Monday, August 29, 2011

Last 2011 Official Shop Ride This Thursday

Once spring finally arrived, we had a very good and consistent string of riders for the Thursday night shop rides.  We have had a great time with each group that attends, but the waning available evening light means the season is coming to an end.  With that in mind, we will be holding our last official Shop Ride of 2011 this Thursday at 5:30 pm.

Team Two Wheel will be on hand to offer autographs, riding tips and regale us with stories of racing and adventure on two wheels.  The ride will cover the 20 mile loop from the shop to 7 bridge and back and is no-drop as always.

We would love to have a large turn-out for the final ride this year - so please mark your calendars.

See you on the road.

Friday, August 26, 2011

I was just riding along and . . .

The worst words in a bike mechanic's life are, "I was just riding along and . . ." This is usually followed by a tale of innocence that somehow results in a tangled mass of broken bike parts that is assuredly covered by warranty or it's the mechanics fault and therefore a shop expense. These would be funny except for the deadly serious approach by said innocent customer.

Former VeloNews editor Charles Pelkey was recently "just riding along" when he ended up a mass of broken parts himself. Before July 27, he was a well-respected journalist working for a major cycling publication. After July 27, his position at VeloNews had been eliminated and he was diagnosed with cancer.

As a writer and editor at VeloNews, I was quite aware of three particular job duties he had. He is, in addition to a journalist, a fellow attorney and was writing a column called "The Explainer". It is an unfortunate side-effect of our current society that all sports involves an extraordinary amount of legal wrangling and cycling is no different. Charles would wear his lawyer's hat, use his cyclist perspective and then come up with an explanation of the legal processes surrounding doping cases or other courtroom matters that the man-on-the-street could understand and appreciate. It was a voice of sanity and much appreciated, even by those who understood the legal process.

Charles next specialty was live-blogging for races. I have gotten up many an early morning to read the minute-by-minute report of races in Europe which Charles was providing by watching a live feed of the race and reporting the action online. It is surprising how live and how real the action is when you are reading it, but it absolutely takes you onto the road where you live the attacks and counter attacks in your mind's eye, and then feel like you are there for the final rush to the line. It is just as exciting to read it line by line as see it on TV, and often for our beloved one-day races that is not an option. I confess to also using these feeds to supplement my desk-bound attention to these races from my office and they are a great way to keep up but not have you slack-jawed staring at a TV or video feed during the grand tours. Luckily for us, Mr. Pelkey has taken this skill with him on the road and is now reporting on races from His coverage of the Vuelta today was supplemented by ESPN's Bonnie Ford and Mad Dog Media's Patrick O'Grady (creator of the "Old Guys who get Fat in the Winter" cartoons, among much else). It was by far the fastest way to know about Tyler Farrar's crash. Oh, you didn't know about his crash today? You should have been tuned in.

Charles' last specialty, of which I was aware at least, was the jovial and kind-hearted rejection of amateur bloggers who want to step into the limelight. Yes, I was one of said bloggers who contacted Mr. Pelkey to offer my services. I thought that VeloNews wouldn't have realized that they needed the cycling tales of an overweight 40-something enthusiast, but that if they would just take a look at this plucky star-in-training, it would be a match made in heaven. I would speak directly to their primary readership, that is made up of other overweight 40-something enthusiasts who want more and better equipment, more time to ride and more time to contemplate our collective obsession. Alas, it was not to be, but Charles couldn't have been pleasanter about it.

As a result of these specialties, I was mightily sorry to find out that not only had Charles been dispatched by VN, but that he was facing surgery and chemo treatment along with the impending end to his medical insurance. It's a cold world sometimes.

Thankfully for Mr. Pelkey, he has friends and resources and, just for good measure, he has a ChipIn account from NY Velocity. He has asked people to hold up on donations for now, but just in a case, here is the link - Pelkey ChipIn.

And lastly, just so you know there is some humor in this dark story, here is a Twitter exchange between Mr. Pelkey and someone well known for his work in cancer, Mr. Armstrong -

So there I was, just riding along when . . .

Best of luck to Charles Pelkey on the road ahead. Along the way, be sure to stop by for live updates of bike racing at

Rear Rubber

As much as I hate to admit it, it is probably time to replace my rear tire.  If you can't tell from the photos, it is down into the 2nd layer of threads.  Most likely the result of my panic stop yesterday which means I rode another 14 miles on it with 3 high speed corners and a 37 mph descent after it occurred.

