Thursday, July 31, 2008


I went out for a morning ride yesterday without my usual riding buddy. The humidity was down and temperature about 85, perfect riding conditions for Summer in Phoenix. I was feeling pretty good, so I figured it was time to set a benchmark to gauge my fitness. One of my favorite loops from 32nd St. is to go clockwise, down Zipper, loop around to catch a piece of 100, up 8 toward the AW house, drop through the gully, loop around and work up to the pass just east of Piestawa Pk, then 1A across to Conversation Point and down Zipper to 32nd St. This works out to 5.9 miles and makes a challenging loop for a geezer like me. I usually stop and catch my breath 3 or 4 times. This time I stopped twice and rested for not more than 30 seconds each time. Made the loop in 56 minutes. It's not fast enough to set any records, but I only race against myself anyway. In a week or two, I'll take another crack at it and see if I can beat that time.

It will also be a good test for an evening ride after the Summer ends, sometime in November. One thing I notice is that riding in the morning, at least for the first mile or so, I feel like a slug, and get better as I warm up. In the evenings, I take off and go, usually feeing pretty good from start to finish.

Getting out on the bike 5-6 times a week really has made a difference. Last weekend in Flagstaff, we started riding at 8000 ft. and rode up from there. We probably climbed more than 2000 ft. overall, and after 6 hours of riding, I still felt like I could do a few more miles. A year ago, that would have left me panting at the trailside.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Flagstaff Ride

4 of us left Phoenix Saturday afternoon looking for a little adventure in the cooler climate of Flagstaff. Had dinner, visited some folks and generally had an enjoyable evening.

Sunday dawned, cool and beautiful. We loaded up and headed up Schultz Creek to a parking lot at about 8000 ft elevation. These were the three amigos I rode with. Jeff, on the right, led us up a trail that looked like an abandoned forest service road, rutted from recent rains and a pretty good climb. Within about an hour...

We came across some guys with local knowledge and a map! Turned out, we had been climbing an unmarked trail that may lead to the Sunset Trail, or maybe not. Eventually we found the top of Little Bear Trail and a fantastic descent that probably dropped 1500ft in about 3 miles.

Very cool views and a nice semi-technical trail.
Looking out over Northeast Flagstaff from Little Bear Trail.
Got a bit of rain, but worked back up to the truck at the top of schultz Creek Trail.The descent down Schultz Creek was very cool, probably a drop of 1000 ft over 3.5 miles. one of our crew had done it many times before, had a broken chain, and was willing to drive the truck down. Beat the heck out of riding back up.
We started our ride at about 9:00 am and finished about 3:00 pm. Great day for a ride, with temps in the 60s and 70s. Much better than the Phoenix heat and monsoon humidity!

Friday, July 25, 2008

Referring back to Old Fat & Slow Gear Vol. 5

Tires. Yeah, those round things we put on wheels to keep from chewing up the rims. I'm sure that's the only reason they exist.

Up until about 3 weeks ago, all was right with the world. I was running Panaracer Fire XC tires front and rear, riding at least 50 miles a week in the Phoenix Mountain Preserve. In almost a year, I had maybe 2 flats. I was living large and feeling pretty smug.

Then the world turned upside down. My rear tire was getting pretty thin, so I swapped it with a Panaracer Smoke Classic. Since then I'll bet its flatted at least 6 times. Thorn dammit, thorn dammit, thorn dammit, thorn dammit, thorn dammit, pinch oh crap. The pinch was probably because I took another thorn and lost some air. When I finally get the rear to stay inflated and last a few rides, what do I find? Last night the front is flat. Pull it apart and sure enough, thorn. Fix it, pump it up, go to bed. This morning, 4:50am, ready to go. Front's flat. I pumped it up and it held air long enough to get in a ride, but there's still a problem.

I tried a Slime instant patch on the tube last night. maybe that's the culprit. I'll check it out tonight.

