Tuesday, July 24, 2012

If you build it, we will come!

And they built it.

Homestead trail between Beatrice and Lincoln is "open" in the sense that you can ride the entire length.

On a side note, I should blog more often.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

Skinny Tire/Small Ring

I figured there's no reason to push extremely hard right now. There aren't going to be any races around here until late April and I had already achieved a fitness goal this week, so I took the skinny tire out on an exploratory mission and kept it in the small ring.

My last ride of 2011 involved riding trails in town, and then unfamiliar territory via West Van Dorn, south on SW84th/91st to West Denton, and then east, up and over "the wall", a climb of nearly 150 feet that feels like you're going straight up.

At the top of the wall is Our Lady of Guadelupe Seminary. I had no idea this was out there. I should have taken a picture, it looks like a resort perched on a cliff, overlooking the corn.

The wind was out of the southwest for much of the ride, and then almost straight out of the west during the last few miles. I didn't have to do much pedaling on West Denton after the wall. The wind and gravity pulled me to 27mph at some point.

I have trouble grasping that it's officially January, and there's no snow on the ground.

My last ride of 2011 was 33.37 miles, at a leisurely 13.5mph pace.

Friday, December 30, 2011

May the Force Be With You

I once commented that I'm the cycling equivalent of a Mustang II. Well, after spending the last few months in the gym, I can now say with great confidence that I am the cycling equivalent of a Mustang II King Cobra.

What I'm saying is that force is no longer my limiter. I achieved my goal of doing "step ups" with 90% of my body weight on my shoulders. Six sets of six reps per leg.

It's safe to say I can make some torque (twisting force) at this point. It remains to be seen if I can convert the gains from the gym to gains on the bike. I know I need to do some leg speed work to make that happen. It's been a long time since I've gone out and just spun the hell out of the pedals. (While my cruising cadence is in the upper 80s, I have terrible form above 120rpm, a far cry from the days when I could spin out my 42x23 at 22mph.)

Why should I worry about leg speed? (About to get all mathematical up in here.)

Power = torque at speed. Most folks are familiar with the term "horsepower" when talking about cars. It's a number used to describe an engine's ability to make torque at high RPMs.

A couple of somewhat correct assumptions, correct enough for an example: A 70s Mustang II King Cobra and an 80s Honda CRX make about the same horsepower. The Mustang II's post-EPA/pre-EFI V8 makes about 200lb-ft of torque at roughly 2,000 rpm. A Honda CRX's modern multivalve four cylinder is making 120lb-ft of torque at 5,000 rpm.

Yes, the Mustang makes more torque, but at a lower RPM. The game changes when gearing is introduced.

Assuming a tire circumference of 80 inches for both cars, we arrive at 792 rpm at the tire at 60 miles per hour.

If both cars are geared to deliver peak torque at 60 miles per hour (they aren't in real life, but we can pretend they are for the sake of this example), the Mustang's final drive ratio is 2.53 and the Honda's is 6.31. This means the Mustang's engine and transmission combination is putting down 506 lb-ft to the wheels at 60mph while the Honda is putting down 757.

Having 50% more twisting force at your disposal is a clear advantage when accelerating, regardless of weight differences. Not just for sprinting, but also for climbing and battling the wind.

This is why I need to do speed work.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Ice Ice Baby

Saturday marked the unofficial start to winter in Lincoln Nebraska. It started with freezing rain followed by four inches of snow. I went for a short ride on Sunday to see what it was like. There were quite a few sections of the MoPac west that were downright dangerous.

It seems like the city was caught off guard. The residential streets in my neighborhood are pretty much one big ice skating rink, 48 hours later. The bike trails are usually clean and dry within 24 hours with a few questionable spots, but this year it's the opposite: questionable with a few clean and dry spots.

It took 42 minutes to ride to work, about 15 minutes longer than usual. I only had to get off and walk once. (Rock Island, under the zoo entrance.)

The ride home took an hour and ten minutes. The ice melted and then refroze. Stretches that were okay on the ride to work had me slithering this way and that. Coming out from underpasses was particularly dicey, as those seemed to be the slickest. I didn't take any chances on the home stretch, I walked the bike over the 27th street overpass.

While I have Nokians, I haven't taken the time to install them yet. I'll probably bring them in from the garage to warm up and swap them out tomorrow.

