Thursday, June 25, 2009

Grey Beard Rewards

(Taking a tea break on the way up Monitor Pass with my Nishiki Competition circa 1984)

I've hung onto my old steel racing bike for almost 20 years now, with the hope of giving it to my nephew when he was old enough to be responsible and showed an interest. I bought it at The Missing Link in Berkeley in the spring of 1980 while attending UC Berkeley - in part to rehab a low back injury sustained in a car crash.

A few years ago that hope seemed doomed to end in disappointment as Aaron was suffering from the worst case of scoliosis I have ever seen. He underwent surgery, had his spine straightened, and two rods attached to his back. After this my sister thought it too dangerous for him to ever ride a bike again.

I had a great phone conversation with Aaron last night, and I asked him if he had ever ridden a racing trike. He said "no" with a very inquisitive tone so I recounted my conversation with my sister about his disability. He immediately assured me that he can ride, and quite well, as he rode his bike as his sole transportation his entire Jr year in college until it was stolen. So guess what? My long-awaited dream is going to come true! :D

I am going to fix it up a bit with new tires, brake pads, brake lever hoods, and a properly sized handlebar and we are going riding sometime in August when he gets a break from work. Assuming he likes it, and it fits, the bike will be his. I am keeping the 12-speed drive-train stock, but the lugged construction, fully-sloping fork crown, Superbee brakes, Omega headset, and hand-built Ofmega wheels are legends in their time, so he will inherit a living time capsule.

We were both pretty excited talking about this when I happened to remember that my Ex and I were up from LA to start our long bike trip from Mt Shasta back to Stockton (~ 450 miles) and ended up at the hospital where he was born a few hours later. A good steel bike really is forever.

I hope he will treasure it, and that it will bring him as much joy as it has me. Even when the grey hairs become too numerous to pluck out, there are still some beautiful moments that yet await us in life. I just know I'm going to get all choked up watching him ride it away!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Abdominal Strain

Just when you think you've seen it all, something new. There was something evil in the air last night, literally, which got me to coughing very hard as my throat started to swell shut out riding on the bike trail. There is something that blooms this time of year that really gets me and last night I felt like I was choking.

My BP med aggravates this condition, as it can cause a dry cough all on its own. Long lay-offs from exercise when taking this drug appear to deposit a lot of phlegm in the lungs. Another reason I would like to stop taking this snake poison. The attendant dehydration isn't so great either. If I ride every-other day, I don't need this med.

Once home the coughing got worse - at least for the first 5 minutes or so - before I got smart and jumped into the shower to wash my skin, face, and hair. Just as I was about to step into the shower, a final coughing fit, and darned if I didn't end up with an abdominal strain.

No crunches for me today. I have had this a few times before and seem to recall it takes about 10--14 days to get back to normal. I can ride (I hope), but not for a few days, and no climbing out of the saddle. I would rate my pull a II, based on this description.

First ride back after Mt Hamilton, and I pushed hard - up to 166 bpm - and am monitoring fatigue. I am working on speed, and so sprint intervals. Twenty-five miles of intervals really kicked my butt. I was pleased though that my BP was a cool 115/55 last night, and 125/65 this morning with resting pulse at 55.

Friday, June 19, 2009

OPP (other people's pictures)

Mt Hamilton and the Lick Observatory are one of the most photographed areas in California, so with the cool weather requiring me to bring a vest in addition to 3 GUs, 6 Powerbars, a bag full of tools, and about 8 lbs of water bottles and racks, I decided against trying to best photographers who drove up and could therefore carry as much equipment as they wished. (that's my story, and I'm sticking to it... ;-)

Given the rather unique weather though, I have to admit I wished I'd had a small digital camera along. We just don't get dark, brooding rain-clouds in June very often.

Here are links to pictures from GoogleEarth. I encourage you to click on "View in GoogleEarth" to get a great bird's eye view of the route. If you get the impression this route is rather remote, you are correct. Riding the Mt Hamilton/Lick Observatory ride alone will test your self-reliance, but your reward is peace and undisturbed beauty.

