so we will skip the details.  That set the stage for when Taylor and I switched to Trek 2.3 racing bikes this year.  I was very excited since the bikes represented upgrades at every level, but also slightly worried about the saddle.  It looked different and menacing perched high up on the seat post the first time I saw it.  

Our first experience on the bike was a club ride to 7 mile and back. Any time you transition to a new bike there will be some stops for minor positioning adjustments - this ride was no exception.  I spoke to Geoff a couple of times during the ride about discomfort I was experiencing from the saddle, but he said this was normal when transitioning to a new saddle and position.  I could tell even on that first ride that the minor discomfort was not like the disaster when I raced.  My weight was distributed differently now, and the muscle seemed to be absorbing the contact instead of the softer more sensitive areas in which I hope to avoid damage. Geoff just said, give it some time and I did.

Two to three more rides conditioned my body to a point where sitting on the saddle for a few hours no longer an issue.  Last week I was at the shop waiting for the pizza to arrive after the shop ride, and was looking at the saddles on the sales rack.  I found the white Bontrager Affinity 2 saddle that matched the one on my bike and looked at the brochure that describes the science behind it.  It had a picture of the weight distribution, pressure mapping and the health benefits that accompany the new design. You can see how the contours remove pressure, improve blood flow and support the rider. These guys had clearly done a lot of ground-breaking research when it comes to how anatomy is/is not supported by saddle design. 

It basically described my experience with this new design, except for the silly feeling of not making a switch a little sooner.  

Monday, April 25, 2011

Two Wheel Transit Fields 24 Hour Team

Now that snow has melted in Riverside State Park, we hear more people are out riding the 24 hour course for practice.  Some just to re-familiarize themselves while others are learning it for the first time.  With a month to go until the Memorial Day Weekend 24 Hour Race the excitement is beginning to build as teams are forged and plans are made for the big event.

Two Wheel Transit is equally enthusiastic and has entered a team in the 10 Person Corporate Division.  The team is still in the formative stage, but we can say that there will be some familiar names and some really fast riders along with some not so fast.  We have 4 confirmed riders at this point and will announce the entire team at once so stay tuned.  There is at least one rider that has a very cool and inspirational back story that will be covered. as well.

While the 24 Hour Race is an awesome event, we also want to encourage people to ride the Wednesday Night Mountain Bike Race Series this year.  This is a much shorter race and also takes place in Riverside State Park, you guessed it, every Wednesday night beginning May 18 this year.  We will also be sponsoring entries in the series and know it will be fun and fast if last year was any indication.  The races are set-up on a different course each week and just a lot of fun.  You can show up the evening of the race and register on the spot since it is so well organized.

Regardless of the venue, the Park has a lot to offer and provides some of the best riding in the area so be sure to check it out this year if you have not already.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Race course preview: Cheney-Rock Lake

Back in March, I posted about the Liberty race course, which will be featured in the Inland Road Race Series, presented by Larry H. Miller Lexus.

Last Saturday I rode another course from the Inland Road Race Series: the Cheney-Rock Lake course. If you've ever ridden the Twilight Series' Williams Lake course, this course shares the same beginning and ending. The Palouse's combination of rollers and wind, plus the 73-mile distance in June weather, will make for some serious racing. I think I used the word "epic" four or five times during the ride :)

Cheney's in the upper-right corner in this view

course elevation profile.

If you're going to race this one, put in your training hours and be familiar with the course. I particularly recommend learning the Mullinix Road segment well, so you know how far you are from the finish line... the one time I raced Williams Lake, I totally flubbed this.

My camera ran out of memory before we were done with the course, but here are some clips from the first ~50 miles.

Shop Ride Report - A Night of Firsts

An intrepid group of nine went out for a ride in the wind, rain and cold last night.  The weather was forecast to turn partly cloudy and dry at about 3 pm.  Obviously the weather does not pay attention to forecasts and the wind, rain and cold temps made for a bracing evening ride.  There were numerous post ride complaints of aching toes once they began to thaw-out.

It turned out to be a fast ride and I kept thinking I had somehow stumbled into a road race for which I was woefully unprepared. This ride clearly violating our No-Drop Policy but since I was the one getting dropped it seemed acceptable.

Regardless of the conditions it was still good ride and everyone appeared to enjoy themselves.  It was also an interesting night because of several firsts that occurred - each with their own back story.

First time we had road bikes, tri bikes and mountain bikes all on the same ride.  The tri bikes were allowed because they were buying after-ride pizza. The mountain bikes were allowed because they are good to draft behind. They were only along for part of the ride since Tom was showing the 24 hour course to a customer who is racing it for the first time this year.  The sad truth is both these guys are fast and the folks on the road and tri bikes were all just trying to hold the wheel on one of the mountain bikes. We had to fend for ourselves once they turned-off into the dirt just before 7 mile bridge.

