Friday, June 29, 2007

Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life

It gets scarier when you click on it.

New wheel getting built was not going to happen. Wrong axle length on the Bianchi, so I can't steal that wheel. The Gary Fisher wheel fits but I broke my 16t freehub cog a couple of months ago. A friend gave me an old shimano cassette. Put the 16t on the Gary Fisher wheel. Put road tire on wheel. Adjust brakes for new rim width. Test Ride. Wheel out of true, rear wheel bounces up and down like clown bike. Grab spoke wrench, first three spoke nipples dissolve when I attempt to rotate them (seriously, the nipples just crumbled). That wheel is now shot ( it has just under 5000 miles on it). After all of this I put the original wheel back on the bike and resign myself to a slower pace than I would like.
The bright side.
After reinstalling the 17t on the Gary Fisher wheel and properly spacing it on the cassette, I rode the bike around the block, Not only was the rear wheel a drunk simulator, the front wheel was making some tremendous noise. I realized that I had some cartridge bearings. I put the new bearings in the front hub and it now rolls smooth and quiet. It was a small victory, a victory that doe not make the bike any more useable at present but after this last week it was a victory I could celebrate nonetheless.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

I Hate My Local Bike Shop

The Tour Of Pain is this weekend and there has been a snag, Last week I thought I had found a solution to my rear wheel problems when the Local Bike Shop closest to my house found an old single speed flip-flop hub that they could build me a wheel with. They said the wheel would be ready in a week. A week passed without a call, I called them yesterday and it went like this:
"I am just checking on my wheel."
"We have not opened the shipment with your hub in it, but the box is right here"
"I did not order a hub, you had a suntour flip-flop hub for me"
" turns out that was a tandem hub so we ordered you a different hub."
"What hub did you order me?"
"I don't know I haven't opened the box."

Why wouldn't they call and say they were ordering a part for me? Don't they think I would have a preference? Two hours later I get a call back.

"We have a wheel here for you."
"you built it that fast?"
"no we found a wheel already built and ready to go, I just need to adjust the chainline." (I am assuming that they scrambled to find a wheel after it was discovered they did not order the hub or ordered the wrong one.)
"What kind of wheel is it?"
"It's a nice alloy wheel."
Whiskey Tango Foxtrot. An alloy wheel, this is all he can tell me about it. I should have known this was going to be bad, but I decided that I was going to be glad that I had a solution to my problem.
I showed up at the shop on the bike that is going to get the wheel. I ran into some people I know and talked to them as the guy I had been talking to did some measuring of my chainline.
After an hour of him switching out spacers on the axle, I paid the hundred bucks for my generic wheel, strapped it to my rack and rode home. At home it did not take me long to figure out that the hub was in fact not a single speed hub, it is probably a 7 speed hub so old it has freewheel threads. The ridiculous thing is that after an hour of chainline adjustments the chain line was still off but that did not matter because the entire wheel was about an inch off center. Worthless.

All of this comes just a few weeks after I asked them to order a set of pedals. It would have been cheaper and faster to order them online but I want to support my LBS. A week later I show up at the shop (because no one called me). There was some hushed talking in the back room and then one guy lets me know that they forgot to order them and wanted to know if they should reorder. Several months before that I walked in with an extensive parts list for my new frame. It was well over $2000 of equipment. I asked if they could give me a price quote on the list so that I could see if it would work with my budget. the list had my email and cell number. Several weeks later, I was told that they gave the list to the owner but he was not around. I never did get the quote and they will never again see me step foot in that store. Just so you know, these are the last three examples, I have been struggling to make this relationship work ever since the only guy who knew what he was doing left a couple of years ago.
BTW, another local shop, Wheelsport South, emailed me back the parts list in the hour and for that they will get the $2000 to put the bike together.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Great Divide Race At The Half

The GDR powers have created a time cut off in Steamboat Springs that goes into effect tomorrow at noon. Racers must be LEAVING Steamboat at this time in order to be officially in the race. There is a lot of chatter about this rule and the pilot car issue of last week but in the end, neither of these matters is going to make a difference in the winning, record breaking or finishing of the race. It simply comes down to the simple fact that in order to finish you have to keep moving. I am surprised by the number of hotel stops by the racers this year. Matthew Lee has said that towns are obstacles that should be dealt with swiftly. Get in, get out.
Kent Peterson has pointed out that there is very little being said about the single speeders on the route. It appears that Nathan Bay is hanging in there and should make the cut off. Jeff Kerby has not made contact since Flagg Ranch and so things don't look good with him. Dave Nice the fixed gear rider has dropped out but was well below the cut off. Of course, as a fixed gear rider just finishing the route, no mater how long it took him, would have given him some place in history. I have not done the math to figure out if Kent's 22:03:09 single speed record is in jeopardy.
UPDATE: Jeff Kerby checked in from Steamboat so he is still in the race but it looks like he has fallen off of a record breaking single speed pace.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Less Training, More Practice

