Sunday, December 26, 2010

I used to feel like this every day.

So I've had a cold for a while now. Chest cold. I planned to commute Wednesday, but the cold/cough said "hell no", and I drove. I felt miserable all day long at work.

You'd think 8 hours of sleep would be enough, but no. I slept 10 hours a night for the last three nights and managed to sneak some power naps in here and there.

A cocktail of medication makes me feel normal long enough to interact with others. One sudafed, some expectorant cough syrup, ibuprofen, a halls drop or five and a good hot shower makes me feel like a human again for a couple hours, and then it's all back to the cough and misery.

I probably just did myself a dis-service just now by lifting weights.

There was a time when I felt like this every day. back in those days I consumed a steady diet of cigarettes, mt. dew, and fast food. Exercise included picking up a play station controller. I would turn off my bedroom light, but not before looking at my old Cannondale road bike leaning on the wall opposite my bed and think "maybe tomorrow?" as my head hit the pillow.

Maybe.

Monday, December 20, 2010

I'm not training for an Ironman.

My cousin shared this on her facebook wall a few days back. I just got done lifting weights and laughed at myself in a monotone computer voice.



While I'm not training for an Ironman, I am training towards a cat5 time trial in MiddleOfNowhere, Nebraska this summer. At least with the Ironman, there is a TV crew on site to survey the damage the athletes do to themselves and maybe catch the athletes puking on camera.



(Yes, that's just a marathon, but you get the idea.)

I did a 1h25m ride across Lincoln's north side on Sunday, took the Superior Street trail from Havelock to Belmont, then rode down 11th street through Belmont across Cornhusker Highway.

I saw something beautiful between riding on Grandview Boulevard and North 11th street: there's only two stop signs between Superior and Adams street when heading south, and they're at the tops of hills.

Compare and contrast with S. 44th street, where stop signs impede forward progress at J and D streets, at the bottoms of hills. One has to stop at the bottom of a short and steep hill, put a foot down, look both ways for cars, then pick a foot back up and mash the pedals to climb a short and steep hill.

I would much prefer cycling on S. 44th street if I had to stop at the top of a hill (I'm going slow anyways), put a foot down, look both ways for cars, pick my foot back up, and then coast effortlessly down the hill.

I would be far less likely to puke on S. 44th if the street were just a little more bicycle friendly.

At 1:15 in this video, Portlanders explain that they changed the orientation of 19 stop signs to make it easier to cycle on the "Going Greenway":

Portland's Bike Boulevards Become Neighborhood Greenways from Streetfilms on Vimeo.


We could do that here.

Friday, December 17, 2010

No matter what, you're always learning.

This has been a good week for me, cycling wise. I've learned a great deal about the world around me, how the bike handles with spiked tires and that some of my equipment does not play nice with other equipment.

It was pointed out to me Tuesday night/Wednesday Morning that Copenhagen is in Denmark and that they are referred to as the Danes, it is not in the Netherlands nor are its inhabitants called "Dutch". It's been 20 years since high school geography, and I'm pretty sure my old teacher would not be surprised at this catastrophic knowledge failure.

I assumed those folks were using studded tires to stay upright, but Chris H pointed out on my facebook wall:
I don't think any of those guys are running studs. There's a great video on youtube somewhere of a corner on a really slippery day. Almost everyone goes down on it.
And here's the video:



I could look down my nose at them and say "well maybe you should get some Nokians and that wouldn't happen", except I found out that even with metal studs in my tread that I will, in fact, fall on my ass.

We got some ice Wednesday night.

Yesterday morning I climbed out of the tunnel under 27th and Capitol Parkway and attempted to make the right turn before the building formerly known as the picnic shelter. The climb didn't involve any slippage of the rear wheel, I stopped thinking about the ice, and I leaned into the turn like I always did. Ouch.

I'm just glad nobody was there to see my fall.

I learned that pedaling on ice is one way to smooth your pedal stroke. If you tend to "mash" the pedals, the rear wheel slips a bit back and forth, even with my 106 stud Nokians. Take the pressure off the downstroke while concentrating on scraping the mud off the bottom and kicking your leg over the top of the pedal stroke, and the bike tracks true. I would imagine it's because of the more constant power delivery to the rear wheels.

I learned something about department store bike acessories: don't. Back in March I was in Target buying an inner tube for one of the kids bikes. They're 16" bikes and they're not interested in performance. I saw it sitting there, a Bell Free Fit 15 wireless computer for about nineteen bucks.

Wireless, does everything I need, and inexpensive. I bought it. It took all of 5 minutes to install and configure. It was a good deal at the time and served me well.

And then Daylight Savings Time happened. While I don't react well to the time change, I don't expect the computer to care one way or another. It was as if the computer went nuts. I was always going 33-34mph, even when stopped, on ice, into the wind, with the wind, etc. I changed the batteries and it still misbehaved. 

What changed? My headlight is on!

Turns out that being an analog electronic device, the cheapie computer is susceptible to interference from other analog electronic devices, including my Planet Bike Beamer 5 LED Headlight set to "blink mode". I put the computer in, turned the light to blink mode and it registered 33mph. Click the light to steady and it's zero.

I moved the headlight as far to the right as possible and ran it on constant mode for my ride home today. That seems to have fixed it. That simply means I'll probably need to recharge the headlight batteries more often.

So the cheap computer isn't a total loss, unlike my high school geography class.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Danes, alright? I learned it by watching the Danes!

It's snowing outside as I type this. I am riding my bike to work tomorrow. Am I crazy?

Half a million Copenhagenites couldn't be wrong:



No doubt a number of these Danes are riding on Nokian tires to keep the bike from slipping out from underneath their bodies.

I figure I could do the same:





I put 14 miles on them today. I have to say they aren't great at cruising along at 17mph on dry pavement. The bike doesn't feel as stable as I am accustomed to with [insert dry pavement-specific tire here]. The bike's responsiveness becomes sluggish. They don't like it when I lean the bike on dry pavement. They make a ridiculous noise not unlike a rusty chain on dry pavement.

I'm pretty sure the combination of carbide steel and bare concrete produces a number of high pitched whines, as I managed to scare dogs while riding with them on dry pavement.

If you ride studded Nokain tires on dry pavement, prepare to be disappointed.

However, a section of Lincoln's MoPac trail between 33rd and 35th streets was a 30 foot long skating rink on an incline. On any of the other tires I have at my disposal I'd probably be whacked out on [insert painkiller med here] and drooling on whatever dressing holds a collarbone in place.

When I get more confidence in my ability to ride on ice, I hope to resemble this Camaro, except with two wheels and a much quieter exhaust note:

Monday, December 13, 2010

Two blocks on the Nokians

I installed the Nokians tonight. I also took the bike up and down my block just because.

The snow and gravel machine came with Specialized Borough XC 700x45 tires, designed to go everywhere with a flat center section and knobbed shoulders. I had them pumped to 85psi. The bike rode very smooth and relatively fast for a bike that heavy with those tires. I enjoy riding those tires on bike paths and gravel roads.

I have also installed some 700x28 Specialized All Condition tires on the bike. The light high-pressure tires made the heavy hybrid ride smooth as glass on bike trails.

The new 700x35 Nokians have 4mm knobs with carbide tipped studs across the center of the tire. I have them pumped to 65psi. The bike feels a little squishy and the studs make a lot of noise compared to the Boroughs. Cutting a u-turn in the street didn't feel right.

There's some snow on my street and I couldn't help but give them a little test. They bite down into the snow quite a bit more than the Boroughs.

I look forward to conquering the snow this winter.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Got my Nokians just in time...

I got some Nokians for the winter riding season and was totally stoked to give them a shot this weekend as I watched the snow blow up and down my street, but the weather wins. They're hanging on a hook in my garage, next to the bike they're going to be installed on tomorrow night.

For those who don't know, Nokians are tires fitted with carbide steel studs that provide enough static friction to keep a tire from slipping on ice.

I'm all for winter cycling, but my inner wuss decided to draw the line at wind chills approaching 15 below zero. I think I need to bound and gag that wuss, throw him in the trunk of my car and drive it off a cliff. This is a win-win scenario: I don't drive the car all that often and I dream about driving it off a cliff when I do drive it.

Instead, I chose to perform some weight training and ride the indoor trainer in summer clothes. If my heart rate monitor is to be believed, I burned 730 calories.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Weights and Measures

It's December 2010. I've decided to prep for a season of racing, even if I only do 2-3 events. I want to finish the 22 mile Yutan TT course in 1:05, which takes 8 minutes off my fastest time yet. Considering the times posted by others near my age, this is not impossible.

This goal requires me to exercise indoors during the winter. I'll be hitting the indoor trainer with greater frequency as the winter progresses. Right now it's weights.

There are a number of things I would rather do than exercise indoors, namely exercise outdoors. Lifting weights in a parka under a spotlight doesn't sound fun, I'll do it in my basement wearing a pair of gym shorts and an old tee shirt instead.

