Friday, July 29, 2011

Now I Get It

I am for sure a novice mountain bike rider. The last time I did some real mountain biking was back before there were tracks for mountain bikes and before there was even front suspension. Then most of the riding was dirt roads and no big thrill. I think that speaks for itself as to what I thought about the thrill of mountain biking. A big grind to get uphill for a brief thrill. I didn't get it. Earlier in July, I was at a medical conference at the Sleeping Lady Resort in Leavenworth and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to try some mountain biking and learn why so many people are so excited about it.

Once in Leavenworth, I asked around. At Das Rad Haus, the mountain bike shop for Leavenworth, they mentioned Freund Canyon, as did a couple others that I asked. It seemed easy to get to, just a mile or so out of town, so off I went. Starting in town, meant going uphill, (Duh! It's called mountain biking) I obeyed the sign pointing me to the right for the uphill.

It was slow going. In fact, I was going slow enough that I fell over 3 times. Twice I dropped a wheel into the gully in the middle of the double track, which brought me to a standstill and once was my fault as I spun out my back wheel when I stood to pedal. At multiple times on this, I wondered about the wisdom of my route choice and the allure of mountain biking in general. 

I did not know this trail at all, but had read  it was a loop.  After climbing for what seemed like forever and always away from town, I was beginning to wonder if I had somehow gotten off the track. I continued to see tire tracks, so continued on. Finally the trail switched back, but did not start to go down.

Oddly enough I heard a motorcycle close by and shortly two motorcycles passed me. At least I knew I was on the right path.

Finally, I was clearly topping out. Then came the downhill single track run for 4 ½ miles. What a hoot.

Now I Get It. No crashes and I am sure almost anyone could have done it faster, but Now I Get It! No air for me, although there were clearly some ramps that had been used by others.

Even some water hazards. It is a lot steeper gulley than it looks in the photo and I was not sure how to navigate this. I ended up walking my bike across (chicken) though I am sure there are riders that would bunny hop it without a thought.
And some spots to just let the bike run.  I forgot to check the max speed when I finished, but anything down a tight single track can seem pretty fast.

And some nice views. I knew I would like that part, the peace of being off road and up in the hills. Someday I would like to do a back country multi day trip. But I was totally surprised at my reaction to the downhill. Now I get it.

Owner 1

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

A Trip to the Hardware Store

Each person who rides has their personal inventory of reasons to get out on a bike.  Depending on the day, these include: exercise, transportation, community, enjoying the outdoors, competition and recreation.  For one particular rider it appears to be like a trip to the hardware store.

On a recent ride we were returning home on Highway 195 and I hear him exclaim "Oh!" behind me and come to a stop.  My mind is reeling with possibilities as I stop to see what happened.  Did he flat, or cramp, or get a critter in his spokes?  What would cause a cyclists to suddenly abandon forward momentum in a headwind?

As I rolled back to his position I saw him examining something as if he were a Spandex-clad Indiana Jones with a valuable ancient artifact. There he was with a huge smile on his face and what appeared to be a large metal hook.  He was mumbling incoherently about how this would be perfect for his pickup or tractor or something as he eyed his new prize.

If you have spent much time on the area roads you may have noticed that they are littered with all sorts of things from glass to car engines and tools.  This guy is a professional at a well-respected financial institution who uses his bike rides for a hardware scavenger hunt.  I can only imagine the list of desirable items he has scrolling through his head on each bike ride.  It probably ranges from 12mm sockets to a Flux Capacitor. He was raised on a farm so I guess he knows what to do with all  the tools and implements the rest of us routinely dodge while riding.  Me, I have enough old parts and things I never use in my garage.

I have occasionally read about this type of behavior in the Cycling Spokane blog, but never witnessed it in person.  Apparently it helps keep the roads clean and reduces their carbon footprint by recycling.  The item in question easily weighed more than this person's bike so I was even more amazed when he stuffed it into his jersey pocket and remounted his bike. Then he spun away with his jersey stretched to the point of just barely clearing his rear tire.

