Wednesday, November 5, 2008

One More Ride

Today may have been the last nice day for '08. Rain moves in tomorrow, and the possibility for snow flurries this weekend. So I knew I was riding into work again today. But I decided to take the roadie this time. I was hoping that, after two trips on the Moab, the Fuji would feel effortless, which it did not, mostly due to some pretty gnarly head winds on the way home.

Since I was on the Fuji today, I had to stay on the streets instead of the bike path I've been going on and on about over the past couple of days. This is not quite as peaceful, but the distance is a bit shorter, and I never noticed until today what good drafting partners cars make! When your fighting a head wind and 10 or 15 cars go whizzing by at 45 and 50 mph, you seriously do get pulled right along with the dried leaves. I found myself looking forward to the next batch of cars coming up in my mirror.

I Can't believe I got to ride in short sleeves and shorts in November.

This trip put the bike computer at 360 miles. Figure in the two trips I made on the Moab last Friday and Monday, and one other mtb trip to work a couple weeks ago, and that puts my at right around 420 miles on bikes since I started this blog late this summer. I kind of hoped my speeds would be up a little more by now, and I'd feel a little stronger, but I'm getting there. I need to start working on some other exercises for the rest of the ol' bod over the winter, and I think I'll look into a trainer, just to continue working my lungs and heart a bit as well as just keeping my butt used to being in the saddle. I have some more ideas about how I'd like to adjust my positioning on the bike for next season.

A friend of mine has gotten into the hobby a bit more this year too, and he'd like to join me on this goal of riding at least 1 century in '09. We've decided to start with some shorter charity rides at the beginning of the year, just to get a feel for how these supported rides all work, and then progress to a century ride somewhere around the middle of summer and into early fall. The more the better I say. We'll be reaching some new goals and hopefully contributing to some worthy causes along the way.
  • 19.59 miles
  • 1' 17"
  • 15.9 mph avg.
  • 25.6 mph max.

Got This From a Friend This Morning

Good one:

Monday, November 3, 2008

And Again.

Rode the mountain bike into work again today. The weather is just too nice not to. I was planning on doing it again tomorrow, but I did try to push a bit harder today, and as a result, I'm just a little bit sore tonight. With having to get over to vote tomorrow, and pick my beautiful daughter from work, and needing to get her home in time to do her homework so she can watch some of the election coverage, I think I'm going to take tomorrow off the bike. Maybe. Oh. I should bring home dinner too. Again, so we can get into the election biz quicker.

yeah. Tomorrow, I'll drive. Looks like the weather will hold through Wednesday, so I'll ride then. The rain rolls in on Thursday.

Thought of taking the Roadie again, but that dirt path through the forest preserve is just too too nice to exchange for riding in traffic.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Indian Summer

So I haven't posted since the 19th.  Sheesh.  Well, as much as I am enjoying riding again,  It's just not much fun once the temp drops below 40 degrees and I don't really have the gear for those temps.

But, we got a little respite in the cold weather this week.  I kept an anxious eye on the forecast, planning to take the Moab into work again.  Everything looked good for Thursday.  The weatherman said it would be 41 in the morning and then reach into the 60's.  So, I got the Moab all set to go and got all the clothes I would need to change into once I got to work packed in my backpack.  I laid out my makeshift cool weather gear and was set to go. 

On Thursday morning, it was 31 degrees.

I drove to work.

However, on Friday morning, it was 46 degrees!  So, I loaded the Moab onto the roof of the Subaru and drove over to my beautiful daughters school and rode the rest of the way into work from there, like I did before.  This makes for a 20 mile biking day, gets me to work on time without having to wake up at 5 and ride in complete darkness, and leaves me with a car to drive my beautiful daughter home from school.  I'm planning to do this again on Monday and for as long as the weather holds up this time.  This will probably the last bit of riding I'll do until next Spring, save for a possible snow ride sometime over the winter, just for fun.  I'm still trying to decide if a trainer will be worth it, or if I should maybe just take a spin class to work on buiding up my heart and wind.  Maybe I'll just do something else for the winter and start up on the bikes again in the spring.  The jury is still out on this one.

The bike path through the forest preserve was just incredible yesterday.  What a nice place to ride.  As much as I enjoy the road bike, getting deep into the woods, away from traffic, on a dirt path, with the leaves crunching under the tires is tough to beat.  There were two spots in particular yesterday that stood out.  The trees still have their leaves in these sections, but they have turned a bright, bright yellow-lime color.  They were so thick that I could barely see the blue sky above them, but the sun was shining so bright that it lit the floor of the forest in this amazing lime green hue.  It was just amazing.

No real data for this ride.  As this may become a "regular" ride for me, I should probably start tracking my usual basic data just for kicks.  I guess I could just mount the GPS on the mountain bike again.  Maybe for Monday.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Frozen Toes

Well, they kept calling for nice weather today - and it did get nice.  Eventually.  But when I headed out this morning at 6am, it was 41 degrees.  I thought I had everything I needed to stay warm.  A new jacket, two shirts, a pair of running pants over my bike shorts, some lightweight, full fingered microfiber gloves over my biking gloves, and a cover up for my ears.  I thought I was good to go.  I didn't even consider my toes...

So, after about 10 miles, my toes were getting seriously cold.  And I realised that I wasn't really having all that much fun.  So I made my first attempt at a sprint on a long straight section of the path, then turned the bike around and came home.  There was more than one section of the bike path where the leaves were so thick that I couldn't really tell where the edges of the path were.  And damp leaves get a little slick under road bike tires.  I wonder if I'm going to get another long ride in this season.  I may be better off just taking the Moab out for short trips now that fall is really setting in.
  • 20.19 miles
  • 1' 31"
  • 13.5 mph avg.
  • 26.4 mph max.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Another "Long" Ride This Morning

Rode the North Branch Trail again this morning. Just a tad over 36 miles. I changed my route slightly, and that seems to have made the trip slightly shorter than last time.

This was probably the prettiest bike ride I have had to date. The leaves are changing, it was just about 60 degrees when I left this morning as the sun was coming up. And as the sun came up it just kept getting warmer. The sun was filtering through the colored leaves, tons of people were out this morning, and everyone just seemed to be in a great mood. Deer were everywhere. Came home to a breakfast of scrabbled eggs and waffles with blueberries. It was absolutely a perfect morning.

Ain't endorphins great?

Strangest thing I saw this morning? A tandem recumbent. Talk about a long bike. It was like a tractor-trailer going past me.

Had to stop and raise the seat a touch more this morning due to my left hip complaining again. Still amazes me how different a 1 cm change in the seat height can make a bike feel. I can see why folks end up keeping the same bike for 15 or 20 years. Once you get a bike dialed in, who would want start over?

After riding the Moab to work and back a couple days ago with just some strapless toe clips, rather than the crazy shoes and pedals, I'm still wondering if clipless is the way to go for me. I kind of like being able to move my feet around on the pedals to relieve various aches and pains. I may actually end up switching the Roadie over at some point.

Due to several different factors, I had to stop a couple times this morning. I stopped to raise the seat, got stopped by a train, and I stopped once to fix my shorts. And I couldn't help but notice how much stopping, even if just for 1 minute, helps make the ride go smoother. I think I'll try to incorporate regular stops into my rides. Just like, every 15 miles or so. Stop, stand up nice and straight, stretch a bit, blow the nose, take a drink water and then carry on. I think this may be key to finishing up that century next year.