Things I've learned about ice biking:

  • Breathe. I've been told by a few people that your body will not tense up if you keep breathing. You are more likely to stop the bike from falling if you're relaxed. 
  • Lighten up on the saddle and handlebars. Let the bike move a little bit under you. Even side to side.
  • Don't make sudden movements. Physics is not on your side.
  • Pedal slowly in a taller gear. This helps with staying light on the saddle and handlebars. It also reduces the mechanical advantage to the rear wheel, reducing the power lost to spinning your rear wheel on the ice. 
  • Low tire PSI. You want the largest possible contact patch, but not so low that the rim is riding on the pavement. You also want the tire to deform around imperfect ice, which helps keep the bike upright.
  • Learn to lean your body and not your bike when steering. I learned this the hard way. The nearly zero coefficient of friction combined with gravity tends to pull the bike out from under you, even if you have studded tires.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Girly Hustle

It's nights like this that make me realize Lincoln has an awesome cycling community. The girls who organized the girly hustle have a sense of humor, to be sure. In fact, two girls running the show at the start were laughing hysterically at their phones before the race even began. Something was up. Now that I've had time to put thoughts together, I'm sure they were laughing at the third checkpoint.

Most of the participants were men. The organizers had to know this going in. I wish I was more prepared.

Perhaps I should fire up the scannner and post my quiz results from the first checkpoint.

Perhaps I won't: Probably for the best.

Second checkpoint was cool as shit. I had to decorate a cookie with a positive adverb describing women. I chose "Beautiful". Dammit if that wasn't hard to spell with a frosting bag on a four inch cookie. The cookies were available to eat at the finish. I think I found the one I decorated....

Third checkpoint? I thought it was evil until I reached the finish, at the Hour Lounge. The third checkpoint will result in discomfort for weeks to come. ;)

I had an awesome time, even if I did go to the grocery store afterwards in a t-shirt proclaiming that I made it backstage. (That's a story I shall save for later hustle finishes.)

I did two things I kinda regret: 1) calling another participant a fun-hater (for not taking care of business at the 3rd checkpoint) and 2) telling a bartender I'm 13 years older than he is and to find me a beer I haven't tried, dammit.

You know how I'm getting old? They're running out of beer I haven't tried yet, dammit!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Quick Links

Two links:
  1. Cycling to work can add 5 years to your life, but only if you pedal hard and avoid crashing (dailymail.co.uk) (It's reporting on an observational study, so take the "results" with a grain of salt...)
  2. Kick-ass DIY R2-D2 bike helmet. (phillyrawrblog)

Monday, August 29, 2011

South Dakota and Alley Cats

I should post more.

South Dakota.

My wife and I took a "just the two of us" trip to Spearfish Canyon, SD recently. The cycling portion of the trip involved rental Schwinns that had seen better days.

It was totally worth it, you miss out on a lot of stuff when you're caged up in a car. We coasted from the Spearfish Canyon Lodge down 14A to Bridal Veil Falls, and then made our slow steady climb back up the hill. My wife remarked that the hill seemed a lot steeper when we were going down, and that this climb isn't that bad.

We made a couple of stops on the way back up: We went climbing in a gulch that was obscured from the road by trees, then hiked along an abandoned rail corridor along Iron Creek.

We stopped for lunch, then climbed up a gravel road. Compared to the heavily traveled 50mph farm roads around here, that gravel was smooth and easy climbing. A steady 3-4% grade for 5 miles. (One spot was pretty steep, my wife got off and walked, I hit the bailout ring. Pretty easy after that.) It was smooth enough that I would be comfortable taking my road bike up it if it were dry. I was looking for an MTB friendly trail which exists near the top of the road that takes you to Baldy Mountain overlooking the Canyon, but we never found it. It was about this time my wife remarked "I'm so done riding right now". I don't blame her, she's not much of a cyclist and we had put in about 20 miles at this point, 13 of which were going uphill.

Alley Cat.

I did my third hustle race on Thursday. (I had done a Haunted Hustle and Snow Globe Hustle previously.) For those not in the know, a hustle race is an unsanctioned, checkpoint-based race on city streets. They're also called "Alley Cat" races.

This one was entitled C-Rad Hustle, as it was put on by a local guy whose nickname is C-Rad.

I was the first to arrive at Woods Park. Per instructions, I had a flashlight and can opener. About a dozen or so other cyclists arrived to participate in the festivity.

