If you're new to Cycling-Through, please take a second and read some of the "Posts of note" in the list to the right. Then, if you see others that you appreciate enough to recommend for that list, let me know.
Also, please feel free to comment - even anonymously if you must.
Thanks for reading!

Sunday, January 31, 2010

While Driving - Part 1

This frankly has nothing to do with cycling. However, I figured this was as good a place as any to share some of the pictures I've collected over the years. All have been taken from or near my vehicle, or are directly related to a driving incident.

Cars Decorated in Bizzare Ways




Walnut Creek

I can't remember where...

Emeryville / Berkeley

San Francisco - I think...

I can't remember where...

Rainbows and Rain

Walnut Creek

SF Bay Bridge

Pleasant Hill

One of the many canals that drain the Diablo Valley

What that canal typically looks like.


Turkeys in Moraga

Turkey racing me in San Pablo

I caught him

Peacock in El Cerrito

Duckies in San Jose

San Rafael

Hiding - Novato

What the dog I tried to help rescue on I80 in Fairfield did to my thumb.

Signage Gone Wrong

San Francisco


There are many many more, and more are being added all the time.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Two Bridges - Two and One Half Bikes

Carquinez Bridges - Picture taken from the Metropolitan Transportation Commission web site.
The bike lane is on the bridge to the left.

Benicia Bridges - railpictures.net by Adam Pizante
The bike lane is on the bridge to the right.

I pulled Ella on the trailer bike about 30 miles yesterday afternoon. This was definitely one of the hardest rides in a while. (Ella weighs about 45 pounds and the trailer bike weighs about 20)
Dave drove to my house and we rode the mountain bikes - Me pulling Ella.

We headed across the Benicia bridge around 10 am.
Stopped near downtown Benicia at the big park, for Ella to play for a while.
Saw the 9:00 group ride by, and then quicken their pace - wondering what weirdo was hollering at them from the park.
Stopped at the top of Benicia Rd. to down a few handfulls of trail mix and play with sticks in the mud.
Crossed the Carquinez bridge sometime later and turned left near the Dead Fish.
Followed the Carquinez Scenic Highway all the way to Martinez, dismounting a few times to avoid the muddiest sections. (The closed section took a beating this past winter. Some large sections of the asphalt are closer to the water now.)
Stopped again at the downtown Martinez Starbucks for a mocha, hot chocolate, and a vanilla bean "shake."

Arrived home and cleaned, tuned up, and loved on the bikes.
Bec got home from her friend's baby shower to find Ella making tomato soup.
Ate tomato soup and left over baby shower cake.
Cleaned up the stove.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Deception, Duress, Discipline

Not quite in that order...

My wrist joined the ride today - yes - under duress. It was not in favor of the outing, having spent the last few weeks in a brace, and logging just under 100 painful miles since my dive on New Year's Day.

We consulted (The wrist and I), after I had agreed to an afternoon ride on Mt. Diablo with Chris and his friend (Who I will call Lance - a good cyclist name - since in typical fashion, I can't remember his real one). I bribed the wrist with 3 Ibuprofen, and began rearranging the afternoon.

I was informed late in the afternoon, that Lance had already begun his assault of the mountain and Chris would be late. I was clearly instructed to obfuscate the means whereby Chris would join our group, and I lied, telling him I would cover for his drive up to the Ranger Station to meet us for the second half of the ride. I made pretty good (off season) time getting to the Ranger Station and easily identified Lance patiently waiting. Within a few minutes 3 of us had rounded the first corner leaving all evidence of the ruse tucked neatly behind a stand of trees - other than 1 out of 3 of us smelling remarkably more like Chrysler Leather than 2000' of B.O.

I topped out a few minutes before they did, with a couple I had met near the top, and then promptly descended around the circle to climb "The Wall" again - this time with Chris and Lance. To solidify the ploy even further to others now reaching the top - only feet from the top, Chris accelerated, and crested leading the 3 of us. Riding his mountain bike, he had beat 2 road bikes to the top. Hmmm?

I beat him to the bottom.


About that couple I met near the top...

They are both Team In Training members, and both recent converts to cycling. I've added their Blog to my list at the right. They tell it best in their blog, but I was very impressed to find out that they had lost over 170 pounds between them in a few months - by cycling. I paced them up "The Wall" at the end, where he topped out on his first attempt without stepping off. She stepped off midway up, but in about the most respectable fashion possible. Her wheels completely stopped rotating with her feet still clipped into the pedals, having just wandered back toward the center of the road. (Many who climb "The Wall" wander between the 2 gravel shoulders on their way to glory) Her wheel came around nearly perpendicular - stopping her plodding cadence solidly with her right leg ready to descend one more time. It came down, but not attached to the pedal. She remounted a couple of times as I finished the first time, and then beat Chris, Lance, and myself as I escorted them to the top.

