Monday, March 31, 2008

Lighting system plotting

I'm not one to leave well enough alone. I've had the SON hub, Lumotec LED, and E6 halogen lights running for a whole week, so of course it's time to screw about with a perfectly good working system. It's just so terribly inconvenient to have to stop the bike to turn lights on and off.

Being the lazy sort that I am, and in the interests of experimenting with just how much difference in pedaling effort I can perceive with the lights on and off, I've decided to build a remote switching system for the lights. I figure a nice three-position OFF, PRIMARY ON, and PRIMARY+SECONDARY ON switch mounted on the handlebars would be cool.

Now, the problem. I'm barely competent to plug in a soldering iron, much less do even the simplest of circuit designs. Of course, ignorance has never stopped me before, but I figured consulting someone who has a vague idea of what they're doing would be wise, when it comes to potentially screwing up a $mumblemuttermumble lighting system. Enter the patriarch, the wise engineer, my dear old Dad, who was courteous enough to suppress laughter at my feeble excuse for a schematic, and kind enough to transcribe into legible format:

So, the next step will be to swing by Radio Shack and source a nice switch, plus some simple weather-resistant disconnects, extra wire, silicone sealant, heat-shrink tubing, and all that good stuff. I figure I'll bodge something together, get it working, then plan to do a nicer setup later, based on the mistakes I make on this version. (I'm envisioning marine-grade illuminated LED rocker switches and all sorts of similar craziness...probably will never do it, if the first version works, but what the heck.)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

So that's what racers look like...

Rode out from town to the Mingo Creek Road Race today; good fun was had by all. (At least those of us who weren't racing...I can't speak for the folks riding in circles all day. Heh.)

I met Nate and Rob down at the Science Center; shockingly enough, everyone showed up in timely fashion (not a common occurrence on my rides) and we got rolling immediately. We crossed the river via the West End bridge, then spun around the Circle until centrifugal force flung us off in the general direction of Rte 60. 60 and the first bit of Rte 50, as per usual, was a bit of a grind for legs not yet warmed up. Then, the delightful long downhill run to Carnegie and points east...

Per some good advice from riders who actually knew the area, we popped off 50 to Thom's Run and down Miller Run to rejoin 50, which nicely avoided the busy bit. The advice was good, but the implementation was less so; as usual when Nate and I ride together, wrong turns were taken, maps were consulted, and we ended up doing exactly what the cue sheet had said; particularly embarrassing, when you're the one who designed the cue sheet in the first place! 50 was a bit trafficky, but not unreasonable; once we hit Venice, we picked up 980, which is a nice rural road that winds its way to Canonsburg. Past "Cabinsnerg", we picked up 519 all the way to the park.
A good bit of time was spent standing around waiting for the race to start, with the expected tightening of muscles, cooling down of sweaty garments, and all sorts of associated discomforts. Nate decided to head for home after the start; Rob and I toughed it out for one lap, then hopped on the bikes, rode the course once in reverse, and headed for home as well.
Up Sugar Run to Venetia Rd over to Finleyville, then picked up Stone Church (The climb! the climb! The view! The view!)/Gill Hall. Bombed down a fabulous descent to a right on Peters Creek, then left and up on Waterman to rejoin Gill Hall. Left on Old Clairton, then up to Rte 51, then paralleling Lebanon Church Rd over to Rte 885 back to town.
Bizarre sights: a road-killed mallard duck (huh?), a surprisingly large number of courteous automobile drivers, and a giant watering can. And when I say giant watering can, I mean:

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Thursday evening Cranberry group ride

Route(at least that was the plan; we ended up shortcutting slightly by doing Brush Creek directly to Powell, but the general idea still applies)

Mark J. led; myself, Lance, and a gentleman named Peter rode. Good ride, even though I had a brief argument with the shock cord supporting my seat mesh.

I threw the 700x30 Marathon Racer on the rear; so nice to use folding tires that don't require tools to mount on the rim. Didn't notice any real difference in overall speed, but the lower-pressure Marathon seemed to soak up the bumps a lot better than the Pasela Club previously mounted.