The good news is the extra weight allowed me to quickly catch back up and match his pace for the remainder of the ride.  I have a new strategy for riding with him now.  I will litter the road with shiny tools and parts before riding with him on days when I am feeling a bit sluggish and get a secret rest stop each time he stops to examine a new artifact.  Eventually, he will have so much extra weight in his pockets that even I will be able to match his pace.  Sometimes smart is better than fit when it comes to cycling.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Birthday Wrap Up

For a lot of blogs this week that focus on cycling, they will be doing a Tour de France wrap up, but why would we want to be following the crowd? No, instead, let's do a wrap up on my personal birthday.

My day started . . .

No, I'm not really going to re-cap my day, but something did strike me as I was unwrapping presents. It turns out that I am a serious cycling fan. Maybe a deranged or unhinged fan. Here are a couple of items that were in my birthday present collection.

A new bike seat - yes, I had a fair hand in getting this present, in that I specified the specific thing I wanted and then begged for it, but I was still unreasonably happy to pull it out of a gift bag.

A check - yes, I got a check from thoughtful relatives and upon seeing it, I immediately considered what cycling item I could buy or what bigger project this particular check should contribute to in the future. It never occurred to me that I should do anything else with this money. After all, I'm sure my kids will get scholarships and my home repairs will fix themselves if I just wait long enough.

It's All About the Bike - A book about building up a custom bike and apparently refuting that other's guy's book suggesting it is not all about the bike.

David Millar's new book, Racing Through the Dark - Not available yet in the US, my thoughtful and wonderful wife ordered this from the UK so that I could enjoy as soon as possible. I was hungry for this book. I was thirsty for this book. I wanted to read this book so much I could taste it. Okay, maybe I'm just hungry, but I really really wanted this book and it is very nice to have a spouse that supports this need by spending as much on postage as the book to get it for me.

Clothes - I also got some clothes, but it does make me wonder if I can return them for cash so I buy some more cycling stuff . . .

I see a theme here. I used to think that I just "liked" cycling, but I think I may have moved past that point. It may be a sickness or an obsession, but like most addicts, I'm fine with it. I ain't going to rehab yet, not matter what happened to a specific chanteuse.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Speaking of New Views

Anyone who has been on a Thursday night ride with the shop knows it is typically the same route, but with different people and speeds each week.  Even though it is the same route, it is never the same ride and never gets boring.  Regardless, it is sometimes good to have a venue change just to mix it up a bit.

We have never done a remote start shop ride, but want to try one on August 4th from a cool location and ride one of Spokane's signature rides.  We hope it works, but need everyone's help to make it a success and spread the word.

Famous Ed's is a very cool neighborhood bar and restaurant that also serves David's pizza.  It is located at 2911 E 57th Avenue and will provide a great starting and stopping point to ride the Hangman Valley loop that evening.  The start time will be 6pm (for this ride only) to allow everyone to get up there and ready to ride.

All other Thursday rides will continue to leave from the shop at 5:30pm.

After riding the loop in reverse we will gather again at Famous Ed's to recover with some pizza and your favorite beverage.  The owners even said we can bring our bikes inside if we like.

As always, this is a no drop ride at recovery pace and we will regroup at the bottom of Hatch, top of Baltimore and whichever route we take to get back up the south hill.  

We hope to see you there.  Please help spread the word by letting your riding pals know about this ride.

Friday, July 22, 2011

A New View

Hey Subaru, thanks for yielding to oncoming traffic....

In case you have not noticed, there is a significant amount of road construction underway throughout Spokane this summer.  It disrupts routes, affects businesses and makes our life seem miserable as we try to get to where we are going.  From our perspective, most of it is badly needed repair and upgrades to existing roads.

None of us really likes it, but we all endure the hardship for the common good.  An unexpected benefit comes from the necessity to change our routes whether it is on the morning ride or during commutes.  One such change became necessary as a result of Phase II of the work on South Grand recently.  