Then again, maybe I'm just a wimp.

Got passed by a guy for the first time this morning. Tried to pace him for about, oh, 10 seconds. The dude was seriously cruising. Amazing.

Cleared the 300 mile mark on the Fuji today. 320 miles now. Yay!
  • 36.31 miles
  • 2'30" exact
  • 14.0 mph avg.
  • 24.9 mph max.

Friday, October 10, 2008


A couple of "finallys" really.

I finally got the situation settled with Swagman bike racks.  I paid to ship the bike racks that I wasn't happy with back to them, and they sent me two different racks for no additional charge.  No return shipping, no 20% restocking fee.  I had to plead my case quite a bit, but at last my new friend, Karla, relented and helped me out.  I take back any negative words I used toward them, and I will stop sending negative energy their way.  Thanks Karla!

And because I now have a bike rack on the Subaru, I was able to load the Moab on the roof, truck on over to my beautiful daughters school, where I unloaded the bike and road the rest of the way to work.  Took me just as long to ride the Mighty Moab to work from my beautiful daughters school as it did to ride all the way from home on the Roadie.  But I took the Schwinn because I can ride at least half way to work on the Des Plaines Trail System which is an unpaved trail through a forest preserve.  Then, after work, I rode back to the kids school, loaded up the bike, picked up the kid and headed home.  It really is a nice plan, that I hope to do at least a couple more times before the weather just gets too cold.

So, anyway, I rode a fairly short distance today, probably less then 20 miles total, but it was into a headwind on a bike with super wide tires, on soft ground.  So I'm still pretty pooped.  Too pooped to type.  Maybe more on this trip later.  I'm hoping to get the Roadie out and do that 37 mile loop again on Sunday.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Hanging in There

So last Saturday I set out on the bike and got my best distance yet, and I haven't been on the bike since.  Heading out of town this weekend to visit my Dad, so no biking.  My new bike racks are on the way from Swagman, and I think I may have begged and pleaded my case enough that my friend Karla over there is going to let me off of the mat on the 20% restocking fee and maybe even return shipping?  The racks are on the way, and no charges have showed up on my accounts that I can tell.  If that is the case, I will immediately reverse my position that no one should ever buy anything from them ever again.  The racks should be here on the 8th.

But regardless, my new racks are on the way, meaning that I don't currently have any now, meaning the bike can not travel to Indianapolis with us for the weekend.  It is looking like it is going to be a beautiful week next week though.  I may just need to stay home Monday, just to get in another ride and then take care of some other things around the homestead in preparation for the upcoming cold weather.

Which brings up the question: I'm thinking of riding the bike into the house over the winter.  If the weather breaks from time to time it will still be wet and messy, so I'll probably just run the Schwinn on those days.  So, do I go with the trainer that just lets you spin, or do I go for full rollers?  It seems that rollers would give a  more realistic ride, allowing me to continue messing with the fit of the bike for more comfort.  But then, I still need to shake about 10 pounds, so  I thought I might just spend the winter using the bike as a sweating machine, and worry more about form in the spring. 

I'm asking this question as if there are millions of people reading... I need rest.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

It's the Little Things...

So it was another fairly successful day. I set a couple new personal bests; I finally rode the whole North Branch Trail which, in turn, set my new furthest distance record. And I did the whole ride at a new best average speed (for a "long distance" ride). Still slow compared to the old pro's, but better for me none-the-less.

It was so foggy and damp when I got onto the path today that within a couple of miles water was dripping from the brake handles on the bike and off the visor of my helmet. I was soaked! The bike ended up completely loaded with silt and leaves, as did the fronts of my legs. My fingers were pretty cold at the start of the ride and my toes began to get a bit cold too, but before long the sun began to burn through and all was good. It was a glorious morning for a ride.

To all the other riders out this morning who asked if I was OK when I did another one of my famous clippless tumbles while trying to cross Harp road, thank you for asking. And thank you for not laughing until I was out of site.

I was running a new seat and shorter handle bar stem today and the combination felt darn good. At the end of the ride, the sit bones in my butt were sore, but my other nether regions felt just fine. I'm satisfied with that. I can work on toughening up my sit bones, but there just wasn't much I was going to be able to do to help the ol' twig and berries. The new seat is an S1 from Neuvation Cycling and seems to be a pretty nice piece for the money and so far it is certainly more comfortable than the Fuji seat that came on the bike. Natural leather seat, Kevlar sides, Carbon-nylon bottom and Titanium rails for 59 bucks is hard to beat. So far, after one good ride, I give this seat a thumbs up. We'll see if my sit bones begin to feel better with some more time on the saddle.

One point of interest. After only about 10 miles today, my left hip started screaming at me on any sort of incline. I noticed that if I stopped pedaling with that foot down and lifted myself off the seat just slightly, the pain immediately went away and left me feeling oh-so-wonderful. It occured to me that this new seat was slightly shorter (from the rails to the top of the seat) than the previous seat. So I stopped and raised the seat post about 1 cm and the hip pain completely went away. Once again proving that fine tuning of a bike is key to making the long rides easier, and it is important to carry some tools.
  • 37.01 miles
  • 2'33"
  • 14.6 mph avg.
  • 24.3 mph max.

Monday, September 22, 2008

And Home Again, Home Again, Jiggidy-Jig

The ride home went much better as far as the quality of roads I found, and the traffic situation worked out pretty well too. However, let me just say that I am absolutely and completely whipped. Beat like a dog. Folded like a lawn chair. Crushed.

Must be because the bike paths are generally in such wooded areas that the wind doesn't play such a factor. The wind coming home today, although not incredibly strong, was straight into my face and it just completely killed me. It was just brutal at some points. It felt as if the bike was going to come to a complete stop and I was just going to tip over right there in the street and pass from this earth. My legs are completely non-functional tonight. Getting up the stairs to come to bed was a task. I'll bet they are going to hurt tomorrow. I've got a long way to go to be a distance rider to be sure.

On a better note, I picked up a 90mm handlebar stem on Ebay last week and it arrived today. And I've got another seat on the way - one with the taint hole to relieve a little bit of pressure from the twig and berries, if you know what I mean. So, the bike tweaking continues. I'm going to be revisiting the overall fit of the bike in the coming days, now that I'm learning a bit more about how the bike should fit aside from what feels right.

Oh and here's a pisser. I am still battling regarding the bike racks that I purchased a couple weeks ago and decided that I wasn't 100% satisfied with. Apparently there is no difference between returning an item and exchanging an item as far as their customer service department is concerned, meaning that they want me to pay a 20% restocking fee in addition to paying for shipping back the racks that I do not want as well as for sending me back the racks that I do. So, I am officially going on record as saying that the Swagman bike rack company sucks. Please disseminate this information to your friends, relatives, and loved ones. I am still looking into what options I have available to make their lives a bit more difficult, but I am sending the bike racks back to them in the next couple of days regardless.

Total for the day (both trips):
  • 29.37 miles
  • 2' 02"
  • 14.0 mph avg.
  • 23.6 mph max.

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, It's Off to Work I Go...

My charming and delightful bride has to leave work early in order to pick up my beautiful daughter from school and taker her to dance class on Mondays, meaning that I do not have to pick her up from school. Seems like the perfect day to ride the bike into work, no?