The weights are part of the Prep period, which I officially started yesterday. I did a couple of "tune up" weeks last month to see what I can handle going in this week. These first couple of weeks are low resistance, high repetition weights, designed to build tendons and ligaments in preparation for the heavier weights during the first 4 week base period, through to the end of January.

I'm choosing a "circuit" type workout during this phase so I can get the exercise done quickly while resting each muscle group before the next set. Rest the legs while working the arms, rest the arms while working the core, repeat.

I need to enlist the help of my better half soon so I can establish some heart rate ranges. There's nothing better than a stress test to measure one's anaerobic threshold. I need to know that for the indoor trainer work in January/February.  I've been estimating 168 beats per minute after my own observations.

That requires me to pedal indoors, staring at a door or a furnace.

All is not lost: I have some Nokian studded tires hanging in the garage, daring the snow to start falling. I can do my longer endurance rides in the limited sunshine we get in Nebraska this time of year.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

5 Reasons you should ride your bike

I ran across an article at Yahoo entitled Five Reasons Electric Cars Will Disappoint.

Meh. Electric cars are for Hollywood types. Tom Hanks has a Scion EV conversion. He's got the money to spend. Good for him.

The Nissan Leaf retails for as much as a Nissan Altima (equipped with Nav and Leather, no less), and you get half the car with 1/4 the range with the Leaf. I'm not quite sold on the Leaf being a better car in any way, shape, or form. (Let's not talk about how the batteries are disposed of/recycled.)

To each his own.

Here's five reasons you should ride a bike:
  1. The bicycle runs on fat and saves you money.
  2. The bicycle cleans the environment... between your ears.
  3. The bicycle is simple to operate.
  4. The bicycle is simple to maintain.
  5. The bicycle is widely available and cities are catching on, with businesses providing racks to two-wheeled customers and employees.
Most of us have the tools to save gas money hanging in our garage or packed away in a shed someplace. Do you "need" an electric car if the price of oil should spike? Probably not. I generally will choose a bicycle for transportation if the following criteria are met:
  1. It's a solo trip.
  2. I'm not hauling furniture.
  3. I'm feeling healthy enough for the conditions and distance.
Regarding #3 above, I am prone to tendinitis in my ankles. My left ankle flared up Friday morning, kept me off my bike for the weekend.

I'll be driving to work tomorrow at least. (Yeah, that sucks.)

Monday, November 8, 2010

It's time to light the lights.

Today was my first commute after the daylight savings time shift. I've discovered Lincolnites enjoy living dangerously. A number don't wear helmets, and even fewer have lights on their bike.

Seriously, it's getting dark before 5pm. I don't want to run into you, you don't want to run into me: I weigh 185lbs, I'm on a 20lb bike and moving at ~17mph. If you are of similar mass traveling at similar speed, we might as well drive cars into one another. It's going to hurt that bad if we collide.

I didn't have any close calls tonight (I did last year), it was just unnerving to see a cyclist travelling the opposite direction 20 feet away, come from "nowhere". Imagine if I were a car: I wouldn't have time to stop.

I would also like it if pedestrians carried some kind of light when out in the dark, but I'm not holding my breath for that. Many don't see it as necessary.

Equipping your bike with appropriate lighting is the law, by the way:

10.48.110 Equipment on Bicycles; Brakes and Lights.

(b) Light, Front. Every bicycle operated on the streets of Lincoln, paved walkways through city parks or on Lincoln's designated pedestrian-bicycle trails between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with a white light that is visible from a distance of at least 500 feet from the front on a clear night. The light shall be directly attached to the bicycle or worn by the bicycle’s operator.

(c) Light, Rear. Every bicycle operated on the streets of Lincoln between one-half hour after sunset and one-half hour before sunrise shall be equipped with a red light that is visible for a distance of at least 500 feet from the rear on a clear night. The light may be directly attached to the bicycle or worn by the bicycle's operator.

One can equip their bike with the appropriate lights for under $50 at any bike shop in town. It's a small price to pay for your personal safety.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Joe Friel's Training Bible

I read some of my older blog posts about my attempts at racing this year and decided I needed to do something about it before I pin numbers to my jersey again next year.

I bought Joe Friel's Training Bible at my local Barnes and Noble back in late September and tore through it like Johnny Five seeking input: I read it cover to cover in under 36 hours.

Then I read it again.

I set up a google calendar for the upcoming 2011 season and approximated local race dates based on the 2010 races, and then set up weekly workouts based on the information in the book (how/when to time peaks and when to recover) and my goals.

Well, goal (singular): I want a sub 1:05 time at the 22 mile Yutan TT course this year. That means taking 9 minutes off my fastest time. I generally have two chances each year between the Nebraska State TT championships and the Cornhusker State Games.

Right now I'm doing what I did since the 2010 Cornhusker State Games: I ride to work and back. I might go for a leisurely road ride this weekend. I might go exploring down a gravel road. I might stay home.

Well, that's not 100% true: I started my "Anatomical Adaptation" weight training phase Monday night. I'm going to stretch that out to six weeks instead of two since I haven't done any serious resistance training since February 1995.

I have already learned something about myself in my two workouts: I pedal one-legged. My right leg is incredibly strong compared to my left: it's entirely possible that I could cut off the 25lbs of moving dead weight that is my left leg and shave 6 minutes off my TT time.

No, I really can't do that. I need that leg. Not to mention all the blood I'd have to clean up. And the pain. Ugh, the pain. Instead, I'll probably do one legged pedal drills at least once a week while my road bike is clamped in the trainer. A little hard work isn't going to kill me, but hacking off a limb might.

If you want a copy of the book, you can buy it for $16 and some change at Amazon:

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Oh what a night, late October back in twenty-ten...

I was just out for a bike ride the night of Friday October 29th, 2010. I wasn't racing.  Nobody else was racing either.

I was just out for a ride with a bunch of other people dressed in costume riding bikes with lights in the night. I was also in costume:

Me on the left. Chris on the right. Photo stolen from Shane Harders's Facebook page.

I felt strange explaining my 1980s reference. I don't feel like explaining it again, so here's a video:



The ride started at Robber's Cave, then on to Wilderness Park.

At Wilderness, we were greeted by a guy in costume dragging a hammer (or axe?) across a chain which "blocked" access to the park after hours. He said nothing. Good thing he was there, I would have endo'd entering the park.

Riding a road bike on super rough gravel walking trails is not my idea of fun. I took it at 5mph with my left leg out, just in case. I had to find a piece of candy in a covered bridge before I could get my stamp that gave me a clue to my next stop: the tunnel at 4th and F.

Then I followed a group of folks north to the F street tunnel at 4th street. We took a pea gravel bike trail. I thought about my skinny tires, 30lbs excess weight and pea gravel: 15mph is my limit here.

Hindsight being 20/20, I should have taken 8th street, I could have made up some time: no pea gravel for my front wheel to slip on, no "traffic" to get stuck behind, meth-tweeker zombies with rabid, underfed pit bulls to sprint away from, etc.

When we got to 4th and F, we were informed we had to enter from the other side. That means we had to cross four train tracks. At the other end of the tunnel we were digging among spaghetti for squishy eyeballs in a kiddie pool set up by Girl Bike Night. Mmmm. When you found the eyeball, you were given a stamp with your next location and given another piece of candy.

One dude in the tunnel reached in and grabbed a handful of spaghetti and ATE IT. While I can't speak for the 20 or so folks that came before us, I know how gross my handlebars are and I'm pretty sure my gloves aren't exactly sanitary.

The next location was State Fair Park horse stables. You found the No Coast Derby Girls dressed as zombies and had to answer three state capitol questions before getting your card stamped with a new location (27th and Capitol Parkway Underpass) and another piece of candy.

There are two street crossings from State Fair Park to the 27th and Capitol Parkway underpass. That means almost no interference from cars (yay!). That didn't matter because the wind was horrible (boo!).

I was greeted by a cycling ninja at the north entrance to the underpass. At the south end of the underpass, I had to toss a "severed head" to a ring on the other side of the "River of Blood". I needed six (twelve? twenty-four?) tries, twice the head fell into the river and got all slippery.

My next stop was the YWCA, which I got lost trying to locate. I had it in my head that it was on 13th street, when in reality it was on 15th.

My challenge there involved getting blindfolded and following spoken instructions to find my way through an obstacle course.

After that I high tailed it to the finish line at Buzzard Billy's. Whoops. It was not a race (remember, I was just out for a ride), which means there is no finish line. I made it to the end of the ride. We left at 8:00 and I arrived at the finish at about 9:40. I was the 36th overall arrival.

This ride was a fund/awareness-raiser for Sheclismo, Lincoln's first all-women's cycling team. (One of these days I'm going to ask how one pronounces "Sheclismo".)