First time the new Team Two Wheel jerseys made their public appearance.  These jerseys are sharp and very classic at the same time.  Unfortunately, they were buried under about 15 layers to ward-off hypothermia. The other sponsors are represented at various points and logos tastefully displayed. These beauties will be on sale in the shop soon - so stay tuned.

First time there was pizza sponsored by another organization.  Everyone seems to know that pizza is provided by the shop on the first ride of each month.  But now we have a bonus night 2 weeks later sponsored by Summit Ridge Christian Fellowship.  If it seems to be getting too complicated trying to remember which Thursday comes with pizza (which the GU Cycling Club members have refined to an art) just show up and there will be pizza on about 50% of the rides.  I was worried that there may be too much pizza for the number of riders, but the two GU riders quickly dispelled any concern of excess pizza for the night.

Thank you again to all who came to ride and to for sponsoring the pizza.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

The Sunday chinwag.

I found a rare patch of sun this past weekend. And like my dog in our living room, it seemed like a good place to stretch for a while until the next thing happened. That thing, in my case, was waiting for a couple of teammates to join for a Sunday ride.

Rides come in many forms. There are days when my teammates’ faces tell me they’re ready to try and rip the cranks from their bikes. Other days they’re steeling themselves for a multi-hour slog of an endurance ride. This day though, it was clear there was a different agenda. It was obvious from everyone’s faces and lazy body language we were headed for a chinwag.

All three of us did relatively hard rides the day before. So rolling along the bike path heading out of town we waited for our muscles to warm. Yes, the sun was out, but the air was cold. A jogger here, a stroller there. All excuses to keep the intensity low and the speed reasonable.

Rather than the usual warm-up followed by intense efforts and an occasional story during a lull, today was about catching up. We talked about work, about our wives, about life in a down economy. We discussed politics, but Rider 3 wasn’t with us, and it’s just not the same talking about the turkeys without him. So we moved onto tales of racing when we were younger, of hazing new teammates. I shared the crazy story of a mechanic that worked for one of my teams who was frustrated, because his real dream was to be a porn star (seriously).

Rounding the bend into a headwind we started the climb. The speed stayed the same so conversation died down. Another few turns though and we picked up the dialogue, this time comparing notes on Amstel Gold, recent books we’ve read and houses. The road dipped and turned with our conversation.

Finally I looked over my shoulder, gave a nod to the boys and made the right-hand turn onto the road I live on. The others went their own way, two friends out for a final few miles before heading home. A training ride so much like every other.

Something tells me though that at some point in my life, I’ll look back on days like this as anything but mundane.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Shop Thursday April 21 at 5:30 with Pizza Afterward

Shop Ride Thursday Night. Leaves from the shop at 5:30. Summit Ridge Christian Fellowship has graciously offered to sponsor post-ride pizza tomorrow night - so now we get pizza twice in one month. Forecast is: 30% Chance of rain with winds 10-20 mph - sounds perfect. Put on an extra layer and come on down.

So Where Ya From?

Sometimes you just have to hear it from someone else before you believe it.

Earlier this week I noticed a young couple sipping coffee and browsing the shop.  I knew I had not seen them before, so struck-up a conversation.  They were not looking for anything in particular, and seemed content to just soak-in the ambiance and learn what Two Wheel Transit was all about.  They asked about the history of the shop and wanted to know more about the local cycling scene and community.

It turns-out they are from Baltimore and have been considering a move to the northwest both for what it does and does not have in comparison to home.  She was interviewing for a job here and they decided to stay a few extra days for exploration.  He went in search of single-track and put in on trail 25 at 7 mile in Riverside State Park.  He was amazed that he could keep riding for 3 hours and not even come close to riding all that the park has to offer.  We discussed the 24 hour race coming up there next month and they began to get a sense of how bikey this town is.

Living and riding here it is easy to focus on what is wrong - complete streets (lack of), unconnected infrastructure, intolerant drivers, etc.  What was cool as we talked more was hearing their perspectives of our area and how easy it would be to bike to work and cover the city from end-to-end by bicycle.  This would be unthinkable where they live in terms of size, safety, traffic along with other big city issues.  Both were amazed that there is a vast network of skinny trails on the High Drive Bluff that we use for recreation and commuting.  Finally, they also liked that we have so many inclusive bike-related events like Spokefest, Loreen Miller, Bike to Work Week and our shop ride to name a few.

So next time we get frustrated or annoyed at what we feel is slow progress or a missed opportunity to improve the cycling experience in our area, remember that from the outside looking in Spokane is a pretty cool place for bikes.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Are You Ready?

Bike to Work Week is part of Bike to Work Month and starts on May 16 this year.  It is a great opportunity to make and live a commitment to riding your bike to work, civic events, volunteer activities and personal errands.  Though almost a month away, it is not too early to begin earnest preparation for the week.  This preparation is not to be taken lightly - in fact it is very serious and if not done properly, will derail all but the most dedicated cyclists.

