Sunday, February 16, 2014

A Ride with No Name

A few weeks ago I stated in There Will Be Mud that the conditions on our area dirt roads will depend on how the weather breaks.  We are in a thaw-rain cycle that is combining with recent conditions to create almost a perfect storm for muddy roads.

In late January we had sub-zero temperatures for several days which froze the dirt down to several feet.  This was followed by nine inches of snow which then melted very rapidly in rain and warmer temperatures.  The problem is that only the top few inches of dirt on county roads has thawed so all of the snowmelt and rain is trapped in those few inches rather than filtering down below the surface.

The rapid melt and recent rains has washed-out many areas on these roads and created some pretty sloppy riding as well. 

Today was a combination of about 28 miles of dirt (mud) and pavement with temps in the low 40s.

In the early part of the ride it was still close to freezing so the dirt roads were still packed and smooth with good traction.  Running the Schwalbe Winter Marathons with studs felt like the smoothest pavement and most supple road tires you can imagine. I hit just over 30 mph in a few sections and it was almost as if I was flying an inch above the road surface - it was that smooth.

The temps warmed as the ride progressed and the fine Palouse soil mixed with the water to make very fine and soupy mud which likes to fly-up and coat the bike and rider.

We are coming-up on a 1,500 mile report for this project and I will provide details as to how the combination of wheels, frame and components are performing at that time.  Until then, suffice it to say that the Dura Ace Di2 7900 is performing flawlessly.  It really does not care if it is covered in mud, sub-freezing deice fluid, ice or goose droppings - it just does what it is supposed to do without fuss, noise or hesitation.

Finally, the smooth riding characteristics made me start thinking about my tire selection when I take the studs-off.  I want a road/Randonneuring tire that I can run tubeless so I am set for road riding, but can jump on a dirt road if the urge strikes me without fear of pinch flats.  There are not many tires that fit these requirements and still feel suitable for spirited road riding so there will be some trade-off considerations.

Two Wheel Transit - Cycling for Life

Saturday, February 15, 2014

What Defines a Beautiful Bike?

I get teased quite often about the state of my bicycles when they are covered in dirt, grime or are in less than showroom condition.  Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but what really qualifies as a beautiful bike? 
Is it perfectly restored classic bikes, perfect paint that reflects light from every angle, the sexy curves and flow of today's carbon frames or handcrafted titanium with perfectly smooth welds?  It is all of those things and more, but beyond that I believe that regardless of brand, type, model or value, a beautiful bike is a bike that shows signs of use from being ridden.

Each place where the cable housing rubs the clear coat from the paint, scuff marks on the crank arms, a little dirt or scratch on the frame all speak to adventure and exploration.  Whether the rider was exploring the limits of their will and endurance or a new trail or route to work the bike was trusted and capable partner in each adventure.

I have obsessed about the gloss on the paint or a chip from an unknown source with several bikes over the past 8 years.  Riding my prized Madone on a dirt road or in the nasty, black muck and grit that forms on the side of the road from deicing activities during the winter were unthinkable.

Friday morning was one of those days - it was raining and the side of the road was covered with sand and black, oozy gunk that sprayed-up constantly at speed.

Part of the joy of riding a cyclocross bike is the freedom that comes from knowing that it was designed for the worst of conditions.  Mud, bone-dry dust, rocks, roots and washboards are all within the intended riding conditions for these bikes.  Add the rugged yet highly refined characteristics of a titanium bicycle frame and the freedom to ride anything without guilt makes it a truly beautiful bike.

These photos do not fully depict the nastiness on the sides of the road.

I expect I will appreciating the utility of a CX bike even more these days since it will be weeks before city and county will be able to sweep the dirt and sand from the area shoulders.  Having a bike you can ride in those conditions without guilt makes it easier to get out more until it is safe for the road bikes and they come-out to play.

So, regardless of what you ride, my thesis is that it is only beautiful if you ride it thereby developing more character with each ride.  A perfect bike that lives in the living room or garage is more like artwork than a bike with flaws that develop its appeal.

If you see me on the road or in a group ride I will probably not have the cleanest bike there, but I will probably be willing and able to share a few recent adventures.

Two Wheel Transit Bicycles - Cycling for Life

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Back to Studs

We had enough snow and cold temperatures this week that ice remained in the shaded areas of the shoulders which means it is back to studs until we can be assured that we do not need their grip anymore. 
I know I had already ridden Valley Chapel on February 3rd last year on a regular road bike, but do not think we will be as fortunate this year.  It was not a great riding week for me between work, weather and blah so I wanted to get at least a couple of hours on the bike on Saturday and one or two on Sunday.
Saturday broke foggy with temperatures in the teens so I worked on some stuff around the house in hopes it would improve.  By 11 I realized it was clear and sunny so I switched-out tires and was ready to roll in the sunshine.  I made it out of the driveway only to discover something was seriously wrong with my drivetrain.
I envisioned my ride today vaporizing in the sunshine.  The Moots is equipped with Dura Ace Di2 which means the rear derailleur cage is made of carbon fiber.  Somehow I had broken the inside cage when reinstalling my rear wheel - a complete rookie mistake.  A quick call to the shop and it was decided that an XT cage would most likely fit. 
I loaded the bike into the pickup and raced-down to the shop.  The diagnosis was correct and soon the bike was ready to roll.
I made it out on the road by 1:00 and decided to ride a tempo pace to Rockford and back to build some base for the season.  The sun reflecting off of the snow made the light seem that much brighter and easy to forget it was only 26 degrees.  As I rode I started thinking about setting some event goals for this season.  Nothing firm yet, but just thinking what might be fun - although flying, fishing and sailing more sound fun too.
I did not do any events in 2013 and though I met my mileage goal I don't think I was ever in top form as a result.  Without event goals it seems that I do not push myself when I need to and overall fitness suffers as a result.  I think some racing and gran fondo rides may be in order this year so stay tuned.  I know there are some gran fondo rides that are a good mix of dirt and pavement to fully utilize the capabilities of a good cross bike.  The first that comes to mind is the Gran Fondo Ephrata March 16th this year.
The ride was just right for this time of year and I did feel a twinge of anxiousness to get back to some road riding.   The forecast for this week looks cold but dry until the weekend so I should be able to keep riding for most of the week.
See you out there.