It turns out that the problem with getting my wheel being built before saturday's 200 miler is the lack of single speed hubs in this town. Half a million people in the metropolitan area and I couldn't come up with a bike shop that had a single speed hub. The wheel is being built with an old suntour flip/flop fixed/free hub. It has cartridge bearing so that makes me happy but the 36 spoke count is a bit much for the road bike. Even riding my road bike on trails frequently I have never had a problem with a 32 spoke rear wheel.
The Great Divide race is into it's second week and there are more people in the race than I would have expected by this time, though many are dangling below the pace that would allow them to finish within the 25 day time limit. Krein has updated the spreadsheet of the racers. I have found this page so fascinating that I plan on going back and putting all of the previous years into a similar format just to see what information i can glean about pacing, strategy and where people have problems,
Regardless of whether Jay Petervary breaks the record, wins or even finishes; one thing is for certain, his set up will be studied and copied by future racers. I expect that Jeff from Carousel Design Works will be extremely busy in the next year building bags for the next group of GDR riders. No rack is the future, especially for the front runners.

"Don't Train, Practice" Kent Peterson, Great Divide Race Single Speed Record Holder

I have mapped out the next three months of overnighters. It occurred to me that now is the best time to get a lot of the long fast overnighters in. It really puts the pressure on me to begin organizing my gear. I still don't have much in the way of a first aid kit. I need to have a better thought out tool and parts bag and I have not done much gas-n-go shopping. I really need to eat more candy bars and drink soda when riding. I should leave the house without any food or drink and make myself stock up on the fly. Economically it is not very smart but it would be good practice.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Tour Of Pain Is On Deck

I will be doing the 200 mile Tour of Pain next weekend. I am worked up about the whole thing for several reasons. I have never ridden two hundred miles on the road before. This is a bit odd to worry about because I have ridden over 200 miles off road many times with my longest single ride being 256 miles. I can't explain it but I think it is harder to ride long distance on the road. In the end it is a mental challenge and road riding can be the kind of monotony that makes the mind free to go to bad places.
I am also concerned about equipment. I am going to see if I can get a new wheel built up real quick like. With this being the busy season and Ironman this weekend the bike shops are going to laugh at my "how fast can you..". I know a few people who actually know things about bikes who might be able to help me out if things don't work out. Plan "C" is to put a 16t freewheel on the Bianchi wheel and use it on the Ibis.
I did think about using the Bianchi fixed gear for the dbl century but I did not like the idea of no bottle cages forcing all of the water onto my back during what will probably be 80+ degree temps. A bicycle angel bestowed upon me an On-One Midge Bar for the fixie. The track bars that were on the bike are the opposite of ergonomic which started bothering me when using the bike for 100 milers. The midge bar wrapped with some cushy specialized bar tape makes for a comfy ride. It has gotten me thinking about using the bar on the GDR bike build. The wide flared drops though not very aero provides a low position without much strain on the back.
As far as my goals for the 200 miler, I am not concerned with my speed much, you really can't be with one gear after all. I am instead going to focus on reducing non-moving time. If I keep moving I should be fine. I have had some good people helping me out lately and I would like to live up to their expectations for a good ride.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ketchup Day

AS I follow this year's GDR I am keeping track of lessons being learned by this year's riders. In the attempt to keep things light it is easy to forget the rule of the mountains, be prepared for everything. All of the rider's have been drenched by thunderstorms and many of them met a snowstorm at elevation. Staying dry may not be an option but staying warm is a requirement. I remember a Summer vacation to Yellowstone when the high temperature was barely above freezing. Montana can be unforgiving.
I skipped the long ride today and instead made up some spoke cards for the midnight century ride. I may be doing the 200 mile Tour of Pain after all so I spent some time doing a rare bit of maintenance on my Ibis. I gave the Hakkalugi it's annual cleaning, switched the chain tensioner from up spring to down spring, installed a new rear tire on, put some leather treatment on the Brooks Saddle. The bike still has the 17 tooth freewheel on and if I am going to get through the double century than I will have to get that changed to a 16t.
The weather is heating up again so I want to get some long night rides in. Perhaps I will pre-ride the Tour of Pain route as an overnighter, that could be a good plan on Saturday night.

