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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Wet and Wonderful

I went out and got my renovated bike dirty.
It poured rain Friday night and well into Saturday morning. Our weekly 10 mile Saturday morning hike was going to be wet - AGAIN!!
I was ok with wet, because I would be testing out the new ride and an inclement commute would give her an opportunity to show her true colors.

We had a great time.

I left the house at 6:05 am, with my headlights illuminating a steady drizzle. A pounding on the kitchen skylight had stopped just a few minutes shy of 6:00, so the roads were deep in puddles. A steady head wind began driving another deluge against me about the time I got lost in Pleasant Hill on a "short cut" to the canal trail and never yielded for the balance of 8 miles to the Relieze Valley entrance of Briones Regional park.

Pastor and Matt called around 6:30 - wondering if I was coming. I was, but that reminded me to begin rehearsing my list of excuses for being late - (Headwind, Got lost, Rain, Got up late -(possibly omit this if possible)).

I showed up relatively dry and completely intact. My new ride had served me very well, and the new fender had prevented the "skunk stripe" that would otherwise have graced my nether regions. That, plus the ensemble of rain and cold weather gear assembled over the past few years has come nearly to the point of making these rides enjoyable.

I switched to a rain jacket with a hood, stuffed the other in my backpack, and embarked on a muddy adventure with my fellow crazy persons.

After 35 minutes on the bike, and over 3 hours on muddy trails in the driving rain, the only wet clothing was my socks and shoes, and shorts - completely acceptable under the conditions. My windproof / waterproof gloves held out for over an hour, but finally succumbed somewhere in the vicinity of Briones Peak.

After a short ride to meet up with the girls for the afternoon events, my upper body was completely dry, in spite of some intense perspiring back on the trail.

The only notable shortcoming was my adaptation to the temperature. We hiked at temps hovering between 30 and 40 degrees, which meant depending on our rate of ascent or descent and current elevation I was either stripping off gear or shivering beneath it.

Science has nearly mastered the "keeps you dry - yet breathable" concept for rain gear. Now if it can just find the "keeps you warm, but cool" layer to add to it.

... And the sooner the better - This weekend isn't looking too good either.

At least it will be warm.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Click on images for original sources

If I say "Revolution" something comes to your mind.
If like me you have southern roots, you might immediately think along the lines of a political movement or restructuring such as the French Revolution, the 13 Colonies and the Revolutionary War, or more to the point - the Revolutionary action of the Confederacy in response to the oppressions of the northern states.
Or if you happen to be less historically and politically minded and more scientifically so, you may launch immediately into thoughts of celestial bodies in perpetual motion on a timeless journey around a more or less tangible axis.

While both of the above concepts are key to my existence in this particular environment, society, and frankly, life in general - a microcosm of revolution has been in play over nearly a year for this cyclist. This far less grandiose turn of events comprises both concepts - the radical divergence from a previous course, and the rhythmic systematic rotation of elements around an axis.

What have I done?

Long story short...
About 15 years ago I spent just over $800 on a brand new purple and white Bridgestone RB2 road bike with clipless pedals and white handle bar tape. I installed a second water bottle cage, yellow handlebar tape, and a computer and rode the bike for several years over a thousand miles. Then for nearly 10 years during college, newly married life, and the birth of our first daughter the bike sat idle, though dry and pampered. I began to feel the need to exercise regularly and started running, whereupon I quickly gained stamina and an array of pulled muscles. To maintain my cardiovascular progress and ease the pain, I transitioned over to my long neglected friend.

I gained endurance and strength rapidly and was addicted even faster. 3 years passed as I rode a classic road bike, which drew accolades on nearly every ride. But I longed for something more contemporary and efficient. Alas a second daughter and the budget in general made that impossible.

I crashed on New Years Day 2010. My Bridgestone was unrideable, but within days, a friend put his second bike up for sale at a price I couldn't pass up. I had my new ride. But I also still had an old friend with great potential, battered though she was.

A revolution began.

The crash bent the front brakes and tweaked the fork and rear triangles. The first act was to get the bike capable of any reliable wheel revolutions at all. With help from my dad and a vice and some tentative twisting , I accomplished this task. Amazingly the wheels were still true and now spun like a dream.

Upon purchasing the Bridgestone I was a "hard core" roadie. I fancied myself a racer, and hoped to be mistaken for a professional.

This was not likely to have happened. What also was not likely, was any consideration along the lines of the conceptual revolution now occurring in this bike. At a time when I was opposed to even installing a saddle bag on the bike, I would have certainly been opposed to obnoxiously large 700 x 28 tires, lights, reversible platform / SPD pedals, and for goodness sake certainly not a rear fender.

Well that's exactly what happened, plus the addition of the "hipper than Santa Cruz" triathlon aero bars and "Tri" brake levers, new saddle, and reinstallation of the yellow bar tape. The best part is that the whole transformation cost me less than $75 out of pocket. This setup definitely gives a nod to the whole Santa Cruz / Berkeley "fixie" revolution taking place on college campuses. I couldn't bring myself to replace the 7 speed shimano cassette for a fixed gear though.

The fender is home made, so we'll see how long it lasts. The bracket is from a broken and abandoned headlamp, and the aluminum is formed from a street sign my company replaced. Seems quite sturdy, though time will tell.

I now have a commute bike which will bridge the gap between my road bike and mountain bike on more utilitarian rides. I suspect I even see another saddle bag in my near future.

Special thanks to Kipp for the gear and guidance.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

A few nights in Solvang

Bec and I spent a few nights at a snug Bed and Breakfast in the middle of a "Danish" California town named Solvang. Solvang is tucked neatly off 101 in southern California, and evidently has beautiful weather in mid November. Incidentally it has also been a stop for the Tour of California bicycling race for several years and will be so again in 2011.

It was her idea to bring the bikes - really. I almost tried to talk her out of it, but decided to be genial and just go along.

We enjoyed many strange things like eating out, staying up late, sleeping late, and even periodically ignoring the cell phones.

Both of us have an appreciation for architecture and sent ourselves to school to learn the why and how behind these Nordic structures.

We only drove the car once in 3 days. Mostly we walked, but we also took the bikes out a few times.
We pedaled over to this coffee shop - which was run completely out of coffee?

So we found the back patio of this little bakery and drank their coffee.

We stayed out late.

Bec was game for a second ride, so we rode 5 miles up the valley to Los Olivos, a sleepy little wine town, and bought sandwiches at this little market.

I got a photo OP with one of the locals on our ride back home. According to a newspaper article the day before, this is a male out looking for some action. He just about got more than he bargained for as the cars breezed over him.

We came into a stiff crossing head wind as we rode down the valley toward home. I was impressed as Bec picked up drafting. It wasn't long before she was stuck like glue to my rear wheel coasting down the road while I hammered along braving a stiff breeze.

This is cycling country. I'm pretty sure my wife didn't have that in mind when she chose this as our 10th anniversary getaway, but I am pleased that she didn't cancel the reservations when she realized that it is.