Many believe it involves riding many miles, planning routes, charging lights and batteries, lubing chains, tightening fenders, patching holes in bags and clothing - almost as if getting ready for a high altitude assault on a major mountain.  Yes, that is a good start, but you still will not be ready for the week without the most important piece.

What else is there you ask?  It is all mental - you must prepare yourself mentally for crappy weather - there, I said it.  If you do not, no amount of clothes, tuning or riding will get you out the door and bike commuting that week.  As we saw yesterday with spring's cute little display of snow, anything is possible.  As my friend Rob used to say "If you expect the worst, you are never disappointed."  We must prepare our minds for the possibility of rain, sleet, wind, more wind and yes snow.  I have seen it snow like crazy in early June, so don't laugh.

Then and only then are we ready to be true bike to work weekers.  Should the morning of the 16th dawn with drizzle and low overcast, we will be ready to drag ourselves out the door and the pancakes and coffee at the kick-off breakfast will be even more satisfying.  It is all about having what it takes to start the ride - this is always the hardest part.

If it breaks clear and warm, then we will be ready for that too.  Regardless, it will be a great week and remind us of why we live here and help engage others in something we love.  Anything less than a blizzard will be a welcome addition to the joy and camaraderie the week promises.  Now, if I can just remember where I put my balaclava and ski socks.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Seattle to Portland

This weekend I went out for a ride with some folks who are planning to ride the Cascade Bicycling Club cyclist rite of passage known as STP or Seattle-to-Portland. None of the five people with me had ever done STP. I have done it four times, I think (yes, I agree that I should be able to remember), but I know that the first time was in either 1989 or 1990, that I did it for sure in 2004 and in 2007 or 2008, and I know that I did it one other time.

Here is my mini-recap of each time: First time - decent condition and good ride. Finished at the old Jantzen Beach area and got in the car almost immediately afterwards for a car ride back to Seattle. I got some cramps on the car, which didn't have seats that reclined.

Second time - No where near enough training so this was a very tough day. After being ditched by the person who convinced me to ride with him I rode along with his other friend who had arrived from Greece early in the morning of the ride. We limped in feeling abused.

Third time - I trained with four Spokanites and we used the STP suggested mileage charts, thinking this would make us "prepared", which it did. One dropped out with a medical issue, so four of us made it to the start. I waited for a west-side friend with the plan to draft behind two tandem bikes. They showed up WAY late and had mechanical issues that stopped them at the first rest stop about mile 24. At that point I went on a very inadvisable ITT (individual time trial) to catch up to my Spokane friends. I caught them at mile 100, as I was pulling into the rest stop they were ready to pull out. I was completely 100% toasted and it was obvious that it was really, really stupid to go all out for 75 miles to catch up. Thankfully legendary local attorney RS, Jr was willing to slow down for me to recover a bit. I then got a serious bonk about the 150+ mile mark, which was also around the time we hit 20-30 mph headwinds/gusts. I was in a group of about 5 and was thankful for the draft each one offered as I suffered my way into town. We finished in decent time overall, but I was left feeling as if I hadn't really done it right yet.

Fourth time - This one was damn near perfect. I trained and rode with a seriously smart and good rider (Rider One). We pulled up to the start line about 15-20 minutes after the official "start" for one-day riders. As a result, we spent the whole day thinking there was a fast group ahead and we should just jump up to the next group and then ride along with those folks. We had a fast day, but the rest stop about mile 175 had food that wasn't good, energy drink mixed wrong and nothing satisfying. We headed out and stopped at a mini-mart about 5 miles later, luxuriating in the air conditioning on a warm day and watching riders go by. With a "what the hell, let's get this over" we headed back out and finished 10 hours after we rolled out of the UW start. As we rode into the finish area, a woman handed me the finish patch and medal and said "23". I said, "what?" and she said "23!". After an "excuse me?" she explained that I was the 23rd finisher, with Rider One 22nd. We realized later that we had watched about a dozen people ride by while we sat in the mini-mart. We had no idea whatsoever that we were finishing so quickly and could have hit top 10-15 easily by just riding along. We did, however, feel like we had done it "right" and I can now rest on my laurels for the next 20 years or so.

I wish well all of the 10,000 people who will line up for STP this year and don't envy the 2,300-2,500 who will ride the whole 204 miles in one-day. Probably better to split it into two days and have a bottle of wine to celebrate each one. Maybe that's how I will do it next time.
Rider Three

Friday, April 15, 2011

Makes You Appreciate the Roads Around Here

Here is a first-hand account of riding the Paris Roubaix by an amateur road racer.  Gives a good idea of what it is to ride the infamous cobblestones on a road bike.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Shop ride, bonus videos

This week's shop ride had light turnout, maybe due to the uncertain weather forecast. Two members of Gonzaga University's road-racing team dropped by, and we did the usual route until we reached the top of Doomsday Hill, at which point we headed home instead of back to Two Wheel Transit. I had my helmet cam along, so here's some video for those who like such things:

The first bonus video is mountain biking from this week's TNR (Tuesday Night Ride) with Spokane Rocket Velo, and it's a little long because it shows the whole Tour de Moon, a very rocky trail beyond Deep Creek.