Friday, June 15, 2007

The 2007 Great Divide Race Begins

As I am writing this, the racers are nervously chatting about the weeks ahead. No doubt they are making frequent trips in and out of the Last Chance Tavern and checking their bikes and bags for the one hundredth time. The jovial sense of community will continue as they make their way down the long asphalt lead up to the dirt roads and mountains. Most races, tend to settle into the groove within minutes of the start but this race is different. It will take days to get into the rhythm of riding, eating, navigating, shopping, getting water, sleeping and repeating the basic elements of this death march they have interrupted their lives to participate in. In the coming days the race will educate the veterans and newbies alike. The endless planning to account for hundreds of scenarios will be forgotten because it is always the unexpected that happens. Reacting quickly and with a calm head will be more valuable than the equipment the racers carry with them. Remaining focused and fighting depression after navigational errors add mileage to the already long days total can be the difference between quitting and finishing.
It is easy to pursue unbearable hardship when you feel the awe and disbelief of people who shake their heads at your willingness to conquer the seemingly impossible. Hundreds of miles from anyone who could be impressed with your adventure, lost deep in your thoughts that refuse to stray from the pain and fatigue that grows with each pedal stroke, the racer is his only spectator and his only adversary.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Race Across America 2007

RAAM is up and running. RAAM has always done a better than average job of creating coverage for an event with so few participants. I remember watching the Wide World OF Sports coverage as a kid and in recent years I have followed the GPS tracking of the racers at the RAAM website. This year they have created a YouTube page and are producing short daily reports that are surprisingly well produced considering the difficulty of trying to cover a sporting event that gets stretched out over hundreds of miles of roadway.
Ira Ryan of Portland made a single speed road bike for John Spurgeon's one geared RAAM attempt. This video report has a short talk with John and a shot of his orange ss beauty.
Also check out this pitcure of John on the bike. It appears the midwest rain has inspired a Kent Peterson style rear fender.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

CDA NF Metric Century

Click on the picture to see how horrowing the trail is down Hells Canyon and how bald my rear tire is (and no it is not supposed to be a semi slick tire)

Yesterday I went out to the CDA national forest to plug away at routing a 100 mile course. This is the first time I have been back since all of the snow has been gone. I started and finished at DOMA coffee in downtown CDA. The 2200 foot climb up the pavement to Fernan Saddle was a bit boring but the trail over Burnt Cabin Summit made up for it. I checked out Spade Mountain Lookout. It is sad to see an old fire lookout in such shambles. Vandalism has made the building an eyesore and a potential danger.
In designing this course I want it to be easily navigated, rideable yet challenging for even the most honch rider. I am making an effort to employ as much singletrack as possible but it can be difficult considering that in this area singletrack is mostly downhill specific. The singletrack trail off of Spade mountain falls into the downhill only category as well as the aptly named Hells Canyon. Hells Canyon drops from 4200 feet to 2600 in about four miles. The trail starts off steep with roots and rocks and then mellows out for the last half. Stream crossings and dense old growth forest make it the most impressive ride in the area. I would really like to strap a camera on a rider who can clean the whole descent. If I had a camera on me yesterday it would have looked more like Blair Witch Trail than anything else. This kind of riding is not my thing but I recognize that this section of trail has to be in the 100 mile course.
The climb back up on a gradual forest service road was surprisingly zippy. I was able to ride 11 to 12 mph for the length of the 6 mile climb.
Working my way through West Canfield Butte was a bit tricky because I ended up on some dead ends that annoyed me. Eventually I got tired of back tracking and walked down a section of the hill to reunite with my route.
Altogether I rode for 6 hours and got in just over 60 miles. The climbing was ridiculous with something like 8000 feet including the two 2000 ft. grinders. I have the next extension of this route figured out but may have to wait to try it. My bike is making the worst noises I have ever heard from a drive train. I washed the mud off off of my bike just to look for cracks around the Bottom Bracket. At the very least my BB is toast but I know that distressful noises are coming from other locations as well.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Bag of Stuff

