Sunday, April 27, 2008

Not Riding

I haven't been on the bike since last Sunday and its making me sluggish. On Monday, after 3 days of dirt and road, I decided to take Monday as a rest day. About 9:30 that night I realized I wasn't going to get on the bike until I get back to Phoenix. If I'd realized that at 7 or 8, I would have knocked out some miles that night. Tuesday night was a Diamondbacks game. Wednesday was blood donation. Thursday I was on the plane to Portland. I get back to Phoenix on Tuesday and drive to Laughlin NV for a conference. Next ride will be Thursday night. Unless I can get away for a while in Nevada.

Last Wednesday, a riding buddy called and asked if I wanted to ride. I told him I couldn't because I had just given blood. He said, "Yeah, that's what we're gonna do!" I responded that I really had donated blood and I wasn't going to ride. He said, "I was just gonna donate a few scratches."

So here I sit in Ashland OR. We saw three plays at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival this weekend, "Fences" by August Wilson, "Welcome Home, Jenny Sutter" by Julie Marie Myatt, and "Midsummer Night's Dream" by William Shakespeare. All three were amazing performances and well worth the trip. Today we're going to the "Taste of Ashland," grazing our way through the art galleries with food and wine from the general area. We've been attending the Festival for many years and plant to come back again in October.

I loaded Mr. Klein in my truck and left him at the Phoenix airport. When I get to Laughlin on Tuesday, I'm going to look for anything that resembles a trail and try to get some riding in.

The Urban Assault Bike Ride is coming up in Seattle May 18th. Sean and I are entered. That means I have about two weeks to sluff off the lethargy of vacation and be ready for the challenge. Looks like a lot of fun.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Roadie Day

I've been in Phoenix for 9 months now and have only been on my road bike 3 times before today. I decided to crank out some miles today since its good training for mountain biking. First thing I had to do was pump up the tires, which were a flaccid 20 psi. I normally run these 700x23 tires at 105 psi. It takes a lot of ignoring to have them that far down. Prepped and ready, I left the apartment and caught the bike path that leads past Dreamy Draw and down the bike route to the canal. Since I've been west on the canal from there, I headed east through Scottsdale to a bike path that follows some golf courses and waterways until I figured I was pretty close to Shea, than worked my way west, hitting a few dead ends and backtracking. In all it turned out to be a 30 mile loop, mostly flat. Finished it in a reasonable 2 hours.

I thought it was interesting that when I started out, folks along the way nodded, smiled, and responded to my greetings. By the time I reached Scottsdale, folks rarely acknowledged my existence. Heading back west, folks started responding again. I guess that in Scottsdale, the high fashion area of the Valley of the Sun, the faux pas of mountain biking shoes on a road bike was just too much for them.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Old Fat & Slow Gear Vol. 6 - Pedals

Remember your first pedals? If so, you're probably a bike nerd. I don't recall mine, but back in my early days of cycling, over fifty years ago, the only kind I remember were the pressed steel frames with rubber blocks bolted to them. They had ball bearings and probably weighed a quarter pound each. That was all I knew until my first 10 speed, which hac steel traps that aren't much different from the platform pedals available today. Somewhere around that time, I added toe clips and straps. Being a commuter and riding my bike to high school in the '60s (true nerd status), I kept the straps loose enough to pull out easily and put a foot down. Toe clips were a big improvement, a fact I came to realize one day when I was riding without them in the rain. My foot slipped off the pedal while standing and I made unforgettable contact with the top tube. The toe clips and straps returned to the bike as soon as I got home.

About 15 years ago, I rode clipless pedals for the first time. I still don't understand why clipless pedals are defined by something they lack instead of what they are. First ride, lean against the garage wall and practice the heel out twist. Take off down the street. Stop at the corner. Fail to clip out. Fall over. On my road bike, I probably fell twice before really getting the hang of it. On my mountain bike, I probably fell 30 times because I couldn't make the action quickly enough. It usually happened while climbing a steep section and losing momentum. Crank, crank, c r a n k, c r a... Crash. Now I almost never ride without clipless pedals.