I was impressed. I couldn't lose 70 pounds and survive it, but would love to have the discipline to do it...

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Digression / Diatribe on Cars and Bikes

I have recently completed Drivers' School. I have been driving for about 16 years and decided it was time to brush up on my knowledge of the California Driver Handbook. I feel it is my civic duty to be the best driver I can possibly be.

(Not to mention it kept me from getting points on my license after getting ticketed for pulling a trailer in the wrong lane.)

During my quest for a greater understanding of the regulations surrounding vehicular travel, I was annoyed at the interpretation of cycling and its effect on traffic by those who created my course.

Not till Saturday's ride, did I fully realize how annoyed I was at the tenor of the course as regarding cycling, and better understand the prevalence of their mistaken ideas. Halfway between the cluster of ranches called Briones, CA (Population 25 - if you include the housekeepers) and Orinda (No one cares what the population is, as long as they keep paying the taxes on their estates and Maseratis) on Bear Creek Rd, I was approached by a 30 year old car worthy of a name that starts with "The" and ends with a State or President's name. He slowed as he approached and then pulled off the road to his right in order to begin the long process of negotiating a "U" turn. Waiting till I was close enough to choke me on his exhaust, he pulled around into my lane and slowly chugged down the road. By now I had braked considerably and was trying to stay clear of the smog. Feeling that I had been exceptionally patient and composed, I was surprised to see him gesture to me in a most unfriendly manner. I became less composed. I would have stuffed a handful of energy bars in his tail pipe if I could have gotten close enough.

I felt taken advantage of, and quickly remembered my dismay at the Drivers Course's handling of cyclists.
Let me premise by saying that cyclists often give themselves a bad name. But, that's all I'm going to say about that, since it seems like the major cycling publications lately have been obsessed with appeasing the public with unending stories reprimanding their readers.

Cyclists have a RIGHT to the roadways in California. Period. If you don't like it then drive somewhere else, or stay off the roads. REALLY, if I were a 5 ton tractor taking up the WHOLE road, drivers would give me twice the berth that they do. They would be forced to wait till the way is clear to pass me, rather than squeezing past between me and the oncoming. They would not gesture obscenely at me, for fear that I would lower my mower on them or spray them with organic insecticide at the next stop sign.

Now to my annoyance at my class.
First - There are 108 pages in the Driver Handbook to tell us how to drive. 100 and 8 pages. I think I could tell you how to fly a space shuttle in that many pages. This is beside my point.

The particular course I enrolled in discussed the handbook's mention of cyclists, but felt the need to expand on the subject and thereby insult cyclists in the process. Their main assertion was that cyclists are unpredictable, and thus extra care should be taken when meeting them in traffic. EXCUSE ME!? Unpredictable? I've seen a far higher percentage of unpredictable drivers than cyclists. And, not to mention, exactly how fast are we going, and how close are you passing us, that our unpredictableness is that big of an issue? Granted, I might swerve a foot to avoid a sewer drain grate at the side of the road, but for goodness sake, I have a right to the whole lane if I need it. "Bicyclists on public streets have the same rights and responsibilities as automobile drivers." That means I get a lane if I need it. That means cars pass me under the same rules as if I were any other vehicle, especially when the road narrows. If you can't pass me and give me the same amount of space that you would expect from an 18 wheeler in your BMW, then DON'T! I don't like you riding my tail any more than you do, and will do my best to give you a chance to go by - just like I would in my car.

So my point is, that this course represented what I believe is the general consensus: Cyclists - though allowed on the road - are really just there with permission, begrudged by most, and revocable at will by anyone in a hurry. If you really want to get "doored" next time you're out on your bike, try telling the jerk that cut you off, that bikes were on the roads long before automobiles were, and thus we should be dictating to them the rules of our roads. "And, have a nice day."

Bicycles and automobiles BOTH are operated by living breathing humans. It is the person, not the size of the conveyance that gives one rights. As a human, I have a right to survive my commute just as you do. My method of travel does not diminish my access to our common rights.

This is anything but an original topic, but I had to vent.
To the guy in the big blue 4 wheeled boat - "I hope your dreams are plagued by immense bicycles crowding you in your little "Car Lane," turning right - seconds after passing you, and screaming "GET ON THE SIDEWALK!!" as they sneak up on your left.

