Saturday, February 28, 2009

Back to the frozen tundra...

Yup, we're back!

Hawaii was fantastic! Iowa/Nebraska/Midwest in general is not, especially the crappy snowy weather right now. I spent part of my morning shoveling that soggy, vile stuff. It's almost March, ferchrssake!

However, I have a whole bunch of pics to share. I been spending my alotted 'blog time' dumping all of them onto Flickr, so here's the link. And by dumping, I mean nada organization or documentation...but they are nice to look at. Enjoy!


Monday, February 9, 2009

Aloha and Mahalo!

A quick note to let my reader(s) know that I'm outta here until Feb 23.

Hey, Patrick...if you're out there drop me a line and let me know if you are interested in RAGBRAI. We are getting the team together and are sending in our entry fees.

By the way, did I mention I was headed to Hawaii? :>)

That's a whole buncha blog fodder!


Fatty, Fatty, two by four...

...the Schwalbes I ordered showed up at my door.

Big Apples, and they didn't disappoint. When they say "balloon bike", they really mean it.

A close up of the tread

and of course, on the bike

A quick spin around the neighborhood confirmed a nice, cushy, squishy ride. No hum, no vibration, just right for a long pavement run. On Sunday, I took Fat 'n Juicy out for a 30+ mile ride. 40 psi in the tires, and I did my regular 'shed' run, but added a hilly detour through Bentley and Underwood.

My impression? Comparatively, if my Ramby were a sports coupe the Juice would be more like a big, squishy, luxury car. Kinda like the old '73 Olds 98 LS I drove in high school. Good in a straight line, floats over the bumps, but you really have to plan for the turns. When I switch lanes with my Ramby or my Schwinns at speed, I just lean...I really don't have to turn the handlebars much at all, not more than a twitch. But on the Juice, I definitely need to turn the handlebars to get the bike to move from left to right. It takes just a bit longer to place the bike where it needs to go. The tail seems to float a bit, and it's not a razor sharp handler...but that's just fine. It's not a speed bike. I pulled off a couple of 30+ mph descents though, and Juicy tracked well, straight and stable.

She looks great outdoors!

Now you know why I call it the 'shed' run...

Rear view...


Saturday, February 7, 2009

The first commute of 2009 does not pass without incident

Friday temps were over 60 degrees.

The wife had an appointment after work, so it was definitely time to take a shot at the first commute of 2009. January weather had been dismal...lots of below zero weather and very negative windchills. I certainly couldn't pass up a nice day of riding, even if it was a workday.

Which bike? The quickie blue fixie had been sitting most of the winter and was looking like it needed a spin. I put it up on the bike stand and gave it a quick once over. I was glad I did. The front brake (the only brake) needed centering, the tires were low, and the chainring bolts were loose. I lubed up the chain as well, and we were ready to go!

I have two LED battery powered lights mounted to QBF. One light isn't enough for dark early morning commutes, but two are sufficient. I've also mounted a cheapo Pletscher rack knock off...definitely not Nitto quality but it does the job. I've also mounted Planet Bike clip on fenders, also not fancy but they keep most of the muck off my pants. All in all, the bike does a fine job for its intended purpose.

The most difficult part about bike commuting is keeping track of all my stuff. I put my toolkit and a change of clothes in my Carradice Longflap. I use a Rivendell quick release seatbag mount so I can get it on and off the bike quickly. I pack a lunch, and my lunchbag fits behind the seatbag, clamped in place with the 'spring mousetrap' provided on my Pletscher knockoff rear rack. I have to remember my wallet, keys, comb, work badge, cell phone, bike lock, etc., etc. Since it's still cold in the mornings (it was barely above freezing when I left), I wear my cold weather Adidas bike bibs with the jacket, Under Armour heat gear underneath with a base layer. Warm, thick socks are included with cold weather cycling shoes. For my head, I wear my Rivendell wool cap with a balaclava over that, and earmuffs. I can manage to fit my helmet over all those layers! I wear Pearl Izumi full fingered gloves, then pull XL leather gloves over those. For my face, I tie a bandanna around my neck and pull it over my mouth and nose.

