Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Mission Accomplished (any irony is purely intentional)

Yesterday was the big day. I needed 12 miles, rode for 14. Added another ten today. I think I'll take tomorrow off. We have some running around to do, and there are some calls that I'm expecting, so it's probably best to give the bike a day of rest before the Icycle Bicycle on Thursday.

I have to say that for as much as I complained about the weather in December, these last four days have been really amazing. It's getting colder again, but it is December, after all. So thanks to Mom Nature for giving me exactly what I needed to finish off my 4,000 miles.

Looking ahead to 2009, I really think I can get 6,000 in. In 2008, I didn't hit 1,000 miles until June 2nd, which means it took me better than five months to get to 1,000 miles! When I look at the calendar, I wonder what the heck I was doing in those early months. Like February, where I didn't ride at all. That is just silly.

I realize that the weather in January and February won't necessarily be as rideable. I'd rather ride in snow than rain, though, so who knows. Either way, if I can get between 1,000 and 1,200 by the time the end of March rolls around, I'll feel pretty good about my chances to cram another 5,000 miles into the remaining nine months. We'll see.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

And then there were twelve...

23 miles today. I should pass 4,000 sometime tomorrow morning. I could probably try for 4,100 if I really wanted to. I'm not setting that as a goal or anything, but with the way the weather looks right now, it probably wouldn't be hard to do, as long as Heather doesn't get sick of me spending most of my time off riding a bike. Maybe after tomorrow I should take a couple of days off and wait until the Icycle Bicycle to ride again. I'm not sure I can do that, though...

The knee didn't really bother me too much today. I could definitely feel it in the background after the first few miles, but I took a second to lower my seat post by a few millimeters, and I didn't really notice it after that, aside from a slight dull ache that was already there. Maybe tomorrow I won't even think about it.

One really crazy thing about today's ride was the wind. It was (according to weather.com) blowing anywhere from 20-30mph, with gusts up to 45 or something. I could definitely feel it in my face for most of the ride, and places where I can normally get up to 20-21 mph were slowed down to 13-14mph.

For one small stretch, though, I finally got to know what a good tailwind is like. I was on some mostly flat, straight road behind the waterfront in Homestead. I can normally do low 20s back there, but with almost no effort on my part I was up to 36mph. Just me! Pedaling! On plain old flat road! It was pretty amazing. Like I said, for the rest of my ride, the wind was mostly in my face, but that little section there was pretty cool. I've always said that I don't believe that tailwinds really exist. I can't say that now.

I'm not sure where I'll ride tomorrow. Maybe I'll throw the bike in the car and pick a different place to start. Maybe I'll try a completely different route than what I'm used to. Who knows? Regardless of where I start or where I go, it'll feel good to hit the mark.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

3,965 down, 35 to go.

When Mother Nature gives you 65° (and only a few clouds) on December 27th, you're not supposed to just sit around inside reading books or something. So I didn't. I woke up this morning at 9:30 (because it was still raining into the early morning hours) and started to get ready to ride.

It takes me a long time to get ready. Eat some breakfast (on mornings when I ride, that's usually just a thing of soy yogurt), get dressed (shorts!), make sure I have enough stuff to eat while I'm riding, get the water bottles ready, check the tire pressure, grab my phone and ID, say goodbye to Heather... I think that covers everything. When you throw in the fact that I'm just a slow-mover, you can see how I wouldn't actually get started until 11:00.

So yeah, I pulled out of the driveway at 11:00, and didn't return home until 3:20, with another 55 miles under my belt. The ride was great. Nice and sunny, warm, and even when it was windy, it was mostly a balmy wind. It took me a while to get used to the temperature.

Last Saturday, it was 20° and when I rode. When I went out at lunch on Tuesday it was 27°. You start getting used to that after awhile, and when it's 65° outside, you sort of just expect the temperature to drop 30 or 40 degrees at any time, with no warning. I'm pleased to report that such a drop in temperature did not occur.

I covered my usual spots and crossed all three rivers (multiple times, of course). For the most part, the riding surface was fine, and I was glad to be riding with my road tires (on the new wheelset). The stretch between the Millvale boathouse and the 31st St Bridge was pretty sludgy, but not so much so that I couldn't get through it. Slow going, for sure, but at least it was still passable.