There were raffles and prizes at the finish, including a Globe Daily 1 commuter bike. I came home with a new water bottle from Joyride Bicycles and five pieces of candy. (You can never have too many water bottles this time of year: they come in handy during the winter to hold soapy water for washing grit off your bike after a romp through the snow. Keep a thermos of near-boiling water nearby to thaw/rinse it off.)

The "not-race" was fun. I want to "hustle" again sometime soon.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Six Straight Days In the Saddle So Far.

This week is an example of Nebraska weather. I got up to ride with Shane, Scott, Alfred, Chris and Chris on Sunday morning. It was 35 degrees, I wore fingerless gloves. Whoops.

Compare and contrast that temp with today's commute: 91 degrees. Someone forgot to tell the sun it's October.

I commuted every day this week for 94 miles, plus 59 for Sunday's group ride.

I also got some bike toys. I've never liked having a flat bar on my snow and gravel machine, so I started researching my options for an off-road drop bar. I settled on a Salsa Woodchipper based on Guitar Ted's observations at TwentyNineInches.

Especially this:
The Woodchipper leaves your levers in a more of a traditional position, so if you are seeking a more road bike-like set up for your levers, the Woodchipper will come closest of any of the available off road drops. From STI levers to levers like the Tektro RL 550, you can set up the Woodchipper to have a usable hood position, if you desire it, quite easily. Other off road drop bars will compromise this a bit.
I love me some brake hoods. Given the height of the existing flat bar in relation to the saddle, the Woodchipper drops should put my shoulders at the same height as my road bike hoods. I should be able to ride it all day long now.

I also copped some Tektro RL550s and Ultegra 8-speed bar end shifters to replace the MTB levers and trigger shifters.

Hopefully I'll get a chance to hook it up tomorrow.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Intervals Timer (and disclaimer)

I participated in Joyride Bicycles' "sweatfest" sessions last winter. You could call those eight Saturdays "spinning classes" much the same way one would call a Kenworth a "truck". It was intense, to say the least.

Sydney Brown, our leader for those sessions, would yell at us to keep our heads up, even during intense sessions, and offered this advice: "Any bad habits you pick up on the trainer will translate to bad habits on the road."

When I would repeat the workouts on my own, I found myself mesmerized by my cyclecomputer, waiting for the time to tick away during intense workouts until it was time to recover. I'd have my headphones turned up in an effort to drown out "HEADS UP, PEOPLE" as my legs burned more and more.

I'm not going to let that happen this winter. I'm putting my laptop up on a stand, I'm firing up RhythmBox for some tunes, and I'm using my homebrewed intervals timer to keep my head up.


Before I go further, let me say that I am NOT a coach, nor am I a medical professional. Talk to your doctor before beginning any exercise program, then seek the advice of a coach who can point you to a good workout and help you determine if this is right for you.

I did this because I thought it was cool,  and thought others might want something like it.

Now that that's out of the way...

Above you will find a link for an intervals timer. The timer has four pre-set workouts. Each workout has a 10 minute warm up and a 10 minute cool down. Each is close to an hour in length so you don't burn out.


The first workout is a 2x20 minute "baseline" interval, with a 5 minute recovery in between. The 20 minute intervals are intended to be a light aerobic effort. You should be breathing deeply during the interval. If talking is difficult or labored, you're pushing too hard: you should be able to keep a conversation going. This workout is 1 hour and five minutes long.

The second workout is a 3x10 minute "tempo" interval, with 3 minute recoveries in between. You should be breathing hard, but consistently during these intervals. Talking should be difficult, but possible. This workout is 59 minutes long.

The third workout is a 4x6 minute "threshold" interval, with 2 minute recoveries in between. Breathing should begin to get difficult during the intervals and you might feel some burn in your legs. Talking. Should. Be. Tough. This workout is 50 minutes long.

The fourth workout should be done only if your heart is healthy. It is a 5x3 "anaerobic effort" interval with 3 minute recoveries in between. Breathing is going to be difficult, your legs should hate you more and more as the workout progresses. Talking will be impossible if you're pushing hard enough. This workout is 47 minutes long.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Did you guys send me the wrong part?

I'm feeling a bit lazy, the camera is put away and the shifters are on the dining room table up the stairs and halfway across the house, So no pics. I'll line up all the parts when I get them in. I'll document the transformation from flat-bar comfort bike to somewhat nimble (but still heavy) gravel and snow monster when the time is right.

I ordered some Shimano Ultegra SL-BS64 8 speed Bar-End shifters from Amazon last week. $64 and some change shipped to my door in six days.

I was worried: the box they came in says Dura-Ace. The additions from the seller provide some re-assurance that I received what I ordered: The packing slip says Ultegra. A bar code sticker on the back of the box says Ultegra.

The box had been opened and re-taped.

I was worried because the top-shelf Dura Ace 8 speed shifter offerings from Shimano from the early 90s only worked with the top-shelf Dura-Ace derailleur, while the lower end Ultegra works with just about all 8-speed SIS derailleurs made since.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I opened the box: a sticker affixed to the right-hand shifter says "Not for use with Dura-Ace" and the instructions say "Shimano 600 Ultegra SL-BS64". These should index properly (read: "click with each shift") with my lower-end Acera derailleurs. If not, then I'll learn to use friction shifters (read: "hunt for the right gear and no noise").

I'm a bit amused: the instructions are copyrighted 1991.

I might have to start harrassing the other sellers about my other parts, I got a bike to build here!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Don't stop playing!

There's an old proverb which says something like "we do not stop playing because we grow old, we grow old because we stop playing."

Local racer Nancy Brown hasn't stopped playing. Here's an article at the Journal Star detailing her cycling at world championship events at age 68.

My favorite quote:


"So many people, they hit their 60s, they move to where there's a bunch of old people. Pretty soon they're walking like them."


Don't stop playing. You'll become ONE OF THEM.

Cycling Map of Lincoln

At one point I had an idea for a smartphone app that would allow me to update a map with one click and a pic for bike-friendly facilities. Others could add pics and places with a single click while out on a bike ride. It would be epic as it moved worldwide.

Two problems with this dream: I lack the time to develop such an app and I lack the smartphone needed to utilize the app.

But I'm not a complete spoil-sport: I'll provide a "go for it" and moral support for anyone else who thinks this is a cool idea and has the time to form it into something great.

I however, have found that I have time to click a Google map and add a few sentences. Cycling Map of Lincoln was born. I'll update the map as I find more bike racks (and theoretically more cycling-friendly businesses in the vicinity of said racks).

If you want a location (or locations!) pinned to the map, add it in a comment below!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fall is here!

45 degrees this morning. 62 at lunchtime. High at about 75. Fall is finally here. In Nebraska that means we probably won't see the other side of 80 until mid-April 2011, and then the probability of freezing after we see our first 80 degree day is still really high.

I decided to bust out the wool socks for this morning's ride to work. My toes were a bit chilly, but I'll take that over "my toes feel like they're going to fall off".

(Both my bikes have the same S on the head tube. The things I own, own me.)

I'm going to savor this weather. There's only a few weeks left before the white stuff covers the ground...

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Had to drive twice this week.

I woke up Tuesday and both bikes had flats. I'm not sure how I have two flats on the road bike. I fixed the not-road bike Tuesday night and found a small thorn in the front tire. I replaced the tube with a thorn resistant version. Sure it's heavy, but speed means nothing if you have to take 7 minutes to replace a tube.

Today is Thursday, my wife works late, I pick the kids up.

I often think about how much of a waste driving is when I don't ride.

Kiplinger estimates that replacing my 14 miles of driving with cycling saves me $5.66 a day. Most folks work 19.3 days a month on average, that amounts to more than $1300 a year.

Two problems with that computation:

1. Kiplinger assumes I replace a car with a bike, since it bases the savings off of 50c/mile, that number includes insurance and depreciation. My '99 Cavalier has no value to begin with, so depreciation is of no concern to me. I put far less than 7,500 miles on it annually, so I have "recreational use" insurance on it.

2. I eat an additional 750 calories a day, which costs more than $2.

On the other hand, I haven't filled the tank up in two and a half months. I got that goin for me, which is nice.

When I do drive, I take G/Randolph street from 17th to 33rd (or from 33rd to 17th). When I take A or O street, I often sit through two red lights at 27th street. G street is lightly trafficked, I often see 3, maybe 4 cars going in the same direction I am. I have to hit the 4 way stop by Lincoln High and then the lights at Capitol Parkway and 27th, but the wait is so short: I'm often the only car there in all three of those instances.

This distinct lack of traffic on a secondary road that traverses Lincoln's Core is why it makes perfect sense for the city to designate G/Randolph as Lincoln's first "Sharrow" street from Capitol Parkway all the way to 4th street. It will be marked in the coming days/weeks with a bicycle and two chevrons to alert drivers that cyclists will use this road.

