Friday, May 29, 2009

Fredcast audio report on the Davis Double Century

David, of The Fredcast, my favorite cycling podcast, used my audio report (direct link) of the 2009 Davis Double Century in his latest podcast. It's like being almost famous. You can subscribe, or listen to it on the web page for episode #126. I'm at about minute 41.

You really should listen to the Fredcast if you like cycling, but if podcasts are just too confusing, here's a direct link to just my audio report. It's an m4a file, so it should play just fine.

It was interesting trying to ride and talk at the same time. I have no experience as an audio reporter, so it was fun pretending to be one. I was amazed how many people said "Huh?" when I told them I was recording for a podcast. It was also interesting trying to sort out all the audio when I got home. It's not like sorting images, which can go pretty fast. Because audio exists in real time I had to listen to it a lot. I gave me even more respect for This American Life, a great radio show and podcast.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

NorCal Exploding Tire Century

Curtis in his new "Tube Top." Photo liberated from Deborah Gallagher (Thanks!)

We met up in Rancho Cordova to ride 100 miles with our NorCal friends. We had the best weather you can imagine. Not too warm, not too hot, and a mild breeze. The route was a delight and had just a delightful amount of climbing. Joel, the man who organized the ride, had tee shirts made.

It was all good. Except that I flatted more than I ever had. I think we figured it out at flat 6. (I'd lost count by then.) There was a small tear in the sidewall. I mean, really small. But at 120 pounds of pressure the tube must have been just oozing through it enough to make a bubble and explode. Once we booted the tire with a handy Park sticky boot the tubes stopped exploding.

I was grateful to be riding with such kind and patient people. I'd have just shot me and tossed me in a ditch after flat number two.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Ride of Silence 09 Antioch

It was a thrill to see 35 cyclists show up for the Ride of Silence in Antioch. I was worried that only Tricia and I would show. But many Delta Pedalers, the local bike club, came, and perhaps even more exciting, my daughter Erin got the message out to a lot of her fixed gear friends who came too. Tricia had purchased two rolls of ribbon for armbands. It wasn't enough! We ended up safety pinning smaller pieces on riders. Red bands if you'd been injured -- and almost half had been in run-ins with cars -- and black bands for honoring fallen cyclists. We were a part of 216 rides in 16 countries.

There aren't a ton of cyclists in Antioch. At least that's what I'd thought. And I certainly wasn't aware of the young guys fixed gear community. But there they were. What a cool bunch of young men. And the way they ride those fixies. Amazing. I think they had a good time.

I'd put on the poster "Wear a helmet" but these guys came without them. I didn't feel like I could send them away, so they rode helmetless. What's a guy to do?

We did a very slow lap around North-of-the-freeway Antioch. Many people waved, gave us a thumbs-up, or honked in support. I'd been a little concerned about the ride in that this city isn't used to seeing a large group of cyclists become the traffic. But Antioch came through quite nicely. Only one car-driving misdirected soul threw fast food trash at us. Much better than I had worried about.

I need to find money for pizza when I do this next year. Those fixie boys are really thin.

More photos by Branden Hays on his web site.

Park Tool School at REI

Last Sunday I took an eight-hour Park Tool bicycle repair and maintenance class with Andy Phelps at the Brentwood REI. I was a bit tired, having ridden the Davis Double the day before, but the class was interesting and active enough that I hardly was aware of how beat I was.

There were only four other students, so there was a lot of space for us in the shop and a lot of time to pursue individual questions. Andy had a lesson plan, but he was really flexible and good at improvisation. He demonstrated things like pedal and crank set installation, then let us try it. He had a lot of little tips on where to grab the bike for leverage, how to do things more efficiently and what thing should feel like when you do them. He showed us how to get things just right. Some of what we learned will still take a lot of practice to become as fluid as he is, but at least we have direction now.

I've always been somewhat comfortable with the parts I can see, but nervous about the internal pieces. It was great to take apart my old hub and see the loose bearings, and later, to pull off a crank set, see the bottom bracket, and put it all back together.

We also got a short wheel truing demo. That isn't something I'll be doing on my good wheels, but it would be interesting to experiment on an old wheel sometime.

Tricia's bike got a lot of love. I'd taken it in instead of mine hoping to put new cables in for the deraileurs. We used it as the demo bike, so it got cables, adjustments, and the brakes set up up a bit more crisply. I think she's going to be happy on her next long ride.

All in all, it was a fun and educational day and well worth the money. And I even got a certificate, suitable for framing!

Monday, May 18, 2009

Davis Double Century 2009

Curtis and Pete (Taxi777) at the end of the 2009 Davis Double Century

Note: Don't miss my This-American-Life style audio report linked from this page.