Once the sun was low enough on the horizon, we were released to our first checkpoint, a screenprinting factory on Cornhusker, about two and a half miles away. We had to drink a beer, then ride through the factory following some arrows laid out with blue painter's tape. We were given our next point upon completing the course.

The next checkpoint was Amen's Liquor store at 12th and Belmont. I got around the group I was riding with and threw the chain into the big ring and powered up the hill to 14th and Adams. Boo-ya.

That was a big mistake. I know the Belmont neighborhood about as well as I know the freeways around [major metropolitain area], meaning I have no flippin clue. I remember reading the instructions on the sticker saying "two blocks north of Cornhusker". Trouble is, I got off Cornhusker at Adams, then hit 12th street and went... North. (Adams is about 5-6 blocks north of Cornhusker at 12th street.) I made it all the way to Superior Street (a mile out of my way) before realizing my mistake.

Here's where things start to get surreal. I'm a sweaty mess. I lean my bike against the liquor store's entrance, I walk in, the guy stops ringing up a customer, points at me and says "one moment please, this gentleman is on a mission". He pulls a can of Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy out of a cooler and asks for a dollar thirty four. I pay him, he holds up two coozies and asks "green or purple?"

I ask "will it matter later?"

"I guess you'll find out," he replies.

I am a bit confused and disheartened by my earlier mistake and just say "Oh well, green I guess."

He puts the sticker on my spoke card and explains "your next stop is the bar behind knickerbocker's". I know where Knickerbocker's is. They have quarter tacos on Thursday and tons of local and regional bands I never get out to see. Trouble is, the most direct route is a stupid-busy two lane blacktop over Salt Creek, through the North Bottoms and then by UNL. I grinned and beared it. Two other participants were unlocking bikes as I was walking in.

I had to buy/chug a beer at that bar before getting my next sticker. I bought a guinness. Dude poured nothing but foam, it went down easy.

My next stop was a "small park at 50th and O, look for the stone bench". That's close to my 'hood. It's also 3 miles from downtown, the most direct route is also the "main drag". I hit the side streets and the sidewalk along said drag.

By the time I got to the park, there were three people. One was handing out stickers, the other two were relaxing with a Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy in branded coozies from Amen's Liquor store and remarked about my hill attacking ability. "How did we get ahead of you? We thought we'd never see you again!"

Before I was to drink my beer, I had to run up the hill, then bike down it, as if I were in a cyclocross race. This idiot brought his road bike...

By now the beer was shaken up, and upon opening it, I found myself wearing part of it. Oh well. I got my sticker for the next checkpoint.

It read: "Visit any grocery store and buy a can of tuna. Then report to the alley behind TJ Maxx and Best Buy."

There's a Hy-Vee right across the street from the park, and it's down the road/round the corner from Best Buy. I ran into the store with my bike and got strange looks. I told one employee that it was okay, I was on a mission. After fumbling with my wallet and chasing down two other participants, I met up with C-Rad in the alley behind Best Buy and presented my can of tuna.

Now I used my flashlight and my can opener to open the tuna. My next task was to empty the contents into one of the bowls "over there".

So here we are at about 10:15, walking along a narrow foot path in the grass that used to be a creekbed, holding freshly cracked open cans of tuna and a spoon, dumping it into bowls placed near old doghouses.

I think you can tell what's going on here: the task at this checkpoint was feeding alley cats. Seems appropriate, yes?

The final checkpoint was a downtown bar. I don't know my downtown bars. I have a fuzzy recollection of where they are, but I couldn't tell you what block has what bar. I overshot my destination by a block. I wasn't done hustling until I chugged another beer, this one being Old Style.

I took the DFL prize for getting lost twice.

I hung around for a while to drink beer and converse about bikes, beer, star wars and zombies, then seriously did not remember the ride home. When I got home, I remember I had packed a tall boy of Schlitz just in case I needed a beer for the Hustle, so I pulled that from my bag and hit facebook. Mmm. What's wrong with the beer I got now? Warm Schlitz drank pretty good, don't it?

I don't remember crawling into bed.

The next day my head reminded me that I'm 30-freaking-5 and had to work, idiot. I should have headed home at 11:30. I then checked to make sure 1) my bike was in the garage and 2) the garage was closed. Check and check.

I feel like a kid again when I do these events. I mean, except for the beer chugging. 

We had Mountain Dew instead.

I did think up a cool hustle "theme" while typing this. Whether or not I make it reality is another story.