Archive | April, 2009


29 Apr

By the way, with tonight’s commute, I’ve gone over 600 miles for April!

With tomorrow’s commute, it’ll be over 650!

And then May is the commuter challenge. I’m gonna try–may not make it–to ride every day.


Enjoy the silence…

29 Apr

Now Surlylady has got that Depeche Mode song stuck in my head.

You know what gets me? The biggest noise typically, while riding, is the wind rushing past your ears. Some wind will curl around in your ear cavity and then exit. That was an altogether unexpected combination of nouns and verbs, by the way. As I was sayin’, the wind rushing in your ears… and then the rider behind you (I’m not naming names) says something. You can’t hear it because of the rushing wind. So you turn your head and say in that henpecked, sharp and somewhat peremptory voice “What?” and the muffled reply comes back “What?” as in What what? and things devolve from there. That’s why we’re so quiet on the commute I guess.

At the same time, there’s an amazing symmetry between the Surlylady and myself. Maybe not the same ‘pedal stroke synchronizatoin’ of Jean and Louison Bobet. I believe they also probably had a whole lot more kissing than we do. But Ms. Crosscheck (she’s Hungarian) and I seem to read each other’s minds. It’s easy to read another biker’s mind when you’re both 1000-yard spacing out of course. But it’s also easy to guess when she’s not going to run a yellow light with me (always), or when she won’t follow me around a slowpoke on the Burke because an oncoming biker is 100 yards away (mostly). But tonight I think because she had a root canal yesterday, plus maybe has the flu or sumthin, we just weren’t in synch. Like I was Justin and kept stepping on her toes in rehearsal. I think it also had to do with the fact that I was on the Lemond Sarthe and she was back on her Crosscheck, with its fresh mountain cluster, and so our gearing was a bit off. I notice sometimes our harmony is similarly disturbed when I’m on the Trucker and she’s on her Jamis, mountain gearing vs road, that’s it’s sometimes hard to synch up in terms of cadence and speed, capability and need.

Speaking of pain, I think my big toe is broken. It’s been hurting for weeks. When I ride it’s mostly okay. Walking it hurts if I push down on it a certain way. I hope that’s not the case. As for the original pain segue, I can’t believe the SL rode the day after a root canal. In my day a root canal meant Teddy Roosevelt and thousands of indigenous workers toiling for years to carve out … or something like that. I do remember the look of mutual sympathy when people used to get root canals, years ago. Things have changed. Yesterday SL went in for a consult and the guy said, Yup, you need a root canal, got time to do it now? And within hours she was back home eating barbecue corn-nuts and peanut brittle. Sheesh. Kids these days. We used to have to give ourselves a root canal, using a rusty plier!

Speaking of the Sarthe, I have never ridden the ‘Jean-Paul’ on rainy-ish days, due to the lack of fenders. Partly trail etiquette, partly not liking the head-to-toe skunk wet. Well last night the Lady (REO riff… oh whoa oh) declared she was going to ride today in spite of said root canalage, and so I started considering what to do. I wanted to ride, but the Trucker was in the shop. I had the Kona mountain bike but that would be torture for 36 miles on pavement at least with the current nobbies…

I was in our bike room, looking around. Hmm. Last year we bought several ‘temporary’ fenders, the kind with the rubberband holders, I believe the randonneurs call them robbeur loupe, including a couple of different models for the Lady’s Specialized because it had those annoying, zany Zertz elbow inserts that were placed right where a fender mount would go and precluded any fender success.

Then, voila, I had an inspiration, sort of reversed from Jan Heine’s sometime practice of compensating for a too-short front fender by putting a rear fender on instead. (Just think, somewhere in that guy’s house must be a lot of unwanted front fenders.) I took a front and put it on the rear of the Sarthe (other rears wouldn’t work cuz too long, i.e. they were made to go past the brake). Then I found a super short front for the front. And it worked! As much as putting on bouncy crappy barely adequate fenders on a nice racy bike like Jean-Paul would work. The clearances are nowhere near enough for full fender coverage, so basically I wound up with some ‘back half’ coverage.

The best part of what I’m trying to say is that profoundly comforting feeling of having a bike room, one, and being able to stand in the middle of it, near the work stand, and sort of go crosseyed and imaginative and look at all the bits and parts on hand and visualizing what could be done with them. I have now decided that I’m going to win the lottery and spend all my hours and days in a bike room doing exactly what I just described, save for those hours and days when I’m out riding of course.

So, how does this lottery thing work?