I had to find a new route to get to 33rd during my morning ride up the south hill and back and settled on a circuitous path around Hart Field and onto Manito.  The change in my ride was not huge, but the modification was enough that it caused me to notice different houses, yards, landscaping and people enjoying their morning.    It also altered the rhythm of my ride slightly to avoid some of the boredom that can come from riding the same route day after day.

Just like I vowed to ride without the bike computer occasionally in Joy Ride, I am also committing to altering my routine to include different parts of the route on a whim just to see what I can see.  Who knows what I may find.

See you on the road.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Cycling is the New Golf - No, Really

Golf has long been viewed as a place to entertain associates, a way to recreate and seal business deals with customers.  It also has its own rules and nuances that seem foreign to newcomers and outsiders.  We believe that cycling has now achieved the same status as golf when it comes to bringing people together for various reasons.

Like golf, cycling together let's you wear brightly colored clothing that may not be viewed as welcome in other settings.  A lot of money is raised for deserving charities through golf tournaments and organized bike rides.  Of course neither is fully appreciated when viewed on television by non-participating friends, spouses or teens.

These days you hear more business people who plan bike rides with clients and associates to create a closer bond and opportunities to discuss business in a more relaxed atmosphere.  There are even phrases that are correlated between the sports.  Here are just a few:

In golf you play through - in cycling you say "on your left" as you pass a slower rider.   Or what is your handicap compared to what is your gearing?   Fore is replaced with car-back to warn of an approaching motorized vehicle.

Golfers have been known to stop for a beer or two after a round on the links which is also true for cyclists -think Famous Eds, the Elk or the Flying Goat.

In our opinion there are many things that make cycling better than golf.  You do not have to make a tee time, you can start and finish just about anywhere, you get real exercise, you do not typically lose as many balls and you do not have to worry about a foursome.

We are sure that now that this theory has been put out there that more similarities and examples will come to mind so stay tuned for a future update.  Now, if the requisite golf tournament for high school reunions could just be replaced with a 50 mile group bike ride.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Shop Ride Tonight at 5:30

The weather looks good with highs in the mid-70s.  Come out and ride at a recovery pace for this no-drop ride. Leaves the shop at 5:30 pm and returns at around 7:00.

See you there.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Well, It Finally Happened

Winter would not let go this year and spring was wet and wimpy.  Even the first day of Bike to Work Week was monsoon-like.  With such poor weather leading into summer you would think that riders would be frantic to spend as much time on the road as possible.  Yes, you would think.

A very dear customer was in last week and we discussed their new bike and whether they had been out on it yet.   No they said, the prior two weeks were too wet to ride.  I asked about the following week to which they uttered the words I thought I would never hear this year - "It's been too hot to ride outside this week."

It was as if all conversation in the shop stopped and all heads turned in the direction of the unthinkable phrase.  Time seemed to stand still and the magnitude of the words sunk in.  I asked for a clarification and received the same response.  Slowly the shock abated and conversation began again, though in more muted tones.

Usually, riders start altering their riding times when the highs hit somewhere in the mid 90's, but that just means they go earlier in the day.  If memory serves me, it has only reached 90 once this year so it seems far from too hot to ride.

I am going to get out every day there is not ice on the road even if it is for a spin around the neighborhood.  If it is too hot, then that means a ride to the Scoop to cool off.

See you on the road.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Di2 Update

One of the burdens of shop ownership is that of R&D - sometimes you must be the guinea pig for the sake of the business.  This is a very new role for me since historically, by the time I adopted new technology it was not new anymore.  Seriously, I did not have the new fangled index shifting on a road bike until some 21 years after it had been introduced.  That's how far behind the curve I have traditionally been.

Two Wheel Transit applied with Shimano to be a Di2 Electronic Shifting Demo Center.  This meant we needed to have a suitably equipped bike for the purpose so I volunteered my 6 Series Trek Madone.  The system has been installed on the bike for almost 4 months and has proven itself to be reliable, accurate, quick and solid.  As a matter of fact the battery just  indicated that it was down to 50% which is proving to be better charge life than advertised by Shimano.  The other cool thing is that there is nothing that goes out of adjustment with normal use - no more shifting adjustments or tuneups.  My only complaint has to do with my clumsiness when stopping occasionally I initiate an unintentional shift that makes starting again a little more difficult until the shift completes.

