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Thanks for reading!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Flying Cyclist - Introduction





It is my intent to add the "Flying Cyclist" as a regular addition to this blog. The "flying cyclist" is my friend Ben who lives in South Carolina. He, like I, was destined to greatness in cycling. Tall, lean, athletic, he like I, could be a spectacular cyclist - if only we could find time to train.

We grew up together in Greenville, SC, home of George Hincapie, the 2009 Pro Championships, and always a stop for the Tour DuPont when it was running. He and I both saw Lance Armstrong in 1994's Tour DuPont in Greenville, and the next morning in North Carolina. My dad drove us up there and encouraged us to get a picture with the up and coming favorite. I'm sure I got an autograph too - Man I wish I still had it... He placed 2nd that year, for the second year in a row, but would go on to win the final 2 runnings of the Tour DuPont in 1995 and 1996 (The year I graduated from High School).

Me and Lance - Check out the bag in the back of the car. Must be George's change of clothes.


Ben and Lance

Ben and I pedaled all over the Greenville county back country trying to look like pros and talk our mothers into letting us shave our legs, but never really had any clue what we were doing. As I write this the stories flood back - but I'll save some of them for later.

So that's Ben and Me.

We are still close friends - on opposite ends of the country. We've ridden together once now in the last 10 years - last year during our family vacation. He hasn't returned to the sport to nearly the extent that I have, but cycling addiction is permanent. It never goes away for good.

Which is why I'm adding this segment of my blog. Cycling is beginning to flow in his veins again, and it is manifesting itself in creative ways.


I think this is the Cessna, he took me up in to do "radio station traffic."


Ben is a Private Pilot flying a variety of small aircraft around the eastern US. Part of the gig is staying overnight or even several nights at a time in random cities waiting for whoever to get done with whatever, so that he can fly them to the next wherever. I've spent many hours chatting on the phone with a bored Ben, wishing he were back home with his wife and 4 kids.

Enter his permanent addiction...
He has begun taking the bike along. I will post his first adventure in a few days. With any luck, he will feed the addiction and provide us with insight regarding cycling in cities across the eastern US.




Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Pros - Tour de Suisse

The Tour de Suisse was a classic. The winner was established in the last stage - a Time Trial. The winners were some of the great names we've all followed for years, with a few names at the top completely unfamiliar. The winner himself was surprised at his win.
All of these are things that make us want to follow this great sport.


Frank Schleck finished 13th in the final stage, but TT'd well enough to put the yellow jersey on the defensive. Stage racing is that way - you can't get tired. If you do, #4 at 38 seconds back will become #1 by over a minute. Frank did just that.

Lance was #7 coming out of stage 8, down by 55 seconds, but slid comfortably into 2nd place at the end of the big day.


The strong man on day 9 was Tony Martin, of HTC Colombia. Though his performance over the last 2 weeks made winner overall unattainable, he marched around Liestal, Switzerland to the trill of a home town crowd finishing comfortably ahead of the others. No, he's not Swiss, he's German, but the course brought him within 10 kilometers of the Rhine River and the boundary between his home country, Germany, and Switzerland. The colors at the finish line proved his countrymen had shown up too.

What's next?
Well the Tour de France of course. July 3 finds the best of the best in Rotterdam (No not France - but the Netherlands) for the prologue. The first 2 stages stay in the Netherlands before heading south for the next 3 weeks.

Is 2nd in the Tour de Suisse a good sign for Lance or a bad one? I'll let you know in a few weeks.

Saturday, June 19, 2010

5x + 112 = 17000



My attempt to include the number 5, my bike, and the summit of Mt. Diablo all in the same picture.

I've been keeping this goal under my hat (or helmet) for the last few months.
I think my wife was the only one who knew I was considering this insanity.

Well, I did it.

In a successful attempt to better last year's Death Ride training ride, I summitted Mt Diablo 5 consecutive times in one day.

112.22 miles
17,040' in elevation gain (Though it's more than that because I did a fair amount of circling back to collect stragglers early in the day.)
Summitted 5 times (3 times up North Gate Rd. and 2 times up South Gate Rd. - not in that order)
12 total hours - 10 hours on the bike.
Started with Mickey, Dianne, Vince, and myself.
Mickey and Dianne both settled for 1 time up to the top, while Vince kindly kept me company and finished strong on the first 3 summits.


