Monday, April 14, 2014
After Sunday's ride through the Berkeley Hills (details) where I hit several personal bests on climbs I was all excited. So I came home, filled out a form, wrote a check, and sent off my application. Here's hoping it goes well...
The only thing I know for sure is which jersey I'll wear. This one.
Sunday, April 13, 2014
|Deb Janes of Bike East Bay kept everyone together . No one got lost or died.|
|Tricia on Pig Farm Hill|
And what a beautiful day it was! And how often can you meet a group of strangers and go off on a delightful adventure where everyone is so nice? No one got dropped, and there were frequent regroups. Even the weather cooperated. It was pleasingly warm but never got hot. I was happy to see the sections of road I put some effort into resulted in a few personal bests. I made my best time up Pig Farm, a hill I regularly try to hammer as hard as I can. I hope this predicts some successful cycling on my upcoming rides.
|We parked in Orinda and took BART to Rockridge to start.|
Saturday, March 29, 2014
The race didn't feel like it was about bike riding as much as it was about whether the rain would come before the race started. It was supposed to rain Friday night, and when it didn't, I decided the Los Vaqueros Dam Time Trial 2014 was going to happen for me, even though the skies were dark dark dark. Still it was hard to leave my warm and comfortable home to head out with only a vague hope of a rainless ride. But it worked out! The rain held off until I got home.
I rode this event in 2008 and 2009, but they cancelled it when they were busy raising the dam height. It came back, but I was scheduled elsewhere. This time I got a another chance. The course got slightly longer, with a short straight away sprint ending at the top of the new dam. The area is usually closed, so not only is the race fun, but the chance to see see the views from the dam are a rare and delightful opportunity.
This time trial is a real community event. They try to schedule the riders so the competitors with young kids go early, then have a chance to ride back to the start and escort their munchkins up the hill. Despite it being a "mere" community event, they have chips embedded in the race numbers, and electronic RFID timing equipment. It's all very cool.
There's a soft sticker inside the number that is read by a mat we rolled over at the start, and again at the end. They had a computer set up so we could see our times and current place as soon as we hit the finish line. I was 10th overall for just a moment before the actual fast riders finished.
I didn't want to pretend I was all serious about this as I know I'm not really a racer and surely am not a contender, but when I showed up and saw the aero wheels, time trial bikes and alien helmets, I was a little overwhelmed. I teased some riders about seriousness violations, but then I thought, heck, I should at least take off my water bottle and pump. I guess that makes me almost as bad. Fortunately über-mechanic Jim McFarland of the Wheel Peddler was on hand with tools, and off it came, thereby saving me .21 seconds I'm sure.
This year the race went not only on it's usual uphill route, but into a huge headwind as well. What a pain. My heart rate was off the charts the whole time. (OK, not really. I have charts, so technically it isn't off of them. It was, however, at the highest end.) As always I hurt so much at the end, but still think I could have gone harder, though I don't really know how. I managed, if I remember correctly, 14:10. The Strava segment says 14:05 and an average of 222 watts, which, though low power in the cycling world, is more than I thought I could do. I don't know how I placed overall, but I did manage to pull off third place in my age group. (Yes, there were more than three people in my group. I checked to be sure.) I even got a medal.
Thanks, Contra Costa Water District, for a cool event!
Sunday, March 23, 2014
|Ron managed to get a photo of me.|
I roomed with Ron Ng at the Santa Ynez Valley Marriott in Buellton, the ride start, right next to Solvang. We got the room late, and all they had was a giant, cushy two-room suit. We toughed out. It was nice to be able to take the elevator to the ride start. That made the morning a lot easier than having to drive there from a different hotel.
I was a little worried. I thought I planned my clothing well, but the night before was windy and cold. Ron's friend suggested that though it would be forty-ish at the ride start, it could be in the 30s after we crossed into the next valley. I'd left my long-fingered gloves at home, and was thinking I'd need to wrap socks around my glove liners just to survive. But the morning was almost 50, and there was zero wind. The next valley was misty, but didn't get below the mid-forties. I wore a base layer, jersey, cheap-o sweatshirt I could leave behind, and a very light wind jacket. With my glove liners and knee warmers I was very comfortable. What a relief.
A 5 am doubles start is always interesting what with so many riders that have amazing lights and blinkies. I wonder what it would like from the air. We certainly must be hard to miss on the ground, with all the high-tech ultra-bright headlights that almost all riders seem to sport. Having so many riders with so many lights makes it easier to see the road too.
I always enjoy seeing the sky become lighter and lighter as the sun gets closer to rising. This year was very overcast, and there was a mist in the air that made the ride up the Foxen Canyon seem very mysterious and other worldly.
I rode well, but easily. I didn't want to go too hard at the start. I also kept to my plan of very, very short rest stops. I filled my bottle and jetted off. I didn't even sit down at all until the last rest stop. Sometimes, however, I get a bit slow even for me. At one point, as a tandem came quickly past, the stocker shouted "grab on" so I did. I went from 13 to 21mph in no time. I stayed with them for 10 miles until the next town where the organization fell apart. Still, it was an exhilarating 10 miles. I swore I'd remember their names, but my brain gets mushy on a ride this long. At least I got a photo. Thanks tandem folks!