The second video's from the TNR before that, where Craig hit two very large jumps while the rest of us illuminated them with our lights.

Why We Work In A Bike Shop - An Ongoing Dialogue

Truth be known, I am supposed to be working on my taxes but thought my time would be better spent with this blog entry.  When you embark on a course you seldom know how it will turn out and there are permutations that you cannot even imagine at that point - sometimes it even comes full circle.  It took a little over a year, but one event did just that.

You may recall that the shop ran a Cash for Clunkers promotion last winter where people could trade in old, but serviceable bikes, for credit toward a new bike.  The best bikes were rehabilitated and then donated to either Union Gospel Mission or Pedals 2 People - both great organizations that provide needed services to this community.  We had a great time with the event and everyone pitched-in to make sure the bikes were good to go. The generosity of people in Spokane was truly overwhelming. In all, 15 bikes went to each non-profit. It gave everyone in the shop a sense of pride to help the organizations with something we all enjoy and love. What we did not know is what happened after the bikes were donated.

I was stopped this week by a man in the shop who was looking at new Trek mountain bike.  We will call him Sam out of respect for his privacy.  He said how cool he thought the program had been and went on to describe the impact the bikes had on his life.  Though he never thought he would be there, through circumstance he found himself living at the Union Gospel Mission (UGM) and realized he needed to make some changes in his life.  He was working through the Program to get his life back on track last spring when the bikes were delivered to the Mission.

If you don't know about the Program at UGM, it takes over a year to complete and is very tough at every turn.  I have a great deal of respect for the men and women who have graduated from this Program and are now leading fulfilling and productive lives.  Because it was tough, Sam said there were times he wanted to quit, but he found fulfillment and pride in maintaining the very bikes that people had cared enough to donate.  That was enough to get him through.

The pride was evident as he went on to say that he successfully graduated from the Program and is back on his feet again.  In fact, he is giving back by continuing to help maintain the bikes at UGM so that others may benefit as he has.  His next goal is a shiny, perfect, new bike that he can call his own and looks forward to the independence a bike provides.  That is why he came into the shop this week - that is why we work in a bike shop.  Sometimes it comes full-circle.

Hats off to you and congratulations Sam.  We'll see you on the road.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Racer Wakes at Dawn

I have been waiting for this day since November of last year - Frozen Flatlands.  Last year was not one of my best for efforts. I got really sick in late April which dragged into May. The road back to fitness was full of cobbled 20% grade climbs or so it seemed.  Around this time, my wife and I began to really take advantage of being empty nesters which only enhanced the falling off fitness cliff. By the time the frickin' freezing temps of Spokane hit in November, the play time that my wife and I enjoyed came to a major slow down and I began to think ahead to the race season for next year.  Frozen Flatlands is the first major race in this area and I was going to be ready. Or so I hoped.

Let me set the stage for the event that took me through a journey of both physical and mental anguish. The day before the 6 mile time trial and a 25 mile road race 3 hours apart, I contacted Rider 3 to ask him if he wouldn't mind if I borrowed his Corima wheels for the TT. Of course he agreed. Rider 3 is a hard working, sacrificing, cycling loving SOB and he wasn't using them. The Corima wheels are heavy, aero and perfect for a flat, windy and fast time trail. I installed them onto my 2002 Hairy Gary steel frame that night. I changed the cog set that Rider 3 had on them (12-26) to my 11-23. Why, you ask? Well, while setting up the bike that night I turned off Tour of Flander 2008 on my DVD player in my bike room, as it is known in my house, and turned on the Weather Channel. Yep, pretty geeky of me huh? Well poo to you with knobs on. Well the Weather Channel was predicting10 to 20 mph winds from the southwest with rain. That means that we would be starting the TT with the teeth of the wind at our faces. Perfect, I thought.  It is an out and back TT course with the wind at our backs for the last 3 miles.  An eleven tooth cog will be a must for my gear-grinding ass.
It was hard to go to sleep that night.  Did I have everything?  Did I make the right decision on the bike and wheel selection?  Did I eat the right things? Will the fact that my wife and I enjoyed 2 bottles of wine to celebrate our marital union have an effect on me tomorrow? Well, at my TT start time of 9:04 in the morning on Saturday April 2, I was going to find out the answers to the these questions.

The alarm went off at 5:00 am. I didn't need to wake up at that time. It was just that drifting off to sleep after our celebration the previous night I had forgotten to change the time on the alarm clock from my work week time.  It should have been set for 7:00am. So.................