Friday, January 22, 2010

The Storm That Won't End

Not doing much other than watching this storm all week.
The rain has kept the company busy cleaning up after everyone's leaks and floods.
We definitely don't mind the work - though I'm glad I finally invested in a good rain jacket.

Maybe a ride or run on Saturday - if it dries out today.

My folks are in town and I talked dad into a hike up to Briones Peak late this afternoon. I was game for a hike even in the rain, but he showed some hesitancy. It began clearing toward 2:00 and even revealed significant portions of the heavens as the day wore on. Unbeknown to me, he was hoping for rain.

He now claims to have enjoyed the foray after all. We'll see in the morning.

Diablo had been dusted with more snow from this storm, so I was obligated to take some pictures. I should have gone home for my good camera - but the phone works.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

MYOG Successes

Make Your Own Gear is a rite of passage for some, and impossible to imagine for others.
I have had many failures in making my own gear. Pure embarrassment prevents me from listing many of them though the leg warmers that wouldn't stay up are worth note.

The first in my recollection, which was among my greatest failures, is actually the very same concept that has recently brought my greatest success. Many years ago - high school I think - I attempted a bike repair stand. Constructed of a sheet of plywood as a base and a branch from the tree in the back yard, I rigged up a rickety structure unknowingly giving a nod to Modern Art. If careful, I could actually clean my chain without the bike tumbling over on top of me. It took as much time to get the bike perched upon it, as it did to remove the front wheel (which was never really suspended above the ground) and grease the bearings. Interestingly, I realized several thousand miles and 10 years later that I had actually dropped a couple of those bearings.

I disliked my work of art and have always wanted a real stand of my own. I recently verbalized my longing to my wife as I was installing the computer on my new ride. Her comment nearly collided with my thought - "Why don't you build your own?" With a chuckle I reminisced of auld lang sine, leaned my bike back against the piano bench, and lost no time mentally laying out the project.

Here is where I differ from most DIY'ers. I can do it myself. I'm a general contractor by trade, and have at least dabbled in most every form of construction imaginable. I've even tried my hand at sewing. The downside to that is threefold: Unreasonable personal expectations abound, I'm only willing to DIY because I'm too poor to save myself the effort, and the end product is always heavier, uglier, less mobile, and often dangerous.

I googled "build your own bike repair stand" and found quite a few ideas. All of them were much less than what I was hoping for, and most met one or all of the heavy, ugly, and dangerous criteria. The PVC ones bothered me just out of principle, the wood ones looked like a gallows, and the metal pipe stands, along with each of the others, looked a little too -i bilt dis here thang wid my own tules-ish. So, I decided to put my years of construction work, and a shop full of spoils from a thousand jobs to good use. In all - I spent under $20 on this bike stand, and for once I'm rather proud of the result. I must say that I did glean some good ideas from the concepts that I found in my search, and implemented a few of them here.

Though most of the typical hazards are still present (heavy, ugly and a little dangerous), I have found some measure of satisfaction. I must say also, that as a DIY'er I don't play fair. I own a welder, 5 different cordless drills and every other cordless tool concievable, 2 angle grinders, and every other tool I could imagine needing to finish this project. And, I used nearly all of them. To the person who made the PVC pipe stand "If I couldn't use a welder, I would've used your design."

I'm not going to give you the play by play, but if you're at all perceptive, you'll get the idea.

The basic raw materials: Angle iron, 2 sizes of tube steel, a 3/4" bolt and nuts, and a bar clamp.

The Bar clamp got new jaws out of redwood, reinforced with a 1.5" ABS pipe. Later I will line the pipe with strips cut out of some scrap vinyl base as padding. All of this glued together with a half empty tube of Sikoflex Construction sealant.

I've left the top of the jaws open a little hoping this will make it easier to hang the bike.

After cutting all of the pieces in my back yard, I took them to my shop and welded them together. Then I took the bones back home for fine tuning.

This shows the locking nut, with a 3/8" anchor bolt welded to it as a handle.

This is my rough welding job. More than adequate though not textbook.

Two 3/4" nuts welded together and onto the end of the pipe clamp.

And, a "finished" product. The locking nut releases the jaws, and allows them to pivot for attaching at the seat post or down tube as needed.

Still needs a tool tray, and various other accessories, but the basics are in place and operable.

I've also had another recent success in MYOG, which was actually Alter My Own Gear. The Pearl Izumi gloves which I have worn and loved for over 10 years have finally begun to show wear. Not just wear, but the tips of all my fingers too. I couldn't throw them away, and when I saw REI selling fingerless gloves for $20 I rejoiced. Why as a cyclist wearing fingerless gloves for 15 years now, I didn't think of it sooner, I don't know. I cut the fingers off, and "cauterized" the wounds with a BIC lighter, and have worn them regularly to work ever since.