A mylar balloon that has made its way from who knows where up to about 1,500 up the mountain side.


Mickey and I arrive at the top first, after a rather lengthy first climb.
(You can see the top of the fog through the corner of the guard rail. It was much nicer at the top above the fog than riding in it.)


This fog is the batch that rolled in late in the day. It was no warmer than its counterpart that plagued us on our first ascent and descent at 7:00am.


A very curious little fellow who would have loved a ride on the bike.


So this is the breakdown...

#1
6:45 am
53 degrees
Breezy out of the east.
Arrived at the base of the mountain on North Gate Rd. in my truck around 6:45 am, prepped my bike, and met Mickey and Dianne as they showed up. Vince rolled up 6 minutes late. Our group isn't very patient. V. almost got left behind. We traveled slowly so that the group could stay together, but at the ranger station Mickey and I pulled out first and didn't see the other 2 till the top. 2 hour climb. I felt basically like I hadn't started riding yet, as my times usually run nearer to 1 hour 15 minutes. I descended the outbound side of the "wall," (the final 1/10th of a mile that rises at nearly 20%, but is divided into a loop with an incoming and an outgoing lane separated by rocks and radio towers.), met up with the latecomers, and ascended the "wall" again with them. I decided to use this extra climb as my "get out of jail free card" in case I didn't feel like climbing the "wall" later in the day.

We descended together to the R.S. and then split up, with V. and I going down South Gate Rd. and the gals heading back where we had come from. The early morning fog, plus the elevation had plummeted the temperatures into the low 4o's at the top, so our descent was frigid. Most of us had dressed for valley temps with nothing more than arm warmers. How many times will we be fooled before we finally get it?

#2
Approx. 10:00 am
60 - 65 Degrees at the base of S.G. Rd.
Windy from the East.
V. and I were both veritable blocks of ice as we turned the bikes around. Our toes finally resumed communication with the balance of our anatomy about the time we climbed past the R.S. the second time. We had gotten there in a hurry though, because the wind was stiffly at our backs, making the south western approach a dream. Above the R.S. the roads merge into 1 and we maintained a brisk pace on that stretch of road I would see 4 more times in the next 10 hours. Refill water bottles, add Cytomax and Accelerade, Eat another energy bar, and bomb back down. This time we took N.G. road at the split, and ended back at my truck slightly warmer. I ate and shared half my lunch, drank a Dr. Pepper, and convinced V. to ride up a third time.

#3
Approx. 12:30 pm
65 - 70 degrees.
Steady wind
Somewhat uneventful, though I set out on my own somewhere along the way, and waited for V. at the top. He rolled by after I had descended the "wall" where I waited impatiently for him to round the top and return. My patience ran out and I started back down - but not so fast that he couldn't catch me, as he did just below Juniper campground. Back down to the truck again, where I finished lunch and bid adieu to my companion.

#4
Approx. 2:30 or 3:00 pm
70 degrees.
Increasing wind.
The wind was head on for most of the N.G. road ascent. I drafted off a rider who didn't like the fact that I had just passed him. He came around me pretty fast, so I just sat in his slip stream until he blew out and I passed him again. I intended for him to draft off me, but he had blown up in trying to show me up so I left him. I pressed on following 2 riders that had also breezed by me earlier. I slowly gained on them hoping to work into their drafting, but soon noticed a rider gaining on all of us rapidly. She passed the 3 of us just as I was within reach of my prey. I couldn't help it. I jumped on her wheel and blew past them like they were standing still - well, she pulled me past them like they were standing still. I asked if I could come along for awhile, and she didn't mind, but awhile was more like 3/4 or a mile, and then I was back on my own again watching her ride away. I shouted thanks, and never saw her again, so she must have gone past the R.S. and then back down S.G. Rd.