I'm starting to dig on this whole "fitness-oriented group ride" thing; it's nice to be challenged by riders stronger than I am. (Not to say this is an exclusive club; LOTS of riders are stronger than I!) Even though I fully expect to have my head handed to me, I think I'll try riding the Tuesday "Unfriendly Bastards" ride out of North Park sometime soon. That should be comical, but at least I know the basic layout of the area for when I get dropped hard. :-)

Night ride, pavement, gravel, and dirt

Went for a spin last night with Brian to test out the new lights; looks solid to me for the most part. Rough roads definitely induce a bit of a strobing effect with the LED, probably because it's mounted on a Terracycle accessory mount well off the front of the boom.

I may need to think about moving the primary LED down to the fork, and leave the E6 halogen mounted on the boom; that would give me a bit more light on the tighter turns.

Lost one of the bolts on the left water bottle cage; luckily, the other one held, so I transferred bottle to right cage and tightened the heck out of the single remaining left bolt. Memo to self: Loctite the crap out of everything.

I still need to get the tail lights and the cycle computer tightened down as well, as they still tend to rotate fairly freely with enough vibration.

On the bright side, I threw some Koolstop Salmon pads on the front brakes; that, plus some heavy toe-in, and the worst of the squealing has stopped.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Pretty Lights...

Just mounted up the SON wheel with DLumotec primary and E6 secondary lights and shod with a 406x40 Marathon Racer, after a certain amount of time spent swearing at the various bits and pieces I'd chosen to use. Took it for a quick spin around the block and, well, DAMN, if you'll pardon the profanity. I'm sure I'll need to mess about with proper angles and positioning and whatnot, but that thing puts out a lot of light even at "sandals on brick streets" speeds.

I'm going to head out for a proper test tomorrow night, with Brian and whomever else shows up at Your Inner Vagabond at 10. I'll try to get some pictures then, too...

Monday, March 24, 2008

Perryopolis Century+

So, after I biffed on the planned East Liverpool ride on Saturday (fear of crap weather that never materialized), I decided that I just couldn't bear to go an entire weekend without riding somewhere I've never been. I put together a route based on Oscar Swan's Perryopolis ride, but cut back on the usage of the Youghiogheny River Trail as much as was feasible. (and BOY was that the right choice...more on that subject later...)

The basic route was pretty simple; make my way to McKeesport via 2nd Avenue, then 837; shoot up the Mon River to Monessen, then hang a hard left and climb the hill up to Rte 51 and Perryopolis. Down the other side of the ridge to the Yough River in Layton, then wind my way through Banning to Smithton, pick up the trail to West Newton, then surface roads paralleling the river to Rte 48 and the Boston Bridge. Finally, wrap things up with 148 back through McKeesport, then pick up Bowman (AKA East Pittsburgh-McKeesport Blvd, AKA "that big frickin' hill") across the ridge and down to Braddock, then home by following the river back to town. Here's the route for posterity: Perryopolis Low-Trail Alternate Route

The first stretch from Brighton Heights to McKeesport was uneventful, with the exception of several small bits of equipment deciding that they did not wish to remain firmly fastened; notably, the rear fender mount, front headlight, cyclocomputer, and both tailights. So, I spent at least 15 minutes in the first 1.5 hours fiddling with equipment; however, I suppose this is to be expected with a newly built-up bike. And I did label it a "shakedown ride", after all...

As usual, cruising up the Mon along the river was pretty darn straightforward; with the exception of a small climb in Elizabeth on Center, it's flat or gently rolling the whole way to Monessen. Nothing of note to report.

In Monessen, I encountered the first of several unmarked roads, by missing the left on Tyrol Blvd. (This was to prove a recurring theme of my day.) After correcting the navigational eccentricity, I spun my way up the hill, occasionally engaging in low-speed challenges to myself ("Okay, I can get it to 2.5 mph and stay upright; what about 2 mph?"); said challenges being significantly easier to meet than, say, sprinting for a PR to the top of the hill.

A few more directional disfunctionalities, a construction zone on Findley, and a creeping (and mostly inaccurate) sense of being utterly lost later, I finally made it to Perryopolis; unfortunately, as I was plummeting down the hill towards the Yough River at the time, I retain nothing but a blurred impression of nice old buildings and a horde of ne'r-do-well youth that were highly amused by my bike.

