Tuesday, August 28, 2012

I love my morning ride: But not today

I have come to love my morning commute.  Today I pushed off at 4:50 a.m.  I love how quite and calm it is.  The cool temperatures are refreshing.  Roads that are normally packed with cars operated by distracted drives are bare allowing me to have some space to avoid potholes and drainage grates.  Though I almost did run over someone (turns out it was a coworker out for a run) the ride is devoid of human interaction.

I get tired of people, my days are full of commotion, my ride home is frantic with traffic, and when I get home it is like a World Wide Wrestling federation match.  Even though I don't like to get up early, the morning ride helps give me time to think, reflect, and relax before the storm. 

This morning was a little different though.  As I came up on the Government Bridge, I noticed another rider coming up a ramp from the bike path.  As soon as I got across, I dropped from the bike path to the road in order to get through the gate onto the island.  As I was cruising along to Moby I heard someone talking to me.  I pulled out the ear phones and the man on the bike said "hey, the battery on your tail light must be low your reflector belt seams to be the only thing working for you."  I told him thank you and that was the purpose of the reflector belt.  "He then stated that the my blinking tail light should be perpendicular to the road for better viewing."  Again, I said thank you and didn't want to get into the conversation that the light is from 1995 and the mount broke years ago and is duct taped to my Ogre the frame. 

So, today is shot.    

Sunday, August 26, 2012

I Need a Sponsor! Maybe two!

I need a sponsor.........or two.  I am not asking for a lot, just a little support.  I put a lot of miles on my bikes every year and even though I like to buy quality bikes and durable parts I am still a big dumb animal.  As a big dumb animal I sometimes have to replace skill with brute strength which results in broken chains, damaged grips, bent $100 Shimano XT chain rings, worn out gloves, and bent/broken spokes.  Sometimes that space between the trees is a few millimeters narrower than my bars resulting in damaged grips, scraped up handle bars, and worn out gloves (I usually end up on the ground).  Sometimes I don’t notice that broken whiskey bottle on the shoulder of the road when I am riding at 4:30 in the morning or the giant pile of broken car windshield on the ground when I am riding home 13 hours later resulting in spent patch kits, inner tubes, and tires.  I think you get the point (by the way all of these have happened in the last 365 days).

The problem is that bicycling companies are not going to give anything to an almost middle-aged, bald, slightly soft in the mid-section dude who breaks stuff.  My problem is that my fleet is growing and this year seems to be the year everything is wearing out (or breaking).  I just need a little support from a few of the companies that I love the most.      

The following is the list of companies that I wish would throw me a bone.  Here we go!

Salsa Cycles:  I have purchased two of your bikes and I have one on lay away and I love them all.  Well sort of; I have a love/hate relationship with the EBB on my El Mariachi, but I love the way it rides when the Bushnell EBB wants to cooperate.  I am paying on a 2012 Mukluk but I know I will love it when I get those big fat tires.  I have numerous jerseys and I have had amazing success with Delgado Cross rims.  This year I will have to retire one of these rims after 6 solid years of riding on about every surface material possible.   I found a crack in the rim and had to order a new wheel 4 days before RAGBRAI, stuck with the Delgado Cross.  The problem is that I am blowing my bike part budget on a Mukluk, I know I will love.  Salsa products are amazing, I am not asking for much, the good Lord knows I don't need another bike, I just need some parts to keep me rolling.  I can always use Delgado Cross rims, lock-on grips, handle bar tape, hubs, or handlebars!

Continental Tires:  I swear by your GatorSkin tires.  I have tried many tires from many brands on the road.  I have torn, cut, and pulled huge nails from many of these other brands.  Your GatorSkins have yet to let me down.  While I have never used your mountain bike tires I would love to have some Race King tires.  I tend to go with mountain bike tires that are on sale as puncture resistance is virtually non-existent with mountian bike tires and it is hard to find Continental MTB tires on sale (especially 29er).  Travel Contact tires look like they would be great for the Surly Ogre or some Top Contact Winter II for the upcoming winter.  I love the look and feel of new tires.  

Keen:  I have purchased 2 pair of sandals, 2 pair of shoes, and a pair of cummuter bike sandals over the last 5 years.  My wife has purchased at least twice that, but who really knows what she buys.  Keen shoes are the only ones durable enough for Number 3, the thick toes and solid soles survive his abuse.  Number one and two have had numerous pairs.  I think I have made my point.  They are the best footwear I have ever purchased.  With winter coming up and a new Mukluk on the way, I could use some solid winter foot wear.  Keen, thanks in advance for the winter boots!

Endura:  Your cold weather bike clothing is amazing.  It actually fits and if it says waterproof, they mean it.  I have owned countless pairs of gloves.  They take every bit of abuse I have handed them (get it?).  With winter coming on, I could use a pair of pants and a new jacket. 

Specialized:  While I don't own any of your bikes (they are amazing I am not sure why I don't), I love your shoes.  Every year my mother in law buys me a pair for Christmas.  This is a pseudo sponsorship as they don't come out of my pocket, but if they came from you, she could buy me something else.  I also think your BG gloves are some of the most comfortable I have owned.  I would be grateful for some shoes and I certainly wouldn't turn away a Stumpjumper!!!

