Friday, January 27, 2012

Spinning Spokes and Telling Jokes

One of the challenges of riding on the trainer is finding entertaining video or movies to help with the boredom of riding in the same spot for more than a minute.  That was the case today as I searched through Netflix looking for the right mix of action without requiring too much effort of thought to follow the plot.

Nothing really jumped out at me until I got to the documentary section and saw a bikey looking title - To Live & Ride In LA.  Oooh, bikey and only 55 minutes long - just about right.  Hmm, what is it about?  The description read:

For fixed-gear cyclists, Los Angeles is a city that has it all. From the neon glow of Hollywood to the sun-drenched boardwalk of Venice Beach, fixed-gear has evolved into a vibrant street culture that is uniquely L.A.

From director David Rowe (Fast Friday) comes a new documentary feature that explores a side of L.A. few outsiders have seen. From races through rush-hour traffic to midnight loft parties, To Live & Ride in L.A. is a fast paced-trip through the busy streets and back-alleys of one of the world's largest cities.

Ok, I was hooked.  The movie depicted an eclectic group of fixed-gear riders as diverse in style as the bikes they ride.  Most have edgy street names like Roadblock, Tracko and Mr. Quick. The sound track was rough with a bunch of artists and songs I had never heard of and the 1st half was mostly glory shots of each rider on his bike doing tricks.  Pretty artsy, but it grew old pretty fast.

But when they all started hanging out and "spinning spokes and telling jokes" as one rider put it, you see how much we are all alike on bikes, regardless of what we ride.  We are all about being on the bike and enjoying that bond.  Some are just more tattooed and pierced than others.

I would have liked to know more about each rider personally and stuff about their background and why they chose the bike they currently ride, but that is me.  The second part of the movie was about these series of underground races that occur throughout the city and mostly at night.  The night series were mostly fixie criterium races designed to keep the action lively while dodging live traffic and running red lights.  Did I mention that they do not race on a closed course, but are mixing it up with cars while racing at night?

Sounds like an FBC ride without all the "pit stops".  The grand finale is the All City Race in late June which is a 30 mile point to point race with no defined route - just a start and a finish.  Each 5 person team chooses their preferred route - sort of like trying to pick the fastest checkout line at Costco.

The race begins, and immediately they are running red lights and picking their route of choice.  Apparently things like obeying the law and riding WITH traffic are frowned-upon in the below video and we do not condone such reckless riding.

The favored team is called Wolfpack Hustle, which I think would shrivel-up and die if they had to ride in some of the conditions we ride in on a regular basis.  I won't ruin the ending for you, but the All City Race and post beach party is worth the wait and made the trainer session almost bearable.

So here is my thought - I think that Spokane has some seriously legit fixed gear riders that could hold their own in the LA All City Race.  They would be at a disadvantage with respect to route selection and navigation, but if they tucked-in behind a group that knew what they are doing they would make us proud.  I bet we could come-up with Spokane specific street names like Pothole or Mr. Slushy - you get the idea.

Really, this is a matter of pride for the Spokane bike community.  If we all come together, we can each donate a little money to fly our fixie team down there, feed them Taco Bell for a few days and let them race for the honor of our City.  We could even send them down with a GoPro or two and they make a documentary of their experience to bring back for a big party and movie for the entire community to enjoy.

There is the challenge.  We have until June to make this happen - who is in?  Two Wheel Transit is ready to help.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Complete Streets or Total Sheets?

The new challenges of winter riding seem appear every other day this month.

After our big snow last week the street department dumps a lot of deice and sand on the street.  Then they plow it all to the side of the road.  

This would be fine if the temperature stayed above freezing but we are in a freeze-thaw cycle right now.  The deice keeps deicing and the water flows back toward the street and refreezes into sheets of ice.

This is a shot looking back (west) on 57th Avenue this morning.  If you look hard you can see sheets of ice that formed between intersections.  

Below is the same principle, but it made small icy sections about 6 feet apart with a slight side slope toward the road.  You can often dodge the big sheets in the bike lane, but these little gems are hard to get around.  The studded Winter Marathon tires just buzzed confidently across all of these this morning.  I have just over 480 miles on them since putting them on in early December and they are not showing much wear - I expect they will last a few years at this rate.

On the bright side, it was not a slushy mess that cars could spray up on me as they blew on by.

See you on the road.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

More Road Riding in January

I had to face the fact that winter is really here this morning.  I thought it would be fun to do 15 or so miles on the road today with the Studded Superfly.  The conditions were snow, on top of ice, with more snow then frozen rain.  This made the tires want to sink in the deeper stuff ( with occasional wandering) and slide on the slightly compact stuff.  The compact snow wanted to keep sliding over the ice which made for some circus-like balancing at some points. 

I also noticed how far drivers creep to the inside of curves when I saw how far the wheel ruts intruded over the white fog line and line designating a bike lane.  One driver buzzed me pretty good even though I was 3 feet from the fog line because that is where the car tracks went. 

The best traction was in the bike lane on 57th Ave. since it was mostly just ice.  Once I got to the bottom of Hatch, I was rewarded with light traffic and a reasonably good riding surface.  The best reward was the view and feeling like I was out cross-country skiing in the country.

Probably not the best choice to go out this morning, but slowing down and enjoying the fact that I was out on a bike made it workable.

See you on the road.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Road Riding in January

A recent survey of the blogs and Facebook posts of cyclists in the area indicates some long rides complete with GPS tracking and profiles as well as some 3 1/2 hour rides elsewhere.  The roads are in pretty good shape and combined with a high temperature in the 40F range made for some good early season road riding yesterday.