I met a group of 4 riders a mile or so from the top, and rode to the top with them. The 2 guys were part of 2 or 3 other riders on the mountain all attempting to summit the 3 Bay Area peaks in 1 day - Hamilton, Diablo, and Tamalpais. They were taking the Bay Area transit trains between the mountains. The 2 gals with them had just summitted twice, having ridden 2/3's of the way down to meet the guys coming up. I was happy to realize I wasn't the only overzealous cyclist on the mountain.

The ride down was becoming noticeably cooler again, and the fog could be seen creeping down the hills on the far side of the valley to the southwest. Too bad I was running out of get up and go, because I still needed to go back up and get. I chose to climb S.G. Rd. twice, and N.G. Rd. three times, because of the tail wind on S.G. Rd. and its higher elevation at the turnaround. It seemed like cheating to binge on the easy side and worked against my nature. I had left the second S.G. Rd. ascent for last.

#5
5:00 pm
65 degrees
Cold tail wind (Isn't this supposed to be June?)
At nearly the bottom of descent #4 I had caught 3 guys on skateboards descending nearly as fast as I was. No brakes. They told me they "drifted" around the corners, or in other words slid the boards sideways, with their bodies approaching parallel to the roadway. They loaded up in their escort vehicle at the bottom (looked like one of their girlfriends driving) and headed back up the mountain. So did I, but I was prepared to pull out the camera - and wasn't disappointed. Sorry, the quality is crummy, but I did get a short video of their fun.


video

From here on, the final climb was lonely. As I rode through 99.99 miles I was pleased to note how well I felt. No cramps all day. My shoulders and back were still pliable. My legs though sore, were still turning the cranks and I could accelerate when I needed to.

But I was getting cold. I climbed through 3,000' with the first wisps of fog interlacing the trees around me. The thought briefly crossed my mind to submit my "get out of jail free" card and make for the bottom before the "wall," but I knew that would never happen. I jokingly prayed for a miraculous blanket of warmth to surround my descent, but realized I was praying for mercy from self inflicted punishment. But that prayer did change things. It's as if God winked and said, "buddy, you don't need a miracle, you just need a plastic bag or something." Mickey had mentioned her lifesaving plastic bag on the Death Ride a few years back, and I now knew what I needed.

I came over the top of the wall feeling awesome in so many ways. A minivan load of tourists had patiently monitored my final ascent, and only their presence kept me from fist pumping the air as I coasted into the parking lot for the 5th time.

There was no time to waste though, as I could now see the fog spread completely across the valley below me and moving up the mountainside rapidly. I rolled toward the nearest open door and asked a kind family in another minivan if I could have a plastic bag. After some quizzical looks and a brief reallocation of contents, they rewarded a rapidly cooling cyclist with the makings for a fine white windbreaker. Tucked in an alcove out of the wind I filleted the bag, doffed the jersey, turned the bag handles into sleeves and wrapped my torso with a Dollar Store windbreaker. With my jersey back in place the change was imperceptible. Imperceptible to anyone else that is. I now had my armor to face the 50 degree foe one last time.

I remember last year, descending from the 4th climb and how fast I was flying. Not this year. I took it easy. I had passed "Scott's Corner" (as it is now affectionately called by my riding buddies) 5 times that day already, and each time reminded me of another aspect of an ill fated ride only 6 months ago. I frankly took it easy on all 5 of the descents for the day, to the point that V. even noted that I seemed a bit more tentative than usual. I guess 2 months in a wrist brace, and a broken bike will do that to you for a while. For a while...

At the bottom I loaded the bike back on the truck and flipped through the functions of the bike's computer just to make sure it was for real. I was having a hard time remembering all of the ascents all of a sudden. As I unloaded my jersey pockets I smiled as I did remember... I still had my "get out of jail free" card. I suppose it will be good for another day.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Modifications


Vince brought the camera today...
(Actually yesterday - I guess it's getting late. 12:22 am)



His new friend.



I wanted to climb Mott Peak on the way back from our loop in Tilden Regional Park in Berkeley. We should have had about 15 miles of trails, and about the same of road riding behind us, and been heading home.

Didn't work out that way...