So that is exactly what I did this morning. In fact, I'm sitting at my desk right at this very moment, stealing company time to tell you about it.

My first impression is that it is easier to do 30+ miles on a bike path than it is to do 15 miles on public streets in morning traffic. But everything went well. Nobody tried to kill me or threw things at me or called me names, so I guess I did my part as a cyclist well, and everyone else did their part as drivers well too. Thanks to all the drivers out there this morning between the north side of Chicago and Mt. Prospect who didn't kill me, or call me names or pelt me with empty (or full) coffee cups. I appreciate it.

Second, most streets around here suck for road bikes. If I keep this up, I may need to invest in a commuter bike... My charming and delightful bride will love to hear this news.

I mounted the GPS on the bike again this morning, in case I needed to find some alternate routes and I noticed that the speed indicated on the GPS was identical to the speed indicated on my bike computer, to the tenth of a mph. So at least I know that my bike computer is accurate.
  • 15.18 miles
  • 1' 02"
  • 14.8 mph avg.
  • 21.7 mph max.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Dump Trucks, Gravel, Pot Holes and Humps

Well, I'm pulling a couple more night shifts at work, so today was going to be a great day for a nice long ride.  After talking with some friends, and doing some more reading at various places on the Web, like, I decided that the rides I've been making are getting long enough that I should start bringing more water and some sort of fuel.  I set up the bike last night with a handlebar bag to put some snacks in and swapped the water bottle cages between the Fuji and the Schwinn, as the Schwinn has a bigger cage that will allow me to use my 24 oz. bottle rather than my 16 oz.  And I had picked up a couple of Odwalla bars the other day specifically for this day.

This morning I had the brilliant idea to break the Sweet and Salty Peanut Odwalla bars up into pieces and put them in a baggy, then keep that baggy in the handlebar bag on the bike.  I also tossed a couple FRS chews in as well, thinking that when I got thirsty for something a bit sweeter and tangier than water, I could have one of these chews and then just chase it with a drink of water, rather than going so far as to carry two bottles at this point.  I loaded up the Fuji and headed out.

My plan today was to take a shot at running the North Branch trail completely.  I had more
water, and snacks to keep me going.  I wasn't going to pay much mind to my pace, but instead just try to zone out and keep on riding.  Today was going to be a big day.  Someone had run the trail yesterday and said that, except for one spot, the water had receded and the trail was dry, so I figured that I was good to go.

About 6 or 8 miles into the trail, I came onto some signage saying that the path was closed for construction.  I didn't know if the trail truly was under construction, or if during the floods, they had just used this sign to block the path.  So I made the decision to go around the signs and keep going.  It wasn't too much longer that I actually came upon the construction equipment.  At this point I probably could have gotten around all the workers and equipment on the trail, but that just seemed a bit rude and like some sort of poor cyclist form.  So I said good morning to the guys working on the trail, thanked them and headed back toward home. 

But on my way back, I decided that, rather than just come home and call it a day, I'd explore the neighborhoods awhile.  And that is when I found something just a bit irritating.  On this side of town, the main streets are pretty chaotic for riding a bike.  Bigger streets like Montrose, Lawrence, Nagle, Harlem, etc. are two lanes with cars parked along the sides, so there really is no good shoulder to ride on.  Where there is a shoulder, it is often full of cracks and pot holes.  But if you get off the main roads and onto the nice, smooth, quiet side streets, the city has filled every one of them with speed "humps."  So, no matter where you try to ride it is rough going.

Ehem... excuse me, Mr. bicycle-friendly Mayor Daley?  I'm not impressed.  If nothing else, why not just put a break in the middle of the humps, like they do in the alleys to allow rain water to drain?  Then a cyclist could just cruise through the middle of the humps.  You can't put them on the sides of the humps, because all too often there are cars parked in the way.  These streets don't see so much traffic that a cyclist can't ride in the middle of the street here and there.

But I digress.

I rode for quite a while, sticking to side streets where I could, battling traffic and pot holes when I had to.  Man, nothing will motivate you to get the pedals cranking then riding down Cumberland Avenue with cars whizzing by at 50 mph.  Then I rode into Mt. Olive cemetery for a bit, which is certainly a nice quiet place to ride.  Except that I couldn't find a way out and basically just circled the joint until I ended up back where I came in.  Looks like they are dealing with a few issues from the heavy rains too.  I think some of the dearly departed got their first bath in a long time...  I saw this cool old "graveyard Jeep" and decided I needed a photo:

It is a bit hard to see, but the Jeep has cool boom on it for moving dead people stuff around. When I went by it was holding a large cement slab in front of the Jeep.  It looked like the cover they put over a grave once the coffin is lowered in.  Creepy.

Oh, back to the Odwalla bars.  Did you know that if you break them up into pieces, put them into a baggy on the handlebars of a road bike and then take them out for ride, they will jiggle themselves back into a solid mass again?  That's right!  They are self healing!!  Bad idea on my part.  Next time I'll just leave them in their wrappers, but open them up so that I can grab them out of the bag, take a bit and drop them back in.

So, all in all, this was not the bike run I was hoping to make today, but anytime on the bike is a good time.  My lungs and legs ache in that good way.  Oh, and I broke the 200 mile mark on the Fuji today.  And to think; when I bought the bike my goal was to put 100 miles on it before the end of season.

Consumer alert:  Remember those Swagman bike racks I purchased and wasn't complete crazy about?  (I wrote about them here.)  I've decided to exchange them for fork mount units, however the fine person at is not being very customer friendly.  Apparently their 100% Satisfaction guarantee means that you have to pay shipping in both directions plus a 20% restocking fee.  We are debating the issue via e-mail currently.  Stay tuned.
  • 23.91 miles
  • 1'47"
  • 13.1 mph avg.
  • 23.9 mph max.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

A Break From Our Regular Program

Since Chicago was inundated with upwards of 8 inches of rain a couple days ago which resulted in my bike path being more suitable for fishing than biking, and just due to the day to day business of working and being a Dad, I haven't been on the bike in a couple of days. I'm pulling some night shifts again at the end of this week, so that will give the chance for at least one good long ride, provided my primary bike path is not still under the north branch of the Chicago River by then.

So, allow me to take a moment to help spread some information that I feel needs spreading:

Thanks for you time! We now take you back to your regularly scheduled senseless dribble.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The 40 Year Old Arc Virgin!

Oh my gosh, I have never seen so much rain...
I knew it was going to be rainy, but I also knew it was going to be warm.  I thought I might take the Schwinn out for a spin today, even if I did get rained on a little bit.  But WOW!  It started raining yesterday afternoon and for the most part it has not stopped yet.  No storms.  No wind.  No thunder and lightning.  Just to most persistent, steady downpour of rain I have seen in  recent memory.  Instead of biking in the rain, I have spent the entire day finding every tiny drip of water in my basement, because they have all become steady streams.  Nothing too terribly bad, thankfully, but also nothing I can fix right away either.  Looks like we're goint to need some chimney work at a minimum.

Needless to say, the bikes are idle.  This stinks.

Could be worse.  We could be in Texas.  We're sending good thoughts their way today.

By "we're" I mean, me and my family.  Not me and the bikes, BTW.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Short But Swe...Hey, is that an Elk!!?

