Wednesday, April 14, 2010


The DirecTV and Versus (Comcast) truce means that, once again, I get to watch two things I love. Indy Car Racing and Bicycle racing. Watching Fabian Cancellara putting an exqusite smack down to all comers in Flanders and Paris - Roubaix was, as they say, "Must see TV". That smooth, fluid riding off into the sunset, leaving a puzzled, almost incoherent Tom Boonen to wallow in his wake was, simply, beautiful.

So, yesterday, after twelve miles of commuting, I came home, changed into the cycling clothes, pulled out the "fast" bike, and went for a ride. There wasn't any real goal, except to ride, but, as these things tend to go for me, it ended up a bit different. For some reason, about 8.5 miles in I discovered an average speed of 18.6. I don't go that fast anymore, do I? No, I NEVER went that fast! Yeah, it was with the wind, and I'd be coming back, but still, it wasn't much of a wind. I went another 21 miles. I did almost the entire thing in the drops, in my most aerodynamic position (at 6'2" and 190 lbs, airflow is more brick like than I want to admit) and pushed, pushed, pushed. My reward? Twenty nine and a half miles with an average speed of 18 mph! Sure, I lost a bit, but most of the ride from the 18.6 point was either into the wind, or up hills. Sometimes you just have to remember how to go fast. It's hard.

There are times I wonder - if I were 30 years younger..... But I'm having fun.

Thanks. Fabian, for reminding me how to go fast.

Friday, April 09, 2010

A Dilemma and Paradox

Since I live out here in the middle of nowhere - or, to be fair, about 25 miles in any direction from almost everything - it isn't a surprise when I come across rural type things in the road. Goats, and cows are not all that unusual, horses are pretty common - and require great care in passing, as bicycles tend to spook them, giving their riders an unanticipated thrill, an occasional chicken, some guinea hens (my encounter with those is documented here ). Last summer I came across a trail of really nice looking tobacco leaves and contemplated picking them up, taking them home, and trying my hand at homemade cigars, but then I'd have to smoke them, and I don't want to go through that whole quitting thing again. Anyway, on my way home for lunch today I caught up to a farm tractor. This happens two or three times a year, and seems to present me with a dilemma. To pass or not to pass. Now, since I caught up to it, clearly I am going faster, but, at the same time, there is something to be said for just sitting in the draft and enjoying the tow. Tractors push a lot of air out of the way, plus, if the catching was done going up hill, I wonder if I'll really be able to pull out of the draft and into the opposing lane and make the pass safely. So far, as today, I go by. As nice as it is to sit in that still air, going fast is nicer.

The paradox though. I have watched people in cars follow a tractor for miles waiting for a safe place to pass, but on every single ride I go on several drivers will go by me in places where they cannot possibly see oncoming traffic. There are many who pass me, going into the other lane, even when they can see cars coming toward them, nearly causing head on collisions. Like I said - I see this on every ride. So, why will people follow a tractor without much in the way of complaint, but are bothered by a bicycle, especially when the bike is always going faster - usually ten to fifteen mph faster - than the tractor?

Monday, April 05, 2010

Going Retro

One of the biggest drawbacks to commuting, at least with my bike selection, has been shoes. Sometime, way back when I started thinking I'd like to ride "seriously" (whatever that means) I shelled out some outrageous amount of money for Look pedals, shoes, and cleats. I put in the requisite falls, but finally learned how to use them, and never Looked back. Clipless pedals are the only way to go. Except...

Except if you ride to work. That means keeping another pair of shoes to change into when you get there. That's not too bad, but what if you want to stop off at, say, Food Lion on the way home and pick something up? Food, or maybe even PBR when it's on sale (like this week). That means traipsing about the slick floors on even slicker cycling shoes with cleats sticking out of them and trying to stay upright, plus, there really isn't any graceful way to wander around a store with the clomp - clomp of those cleats announcing your every move. Thus, I have relented. I rummaged around the shed and found an ancient pair of platform pedals, stripped the modern Looks off and now, I can wear whatever shoes I please. I think this will work out just fine. Besides, it's only on the commuter.

But wait, that's not all! Sometime, just before getting the Robauix I found a set of aluminum wheels for the Sports 12 (aka Old Blue, aka commuter) and mounted them to save maybe half a pound. Ever since I did that I have been keeping tube manufacturers rolling in money. My money. I have no idea why, but, after only a few hundred miles the tubes fail at the valve stems. The wheels don't have any obvious flaws, but something has to be wrong with them. Today the steel wheels went back on.

So except for the FSA Stronglight compact crank, plenty of rust, and the rear rack (from the Rhode Gear baby seat Sam used to ride into town in for a bottle of apple juice at Quik Chek - "faster Daddy") the bike is pretty much back to it's 1980 roots.

Ought to make a much better commuter - are fenders next?