(San Antonio Valley near the junction)

(The peaceful home of suicidal squirrels)

(Doing it with 500X power and a lot of lean)

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Canyon Classic - Mt Hamilton Ride

As you all know from my last post, I was able to complete the Canyon Classic Mt Hamilton ride. In so many ways, this was a study in contrasts.
  1. Last year I drove to the ride from home but rode alone. This year I stayed in a motel but met a very nice couple I rode the first 25 miles with.
  2. Last year it was blazing hot and bone dry. This year it was cool, wet, and I was shivering on a few occasions.
  3. Last year there was no water provided before the Mt Hamilton climb. This year a whole case of water which cool weather left mostly unused.
  4. Last year there were great swag bags, Mt Hamilton pins, and T-shirts galore. This year they ran out of everything.
  5. Last year I got one just for trying so darned hard. This year they ran out of pins.
  6. Last year my gearing was woefully inadequate, and this year I had gears to spare.
  7. Last year the ride completely wrecked me, and this year if someone's life had depended on it, I could have done it again the next day.
  8. Last year I passed lots of people on the way to Mt Hamilton, and they all passed me on the climb. This year I went slow, but passed a few people on the climb.
  9. Last year ended in a DNF. This year took over 7 hrs of riding, but I finished with ease.
  10. Last year my training and preparation were woefully inadequate. This year near perfection.
I woke up at 5:00, tossed and turned, pondered waiting for the 6:00 AM wakeup call, and finally got up and started mixing my hydration mix. With the AquaRack, 2 bottles of water, a 1X Gatorade bottle on the down tube, and a 4X Gatorade bottle on the seat tube with 4X extra electrolyte to allow adequate electrolytes even if I had to dilute my Gatorade due to heat. Into the ice chest it all went.

In and out of the shower, dressed, car repacked and driving to the event by 6:45. Registered, redressed, bike assembled, last bathroom break, and last minute addition of my lime green PI wind vest before rolling out of the parking lot at 7:20. It was so cool I debated adding leg warmers, but even with dark clouds and cold winds blowing, I decided it was too much bulk to stuff in my jersey along with the vest. I also decided against the CamelBak. Two 24oz and two 21oz bottles seemed like enough on such a cool day. I was more worried about a mechanical forcing me to stop in a cold rain up on the mountain and hypothermia.

LAP 1:

My cold legs were sluggish, and by the time I made the last turn leaving town I had met up with a great pair of riding partners, Rich and Anne. We rode all the way to Frank Raines Regional Park together, with Anne leading the way. She was riding a beautiful Specialized Ruby and her wiry frame made her a good climber. Rich and I talked most of the way, pausing only to catch our breath a few times. It was raining lightly on and off until about a mile before Frank Raines, and then it really poured.

The three of us pulled in and were soon shivering. Rather alarming to me, as my core almost never gets cold, but soaking wet in high winds and cloudy skies, we were huddling together to keep warm. I ate a Powerbar, drank Gatorade, and even tried drinking half a RockStar. What a hideous concoction! Really awful, but I needed the caffeine. When we discovered we were all going to San Antonio next, we decided to stay together. Ready to leave, I inquired about water. They were OUT!!!

It was a very ugly moment as a panic spread over the crowd within seconds. The ETA for water was 20-30 minutes. The volunteers manning the rest stop got an earful and then some. It really did threaten to get ugly for a minute or two. Just about then a SAG pickup pulled up and Anne, patiently waiting, suggested I ask the SAG if they had any - just on a hunch. I walked up to the driver so as to ask quietly, and was rewarded with 3 bottles immediately. As I was walking away with my cherished booty in hand, the driver announced he had a whole case of water (24 bottles) and a line formed immediately. I poured, mixed and filled until all 4 bottles were full, thanked my new friends for their patience, and we left.