Nothing risky or dangerous about that....

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Case of Contributory Negligence?

An accident is seldom just one event or decision - it is usually the result of a series that create a causal chain - like all the tumblers in a lock needing to line-up in the right order and click in to place for the key to be turned.

Quite often in personal injury cases or other liability issues, a portion of the blame for actions leading up to the accident is assigned to each party.  This apportionment should theoretically ensure that one party does not shoulder the full liability when the injured party somehow contributed to the circumstances that lead to an accident or injury.  It is probably much more complicated than I am able to grasp, but hopefully close enough to accurate to serve as setting for the remainder of today's post.

I have been riding in the early morning light for the last few weeks and have taken it for granted even though I know it will soon wane and we will be running lights just to ride before work.  The ability to ride as late as 7am meant that the sun has been high enough so as not to pose a danger to me on a bike by blinding an oncoming motorist or make it difficult to see me with back lighting.  Today I had an 8am meeting which meant I needed to be out the door on my bike by 6am to get a ride in prior to the meeting.

As I was leaving, I noted that the sun had not broken above Tower Mountain yet and briefly considered a flashing headlight in addition to the Superflash Blinky I have been wearing on the rear the past week.  My westerly route on 57th Ave would put the sun at my back and very low on the horizon.  Adding a flashing light on the front would increase my chances of being seen by oncoming traffic in these conditions.  "No, I am in a hurry - too much time to mount, I will be late for my meeting, I will be careful, it is light enough" were all justifications for setting-out with no headlight. CLICK

The first 3rd of the road ride was pleasant and uneventful followed by turning west on 57th Avenue with the rising sun behind me.  CLICK.  As I neared the Starbucks across from Albertsons, I was focused on trying to time the stoplight at Regal and lost a little of my situational awareness.  Then it happened, a driver in an SUV heading east into the sun suddenly entered the turn lane and began a left turn into the Starbucks drive-through entry just as I was about to cross her path. CLICK  We simultaneously recognized an impending collision  and jammed-on the brakes - both stopping just in time to avoid the impact.  Disaster averted but it probably left the driver shaken, angry or upset at the near miss.  

I was not particularly upset since close calls happen to me rather frequently and I continued west thinking about the contributing factors to the near miss.  I looked at my shadow in the next sunlit area and saw how long it was compared to recent morning rides. 

This means the sun was really low and just over my right shoulder.  The angle was almost directly in the turning motorists eyes.  I thought how much a light would have improved my chances of being noticed and allow her time to register my presence, speed and direction.  How much had my actions contributed to the near miss?  Fortunately that question won't be answered by an investigating officer or jury since the collision was avoided.  

Had I contributed?  Yes, I could have taken steps to be more visible in a variety of light conditions.  Now it is time to move from denial that summer is ending and to dust of the lights again, pull-out the bright clothing and  choose routes that minimize the direct sun behind me.  Motorists are human and make mistakes too.  We need to increase visibility, ride defensively and take measures to avoid being hit by a car.  Otherwise, we are just lining-up the tumblers needed to turn the key that leads to an incident.

See you on the road.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

A Day at the Track

7 Eleven Velodrome; Colorado Springs, Colorado
While at a Medicine of Cycling Conference in Colorado Springs, I learned that the Winslow BMW US Grand Prix of Sprinting was going on this weekend at the Velodrome. I had never been to the Velodrome in Colorado Springs. In fact had never been to see track racing live. There were young racers there from Columbia, Trinidad, Holland, Australia, Canada and of course, the US. I was able to see Sprints, Team Sprints, Keirin racing and some Flying Lap record attempts. Pretty awesome. 

Monday, August 22, 2011

Day 1 Medicine of Cycling Conference

Yesterday was Day1 of the Medicine of Cycling Conference. It was held at the US Olympic Training
Center in Colorado Springs. This conference is designed to try to bring together physicians interested in cycling to share their expertise as team doctors and generally improve the medical offered to cyclists.