Sometime in the first 100 miles when I stopped on a back road for a "natural" I glanced down and saw what I could only think of as a dire warning to cyclists. This demon was right there, ready to suck my soul right out my... Well, never mind. I moved on as quickly as I could.
This ride, despite the fish head demon, is pretty darn beautiful. The canyons are a delight, and rolling through Pismo Beach... let's just say it was hard to keep going and leave the ocean behind.
I'd been on a mission, with a goal of finishing before the sun dropped behind the horizon, but with less than 10 miles to go I had to just stop and make this photo. Is that not the perfect name for a winery? I wonder if they do discounts.
I managed to finish just before 7 pm (in the daylight!) with a total time of 13:55:47 and a moving time of 13:06:08, which means I didn't spend much time not riding.
The only thing close to drama was after I finished, showered and changed, Ron still hadn't arrived, which worried me as he is usually slightly stronger than I am. I had dinner, and he still hadn't come in. I was worried enough that I checked with the organizers to see if there had been any on-road "issues" and was told everyone was on target to finish. I still was concerned. Ron eventually rolled in looking great. It seems he'd hooked up with friends who had a series of flats. He stayed with them to help out, and all was fine.
Tuesday, March 18, 2014
Seriously, is there much that's prettier than a new chain on a new cassette? This one is a Wipperman 10sx. I bought one at the North American Hand Built Bicycle Show in Sacramento a while ago. It shifted well, and went on easily using their Connex link. But best of all the darn thing just lasted and lasted. I could still squeeze out a few miles, but I'm putting this one on in honor of the upcoming Solvang Double. I've had an Ultegra cassette waiting to be mounted for a long time, and this seemed like a good day for that too.
Wippernan claims their chains last a long time because of the "stainless steel inner links and nickel-plated outer link plates." I don't know if that's marketing or science, but the last one sure did better than any other chains I've had.
Monday, March 17, 2014
|Middle of nowhere middle school|
|Glenn, not moving|
From there we headed down, and then back uphill to the gated community of Diablo Grande. The guards at the gatehouse had mercy on us when I explained we needed 1.5 miles more before we turned around so we could hit 100 for the day. They told us the traffic circle was about that far up the hill, and said we were good to go. We even did a few laps round the round-about just be be sure.
The ride back was uneventful in a wonderful sort of way. I even had time to pop off a photo of myself. But perhaps the best part of the day was the light that made the California landscape smile with springtime wonderfulness. Every way I turned I witnessed the greens and blues of happiness and joy.
We finished strong, ate some Patterson BBQ and got home entirely too late. A good time was had by all.
|I love the California spring.|
Saturday, March 15, 2014
Tricia and I have been members of the Delta Pedlaers Cycling Club for ages, but we seldom get to ride with them. We like to support their advocacy efforts, but our schedules rarely align. Today was different. We joined Dave and Dick, along with other club members, for their birthday ride (they call The Old Fartt' Ride) up Mt. Diablo. Not only was it a wonderful day, but I got to ride with people who are older than me for a change.
The day didn't start nearly as well as it ended up. When Tricia (who, for the record, rode with, but is not herself an old fart) and I arrived at the ride start I realized that, even though I had gotten up early, prepared carefully and even had a few spare minutes to sweep the garage before we left I had failed to put my cycling shoes in the car. I was ready to bag the whole day, but imperturbable Tricia took charge and drove us home and then back.
Once we got rolling the day was amazing. Warm weather, clear skies and California poppies – what's not to love.
We figured we'd missed the group, but as we neared the summit there they were coming down. They waited for us at the junction and we descended the mountain, ending up at Rocco's Italian restaurant for beers and lunch. Just another wonderful Saturday.
Monday, March 03, 2014
I blame Lance Oldstrong, my riding buddy. While he is the best ever at finding interesting routes — see "Two bridges, three murder sites, squirrels and flowers ride" — he's also the best at riding really odd routes. One a rainy day he rode many many miles in a BART parking garage. Recently he rode 10.2 miles around his very small neighborhood, ducking into every little court over and over. Really. There's a GPS trace to prove it.
This had several unforeseen consequences, the first of which was that I had to try it too. Unfortunately for me, though Oldstrong's ride is flat flat flat. (He clocked in a whooping 135 foot elevation gain) my silly neighborhood has a different terrain profile. My 11.4 mile ride (titled Oldstrong Inspired™ on Strava) had 1,175 feet of climbing. My ride resulted in a near equally wacky GPS trace.
But a much more wacky elevation profile.
All this silly mapping and looping and the images from GPS tracing got me thinking about the images they make, and then about icons in general. I don't know why, it just did. Then I recalled the "Artist formerly know as Prince" had his own icon designed.
And that lead me to thinking Oldstrong needed his own icon. So I made one based on his "brilliant" ride.