Crossing the river was quite simple; a charming one-lane tunnel and bridge led to the tiny hamlet of Layton, plus a gargantuan hill that had unaccountably sprouted up on my path. Wait...that wasn't supposed to be there! Turns out that, in my optimism, I had foolishly assumed that the roads between the quiet little riverside patch towns would actually follow the river, rather than veering alarmingly skyward into farm country on the other side of some rather sheer cliffs. This was to prove the first time (not the last, sad to say) that I fumbled for the granny gear out of actual need.

Once I had fought my embarrassingly slow way to Banning, the going became much easier. Following the river to Smithton, and another enactment of the "missing the unmarked left turn" ceremony, I finally made it to the Yough River trail. "Ah, time for six miles of blissfully easy riding," I thought to myself. "Perhaps I'll even stay on the trail all the way to McKeesport, if I'm feeling lazy" I thought. "This will be a nice change of pace." HAH, I say to that callow and naive young fool.

The funny thing about the combination of limestone trails that are sort of dry on the surface, but still pretty soaking wet underneath, and relatively skinny high pressure tires, is that it becomes similar to this: riding in glue. The most demoralizing and painful part of the entire trip, bar none, was six miles of peaceful riverside trail riding. By the time I arrived at West Newton, I was praying for dump trucks and flung beer bottles as being better than this sloppy, miserable mess.

The remainder of the ride was straightforward, with the exception of a few more missed turns and extra miles. All told, I ended up doing about 113 miles, with a rolling average of 14.2 mph; this sounds like a perfectly acceptable brevet pace. More importantly, I found that nothing really changed after about mile 75, in terms of weariness; this bodes well for the longer brevets, so long as I can remember to keep consistently eating and drinking.

What I did well:
  • Nutrition seemed to work well. Hearty breakfast, gu packs every half hour or so, and solid food every couple of hours seems like a good working combination.
  • Hill climbing. I managed not to get macho about it; as such, even the relatively unpleasant hills near the end of the ride, although taken slowly, were no big deal. I paced myself well.

What I did poorly:

  • Too much time spent fiddling with equipment on-ride. I need to tighten everything down properly and hit it with Loctite.
  • Too much time spent off-bike, for refreshment and potty breaks. I probably burned 45-60 minutes at various gas stations, convenience stores, etc.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Inaugural Thursday Ride for the Cranberry-area ride group

A little cold, a lot windy, but a nice start to the regularly scheduled Thursday evening rides out of Haine School.

Lance led, and myself, Bill, and Mark showed up. A quick 15 miles, with roughly 1700' of climbing, so it got the heart rate up nicely.

I was really gratified; knowing that these guys are solid B+ riders, I was concerned about holding things up, but I was (barely!) able to hold my own. And, for a bit of recumbentista gloating, I wasn't the last one up every hill; I actually led on a couple of long ones, and stuck on Mark's wheel for most of the rest. With a couple rough ones in the 17% range, that made me feel real good about my fitness this early in the year, as well as the new bike.

Good fun, and I'm looking forward to making this part of my weekly routine. Riding with these guys will make me a better cyclist.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

03/16/2008: Sunday Morning Ride, 50-ish miles, variable terrain

The route.

I repeated the McAleer/State Gamelands/989 route from a couple weeks ago, in order to compare relative performance of the old Rocket and the new P-38. Heh. Even though I suspect a 5% error in wheel size calibration on the P-38, the difference is quite surprising.

(As an aside, that basic route is rapidly becoming my favorite for a good Sunday morning training-oriented ride; some long climbs, some rollers, and some great scenery, plus wrapping it up with a fast flat stretch.)

I cobbled together a cue sheet holder from a couple of Twofish bike blocks and some plastic tubing, based on an idea from Barron over on 'BentriderOnline. Seems to work well, although the only tube I had (fluorescent light fixture protective cover) is 1.75" diameter, and I suspect something in the 2.5" diameter will be optimal.

Other mechanical issues: the mounts for the taillights (Yes, I have redundant taillights...whaddaya expect from a randonneur wannabee?) have a tendency to swivel downwards, so I'll need to add a bit of material to better fix them in place; ditto for the cyclocomputer. The underseat bottle cages are still a little tricky to use; I'm sure familiarity will help there.