Topics this day discussed being a team doctor for amateur and professional teams, osteoporosis in cyclists (a significant issue because cycling doesn't “load” the bones to strengthen like other weight bearing activities like running or even walking), sport psychology (talking about the psychological characteristics of champions and over-training or rather under-recovery), cardiac concerns, concerns specific to women and exercise induced asthma (how it effects performance and what to do about it).

Lunch was in the dining hall with the athletes that are there training. Lo-fat healthy food to power these young bodies efficiently and effectively. No burger and fries here. There were several countries represented, Holland and Australia were ones that I was able to identify with some certainty. It was amazing to see the many young athletes relaxing, but reminding myself that these are some of the finest athletes in the country and perhaps the world.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

47 F - Really?

The last time I rode when the temperature was below 50 F before today was Hoopfest weekend - which does not seem like all that long ago.  Today it was 47 F when I rolled out the door and even colder where the cold air settles in the low spots along Palouse Highway.  Though I love the Ibex wool, I just don't quite feel prepared to pull it out of the drawer yet.

Remember the shop ride Thursday night at 5:30 pm.  Pizza will be served afterward courtesy of Summit Ridge Christian Fellowship which means we will have some Tri-guys along for the ride.  Leaves and returns to Two Wheel Transit, 1405 W. 1st Ave.

See you on the road.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Some Like it Hot

Here is a news flash for you - summer is finally here!  It arrived just in time for mid-July riding after nearly doing in the Ironman racers in late June with near freezing water temperatures.  I am a bonafide - hot-weeny when it comes to riding in warmer temperatures.  My preferred ambient temperature is between 55F - 65F which means I need to get out early in the day when highs will be in the normal summer range.

Today, I was thinking of doing just that, but various activities kept delaying my departure to the point where I would be about 5 or 6 hours later than normal.  This would not be critical as the temperatures would still be in the 70s.  As I pondered this scenario, I started thinking back to the seemingly endless winter and late spring and summer and how looking forward to summer heat is all that sustained me during those times.  Today, I wanted to feel the heat that I dreamed of for months on end.  To do so meant I would have to go about 3pm to experience riding at the high temperature of the day - 90F.

As I rolled up Baltimore about 3:15, I could feel waves of heat radiating up from the pavement.  Occasionally, I would feel a bit of breeze, but it too was just like a blast furnace on my face.  I usually, start perspiring toward the top of the two mile climb, but today it evaporated as soon as it hit my skin so I felt amazingly dry.  My throat was parched at the top of the climb and the tepid water in my bottle felt great.  I savored the heat knowing that the days are getting shorter and I felt just a little bit of fall on yesterday morning's ride - it was as if I hoped I could somehow store it up to use on a dark, cold day in December.

Another thing I noticed is my knees did not feel sore as they usually do on the morning rides in cool temperatures and just out of bed.  My cadence was higher (not a bad thing for me) since I knew I would blow-up trying to push higher gears.  I still did not feel uncomfortable even nearing the top of my second climb up Jamison - just a really dry throat from the effort of the climb.  I was comfortable throughout the ride and found I was really enjoying it - to the point of thinking how I can get some more hot rides in before the weather turns cold.  By that point, if I have a bunch of hot rides under my belt, the change will feel good even though I have to add a layer of clothing.  Hopefully, I will be ready for it and feel I pulled the most heat from this short summer as possible.

See you on the road.

Friday, August 12, 2011

The Measure of a Man

We frequently hear of ways to measure a person’s worth – by their adherence to principles, by their faith, by their actions, by their actions under stress or at war, by the way they treat their mother or their spouse or their children or their dog, by the way they dress or shine their shoes, or the way they show up on time, or the way they keep smiling in the face of adversity. I suppose all of these have their place in considering the underlying character of an individual, but I have another way of looking at it. I like to measure a man by the way he rides a bike.

Well, now that I think of it, it isn’t so much how they ride a bike, but how they ride a bike in a group, and even better over a number of group rides. When you ride with a group of people, you get a strong sense of who they are, and not just who they are on a bike, but who they are as humans in both their strengths and their weakness. I think you get to see just what someone is made of and maybe for the same reason that you get the measure of a person when you go through something stressful together. I think, though, that going through a car wreck or a hurricane or a jewel heist is a more compressed or one-time version of that stress and some people shine when they might not otherwise. Riding a bike often results in putting you under pressure, and it does so regularly in some groups, and then the good and bad become elevated or more extreme. I suppose a group ride is a bit more like a marriage, with some easy times, some hard times, some really really hard times and somewhere an underlying idea that you can stop showing up when it's not worth it anymore.