The rider wakes at dawn.  He puts his slippers on.  He walks down the hall and says to himself, why did I set the alarm wrong? He staggers into the kitchen and turns the lights on. He rubs his eyes to adjust to the brightness. It's only 5 in the morning, can that be right?  I can't go back to bed. I'll never be able to fall asleep either way.  I worry that at the race I'm going to feel dead.  He puts bread in the toaster and pushes down the slider.  He thinks to himself, how will I do? Can I redeem myself as a rider?  He consumes his breakfast as though it was his last. Turning on the TV and sees the weather report that says it going to be pissing rain. Oh this is going to be a blast. He gets a text from a friend. "It looks like crap weather for you," it said, "I think if I were you, I'd stay in bed."  "That's where you are wrong," he texts back. I commute year-round in this junk. I'm not going to give up because of some rain. 

Loading up his car to head to the race his heart started to pick up pace. He arrived at the start. He feels pressure in his bowels. Boy am I nervous, he thinks.  He sprints to the port-o-potty at the last minute.  He starts thinking of the efforts of his upcoming endeavor. It should be very calculated to a precise measure. The start time was very near for our man. It was 9:02, just 2 minutes to show time. The starter counts down to one. Off he went, not quite as fast as a bullet from a gun. Stay calm, stay steady. Don't panic. Chase your minute man as though he is a gorgeous Betty. Head down and hands in the drops. His feet are cold from the rain, they are soaked. This only inspires him to push harder. For he has Belgian feet, cold and wet. No one likes this, no one, he bets.  At the turn around he sees his minute man, his minute man is loosing time.  His minute man digs deep for he doesn't not want to be caught because in the cycling world that is a crime. On the way back the rider feels the wind at his back.  This is the time, this is the time to put on a full attack. He drops it into his biggest gear. The pain of effort hits him from his frozen toes to his rain soaked rear. He is getting closer to his prey. But he won't achieve his goal, not on this day. The rider wanted  to catch his minute man but to no avail.   He knew he did his best because when he crossed the line he felt like hell. Holding his head high he was proud of what he did. Whether he was first in his group or somewhere in the mid. He soft peddled to his car to get changed.  Some dry clothes for the road race were needed. 

Third place is where our man ended up.  It would have been better to catch the minute man, but third place is respectable, maybe laudable.  Either way it set the stage for the next race, which was a scant few hours away.  Twenty-five miles more to race today and fifty tomorrow.  A long day already and more to come.

Rider 2

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

ID Crisis

A few years ago our friend was injured in a cycling fall while descending Hatch Road from the south hill.  She suffered a serious head injury that required almost a year of recovery before symptoms abated.  A couple of years later our son landed a jump wrong while snowboarding and received a bad concussion when his head was whipped onto the unyielding ice downhill.

Both had several things on their side that helped keep the incidents from being catastrophic - they were both wearing appropriate helmets, they quickly received world class medical attention and they were with people who knew them and could provide information that they were unable to provide.

How many times have you found a brief window of time to get out on your bike only to find you misplaced your wallet or simply do not want to bother carrying it in a jersey pocket?  Or thought, "I am riding with others who know me and it is just a few blocks until we meet up?"  The problem is that cycling accidents can happen quickly and many involve impact to the head which leave the rider either unconscious or too dazed to provide first responders with information when time is of the essence.  At that point, the rider is simply Jane or John Doe to people trying to render aid.

For years there have been medical bracelets for diabetics or epileptics that inform emergency personnel of preexisting medical conditions that have saved countless lives. This is one of the reasons Two Wheel Transit supports Road ID.  For about $20 you can have a comfortable bracelet, dog tag, shoe pouch or anklet with laser-etched information with your name, and name and contact information of family and friends that need to be contacted in the event of emergency.  Regardless of the form factor you choose, all Road ID products are comfortable and well made products that do not interfere with daily or athletic activities.

There are many moving testimonials on the Road ID site that validate the value of having identity information on your person in the event of an accident so go online and check them out for yourself.  If you are not sure which form is right for you, stop in the shop and check-out the samples display on the front counter - we even have coupons for free shipping.

With such a great product, there is no reason to have an identity crisis.  Ride safely.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Number 2 From the Archives- A grace a Lulu (Thanks to Lulu)

This is another marvelous story from Scooter. If it wasn't true, you might not believe it.

Before beginning this story I should first acknowledge and thank those who caused the long-since buried memories to resurface. During last Thursday's Shop ride, Dismount Dave brought up a story that happened to me nearly twenty years ago. It actually happened twenty years ago last month. Though some or most of the details have been obscured by time, the foundation of the tale remains intact. It is my belief that Tailgunner, or whatever your preferred name for him may be, is responsible for Dismount's sudden recollection of a story told so long ago. If you are a dedicated Two Wheel blog reader, surely you will piece together this chain of events that all began with Stephen Roche's victory in the 1987 World Championship Road Race.

After arriving in Montataire, I had a week or so to prepare for my first race, which was a criterium put on by the club that I was riding for. The house I was to live in for the next half year was owned and inhabited by the club president and his half crazy, or maybe just French, wife Lucy, although Lulu was what she preferred to be called but only by those whose company she really enjoyed.