I didn't know until I got home and looked at the Garmin laps, but that stretch from Patterson to Frank Raines is one huge false flat, punctuated by some 4%, and a little 6% grade. In fact, I burned more calories on that stretch than climbing Mt Hamilton if one is to believe Garmin's caloric consumption estimates. 20 miles in an hour and a half with lots of conversation. What we all knew is a few miles after Frank Raines the climbing starts for real, and continues for about 5 miles to the Santa Clara County line.

LAP 2:

Rich wanted to talk, Anne wanted to hammer, and I wanted to conserve my energy. We hit a 17% grade, and I let them go, agreeing to catch up with them at the top. With wiry builds, I knew they would out-climb me. My 24 granny put a smile on my face immediately. Even over cattle grates I could maintain my speed, conserve my legs, and stay out of zone 5 - spinning between 70 and 90 rpms. As promised they waited up for me at the crest before we headed downhill to the San Antonio rest stop. As expected, once we pushed off and headed downhill, I passed them both in a loose tuck as they pedaled to catch up.

I pulled in a minute ahead of them and saved them a leaning post against the fence. They made a very tempting offer to join them on the 100K, but I politely refused. I have to say, I was sorely tempted because I felt very sluggish and just couldn't seem to get out of my own way. It was then I remembered I had brought along a couple of GU Espresso Love's with 2X caffeine and a maltodextrin kicker. I drained one, ate another PowerBar, and a slice of plain white bread. I wanted to load up on carbs as the next leg would be downhill enough for good digestion. I decided to focus on starch instead of sugar solids, to leave room for Gatorade without risking osmotic pressure problems and GI distress.

Finally, we parted ways and they assured me they'd wait for me back in Patterson. We'd been together 3:30 and already had formed a bond. As sluggish as I had been riding, I doubted I'd see them again, but was hoping they'd hang out. At 8.6 mph it was a slow lap, but also 1,500 ft of climbing with only 126 bpm average HR.

LAP 3:

(click for bigger pic)

Two minutes after Rich and Anne shoved off, a couple riding Cervelo and Look tri bikes announced they were headed for Hamilton too, so the three of us took the left turn at San Antonio Rd and slammed right into a 15mph headwind. I stayed behind them both until the first significant downhill, and then decided to pass her rather than ride my brakes. I drafted him loosely, using the wind to brake when starting to overtake him. I was surprised he wasn't able to stay ahead of me going downhill on the very aero Cervelo, but compact weight does have an advantage going downhill - especially into a stiff wind.

I tried to say with them, but we hit a short 8% grade, which they attacked, and I decided it wasn't worth blowing my pace to follow. I had punched firmly into zone 5 at 160 bpm staying with them on an earlier climb, and knew that would quickly fatigue me, so kept my HR in check at 145 and climbed in the drops. Funny, I hadn't ridden in the drops much at all since getting my aerobars, but on my last prep ride down to CSUS I was riding with a couple of guys from Sac Bike Hikers and didn't want to risk riding without brakes, so rediscovered riding in the drops. We all rode back to William Pond together before I continued on to Bannister Pk - most of the time riding in the drops. One of many lucky breaks training and prepping for this ride. My "Big Hard" and "Grim Reaper" rides also turned out to be well-timed and near perfect training rides done in the sequence they were.

The ride down San Antonio Rd is very scenic, and doubly so with the wet conditions of late and the heavy rain clouds blowing fast across a blustery sky. I was watching for the bottom, trying to time my fuel consumption so I would be fully fueled but with an empty stomach by the time I hit the Hamilton climb. The tale-tell sign, as always, is pooled water. Beyond that, this year, per my and many other rider's suggestions, the organizers left a case of water right at the bottom of the climb. Ironic, because if they'd done so last year, I wouldn't have ended up with a DNF, and not really needed this year with such cool weather.

Not wanting to feel like the dumbest rider who ever lived DNF-ing twice in a row, I took no chances and topped up all 4 bottles before heading for "big nasty". Ten miles in 42 minutes. I was well fueled, well watered, and not even a little tired. In fact, the GU Espresso Love worked, and I felt energized.