As a result, you have the chance to see how people react to stress and pressure; not only their own, but others’ as well. You see what happens when they are strong and you are not, and vice versa. You see what happens when they run low on food, or energy, or time. You see what happens when accidents or mechanicals occur. When the wind blows or it rains or snows or the sun is baking everyone. When these things happen, you see the good and bad in people. You see those who look after others, you see leadership, you see selfishness, you see thoughtful and un-thoughtful actions.

Even when the ride is rolling along and no one is under pressure, you hear what people have to say. You hear comments about sex and money and business and religion and politics and other people and sex. Or you notice people not making comments about one or more of these things. You hear about plans and goals and intentions in life or sport or business. You hear about successes and failures in these same arenas. And you hear reactions to all of these things happening to other people. I hasten to add that I don’t mean to sound like every group ride is a rolling philosophy session or time on a psychiatrist’s couch. Some rides take place with nothing more meaningful than a discussion of bikes and fitness, or breakfast and passing gas. But when you add up day after day, or weekend after weekend, and in particular when you add up year after year, you really get to know the people with whom you ride bikes.

I ride, sometimes, with a group of guys who have proclaimed on their jerseys, "Non siamo qui per fare degli amici. Siamo qui per girare!” Which translated means, “We're not here to make friends. We're here to ride.” And maybe today, just like 20 years ago when those guys started riding together, it was true, but along the way, you can’t help making some friends, and you can’t help taking the measure of a few of those riders.

And to bring this rumination to a close, I have to confess it was inspired by considerations of one of those riders - the eternally strong Sam J. He recently had the opportunity to do me and my family a good turn, and he did so in spades. And while I am deeply gratified by it, I am not surprised. I had taken the measure of this man a long time ago. While we rode bikes.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Cool new taillight!

Heads-up to any of you who've wished for a REALLY powerful taillight. We got some of the new Cygolite Hotshot in. They're affordable ($40), self-contained, lightweight (56 grams with mount), they recharge from a USB port, and they have a LOT of power. Want to be seen in daylight? Get one of these, make sure it's aimed straight & level, and you're in business. This is far, far more powerful than the popular SuperFlash or any other taillight we've sold.

Another interesting feature: they're adjustable. The flashing modes can be sped up or slowed down by holding down a button. Adjusting the steady mode changes its intensity. So if your commute is partly the Centennial Trail, and partly roadways, you can set up the steady-burn mode pretty low for the CT where you don't want to be blasting people, and then switch to one of the full-power flashing modes when you hit the street.

Here's an impromptu video clip I shot:

And here's the runtime chart from the back of the package:

We currently have four of these, come check 'em out :)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Midnight Century, 2011 edition

I rode down to The Elk on Saturday night for the Midnight Century. Wow, what a turnout! John counted 38 starters, and even more remarkably, it appears that at least 34 of them finished! I'm really impressed, folks... that's a daunting course overall. The first 25 miles are just there to lure you in ;)

This year, I didn't get nearly as much training in, so I was about 6-8 pounds over my "raceday" weight and felt feeble. Where's my leg strength gone...? Maybe I'm just getting old. :( But now the course is familiar, the weather was perfect, and my bike was set up really well for this ride, so I just pressed on, resolving not to overdo it.

We started at 11:59PM. I thought it would be cool to beat the official sunrise time of 5:34AM, but between painting smiley-faces and direction arrows with spray chalk, and stopping to fix a problem with one of my lights, I had too much off-the-bike time to hit that target, and came in 11 minutes after sunrise. Here's the Garmin's results.

My vision was flickering, a sure sign I was reaching my endurance limits. I soft-pedalled home and discovered a shortcoming in my MC planning: recovery food! I had only two pieces of bread left, so I made a fat peanut-butter & honey sandwich and guzzled the last of my chocolate milk, plus a Powerbar and a bowl of cereal. After a soak in the tub and a nap, I rode down to the store and rectified the food situation: ice cream... cookies... ooo, pizza! And more chocolate milk. There, that oughta do it. :)

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Little Bike Commute that Could

My mode of transportation to and from work is less about my desire to bike commute and more about what else I may have going on that day.  Some days I can bike to work and stay at work all day then simply bike home.  Other days require that I pick-up kids, carry heavy stuff or attend meetings that would be very difficult to get to by bike.