I asked a lot of people on the 2009 Davis Double Century why they were riding it. Their answers left me unsatisfied. Then I realized I hadn't really answered the question for myself. I tried on a lot of answers to see how they fit, and discovered many of them were flip, trite, or just wrong if I really examined them. My favorite not-quite-completely-true one was that I really wanted the jersey. They didn't have one last year, and this years is particularly well done. But honestly, is a jersey really enough to do a ride this hard?

I think I rode it because it's important to have something this important that really has no significance.

Let me try and explain that.

This ride doesn't matter. If I don't make it, nothing bad happens. I still have the same life. If I do make it, I get no money, no more love, no extra vacation days, no lovely parting gifts. It just doesn't matter.

And yet, it's huge. It's an attempt at something so difficult that has a chance for failure. For me, a person who has never been an athletic, never played on a high school team, never been fast or quick or been the kind to crush home runs in softball, the Davis Double is a gigantitic undertaking. Like being a kid waiting for Christmas, the build up to the event was a rewarding and exciting experience in itself. I know I'm not alone feeling such anticipation because normal has about 200 posts from people before the event acting like kids shaking presents under the tree, and another lengthy thread reliving the ride the ride.

A ride like this is like a whole lifetime. The excitement of the start, the sunrise, the realization that you've ridden a long way, but still have hardly started. I went from despair to jubilation, from fear to acceptance and from being sure I couldn't finish it to thinking I just might. As I sit with my feet up I can't believe I put myself through that much pain, yet at the same time the feeling of pain is already gone. I can remember that it hurt, but I can't really remember what the pain felt like.

Here's the blow-by-blow description of my Davis Double century 2009

I enjoyed dinner with BritPower, LanceOldStrong and Taxi777 from NorCal forum. The pasta was so much better than normal ride pasta we actually talked to the cook about it.

I was thrilled to have a chance to chat with the jersey designer. The jersey and its high-quality design were motivations for me doing this ride. I was disappointed there wasn't a jersey last year -- they only do one every five years, a detail i didn't know in 2008. I was determined to get one, and to do it had needed to ride this year. I even got a copy of the poster using the design, so I'm double happy.

We met to leave 4 a.m., and I felt kinda bad that BritPower, a friend, wasn't there with us, but I knew if I was going to survive I needed to launch on time. I figured she'd pass me at some point anyway.

I like riding in the dark with lights. It's magical seeing the sky lighten and eventually see the sunrise. We joked and laughed and rolled pretty well. I swear the corner marshal and sign weren't there when we rolled past the turn, even though both were on our return. It added a few miles and minutes, which contributed to my slightly-later-than-last-year finish.

Then, well, I blame it all on 's LanceOldStrong, who set a blistering pace for many miles. As the sun got light enough to see my speedometer I saw we were well above 20 for an extended period. For several minutes we were running at 27. This is not a speed I ride on level ground. I eventually got smart enough to let them go before permanent damage was done, though I do think that later I paid dearly for the mornings speed run.

I caught them at rest stop 2 (or was it 3, who can keep this stuff straight?) after Lake Berressa. I hate stopping, so I grabbed water and rode off alone.

I rode smart up Cobb Mountain, at least for me. I took it easy from the start. Last year I had to stop three times on the way up to let my heart rate settle. This year, no stopping. No speed, but no stopping.

I met my friend Pete at the summit rest stop, and we descended together and then hit lunch together twenty-something miles later.

Again, I was afraid if I waited too long I'll stop moving, so I left quickly, figuring Pete would catch me like he always does.

The ride from lunch to the next rest stop was harder than last year. I've never hurt so badly, or for so long, on a bike. I'm pleased I didn't stop at all, but it was ride-ugly, survival-style riding, barely turning the pedals. I'd miscalculated the distance to the rest stop and kept thinking--for five steep miles -- it was right around the next bend. I think that's why I made it, I kept thinking I was almost there. Later I heard it was 104 degrees on that hill. One report said 110, I just know it was amazingly hot, maybe hotter than last years hotter than hot ride.

I was almost ready to leave when Pete sagged in. I was amazed. He is so strong, but he had bonked on the hill. But seeing me alive seemed to cure him. I think he likes me. He rested a moment, decided he didn't want to wait to be sagged all the way to the start, and he took off. Even though he seemed beat moments before, I couldn't keep up with him going uphill the next half mile. Go figure.

We limped down the valley and into the next rest stop. Again, I left early and eventually Pete came by on a pace-line. We hit the next rest stops together, and rolled in together for the second time in two years.

I'm amazed how hard it is to think when I'm that hot and tired. Just doing the tasks I'd dreamed about riding uphill: Get water, hit restroom, sunscreen up, adjust computer, record for pod-cast, make a photo were SO hard to remember, and I had trouble figuring out what to do first, second, and third.

I got through on Hammer products (HEED and Perpetium). I didn't eat real food at all until mile 140, where I had a half of peanut butter sandwich. All the drinking that liquid and not having to deal with chew food worked for me.