LAP 4:

The graphics on the last post are all from lap 4 - the Mt Hamilton climb. It's a beast. It took me 35 minutes to climb Marshall Grade. It took me 35 minutes to come DOWN Mt Hamilton. Even though my speed increased almost 1mph over last year, it still took a bit over an hour and a half of solid, no breaks climbing. The only zero cadence on the graphs is coming down the backside of the approach climb, which is about 90 seconds of rest at 30 mph, and then up an innocent looking short grade before the road bends to the left. I knew better this year and shifted down into my granny. Live and learn. It goes from -10% to +10% in 200 yards, and doesn't let up for over an hour.

The sun was out now, and the road was throwing off some heat. It felt really good on my legs. The wind was there, but not very strong on the lee side of the mountain. As the endless parade of switchbacks started to fall behind me, one after another, in an agonizingly slow procession, the scenery became truly stunning. The mountains were vibrantly green, the clouds were dark and brooding, sweeping across the landscape in a boil between sunbeams. I was kicking myself for not bringing a disposable Kodak camera. Visibility was endless. I'm sure I could have seen the ocean from Mt Hamilton's 2-quarter binoculars at the visitor's center.

Up and up and up and up and up and up and up. Solid 10% grade with lots of 12,14,15,18 and some 20% thrown in. I stayed focused on the road 10 feet ahead and did math problems in my head. I thought about old friends I used to ride with, and wondered where they were. Were they still riding? Moving every 3-4 years for most of my life there were many friends left behind to wonder about.

I listened for the sound of engines. Three semi-trucks with fresh hay still sliding off their empty beds came roaring down the mountain. I squinted behind my glasses - slid well down on my nose to keep the sweat from running down them - and hoped they didn't lose control. Sometimes I couldn't tell if the traffic was above or below me, the switchbacks carved so radically into the mountain they completely overlapped each other. Cracks appeared often in the road, and I tried to avoid them by moving over, listening intently for cars and motorcycles. The latter make a sport of blasting up and down Mt Hamilton, but tend to take the whole road and not just their lane. The danger isn't that great, but there is so much time to contemplate it.

After an hour there was one spot in the road about 120 ft long where the grade actually drops below 5%. I shifted my back gearing, stood, and climbed - just to stretch my legs. It was wonderful. My quads never complained, but my hamstrings were taking a beating and a bit sore. I barely got my gearing reset before the super-steep started again.

Somewhere in all of this I was managing to steal a few squirts of Gatorade and re-rack the bottle before losing my balance. As cool as it was, I was pressing my helmet against my forehead every 15 minutes to squeeze the sweat out of my sweat band. Being able to keep a cadence of about 60 helped tremendously. It made balance, power production, fatigue and hydration manageable. Riders would pass me only to have me pass them later in the climb. I knew why. I did the same thing last year. Your legs can only go so slow, so if your gearing is too high you go too hard just to keep your cadence high enough to make some power. For most people, it just isn't practical to climb out of the saddle for an hour and a half.

I had reset the Garmin's display at the base of the climb so I could monitor my elevation. It was a huge psychological windfall to know how much was left, because the switchbacks are so tight you can't see more than 300 yards ahead, and they go on f-o-r-e-v-e-r. With 800 ft of climbing to go I passed a very nice guy from Pleasanton who was walking. I shouted out "800 ft". He loved the sound of that, until he asked "distance or elevation". I was of course, referring to elevation. He eventually made it to the top, but got SAGed home. I saw him back at San Antonio on the return, and later ate dinner with him in Patterson. He's going to try again next year.

Finally the road flattened out, and I knew I was going to make it - and then I rounded another bend and ran right into the steepest climb of all. The Garmin was displaying 20%. By that time I was so jaded I just laughed, looked up, and implored of the big bike rider in the sky "anything else?" Even when you get to the top you have to ride all the way around the observatory to get to the rest area. It really helps to keep a sense of humor about the endless false "finally"s.