Now with all that stuff, it's inevitable that I might forget something. However, that morning I was certain I had everything I needed with me. I get as much together as I can the night before, park my truck in the driveway and throw the bike in the back. When I get up in the morning, I dress for cycling, grab my stuff and head for the Wabash trailhead.

Absolutely no problems! I parked my truck in the trailhead parking lot, loaded the Carradice and my lunch on the bike, donned my cap, balaclava and helmet and headed for Omaha. It was a bit nippy at the start, but the sun soon peeked out and it warmed up surprisingly quickly.

About 5 miles into my trip, I had one of those 'oh shit' moments.

You know, where you suddenly realize you forgot something you really needed. Maybe several things. My first 'oh shit' moment started out with my cell phone. No big deal, I could live without that for a day. I blissfully pedaled along another mile, and the second 'oh shit' moment made me pause a bit.

Where was my bike lock and cable?

It was sitting at home, coiled up in my pile of mostly working bike parts and tools. Now, I park my bike in a bike rack in a parking garage. But I didn't really feel comfortable leaving the QBF unprotected for a day in downtown Omaha. As I pedaled along, I hatched a plan. I'd leave my bike in the rack, but I'd just remove the front wheel and take it into work with me. This would at least dissuade the casual bike criminal from just hopping on and absconding with my beloved blue fixie. If he could ride it. :>)

I arrived at work, and removed my front wheel. I don't have quick release skewers, but I do have a wrench so it wasn't a problem. Hit the work gym, showered, changed, and made it to work at a reasonable time, bike wheel in hand. The guard at the front desk was mildly amused.

As I was sitting at the desk, the boss happened by and saw the wheel. "Yes, I rode my bike in this morning, and my wheel is here because I didn't want my bike stolen", I said.

"Don't you have a lock?"
"Yeah, but I forgot it."
"You need to bring your bike in. It's going to get stolen."

Apparently, bikes have been stolen from the parking garage in the past. Now, the QBF isn't a fantastic prize but I sure wouldn't want to lose it. And if the boss says I can bring it in, why not? So I headed back out to grab my bike, wheel in hand. But first, I'd better mention this to the guard.

"Hey, I'm headed out to bring my bike in. I don't have my bike lock and my boss says my bike will get ripped off."
"Yeah, uh, you can't bring your bike in here"
"Why not?"
"Well, it's not security that will give you the problem, it's the building engineers. They won't let us bring our security bikes in here."
"My boss said it was OK, and I'm just going to be taking it up to my cube. Here's his number if you need to talk to him. I'm going to get my bike now."

I headed back to the parking garage, stuck the wheel back on and headed back to the office. As I turned the corner to head back into the tech center, I saw my boss through the glass doors, standing at the security desk, on the phone.

Another 'oh shit' moment.

What kind of trouble have I gotten my boss into? Was forgetting my bike lock a career limiting move? I envisioned a cadre of security guards escorting me and my bike from the building, tossing me out on my arse along with the contents of my cubicle, pink slip in hand.

I'm not sure who the boss was talking to (I'll assume the building engineer), but he was valiantly attempting to explain why we need to bring a bicycle into the building.

"My programmer rode his bike today and he forgot his bike lock."
"The bike will be stolen if he parks it there. He needs to bring it into the building"
"It will only be a one-time thing. I'll put the bike in my office"

After about 5 minutes of this, the guard finally let me through.

This time, I carried the entire bike into my work area instead of just the wheel. I parked it in his office while he continued to talk to the guard downstairs. I didn't see him come back in the office and we were busy, so I sent him and e-mail thanking him for going to bat for me and getting my bike into the building. No problem, he replied.

...but you need to wash your bike.

Ah, the many perils of commuting :>)


Thursday, February 5, 2009

How do YOU spell relief? I spell it H-A-W-A-I-I

My posts may be a bit sparse this month.

I will be off the continent starting Feb 12, and I'll be back Feb 23rd. Most of my time will be spent on a warm, sandy beach with an umbrella drink in hand and a big grin on my face.