The Sharrow will be celebrated on October 10, 2010 with a Massive Bike Ride.

I have converted a friend. She hasn't had a bicycle since high school and bought a $40 Huffy from Craigslist. I know: Friends don't let friends buy Wal-Mart Bikes, but all the not-wal-mart bikes on CL are $70+ and she's moving. Besides, this bike is super freaking clean.

She's moving to Havelock and has a 4 mile commute to work each way. Instead of adding a car to Cornhusker highway, she's adding a bicycle to the Dietrich Bikeway.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Some people Bungee jump, I pedal through tornado watches.

I should have remembered the camera. This was an awesome ride home.

I checked the weather before I left work. I allegedly had a 20mph wind from the SSW, that usually means I get home in about 17 minutes.

I walked out and it was calm. The sun was peeking out from behind a few clouds. Hmm.

And then I saw a massive front moving in from the north as I approached the bridges at 27th and highway 2. So that's why there's no wind.

The wind started blowing out of the northeast about 1/4 mile past highway two and kept getting stronger. Same effort that started out at 19mph turned into 17, then 15, then 13, then 9.

I don't know how it happened, but one minute I was grinding it out against the wind and the next minute I had a branch stuck in my derailleur. I couldn't pedal. I had to fish it out with a terrible wind blowing and rain falling all around me.

The wind had shifted and strengthened after I passed under Capitol Parkway and 27th. I was pelted with all manner of small debris from there to Randolph street. One normally doesn't have to wait for cars at Randolph street, because there aren't any.

Of course that doesn't happen today. No sir. Today I had to wait for 8 cars from each direction. That's when the wind really picked up. I got hit by a few small objects that stung a bit.

I honestly thought I was going to get picked up and dropped in Oz just as the light let me go through.

I saw a branch fall off a tree and land across Capitol Parkway at Lincoln High. Tires screeched as cars tried to avoid it and each other. I pressed on. I turned on to J street and headed up the path, where small branches, leaves, signs, dirt and assorted house debris blew across the path in front of me. I stopped under the O street bridge and let the worst of it pass for a few minutes.

It was at that moment that I realized I had been laughing the whole time.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Takin it to the streets

I decided to do my part to alleviate some of the heavy traffic on the Rock Island today by riding home on S 20th street. Signs prominently marking it a "bike route" are posted every block or so along the way.

I seldom have a car come up behind me on that street, and I encounter maybe 10 or 11 coming from the opposite direction, 4 or 5 of which are stacked up at the South Street light, all of them happy to see me push the pedestrian crossing button so they can finally cross South.

This is during rush hour, starting at about 5:15pm. I would imagine it's empty during the day or late at night.

If you want to change up your ride, consider riding on a street. If you need help deciding which streets to ride on, the Great Plains Trail Network has a handy map of bike trails and "bike route" streets.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Cycle Traffic, Qu'est Que C'est?

That was a busy bike trail. The ride this morning wasn't so bad, I got to work in my usual 27 minutes.

The ride home? 38 minutes. The stretch of Rock Island from the bridges to South Street was BUSY. Lots of people out enjoying the weather. I can't blame them, I wanted to take the scenic route and soak up this dry air, too.

I now know how motorists feel: I didn't spend much time in the big ring. I wanted to, despite the headwind on the way home. I was stuck plodding along at 13mph for what seemed like forever because the other cyclists weren't interested in commuting, they were interested in bird watching or butterfly observation.

Not that there's anything wrong with that...

I need to use the streets for part of my commute tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Gravel dust tastes so sweet

Pavement Ends: Adventure Begins!


Gravel Ends: Nebraska Begins!


Looking North out on the "Bohemian Alps" from the "Summit" of NW 70th street. 

I took my Specialized Crosstrail Sport on a round trip to and from my in-laws place (aka "The Funny Farm") on Sunday. It's a 43 mile round trip, 26 of those miles were on gravel roads, 2 were on hard-packed dirt. The rest was in-town streets and bike trail.

The first couple off-road miles were shaky while I tried to hammer with the bike skipping across the rock towards the ditch, but I found a sweet spot between speed and control. I had a grand old time riding into Raymond at 13mph.

The road I took into Raymond largely follows a rail line, so it's flat.

I turned left about a mile north of Raymond and entered the Bohemian Alps. Short and steep monsters. I just put it in the stump-pulling gear and spun up at 7mph and coasted back down at 15. Evil things, the Bohemian Alps.

The ride back wasn't bad. I had a lot more confidence in my ability to keep a straight line and decided to bomb down the Alps at 30+mph. I rode the one mile section of dirt road in about four minutes on the way back. (Hard dirt is a lot smoother than gravel.)

During those 28 off-road miles, I saw a total of six cars. Two were on the way out and four on the way home. Not a bad car/mile ratio for a bike ride. I can see why riding a bike on gravel roads has been growing in popularity.

Doing my best Lloyd Dobler impression: "Gravel is the cycling of the future."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Only half a commute tomorrow

My wife is going to a conference for the rest of the week. She's leaving from work at 11ish. This means I have to cart kids in her absense, which means I have to drive.


Since I'm forced to be bikeless, I'm going to drop the road bike off at the shop for a tune-up over my lunch break and then hoof it to her workplace. (We both work down the road/round the corner from Joyride and down the road/round the corner from each other's workplaces.) It'll be nice to have a relatively quiet bike for a change this weekend.


I'm going to do the same thing with the not-road bike next week, since we're taking a vacation and I won't be able to ride for three days.


Now that I read this back to myself, I feel kinda weird not riding.

Update: who ordered the rain? I'm not going to be "that guy" who drops a super dirty and wet bike off at the shop. Maybe next week.

Monday, August 2, 2010

A Three-Hour Tour

Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale
A tale of a fun filled trip,
That started from a suburban house,
Aboard a two wheeled ship!

The cyclist was an average biking man,
Chipper to be sure
No group ride today, instead he chose
A three hour tour, a three hour tour.

The weather was never rough,
The cycle was not tossed
If it wasn't for familiar turf,
The cyclist would get lost. The cyclist would get lost.

The bike went to Palmyra, not a desert isle
The MoPac Trail,
84th Street, too.
Breathing fresh clean air
(Without his wife)
Had some Pop-py-Tarts
Dr. Pepper and
then rode home
for a total of 43 miles!

(This is your brain. This is your brain on a bicycle. Any questions?)

Friday, July 30, 2010

Lincoln will be Bicycle City, USA by 2040

LPlan2040.org is Lincoln's online "Town Hall", where residents help envision what Lincoln will look like in the next 30 years.

Residents can currently add their thoughts to "Getting Around" (and vote on "Beautiful Places" additions added over the course of the past couple of weeks). The majority of the "Getting Around" suggestions (5 out of 9) promote cycling! As of 7/30/2010, cycling related posts are as follows:
I like four out of the five suggestions because those four are (relatively) inexpensive encouragements towards cycling as transportation, as opposed to a punishment for making a transportation decision which fits a family's needs. (On the other hand, the suggester's example involves R street from 12th to 17th: good luck driving faster than 7mph during the day, regardless of the posted 25mph limit.)

Lincoln has a long way to go in terms of cycling infrastructure when compared to Minneapolis or Portland (Oregon), but can (and should) make a few small and inexpensive changes to make cycling a viable transportation option for the folks who live here.

I'm not selfish towards my own choices in riding a bike: when more people ride bikes, fewer people drive. A bike takes up 1/6 the space a car does. A bike route on a less-traveled street means one less car on the higher-volume roads. That's less traffic to get in the way of people who need to drive for a living, reducing the costs of everything transported for everyone.

We all win when bikes are included.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Heat index reached 112 wednesday.

The ride in was hot, muggy and windy. It was 85 degrees at 7:30. It was going to be that kind of day.

There's something seriously wrong with this: The heat index in Lincoln at 9am was 96 degrees. For comparison, Baton Rouge's heat index was 90, Miami, FL's heat index was 88, and "Hot-Lanta's" heat index was 85. All at 9am.

We were warned this was going to be a hot and dry summer. I'm missing the "dry" part somewhere. We just got a ton of rain dumped on us. It washed away the heat and left a big glob of humidity in the air.

The ride home was ridiculous. I supplemented wind and gravity when it needed it and found a friend on the trails. I had a chat about IT infrastructure, data recovery and natural disaster-resistant bank vaults with another cyclist whom I know only as Lloyd. He came back from a ride to Saltillo.

Tomorrow we get a reprieve from this, and then it's back to mid-upper 90s for the next several days. Welcome to Nebraska in the summertime.

I felt like I was swimming in a jacuzzi for 14.2 miles.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

You don't need to "work out", you need to play.

Why do people "work out"? Why not "play out"? We get in cars and drive for 5-15 minutes (each way) to "work out" on machines that improve us physically but drain us mentally.
 People obviously get bored with these machines, since people bring books to read and personal music players to drown out the noises of other machines and to reduce the mental pain of going nowhere slow.