We climbed through Briones from the horse stables up over the top, along the ridge, and then down to the Bear Creek staging area. From there we were to spin over asphalt a few miles and climb up to Tilden. As we neared the Bear Creek parking lot Vince began muttering and acting strangely as if his bike had issues. Atypical to his style he came out of the saddle to come over the last hill, and I saw he was stuck in high gear. Definitely issues. Further inspection affirmed the worst ... broken derailleur cable - right next to the cable clamp.

After a little pondering we realized we could buy back enough length to get the cable back into the clamp by removing the last 6" section of housing. That solution came far too easy, so in putting it back together we bent the derailleur hanger for more excitement.

Not willing to improvise further we locked the Trek into low gear so that we could get out of the valley. What had been a 27 speed bike was now tamed to 3 - Vince's choice of 3 front chainrings (1st , 9th, or 18th gear). Unless he was headed downhill, his top speed was around 15 mph with a cadence that made you dizzy.



Continuing on toward Tilden seemed unwise, so we headed back via the Mott Peak trail. This climb gets me every time. I've climbed this before having walked only once, but today I was off the bike 3 times. I even tried following Vince's track, but still managed to spin my tire - stopping forward motion, and submitting to gravity. I think V. walked twice.

From the top of Mott it's nothing but down till the horse stables. Much of it is so steep that it doesn't matter what gear you're in - you're just trying to hang on and avoid confusing the front and rear brakes. (I've paid dearly for such a momentary lapse of braking judgment.)

But I wasn't done riding for the day and neither was V. We randomly decided to ride around the Crocket loop after I noticed that he had begun taking advantage of a few more cogs in the casette - increasing the options to 9 or 12 if he was willing to listen to the chatter. The road ride demanded far less hard shifting. We broke a record for the slowest ride around the loop.


Our final route bore little resemblance to the original plan. The derailleur modifications had effectively modified our route too. I got home earlier than planned, but enjoyed the adventure none the less.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Back in Business



I found the following review when looking for some of the reviews I had read shortly after buying my GT iDrive. The first reviews I was reading, were nearly all consistent, where in spite of an awesome ride - they were beyond exasperated by a common complaint - THE FRAME BROKE!!
Kevin, a riding buddy, checks in periodically to see if my frame has broken yet.

Well, as stated a few postings ago - Yes, it broke.

However, in trying to retrieve and share those reviews I saw a few years ago, I came across the one below. In fairness to my 2 wheeled comrade I have decided to quote a more favorable, though very accurate portrait.

From dirtworld.com
"... Which brings me to the best part of this review. How does it ride man?! Out on the trail it rocks. If you're headed downhill. It screams while descending. Let me put it to you this way. Leguna Seca's single track is like velvet. Problem is however, during a race there aren't too many places to pass because the trail is so narrow. Get off the trail and you're riding through lumpy, gopher hole infested, rocks-hiding-in-the-grass terrain. Still, passing on the outside was easy! I was amazed at how many hits, big and small, the I-Drive could handle. Literally, I found myself passing riders at will. As long as I was headed down."

But,

"The second I hit the flats or began to climb, all the ground I had chewed up was lost as other riders with lighter bikes easily caught me. Why? At 27 pounds the I-Drive is heavy. Most of the weight is located near the bottom bracket giving you a low center of gravity. This makes maneuvering the bike through tight turns and over obstacles almost effortless... so long as you have gravity on your side. Climbing on the other hand, is simply a chore on the I-Drive."


And with that analysis I completely agree. If the rider was as good at downhill as the bike is, we would be dangerous. Ok, so I'm dangerous anyway, but at least I'm not a threat going up hills.

But, as I was saying, I did break the frame as stated in my post of Ella and my ascent up Mt. Tamalpais.

It wasn't catastrophic, though it could have been if unattended. It seems unlikely that anything positive could come from my seat post falling off into my rear wheel. My friend Jim, at Howe's Welding in Walnut Creek patched me up, and though I lost a little tire tread in the deal, the bike rolls great and I saved myself an $800 frame.


I've been trying to decide if I want to paint it, or just sport the scars. The bike really has enough character already, that this doesn't do too much to affect the overall nature of the bike.


I can't begin to afford a professional paint job - so I suspect I'll cut my aesthetic losses and just leave it alone.