Sunday, June 29, 2008

Old Fat & Slow Gear Vol.9 - Handlebars

I've been riding flat bars for a long time now, and have generally accepted numbness in the hands as part of the game. So I never really planned to do anything about it, but last night I was at REI getting a replacement for my itty bitty swiss army knife that didn'tmake it through airport security, when I came across an Easton riser bar for $18. Being a cheapskate and knowing that I'd probably never see a price like that again, I grabbed it. I installed it last night, having to replace only the front brake cable housing. Hit the trail this morning and was in for a big surprise. The new bar is at least 6 inches wider than the old one and the rise is about 1.5 inches. My first impression was that it felt like driving a school bus with a giant steering wheel. Every steering motion took way more input than with the old bar. The riding position feels much more upright even though its only a small change, and the whole balance makes Mr Klein feel like a completely different bike. I don't know if I like it or not.

Out on the trail, it seems like the change in riding position causes the front wheel to have less bite and the front fork seems stiffer, since my substantial weight is shifted back. I feel like I have to steer the bike around obstacles rather than just flow along and make little tweaks as needed.The jury will be out for a while on this one.

I think the bar is probably too wide, about 6 inches wider than the old flat bar, but I'm going to ride it as is for a few weeks and see whether I get used to it. If not, I'll start by cutting about an inch off each end. I could just cut 2 inches off one end, but it might look a little funny.

On my trip to the hellhole of the southwest (Las Vegas) I took a few pictures of Hoover Dam.

Now, I realize that Hoover is one of the great engineering feats of the early 20th century, but being used to the dams on the Columbia River, this one seems kind of small. The other striking thing is the water level, 100 feet below normal and never expected to be full again. Wonder if that has anything to do with Los Angeles and the 5 million people in phoenix?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Las Vegas, Prescott, Phoenix

I went to Las Vegas on Wednesday to attend a telecom trade show. Two days of looking at geek stuff was enough to last me for a year. I'm not a fan of the gambling meccas of Reno, Las Vegas, etc. so going there was not something I look forward to. When I arrived at the hotel and parked the truck, a bicycle renta-cop asked my why I didn't park in valet parking with my bike in the back. I told him I wasn't leaving it there, so he shrugged and rode off. I shoved Mr. Klein into the cab, locked everything up and went off to chase the elusive metro ethernet technologies.
On Friday morning, I hopped in the truck and headed for Prescott, glad to be leaving a town with the worst drivers I've ever seen. And that includes Southeast Asia. Made it to Prescott in time for my noon meeting. Afterward, I drove over to Lynx Lake and looked around a bit before hitting Granite Basin. The plan was to ride the Basin area, then find a place to park and sleep in the back of the truck, and ride Lynx Lake in the morning. As it turned out, Prescott was close to 100F, making the Granite Basin loop tougher than it should have been. By the time I finished, I was pretty dragged out and bug bitten. The thought of an uncomfortable night in the bed of a pickup truck lost its appeal, so I headed back to Phoenix.
Now, I'm new to Phoenix, having been here for 10 months, so I thought it was humorous having one of my riding buddies call me and ask for directions. Two of the guys were doing an evening ride on the PMP loop I've been using as a training ride, and were having some trouble finding their way in the dark. So what do these Phoenix natives do? Call the new guy and ask how to get where they want to go. Poor man's GPS.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Getting Hot!

The last few days in Phoenix have been really warming up. The temperature hit 112F (44.5C) today and the low was 85 (29.5C). The monsoon season has officially started as of 6/15. It used to be that the season officially started when the dew point hit 55F (12.8C) for three consecutive days. I haven't been through a full summer in Phoenix yet, but getting here in mid August last year gave me a sample of what to expect. I haven't started riding in the early mornings yet, but if this keeps up I'll have to change my habits.

I am making a loop this week, first to Las Vegas for a trade show, then to Prescott for a meeting, and back to Phoenix. The meeting in Prescott ends at 3:00pm, so I'm loading up my bike and a sleeping bag so I can spend some time riding in cooler weather. I got a kick out of Granite Basin last fall, so that will be my first ride. I haven't given much thought to Saturday's ride, but I'll figure something out.

Tomorrow night, another hot ride in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve, then an early morning start on Wednesday so I can make it to sin city by noon.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Gila Monster

The desert has its surprises. This isn't a great shot, but I only had my cell phone with me. I headed out to the trails about 7:00pm with the temperature around 100F. I kind of expected to see a snake or two, but I never expected to see a Gila Monster. This guy (gal?) was about 18 inches long and looked to be pretty healthy. He was in the middle of the trail when I rode up and moved to the edge, where he appears in this picture. I stopped and watched him watching me for about 5 minutes. Took a few shots and none came out very well. This one was lit by my headlamp, handlebar light and camera flash. Eventually we got tired of staring at each other and I rode off. This was on 1A in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Critters on the Trail

I was up on 1A in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve this evening and trying to thread my bike around a rock that I've cleared dozens of times. For those who are familiar with the trail, there are two spots where you have to thread the needle while making a right hand turn (westbound). I say trying, because tonight, I didn't quite make the second one, caught my chain stay on the rock and took a pretty good tumble. The bike flipped over and ended up about 20 feet below the trail. I only fell about down about 10 feet. Man, there's a lot of dry stickery little things that attach to anything and everything! Recovered the bike (minor ding) and searched for the headlight that came off. Found it about 6 feet below the bike's resting spot.

Anyway, being from the Pacific Northwest, going off trail may cause you to pick up a bramble or two, but any critters you encounter are pretty benign. Here in Phoenix, I'm not so sure about that and it got me thinking. There seem to be all sorts of critters that can do some kind of damage.

About 1/2 hour before my crash, I encountered my second rattlesnake in a week. Both snakes were about 2 feet long. I ran over the first one in the dark, hitting it with both tires almost before realizing what it was. It was in the middle of the trail, stretched out and slithering across. It really should have used the pedestrian crossing. Tonight's snake was about the same size and had just gotten off the trail when I arrived at the snake crosswalk (crosscrawl? crossslither?).

Scorpions seem to be scurrying about quite a bit, and I've spotted a few centipedes that can have a nasty bite.

On the less threatening side, there are lots of little lizards that startle and take off like a shot, spraying little scoops of sand as they go.

Seems there are a couple breeds of rabbits, several specimens I've seen are small, not particularly long legged, and a lot like wild rabbits all over the country. The other ones are probably jackalopes. I can't be sure, because every one I've sighted has apparently been a doe. Haven't seen a single one with antlers, but I understand that the bucks laze about in the rocks like male lions and only come out after the female has made the kill.

Lots of coyotes roam the preserve, and I spot at least one each week.

Birds include owls, doves and quail. I've only seen one owl in flight, when it coasted about 10 feet over my head a while after sunset. Doves are abundant and seem to like to sit in the middle of trails, and take off when startled. In the daytime, doves take off at an angle and start putting distance between themselves and the intruder as quickly as possible. At night, they seem to take off and fly straight up at least 6 feet before they angle off and away. I'd guess their night vision isn't too good and they launch straight up to avoid hitting anything. Quail are downright funny. They run away when startled and move so fast you can hardly see their legs move. Its like they have no sense of where they want to run to, changing direction seemingly a dozen times every second. I came upon a pair of adults and at least 10 chicks one evening. The chicks made the ground seem almost alive as they scurried in a hundred directions at once. Reminded me of a kindergarten playground.

So, there I was, contemplating the myriad desert species as I recovered my bike and headlight. The critters are interesting, but I doubt I've seen them all. For a moment, I had to decide if I was going to recover the bike and light, or just leave them as toys for the critters and walk home.