Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good week so far

So far it's been a good week for biking.

After the mountain biking trip Sunday, I did my regular commute Monday, but my saddle was really starting to become painful. It's a Brooks B17, and it was beginning to sag--probably a combination of getting wet (and being ridden that way) and possibly too much proofide. On the way home from work Sunday I stopped at a craft/hobby store and bought a leather punch and a spool of leather lace--time to try lacing up the saddle as suggested by Sheldon Brown and many others. I used the pics here as a guide:

Punching the holes was easier than I thought--that leather is thick so I thought it might be a problem, but the hole punch went though without much fuss. I laced it up and it felt nice and tight, but I couldn't put it on the bike. Hmmm, there's something not shown very well in the B17 pictures--where should I run the laces to provide proper tension, but not interfere with the seatpost clamp?

I never came up with a satisfactory answer, so I just mounted the saddle and ran the laces in as direct a manner as I could think of. A few of them run right through the hollow center of the seatpost clamp, but I figure that's not a problem unless I take the saddle off, which I am not planning to do unless there's a huge, unforseen catastrophe.

I'm impressed at how well the laces match the honey saddle--one would think they were made for each other. The ride was improved immensely, restoring the comfort and support of my sit bones on the suspended saddle as opposed to on the rails where they had been resting. (ouch!) I'm happy with the results though. What do you think?

Didn't ride it to work Tuesday, though. I felt like going for speed, so I took the Giant out for another ride. For some reason my GPS didn't want to record distance for about he first mile of the ride (which means it also wasn't recording time), but I made note of when I left and my distance to work doesn't vary more than .01 miles, so I could figure up my average easily enough.

I made it to work with an average speed approaching 16mph. This is much better than I usually manage, and it meant that the elusive sub 1hr round trip could be attainable (my commute is exactly 16.25 miles round trip). I took extra care to not load myself down at lunch, avoided overindulging in the healthy snacks, and prepared myself for the trip home.

The first two miles consist of a short climb and a long downhill, but I managed to resist the urge to sprint on the downhill, knowing my energy would be better spent elsewhere. When I got on the rail trail that led home, I just kept my power output above where it usually is, trying to find the magic sweet spot between comfortable riding and burning myself out. For once, the gamble paid off, and my speed hardly ever dipped below 16.

This sort of effort is much easier on a group ride when you've got people to chase and a draft to try to stay in. It's all the better if you don't know where you are so you think you have to stay with the group or risk getting lost.

I arrived at my apartment, downloaded the data from my GPS, and added on the missing time and extra mile that didn't get logged in the morning. 57 minutes and change, average speed of 16.88. Not an Olympic record by any means, but it feels good to finally reach a goal I've been shooting for. Now I suppose I have twin goals: 1) Make the trip in under 55 minutes on the Giant and 2) Make the trip in under an hour on the Long Haul Trucker. I plan to ride the Giant a lot more from now on, it feels more comfortable than it used to. It's too bad the frame isn't a size larger though, I think that would make a huge difference.

Tomorrow I'll see if I can turn in another sub-60 time on the Giant, but I'm not sure that's gonna work because there's some residual tiredness that I need to expunge. Also, I should take it easy so I have energy to ride to Kroger after work--my grocery supply is dwindling at a rather depressing rate, and it may be that I need food to live.

I'm going to have to give up soda though, I have very little self control around it. In just under a week and a half, I drank four12 packs of Diet Coke. I'm no expert, but I'm pretty sure that even though there's no sugar there's probably something unhealthy about that.

Weight after the fast ride: 254. Hey, it's progress. Slow progress, but still progress.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I want to see mountains again--Mountains!

Ok, so I haven't reeally seen mountains much. And I've never mountain biked on one.

But Sunday I finally got to do some mountain biking again, and it was great fun.

Before the ride, I put a new chain on the Heckler (SRAM of course). Aired up the suspension, set the tire pressure, all was ready.

Met two people at the trailhead who seemed willing to let me tag along (I think they may have just met too, so it worked out pretty well). They were pretty nice folks, hopefully we'll get to ride again sometime.

After about three miles though, my chain broke. My brand new chain. One wouldn't think that would happen.

I borrowed a Power Link from one of my newfound friends, repaired the chain, and set off. Two pedal strokes later the new Powerlink flies apart. I'm guessing I didn't pull it tight enough to properly seat the plates. Only one half of the link is found, the other end probably flew a long way, propelled by the derailleur spring. I decline the offer of another power link and decide to just shorten the chain the old fashioned way. Much greater success this time, and the ride is finished fairly uneventfully--but there was quite a bit of fun.