The day before the race, Robert (Lulu's husband) left on business for the next day's race. As soon as Robert drove away, Lulu wasted no time in inviting me into the living room to watch a cycling video. She had seen her husband hounding me for the last week about how to train, how to race, how I knew nothing about any of it, and most importantly, how he knew and had done it all. Upon entering the living room I noticed another woman, who until Dismount's retelling last Thursday, I would have left out of the story. Still, I cannot for the life of me remember who she was, or where she came from. I think she may have been a neighbor who I never saw again, but in any case she must have been in her seventies, but she had the look of someone more like her nineties. Both she and Lulu were chain smoking, and I was willing to bet that neither had ever been a bike racer, which is too bad since they were about to give me a two hour clinic on how to win a bike race.

The full version of the video that Tailgunner posted about a few weeks back was already playing. There was only about an hour left in the race where Roche would claim his World title, and I was allowed watch the video in peace. Well, in relative peace since I was inhaling a constant cloud of smoke that plagues me to this day with chronic bronchitis. The peace lasted until Roche crossed the line, but only until then. The next hour was spent with replay after replay, finger pointing, and raised voices as these two women "explained" to me everything I should know about bike racing. But couldn’t they understand that I didn’t speak French, and just give it a rest? This was humiliating, but nothing like race day would be.

I had been told to attack when ever it rained, but not by Lulu or her friend. The French hate the rain. On race day it rained and it was a criterium. The course had corners, slippery paint stripes, and railroad tracks. It was going to be wet, dangerous, and miserable, and I was pleased.

With 200 meters to go on his last lap, Christophe Letudier attacked fiercely and I clamped on his wheel and would not budge until overtaking him after the line. I watched him celebrate with his arms raised and possibly only his tippy toes remaining on the pedals. His face had an expression of euphoria, that is, until he heard the bell sound to signify one lap to go. Yes, he had celebrated one lap too early.

I quickly let eight to ten riders overtake me, but no more than that. With four to five hundred meters to go I jumped with all I had. I hopped the railroad tracks, risked it all through two more corners and sprinted across the line, never daring to raise hands in victory after what happened to Letudier. On the cool down lap I had two great concerns, stay fifty meters ahead of everyone until crossing the line again just in case, and how was I going to face Lulu when she claimed the win for herself since she had taught me how to do all that the day before.

Facing her was the single most pride swallowing, humbling, and humiliating event I had experienced up to that point in my eighteen years of life. But then again the choice was easy, I had to endure, I relied on her for food, and I was famished.
Scooter McSpadden

Friday, April 8, 2011

Weekly Shop Ride Report 4/7/11

About 20 or so hearty souls showed for the second shop ride of the year this evening. The ride conditions were surprisingly dry though the temperature dropped continuously throughout the ride. We even had a couple of triathletes on tri bikes come blowing-in late and then disrupt the flow of the ride with all of their aero antics, but they were reasonably well tolerated by the peloton.

Interestingly enough, the roads were wet just as we turned-off of Government Way and must have just missed some significant precipitation. Though there were quite a few rooster tails and back-stripes there were no complaints from the group. Tom stopped to render pneumatic assistance to JS who was then kind enough not to completely demoralize us the remainder of the ride.

The final regrouping point was the top of Doomsday Hill before the final roll back to the shop. Thankfully, Tomás had stayed behind to attend to a couple of final customers and ensure that hot pizza would arrive shortly. There was still plenty of light when we returned which served to reveal almost universal smiles as the group dismounted and visited.

Thanks to everyone who attended and to Team Two Wheel members Lynn, Gage, Paul, Tom, Scott and Taylor. The team is very attentive and does a great job of ensuring everyone has someone to ride with. Hope to see everyone back next week.

mechBgon adds: here's some video from the ride. And tangentially, check out the resource usage involved in high-def video editing (pic below)... it's not a coincidence that my home computer is packing 16GB of RAM and one of the latest quad-core processors (Core i5 Sandy Bridge with 3.7GHz turbo mode).

yikes... that's right, 11GB of memory in use!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Shop Ride Tonight at 5:30 with Pizza Afterward

Free Pizza! Shop ride tonight at 5:30pm.  Road ride, no drop recovery pace.  Meet at the shop ready to ride.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Funkiest Bike Tights Known to Man

On a recent ride, somehow the conversation turned to old cycling clothes and the subject of TP's and Scooter's crazy funny tights came up. The pictures don't do them justice, but here is the story.

When Scooter and I were junior racers we had some crazy tights and I've been asked to do a blog post about them. Hopefully you can tell by the picture what they looked like. The picture is me and the tights [Ed. Note - Racing in Volunteer Park about 1988]. If you can't tell, are black with turquoise polka dots. Hopefully Scooter can come up with a better picture of his because they make mine look normal.

Here are the facts. .

Fact. We rode during the winter.

Fact. We had a need for tights.

Fact. There wasn't a lot in the way of funds to buy cycling gear for Scooter and me when we were younger.

Fact. My dad was handy with a needle and thread.