I mentioned earlier today that I was going to go check out a new bike path. And I did. I changed into my riding gear, filled my water bottle and bolted out the door from work a little early today. I headed over to the Busse Woods trail system in the Ned Brown Forest Preserve out in the west suburbs. It is the closest bike trail I have found from where I work at a mere 7 miles away.

Let me say that I based my decision to visit this bike path exclusively by its distance from work and from my beautiful daughter's school. I wanted to try out a new place that I could drive to from work, take a quick ride, and then go pick up the beautiful daughter. I didn't really read much about the trail. I looked at the map and noticed it had a lot of small lakes surrounding it, so I assumed it would be a fairly scenic ride. But that is really about as much thought as I gave it. So, this afternoon, as I cruised along this really, really pretty path, I wasn't really expecting to see anything paticularly out of the ordinary. But I rounded a turn, and quite suddenly, I got a whiff of the distinct scent of large animals. That's when I thought to myself, "Did I see something on that web page about Elk?"

And it was just about that time that I spotted one, and very nearly put the Fuji into the weeds.

Yes. There are elk in them there woods! In a huge fenced in area mind you, so it's not as if they can just meander out onto the path in front of you, but they will still catch you by surprise if you are the type of person who didn't really read all the information about the preserve, and aren't really expecting to see a 700 pound animal with a rack of antlers as wide as a soccer goal while out huffing and puffing on your fancy little bike near Schaumburg, Illinois.

Anyway, if you look at the map, you'll see a big red loop of a trail. That is the trail I road. I wasn't really sure how long one lap would take me, nor how long it would take for me to drive from the preserve to my beautiful daughter's school. So, to play it safe, I stuck with just one lap today. I tried to make it a good, quick one, but wasn't able to do as well as I would have liked. The lap was only 8 miles, and I only managed a 15 mph avg for the lap. I must remember to have something more substantial than a water bottle of FRS (Go Lance!) and a Payday bar as my only meal of the day, while on the way to go biking.

But - I was able to check out the bike path, which is just beautiful by the way, and I now know how to get there and how to get from there to the BD's school. Next time I can probably safely do two laps. I may head out there one day to check out the other paths and just spend some time taking in the scenery, but, in the meantime, it is at least a viable option for getting in a ride during the week after work. I don't see ever having enough time to many laps in order to put miles on the bike, but it may work out well as a place to go for a quick sprint.

And I got to try out the Swagman bike rack, both on the bumpy secondary streets of Chicago while driving to work this morning, and at highway speeds this afternoon while going to pick up the BD from school. It seems to be a fairly well built unit that is completely bolted together. There are no rivets to rust and break. But the bike can and does sway from side to side a bit while in the rack. I have a couple of ideas of how to minimize this and I'll be sure to report back should I find one that works. But, aside from that, the racks are still a bargain compared to the big name racks like Thule and Yakima. When I set out to put a rack on the Subaru, I priced out these racks first and was just completely shocked at the prices. I shopped for used racks for quite a few weeks, but even used, The name brand racks go for more than the Swagman pieces do new. I picked up 2 new Swagman racks for under $100 shipped and a set of new off brand cross bars to attach them to the Subaru from Ebay also for under $100. That will do just fine, thank you. Links to Swagman and the Ebay cross bars for car that have factory installed roof rails are in my links.

I forgot to bring the bike computer in with me tonight, but the numbers were weak. Still, I rode hard enough that make my lungs still feel nice and warm this evening, and my legs ache. And any time spent on the bike is quality time. Especially when you bail out of work early to go do it.

I'm thinking my next new route will be in the dirt and mud of the Des Plaines River trail. I can pick it up really easily from home, and I hear some parts of it have been kept fairly raw for the knobby tire crowd. Sounds like a fun way to build some leg muscle!
  • 7.89 miles
  • almost exactly 30 minutes
  • 15.0 mph avg.
  • 21.7 mph max.

Too Distracted to Get Any Work Done

I got the Swagman bike racks yesterday and installed them on the ol' Subaru. I'm blowing out of here early today to try a new bike path. What the hell - I have to be in early tomorrow anyway, and it is looking like rain for the weekend.

My first feelings about the Swagman racks are mixed. They are the "clamp" type of bike holders that do not require removing the front wheels of the bike. They are fairly well put together, but the bike is able to wobble around a bit in the rack. It's not like it is going to fall off the car or anything, but I wonder if I should have just gone with the cheaper fork type mounts. The Fuji is on the roof right now, and so far I have only driven to work with it. More later.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

No, I Didn't Blow Off the Whole Weekend.

Took another nice ride along our beautiful lake front with my pal, Jim. It was another perfect day. Instead of heading south from down town, we headed north. Past Navy Pier, past Oak Street Beach, etc. all the way up to Foster Ave, and then back again. There were a lot more people on the path in the direction, so I was glad that I took the Schwinn this time. Plus, I just completely had a blast on the bike. It is just a better bike for carving my way through the crowds of people, plus I got to do some jumping and climbing and general goofing off with it. Maybe some time I'll take the ol' beater BMX bike and really hurt myself!

Here's my piss-n-moan for the day:

"Any Chicago guys reading this (and seriously. I'm talking to the guys here)... The Lake Shore Drive path in the area that I'm speaking of is just not the place to play Tour de France. Too many people, too many tourists, too many kids to try to average 20 mph. There are plenty of places in the city to haul ass. That ain't one of them.

The Swagman bike racks should be here the day after tomorrow. I'll let you know how well those work out and then I'll start looking into some new places to ride.

No computer on the Schwinn, but looking over my maps, it looks like we did a good bit over 20 miles on Saturday. No speed records set, and working our way through the crowds at the Red Bull Flugtag certainly killed our average. Who cares. A nice day, and a great bike ride finished off with a couple of cold Goose Island 312's. You just can not beat that for a great day.

Jimbo, I left my shades at your house.

Friday, September 5, 2008

New Personal Best

I dropped my beautiful kid off at school this morning, drove back home, changed into the silly shorts and crazy shoes and hit the road. Reached a new personal best today by breaking the 30 mile mark! But man oh man, let me tell ya... The last bit of that ride had me talking to myself. The only thing that kept me going the last 8 miles or so was just to get that damn bike home so I could get off of it. I was pretty wiped out. My left hip was screaming at me, and on up into my lower back. And for the first time, my legs were pretty much gone. There was a pretty stiff breeze today and it is on the cool side, so that may have contributed to my suffering. I found it interesting how, as I rode along, every part of my body would suddenly be in pain and I would feel like I was just done. Finished. El finito. Then a couple minutes later it would all just go away, and I'd feel great. This pattern continued tody for much of the ride after 15 miles or so. I wonder what makes the body do that?

The trail was still quite damp from yesterdays rain, and there were a lot of leaves and sticks were down. This made for a fairly sloppy ride, and it shows on the Fuji. The heavy rain had washed quite a bit of gravel into the path in spots as well. I was half expecting to get a flat tire, but everything went fine. Now that I'm home and have rested a bit, the ride was great. But I don't think I would have said that 30 minutes ago.

The plan for tomorrow is to take the Schwinn over to my pals house for another ride along the lake, which I'm very much looking forward to. Bike racks for the Subaru should arrive today, or early next week. Then I hope to start exploring some of the other places to ride around the area.
  • 32.23 miles
  • 2'18"
  • 13.2 mph avg.
  • 25.3 mph max.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rain, rain, go away...