I really need to ride trails more, it's easy to forget how enjoyable it can be. I also really like the fact that the local trail here stays fairly busy, so you can actually meet people to ride with sometimes. I could ride 18 miles at Sal Hollow in Mammoth Cave and not see a single person.

Friday, July 25, 2008

The Jolly Journey of the Jaunty Giant

Mmm, consonance.

Got the Giant back from K & G Bikes yesterday. Apaprently the only 50t chainring they could get in the right pattern was a Dura Ace. All that silver looks kinda funny with my black crank, but it should be pretty resistant to tacoing (of course, so should the other)! Also, in my original post I was mistaken...I said it was an Ultegra chainring, but it was a Truvativ Rolleur. ..drat, I can't find mycamera to document the new chainring. It's there, trust me.

Anyway, moving on...

I ended up having an extra-long and enjoyable ride to work today. I got up this morning, showered, packed some work clothes, got ready to leave, took a quick glance at the time, and rushed out the door without breakfast to get to work on time.

After I'd gone about 4 miles, I glanced down at the time. 8:45. Good, I think, I can make it on time if I put the hammer down going up the hill. A few seconds later I take another look at the time. 8:45. I don't have to be at work until 10:00. I left an hour early!

Since I'm pretty much locked into the rail trail I'm on, I decide to just keep going straight, toward Xenia. I figure I'll get to the main rail trail hub and look for the delicious sandwish shop I'd heard about--maybe get a cold sandwich to take to work for lunch, which I also didn't pack when I thought I was out of food.

I didn't quite make it though, I decided to explore a spur of the trail that goes over a wooden plank bridge. It only went a mile and a half or so, but it was a nice little ride through a park and the fairgrounds. They didn't really look like advanced fairgrounds to me though, I wouldn't have called them that if there wasn't a sign.

Unexpected sight of the day: The Green County Horseshoe Club. Someone was out practicing. They even had a storage shed and a fenced off area in the park. Nice. Too bad I didn't have my camera.

I rode through the park until it entered a suburban neighborhood and then turned around to head back to work, as I had used about half my available time. Rode back to work and arrived just a little bit early. Great commute overall, and the Giant performed fantastically. I also added a good 12 miles onto my usual commute.

A problem I've been having lately while trying to be as car free as I can is that I just don't have as much time for recreational rides as I used to. I need to buy groceries tomorrow, but I also planned to go mountain biking. Carrying a full load of groceries might be rough if I have been playing in the dirt all day. I have been compromising by stopping for groceries on the way back from the trails, but when I reach my eventual goal of riding to the trail that won't fly quite so well.

I also haven't done a long road ride yet. Not only do I not know the actual roads arund here that would be good for cycling, but doing a 75 mile ride on Sunday and then commuting the next day might be detrimental to me in the long run.

Always trying to find balance.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008


I haven't posted ina while. Sorry about that. I keep thinking up topics that I think I can write something about, but then I forget them by the time I leave work. Oops.

I was going to do Fatty's thing (even though he didn't tag me because he hates me), but I can't think of very clever answers. Especially since the ones I would have come up with were pretty close to what others did. Oh well.

MY employer, Edict Systems, did something pretty awesome today. The company that stocks our vending machine apparently went out of business--they seem to have been running out of candy for a while, as on Monday we had 5 slots of M&Ms, 3 slots of peanut M&Ms, 3 slots of M&M cookies, one slot of dark chocolat peanut M&Ms, and one slot of Hershey's Kissables (aka funny shaped M&Ms). Anyway, the CEO decided to order a giant refrigerator and stock it with healthy snacks, provided to employees at no charge. Fruit juice, apples, bananas, Nutri Grain bars, etc. It's really quite awesome, and meant that I had some grapes and yogurt to go with my lunch instead of the usual Little Debbie snack cake. I deinitely support this decision, as I have rather poor eating habits.

Currently in another long mileage week...28 miles Tuesday, 38 today, somewhere from 26-38 tomorrow depending on whether I have to take care of my brother's pets in the afternoon. You may notice I didn't ride Monday....first time I've driven to work in several weeks. I had a good reason though! I had to go to Cincinnati right after work to see a Weird Al concert. Because Weird Al rocks.

Other than that though, I have the same tank of gas I had in my car that I bought on July 5th--and right after I filled up I drove close to 300 miles, so I am doing very well on the not-driving front.

I need to start writing down my blogging ideas so they don't vanish.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Tour de Whatever

OK, most of the blogs making their Tour de France updates. One of them I read recently had the "Mandatory TdF post".