After splashing through some good sized puddles, I was glad I had thrown on the waterproof shoes this morning. As advertised, they did a good job of keeping my feet dry. I thought about going the seven extra miles it would take to make the ride a metric century, but my left knee didn't really like that idea. It was pretty much ready to be done after mile 40.

I have to figure out what's up with that knee. I even did some stretches this morning, but it seems like it can only comfortably go somewhere between thirty and forty miles before it starts to bother me a little. I'm not sure if it's some kind of residual damage from the wreck, or if I'm still just not back in long distance riding shape.

It felt better, and held up longer today than it did last week. Maybe that's a good thing. It doesn't seem to hurt at all just walking around the house and stuff. Last week it was noticeably sore for a day or so.

Maybe I'll go out for a short ride tomorrow and see how it goes. I guess I'll wait to see how it feels in the morning. The weather's supposed to be decent again (down to 45° and pretty windy), so maybe I can get another fifteen or twenty in. I could always just take tomorrow off, but with only 35 miles left until 4,000, I don't want to waste any good weather. The forecast for the rest of the month looks promising, but that can change at any minute.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

More boring bike stuff.

I could talk about the weather a little bit more, if you'd like. It was 10°F out there this morning. That's 4°F warmer than it was yesterday morning, but it's still a little cold for an eleven mile commute.

I packed up my gear and threw the bike in the back of the Fit. I'll ride today at lunch. I'm not coming back into the office until I have fifteen miles on the bike. With the studded tires that might take awhile. Oh well.

Tomorrow's supposed to be much warmer. High of 49°F! That would be fantastic, if it wasn't going to be accompanied by 1-2 inches of rain. If I'm to believe anything that the 10-day forecast tells me, I might be able to get some riding in on Christmas morning.

The 26th and 27th look kind of crap, but the 28th through the 31st (if there's any accuracy at all in the forecast, mind you) look to be excellent riding days. If any of this holds true or stays close to what it's saying now, those last 95 miles (assuming I get 15 in at lunch today) should be a piece of cake. We'll see what happens.

Can't wait to ride in the Icycle Bicycle on the 1st of 2009. If I plan on doing 6,000 miles in 2009, the first day of the year will be the best time to start.

In other related news, my new wheels are supposed to show up tomorrow. It would have been nice to have them this morning when I was getting everything ready. I put the studded tires back on the other night, but it's not like I need them right now. Swapping wheels would have been a piece of cake. Changing tires again at 7:30 in the morning isn't an option.

The refund for the (misrepresented) wheels finally cleared this morning, so I can send those back. The refund will cover a fair amount of the new wheelset. Sure would have been nice if he'd actually sent the wheels that he had listed. To be fair, I'm very appreciative of the fact that he actually did the right thing and refunded my money and covered the return shipping.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.

WPW's Solstice Century was yesterday. I was hoping to do a metric (100km/62 miles). That didn't quite happen. My left knee really started bothering me at about 30 miles, and the only reason I actually got 42 miles in is that if I hadn't ridden the last twelve, I'd have never made it back to my car. I kinda had no choice.

The only thing that was less than awesome about the ride was that I was completely out of my element. The ride was all over North Park and surrounding areas (we were as far as Warrendale at one point), and I'm basically not familiar with any of those areas at all, at least not in terms of getting around by myself by bike. That meant it was fairly imperative for me to keep up with the rest of the riders.

That was no problem for the first twenty-something miles, but after my knee starting bugging me, it made for a more stressful situation, because the last thing I wanted to do was be stuck in the middle of nowhere (relatively speaking) in the freezing cold.

And freezing cold it was. After the first ten miles or so, the water in my water bottles was getting pretty solid. The mouthpieces were frozen shut, and the only way to get a drink was to unscrew the whole top and suck down whatever wasn't already in an icy state. I'm going to have to pick up a couple of those insulated water bottles if I plan on doing this winter riding thing. And I do plan on doing this winter riding thing.

At least one of things I did right was to swap my studded tires out for my regular road tires the night before the ride. If I'd been riding on the Nokians, I'd have been miles behind everyone from the start. I couldn't believe how heavy those things are as I was pulling them off of the wheels on Friday night.

I threw them in the car, just in case I got out to North Park and everything was icy, but there were only a few spots where there was some ice on the road, and none of it was too terrible. The road tires were fine. But they come back off tonight as I get ready for the last two days of commuting for 2008.