Well, the grass was getting a bit yellow anyway.  I guess we needed this.  However, it has killed my plans for a good ride today.  I'm on the first of two evening stints at work, so hopefully tomorrow we will ride!  Today we change the oil in the Subaru and try to track down a nasty little creak on the passenger side front.  Not nearly as enjoyable, but at least it will be one less thing to take care of this weekend, which should open up some time for another ride.

Not much else going on with the bikes.  I've been considering a slightly shorter bar stem in order to move the bars slightly closer to me, and reading seat reviews.  I'm not ready to pull the trigger on either at this point.

Anyone else trying out Google's Chrome?  So far, I like it.

Damn I really wanted to ride today...

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Driving the Truck

So, like I said earlier, I got the Schwinn down off its hooks yesterday and got it rideable again. I decided to take a ride on it this morning. As it turned out, we needed some items for a bon fire at a friends tonight, so that gave me a destination. But first I needed to set up the Schwinn to haul a load of groceries. I remebered I had a good ol' milk crate in the garage, so I went old school. 4 hose clamps later, and I had bonafide grocery getter. Below is a quick photo I snapped of my vintage 1997 Schwinn Moab 1 with a vintage 1989 milk crate from Borden's in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Too bad it's not one of the old wooden one's, huh?

I geared up and headed off to Trader Joe's in Park Ridge, the town just to the north and west of us.

And, I have to say, the bike felt really, really good. It still has a mirror on it from my previous attempts to make it a commuter bike. That, combined with the more upright riding position and maybe the higher ride height, made me more comfortable riding in traffic. I found I was keeping a higher cadence to overcome the added drag of the fat knobby tires, but aside from that, it was really no harder to ride than the roadie.

I Got to Trader Joe's and picked up all the fixin's for s'mores - Trader Joe's has some really tastey alternatives to traditional s'mores, such as cool, perfectly square vanilla marshmallows, and dark chocolate bars, rather than just Hershey's. And they have some really good cinnamon graham crackers too. I picked up all of these items and a 6-pack of Liberty Ale to bring to the shindig. I chose this brand as bit of a nod to my cycling mentor in San Francisco, not to mention that it is quite tasty.

Took a route home that was just a bit longer, but kept me on more side streets, under the trees and provided a view of some of the beautiful homes that populate Park Ridge. As I got close to home I noticed something interesting. The left side of my left foot was getting numb again. Not sore and numb, like with the crazy shoes, but still, I had pretty much lost feeling in my pinky toe and along the side of my foot. So, maybe it isn't the shoes that are bothering my foot when I ride at all. Maybe it is something else? A pinched nerve somewhere? Very odd to be sure, bup maybe it is just a matter of continuing to ride. Maybe all my parts will start to loosen up with time., and this business with my left foot will subside. Anyway. I had another nice ride, none the less, and I think the Schwinn will make a good errand runner and ORV.

  • approx. 10.5 miles
  • some quality amount of time breathing deeply
  • a decent clip
  • no records set

LSD Trip

Well, with getting back to my regular schedule at work, and getting busy there as well, I didn't ride for a couple of days.

However, yesterday I loaded the Fuji into the Suby and drove over to a buddy's house and then the two of us rode down to the lake. Then we took a nice ride from downtown south. A casual ride where conversation and enjoying the amazing views of our skyline and the absolutely perfect weather were the main focus of the ride, rather than how efficiently I was riding. He was on a mountain bike, and we were riding the prettiest path in Chicago on a Saturday morning. Had I tried to ride fast, I would have quickly lost my friend on his mountain bike, missed the views, and then I would have likely crashed into a tourist anyway. The Lake Shore Drive path is not the place to try to set speed records on a bike. I must make a point of getting over there more frequently. I live in the far northwest corner of the city, and work in the suburbs, so I don't make it downtown as often as I used to. What a beautiful, beautiful city. I think it is important that every resident of Chicago make it down to the lakefront a couple times a year. It makes it little easier to pay the taxes.

We finished up our ride back and my pals house with a couple of ice cold, locally brewed, Goose Island beers, enjoyed out on his balcony. No personal records were broken, and no goals were met on this ride. But to be sure, this was the best rides I have taken on the Fuji since I started riding it.

Riding through the heart of the city in fairly heavy vehicle traffic to get to the lake front, and then riding the lake front in fairly heavy pedestrian traffic, the crazy shoes became a bit of a nuisance. It wasn't the kind of ride that required that much efficiency, or even that efficient a bike. So, as soon as I got home, the Schwinn (MTB) came down from its ceiling hooks. I spent the afternoon cleaning it up and lubricating all its parts. At one time I had put a set of road tires on the bike, in attempt to make it more streetable. I removed those and put its nice OEM knobby tires back on. No sense in trying to make this bike something it isn't. I installed a rear rack that I had in the rafters as well. I took some time to adjust the seat on the bike using what I have learned adjusting the road bike for a comfortable fit, and in an hour or so, I was riding it around the driveway. After riding the Fuji for all this time, the Schwinn feels like an SUV. My intention is to use this bike for these "casual" rides as well as for short trips to the store and other errands. Also, the Cook county forest preserve has more unpaved bike paths than it does paved. At one time I was pretty involved in Jeeps and off roading, so I do enjoy the dirt as much as the pavement. I figure as long as I'm pedalling something, I'm still getting a good workout, and still building my ability to spend time on a bike saddle. I have a great old mountain bike, and many available dirt paths to ride in this area. I may as well take advantage of them as a way of still reaching my eventual goal to ride a century in 2009. If anything, maybe pedaling against the resistance of wide knobby tires on dirt will do more to improve my stamina then gliding along on ultra narrow high psi tires on smooth pavement. Spending some time on the MTB should make riding the road bike feel positively effortless. A cross training, of sorts.

I also ordered bike racks for the Subaru Friday. Those should be here next week, so I can start taking the bikes to some new places to ride. I'm looking forward to seeing some new places.

16.41 miles (closer to 18. I forgot to reset the computer)
max speed unknown, I didn't reset from the last trip, but no records were shattered to be certain.
11.8 mph avg.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


I am an old man.
I puff and sweat profusely.
Children pass me by.


Stayed home from work today to celebrate the last day of my kids summer vacation. I have been promising and promising and promising to go to a water park with her and things just kept getting in the way. So this morning I looked at the weather and decided that today was the day.

Little did we know that almost all the parks have started closing up during the week, since most public schools are back in session.

But we found one near the house, although it didn't open until 4pm. That left me time for a quick ride between games of Crazy 8's and Clue Jr. Just a quick run today though. An uneventful, beautiful Chicago day.

I seriously need to go try some new routes though. I've started shopping for roof racks for the Subaru. Lots of paths in the area to try. Paved and unpaved, so that Moab is going to have to come down off the hooks and get cleaned up too.

9.89 miles
12.9 mph avg.
28.4 mph max.