I am going out on a limb and predicting that electronic shifting will be on the majority of road bikes sold 3 years from now.  The introduction of Ultegra level electronic shifting is a precursor of things to come.  Next will be mountain bikes and the XTR system.  Time will tell if I am right.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Shop Ride Tonight at 5:30 with Pizza Afterward

The weather looks to be warm and clear tonight for the 1st pizza ride of the month.  This no-drop ride will leave from the shop at about 5:30 pm and return after riding to 7 mile bridge to hot pizza.  Ride and pizza are free, so feel free to join the fun.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Andy Schleck's Madone 6.9

Bike Radar did a nice job of profiling Andy's 6.9 Madone with Shimano Di2 in time for the tour.  The Schleck paint theme is currently available as an option through Trek Project One.  They even offer the 140 mm stem that Andy prefers. Enjoy.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Cycling and Navel-Gazing

Yesterday as I started my commute home, I rounded the corner and was hit with a hellacious headwind. I hadn’t been paying attention from the climate controlled environment in my office and I was unprepared for it. Not usually being daunted by the wind, I just put my head a bit lower and starting pumping. At some point I usually find an equilibrium where a bit of increased power to the pedals overcomes the headwind and progress continues steadily. Yesterday, however, the wind was stronger than I thought and it was very effectively catching my swollen panniers, acting as a perfect drag on my efforts. Unwisely, perhaps, I just amped up the wattage a bit and tried to keep going at the same speed. I was only able to keep this up for a handful of blocks when I realized that starting an effort like that 30 seconds into my ride was unwise and further, no matter how undaunted I was hoping my courage would be, that wind was a serious and unrelenting force. Quickly I was forced to give up. I stopped pedaling, huffed and puffed a few big breaths and hung my head down in exhaustion. As my eyes re-focused, I realized I was gazing at my own navel.
Now, navel-gazing got a bad rap in the 70’s as legions of middle-aged men decided to abandon wives, jobs, mortgages and commitments to “find” themselves, which reportedly involved a great deal of navel-gazing. Of course, these guys weren't literally staring at their navels, they were getting high and driving red sports cars while trying to pretend they weren’t getting any older. They were actually getting older, although they certainly weren’t getting any wiser, but that was initially besides the point. Somewhere along the way, however, all that short-term fun with convertibles and blondes had to give way to the unrelenting reality of settling paunch and rising hairlines. From there, it was a quick re-direction from recreational drug use to meditation, EST and the aforementioned navel-gazing.
If they had actually taken the time to really focus on their navels, it is possible they would have been struck by the awesome process of life, from creation to birth, to the severing of the umbilical cord leading to that very belly button, and from there in an inescapable journey from toddling infancy to adulthood to the inevitable decline as their bodies broke down. They might have taken the time to reflect upon that journey and the community of family and friends that makes that process possible and worthwhile. They might have come to realizations about meanings and purposes of not only their lives, but all of the lives around them. Or instead, they might have decided that navel-gazing was less fun than riding around in that convertible. I don’t really know. I wasn’t there.
What I do know is that none of that went through my mind as I gazed at my navel and caught my breath. Instead, I realized that my own navel was inappropriately cushioned by excess poundage that was not helping my pedal my bike. That staring at my navel was dangerous and stupid while I was rolling down a busy city street with high winds. So instead of any more navel-gazing, I just started pedaling again and made my home in that hellacious wind.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wednesday-night XC race 7 of 7

That was the last race of this year's XC series at Riverside State Park. The course was short, relatively flat, and mostly dry and sketchy for cornering. I had a tough field to race against and came up 5th this time.

Next project: do longer rides to get ready for the Midnight Century, and hopefully lose ~5 pounds in the process. Who else has the Midnight Century on their radar this year?