I don't know what the deal is with all the thorns lately. Maybe the recent rains have washed loose thorns in to the trails, or maybe its just Karma. Maybe the desert is ganging up on me. If the heat and humidity of the early morning rides couldn't keep me off the trails, it was time for the desert to throw a bunch of cactus bits around and see if that will keep me in bed until time to go to work.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Unexpected

Up until the last few weeks would I ever have dreamt of using the words "Humid" and "Phoenix" in the same sentence. The popular cenception of Phoenix is, "Its a dry heat." Yeah, sure. When I moved here last August, it was a dry heat, melt your eyeballs dry heat. I never would have believed that humidity in Phoenix could compete with Saigon. With daytime temperatures in the 100s and 110s, I've been out on the trails in the early mornings instead of evenings. Trouble with that logic is that mornings are more humid. This morning was a great example. It rained last night until about 4:00am and by 6:00 when we started out, humidity had to be near 90%. Stepping outside is enough to induce sweat. Riding ain't too bad as long as you keep moving. Stop for a minute and its bring on the waterworks.

Yesterday, I spent about an hour cleaning my bike, lubing everything, and getting it all nice and shiny. This because last week we got in a wet ride and the dried muck was getting on my nerves. Naturely, just like washing the car, washing my bike caused last night's rain. now its all mucked up again, but at least its new muck!

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Desert Critter Wuss

When it comes to critters that live in the desert, I am a confirmed wuss. I proved it last night. One thing I know about desert critters is that a whole bunch of them are venomous. What I don't know is how many are venomous and which ones they are. Of course there are the obvious ones, like rattlesnakes, scorpions, gila monsters, but what about all those other creepy crawly things?
So there I was, out riding around last night up in the PMP. I swung my leg over and hopped off my bike to carry it across a section I'm too old and wimpy to ride. Something bumped into my inner calf. Didn't think too much about it until I crossed the section and started to get back on the bike. I looked down and, in the dark, saw some furry thing about the size of a vole attached to my leg. Wuss that I am, my immediate reaction was to panic and swat the thing away. As soon as I hit it, I realized just how stupid that was. My leg had bumped into a Cholla and taken away a pretty good chunk of it (cholla, not leg). If I had realized what it was, I may have handled it differently.
For the those not familiar with Cholla cactus, here's a pic I took last fall at White Tank Mtns:

All those little spiny things are an inch or so long, sharp as surgical needles, and scaled so they go in a lot easier than they come out.

I do not recommend that you swat these things away, even with gloves, let alone fingerless gloves like I was wearing. The chunk of cholla came off my leg, leaving only a few spines behind, since it was mostly attached to my sock rather than my leg. Unfortunately, I managed to embed a bunch of spines in my fingers. Out came the multi-tool and I spent maybe 10 minutes yanking those devil spines out of my fingers and leg. I can tell you from experience that pulling them out of my leg didn't hurt much, in comparison to my fingers.

Later in the ride, I came across my second gila monster. This one was about 14 inches long and probably a lot younger than the one I saw a few weeks ago. I took a couple pictures, but neither came out very good.

Even in the heat, I like night riding better than early mornings. First thing out of bed, it seems to take a lot to get going and my energy level never cranks up to make me feel good on the trail. In the evenings, I get energized just thinking about it. Hills that are nothing but struggle in the morning rides are actually enjoyable in the evenings. Last night was a couple degrees below 100, and humidity was pretty high, but even with those conditions, the ride was great. I'm going to ride again this evening, but its back to early AM during the week.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Hot and Wet

No, its not a sexual reference. Its the monsoon season here in Phoenix. It peaked out at about 106 yesterday and humidity was pretty impressive. The rains came around 8:30pm and lasted until the early morning hours.

I hit the trail at 5:00am with temp around 80, and humidity must have been at least that. As long as we kept moving, it wasn't too bad, but stopping brought on the sweat. I may not be a good rider, but one thing I do very well is sweat. When its dry out, it evaporates and things don't seem too bad. When its humid, the story is very different.

There is one thing to look forward to during the monsoon season in Phoenix, and that is the end of the monsoon season.