The owners of these gyms realized they could help alleviate their customer's mental anguish by piping in music from the local top 40 radio station or even show some basic cable TV to keep them entertained just long enough to "get them through".

Some owners will go so far as to install movie theaters to keep patrons from abandoning this mind-numbing equipment.

The way I see it, no amount of equipment will help you get to your fitness goals if you aren't going to use it. And you aren't going to use equipment if it bores you to tears.

You don't need to work. You need to play.

I realized this the first time when I was in high school. I watched Risky Business: Tom Cruise's character took off on a bicycle through Chicago streets late at night in one scene.

My impressionable mind decided I could do that, too. (Just the biking late at night part: I wasn't calling hookers and asking "what the fuck?" only to have it backfire on me big time.)

I got on my Cannondale SC600 at about 1am and went for a ride for 2 hours through suburban Omaha neighborhood developments for some playtime.

West Omaha is carved up into neat 1 square mile sections, and each section has a collection of quiet well-lit residential streets with gentle hills that parallel the natural landscape of the region. One development's entrance is usually across an arterial street from another development's entrance.

Late at night you find that the arterial streets are largely empty, unless you're near a high volume arterial with big-box stores facing them.

Since the roads inside the grid do not follow the grid, one can easily get lost. Finding my way home after getting lost among similarly named streets (142nd avenue? 142nd street? 142nd Circle?) was part of the fun.

There are no neighborhood stores within these developments. They're residential for the most part. The commerce is separated from the residence, makes things quieter, but leads to an increased dependency on cars.

I would ride a couple dozen miles through those suburban nightmares during late nights every couple of weeks. I once went out in the snow. (Once: those old all-aluminum Cannondales do not have any clearance in the rear triangle for tires larger than 700x26 and the snow will turn into a big ice ball.)

If I knew the area, I would put the hammer down and pretend I was racing a flat stage of Le Tour De France. Otherwise I would read street signs and make mental notes of how to get back home.

It's how I played. 

A few years later, "play" was immediately followed by "station". I have the atrophied muscles to prove it.

I merely ride to work and back these days. It's a bit repetetive, but it's certainly not boring enough to make me crawl into a car and drive to a gym. I can (and do) change my route every so often so it's still like playing.

Play is different for everyone. Find what play suits you and do it. If you enjoy the repetitive boredom of indoor machines, go to it. Leave me outside.

I played for 14.5 miles today.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

It costs me more money to bike than to drive.

So last week I set my Facebook status to something along the lines of "I haven't put gas in my car for three months", which prompted one of my cousins (I have many) to point out how much money I must be saving.

If I did save a bunch of money, that would be a sweet bonus, but that's not why I do it. I'm definitely not saving money by riding, that's for sure. 

I put 13.2 gallons in the tank last week. The car traveled 276.1 miles on that 13.2 gallons of gas. 276.1/13.2 = 20.9167 miles to the gallon.

My driving commute is 7.9 miles. At 20.9167 miles to the gallon, 7.9 miles comes to 0.377 gallons of fuel burned on my drive. At $2.679 per gallon, that is roughly 1 dollar and one cent in each direction.

So I spend roughly $2.02 per day when I drive my car to work.

I spent $35.36 ($2.679 per gallon) on those 13.2 gallons of gas. I assure you, I spent a heck of a lot more on food during that time.

I have to point out that on the days I ride my bike, I cannot stop thinking about food. It's like being a teenager all over again, but without the acne. There's a good reason for that. My heart rate monitor tracks calories burned. An easy ride is about 350 calories in one direction. A 20+mph headwind means nearly 550 calories in one direction.

But for argument's sake, we'll say I burn off 750 calories each day I ride my bike to and from work.

What does 750 calories look like?

I'll skip over most vegetables. While I like vegetables (the vitamin and mineral content simply cannot be beat) and eat more than I need in a day, exclusively fueling up on them is cost-prohibitive, not to mention outright painful given the quantities needed.

A cup of romaine lettuce has about 10 calories. I need 75 cups of romaine lettuce to get 750 calories. 75 cups = 4.68 gallons. I can't eat that much lettuce in a week, much less a day. A cup of diced celery is 17 calories. I think you can see where I'm going here.

Apples

A 4oz apple contains 65 calories. I will need to eat eleven and a half apples to make up the calorie difference. That's 2.8lbs. At $2 a pound (I don't eat Red Delicious apples), we're looking at $5.60 each day.

Gym-Rat Candy

A chocolate Powerbar is 230 calories. They are available at the grocery store for about $1.59 each. I need three of them, that totals up to $4.77. (Don't kid yourself, they're candy: the fat and protein difference between a Powerbar and a Milky Way is insignificant.)

Chicken

A 4oz grilled chicken breast is 130 calories. I will need to eat nearly six of those to make up the calorie difference. That's a pound and a half of chicken, or about $4.50, if it's on sale.

Bacon

Bacon is roughly $3 a pound in your grocer's refrigerator case and is split up into 16 one-ounce slices, each packing a walloping 50 calories. That means I need to eat 15 slices of bacon to fuel up.

Who am I kidding? 15 slices? Make it 16. I'm not leaving that last slice of smoky, salty goodness in the package for tomorrow, I'm eating it now. I burn off $3 worth of bacon a day. 

Fast Food

Burger king has a "Buck Double", after state and local taxes (it's prepared food, grocery items are not taxed in Nebraska), it comes out to $1.07. It contains 410 calories. A small onion rings with sweet and sour sauce is 1.49+tax, or $1.60 and brings another 360 calories to the party. That brings my total to 770 calories for $2.67.

Bananas

The banana is the training fuel of choice for many athletes: they're tasty, they're compact, they're full of energy, they're inexpensive and they're packaged in an all-natural bio-degradable case. A 4oz banana contains 121 calories. I need just six of those. Bananas are roughly 50 cents a pound, so it's $1.50 a day.

Yes, the banana saves me about 50 cents a day over gasoline, but that's certainly not enough to make me feel smug about how much money I'm saving when I check my bank balance. I eat a whole variety of foods, not just bananas and they're more expensive.

No, if I truly wanted to save money, I would eat heavily processed factory-foods almost exclusively. Supermarket junk food is almost always cheaper than gasoline when used as a bike fuel. Cases in point:

Pop Tarts

Pop tarts are 205 calories per pastry, they come two to a pouch. You need two pouches, or 2/3 of a box, to get your calorie needs met. That amounts to $1.33 a day to fuel up with pop tarts.

Cardboard Pizza

Tombstone pizza. 1/5 of a cardboard pepperoni pizza is 312 calories. I need to eat roughly half of the pizza to meet my calorie needs. They're 4/$10 (on sale), or $2.50 each. So it's $1.25/day to fuel up on a Tombstone death disk.

The Greatest Food Ever


An apple fritter contains 650 calories and costs roughly 99 cents.That means it's about 1.20 to fuel up on this glorious amalgamation of dough and fruit.

Mac and Cheese

Kraft Mac and Cheese: A box of prepared mac and cheese (with 1/4c milk and 2 tablespoons of butter) will get you about 600 calories. The box is about 79 cents, the milk is about a nickel and the butter a dime. I still need 1 and a quarter boxes (or 2.5 servings) to make up the calorie deficit incurred by riding my bike. It will cost me about $1.15 per day to fuel up with Kraft Mac and Cheese.

Broke college kid food

Ramen noodles. A single brick prepared according to package directions contains 380 calories. I saw cases of ramen at the grocery store for $2.40/12, or 20 cents per brick. I only need two bricks to make up the difference there, so it only costs 40 cents a day to fuel with ramen.

I eat a wide variety of foods, and frankly, gas has to cost $4 per gallon for me to break even on fuel costs.

What I don't save in money, I save in time. I get 3-6 hours of exercise each week without setting foot in a gym, where "normal folks" stand around for upwards of an hour waiting in line to ride a bike that goes nowhere.

But let's not overlook the real lesson here: if I really wanted to, I could maintain my weight while eating two apple fritters and a pound of bacon every day, followed with a heavy dose of leafy vegetables to help rid my body of toxins.

I just have to bike.

I pedaled off 798 calories today. I think I'll have another slice of bacon.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I wear a helmet. Do you?

I'm a firm believer that helmets take whatever beating your skull otherwise would, and are therefore good things to have on your head whenever you ride.

But if you read the Vancouver Sun, you might have read this article by Harvey Enchin:

Wearing a bike helmet might not make you any safer.

