Monday, December 13, 2010


Love/Hate: My Nokian Hakkapeliitta W106 studded tyres. Really, it's more like Hate/Love, because they're just so heavy. You put them on, and you know you're not going to go anywhere very quickly. At the same time, your chances of staying upright in crappy weather like today are infinitely better. All of the extra effort you have to put into getting the bike to move isn't wasted when you're going uphill in crappy conditions.

Love: Moose Mitts. I'm rocking the road version on the Portland right now. I can wear PI Cyclones in 20° weather and my hands are toasy warm. Love these things. Seriously.

I guess that's it for now. I love/hate/love winter commuting.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Don't Know What You Got (Till It's Gone)

Where "it" is crappy shifting, the result of dirty old cables and housing on the mountain bike. It had gotten to the point where the chain basically just refused to drop onto the highest gear in the back.

I swapped everything today with a set of Gore's sealed low friction cables and housing. Granted, even a plain old new set of housing would have felt sixty or seventy times better than what I was running, thanks to a long, wet, muddy spring, preceded by a muddy/snowy winter. Those poor cables were definitely ready for retirement.

Installing the Gore system was a little more involved, with the extra steps added for running the liner, but beyond that it was pretty easy. The hardest part was threading the new cable into the rear shifter. I think that was mainly due to the cable being a little stiffer because of the plastic coating surrounding it. I ended up using some wire from a twist-tie to thread the cable through the channel in the shifter and out to the barrel. It took some time to figure out, but it worked pretty well.

Once everything was in place, I started running through all of the gears, and at first I was worried that I had somehow screwed up the shifters because I hardly had to exert any energy at all to shift the rear derailleur. It was ridiculously easy. And smooth. And I could shift up and down through all gears, front and back.

Coming soon: a new (2009 model year) fork!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Fingers: 10. Chainrings: 0.

Having just watched A Sunday In Hell at Morning Glory Coffeehouse, and being a little bored, I decided now was as good a time as any to start converting the Portland from a tripe to a compact double. I've been collecting parts since late last year, and at this point I have almost everything I need.

I decided to start with the biggest piece - the crankset. I was determined not to let any chainrings get the best of me this time out. I put the bike up on the stand and got started. Just like when I switched cranksets on the Bianchi (the stock FSA Gossamer from that bike would be replacing the 105 triple on the Portland), I had Crank Brothers Eggbeater SLs installed.

The one annoying thing about the SLs is that they don't have a wrench face on them, so you're forced to use an allen key to remove them, putting your hand on the inside of the pedal and in direct view of your carnivorous crankset. I wasn't about to rip up any of my fingers tonight, but I had already removed the chain from the bike and there still wasn't a really easy way to get decent leverage on the crankset.

Enter the rubber mallet. I set my Pedro's 8mm Allen Key Pedal Remover into the drive-side crank arm and gave it a decent whack with the mallet. One more time and the pedal loosened. No harm done to the bike, the pedal, or me. All I had to do was repeat the process for the other side and I was out of the woods. I was pretty happy. And relieved.

Now the Gossamer is installed on the Portland and the 105 triple is in a box in the garage. Next up: front and rear derailleurs (again, stock parts from the Bianchi that have since been replaced will allow for the conversion) and new cabling and housing. I've never messed with cabling at all, so that should be interesting. I hope this next phase isn't something that I start and have to let Pro Bikes finish.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Celtic Cross

Celtic Cross was this afternoon on the slag heaps in (slightly outside of?) Frick. Heather came along to cheer for me, which was awfully nice of her, especially considering the great trek from the parking lot next to the Irish Center up to the slag heaps. She was the only spectator with a cowbell, and most of the racers had no idea why she kept ringing it.

Tough course. It was about a mile, with a fair amount of loose gravel, two nasty mud bogs, one set of triple barriers, and a really steep run-up. After the second (and easily more punishing) of the bogs, there was this little hill. I think I might have made it up the hill while still on my bike for the first lap. Maybe the second. After that, I got off and slowly trudged up that crappy little hill, too spent to pedal.

The race was an hour long, and the idea was to finish as many laps as possible within that time. I managed eight, which was more than I thought I'd have been able to do. There was one guy who got eleven, four others with ten, not sure of how many with nine and then eight.