Sunday, August 24, 2008


Nice ride, although the trail is definitely the most crowded on Sundays. Lots of packs of women jogging who feel they are entitled to the whole path. But the sun was shining and I was on my bike. I just said good morning to them and moved on. Since I was wearing "the shorts" I wasn't able carry the Ipod. Turn out to be no big deal, really. And it seems that people tend to say good morning to you more often when you don't have wires sticking out of your ears. So, instead of having a sound track to enhance my ride, I was alone. Nothing but the sound of my breathing, the quiet zmmm zmmm zmmm of road tires on asphalt, and the subtle mechanical clatter of chain against sprockets. Alone with my thoughts. This gave me some good quality time to work on my baiku, hahaha... It was actually very nice, and I may just continue leaving the music at home most of the time. The shorts are pretty nice. However, it was a little chilly this morning and I have to say that this made for an interesting start to the ride. The sensation of actually feeling the morning air temperature in my nether regions at first made it feel as if I had left the house without my pants, which sort of made me feel like I was in the middle of one of those dreams everyone seems to have had at some point. The one where you find yourself at work or school or some other public place and suddenly realize that you have forgotten to dress yourself. I'm glad it was early, and there was not a lot of traffic on the roads. By the time I hit the bike path, I was warmed up and becoming accustomed to the pants. I decided that since most everyone else I passed on a bike was wearing them too, we were all in the same boat - Riding in our underwear.

At about 20 miles, I felt something fly down my shirt. I sat up on the bike and fluffed my shirt a couple of times and didn't notice anything, so I went about my business. Minutes later I felt a pinch right next to my bellybutton. Fluffed my shirt again and out fell a bee. That is the first time in my life that I have been stung by a bee.

"Hmm.... I always thought it would hurt worse than that."

And then a couple minutes later, it did. And then it went away. And then it hurt again, this cycle repeating itself for the duration of my ride and most of the morning for that matter.

Little bastard.

Well, tomorrow I go back to my regular work schedule, so I'm not sure when I'll fit in these same rides. I may have to stick to shorter rides during the week, and leave the longer ride for the weekend. We'll see.

26.19 miles
1' 59"
13.3 mph avg.
22.7 mph max

Saturday, August 23, 2008


I am clipped in tight.
The traffic moves too slowly.
I am falling over.

"The Pants"

I committed. I bought two pairs of biking pants yesterday evening.

My wife likes them, so all in all, I think that makes them a good purchase. If nothing else, I'll just wear them around the house as lingerie.

No ride today though. Had to get some things done around the house. Sunday is shaping up to be the nicer of day of the weekend anyway. On my trip to get "the pants" I also picked up a slightly larger seat bag that will hold my stuff, plus an inner tube. I'll get that ready today, and mount the hand pump. Picked up a new water bottle, but it is too big. I knew I should have gotten the smaller one. Tomorrow morning we ride.

Friday, August 22, 2008


Oh wonderful bike.
A most precision machine.
Why must you hurt me?


That's how I felt this morning.

I am the man! I don't know what happened last night, but I have suddenly become hard wired into this amazing machine!! I don't know if it was the bowl of cereal I had before this ride or, if something inside my body has just "clicked" but I am unstoppable!! I am the fastest, smoothest biking man ALIVE!!

I had a tailwind.

It was a long, steamy ride home. And a block away from home, while waiting to cross Montrose Ave, I did another clipless tumble. But by then it felt pretty nice to just lay on there on the sidewalk and rest a spell anyway.

I did pull one great move on the bike today. As I was just heading into a corner that is somewhat obscured by trees, I could see through them enough to know there was a guy coming the other way on a bike, so I was moved my fingers up onto the brake levers, just in case. We were both basically into the turn when we actually came into each others view and that is when he finally saw me. He was on a damn hybrid (see, I'm a snooty road bike elitist already...) and in my lane like a fool, because that gave him the shortest distance around the turn. When he saw me, he tried to swerve back into his own lane, but by then I was already moving over to give him room, so he basically turned in front of me. I grabbed a handful of rear brake and put my precious road bike into a classic BMX power slide. This swung rear of my bike toward him even more, but when I released the brake, the tire got traction and I just rolled right on around him. All the while watching this goof with his face all squished up, sticking his feet out to the sides, waiting for the inevitable crash. He made some sort of, "yeeeaaahh" sound as I went by, which was pretty amusing after the fact. I was worried that my tire wouldn't like being slid like that, but it seems to have survived.

Speaking of tires, as I read more about road bikes, it seems that flat tires are not uncommon. This bike came with some extra tubes and one of those nifty little CO2 pumps. Maybe I should start carrying them. I have some lightweight tire changing tools already that I can pack. I'd hate to be 10 miles from home and have a flat tire...

Well, today is a milestone of sorts for me. I was scrolling through the little bike computer after this ride, and the odometer, which by the way, I was able to reset after the battery incident, reads 100.2 miles. And I reset it conservatively. So I feel it is safe to say that I have put a good, honest, 100 miles on this bike. Yay for me.

I'm typing too much again, but there is one last thing I want to show you. A couple pictures from my absolute best, most enjoyable day of bicycling...

These were taken on the day my kid and I jumped in the Subaru and took a quick ride over to our neighborhood bike shop, Rudy's. And there she picked out a bitchin' Mongoose bike for herself and paid for half of it with her own money, just a day or two after getting up on two wheels on a smaller bike all by herself. I helped a little here and there, and offered advice, but she basically just decided she was going to ride one day and once she put her mind to it, it didn't take long at all. She asked me to take the pedals off her bike so she could just walk it up and down the driveway, so I did. She did that for about an hour and then decided it was time to put the pedals back on. And before I knew it, she was cruising up and down our driveway, over to the neighbors and up and down their driveway too. She is one awesome kid. And this is also why I highly recomend that every Dad keep an old BMX bike in the garage.

22.08 miles
12.1 mph avg.
24.3 mph max

Thursday, August 21, 2008

R&D day

Took the same loop as yesterday but the pace was slower. I was definitely running at a pretty good pace in some places, but I also made several stops to make adjustments to the bike, poked around in the neighborhood perfecting my street route to the bike path, and basically just enjoying the ride.

Per Paul's recommendations, I flipped the handlebar stem over giving me 10 degrees of rise rather than 10 degrees of drop. I also raised the seat just a bit more. I actually mounted my old GPS on the bars this morning in order to help with my routing and just to try it out. Kind of cool, kind of geeky. I don't plan to make a habit of this although the mount I came up with works quite well if I do say so. Maybe when I do that century ride, I'll track the whole thing.

Then again, maybe not...

The adjustments to the bike today made it feel even better. However, I noticed that I was having to push myself back on the saddle again from time to time though, so I stopped and moved the seat a little bit forward and tilted the front of the seat up just a little bit more. I was just going to do a quick ride, mainly to try out the new adjustments on the bike and find a good route to the bike path. But once I found myself at the bike path I decided to go ahead and do my loop. Also per Paul's suggestion, I left the straps on the crazy shoes a bit loose, and guess what? No more foot pain! I was just strapping them down too tight! My left foot was still getting sore along the left side, but I found that if I tried to make a point of keeping my knees in toward the middle of the bike, that relieved that little nuisance as well. It gets harder to remember all these little things when I start getting tired, but it should all come easier with time. It's all just a matter of making these things a habit.

But, I think the bike is about as good as it is going to get. As I adjust the bike to take weight off my hands, it shifts to my butt, so by the time I was coming home today, I was feeling it more back there (combined with making two 20 mile rides in 2 days - that's a lot for me) so I think there is always a trade off. All in all, I can't get over how easy it is to put miles on this bike. It is just a completely enjoyable ride.