I was faced with the choice of going for a long ride somewhere on the Palouse or riding about 30 miles and still having time to go see a new action flick with my teenage son.  As I planned my long ride the lyrics of Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin started assaulting my brain.

I expected that the roads were in suitable shape to get the Madone (Dress Bike) out and remember what it feels like to be on a thoroughbred cruising the roads on the Palouse.

The roads were in good shape in contrast to my body.  Despite my suspicions about my condition, the Madone makes me want to ride it the same way I did a few months ago.  Charging up hill and trying to maintain a reasonably good average pace.  This is all fine and good until about 3/4 of the way through the ride when my body revolts and my brain started asking me 'what were you thinking?'

There was a good bit of sand on the Valley Chapel Grade and some frost on one of the bridges but no issues on the rest of the road.  Latah Creek even had some ice on the surface which you can barely make-out in this photo.

Looks like we may be back on studs and snow this week so the ride on Saturday was a nice preview of the upcoming season.  If you are looking for something to do while we wait-out the upcoming snow - go see Contraband - it is a typical action movie formula, but good fun nonetheless. Cats in the cradle and the silver spoon, little boy blue and the man on the moon.......

See you on the Road.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tangentially Related to Bikes

Despite the absence of snow on the ground, cold weather has arrived in the great inland empire.  Studs or not temperatures below 20F tend to send me inside for a few days.  I do not particularly enjoy the trainer so it just makes me more grateful when I can get back outside again.

To make matters worse, I got fed-up with paying Direct TV over $1,000 per year for the 3 or 4 channels that I actually watched.  Now we get about 8 or 9 channels with an HD antenna.  I am forced to watch infomercials on the benefits of a 12 day cleanse program while riding the bike on the trainer.

I have tried reading books on the bike, but the pages never stayed open and I got sweat on them when I tried to hold them open or turn to another page.  Also, in most cases the print was too small and made my eyes hurt.  Fortunately, my wife got a Kindle for Christmas and it helps overcome some of the aforementioned challenges.  

I am not a paid reviewer but have a few observations after a few days of Kindling on the bike.  The Kindle overcomes many of the shortcomings of books.  It is much thinner and always stays on the page you are reading until you tap the screen which takes you to the next page.  The screen is glare-free so you can read in a variety of lighting conditions.  It also does not seem to mind a little sweat which only causes problems if you don't wipe it off before returning it to your wife. 

I really like the fact that it let's the user customize the font size which makes it easier to read when your head is bobbing on the bike.  The public library has thousands of titles that can be downloaded over WIFI connections.  When the checkout period is up the book automatically times-out on the reader.  What we save in past due charges alone will more than pay for the new device.  

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Miles for Miles Sake

Regular readers may recall that the final weeks of December were dedicated to trying to reach a couple of mileage milestones.  One was for the year and the other cumulative miles.  The annual goal is a recurring objective of riding 5,000 miles while the total was to hit 30,000 riding miles since April 2006.  The push began earlier in December when I realized I was tantalizingly close to achieving both in 2011.

To do so was going to require riding almost every day for about 2 weeks, regardless of weather, time commitments, illness, injury or anything else that would prevent me from riding.  The riding for the year was distributed across 3 bikes:  a 2005 Klein Reve, a 2010 Gary Fisher Superfly and a 2010 Trek Madone 6 with Shimano Dura Ace Di2.  The Klein served as a worthy aluminum road bike when the road was too gritty or wet for me to ride the Madone.  The Superfly was the off-road bike for the HD Bluff or Riverside State Park.  It also became THE road bike with skinny tires and studded tires as the roads got worse with winter.

Getting those final miles turned-out to be more of a challenge than I bargained for since the time and effort to pedal a mile on a mountain bike with heavy studded tires are significantly greater than a road bike.  The vast majority of miles I had accumulated this year were on the road bike at 18-20 mph as opposed to 12 mph on the Superfly.   Regardless, I still hold to the tenet that a mile ridden is counted as such whether it is ridden on the road, dirt or trainer - the only difference is that of time which tends to average-out.

Here are some of the riding stats in the quest for these milestones:

Total number of times on a bike: 251
Reve Miles - 141
Madone Miles - 2964
Superfly Miles - 1908
Average Ride - 20.13miles
Longest Ride - 58 miles
Number of Round-Trip Commutes - way too low

Both mileage goals came down to the wire and could have been easily derailed.  I hit the 30,000 cumulative mile mark on December 28th on the Superfly about a mile from home at the end of a ride.  The 5,000 mile annual goal was officially achieved on the outbound leg of a 13 mile ride on December 31st.  I say officially, because it seemed I had hit it by riding 22.0 miles on the trainer the day before 5,000 miles exactly.  Then it occurred to me that Excel may be rounding-up the decimal so I might actually be short.  Sure enough, when I moved the decimal place, the total was 4,999.60 miles - dang OCD.  So that meant at least one more ride of .4 miles or more to be official.

I chose to do an 18 mile loop on the Superfly to officially put me over the 5,000 mile mark with room to spare.  It turned-out to be a 13 mile ride after I picked-up a small nail in the front tire and tried to limp back with only 1 CO2 cartridge.  I ended-up calling my son to pick me up since I had some other commitments later in the day - not the way you want to end the year.   The totals are as follows:

Total Bike Miles since April 2006 - 30,053.68
Total 2011 Bike Miles - 5,012.60

Like most personal goals these were achieved solo and without fanfare or celebration - just out grinding along.  Think of any athlete and there are laps in the pool at 4:30 am and countless other practice or training sessions.  All of them are building for something greater.

Happy New Year - See you on the Road in 2012