Maillot Juane - The Review

If you know anything about bikes, you will soon know just how long I have waited to purchase a new bike.
Even those who know nothing of cycling will recognize that when a guy is excited about 5-10 year old technology on his "new" bike, he must have been waiting too long. But hey, when it's not the right time to buy - it's not the right time to buy.

I finally rode the bike for the first time after nearly 2 weeks of anxiously nursing my wounds.

It was just a quick spin out toward the old brick yard on the Carquinez Scenic Highway. I was still wearing my wrist brace, and trying to get used to STI shifting. (Yeah, this is where - if you know anything about road bikes - you will know I had an old bike.) The down tube shifters of 2 decades ago worked great, but forced you to take your hands off the handlebars to shift. The Lemond's Shimano Ultegra system - though a few years old - is incomparably superior. Unfortunately the modern technology shifts gears with a twist that my wrist still begrudges.

I was nervous as a cat on the wet roads, my wrist hurt and thus I could hardly shift gears, and I got mud on the new bike. I actually had buyer's remorse when I got home.

"Fickle as a feather in the wind" was the way Giuseppe Verdi's Duke described the Lady of Rigoletto. I maintain my own rights to fickleness.

I recovered psychologically by Saturday and rode with a group of 7 on a foggy 35 mile ride. I relegated the wrist brace to my jersey pocket and rode free for the whole ride. The descents were pretty tough with all the jarring, and riding in the drops or on top of the bar took a little bit of grit. I spent the majority of the time up on the hoods, and even then relying heavily on my left arm. It didn't matter though, as I was falling in love. Having doffed the brace, I could now grasp the hoods correctly and shifting fell in line as if it had been there all along. Buyer's remorse has given way to a joyous honeymoon. We will really begin to build the relationship this spring as I begin training for the summer rides. No real training till this wrist gets better though. I'm paying for those 35 miles today.

If you don't care about cycling in general, then you are done reading.
Following is my wandering comparison and comments regarding graduation from a nearly 20 year old bike to a nearly 10 year old bike.

First the raw facts.
(Note: I'm not sure of the vintage of most of these items, but have been researching as best I can.)

55cm Lemond Maillot Juane (Yellow Jersey) frame.
Spinergy wheels
Shimano Ultegra drive train - Triple chain ring, 9 speed cassette.
Shimano clipless pedals - With a Discovery Channel Team logo on the side. Hmm? Probably not as special as I could imagine them to be.
Truvative carbon cranks - I checked the reviews on these and they are unfortunately not news makers.
Look carbon fiber stem - The seller let me swap this one for the old (Performance) Forte stem that was on there. I gained in style but lost in weight (The Look is heavier). Not sure what the difference will be in performance though, as carbon fiber is far superior at dampening vibration. Of course - I may never know since I never compared.
And then a myriad of other components far superior to those on the Bridgestone RB2 I was riding.

The basic differences are as follows...
New - STI shifting
Old - Down tube index shifting
Yeah, like I said, my old bike was a relic. (I can say that, you can't. You must treat it with respect and show it the dignity it deserves.)

New - Triple Chainring
Old - Double Chainring
This is neither good nor bad. No one races with a triple - so style suffers if I'm emulating Lance or Levi. But, then again I'm gonna love the low gear ratio provided by that third ring on the hills around here. I'm used to the triple on my mountain bike, so no learning curve to speak of.

Old - Steel frame with Chro-moly forks.
New - Reynolds 853 Steel frame with Carbon forks.
Though not seemingly that much of a change - all said and done the Lemond weighs 4 pounds less than the RB-2. The frame is a big part of that.

Basic Similarities...

The frame geometry might as well be identical. It was a cinch getting the new bike set up to fit me.
They are both Purple.
Both brands have managed to attract a small clickish following, and were discontinued just before I purchased them. Both will be worth more in 10 years than they are today - assuming I keep the shiny side up.
Both are a pleasure to ride.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A New...

I've been holding out on everyone, and I'm beginning to feel a little guilty.

I've had in my possession for over 24 hours now...

My New Bike

I was going to wait and post this till after I installed the new black bar tape and made a few other tweaks, but that is taking far longer than I wanted with my sprained wrist. Yeah, that means I can't ride it either. Boo.