Assault on my batteries (Spring Chickens become Spring Chicken Hawks)

27 Apr

I dunno. I hear about these things called ‘recovery’ rides and, as much as I’d like to think it was a group ride comprised of Alcoholics Anonymous or Carbon Seatposts Anonymous, I think it’s supposed to describe the easy ride you take after a hard ride. There’s a phrase in my head, ‘Make the hard rides hard and the easy rides easy.’ I think Peter Fonda said that.

Anyway, this morning I would have none of that recovery sh*t. I cruised along on the Trucker in a continuation of yesterday’s form. It was one of those Seattle kinda overcast and sprinkly spring mornings that bode well for a sunny afternoon commute kind of mornings. I breezed along at a very good clip. Life was good.

Then, the ride home. Maybe it was because my butt hurt so much from yesterday (ref. baboon/prison analogy from yesterday’s post), or maybe it was the fact that the Trucker had a return of that danged rear derailleur indexing problem where the gears grind and the phantom shifts happen and the barrel adjust seems like the opposite of shooting fish in the barrel… or maybe it was the fact that I’d had insomnia the night before (work stress) and only got four hours of sleep… basically I stunk on the way home. Started off doing fine, averaging 20mph through Eastlake, surprising the heck out of myself. But then after the campus student speedway at the UW I got to the long gorgeous stretches of Sandpoint and started slowing down. My rationalizations kicked in, as the mphs drooped down. 17… 16… 15… 14… 16 for a bit… 15… Things like, yeah you only got four hours of sleep. Partly because your butt hurt (ref. baboon/prison analogy). And you’re getting passed by all these pale spring chickens who now seemed like carbonized chicken hawks clacking into their SPD’s at the stoplights. It’s okay, I said, it’s such a sunny day. Just smile and enjoy spinning (check)… pretend you’re on a single speed for, say, 10 minutes (check)… now pretend that you’re on an easier single speed (check)… okay, relax the upper body, perfect circles with the feet, let the form be with you… eh, small boost… not worth it.

This is the part where you’re expecting me to say, Ah hells no, and get out of the saddle and sprint like there’s no tomorrow or at least like there’s no commute ride tomorrow… and you would be disappointed.

Riding by myself, and hence not having to worry about group dynamics, and slightly tripping out on lack of sleep, I started having some odd thoughts. Such as, if there are such things as arch angels, are there also coy angels? And, are there koi angels? Those really weird longevity orange and white goldfish things? Or maybe turtles are angels. Wouldn’t it be ironic if Darwin had carefully stepped around lots of sleeping angels on Galapagos. Then… WTF is up with those Jeopardy Galapogos island commercials? And, how random is that giveaway? Did Alex just want to go there and dreamed this up as a write-off?

All of which was interspered by lots of chicken hawking ‘on your left’ or the even more impertinent ‘pass of silence’ followed by the overly conscientious look to make sure it’s safe to get back in the right lane. I hardly even noticed. The lake was too pretty (ref. yesterday’s tip of the cycling cap to Lake Warshington).

Thus the bulk of the Burke passed in a sort of sunny, smiley train of thought haze. It was when I hit the Mountlake Terrorace hills that my fatigue chicken really came home to roost. I had to get into the granniest of granny gears to make it up frisbee park hill. In fact I almost considered getting off and walking until I reasoned that walking up the hill had to be much worse than the granniest of granny gears which, on the Trucker at least, is almost like riding on an escalator.

So I learned today that pretending to be on a single speed doesn’t work when you have that triple to save yer sorry butt. Or, more properly, that I’m still a long way from being strong enough for anything beyond the easiest gear ratio. Also that the Trucker is amazing, like your grandpa’s cadillac amazing, it almost seems capable of steering itself, like it almost could lead you back to the home stable through hoof memory. In short: on gorgeous spring days like this, in Seattle, you’ve just got to ride no matter what.