Park Tools:  In case you haven't figured it out, I break a lot of stuff.  I use your work stand everyday.  Everything requires a tool to repair or replace.  I burn through your patch kits like a something that goes through something quickly.  While I have some of your basics, I would take be most grateful for a truing stand or torque wrench.  Again, even a patch kit would be appreciated.

My Local Bike Shop and has taken pity on me and has given me a "volume" discount but that only gets me so far.  A sponsor or two would be nice!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

RAGBRAI: Thoughts on Training

I learned a number of things from RAGBRAI regarding conditioning and training.  It is the farthest I have ever ridden in a week and with the Karras Loop, the longest day (both mileage and "will this ever end" time).

Five hundred miles is a long way to ride in 100+ degree heat.  While RAGBRAI advertises 471 miles for RAGBRAI XL there were a lot more miles added getting to campsites and back to the start point.  I will continue with stating 500 miles which is probably more accurate. 

Lesson #1:  Completing RAGBRAI requires no athletic ability or training!!!!!

This may seem like a pretty bold statement but it is true, maybe not recommended but true.  Case in point my friend "Pahjanke."  By the way that is not his real name but it resulted from an auto corrected drunk text from another friend. 

Pahjanke had little experience on a bike other than that he is capable of riding a bike.  He dropped 2 Gs on a bike and only rode it 40 miles about 2 months before RAGBRAI and then did not ride until the event.  He finished!  Zero training!

We have now turned it into a new term.  So unless you want to get "Pahjanked" you may want to train as recommended by RAGBRAI.  I knew mentally and physically that I could do it, my goal was to do it as free of discomfort and pain as possible.

I did my usual, let us review my training strategy:

1. Ride as much as possible:  This is the hardest part for me.  I am a busy guy with a lot of responsibility at work.  I also have a lot of responsibility at home (4 kids, 1 wife, 2 dogs) that need attention.  My local bike club set up training rides which all conflicted with my life.  They recommend 500 miles of training before the event.  I rode my bike to work (8 miles each way) 4 days a week for several months.  That combined with a couple of 20-30 mile rides count in my book.  I just like to avoid the shoulder/neck tightness and pain that comes after a riding drought.

2. Get a good set of tires:  This is an easy one Continental GatorSkin tires.  It was recommended by the QCBC to purchase new tires before the ride.  Some of the group I rode with did, some didn't.  Those who bought new GatorSkin tires had no trouble.  Those who went cheap and didn't buy new tires did.  Plus, I love new tires there is something about them, like a brand new box of crayons!

3. Drink a bunch of water:  I failed miserably on this one.  Usually this is not a major issue with shorter rides.  I actually suffered great pain and discomfort.  I played hydration catch up for the first day or two.  Miserable!

4. Shove my jersey pockets as full of Jelly Belly Caffeine Sports Beans and Pearson's Salted Nut Rolls: 
I went to Sam's Club and bought a big box of salted nut roles.  I put a few in my jersey pocket each day.  Those are amazing when you are craving a salty sweet snack.  I used Peanut Butter flavored GU based on a friends recommendation.  Nasty, but they did their trick, quick energy.  In the future I will stick with Sport Beans  The real performance enhancing food on RAGBRAI are pork chops which come on a stick.  AMAZING!!!  Three or four of those a day and you are set!
With the exception of the failure to drink a bunch of water, I met my goals well enough to complete the ride with little to no discomfort.  Severe dehydration, but water is a crutch?!?!? 

At least I didn't get Pahjanked!

By the way, I do recommend following the guidance and training, especially if you are one of the athletic types!  With enough intestinal fortitude and desire, anyone can complete this ride.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Back from RAGBRAI

I had a great vacation riding 500 miles across the state of Iowa with about 15,000 other folks.  This was the first time I have participated in RAGBRAI and it far exceeded my expectations.   There will be a numerous posts that may serve to educate those who may want to ride RAGBRAI in the future or bore those who have done it 30 times.

I learned a lot about myself while on this ride.  Mainly I discovered that I am a bike enthusiast, which I will define as someone who loves to ride and own lots of bikes.  Although I can hold my own, I tend to ride at a slower pace while looking around and enjoying the scenery rather than seeing how fast I can make it to the next destination only to watch the tire inches away from mine in a pace line.  I also have a tendency to abandon friends to get a free chocolate milk in the middle of nowhere Iowa when the Iowa Dairy Framers association is passing it out.  These tendencies allow me to enjoy both the ride and my bicycle.  This is how I ride all the time and probably why I have never raced.  It is not my style.

I point this out because we had a person in our group show up later in the week.  We had never met but he indicated that he had heard of my legendary speed and stamina;  that I was a hard core biker.  Whoa hold on....by no means am I to be described as a hardcore biker in the sense that I am fast or have the stamina of something that has lots of stamina.  That tends to mislead the hardcore ride faster guys.  They are eventually disappointed as I quickly and unexpectedly pull off the lead of the pace line while I drag them up the hill, cutting through a 20 MPH head wind, only to get a nice cold, free chocolate milk, leaving them hanging.  They are further disappointed when it is time to roll and I say "I just want to get one more pork chop on a stick and take a 15 minute nap."

I would like to know who spread the rumor that I was "hardcore?"  Hardcore pork chop eater maybe.