The weather for tomorrow and Tuesday look surprisingly rideable (although the high for tomorrow is only 21 with 20-30 mile winds), so I may as well get out there and get riding. All of this driving to work lately has been making me crazy. Plus, after yesterday, I'm still 110 miles away from 4,000. Riding tomorrow and Tuesday should get me to about 935. 65 more miles somewhere in the last eight days of the year should be pretty achievable, even with the holidays getting in the way.

Won't you be glad when January 1st gets here and I can stop talking about how many miles are left on my quest for 4,000? I'm expecting to ride closer to 5,500 - 6,000 for 2009.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Wheels on the Bike Go Round and Round.

I almost had a new wheelset last night.

"A new wheelset? D00d. Haven't you spent enough money on that bike already?"

Well, yes. But here's the thing: I had been thinking about a new wheelset so that it'd be easier to switch between winter and non-winter tires (or cross and skinny tires when winter isn't even a consideration), but then I did the whole flat-to-road-bar conversion last month and decided to shelf the wheelset idea for the foreseeable future.

That was going just fine until I was looking around on eBay* and saw a set of 700c wheels with six-bolt disc mounts for only $100. I kept my eye on them for the week that they were available, and with less than an hour to go, there were still no bids. Some guy bid on them with like ten minutes left, but I still ended up getting them for only $113, plus $25 for shipping. Great deal, no?

I quickly paid for the wheels and then went about purchasing a new cassette and rotors for them so that I'd have everything ready to go when they showed up. The guy shipped the wheels the next day, and everything seemed to be going well. I got the cassette on Monday, and the rotors and the wheels showed up yesterday.

I got home from work, all excited to open up the nice big box that UPS delivered. I pulled out the wheels and... hey. Wait a second. Where are the disc mounts? These are just standard road wheels. WTF, mate?

Yep. He sent Vuelta XRP Road Pro wheels instead of the CycloCross Disc wheels. I emailed him to let him know, hoping that he hadn't accidentally sent eh Cross wheels to someone who was looking for road wheels. I was a little relieved that he emailed me back less than fifteen minutes later, but his response was pretty funny:

"Sorry. Those are the only wheels I have. There must have been some confusion with the decription (sic)."

Yeah. There must have been some confusion with the description. And the title of the auction. And the picture that was in the listing. Because they all said (or showed, as the case may be) DISC WHEELS. In fact, everything about the auction was ripped straight from Bike Island's listing from a month or so ago (actually, they have them back up on eBay now)

He also said it was his first time selling anything on eBay. I knew that after looking at his feedback, but still, how do you put up a listing for one thing when you're clearly selling something different? Even without knowing anything about the wheels, you should be able to look at them and see that they're different, right?

He's supposedly refunding my money tomorrow. I really hope that happens, and I hope he understands that he needs to send another $25 to cover the return shipping. I mean, I told him these things, but I guess it's possible that there could be confusion with my email. You know.

The biggest problem is that I still don't have a wheelset, and now I have the cassette and the rotors that would go with one. I might just buy the wheels that Bike Island has listed (although I'll probably buy them from their site, as they'd be $10 cheaper, and Bike Island would save money on eBay fees), since I've had a chance to see a set of Vuelta XRPs in person, and they do seem like pretty nice wheels. Certainly strong enough to hold a little guy like me. It would have been nice to get them for $100, though.

If I don't go with those wheels, there aren't too many other choices. Mavic makes a disc-ready road wheelset, but $450 is way out of my price range. I could get another set of the Bontragers that came with my bike, but I'm looking at paying at least $266 for those (not including local sales tax, since most out of state bike shops won't ship Bontrager wheelsets). And that's about it, as far as I can tell.

I'm leaning toward the Vueltas, as they're the least expensive, and they seem to be nice wheels. I just wish there were more reviews of them online. Although it's not like there are a ton of reviews for the Bontragers, either. I probably just feel more comfortable with them because they're what came with my bike. And Bontrager is basically a household name.

*Never a good idea when you're trying to not buy something. In fact, if you're not looking to buy a specific thing, don't go searching for that specific thing on the internets. Not on eBay, not on Craigslist, not anywhere. If you can keep yourself from looking for it, your chances of actually buying it shrink pretty quickly. I should take my own advice one of these days.

Monday, December 15, 2008

152 to go.