It’s all about the lakes here

26 Apr

Today we met KonaLad at the Log Boom park at the north end of Lake Washington. He’d already ridden 18 miles but was in fine fettle. Actually today he was LemondLad, as was I… because, yes, I broke out the Sarthe today. What a bike. I love, love, love my Long Haul Trucker but sheesh, no comparison to the Sarthe. Today I neatly skirted around things, sometimes big important things like potholes and sometimes little things like pebbles, for fun, just to marvel at the steering of the Lemond. What a difference. With the Trucker I tend to not bother steering around things, just go over them. The fit on the Sarthe is pretty interesting. A lot more aggressive than the Trucker–it’s a ‘race’ bike, for one, but there’s also the famous Lemond longer top tube (57 ish in my case) relative to seat post length (55). I felt amazing all day. We headed south, did the western Lake Sammamish road, then hit the I90 trails, then on to Mercer Island–a loop we’d never done before. I had such a blast on Mercer Island. I couldn’t help it, just overwhelmed with the sheer joy of such a lively bike that I had to wind ‘er up and let her go. Unfortunatley I left KonaLad and Surlylady behind. I think that wasn’t a cool move, but I almost couldn’t help myself. But I figured it was an island, and the loop followed the water, so it wasn’t like we were singletracking out in the middle of some unknown forest. As I was saying the bike was just a revelation after a long fall and winter cracking along on the Trucker. STI shifters are really, really nice in a group ride, I’ll just say that. I love the bar ends, but… yeah.

The only problem was the saddle. I was trying a $10 special from Craigslist, and old Specialized… it’s okay, but I think way too narrow. About halfway through the ride (total 64 miles) I wasn’t sure I was gonna make it. My ass felt like a baboon’s, after a first night in jail. I’m gonna have to find a different saddle. KonaLad recommended a WTB Rocket V, so I’ll have to try that out. If that doesn’t work, then maybe a WTB Devo, just cause the name would be cool.

So, 20 mile differential from last week, but there was a lot more elevation gain today, according to KL–as much as on the first day of the STP. I think we’re doing well with our Team Testotrogen training regimen, indeed.

To end the day, we parted ways with mr Kona and headed north on Lake Wash Blvd, just off the I-90 tunnel area, and went through Madison and the Arboretum and then onto the Burke at the UW. Good old bumpy Burke. Good old Lake Washington and to a lesser extent Lake Sammamish. It’s all about circling the lakes around here.

Spring Chickens

21 Apr

Surlylady and I did an 80 miler on Sunday (well 82 if you’re counting, and we are). I commuted yesterday and felt great, in fact set a personal best on the AM leg. Today I felt like crapola. Had to gut it out most of the way. Toward the end I got a second wind, but for the most part was running on vapors and will power.

And so I’m exhausted tonight. And so I’ll keep this short: lovely spring weather is lovely to commute in but, as per Surlylady’s post, oh man is there a downside. All the creaky ‘spring chickens’ (what I like to call them)… either old and stubborn, like the one she referred to, or those who “gee just last August I was able to average 20 mph” pass you, then sputter, then when you pass them they spin and wobble and try to catch up. Spring chickens. I say just relax, man, it’s nice out, just enjoy the scenery!

But having said all this grumpy stuff I do love seeing the families and kids and those who seem so genuinely happy out. And of course all the young lovelies riding around. Uh, just kidding Surlylady!


8 Apr

Reading last night’s post,  yikes, I sounded exhausted. And confusing. I meant to say that we decided to head on south to Snohomish with KonaLad, rather than running up north and back on the Centennial. Partly it was the sore posteriors (Hemi Moore is back… and this time it’s personal), the crazy hill work (and the crazy hill people), Surlylady’s bum knee and then toward the end of the ride, as we came down a long hill to a stop sign with a short, very sharp hill to the right I messed up and messed up the chain in the following manner. Having coasted to a stop in the big ring I started off and quickly realized I was in trouble and tried to shoot the gears and screwed up one of the links. I think it was a combo of a low-end SRAM chain and perhaps the aluminum Sugino cranks (although I can’t see any bends or problems, but I’m not really an expert). Or, more realistically, it was user error. So then every revolution of the chain there was a clunk, clunk, clunk. I tried to hand wiggle it loose but no joy. Even worse was that it tended to make the rear der skip around unexpectedly… just like what happened a few months ago. Anyway, all these things combined with the fact that our speed was such that we were finishing up around 5pm and may have run out of sunlight before we got past 100 miles. Yeah.

Here’s a screenshot of the route we took.


I have a serpentine personality, yes.

I can’t wait to go back and kick some hill ass. And mabye some hill people ass.

Today I commuted solo–Surlylady’s knee acted up seriously last night–and felt very much in good form. The new chain is sure nice. I got a slightly better step up in quality, I think SRAM 971 rather than 571 or something (I think the Trucker, Wellington, came with a 971) but anyway I think I can tell a difference. I flew along today, totally recovered from Sunday’s ride and just thrilled at having a fairly nice day again. Spring is here and I’m lovin’ it.