Super grab bag of stuff indeed. First up there is something being called the Northwest singlespeed championships. I am more interested in the new Urban Assault Race thing happening. I was asked the other day if I was going to resurrect the Unlicensed Bicycle Racing series again. I have decided if anyone is interested in that kind of thing I will throw a custom made to order race anytime for them, their friends and some dudes I know. You want to race? I'll race you. Dirt, Road, mini bikes. Take your pick. As for the Tour Of Pain I have decided that I need the $125 dollars more than I need a fleece vest. I would like to do the event just to support this kind of uphill rock rolling but I have a $6 million dollar bike build coming up and I am going to need that Benjamin for a gold plated Wipperman chain. The Race Across America is starting up. I will be glued to my monitor following the race even though Tinker is not racing this year. Who is there to root for? I talked to Marla Emde and she says Michael is still planning on doing RAAM next year. The GDR sounds like a gas but RAAM sounds like a true sufferfest. How do you enjoy that ride?
Here is a vid that came up on You Tube when I searched Spokane. I didn't realize that people had rollerblades but this is good comedy. Public intoxication and profanity comes free of charge. We need this guy to organize some bike races around here.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Let The Fingers Do The Riding

Andreas Vogel is racing the GDR this year and he has shown his acumen for tedious tasks requiring massive endurance by google mapping the entire route. Now you can give your fingers a workout following the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route border to border. Of particular interest is the satellite overlay which hardly provides an indication of topography but does give a sense of the geography. The map was set up with the idea that it could be used to locate the position of the riders along the routes based on check-in information. I have not heard if anyone is going to take on the challenge of doing this but there will be both a blog updating the riders as well as a podcast relaying the voicemail check in's of the riders. More on that later.

Monday, June 4, 2007

New Training Theory

Finished up the weekend with a 55 mile road ride just to loosen things up from yesterday's climbing festival. Tomorrow morning I will goof around on the bike in the morning and then head out to the Columbia Plateau Trail for another quickie overnighter. The forecast for tomorrow night is 100% chance of rain with 21 mph gusts. I couldn't miss the chance to play around in those conditions.
I am beginning to formulate a new training concept that may be just what I need for GDR preparations. I like how my body has been responded to the recent combination of long rides in quick succession. I also like the benefits of shorter, high effort rides in the 2-3 hour range. I am starting to think the perfect combination would be 3 weeks of fast and furious riding followed by a week where I try and pack as much saddle time in as possible. Three weeks of 13-15 hours followed by a 30-35 hour week. I am on track to do about 28 hours this week if things go right. So far so good. During today's ride I learned that I should avoid pushing my heart rate too much amidst multiple days of long rides. One short hill sprint let me know how empty my legs are. I can keep turning the pedals over but they are operating like a hybrid car. Great for efficiency not performance. Makes me look forward to next week when I can get zippy again.

Sunday, June 3, 2007

S24O:4th of July/Fernan Saddle

Blue Creek Road Isn't Steep, But It Is Unrelenting

I loaded up the Ibis with pannier bags and went for an overnighter with the mission of climbing some hills. After getting off work I road out to CDA and up to the top of 4th of July pass. It was midnight by this time but I felt so good that I thought I might continue on to Kingston but when I got a flat I decided to sleep for a few hours and go from there. When I woke up the first thing I thought about was how I wished I had fixed the flat before going to sleep. I am a proponant of the wake and escape. In the morning I headed back down the pass and up Blue creek road to Fernan Saddle. Blue creek road is new to me and it was a doozy. The road is never steep and the gravel surface was in good shape most of the way but it seriously climbs for 11 miles. Gradual climbing forever. The extra luggage kept my pace around 8 mph but I never got tired just a little bored. After bombing down the pavement from Fernan saddle to CDA I got a quick bfast and headed home via the palouse highway.
I have been fiddling with my GPS to figure out why some of my elevation gain readings have been somewhat high and I feel confidant that the 145 mile roller coaster was in the 10,000ft range. Climbing up 4th of July (3200 at summit) and fernan saddle (5200 at the top) make for a big chuck of the climbing but even highway 27's 600 feet of climbing kept me to my pledge to suffer. All told, if the heat had not shot into the 90's by the time I got home I really would not have had much in the way of discomfort. It is a good sign but I must forge on and seek out that area outside of comfort where success and failure are balanced on the precipice of mental fortitude. To keep the climbing week going I am heading up to Mt Spokane with the Ibis tomorrow. I want to see how the legs recover from today's efforts.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Free Technology For Bikers

John Speare turned me on to Bikely but I think that may have them beat. After playing around with this little web app for a few minutes I feel like all of my complaints about the poorly designed mapping software I got for my GPS is even more appropriate. Considering mapmyride is free, it is both simple and packed with features. Google topo, real time elevation profile and even special icons for restrooms and water fountains. It is a shame that I came across this site at a time when I should be riding my bike not playing on the computer.