There were a couple of guys at the top in our group, and a few from the Sili Valley side who were invited to eat off our table, as the organizers had brought too much food again this year. It was overcast, and I was soaked to the bone from sweating, so we were all relieved when the sun broke through. Ten minutes later Nature called, and after a trip to the men's room I started feeling much better. A Powerbar, grapes, a slice of break, Gatorade and almost as an after-thought, more GU Espresso Love. I washed that down with water, a Hammer Endurolyte, and headed home.

LAP 5:

The two guys I had been chatting with at the top took off about 10 minutes ahead of me, and I made a goal of trying to catch up with them, but the road surface is so torn up, with scalloped craters 6-8" deep, and lots of asphalt washboard, that I kept my speed in check and rode both brakes most of the time. This descent was the reason I upgraded my brakes last year. This year I got to use them. I didn't turn my pedals for 15 minutes. The scenery was gorgeous, and distracting. I started braking just a little late going into a hairpin turn and was lucky to get through it. By the time I got back to the bottom, before the intermediate climb, my hands were starting to cramp. You can leave a lot of brake pad on that descent.

Not taking any chances on the rest stop being open still at San Antonio, I stopped at the case of water and topped up again. I had my first chain drop on the climb over that hump. The climb had loosened up the new chain and now my 24 granny was dropping the chain again. It seriously pissed me off. I have spent over 8 hours adjusting every imaginable thing trying to prevent that, and here it was, scraping up my bottom bracket again. It would happen twice more before I got home. A rare chink in the overall ride.

LAP 6:

There is some climbing on each end of San Antonio Rd, and some in the middle, but in between it's pretty flat. With what was now a tailwind of 15 mph, and feeling much better after a trip to the Men's Room, I was starting to hit my stride. I was riding mostly in the aerobars, and was really cranking out the power. The guy who had walked to the top of Hamilton was getting SAG-ed back, and he reported what I already knew when we met up - I was flying up the road at 18-22 mph. I finally had my legs under me!

The light was starting to get flat, and that added to my sense of urgency, but mostly as the miles fell behind me I was relieved. This leg, with its climbing requirement after the Mt Hamilton ride was the one variable I didn't have a good handle on. As it turned out, the slow start and moderate pace were really paying off, and the wind definitely was helping. I stopped worrying, knew I would make it home, and starting grinning and enjoying the challenge. The 4% and 8% grades done at 4-6 mph I was now doing at twice that speed. It felt wonderful.

LAP 7:

As I pulled into the rest stop the SAG wagon pulled in behind me. They were already breaking down the rest stop, so I made an expedited trip to the porta-potty, topped off my water bottles, ate a slice of bread, a Powerbar, and headed out. Three miles of rollers with 5%-8% grade lay ahead - the same stretch I had passed Rich and Anne on hours earlier. Before I got back to the summit where they had waited up for me, two SUVs pulling the lunch wagon and porta-potty passed me. I was on my own. I had missed my two friends by less than a minute, and the walker was in the SAG wagon that had just passed me pulling the lunch wagon.

I was lucky again. Having done so much of my training alone, the sight of my last support leaving me behind was sobering, but didn't panic me. I had 5 hours of sunlight left, and less than 20 miles of mostly downhill ahead. Barring disaster, I was going to make it home. Once I crested the summit and started heading down "the climb to the county line" the road straightened out enough that I could let my speed build up. I was averaging close to 30mph with spikes to 40mph. That was one fast ride!

The rest of the descent flattened out a bit, but still made a nearly constant descent back to Frank Raines - long since abandoned. The AquaRack ejected a waterbottle crossing a cattle grate at 35mph, but other than that, an uneventful and exuberant flash of thrilling speed as the trees and farms flew past with me crouched back on my seat in an aerobar tuck. It also smoothed out the chopped and chewed asphalt surface.

LAP 8:

The home stretch from Frank Raines to Patterson was mostly a shallow downgrade, with some flat and two miles of climbing right before crossing I-5. This is the same leg where I had used 1-Second record mode starting out. With 1-Second resolution that leg has 1,737 up and 691 down. With "Smart Record", coming back, that turns into 278 up and 1313 down. Nothing very smart about "Smart Record". Missing 60% of an elevation change is atrocious. If aviation instrumentation were that poor you'd be able to go for a hike stepping on piles of bodies and never touch the ground. This is serious issue when using cumulative elevation gain numbers for training.