Regardless of whether I am on my road bike or mountain bike, I use the same kind of pedal. That saves me from having to have 2 pairs of shoes, although the more snobby roadies sniff when they see my utter lack of sensitivity to their culture. Of course, at 56 years, 5'8" and 212lbs, (I think that's like 2.5 stones) my mere presence on the road disturbs their sensibilities. The look of mtn shoes and double sided pedals is just too much for some folks.

I am an SPD guy, simply because its possible to get knockoff SPD pedals for around 20 bucks. When some of the other pedals get that cheap, maybe I'll try them. At that price, the pedals aren't terribly light, and they don't have such niceties as titanium axles. But, they also hang together pretty well. In fifteen years, I've broken only one pedal, and that was part of the clip mechanism.

Maintenance? an occasional shot of WD-40 and a rare dismantling, cleaning and greasing.

The desert is drying out now that its April, but there are some interesting blooms open now.
The first is an Ocotilla bloom, fiery red.

The second is a Prickly Pear bloom. I had never seen either bloom until this Spring. Both are absolutely striking in this desert environment.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

To Red Bull or not to Red Bull

I thought seriously about drinking the complementary can of Red Bull I received at the Lake Pleasant Dam Good Run/Walk/Hike, figuring that maybe I could crank through a couple spots where I usually die out. Then I thought, what if I don't get it to wear off before bedtime? It was 7pm and I rode until about 9, planning to hit the hay by 10:30. I've never drank an energy drink, other than Gatorade. I have also quit drinking coffee in the evening, since it started affecting my sleep. Then I thought, maybe I could clear some of those hills. Then I thought, maybe I'll just get the shakes from it and gain nothing. Then I thought, what the hell...

Then I rode off, leaving the dreaded can of unknown substances in the fridge. I might try it later, or it might sit there until the aluminum corrodes and spills the contents all through the vegetable crisper.

Wonder what its like to clean that stuff up?

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Old Fat & Slow Gear Vol. 5 - Tires

Or, for those of you who speak the King's english, Tyres. Actually, I intended to talk about rims this time, but in my last post, I said just about all that needs to be said. Round, smooth, strong, light weight. Beyond that, a rim is a rim.

Tires (tyres) on the other hand, actually make a difference. And the biggest difference is whether or not they go flat. Maybe its really how often they go flat, since all of them seem to do that. I look at the catalogs, peruse the magazines, and search the web pages, and there isn't really much said about that.

I run with tubes, mainly because I'm cheap and tubeless is one of those things that would lead me to replacing the whole bike, but also because tubeless tires seem to flat a lot more than tube tires. On group rides here in Phoenix, it seems like the flats are almost always tubeless. Folks use gooey stuff like Stans (whatever that is) or Slime, but the flats keep coming. I've had pretty good luck with tubes, only flatting 3 or 4 times since I moved here in August. Since having fun on a bike depends on air in the tires, I'm good with that.

In the world of mountain biking, there is a vast array of tires to choose from. There are compounds, tread patterns, threads per inch, kevlar and wire beads... Its all too confusing. I like to keep it simple. I look for kind of a blocky tread and a price tag at or below $14. Right now I am riding a set of Panaracer Fire XC Smoke Something or Others that I found for $12.95 each. They wear pretty well and the traction is good. The only drawback is that when gravel on the trail is a certain size, these tires pick up rocks and throw them all over the place.

Rolling resistance is one of those criteria bandied about in tire reviews. In my case, the largest cause of rolling resistance has something to do with the 212 pounds I carry around, and probably a lot less to to with the way tires are made. I cut rolling resistance by putting a whole lot of air in the tires, like 40 psi front and 45 psi rear. Although it makes the bike skittish, it also makes it roll easy. High pressure also seems to minimize flats, which goes back to one of the most important things about any tire, keeping air on the inside and foreign objects on the outside.

Its looking like a great evening for a ride, temp will be 75 in another hour or so, and I'm rested up from this morning's "Dam Good Run/Walk/Hike" up at Lake Pleasant. One of the give-aways at the event was a can of Red Bull, something I've never even tasted before. I'm debating whether to drink it before the ride. Could be like turbocharging a '62 Ford Falcon without fixing the brakes.