My immediate reaction to the headline was something like this:


Is he trolling? Is he trying to poke the hornet's nest? Just what is he talking about?
Colin Clarke, a mechanical engineer and British cycling advocate, has argued that the helmeted head will be subject to more impacts than a non-helmeted one in part due to the larger size of the helmet compared with the bare head. A near miss for a bare head may have an impact force of 70 per cent of a direct impact for a helmet wearer, he claims.
Yeah, maybe if you ride 5mph on the sidewalk.  And who in the heck is Colin Clarke? (Yes, I know he's a mechanical engineer and British Cycling advocate, but what has he published?)
Furthermore, while helmets may offer adequate protection from skull fractures, they may increase the risk of brain damage from "rotational shearing forces" given the greater number of impacts for helmet wearers.
I think I'll take my chances with rotational shearing forces over having a dent in my skull any day of the week, not to mention having my scalp peeled back leaving me to bleed to death in the street. But hey, if you worry about rotational shearing forces, so be it.

Is there a point to shocking the cycling public at large?
According to a 2003 article in the American Heritage Invention and Technology magazine, a surge in bicycle helmets from 1991 to 2001 -- to the extent that 69 per cent of child cyclists and 43 per cent of adult cyclists wore helmets by the end of the period -- was accompanied by a decline in ridership and an increase in cyclist accidents, resulting in 51 per cent more head injuries per cyclist.
Was this an illustration of moral hazard? Did wearing helmets give riders a false sense of security, resulting in riskier behaviour? Or perhaps traffic conditions, aggressive motorists or faster, lighter bikes are responsible for the elevated injury rate and mandatory helmet laws kept it lower than it otherwise would have been. We don't know.
Oh, he doesn't like mandatory helmet laws.

I've got a libertarian bent in me and I do share his sentiment that laws enacted to protect you from yourself are a waste of taxpayer dollars, but I also feel that proclaiming that you might be able to skip over a proactive step in protecting yourself is irresponsible.

Seriously, that sort of behavior is for the blogosphere. Most journalists are educated folks who don't need to resort to such stunts to drive readership to their publications.

There's got to be a bigger point in here amongst all the anecdotal evidence against protecting yourself... ah here it is, in the last paragraph:
In the Netherlands, there is high a rate of cycling and a low rate of cycling injuries. Virtually no one wears a helmet. There is, however, a vast cycling infrastructure that keeps bikes and cars apart. We need more study to determine whether the helmet law is achieving its objectives and, more importantly, to develop a comprehensive plan to improve cycling safety. In the meantime, I'll continue to wear my helmet.

Okay, so he wants what one finds in continental Europe. I don't have a problem with that. Cycling facilities are inexpensive and can be added to existing facilities with minimal interruption of services to existing users.

Lincoln, Nebraska, where I live, has over a hundred miles of bike path added to arterial streets, abandoned railroad corridors and flood control projects. Hundreds of miles of secondary streets are posted "bike routes".

The author also chooses to wear his helmet, despite the threat of rotational shearing forces that may cause brain damage.


The only people who responded to his headline are cycling enthusiasts. Given his message advocating more research into cycling safety and implication that Vancouver needs more cycling facilities to separate motorized traffic from the non-motorized, he is simply "preaching to the choir".

What about the rest of the congregation? What about the people who skim the headline and let out a smug little chuckle at "bike dorks" and move on to the World Cup news? What happens to them?


I'm picturing one of the aforementioned congregation, the one who chuckled at "bike dorks" visiting a bike shop in Vancouver with his new girlfriend (who happens to be a cyclist) buying a new bike, a water bottle, a bottle cage, a pump, a couple of spare inner tubes and a set of tire levers to keep the good times rolling. When asked about a helmet, he gives this response:

"Helmet? And look like a bike dork? Please. I read somewhere that helmets don't do any good anyways."

An article by some Australians, available for download at the USA's National Institutes of Health says otherwise.

Case in point: I was once told that drinking diet soda causes weight gain. I'm pretty sure the person who told me that read a shocking headline and didn't read the rest of the article. (I was later told by another person that rats who were given diet soda also tended to over-eat to compensate for the calories their little rat brains were expecting from the sweetness. Keep the shocking headlines to yourselves, people: I'm human and capable of telling my overgrown brain "you'll get NOTHING, and LIKE IT!")

Don't be misled: wear your helmet. The life you save will be your own.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Coasting: it's as effortless as driving.

The rides today rocked. Could not have asked for better weather.

It's Friday before a long holiday weekend and I treated my commute as such. I wanted to see how far I could coast today. My chosen coasting area was the Antelope creek trail, starting at the bottom of the hill near the reservoir, just after one passes Everett Elementary. (I needed to build up some speed, I got the bike to 22mph by the time I got to the bottom of the hill.)

I then coasted until about halfway up the hill just before the Trago Sprayground. I needed to start pedaling. 6mph is slow enough to make one lose their balance on a bicycle. That's almost 5 blocks of not pedaling. That's about 1/3 of a mile to those who choose motorized transit.

I almost pedaled up the super-short inclines in between bridges, but decided to let the bike slow to 13mph up the hills and 16mph down the hills through gravitational acceleration.

It took me longer than normal to get home, but my kids informed me I was just in time for dinner!

Pizza Friday!!!

14.08 care-free summer miles.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Hopefully it doesn't rain much.

What we lack in mountains in Nebraska, we make up for in farm access roads. I've ridden a few just because.

Up until March I haven't had a bike I felt comfortable taking on gravel roads. I bought a Specialized Crosstrail Sport because being cooped up all winter SUCKED. I've had it fitted with fenders and a rack, I ride it when it threatens to rain during the not-snow season.

The Crosstrail will get some studded ice tires in October or so and then the road bike gets to live in my basement, held upright by an indoor trainer. It might also serve as a drying rack for clothes since it's in the laundry room.

Enough discussion of the "dark by 5pm" season. It's summertime.

I've often entertained the idea of riding to the in-laws place via gravel and minimum maintenance roads. This is my weekend for it. I'll feel like a true Yankee pioneer by cycling on roads normally not cycled upon, joining the ranks of the brave (or foolhardy).

I definitely won't feel guilty about eating/drinking too much when I reach the in-laws place: it's 22 miles, 15 of which will be on gravel or dirt with tons of ungraded hills. If my HRM is correct, I should burn off 1300 calories in the 2 hours it's going to take for me to ride.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

1 hour, 13 minutes, 26 seconds.

My goal was a PR for the Yutan TT course. I achieved that by roughly 2 minutes. I got 12th out of 12 for my age/category. I was six minutes behind #11. I'm in better shape than I was, but not in the shape I could be in.

I "programmed" my "cruise control" to keep my cadence between 95 and 105 rpm and my heart rate between 165 and 175 beats per minute. I found I can cover large amounts of ground within this range. I put tape over my MPH reading and set my heart rate monitor to show current and average heart rate.

The strategy during the hilly sections was to keep my cadence higher than normal (103+rpm) and heart rate low (<168), pushing small gears fast. The idea was to minimize downshifting so I wouldn't lose momentum getting in and out of my tuck. (A dedicated TT bike has shifters on the ends of the bar, right under your hands, a road bike with STI shifters has the shifters integrated into the brake levers, requiring one to shift their body to shift gears. I lack a dedicated TT bike.)

I tried employing the opposite strategy (slower than normal cadence while pushing harder gears) on the flat section where I wouldn't worry about getting out of the tuck, but the wind made that nearly impossible. It was like the course had a few extra hills to climb. I found my cadence "bogging" down a couple of times (one gust dropping my cadence to 73rpm while filling my legs with lactic acid), sapping my energy and killing my confidence. It wasn't so bad on the return trip.

I thought about hitting the gas when I saw the "Finish 100yards" sign. My legs decided otherwise.

Overall, I didn't feel as strong as I did in '08, but I didn't have mechanical troubles or forget my shoes.

Next year I get to race in the 35-44yo age group. It doesn't get any easier, the medal winners in most of the men's categories finish the course in under an hour.

I have my work cut out for me.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Anxiety Attack

My start time is 9:32. My bib number is 196. I start eleventh out of 12 in the Cornhusker State Games Cat 5 Men's 18-34.

The overall roster looks bigger than the one for this year's Nebraska State Time Trial championship. The roster is bigger than last year's CSG! That's a win for competitive cycling in Nebraska.

I spent the evening prepping for this. I stopped at Joyride on the way home for some chain lube. I got home, ate dinner with the fam (PIZZA FRIDAY!) and then went in the back yard with my son who wanted to help wash my bike. He "washed" his little 16" bike with one of my brushes and some soapy water. My bike was dirty, it took 45 minutes to get it clean and quiet again.

I installed the rack on my car while my wife was scrubbing the boy and my daughter played Super Mario Brothers Wii. The three of them joined me out front to catch some fireflies and my only moment of relaxation. We let them go, put the kids to bed and I hopped in the shower. I needed it, it was sticky all day.

I threw my bike clothes in the washer, cleaned out my camelbak, packed a bag with tools, tubes, helmet and shoes and threw that in the car. I added my floor pump and a towel.