I guess I'll do one too, then.

I have watched the race before. It's really long and not a lot happens. I think they just throw in the drug scandals to get more attention.

Now, before someone starts saying I just don't understand the strategy or the beauty of the event or whatever....I get some of it, I just don't care.

I don't really watch any other sports either, because watching someone else play a game is not quite so interesting to me as doing something--anything--myself. Actually I might watch some kind of cargo bike competition, just to get tips on how best to carry large loads on my bike.

Now that that's out of the way....I'm not doing a perfect job at the whole car free thing, but I think I'm doing OK so far. I had to drive on Saturday to take the Giant to the bike shop ($100, ouch), and my truck was acting very much not good. Before it warmed up the engine wouldn't idle properly, it just runs slower and slower until it dies. While it did that, the windshield wipers would also stop in random places. I think this just might be an electrical issue, but other than that I can't say.

Short term solution: Ride bike. Long term solution: Win lottery.

Not too much else to write in terms of updates...maybe I'll find some group rides to joun soon, though I haven't done any single rides longer than about 18 miles this year so I don't know that I could handle the distance. Plus I have not been riding for speed, so I'm slow. The current project is to try to make the round trip to work and back in under an far my record is 1:00:45, so I'm close. Tuesday's time was 1:01:03, but most others are 1:03+. Ah well, after that I'll be trying to make it under 55 minutes I guess.

Sorry this post is dull, I just wanted to get something out there since I haven't written in a while.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Oh Giant, why hast thou forsaken me?

OK, seriously. My Giant TCR1 and I have had our issues in the past, but now I think our relations are straining to the breaking point.

Let's sum up my last two rides before today as kind of an intro:

18 mile ride in to work, rear tire goes flat after 14.5 miles. I have no spare, which is my fault, and I end up walking 3.5 miles to work. This is forgivable.

Last ride, 16 miles round trip, front derailleur drops chain at a traffic light, then the rear tire goes flat. Front tire goes flat after I get home.

Today I rode home from work and decided to repair the flats on the Giant and ride to the grocery store to pick up some butter and cereal. I find both flats, replace one tube and patch the other, put on my almost-too-small-to-be-useful Timbuk2 messenger bag, and head for the store. At first, the ride is rather awkward. The bike is slightly too small for me, it's a Large compact frame when my Long Haul Trucker is a 60cm. The not-broken-in Brooks is slippery under my nylon baggy shorts. Once I get to the rail trail though, it becomes more comfortable. I remember how this bike can fly.

All the way to the grocery store with little incident, swooping around the pot holes like an X-Wing in the death star trench run (in my mind only), I reach the driveway and slow waaaaaaay down because there isn't much room to turn in next to a car coming out, and enter the parking lot.

There's a very slight uphill and I have forgotten to shift down, so I'm still in my 50x12 gear. I decide to mash on the pedals and try to build up some speed to downshift, when CRACKLANG!

Great, I think. I've broken a chain. I thought I was done with that. I broke three or four chains no this bike within the first 200 miles. Don't know why.

I look down and am shocked to see that the chain is not, in fact, broken. It's a little less routine than that:

If you're thinking "Hey, that looks like a broken Ultegra chainring!" then congratulations! You win! You don't win anything specific though. I have nothing to gove.

So I guess it's off to a shop somewhere this weekend to see how much it costs to have a chainring replaced. And have the rest of it given a once-over as well.

And maybe go see a priest about an exorcism.

In closing, I would just like to say....yes, clydesdale riders create a lot of power. And people ask me why I like to ride the heavy touring bike so much...

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


It seems like like is run by emotions and little else.

Two years ago, I lost 50lbs (which was a good thing) in part due to a depression (which was a bad thing). One year ago I gained 40 pounds due to another depression (which was another bad thing).

Nothing more about that, that's just an example of the power emotion can have over one's life.

I experience many different emotions while traveling. When I drive, someone driving slowly or having to go through road construction makes me angry. For a very long time. Unreasonably so (though not uncontrollably, I'm not going to hurt anyone). When cycling, a car can come within inches of killing me due to negligence, and after a minute or two I've fogotten all about it.

Cars isolate us from our environment, make us think of everything outside of our own minds as The Enemy. Bikes allow us to experience the environment face to face, to actually see people as people and not just obstructions. It makes us all human again.

Want another reason I'm trying to go car free? I am done with the anger of driving.

Jesus said "And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away."

I think I should cut off my car and throw it away.