I think I'll go ahead and commit to a couple pairs of "biking shorts." I like having all the pockets in my cargo pants for the Ipod and paper towels for the inevitable runny nose, but I'll figure that out. Maybe one of those jerseys with the pockets along the back.

hmmm. I think a trip to the bike shop is in order.

Oh! I forgot to mention - I did the "clipless tumble" today. Waiting for some traffic, got too close to the curb, couldn't get clipped out quickly enough and tipped over. The good news was that I just tumbled into the grass. The bad news was that the owner of the grass had a sprinkler on at the time... :)

So - a slower day, but a lot of progress was made none-the-less. I love this bike.

21.10 miles
time unknown, but long
10.7 mph avg.
23.4 mph max.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

2nd Shift

Covering some evening shifts at the hell hole this week, so that will at least give the chance for some early rides. Just got back from one in fact. 21.10 miles. Pretty nice ride that went easier than that 10 miler I did earlier this week. Maybe because I'm riding in the morning, instead of after work. Maybe because I checked the tire pressures this morning, and the front was a little low. Maybe because I set out this morning to just ride. I decided I wasn't going to think about speed today. I was just going to ride. I didn't load the bike into the car this time. I found a route that will get me nearly to the bike path on side streets rather than riding on a 4 lane. With a little more poking around I'm sure I can do even better. I'll need to jump onto Nagle to get over the expressway, but aside from that I should be able to run side streets.

At about 10 miles today, my thumbs were bothering me again, so I just took off the gloves. This was better for my thumbs, but the rest of my hand got a bit sore. So, maybe just different gloves, or I'll cut a little room into the thumbs of these gloves. I guess I have fat thumbs...

At 20 miles, my feet were cramping pretty badly, and my bootie was getting pretty sore. How in the hell will I ever do 100? I hope this is just a matter of seat time. I don't think it will be too difficult to get my legs up to the task. To this point they have felt pretty good at the end of a ride.

I also made an effort to stay down in the drops of the bars more today. The less drag I create, the further I'll go someday, right?

Oh. I picked up a little work stand for the bike on Ebay. Nice to be able work on it without it wanting to fall over, and it actually gives me a pretty stable place to store the bike when it is in the garage. I'll try to get some pictures of everything today.

Oh again. Once I got the bike on the work stand, I took the opportunity to remove the aerobars. I'm not going to use those things.

21.10 miles
12.9 mph avg.
26.8 mph max.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Back in the Saddle

Well, after the big (for me) 20 mile ride on Saturday morning, I took Sunday off. Actually, we just weren't around the house much, so I didn't have much time to ride. So I got back out there today after work. Rather than risk being killed by 5:00pm traffic, I opted to toss the bike into the back of the Subaru and just drove to the bike path I rode to on Saturday.

Today I only did 10 miles, but I tried to ride harder. It was hotter today and there was a fairly good breeze, so I am more tired today than I was on Saturday, even though my average speed was not much better. I think it was 13.7 mph. I say I think because I dropped my nifty little bike computer as I was coming into the house, causing its battery cover and the battery to go sailing across the driveway. This caused all the data in the little computer to also go sailing off into the ether. Pisses me off, because it means the odometer will forever be 35 miles off. That's just one of those things that will really make me nuts. I also tried to go really hard down a hill today, just to see how fast I could get this bike to go, but now I have no idea how fast I went. I'm sure it was like 200 mph or so... :)

On an editorial note, I sure wish NBC would show more of the biking stuff at the Olympics. I saw a headline on their site today saying that Sarah Hammer was involved in a crash and possibly hurt. Hope she's OK. At least I can see some BMX this week.

9.95 miles
13.7 mph avg.
200 mph max.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

20 miles

Ok. Where are we? Ah yes. I had just brought you up to speed about my adventures with clipless pedals.

So, I got past that, and got pretty comfortable with the shoes/pedals. Over the next several days, I would jump on the bike and take a quick ride after dinner. Let me see...

Got the bike on Monday. To the park and back on platform pedals on Tuesday. (about 2 miles) Did 4 miles on Wednesday, 5 on Thursday, and took the evening off on Friday ending every ride with making small adjustments to the bike. Thursday evening I remembered that at some point in time I had put a small bike computer on the Schwinn (the mountain bike). I mounted that on the Fuji so that I can start keeping better track of my progress.

I have also set a goal for myself. I want to do a century ride. I don't think there is enough good weather left to pull it off in '08, so my goal is to be ready for one next summer. If things really progress well, and I happen to find something locally in the fall, I may give it a shot. But I think I need more training than that. We'll just have to see how things go.

That brings us up to today. I got up bright and early, had 2 pieces of Rudi's whole wheat toast and a glass of this energy drink my wife has been trying. It is called FRS and you get it through the mail. It tastes pretty darn good and what the hell - it has bicycles on the website and Lance Armstrong is involved in some manner. And considering it was already in the 'frige, well, that was good enough for me. I finished up my breakfast and then grabbed the water bottle from the refrigerator that I had swiped from my kid the night before, and the Ipod. I went out to the garage, stepped into the crazy shoes, strapped on the helmet and gloves and I was on my way.

I headed north up Nagel to Caldwell Woods at Milwaukee and Devon. It is known for having a pretty nice bike path that goes for a long, long way. It may to to Canada for all I know at this point. It was about 3.5 miles to the park / Forest Preserve and then I rode the path until I hit 10 miles on my newly mounted bike computer. That just so happened to put me at a picnic table. So I stopped, had a nice drink of water and started back toward home.

I road 20.1 miles this morning and gosh darn it, I'm pretty proud of myself. I have ridden bikes my whole life. Growing up in NW Indiana, it was ALL we did. We rode our bikes nearly every single day and pretty much year round. I can remember plowing through 8 inches of snow on my BMX bike, in a full snow suit, heading over to a buddy's house so that we could play on our bikes in the snow. We were always riding, either to get some where, or riding just to play. Bikes were our transportation to be sure. Everything was spread out just a bit too far where I lived to make walking practical. But bikes were also our imaginary motorcycles as well. (Can't count how many times I got in trouble when my Mom would try playing solitaire and find her deck three or four cards short because I had taken them, along with a couple of her clothes pins and used them to get the proper motor cycle sound from my bike) Bikes were our getaway cars, our horses, and could even be flipped upside down and used as an imaginary ice cream machine. We raced each other and built ramps and learned to bunny hop and got full of mud after a good summer rain. We tore them apart and rebuilt them again. I could strip a bike to a bare frame in probably 30 minutes. Then we'd sand them down, break out the rattle cans of primer and whatever cool new color of paint we'd picked out from hardware store. (which we had ridden to on our bikes) We'd have them resprayed and put back together before we went to bed that night. I lived bicycles.

But, I don't think I've ever ridden 20 miles until this morning.

The ride was very nice and for the most part, easy. I was sore coming home, but not terribly winded and my legs felt good. My butt was getting sore and my back was just starting to ache a bit. My thumbs were getting numb. I'd say the back and butt are just a matter of training. The thumbs? Seems like my gloves were too small. But when I tried the next size up at the store when I purchased them, those felt too big. I think these gloves may just need to stretch a bit. The outside edge of my left foot was hurting a bit, as if I was pedaling with the side of my foot. I may adjust the cleats on the shoes just a bit, and I think that I just need to be more aware of how I am pedaling. I started getting really comfortable with the crazy shoes and the clippless pedals on this ride. I did my best to move the pedals in circles rather than just pushing down on them. That helped the foot pain a lot and, wow, what a nice feeling it is to use completely different muscle groups to pedal a bike. I would forget, and my legs would start to get a bit sore. Then I'd remember and start using different parts of my leg to power the bike and all the leg pain would just go away. Especially when climbing.