As the shadows got longer I started adding more and more power to get home. Part of this was the sun being at my back, but there is something primal about the will to get home before dark. I came over a rise and the road wound rather flatly through a valley. The sides were planted with new fruit or nut trees, and between the drip irrigation, and the plentiful water still flowing in the stream, a bumper crop of ground squirrels had sprung up. I'm not sure if it was the heat of the road, the sound of my wheels, or just a general setting of the sun insanity, but they were running crazoid back and forth across the road all over the place, and at least one a mile had lost a race with a truck. The crows were having a feast!

Shaking my head at this swarming maze of mindless activity I stayed down in the aerobars and hammered. Then, suddenly, suicide squirrel # 7,823,941 ran right for my bike. I didn't even have time to react, or maybe I was just in that Zen state when one is a little tired and trying to get home, where short of the 2nd Coming, or a thermonuclear explosion, you just don't care anymore. I felt a little detached until I felt a thump against my feet, heard a shrill scream, and saw a brown blur rolling across the road. As best I can piece together, he hit the teeth on the bottom of my large chainring, started to spin, flipped his tail into my rear wheel's spokes, got his tail and hind end sucked under my rear wheel, and got spit out in a rolling, whirling dervish. Whatever injuries sustained, he rolled or limped off the road never to be seen again. I wondered if squirrels had the language to pass that experience on. A tall tale to tell sitting around the nut bag on a cold winter's night! :D

(California Aqueduct near Patterson with new tree plantings)

Within a few minutes of this incident I climbed the last significant grades of the ride, rode over the I-5 overpass, and coasted down into Patterson. The wind had turned on me just before my little furry freak flew into my wheel, and was now a solid 15-20 mph in my face. I just hunkered down and powered home.

I rolled up to the parking lot and headed for the registration area. Grabbing a salad, bread and a couple of ice-cream bars I sat down next to the walker and 2 guys I'd rested with on Mt Hamilton. I felt great. No leg pain, no chest pain, not much fatigue, and a nice conversation. A nice lady took my name and address so they could send me a couple of T-Shirts and a Mt Hamilton pin. I changed clothes, packed the bike and headed home. I started thinking about next year and my wild idea to return home from San Antonio via the Century route instead of back the way I came. Someone did just that this year, and uploaded the track to MotionBased. It will make a great training tool.

In retrospect, driving there the night before, getting started an hour earlier, showing up with a well-practiced nutrition, hydration and electrolyte plan, having the right equipment on the bike, having memorized the route, I felt in control and on track the whole day - even if I did have a sluggish start. Five hours after the ride my BP and HR were back to normal. I took Advil for 8 hours and had no leg pain the next day.

I had a bad day yesterday, but think that was due to a bit of food poisoning a'la a Subway chicken-breast sandwich. I have had good energy and little fatigue since, and while a bit lucky on some judgment calls, have to say, the contrast between this year's performance and last year's is quite amazing. I really think I could have done it all over again the next day if my life had depended on it. Not sure about day 3 after that, but the ride seemed easier than either of my last long training rides. Color me happy. Very happy. Redemption, for me and Kobe.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Another ONE bites the dust




I did it! More to come when life and sanity returns to this tired mind, but I am walking on air that I finally beat this mountain. Enjoy the Motion Based reports until then. :D

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Best Brain Buckets

When racing and riding in my late teens and early 20's, I, like many, never wore a helmet. While attending UC Berkeley I met a guy I used to play poker with. He had been in a bad motorcycle accident, but had been "lucky" enough to survive it with a lot of broken bones - which all healed in the end - and a lot of brain damage.

Like many cases of head trauma, his impairments were very selective. He was a great poker player (he sure played me for a sucker those first few games!), but had many cognitive problems that left him on permanent disability. We know a lot more about these injuries now from vets returning from Iraq with head trauma. These are serious injuries that few make a complete recovery from.