Either way, highlights for me were:

  • Not wrecking
  • Not falling off of the edge of the slag heap in multiple and various places
  • Grabbing the mud money from whoever it was from Iron City Bikes who was offering it to whoever was willing to grab it. After the race, I dug it out of my back pocket and realized that it was only $1, but hey, a dollar's a dollar, and no one else seemed to want it. I am not a proud person.
  • Gorgeous weather. They had been calling for rain today, but that didn't even come close to happening. The sun was shining all day long.
  • Losing my bike computer. It popped off somewhere. I tried keeping an eye out for it after I noticed it had gone missing, but no luck. It's gone and now. Bummer. At least I have a dollar to put toward the cost of the new one.

This was only my second cyclocross race, and I think it was probably more physically draining than the Murrysville 'cross race, although I think that may have only been 45 minutes long. I wasn't crazy about all of the loose gravel, especially after wiping out thanks to some cinders a few weeks ago, but as mentioned earlier, I was able to avoid wrecking, even if it meant a certain measure of caution when approaching some sections.

So much mud.

Friday, March 12, 2010

First wreck of the New Year!

I decided to go for a slightly longer ride at lunch yesterday, since I'd worked the previous night until 10:00, and had to be up and ready to go by 6:30. I figured all that extra time was worth a few extra miles. Plus, it was 65° and sunny. This would be the first day of 2010 for shorts and a short-sleeve jersey!

I'd have been better off sticking with my short loops. Or maybe doing this loop in reverse. But of course, I did neither of those things. I was close to halfway through the loop, right in the middle of Oakland. I turned from Bouquet to Jonclaire, and then onto Yarrow, gingerly making my way through all of the potholes that have crept up over the course of the last month. The second half of Yarrow is a pretty steep downhill, but my own speed was kept in check by the car in front of me slowly inching down the hill. In retrospect, this was a very good thing.

After the car was out of the way, I started going down the hill. Got myself all positioned for the sharp right onto Boundary at the bottom of the hill. Didn't even really consider the road beneath me. Especially didn't notice the cinders. Ooops. I started to lean to the right and everything slid out to the left. I went down pretty hard, landing on my right hip, forearm/elbow, and shoulder.

I picked myself and the bike up off the ground and took a look to see how we were doing. The bike looked okay. I didn't see any holes in my shorts, although I knew I'd at least get a nice big bruise out of the impact. The elbow was pretty scraped up, but it wasn't pouring blood or anything. I was still about eight miles from home, so I got back on the bike, tested it out, and decided that it felt solid.

Continued on. Made my way down the Panther Hollow trail, and that's when I could feel my shoulder starting to burn a little bit. When I got to the jail trail parking lot, I took a closer look and saw some small holes in my jersey, and after unzipping, some more scrapes.

I made it the rest of the way home without incident. When I took off my jersey, cinders fell out from it. I looked at it a little more closely and noticed some holes in the side, too. Apparently my entire right side made contact with the ground in one way or another.

I got in the shower, fully aware that I was going to have to do a good job scrubbing the road burn on my elbow, as well as my shoulder. It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be, and I was able to get everything all clean, with no obvious signs of remaining debris.

Once I was all dried off, I cleaned the elbow out some more with peroxide and then wrapped it up in gauze. Today it's looking pretty good. Mostly dried out and not weepy at all.

It was warm enough today that I was able to just wear a t-shirt, so I didn't have to worry about keeping it covered to avoid getting blood all over a long-sleeve shirt. I'll probably cover it tonight just so there's no risk of it opening up and ruining our sheets.

The good? Well, I still finished the 18.25 mile loop in 1:02. The bike seems to be mostly fine. I washed it today and didn't see any chipped paint anywhere. Which is really surprising, actually. The tops of the shifters are a little dinged up, but that might be it as far as cosmetics.

When I cleaned the chain, put it back on, and re-oiled it, I noticed the rear derailleur making some clicky noises as I was going through the gears; not sure what's going on there. I didn't see any scratches on the derailleur when I cleaned it, but maybe the hanger got bent or something. I'd been wanting to take it over to Pro Bikes anyway for new cables and a general tune-up, so I dropped it off this evening after work and added that to the list of things I asked them to check.