I ran to the store for some gatorade and a few other things. Mainly gatorade. I thought of chips, beer, and margarita mix, too. Strapping tape for the Millennium Falcon's rims (my not-racing bike's crank is labeled "Hyperdrive", and I installed compartments for smuggling, though I don't think I'm ever going to smuggle myself in them). Hey, while I'm here, I'll pick up some distilled water for mead making! Yep, better go get a real cart, this hand held basket ain't gonna do it.

I came home at about 11:15. So much for a good night's sleep. I took the clothes out of the washer and put them on the drying line in the basement.

I made a couple of PB&Js for the drive to Yutan, because they're tasty, they're portable, and they're loaded with carbs.

I'm currently eating, but I don't think it's because I'm hungry. I think I'm having a bit of an anxiety attack. Once I put the PB&Js away, I made myself a turkey and provalone sandwich, a side of chips and a bottle of Sam Adams.

Tomorrow's strategy is to fill the camelbak with ice and water, fill one water bottle with ice and another water bottle with water. I'll probably drink the gatorade with the sandwiches and then the water bottle during warm-ups.

After I've done some warming up and stretching, I'll drink the water that's melted off my ice in the other bottle and fill it with gatorade. Save it for the turn around.

Next is to drink the remaining gatorade for the "hole shot" at the beginning of the race. By this time it should be about 9:20. That gives me about 12 minutes to ramp the heart rate up to 65% of maximum just before the start by flying through Yutan in the big ring.

During the race, stay focused on the climbs, take care of hydration during the descents. I should have eaten enough that morning to take care of fuel.

Like I discovered last weekend, all I need to do for speed is to maintain a heart rate and a rhythm.

But before that, I need some shuteye.

15.6 commuting miles today.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Hurt or Injured?

My left knee hurts. I'm icing it right now.

I blame having two different bikes with completely different setups and the same shoes. Both bikes have the same pedals, but the cranks are different, the not-road bike spreads the pedals further apart with a longer crank stroke than does the road bike.

I left after my wife and kids this morning. I normally leave before they do and as such never close the garage door. I got a mile and a half from home and didn't remember if I had closed the door. I was worried someone might leave with tools, electronics, bikes or my dog. (My dog is extremely happy to meet new people and would probably go home with whoever came in the door.) I high tailed it back home at full blast only to find I had closed it. I like to think I torqued my knee while sprinting down side roads like I was making a time-sensitive delivery.

I spent my ride home figuring out what I could do to alleviate the pressure from my knee, and slowly bumped up the effort. All is not lost: Sitting further back on my seat helps a great deal and I can push.

I might move it back a little. Not tonight though, I want to throw some homebrew bread in the oven.

17.21 miles today.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Friday and Sunday

We have four seasons in Nebraska: Blizzard, Flood, Drought and Football. We're currently at the tail end of Flood. Kinda puts a damper on things, I didn't ride my bike today (Monday) because I had a sinking sensation in my gut that the ride was gonna be a messy one.


Friday

Friday wasn't a bad ride in to work, save for the dark clouds forming to the north. The weather poured out a little and then cleared up nicely.

I went outside after work and found my front tire had gone flat. I turned down three offers for rides home just because I wanted to use my patch kit. And then I found the hole.

I started worrying I wasn't going to make it home.

The hole was inside the tube, where it meets against the rim. My tube has 32 little pimples where the spoke nuts go. My Crosstrail Sport's rims have a somewhat deep section and there's quite a bit of room for the tube to grow into the holes where the spokes connect to the rim. My "rim strips" are nothing more than inner tube rubber, and there's a neat perforation in that particular rim strip that matches up perfectly with the hole in my tube. If I patch this one, which of those 31 other pimples will become the new hole?

I patched it up and made it home. I checked it out after dinner and found that the front tire was flat again. I need some strapping tape. Might as well put the "twentyniner wannabe" 700x45 tires back on it while I'm at it. Then it's gravel time.

14.08 miles.

Sunday

I got up Sunday morning and made some pancakes for Father's day. I love pancakes so much I'll even make them on Father's day, even though I'm dad and could take the attitude that it's Father's day and I ain't doin shiat. Nah. I wanted pancakes. I wanted coffee. I wanted them now.

After consuming two pancakes with a liberal application of peanut butter and syrup while making funny faces at my kids, I took off for 30 fast miles to prep for next weekend's Cornhusker State Games.

The sun was shining when I was left, wind out of the southeast. I had a gentle breeze help me out for the first leg, then I turned south.

My goal on the in-town trails was to keep the heart rate at or below 75%. The wind was trying my patience.

I got to the highway and the game plan was some 6 minute intervals on the highway for my "out" portion, kick the heart rate up to 85% for six minutes (the last two minutes were going to be attempts at pushing 90%), let it drop down to 70% and then kick it back up again. I made it from Warlick to Roca Road (roughly 6 and a half miles with a very slight uphill gain) in 26 minutes with the wind in my face. I'll take it: half of it was at 9mph.

I turned around on the Roca Road overpass and saw the lightning. The dark ominous clouds. The possibility of cold rain, tornados, hail and other such nonsense I don't want to deal with made me say fuck it: start breathing and just go.

Breathing. I remembered how to breathe deeply on the bike. I didn't realize it until about 3 minutes into it, the large volumes of air coming out of my mouth was HOT.

Hot air coming from my mouth is not all that unusual, except the hot air coming out of my mouth Sunday morning was not accompanied by words. Heck, that volume of air coming from my mouth and nose was something I thought would never come back after more than a decade of applying nicotine and tar to the insides of my lungs.

All it took was the thought that perhaps I should have worn some ruby slippers with some black and white striped socks to make me breathe deeply again.
 
 
Fear of ending up like this is a great motivator to hurry the fuck up.

I had glanced down at my HRM and cyclecomputer and realized I had a rhythm between my legs and lungs that put a giant smile on my face.

It was like I had Locomotive Breath.

The Train Kept a Rollin all ride long.

I wasn't yet going off the rails of this Crazy Train.

I was on the Night Train, I guess I guess I guess I never learned...

I think you get the idea.

I got to the edge of town and the cold reality set in: it's not the steady application of power and gradual decline of precious glycogen that does you in during competition: it's the spikes of power and the subsequent sudden dips in blood glycogen levels that absolutely decimates you.

Bike trails are not conducive to putting down steady power at the levels I need to put them down at for time trial prep, that much is certain. I waste incredible amounts of energy trying to get in the zone only to have to hit the brakes. 

The clouds seemed to part a bit when I got back to town, but the lightning was starting to pick up. I got to Rock Island and Calvert Street and about crapped my pants at how close that lightning strike must have been: there was a flash off to my right and the crack of thunder came about half a second later. It left my ears ringing.

And then came the rain. Big old fat rain. And it was cold.

I had taken shelter with three other folks under the zoo entrance bridge, just south of 27th and Capitol Parkway. There was a fourth, but he hooked up some lights and took off ahead of us. 

Two of the remaining were runners who ditched the Cornhusker State Games triathlon because of the early morning rain leaving the streets wet and another was a cyclist slowly working his way back to where he was since his bypass. 

We had a chit chat for about 15 minutes about why the riding in the Cornhusker State Games triathlon that morning would have meant the possibility of a hospital visit and cholesterol medication before the rain slowed enough for me to venture out in it again.

A puddle on the trail just past the zoo bridge was deep enough where my feet spent a good portion of the pedal stroke under water. I was soaked before, but not like that!

Force of habit sent me down the Antelope Creek underpass at 27th and Capitol parkway, only to find the bike path was covered in several inches of rushing water. I backed up and took the "pedestrian" route over the surface streets. 

I took the Antelope creek trail back to Y street and noticed there were folks huddled under bridges all along the bike path back home. Some with pets on leashes, others with bicycles, all meeting new friends.

30.3 awesome miles.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Mighty Wind

My commute takes me through the middle of Lincoln, North-South. My car rarely sees the other side of 30mph. It wouldn't matter anyways: I'm going to get hung up at a minimum of four stoplights and sit motionless for at least 7 minutes.

On my ride home, just after the N street bridge on the Antelope Creek Trail, I got caught in a gust of wind and held on for dear life. It was like riding in Harlan's GTO after he hits the blower while they chase down the energy pulse in "My Science Project".

(My Science Project is one of the most under-rated 1980s sci-fi movies. Add it to your Netflix queue.)

My Cateye Strada said I maxed out at 31.3mph. I really don't like going that fast around pedestrians, but that was one opportunity I could not miss, I felt like I had made it from N street to Vine Street in the blink of an eye.

The usual 14.08 miles.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Cornhusker State Games

My 2010 racing season is going to conclude with the Cornhusker State Games time trial out of Yutan. I have to do it. It's the last year I can enter the mens Cat5 18-34 event. Next year they put me out to pasture with the other 35-44 year olds.