Smarter this year: I didn't just fill my bottles at the rests. I drank more than 1 full bottle, then refilled and left.

All in all, this years Davis Double was a lifetime on a bike. I'm glad I did it, and finished it, but I'm still not completely sure why.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Bike to Work Day 2009

Tricia on the way home from middle school Open House. Every day is bike to work day for her.

Bike to work day seemed a bit bigger this year. I saw more people on the trails, and Antioch had two energizer stations. Tricia and I picked up a couple of grocery bags and patch kits. The people at the Lone Tree energizer station said they saw my announcement for the Ride of Silence in the local paper, so maybe I won't be doing it alone.

At Los Medanos College the turn out wasn't as large. Last year I papered the place with posters. This year there weren't as many. But the students put up a booth and handed out goodies. A volunteer even gave me her BTWD shirt after I'd admired it. Can't beat that.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

For the birds

This isn't my photo, but these quail are about the size of the ones I saw. These may even be bigger.

There I am, rolling on my morning ride and feelin' pretty good when I see a van parked in the bike lane. I'm used to this, so I just roll on by. But as do, I get a glimpse of a woman with an almost-panicked expression on her face and I hear her yell something. I make a U-turn and roll back.

She is almost in tears and blubbering something that it takes me a moment to decipher. It seems that her worries are caused by a dozen of the most tiny California quail I have ever seen. They are barely big enough to be alive-- they're so small they'd be dwarfed by a ping-pong ball, even half a ping-pong ball. They're stuck in the gutter next to a tall curb, with no curb-cut in sight, frantically running back and forth as their mother tries to make them jump higher than they can. What can I do? I try to herd them so I can lift them over, but that's just silly. They are so fast.

I asked the woman if she had anything at all in her van, a poster, book, just anything at all. She came back with a child's jacket that I promptly threw in the gutter. It made a dandy little ramp.

I herded the quail over to it and up they went, quick as can be, and reunited with their frantic momma quail.

The woman was so happy, she kept apologizing for parking in the bike lane and for disturbing my ride.

I've had less interesting rides.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

Ride of Silence in Antioch

I missed the Ride of Silence last year and didn't want to again. But there isn't one anywhere near Antioch. So I'm rolling my own. I've asked local the cycling club Delta Pedalers to join me, as well as the East Bay Bicycle Coalition. You might join me too. We'll silently ride eight miles or so at less than 12 mph.

We'll meet at Antioch City Hall on 2nd Street on May 20 (that's a Wednesday) at 7 P.M.

We all know someone who's been injured or killed while cycling on public roadways. This ride is for:
  • Mourning those cyclists killed or injured.
  • Telling the world cyclists are not going to be chased or intimidated off the streets we legally share.
  • Making motorists aware of the life long legal, as well as life changing, problems that can ensue from killing a cyclist.
If you can't join me in Antioch, at least think about finding a ride closer to home. They're listed on

Wine Country Century = Wet Country Century

We had planned to do the Wine Country Century that starts in Santa Rosa, but with the possibility of rain (30% according to Weather Underground) we thought we'd do the 100K route. But plans don't always work out exactly as one hopes. As kb5ql over on commented: "It rained. And rained. And KEPT RAINING. It didn't stop. It rained some more. Did I mention it RAINED?"

Then we missed the 100K turn marker, which had been rained off the road. We ended up on the 100 route with a lot more climbing. That turned out to be a good thing as climbing was about the only way to stay warm. Normally uphill is a grunt, downhill is a reward. This time up was a warming relief, down in rivers of flowing water was worrisome at best.

Tricia rocked. She is so tough! She just cranked her way through the day. I, however, got so cold and wet after the first rest stop if there had been any way to just concede and just be warm again I would have done it. But there was no one to surrender to. Eventually pedaling hard warmed me up. After about 40-something miles we though we'd had enough of that kind of fun and took a 10-mile bail out back to the car.

  • Best thing about the ride: Hot peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! What a grand idea.
  • Second best thing: No problems with the rims heating up on big downhills.
  • Feature: Tricia say she didn't dehydrate at all, she just absorbed all the water she needed.
  • Feature 2: No wheel suckers. My massive rooster tail kept them all at bay.
  • Feature 3: Sunscreen savings!
  • Bonus fun 1: Missed the 100K turn and ended up on the 100 mile route
  • Bonus fun 2: Flatting in the rain. That makes it a full-experience ride, and it didn't cost any extra!
  • Priceless: Bailing after 52 frozen wet miles and going wine tasting on the drive home.

Learning experiences:
  • Water resistant doesn't mean what I thought it meant.
  • "Thirty percent chance of rain" still leaves a lot of room for a downpour.
  • I worried about the weight of my bike, but failed to factor in 97.3 pounds of wet clothes.
  • 52 miles
  • 2700 feet of climbing
  • 1 case Sarah
  • About 1.5 hours of grunge grime filth bike cleaning on Sunday