So there it is. The new icon/symbol for the cyclist formerly known as Oldstrong. Should it be cast from bronze, or perhaps titanium, or maybe cut from genuine carbon fiber as a necklace, or stenciled on the road of large climbs he undertakes? Maybe it's a tattoo, or tee-shirt. Or maybe it should be a brand. Whatever it ends up being, it's all his fault. Really.
Saturday, March 01, 2014
Here's their spiel.
Joining 30 Days of Biking means pledging to ride a bike every day in April.
Through rain, shine or blizzard. To the store, around the block, or 20 miles. Make it happen, then share your adventures online—via Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, you name it—with our worldwide community of joyful cyclists. Hashtag #30daysofbiking.
Sunday, February 23, 2014
I thought I'd wear my Piet Mondrian-inspired La Vie Clare jersey for our Bike Forums Slow Poke Ride. I was glad I did when we came across this "art car" parked on Grizzly Peak Road in (where else... Berkeley.) As Tricia shot the photo I cajoled her to make, I was "rewarded" by some cyclists who rode by and asked if I was Greg Lemond. Clearly they hadn't seen me climbing earlier.
Bike Forum's Bikingshearer organized this short but climby and slow jaunt, and he couldn't have picked a nicer day. We may have a water shortage, but we're making the best of our lack of rain. Seventy degrees in late February? That's cycling weather. We even had a surprise appearance by famed Bike Forum's member Lance Oldstrong.
We did come across one unfortunate incident. On our climb up Wildcat Canyon we heard an odd crunching sound, and as we came around the corner we found a pair of cyclists who looked like they might have overcooked an off-camber corner coming down the hill and crashed. One was pretty much OK, but his friend was crumpled. He didn't appear to have a head injury, but was in a lot of pain and not moving much. We stopped to see if we could help, but others stopped as well. We left when they called an ambulance and didn't think we had anything to contribute.
We finished our climbing, enjoying the view, the weather and the Narnia-like descent through Canyon to end up at a deli in Rheem for tasty sandwiches. I had so much fun the grunt back to Orinda wasn't even much of a bother. Clearly, more Bike Forums rides are in order.
Sunday, February 09, 2014
I buy books. There. I said it. I've been told the first step is admitting you have a problem. Yet I'm not sure it's a problem. It may just be a condition. Or simply a fact.
Not only do I buy them, but like many other people with special issues, I actively encourage others to follow in my footsteps. To that end, here are a few books of note from my ever-growing stack; My rainy-day blog post.
Best written: These books transcend cycling. They aren't cycling books but books about life that just happen to have a lot of cycling in them. Bill Strickland's Ten Points is heart breaking and sometimes a difficult and emotional experience. Still, it's wonderful writing and well worth the read. Tim Krabbe's The Rider is the story of one race and what happened in one rider's mind from start to finish. It was one of the first cycling books I read, and it's still my favorite. I thought I'd lost my copy and bought another so I could read it again. Of course, I later found it and now have two. Ask to borrow one.
Insider info: These three books attempt to take slow non-racers like my own bad self to inside the peloton. I'd read great reviews of Roadie. It's OK, but not great. Come and Gone, and Dog in a Hat by Joe Parkin are more interesting, but make me glad I never had the skills to even try and do what he did. Being a bike racer makes for a tough life.
People I'm happy I don't have to deal with: It seems as if in order to be a champion one has to give up a lot, perhaps too much. These three books are autobiographies of people who have succeeded as cyclists, but oh my are they hard on the people around them. They may have the singular focus it takes to win bicycle races, but I am so happy they aren't my friends, lovers, parents, children or spouses. Their stories make interesting tales, but... yikes. In Boy Racer Mark Cavendish comes off as a cocky jerk who is not a good friend or teammate. And he wrote it himself!
I've been had: Yes I have, but I'm not alone. These books are filled with lies by cheaters. And I believed them. I don't know which is the worst. The Lance Armstrong Performance Program book that leaves out EPO, or the Landis book that he wrote to defend himself after he lost his Tour victory to doping, only to later write another book saying this book was all lies. I'm keeping them to remind myself that having heroes is a childish fantasy and I need to be grown up.
Guilty pleasures: These books by Dave Shields read like the juvenile sports fiction hero books from middle school. They are short on character development and pretty lightweight. Yet I enjoyed them anyway, in the same way I enjoy a good popcorn movie. Go ahead, hide them inside something that looks serious and read them.
Recent interesting acquisitions: Reading the Race is a look at how bike racing in the US works. It's an amazing insight to what happens during races. I think this book is a winner for actual racers, as well as people like myself who wonder what's going on. It's filled with technical and tactical details. I enjoyed it quite a bit. But I'm still not going to race.
Grant Petersen's Just Ride is a grumpy but amusing "hey kid get off my lawn" rant about everything that he thinks is wrong with cycling culture. It's fun because I'm sure that, like me, you'll find yourself going back and forth between thinking "That's so true." and "WTF?" as you read it. It's really an unusual kind of book with a lot of different attitudes the contrast strongly with the usual cycling writing in most bicycling magazines.
It's still raining, so I may head off to Half Priced Books and see what new cycling books they have.
And if notice anything missing from my library that you think I should read, let me know!
If you liked this, check out my post on Cycling Science and Cyclepedia.