Well, if I don't hit 4,000 for the year I'll be able to lay at least some of the blame on December's weather. This entire week looks like crap, and the weather for the 20th, which was supposed to be the Solstice Century, is in doubt, too. Don't get my wrong. Saturday and Sunday were great days for riding, and I was able crank out about 45 miles. Not too bad.

Even Friday went pretty well. It was all snowy and icy - a perfect first ride for the new studded tires. They did what they were supposed to, although I did wipe out on the switchback at the end of the Hot Metal Bridge. The whole thing was just a sheet of ice, and I turned my front tire a little further than I should have, at a speed that was slightly faster than it should have been. Now I have a nice reminder in the form of a beautiful bruise on my left hip.

Beyond that, though, the commute in was fine. Riding home was a little bit more precarious.

As I went from the Eliza Furnace Trail back over to the Southside Trail (via the same ice-encrusted Hot Metal Bridge), the snow really started coming down. Seriously. It was blizzard-esque. I stayed off of most of the roads that I usually take in order to keep from being killed by some sliding car or something. That seemed to work out and I made it home without any other issues. And of course the snow stopped as soon as I pulled into the driveway.

If it's going to rain all week, I'll probably stick to driving in. I hate doing it, but getting rained on when it's only 35° isn't especially appealing. Maybe next week will be nicer.

Monday, December 8, 2008

The weather outside is... No. I am not going to start quoting lines from Christmas songs.

It is cold out there. When I left the house this morning, it was about 18°. Still, no big deal once you're pedaling for a few minutes. I was a little surprised about all of the snow on the Southside and Eliza Furnace trails, and even more surprised by all of the ice.

I have some knobbier tires on my bike right now, and I was pretty much okay. At the same time, it was light out, and I could see exactly where I should be going. This evening I'm going to go home through Bloomfield/Shadyside, because I don't feel like wiping out on ice that I can't see.

I'll be a lot happier when my Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106s show up. I ordered them on Friday from Peter White, so I'm hoping they'll be here before the end of this week. I'm just excited to have a tire that's called Hakkapeliitta.

At this point I'm 232 miles away from 4,000. I'm still hopeful that I'll make it. If I'm able to ride Western Pennsylvania Wheelmen's Solstice Century on the 20th, that'll knock off 62 or more of those (that's a metric century, mind you). We'll see what happens.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Holy cow. It's not Monday, it's Tuesday.

Rode in today. For the first time since November 14th. Which sounds like a long time, but really it's only eight working days that I missed. It could be worse, I guess. I just hope that this is the first in a decent string of days.

Well, actually I won't be able to ride in on Thursday because I have a dentist appointment in the morning and I can't afford to get to work any later by adding bike commute time. I'll already have to skip lunch and stay late to make up for getting in later. So much for that decent string of days. Oh well. It's supposed to be crappy on Thursday anyway, so at least I have a good excuse for not riding.

After I get home tonight, I'll need about 310 miles to reach 4,000 for the year. I'd really love to do that, but getting in 310 miles in December might not be the easiest thing to do. I guess it all depends on the commuting.

Really, I can pile up 310 miles in 12 days of commuting, and I have 13 commutable days left in December. If I throw in some weekend rides, 4,000 might not be that hard at all. If I hadn't wrecked in September, I'd probably be trying to hit 4,500, but what can you do?

I was able to get some riding in over the Thanksgiving break. Fifty miles over three days. I probably could have done more, but I wanted to take it fairly easy. I installed some fenders on the bike last week, and they worked fairly well, although the fit is a little funny on my bike.

Right now they can't be used at all with 35mm tires (although Planet Bike doesn't claim that you should be able to use them with 35s, so I can't complain about it), but with some tweaking, I might be able to get them to work. I put my 35mm tires on last night because we were supposed to get snow (we didn't), which meant I had to take off the fenders. And really, that's silly, because you want the fenders when the weather gets worse, so stuff isn't flying up into your face and all over your bike.

If the adjustments that BruceW suggested don't work, I'll just get a set of the 45mm fenders and keep the 35mm fenders for non-winter weather and skinnier tires. Or something. Regardless, I wasn't overly excited about the quality of the hardware that Planet Bike ships with its fenders. The faces on two of the screws got stripped without me even trying to do it, which meant I had to get a wrench out to adjust/remove them. Kind of annoying.

I might actually just take them back to REI and try a pair of SKS P35s. I really like that Planet Bike gives money back to Bike Advocacy groups, though. Such a conundrum for something as simple as fenders!