Here's something you wouldn't expect in Chicago - I was on alert for other bikers, and walkers, and runners. But coming around a blind corner at 14 mph into a herd of deer? Now THAT was just a bit odd! Turns out there are about a million deer in our parks. And they aren't terribly frightened by bikes.

Well, this is way longer than I expected. Time for a nice breakfast.

20.1 miles
12.7 mph avg.
24.9 mph max.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Ramping Up

So, I was all set. I now officially had a road bike. The second day I took one short ride with the platform pedals, made some more adjustments to the seat and handle bars and then tried on the super cool clipless shoes. They fit great, and looking at the design, it seemed as if once I switched to the clipless pedals and shoes, I'd probably have to re-adjust the seat position a bit. So I decided to commit to them. I put the Look pedals on the bike and put on my cool shoes.
I should tell you here that I have never tried a clipless pedal or the associated shoes. I’ve only even tried pedals with clips a couple of times. So, this was an interesting event for me, to say the least.

I sat on the bike in the garage, leaning against the bench and clipped into and out of the pedals a couple of time and then got off and rolled the bike out into the driveway. I got clipped and headed down the driveway. I rolled out to the street, turned around, came back up the drive, unclipped (declipped? clipped out?) and stopped. No problem! I continued this exercise for about 20 minutes and then headed down the street for a proper ride with these pedals. And now I know why people like them. What an efficient way to pedal a bike! Now that I’ve been using them for a couple of days, I like them even more. But anyway, as I was out riding I came to a stop light. Rather than just trying to keep the bike moving and remaining clipped in, I decided this was a good time to try getting out the clips, stopping and then starting and getting across a busy street smoothly.

It didn’t go that way.

I got my green light, used on foot that was already clipped in to start the bike rolling, reached with the other foot and missed. Thinking that I could just fake it and cross the street with one foot unclipped I tried setting the free foot down on the pedal but the carbon fiber bottom of the shoe, being completely like ice, slipped right off the pedal, causing me to lose my balance and start to tip toward the side of the bike that I was clipped in on. But rather than completely fall in the street, I kept the bike up and wobbled back to the curb from where I started. I managed to get clipped back in, but rather than cross the street again, I just ran home like a sissy and kept practicing in front of my house. Since then, I have not had to stop while riding, but I do pull my feet out of the pedals from time to time just to make sure I make a habit of how to get out of these crazy traps. I’ll be sure to post up when I fall because I can’t get out of the pedals quick enough. It seems to me that there are probably two types of people who use clipless pedals in the world; those who have not been able to get into or out of their pedals quick enough and as a result have had a really silly looking crash, and those who will.

Getting Started

So, I finish up some yard work one afternoon and plop down on the basement sofa with a cold beer. I turn on the TV and scroll through the guide. I find coverage of the Tour de France and tune in. I've always loved bicycles and enjoyed watching the tour. While I watched the wheels turning on the bikes, the wheels in my head began to turn and alas a new adventure was set into motion.
I had recently had a physical, and while I was found to be in good health - good BP, low pulse, no cholesterol issues and... ahem... a healthy prostate - ouch and welcome to your 40's, the doctor mentioned that I could stand to lose 10 or 15 pounds. I am 5'9" tall, average Joe American build, and on the day of my physical, I weighed in at 182 lbs. Up until about a year ago, I was living life comfortably at 172 lbs. and then took a new position at work that resulted in me spending more time at a desk and less time hustling around on a production floor. So as I sat there drinking beer and watching other guys ride bikes, I decided that what I needed to do was get into road biking. Those bikes on TV just looked so smooth and fast, coupled with the fact that I have always had a lust for bikes that is not unlike the lust many guys (and some girls) have for exotic cars, that I just had to give it a try.
Problem number one, I needed a road bike. Hanging in the garage rafters collecting dust, I already had a "vintage" 90's Schwinn Moab 1 mountain bike, a Mongoose BMX bike that I rescued from a trash can one winter and restored, and a big, long single speed, fat tired cruiser that I bought on an impulse a couple years ago. (this goes back to the lust comment) But no road bike. In fact, the last "road" bike I owned was a 10 speed that I purchased with my paper route money many, many moons ago. It was a rebranded Huffy, called Coast King, purchased from the local hardware store. The wheelbase was at least 10" longer than the bikes that many of my buddies road - mostly Schwinn Varsities back then, and it weighed right about a thousand pounds. I thought it was cutting edge back then because it was equipped with a real, honest to goodness disk brake! This was in, like, 1981!
Well, it just so happened that we were going to participate in a neighborhood "block sale" on an upcoming weekend. So the cruiser went out into the yard among my daughters little bike, an assortment of battery powered Jeeps and a bunch of miscellaneous stuff that we were looking to unload. The cruiser sold on the second day, so I officially had room in my collection. (Believe me, If I ever win the lottery, I will have an entire garage dedicated to bicycles...) So, the search was on. I made a commitment to myself right up front that I was going to spend less than a grand on this bike, just in case it went the way of other past hobbies - damn this ADD! I started by checking out the neighborhood bike shops and found that I could, in fact, get onto a somewhat decent entry level bike for less than 1000 dollars. I was able to find bikes with aluminum frames, carbon forks, decent wheels, but pretty much entry level components. I also thought that it would be nice if this new bike was built in the US. For fewer than 1000 dineros, that seemed to cut my choices down to basically Trek. I spent an afternoon reading various bicycling web sites, and many suggested to look at used bikes. I decided to venture into the used bike market, figuring that for the same money, I could get a bike with the same frame and fork options, but with slightly better components. After about 3 weeks of watching Ebay and Craigslist, I finally bid on, and won an Ebay auction for a Fuji Newest 1.0. So, OK... Not US made, but I felt that since I was buying second hand anyway, I wasn’t really going to do that much damage to our nation’s economy. So for just a touch over 6 bills I landed a bike with an aluminum frame, carbon fork, decent wheels, good tires, platform pedals along with a set of Look pedals and CAT-1 carbon shoes that were worn all of one time and were exactly my size, and a decent groupe of midlevel Shimano components. The bike even had a groovy set of aero bars to really make me look like a pro…ahem. All in all a good deal. I was stoked.
The bike arrived in Chicago from the left coast 12 days later, none the worse for wear. It had picked up a couple of fresh dings in its paint in transit and the PO didn't bother cleaning it up much before shipping. I spent the evening reassembling the bike, attempting to get the bike close to the right fit for me and cleaning it all up. By the end of the night, it was looking like a respectable bike again. Of course the tires were flat, and of course I didn't have any thing in the tool box that would allow me to make use of my air compressor to inflate anything equipped with Presta valve stems. Luckily, the PO also included a little hand pump that allowed me to get enough air in the tires for a quick spin. I jumped on in my jeans and Crocs and took quick spin around the block. Immediately the bike felt smoother and faster than anything I had ever ridden. I was stricken.