I'm goin' to Hawaii, folks. Just me 'n the wife. We'll be spending all our time on Oahu, hitting all the major tourist stops and as many beaches as we can stand. We've been talking about going for years and just decided to drop the hammer and go. Actually, the vacation has been scheduled months ago and we've been in the planning phase for quite a while.

Jenny is looking over my shoulder and is calling me a big LLPOF. Maybe I should say the wife has been in the planning phase...I've been in the 'sitting on my arse dreaming about laying on the beach' phase for quite some time.

Will I be riding bikes in Hawaii? We'll just play that by ear. Will I be posting pictures on this blog? Most definitely!


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Ride Report - Loess "Hells"

Temperatures were hovering close to 50 degrees here on Saturday.

Of course, it was time to get out and ride. I wouldn't say some of the bikes in my stable have been neglected, but it has been a while since they've been out for a nice long roll. I pulled the LeTour out of the mix and put it up on the bike stand for a quick once-over.

The brakes, front and rear, were off-center and dragged a bit. During my adjustments, I noticed the front hub was making that hollow grinding growl know, that tasty 'my bearings are bone dry and need grease now' noise. So the front wheel came off and hub came apart. After a good cleaning, greasing, and re-tightening everything was ship-shape. The tires were aired up, chain lubed, and brakes adjusted. We were ready to roll!

It's been a while since I've been able to spend a whole afternoon riding. I took off Saturday morning for Persia, Iowa "gateway to the Loess Hills"...because the sign says so. Plus, I'll throw in a link here for informational purposes

Persia is a typical small Iowa town. I think the population hovers between 300 - 500. This is Main Street, pretty much all of it.

The main highway running past the town is relatively flat. The 12 mile run to Persia was a breeze, in fact, I had a nice tailwind so I probably averaged around 20 mph getting there. The hills come in to play when you veer off the highway to take the scenic route. County Road F58 West takes you on a nice, steep roller coaster ride to Highway L34 South, which then takes you on a nice, steep, roller coaster ride to Beebeetown (not joking!).

I took this picture at the top of one of hills, and it really doesn't do F58 justice because there are several lung-busting climbs here. I'd say in a stretch of approximately 10 miles there are eight nice big hills here, and the last two are extra special.

The 'church' climb, as I call it is a bit devious. It's one of those climbs that starts out deviously shallow, and as you progress gets rapidly steeper with a nice 'vertical' finish. I stopped at the top to take a snapshot of the church...not that I found the church building that interesting but I really needed to catch my breath!

Here's a shot from the top of the hill I just climbed. Again, this picture doesn't do it justice.

The second lung-buster is what I call the 'brick silo' climb. I didn't stop to take any pictures because I was too busy pedaling like crazy in my lowest gear, trying to make it up this thing. I should have taken a picture at the bottom of the hill, but I didn't want to lose any momentum I had...and you need all the momentum you can get.

L34 is a bit more forgiving, but there are some good stiff climbs here too. L34 is the Loess Hills Scenic Byway running through Beebeetown, a wide spot in the road with a few homes and luckily, a saloon. Voorthman's Corral is a nice little bar/restaurant and is a great place to rest and replenish. I managed to get there for the second half of the ISU - Oklahoma men's b-ball game. I stuck around for the finish and although they played well, the Clones couldn't pull off a win. My wife, the Sooner, was quite pleased however.

After a cheeseburger and a couple of malty beverages (remember, beer is a food), I was rested up and ready for the rest of the trip. Back on L34 and heading south...more hills, then Mahogany road east to Underwood. Underwood lies on Highway 191, and that completes the loop. It's a nice flat run through Underwood, Neola, then veer off 191 to Hwy 83 (Tamarack Rd), back to Minden. Total distance: 54 miles.

It was a challenging ride, and I'm feeling it a bit today. With the changing weather I should be spending lots more time on the bike and I'll be riding this route more frequently, especially if I get a spot on the grid at Leadville. I should know something mid-February.