Lucky for me, I bought my first helmet - a Bell - a few weeks later because of his experience. There were a few holes in it, but for the most part it was a solid Kevlar shell with an extruded polystyrene crush liner. About a month after that I had a bad crash on the Berkeley campus when their sprinkler system decided to water the road and not the grass. Wearing double layered canvas duck shorts and a very heavy buffalo shirt, I skidded to within 18" of a 6' round Redwood tree with narry a scratch, and only then realized I had hit my head pretty darned hard. It destroyed the helmet, but I was fine. (OK, opinions vary on THAT subject.... :D)

Since most of us are now getting into the heat of summer, I wanted to give a shout out to the Bell Ghisallo (I think that is pronounced Ga-Saul-O, or maybe Ghi-Saul-O) It is light, provides top-notch protection, and is the coolest helmet out there in my experience. It has 3 H-U-G-E vents in front that really scoop in the air. They are so large you really should wear sunscreen on your forehead or you will get the "Ghisallo Head Striping" on your first long ride. It also has a vent pattern that blows through the top of the helmet when your head is down like in the drops or aerobars. Keep your hot helmets for winter. You'll welcome their poor ventilation when the air is freezing cold.

Mine, pictured a few posts back in blue, is a bit small, but having worn all kinds of helmets in all kinds of sports for 30 years, I know how important it is to have a helmet that fits snugly. Not so tight that you get headaches, but snug. The Ghisallo has a nice fitting system on the helmet that allows the helmet to float on your head, but I still prefer a snug fit if I can get it. You can easily adjust the tightness of the fit on the go with just a roll of the thumb-wheel in the back of the helmet. Nice!

For road riding, visibility is critical. In fact, I now wear a lighted, optic-fiber ribbon on my helmet I pilfered from a Bicycle Planet BRT leg strap I stuck on top at the back with 2 inches of Velcro. When it gets near dark I reach up, push a little rubber button twice and I am visible from the front, back, and both sides up at motorists' eye level where it counts. It weights nothing, is always there, and will run for 200 hours on a single 2032 button cell.

For mountain biking, visibility is also critical, except you DON'T want to be seen. In fact, a courteous mountain biker should dress and select a bike color so as to blend into the landscape completely, and not ruin the wilderness experience for others. If you want to be noticed bring a whistle and a signal mirror (very tough construction on those) and/or flashlight. You don't want to spend hours getting to your favorite wilderness spot only to watch a parade of pimped out cyclists riding by on the other side of your favorite lake, canyon, peak, etc. - so return the favor.

With this in mind, and needing a new lid for mtn biking, I found one I like in the Bell Variant. It goes with olive and earth colored jerseys, and looks reasonably cool. The Sweep looks like a great helmet too, and comes in roughly the same color scheme, but it doesn't look to be much of a bargain to me. Oh, if you do order this from TreeFort Bikes, tell them I sent you. I've done a lot of business with them and they are really good people, with what usually turns out to be the price to beat.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Mtn Biking Jersey

I was looking for a Lakers bicycle jersey (imagine the # of dead ends there) when I ran across this. It would be hot in the sun, but in the trees it would be cool and bug free, and you would flat disappear from sight. Great price too!

1-Second Please

I set my Garmin 305 for 1-second record mode and did the Bread & Butter Beal's ride again last night. The recommended setting is "Smart Record", which I have concluded is only smart from the point of view of Garmin's marketing department.

The last time I did this ride I used smart record mode, and my device captured 1,513 ft of climb. When I got home I uploaded the ride to Garmin's MotionBased website and that immediately turned into 2,413 ft of climb. When I looked at the way-points that were recorded it was obvious why. There were large, sometimes 200 ft gaps in waypoints, and on windey, hilly terrain, that misses too much. Of course, if you want your real altitude you can always buy a subscription to MotionBased and get a lot of other perks too.

Last night I put the Edge 305 in 1-second mode and had 2,453 Up and 2,484 Down, and fell into a 31 ft hole at my front door. OK, no hole, but MotionBased had the same problem until, now, magically, my front door is right where it was when I left it, "2,413 ft" later. They must have some "smoothing" and reconcilliation program that wipes the egg off their faces.