Figuratively speaking.

Monday, July 7, 2008

I'm back!

Well, vacation was pretty good, though it's possible that driving 600 miles to go home and back
for the holiday may be incompatible with the carfree lifestyle I am trying to achieve. I think that long trips should be allowed on widely-spaced occasions, though.

I ate way too much over the weekend. Not just during the festivities, but pretty much every other meal, too. I gained back all the weight I had lost and amc now back to 260. Drat. I just need to figure out how to control my eating. And go on longer rides.

Speaking of longer rides, I decided to take somewhat of a detour on my ride home today and ride to Xenia Station, which is the old railway station in Xenia, Ohio that acts as a hub for several very long rail trails in the area. I hadn't ever been to Xenia, so I wasn't sure exactly how far it would be. Turns out to be a little over 6 miles out of my way to the east, and therefore 12 miles from home--so I basically added 12 miles miles today. It's a pretty good ride, though next time I think I'll try to have a goal in mind for something to do when I get there. I don't know if there's actually anything to do in Xenia, but I guess I'll find out.

Since I'm shooting for a solid month of going car free and I drove yesterday to come home from vacation, I am going to try to go without driving for the next 29 days. It could be interesting.

And as a reward (or punishment) for reading this far, I bring you a story.

My parents and the family next door have always hosted a big 4th of July picnic in our neighborhood. It has expanded from a neighborhood gathering to a huge and unnameable beast of reveling--if by reveling one means playing horseshoes, throwing washers, and participating in the newly popular game of cornholing. Anyway, there are a lot of people that show up. They aren't important right now.

For the first time ever in 28 years of having this party, it was a rainy day. Not constant downpours, but it never went very long without dropping some form of rain on our heads. In many ways we thought this was a favor to us, because wet ground = safer fireworks.

What? Fireworks, you ask? Why yes, we happened to have a bag of those. It was kind of interesting getting them lit since it was lightly raining, but the neighbors had a propane torch that did an excellent job of simultaneously drying and igniting the fuses.

Someone happened to purchase a Large Thing. I don't remember exactly what model it might have been, but it was of this variety. Those are totally the coolest fireworks ever. It is possible that one should think carefully about placement before setting them off, though.

The box was set on the sawhorse we were using as a bas for firework-lighting. The blowtorch was ignited. The fuse was lit. Got got away. We aimed it away from our faces. We cheered as the first shot showed us that it was worth the price of admission.

We watched the second shot fire at a 45 degree angle. Some confusion existed, though I just assumed we had ended up buying the one that had a few shots that fired at angles. It was rather hard to see the box of firework since our eyes were somewhat dazed. It became clear that somethign was amiss though when we saw that the box was in fact facing downward toward the ground, and fired a shell straight in.

"Oh crap, RUN!" shouted a nearby person who apparently was not ready to become a corpse. It was decided that this was good advice, so we followed it as quickly as we could.

Events chose this moment to speed up.

I turned to run, slipping on the wet grass and going to all fours. The shot that had fired into the ground went off, flipping the box just upright enough to fire the next shell at pretty much the location where I was trying to find my feet.

I heard a "thunk" and look to my left to see a 3"...thing. It is emitting orange sparks. It is about three feet from my face. In other circumstances it might be considered quite pretty, though at this time it rather reminded me of a live grenade. After a few more (unsuccessful) attempts to regain my feet, I decide that the best bet is probably to duck and cover. I roll away from it and cover my had with my arms.

BOOOM is what the firecracker has to say about the situation.

At this point the firework seems to have settled on firing into the empty field adjacent to the house, so we watch the last shot or two explode at ground level.

I for one am laughing madly at this point.

That was AWESOME, I state. America is the BEST.

It was all fun and games, because no one lost an eye.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Nighttime adventures

Yesterday it was decided that after work I would meet my brother and his wife for food and a movie.

Last time that happened, getting there was rather miserable, as it involves riding up one of the main roads in town--North Fairfield--for a few miles. At rush hour this is especially not fun. It involves riding the sidewalk. I despise riding the sidewalk. It's jarring, uncomfortable, slow, and unsafe.

After playing with Google Maps a bit, I came up with an alternate plan. I found what seemed to be a mostly-parallel street that would take me to almost exactly where I wanted to go, and it seemed to be the kind of dense residential area where drivers are slow and friendly. Excellent.

When I turned onto the first street, I noticed a green "Bike Route" sign. Looks like a good choice so far.