Fact. We were urged to choose the material for our tights out of the misfit-bastard-discount-bin at the fabric store.

Fact. I choose the closest thing I could find to all black tights.

Fact. Scooter wasn't so lucky.

Fact. I still thought they were awesome even though some others didn't at the time. [Ed. Note - We think they are awesome NOW, but for all the wrong reasons.]

Fact. Scooter still raced with his into his pro-circuit racing days.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Quick 24 Hour Course Update

Was able to get out and ride the 24 hour course today and learned the sad state of my fitness level after the long winter.  The good news is that all snow is gone and the course is actually tacky without being muddy.  Some of the big holes in the fire roads are still full of water, but that is pretty normal.

Another area called Little Vietnam for its jungle-like appearance is completely underwater for further than I wished to portage my bike.  Judging from the rate of water flow we may have newly exposed rocks to contend with in addition to new terrain features when it drains.  But at any rate it should be a long time before it is able to be ridden.

Maybe it is lack of practice, but it appears that Devil's Up and Devil's Down have eroded more this winter to make them rockier and more technical (which is to justify my crash over the left embankment when I stalled at the top of Devil's Up).  The Rock Gardens appear rockier if that is possible.

Regardless of new challenges or old ones rediscovered it was great to be outside riding and bouncing through Riverside Park.

This Stuff Really Works

Hammer Nutrition makes great products but admits that not all work for everyone.  They have been making Endurolytes capsules for a long time to replace lost electrolytes during heavy endurance events.  Being someone who suffers from cramps after or during hard rides I have always appreciated how well the caps work in preventing or alleviating them.  The issue for me has always been remembering to take them in addition to drinking plenty of fluids.

This issue has been solved with the introduction of Endurolyte Fizz.

Now in tablet form they come in a tube in flavors like mango, and grapefruit and fizz like Alka-seltzer when dropped into water.  They do not contain any carbs and are very light tasting. Once in the bottle, the athlete gets a dose of buffered electrolytes with each sip so you do not need to remember when you last took a capsule.

Since I tend to cramp-up more mountain biking than on the road, I have been testing them this spring with good results.  At $6.50 per tube, they run you about $.50 per serving which is about 1/2 the price of a gel pack.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Just Amazing Customer Service

The Frozen Flatlands will hold many stories this morning. Triumph, tragedy, endurance, perseverance, determination, resignation and hopefully no word of Uncle Larry crashing into another dog. But in order to get to the start line, a racer has to have a few things, and most specifically, a bike and helmet.

There is rumor floating around of Two Wheel Transit's amazing mechanic, Tom McFadden, of helping one racer being sure to get to the course with a bike intact and it is undoubtedly a story of triumph and remarkable customer (and even non-regular customer) service.

So the story I got wind of went something like this . . .

A Seattle racer came into town at least a day early to have time to ride the course. During this ride her right-side Campagnolo shifter blew up. Well, maybe not literally blew up, but I did hear that it was literally ejecting parts. Anyone with even a small amount of mechanical knowledge will know immediately that this is not a good sign and apparently this racer recognized it as such.

Not sure what to do, and not knowing of any of the bike shops around town, she got a hold of a former Two Wheel Transit mechanic named Willie. Anyone familiar with the shop will know who Willie is and will join me in being sorry that he decided that this side of the state was too dry and headed to Seattle. If he had known about the rainfall coming this year, maybe we could have kept him over here, but in any case I digress. So said Seattle racer gets in touch with Willie late Friday night to seek assistance after all the local shops are closed.

As a last ditch attempt to get help, Willie sends an urgent email to Tom to see if he can help. Tom, being Tom, is heading to bed about about midnight after a long week at work and training and decides to check email before going to sleep. Maybe not so good for Tom, but excellent for the shifter-less Seattle racer. Seeing Willie's e-mail and being the kind of guy Tom is, he responds and gets an e-mail contact for the Seattle racer. Betwixt and between, Tom get enough information via email to diagnose the issue (side note - Is there a current Campy service release for exploding shifters?) and agrees to meet the racer at Two Wheel Transit. Tom, being Tom and not having a car, rides his bike across town at 12:30 am and proceeds to rebuild the shifter at the shop.

This alone is extraordinary for approximately nine reasons, but then in what has to be the best deal ever received on emergency midnight bike mechanicing, Tom charges her the normal shop rate and gives her a bill for $37. Having done his work and having sent the slightly less distressed but undoubtedly tired racer on her way, Tom closed up the shop, rode his bike back across town and went back to bed.

The next morning, however, shop owner Geoff shows up at work to find a transaction on the cash register after he closed up the shop the night before, which was puzzling until he then also received an e-mail of thanks from the previously frantic racer explaining the situation and expressing her gratitude for the midnight mechanic.