There was one downside to 1-second recording. MotionBased refused to upload the ride, whining about too many way-points. So there's the trade-off. Either use "Smart Record" and be tied to MotionBased for anything close to accurate climbing stats, or use 1-Second Record, enjoy your independance, and get it done in less than 3:30. (A true smart recording process would scan the 1-second results after the ride and delete way-points with identical elevations)

Conclusion: If you are doing rides shorter than 3:30, use 1-second recording and get the accuracy the device affords you.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Biking as a Team

Our bike club, Hammerin Wheels, registered for Bike Month this May, and in spite of a week of rainy weather, we did pretty darned well. We beat all but 8 bike clubs, all schools, and every small and medium enterprise in the area.

My training was focused more on climbing, and I was out of town for a week, but did still manage about 300 miles. Not as good as April, and probably not as good as June will be, but we had members who lived on their bikes, so they carried the day.

Some also logged a lot of miles training for the Davis Double Century that were done in April, so they didn't count in the totals. All together the Sacramento area pledged a million miles and is very close to 1.3 million miles for the month of May.

Next year I am going to take this challenge more seriously. It's fun pulling for a goal as a team, and a lot of the rides done by our club this month were done in large groups in great company. More than a few new saddles and aerobars were purchased, and some revisited their injury histories, but all in all it was a fun challenge that turned out to be very rewarding.

Gone in 60 Seconds

I was trying to beat the sunset home from a cool climbing ride up in the Eldorado Hills last night. Coming back over the Cash Bridge and down the ARPT, I ran into a short section of twisty and buckled parkway trail. Unfortunately, a split second before I could put my hand over them, my sunglasses fell off their precarious perch resting atop my aerobars, and I ran over them with the back wheel!

The sun was low enough I needed all the light I could get, and decided to rest them on the aerobars after discovering they stayed put there nicely while climbing and sweating too much to wear. Unfortunately, at higher speeds and with poor surface, they just didn't hang on quite well enough. They do hang onto my head well, as the thick rubber-coated wire core stalks can be bent radically to stick like glue.

I bought these about a year ago at REI, and they had an excellent selection. I have eye sockets that are hard to fit, so tried on a lot of glasses that day. These were almost air-tight against my face and were rimless across the top where a rim would not allow me to look over the tops of the glasses in low light. A good face seal is critical to prevent tearing at high speeds. Short of goggles, these are about as good as it gets. The sticky nose-bridge rubber mount compensates for the tight seal by allowing you to wear them pushed down on your nose.

I wear these most of the time slid down on my nose, looking over the top, because they can be a bit warm otherwise, but without anything to block my view this works very well. I just got tired of pushing them up and down for gnats last night, so I got lazy and paid the price. It is usually possible to wrinkle your nose and push them up nearly all the way without the use of your hands. I need this because of the high-speed descents I often do.

As you can see from the photos, these Tifosi glasses took quite a beating, were bent almost in half judging from the stretch marks across the horizontal plane, heavily gouged near the logo, and had the left stalk ripped off. I was disgusted enough that after going back for the glasses I didn't pick up the left stalk, but upon closer inspection, I see I could have reattached it if I had those tools with me. As is often the case near dark, the gnats were ferocious, so I would have liked to have had the use of them. In more hazardous road conditions this could save you from a serious eye injury.

I see they are now available in Extreme Contrast Grey, so I think I will try a new, lighter color this time. These (T-V420) are high-speed red, and darken in bright light, but looking down at the road, too much light isn't really a problem for me. The EC lenses are made in Italy and IMHO are every bit as good as my Serengeti Nuvola at 3X the price. I feel like I've lost an old friend, so will replace these quickly. Live and learn.

UPDATE: I received an email from Tifosi in response to a query regarding the above T-V435 lens characteristics, as their website was unclear about this. To quote "the lens on the T-V435 does have an EC Fototec lens with light transmission of 56-17%". That should be about perfect!