After a bit less than a mile, I see a green sign with an arrow pointing onto a side street. I decide to follow it, since it will at the very least not be going away from my destination. I keep seeing little green signs and following them, and they seem to keep taking me North and West, toward Fairfield Commons. All good so far.

I am dismayed to see that it dead-ends on North Fairfiel Road about a mile short of where I want to be, and a decent distance from where the rough sidewalk becomes a bike path. Oh well, it's better than riding the whole thing. Have I mentioned, though, that I am quite impressed with the way they have bike routes laid out here?

I arrive at Fox and Hound (a good little pub and grill type place), and begin looking for something to lock the bike to. This is somewhat complicated by the fact that my six foot cable has fallen off the bike where it was bungeed to the rear rack. I have my Kryptonite chain which is always almost long enough to work, and I have my U-lock which is not quite wide enough to go around a pole.

I end up U-locking the front wheel to the main triangle and running the chain around the top tube and a light pole. It leaves the rear wheel unlocked, but nothing's perfect.

We just walk from the restaurant to the movie, so the bike remains there until I'm ready to ride home.

Riding at night is always interesting. In many ways I feel that on busy streets I am more visible than in the daytime, because I've got a lot of red flashing lights going on. It does have a bit of a dampening effect on my appreciation of the scenery, though.

The trip south on North Fairfield to rejoin the bike path is rather pleasant, since at 11:00 most of the traffic is gone so I just take the right lane. It's also downhill for most of the way, and we all know that downhill is better than uphill.

After about three miles of North Fairfield I reach the path. It's completely separated from the roads and has no streetlights or anything, so I'll be depending entirely on my headlight. Luckily it is quite bright (not quite HID brightness, but not far from that either).

Riding down a tree-lined path on a dark night with the only light source on your handlebars is something everyone should experience. Just maybe not too often, since it gets creepy.

I usually prefer a bar mounted light because it shows the contours of the terrain better and keeps me from shining it into the eyes of all the cars I might look toward. It also means, however, that I can't see anything next to me.

My first big scary moment came when I aimed my bars to the left for a quick second to get a look at that side of the path and saw a big shape. I turned the bars back that way real quick for a better look and was face-to-face with a large and very angry deer. ..OK, it likely wasn't angry, but it was probably surprised and annoyed. Suddenly seeing a deer pop up right in front of you at night is pretty surprising, so I may have jumped a bit and sped off. Hey, deer are vicious carriers of rabies. And...anthrax. And err...botulism?

Having survived my enounter with the deer, I continued on my ride home, looking over my shounder every now and then to ensure that there wasn't a cloven-hoofed-ticked-off mother of Bambi pursuing me. Not like I could have seen it anyway, it was dark.

About half a mile from home, I had another wildlife encounter. I saw what seemed to be an adorable little kitten on the side of the path, ready to dart out in front of my wheels, which it of course did soon after. Animals all like to play chicken. I slowed down to avoid hitting it, and it scampered across the path in front of me. I said "Hi kitty!" as it went, because cats are fun sometimes.

It was not a kitty. It was in fact an angry raccoon. I know that it was angry because it looked at me and made a pretty disturbing growling/snarling sound as I rode past. I'm pretty sure its eyes also glowed red and then shot fire at me, but Wikipedia doesn't mention this as being something that raccoons have evolved to do. Maybe I should make an edit. People need to know these things. It could save someone's life one day.

Anyway, I arrived home without being mauled by any cute woodland creatures, so I guess yesterday's ride counts as a victory.

Going back home to Kentucky for the weekend, so no more rides until Monday.

Have a safe holiday, everyone!

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


So I mentioned that I was working toward being carfree. I have definitely been taking steps in that direction, as can be seen by the graphs of my monthly mileage:

I don't expect it to get a whole lot bigger than that from sheer commuting...maybe 70 miles or so, but when I actually start taking time for long weekend rides it might balloon. I don't count non-commuting or shopping rides as gas savings though.

Unfortunately I don't get off work until 7:00, so I don't have as much time for after-work rides as I would like, and whatever club is here probably has their rides start much earlier as well.

Mileage Update

Looks like I logged 437.53 miles for June. Not too bad!

It was 100% utility cycling, too. Hopefully this month I'll get a chance to go on some longer rides on weekends. I also need to start taking some detours on the way home, but it's just so convenient to follow the rail trail right back to my apartment.

Maybe today I'll ride over to Xenia, a few miles east of where I get on the trail to go home. Might as well check out their big rail trail hub, plus I've heard that they have a really excellent sandwich shop where I could snag some dinner.

Current weight: Around 258 still. This is disheartening. Eating less is hard.