Other positives:

  • I was the only person involved. I'm hoping that counts for something. If there's some quota of wrecks that I'm supposed to have, I really hope that I'm knocking them all out now, and by myself. I didn't lose consciousness or have to go to the hospital.
  • Not including various spills and scrapes on the MTB, this is my first road accident since The Great Concussion of '08. I'm glad I was able to pick myself up and get home without any trouble.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

One down, eleven to go.

January is pretty much over. Crazy month. I can't remember a January with so much snow. And so much cold. Not in recent years, anyway. Still it ended up being a good month for riding, especially when things got nice in the middle of the month. 200+ miles, most of those on the road. Only one day of MTB riding. I need to try to get more of that in February.

It'd be great to get as many miles in February as January. The past two years (the only two Februaries that I've had a bike) have been pretty slow in terms of riding. I'd like to think that I have my winter gear up to the point that I should be able to make it out in almost anything, so maybe this year will be better.

It was definitely cold this morning. I got out of bed at 9:00 and checked the temperature. The weather channel said it was 8° and sunny. That sounded pretty cold, so I wasn't in a real hurry to get ready and out the door. By the time I did make it outside (closer to 11:00, it was 18° and still sunny. Much better. It's nice to see the temperature more than double in less than two hours.

Really, the only time I was really cold was right at the start, and that was just my forehead, which felt like it was going to peel off. I kept telling myself that I was going to pull over and make sure that the balaclava was low enough, but after a few minutes it either got warmer or just numbed to the point that it didn't hurt anymore.

I was out for close to two hours, and the sun was around the whole time. Really, it's been surprisingly sunny so far this year. It was sunny all weekeend. It was sunny the previous two Saturdays (followed by disgusting, gross, rainy Sundays, but we won't talk about those right now), and there have been lots of sunny days in between. It might not always be warm and sunny, but I think I'd rather have cold and sunny than warm and grey on most days. Sun and body heat can make up for low temperatures.

Not too much else to talk about right now. Just glad to be able to get outside and ride at this time of the year.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Year in a (few) minute(s).

Everyone else is doing it. Why can't I?

2009 was a pretty good year.

I got a new job. Working from home. That's pretty great. Although I miss the commute to Confluence and back. But I get out at lunch often enough that I mostly make up for it. I'd like to try to push myself to get up early and ride before work more often this year. The problem with that is that I also need to make sure that I get to bed early enough to actually get enough sleep AND get up early. Getting to bed earlier is really the hardest part. I'm terrible at that. Anyway...

Spent the first part of 2009 in physical therapy, trying to get rid of tendinitis that developed during my month-long layoff in Sept/Oct 2008. It worked. By April, I was pretty much back to normal. That meant that I did my first 200k with no pain. Other than the actual physical torture of the 200k itself.

Picked up a mountain bike in February. I did a fair amount of riding in Frick over the course of the year. Gave up on trying to do the descent from the one part of the Bowling Green trail after beating up my bike and myself multiple times. I still have some lingering pain in my right thumb after a fall in July. Participated in the Punk Bike Enduro at the beginning of December. It was, by far, the muddiest riding I did all year. Lots of fun, though.

I started racing at the end of May. My best finish was 15th out of 35. Toward the end of the season I bought an actual road/race bike and got to use that for a few races. I love it. It's amazing how much quicker it feels than the Portland, but I think I lost a little bit of the mystique of being "that guy racing on the Portland" when I started showing up with the Bianchi. Oh well.

I was also able to work my first cyclocross race in there at the end of October. 6th place out of 26, which was way better than I would have ever expected. For various reasons that was the only 'cross race I was able to do. I'm hoping to do a lot more in 2010.

Probably the biggest disappointment for 2009 was missing out on the Dirty Dozen after maiming my right middle finger the week before. One small consolation was that I was at least able to get to all thirteen hills, and made it up all of them.

I managed to ride about 100 miles more than I did in 2008, which was pretty good, considering how many of 2008's miles were the result of the daily 26 mile commute.

Things I'd like to do in 2010:

  • Ride more.
  • Race more (road, 'cross, maybe some MTB?).
  • Dirty Dozen.
  • Probably some other stuff. I'll have all year to think about it.