On days that I know I will be driving, I typically get a road ride in before I need to go to work.  This means making sure that I ride early so I am back and showered in time to take it downtown.  The other day, I was planning on doing just that until some email responses and other tasks extended beyond the time I had estimated and my morning ride became impossible if I was to make it to work on time.  Dang, I really needed a ride that day.

Fortunately, it occurred to me that I still had enough time to grab my stuff and bike to work and still get my needed riding in for the day.  Normally, I bike commute when I have ample time - not when I don't have enough time.  In this case biking the 11+ miles on my bike was going to save me time - wow, what a concept.

Next choice was which bike and route to take.  Should I bomb in on the road bike or thrash in on the mountain bike and enjoy the High Drive Bluff trails on the way?  I am not sure why, but the mountain bike seemed to make the most sense that day.  The ride was a nice combination of both road and dirt trail though a little warm due to the weather.

One thing I noticed though was that my off-road riding was not as confident and fluid as I remembered it being last time I was on the bluff.  The grass and foliage on either side of the trail was much taller and more dense than I remembered and interfered with my sight lines and the lack of moisture made the surface a touch sketchier than this spring.  All of which conspired to make me ride a little slower.  Would I make it on time?

I probably lost a little time on the bluff, but the last mile on the road was heaven as I went flying down from 14th to 1st and made every green light along the way. Yes, I made it in less than an hour and felt exhilarated upon arriving.  This experience has made me rethink the whole time issue with respect to bike commuting and look for more opportunities to combine my need to ride and the need to be at work.

The ride home was a little more relaxed and a great chance to enjoy being outside on a bike on a warm summer evening.

See you on the road (or trails).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Famous Ed's shop ride

Tonight's shop ride started from Famous Ed's up at 57th & Regal. Wow, that was some great turnout! I didn't count, but there must've been at least 30 of you out there, making it one of the biggest turnouts ever. Do you folks prefer the South Hill over our usual Riverside loop, or was it just a good conjunction of the planets tonight?

Reminder - Special Shop Ride Tonight at 6 PM

Shop ride tonight 6pm riding the Hangman Valley Loop.  Departs and returns to Famous Ed's 2911 E 57th Ave.  See you there!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Bike, a Summer Morning and a Tailwind

Saturday night, two friends stayed at our house overnight on their way to Pullman to play golf.  They offered to drop me and my bicycle off somewhere along the way so I could ride home.  I quickly rejected the idea of going all the way to Pullman with them after a 57 mile ride on Saturday that included Mt. Spokane.  I wanted a couple of hours in the saddle –nothing too taxing.  I had them drop me in Rosalia with its rich selection of Palouse rural roads in all directions.

I chose a route that would take me north first up Old Highway 195 to Spring Valley Rd and then took a right towards Waverly.  The minute I started pedaling up the gradual hill out of Rosalia, I knew this was going to be one of the best rides of the summer.  The wind was blowing strong and steady out of the south.  And my destination?  About 40 miles north.  I big-ringed it through the wheat, barley, peas and alfalfa for about ½ an hour when I saw a rider, head-down into the wind, coming towards me.  Well, this being a roadie south of Spokane, I knew him.  So Roger and I stopped, stood in the middle of the road (you can do this on Spring Valley Rd. on a Sunday morning) and shot the breeze for 15 minutes.  I continued on my merry way, dropping through Waverly and heading east til I joined Highway 27.  I turned north again for a few miles, went through Fairfield and took a left onto Jackson Rd.  Jackson connected me to Valley Chapel and me and that tailwind whizzed back to my south Spokane home with embarrassingly little effort.  It was a rolly 40 mile ride that seemed like a flat 20.  I felt guilty.  I felt like I should go do a couple of hill repeats up Tower Mountain or chop a cord of wood.  But then I thought about why we REALLY ride our bikes and it is because it is a LOT OF FUN.  And I was lucky to get a perfect sunny day with the time to enjoy it.  And I sure did.

These two never miss an opportunity to have a good time doing their favorite thing on a summer day.  These are two of my dogs doing what they do best.  

Wella Clairol