I, personally, don't know who the woman was, or how her race turned out. What I do know is that we are lucky to have a guy like Tom hanging around the basement of Two Wheel Transit doing highly competent and thoughtful work and also being the kind of guy who meets someone at the shop at midnight to save her weekend of racing. Having had Tom save one race for me literally in the middle of the race, I know this isn't a one-off deal for the guy. And while he dislikes recognition as much as I dislike seeing my picture on the internet, once in a while you just have to accept the well-deserved accolades.

Tom - All of us salute you!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Part 4 of Bill Gets A New Bike

Bill's Elephant bicycle frame has been expertly crafted by Glen and delivered back from the powder coating.  Though the frame is complete, the bike is far from finished as Bill rides, experiments, switches parts, rinse - repeat.

In its first week, the Elephant made a trip up Sagewood in the hail, and down Hatch in the freezing fog, covering familiar loops and new territory with various tires, wheel sets and 3 different saddles. I’ve logged about 150 miles on it and so far I couldn’t be happier.

It never ceases to amaze me how switching out bits and pieces and making little tweaks can make a bike feel so different. 

In terms of components, the bike is set up with Ultegra shifters, 105 derailleurs, Ultegra triple crank and a 12-25 10speed cassette, Nitto Randonneur bars, FSA headset with integrated cable guide, and Origin 8 cantilever brakes. I can swap out wheel sets with the Trek - this way I have access to both the 20 spoke front & 24 spoke rear that came stock on the Trek, and the more sturdy 32 spoke wheels I had Two Wheel build up last year. As a general rule I’m not a particularly flashy guy, but I do have a professed weakness for the classic look of a black bike with cream tires, so I popped for some white Paselas, figuring the 28mm width would be a nice tire for a wide variety of surfaces.

The very first place I headed with the Elephant was to do the Hangman Valley loop with a little extra climbing. Heading down Hatch Rd., I was impressed with how comfortable I felt taking a hand off the bars to signal for the left onto Hangman. It was a cold day with a bit of rain, hail, and wind so I kept a pretty mellow pace through the valley.  The route from the bottom of Hangman, up Baltimore, across the Palouse, and up to the top of Sagewood gives you a sample of long grinders and then some seriously steep road. I know these routes so well it seemed like a good first test. The bike climbed fine, but to be honest, no real fireworks. I was going to need to withhold judgment as I had put in a long day on the bike the day before and my legs were far from fresh; I’m used to climbing on a 38t front ring and this set-up has a 39, plus there was a headwind on Sagewood and it was hailing most of the way.

Over the next few days and rides I swapped out saddles, repositioned bars and hoods, and installed a set of seriously ugly fenders for the sake of practicality.

Although I didn’t really have the budget for it, I picked up a Bontrager Evoke saddle for my wide sit-boned butt. I have an inForm RXL on my Trek and love it. For whatever reasons most other saddles I have tried make my hips hurt. I had picked up a Brooks earlier on this winter, thinking it would end up on this bike, but I just can’t seem to get comfortable on it.

For my next run at Sagewood, I swapped the white Paselas for my lighter wheel set with 25mm UltraGatorskins. Faster tires and fresher legs put to rest any concerns I had about it being a fun bike to climb on.

My main motivation for the Elephant was to be able to spend more time on gravel and dirt. So a 50+mile trek was planned that involved some long stretches on gravel roads. I wanted to see how the bike would be with some wide tires, so I swapped out the 28mm whites for a set of 36mm Paselas. Even with these fat tires it still has tons of clearance. I immediately knew I had found my go-to set up for the bike. I preferred these tires to the 28’s in every aspect and although I will throw the Ultra Gatorskins on for long paved rides, the 36’s rule on gravel and generally crappy road surfaces.

A friend took me out north up to Lehman Rd., a nice longish paved climb and then eventually to Temple road, which consists of a gravel climb that just seems to keep going and going. Despite the rain (which turned to snow by the time we reached the top), it was a great ride. I had no problem finding my rhythm in and out of the saddle, on both the paved and the gravel. With some bikes it feels like I am pulling the bike up the hill, or it is only comfortable if standing or sitting; I am always aware of the bike’s presence. I like it when I can just concentrate on my breathing, my legs, and what is going on around me. I like it when the bike “disappears”. 

Heading back home via Newman Lake, the bike was fun to ride on the rolling hills and easy to keep at pace on the flats of the Centennial Trail. My next big challenge is to get comfortable on some of the more technical non-paved descents.

The only less than stellar part of the bike is some of the powder coating looks a little thick in places. I’m sure this would bother some, but luckily I’m not one of them.
This is how Bill looks when he is happy.

Obviously I’m happy with my bike, and will heartily endorse Glen and Elelphant Bikes whenever I get the chance. Now, the only question is what type of bike do I need next? 

Friday, April 1, 2011

A great start to our weekly shop rides

I assembled a few video snips from our first shop ride of the year. As we mentioned previously, there's going to be free pizza after the first shop ride of each month, which means next Thursday! Bring your friends!

For a first ride, that was a good turnout. Check out those sharp kits on the Gonzaga Cycling team (we have some Gonzaga jerseys for sale too, I believe).