I will come back later with all of the comparisons, specs, and purchase details. For now, suffice to say, that it was a deal I couldn't pass up at a time that I had the money to buy it. I've been praying for this opportunity for several years now, and thanks to Dick, one of the fellas I ride with, (and the guy who gave me the side work) the opportunity came this week.

I'll report later on why this is THE perfect bike for me. It's the exact same frame size as what I'm riding right now - but 4 pounds lighter.

I now own 2 purple road bikes.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Update to the CRASH

I got up last night and bandaged my knee - as the sheets were sticking to it. Ouch.
I pulled out Bec's wrist brace, which just happens to be for the right hand. 2 out of 3 of the velcro straps are long enough to reach. The brace helps, but makes work of typing. I'm icing the wrist periodically with a kitchen towel and a bag of frozen veggies.

I already had a run scheduled this morning with a friend, so sent him a text message last night to push our start time out 2 hours. The run went well - about 4 miles in the hills behind Alhambra High School - but I had my right shorts leg rolled up pretty high to keep it from rubbing on the road rash. (I'll spare you the picture)

Changing a diaper on a wriggling 7 week old is trying with one club hand. She managed to give my wrist a swift kick this morning evoking a quick yelp. Twerp. Burping her is also interesting.

I forgot to mention on the list of damaged gear, that my phone was among the casualties. This is among the greatest losses, as my beloved Treo Pro is not cheap - even on Ebay. I pulled it from my jersey pocket yesterday to find the top right corner of the screen blank. I either rolled over on it, or the cliff face tagged it on the way by. It has slowly begun to recover and may escape the e-waste bin yet, but my initial chagrin was great.

I still haven't gone out to check on my bike. I can't work on it anyway with my wrist as is. Not to mention, I'm not yet prepared to learn that I broke something expensive. Like Ben said in his text - this is no way to justify the STI upgrade I've been saving for.

Friday, January 1, 2010

1/1/2010 First Ride - First Crash

The title pretty much says it all.

It rained overnight and into the morning, raising the question "would we ride?"
The rain let up around 9:00 am - Start time - and I hurried to catch the group after arriving about 15 min late. The roads up Mt. Diablo were slick but the clouds were breaking up, and I was quickly sweating as I rode to catch up. I caught them a few miles before the ranger station, and from there I slowed to take in the view. Near the top I picked up the pace again while chatting with some new acquaintances, and climbed the final 18% grade in the best form ever.

At the top I donned long gloves, arm warmers, jacket, etc. after meeting up with the rest of our group.

Then we descended.

Did I mention that the roads were slick?

I've descended this mountain fifty times if once. Over time I've noted all the areas where I would be likely to biff if given the chance. I got the chance on this ride. I came around a corner below the ranger station at a reasonable speed, but touched the brakes a little too much. I really think I could have made the corner if I had just stayed off the brakes and trusted my Michelins. Too late. My back wheel locked and I skidded on the wet pavement. I backed off the brakes then, but the physics were fatally altered. I chose a line through the rough gravel on the shoulder shifting briefly into Mountain Bike mode, but the rock face had my number. Everything sped up and slowed down simultaneously, and next thing I knew I was spitting pink gravel.

My comrades arrived on the scene one by one and made temporary repairs to my bike and Milt offered to ride down and return with his truck. The wheels were fine, and nothing critical was broke. Unfortunately my front brake was tweaked pretty good, and the guys had to flip it over to keep it from rubbing. My rear brakes were fine but my right hand was slowly loosing feeling, having taken the brunt of the impact. I could operate the brake by pulling back on the lever, while avoiding squeezing with my thumb. I decided to ride it down. Slow.

The group was great and someone tailed me for the whole rest of the descent. Milt graciously documented the event with most of these pictures.

I will look over the bike tomorrow when - hopefully - I can use my right hand a little better. Yes, I'm using it right now to type, but it's pretty slow going.

In all - Not a bad way to start off the year. If I have to crash this year - may as well get it over with.

Following are the stats...

Road rash right shoulder, right forearm, right knee, and cheek (face cheek :))
Cut all 4 fingers right hand, knee, face, lips.
Blood blisters on 2 fingers right hand.
Hyper extended right thumb.
Sore and stiffening rapidly - everything from my knees up.

Bike - Not sure. Will look at it again tomorrow. But, the brakes should be fine.

Gear - Small tear in 2 glove fingers (not bad at all considering the damage to my hands), Small tear in 1 sleeve of rain jacket, Helmet scratched but no real damage, 1 lens of sunglasses scratched beyond repair, everything else covered with mud.

Pride - Damaged, but not beyond repair.

The Guys and Gals I ride with - The best in the world.