P.S. My song for the day last Sunday was Braniac’s ‘Vincent Come on Down’… faced with a long grade hill, I’d get my head to boppin’ to this song and before I knew it I was almost going as fast as Surlylady. The odd thing was in the weird break sections the song would morph to an Enon song in my head, and then back. My song for today’s commute was The Who’s ‘Whiskey Man’… aw yeah, helped keep me to a very good pace.

Springtime for the Surly Twins

7 Apr

Been a while. Decided that I would instead spend time on the new novel. Of course haven’t written much on that. Truth is I done been working 10, 11 hour days for a couple of weeks. Work big stress. Not much commute riding. And the weather has been crummy, until lately.

Last Friday morning we woke up to snow on the ground and yet on Sunday we went for a 75 mile mountain race around Snohomish County, stopping for ice cream and to apply sunscreen.

I used Gmaps Pedometer (for ease of point-to-point and elevation) and then later Google maps (to provide the cue sheet) to draw up a route for us to follow on Sunday. We were going to meet KonaLad and give it a spin. The original plan was for Surlylady and meself to do the first 70-mile or so loop, then part from KonaLad and catch the Centennial round-trip for our first century. Unfortunately two things happened: 1) either the Gmaps pedometer is seriously wrong in elevation or I’m seriously unable to read the numbers and 2) Surlylady banged her knee Saturday night and got a nice purple bruise going just in time for our first century.

I designed something that would incorporate some of the pretty scenery of Snoho Cty that we had previously covered (Three Lakes, Lake Roesiger), in a series of large loops that circle around the periphery of the Centennial Trail. The idea was that I would call it the ‘Snohomish Opt-Out Century’ as it wouldn’t be a 50 miles out and 50 back sort of do-or-die thing, but a big recursive, scenic series of loops, any of which would provide exit options.

The route itself, and the day, started off perfectly: spinning out of Snohomish down the Old Monroe Hwy, past Lord Hill park, and onto Monroe. Surlylady seemed in good form considering and the pace was very good. Then we looped back up over Hwy 2 and points northward, running into our first of the many, many hills of the day. This was by far the most elevation work Surlylady and I have ever done. At one point Google maps allowed me a literal lapse, in that I had been wanting to head due east to catch Woods Creek road. Google thought that something called ‘Pipeline’ would work. Pipeline, online, appeared suspiciously straight, in the midst of a bunch of rivers, lakes and whacko curvy roads that is. Well we got to the turnoff for Pipeline and found it was a gravel road, with warning signs. A local pulled up and said, “Ah you guys can ride that, we do it all the time!” and filled us in with directions. Amazingly, KonaLad (on a carbon Lemond) and Surlylady (on a race Jamis), both on 23Cs, followed behind me as I bombed along through the gravel on my cushy 35C Schwalbe-equipped Long Haul Trucker. That sucker does really well offroad, by the way. This seemingly never ending series of gravel utility/access road was the only glory the LHT would enjoy that day; everything else was a toil as I envied the other two’s lithe race bikes. Having a Carradice bag full of Clif bars, Odwalla bars, a Kashi bar, a bag of almonds, a baggie of crackers, a big bag of peanut butter pretzels, a larger bag of homemade cookies (Surlylady specials), a bag of organic gummy bears and two Snickers bars, not to mention our discarded long gloves, jackets, sunscreen, Assos cream, Icy Hot (for the bruised knee) and all the regular tubes and tools… anyway, I meant to say, I’ve got to learn to pack better. KonaLad basically showed up with a tiny under-the-seat bag and a credit card. Smart dude.

Basically this route kicked our asses. Each of the three of us (funny, I just now realized this was the first sort of ‘adventure’ ride we’d ever done with someone else along) would take turns getting frisky and pulling away from the others. It was kind of weird. Almost like our blood sugar levels were all on slightly different schedules. But man we hammered it pretty good. As we would back east, we went north and then curved back to the Lake Roesiger cutoff; then up north and over to Lake Bosworth; then back down to the Happy Valley Road and back to Lake Roesiger where we went down the other side of the lake; then on Dubuque heading west; then snaking through the Three Lakes area in a rough sawtooth pattern and then wound up on the Centennial and a short shot back to the cars in Snohomish. The hills were gruesome but fun. And there were many times when the three of us were tooling along at 30mph! Lots of fun. I would like to make a few changes to this route, namely no 5 mile gravel hike a bike sections, and try it again.

Took Monday off, then commuted today. Lots and lots of people are out now on the Burke! It’s kind of scary. I’ll get used to it again, I’m sure, like I did last summer. But… wow. Lots of wobbly bikers and wobbly joggers and wobbly college kids.