I've participated in the last three men's Cat5 events under the impression that I would improve every year.

HA!

Let's look at my past 3 attempts at this race.

2007: 1h15m

I had started a new job in June of '07, and a company wide email circulated: my employer would pay for entries in the Cornhusker State Games. I had a late 1980s Cannondale road bike I had picked up secondhand in high school and had done some racing with (and failed miserably at). It was a great deal of fun to ride and I took it out on the highways every so often just to feel that wind.

I could get from the south Wal-Mart to Palmyra and back in one hour and ten minutes the weekend before the games.

And then I'd light up a Winston Light.

I entered the games, the participant pack came inter-office.

I had a monster nic fit as I lined up at the starting line, figuring the withdrawls would push me through. I finished in 1h15m, a distant 10m after the winner of the Cat5 mens 18-34.

I quit smoking that October. I was backing my car out of the driveway one morning, looked in the pack I had stashed in the door pocket and saw that I had 3 left and that I would need to go to the store and stopped myself: "WHY?"

Those were my last three cigarettes. (Well, there were a couple of times when a cig just sounded good with beer and I would slip, taste the stale ash in my mouth and wonder what I was thinking, etc. Now I just drink flavorful beer, flavors which would be ruined by cigarettes.)

2008: 1h31m

In late May 2008 I bought an '07 Specialized Allez Elite Double from Scheels. Total impulse purchase. My daughter was starting Tee Ball. She's a Lefty. They don't sell Lefty ball gloves at the Target by my house, but they have them at Scheel's near work.

I looked to the left when I walked in and remarked that they had bikes. Half expecting to see a collection of Schwinn and Pacific Cycle bikes, I took a look anyways. They have road bikes? Specialized? Really? This one is on sale? It's how little? I took it for a test ride. Whoa, my old Cannondale feels like riding a jackhammer by comparison!

I left without the bike but with the ball glove.

I came back that Friday and bought the bike.

July 2008, I had logged a couple hundred miles on my new toy, had quit smoking and was ready to take home a medal. I felt sooooooooooo good on that bike.

I got my tires aired up, took the bike off the back of the car, took my cargo shorts and sweatshirt off and looked in the car. I was horrified: I forgot my shoes. I was wearing a pair of running shoes. SPD pedals are tiny little things. If my feet weren't going to slip off, they were going to be numb. This was going to end badly.

I had decided that looking at my cyclecomputer's current speed would be a deterrent, so I left it off. I went and got some warmups done in downtown Yutan before taking off. My feet were wobbly, but I managed to find a bit of stride, but still had no confidence in my pedal stroke.

During the race I had regained some of my confidence as I eased it into the big ring and started climbing gears when the course turned flat. I maintained a slow cadence to keep my unclipped feet on the pedals. I felt that wind in my ears and the air filling my lungs. My legs felt as bad ass as AC/DC guitar riffs and more powerful than a Hennessey Viper. I was catching up to someone. Oh yeah!

Oh no: My front tire went flat just after the turnaround. My numb feet did not like making contact with the ground. My shaking hands fumbled with the front tire. Then my feet came back online and my hands went calm. I got it put back together about 7 minutes later.

I got back on the bike and felt deflated. Someone took the AC/DC out of my legs and put on some Air Supply, the Viper replaced with a 1987 Yugo. I simply told myself I wasn't coming home with a DNF: so just ride, take in the scenery, grab an ear of corn as a souvenir: there's plenty laying on the side of the road.

Nah, I don't need the corn.

The most embarassing moment came when it was time for medals to be awarded. The race started with 4 cat5 racers, but one of the other registered Cat5 racers "catted up" at a prior event, so his time was placed with the Cat4 racers, leaving me as the default bronze medalist. It's embarassing because the race marshall announced my time before everyone: in a time of one hour and 31 minutes, Tim Weis!

That's slower than 16mph for those of you keeping score at home.

I wish I had left the computer on the bike. I want to know how fast I was going when I was in the zone. I haven't gone that fast in a super long time.

2009: 1h21m

I had managed to let my diet turn to crap and didn't ride the bike as much: I had put on 19lbs in 11 months. I managed to lose 8 of them before the games and was just as fast on my "test ride" to Palmyra and back as I was in 2007, only I didn't smoke.

I started commuting semi-regularly on the bike that June.

I had been battling a runny nose that had turned into a slight fever the week leading up to the games. That morning I woke up with a fever of 101 and a terrible cough. I almost threw in the towel. Nope, I gotta do this. I loaded up on ibuprofen and coffee and hit the ground running.

I remembered my shoes.

There were a lot of entrants in 2009. There were 8 Cat5 racers. One broke a chain a few strokes in. Another rider showed up on an early 90s mountain bike equipped with fat tires and a profile bar. I'm pretty sure he crapped his pants when he saw the cat1/2 racers and their disc wheels and aero helmets.

I made it 3/4 of the way through the course when the ibuprofen wore off. I couldn't push it any more. I was dizzy.

The next day I had pinkeye and a fever of 102.3. Shoulda thrown in the towel.

2010: ?h??m

This winter was absolutely brutal, I had to do something that did not involve a wiimote or a monopoly board.

I did some indoor trainer group sessions at Joyride Bicycles in January and February. Local elite racer Sydney Brown yelled at a bunch of us for 8 Saturdays to keep our heads and cadences up. I learned a lot about interval training and maintaining good form. 

And then the ice and snow melted. I didn't "train" so much as "get out of the house to ride" as soon as the grass turned green and the trees started leafing. The lack of training discipline became blatantly obvious when I raced the Capitol City Criterium. I was content to ride 18 mph the whole time. I did one big sprint around another "straggler" on the penultimate lap, just to make sure I didn't come home with the DFL (Dead F----n' Last) prize.

I feel pretty good on the bike overall, I've put on more miles this year than I have in any prior year, but they're "commuting" miles. An auto racing equivalent is "training for the Indy 500 by driving an 18 wheeler cross country." I have one more weekend with which to prep.

2010 CSG game plan: I'm installing new inner tubes and taping over the mph readout of my cyclecomputer the night before the race. I don't need a flat and I don't want any idea of how fast I'm going until the race is done: I don't want distractions once I get in the zone but I still want to know my max speed.

I'm probably not going to come home with a medal, but I would be ecstatic finishing with a personal best of 1h14m (or faster) on June 26.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Lunch Rush

My ride to work this morning was uneventful, though I felt like Travis "Taxi Driver" Bickle when I got up this morning.



No more apple fritters. No more bad food. No more flat bike trails. From now on, you commute via side streets with hills twice a day to build up muscle and put in 50 minutes on the indoor trainer every night to burn off fat. No more excuses. Every muscle must be tight.

I didn't take any of that advice. (I also didn't shave my hair into a mohawk or kill anyone, so there's a positive side to this.) I took the trails: I didn't want to be kept waiting for traffic if it started raining on me.

There is something awesome about escaping the office over lunch to get a ride in. Even more awesome is when it just finished raining and the resident smokers are standing under a shelter recommending that you to keep dry. Bah. It won't matter, I'm going to need a towel when I'm done anyways.

I threw some feelers in my facebook and google talk statuses for some riding buddies, but nobody said "I'm in", so I went alone and turned it into an intervals workout.

Why intervals? Commuting on Lincoln's trails is great, but it's led me down the path (no pun intended) of mediocrity. A good fix for this is a workout on the highways.

I got four 3-minute intervals at 85% max hr in during the 39 minutes in the saddle this noon hour.

Interval training involves pushing harder than normal for short periods of time and then lightening up for an equal amount of time and repeating. The goal is to raise your body's efficiency at a given level of effort, so the same effort results in more work accomplished.

Going 11-14mph on the highway during recovery periods is the toughest part. The only reason to go that slow during my rest periods is manufactured by my desire to improve my overall speed and stamina: I don't see two walkers walking side by side chit chatting about vacations they recently took while a hipster on a 1970s steel bike converted to a fixed gear and no brakes is barrelling down from the other direction and I have no choice but to squeeze a brake lever to make sure we're all upright when we pass.

No, only need to go that slow so my heart rate can drop back down to 70% of maximum within 3 minutes, only to ramp it back up to 85%.

 When I was done with my workout, I thought about how I rode that same stretch a whole lot faster last week when I just had fun with it, when I completely avoided my heart rate and just went with the flow. I felt like Luke Skywalker: Ben Kenobi was telling me to turn off my target computer and ride with The Force.

Instead I chose to listen to Han Solo: "ancient weapons and hokey religions are no match for a tuned cardiovascular system at your side."

I felt great after my little jaunt. I was slightly disappointed. Maybe I didn't push hard enough. And then it hit me at 2:15: my legs were on fire.

Mission: Accomplished.

My ride home was painful. What normally takes 20-22 minutes took 35. My legs still hurt as I type this tonight.

I'm driving tomorrow.

24.3 miles today.