Friday, March 14, 2008

2008 Ride Schedule

April 12th : Eastern PA 200K
May 10th: Eastern PA 300K
May 18th: Pedal Pittsburgh
May 24th: Eastern PA 400K
May 29th: GAP/C&O Camping Trip
June 13th-15th: RBR Rally, State College
June 21st: Ohio 600K Brevet
July 11th-13th: Pittsburgh-Erie-Cleveland-Pittsburgh Loop
August 1st: Eastern PA 1000K (tentative)
September 7th: Western PA Wheelmen Fall Rally

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Gratuitous P-38 Pix

First Real Ride

Aaaaaah. That was nice. I took the P-38 for a spin around town, after fitting the seat bags, tools and spares, bottle cage, computer, and all that good stuff. Not a particularly long distance; 33 miles or thereabouts, but I made sure to include some typical Pittsburgh hills, like Stanton, Black, and S. Negley, and still maintained an average 2.5 mph faster than my usual city pace.

Unless I've horribly miscalibrated the Cateye Enduro, the P-38 seems to run about 1-2 mph faster on the hills, and 2-3 mph faster on the flats. As far as handling, it's just on the nicely responsive side of twitchy, even at low speeds.

I got the shifting mostly worked out; my long-standing hate affair with indexed 9-speed continues, but that's just my cross to bear. Front brake still plays banshee under use(I tried toe-in, toe-out, and dead flat, all to no avail), so I'll try swapping out the current pads for salmon ones and see what happens.

All in all, I'm delighted already, and haven't even acclimatized to the bike yet. I can barely wait to see what the bike and I can do in the 200K next month...

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Ongoing P-38 build

Progressing nicely. Heheheheh.

A package from Peter White showed up yesterday, containing SON hub, DLumotec and E6 lights, Terracycle accessory mount, and miscellaneous other bits. Unfortunately, I forgot to order any mounting hardware for the lights themselves, and, unbeknownst to me, Peter sells the Terracycle mounts without any mounting hardware, so that the buyer can specify what tube dimensions they'll need to clamp. Oh, well...that explains why it's $6 cheaper than on the Terracycle site.

Anyway, Linda will send me a couple of mounting brackets and Cronometro Nobs for the lights (I'm going for fork-mount on the generator-powered lights, I think); I'll order the correct Cateye mounts for the Terracycle accessory mount from Terracycle directly, once I measure the derailler tube on the P-38.

Completed: front fender trimming, plus fender stay amputation; rear light mounting; Road Morph pump mounting; tire lever, patch kit, and multi-tool acquisition.

Still expecting: package from the Hostel Shoppe with hydration stuff, long wire kit for cyclocomputer, and cargo bag stuff, plus a couple of water bottle cages from Scholl's Bicycle Center in Warrendale. As far as I can tell, that should be about it for the inital build, at least until I start riding it and break something/realize something's utterly unsuitable.

Oh, yeah, I still need to figure out some form of cue sheet holder, but I'll wait until everything else is set up before I worry about that.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

It's here. :-)

One quick crappy pic, to show the basic buildup. I haven't even tensioned the seat or trimmed the fender stays yet ;-)

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Impatience is not a virtue

I'm heading out to RBR to build up the new P-38 this Saturday.

I've been thinking about this bike for years; done some parking-lot test rides, and always felt like it just fits me. And now, I get to set it up, take a picture or two when it's complete, and beat the ever-lovin' snot out of it this year. Heh.

It's a custom build; XL specs for strength and load capacity, build to L dimensions; I figured that, since I was gonna be using this thing hard for the next few years, I may as well ask Tim Brummer to overbuild it a bit.

Aside from the bike, I've got a 406 Velocity SON wheel and lighting system coming from Peter White, and I'll probably get a couple of the Fastback products for hydration and light cargo duties. All that, plus the usual misc. reflective bits, tail lights, pump, tools, spares, etc.

Pictures will be posted after I get it built up.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

PA 200K route

So, I decided to do a "virtual ride" by mapping out the course in Bikely. Being as it's a honkin' lot of points to map, I split it into 6 segments between the 7 controles.
  1. Controle 1 (Weisel Hostel) to Controle 2 (Wind Gap Petro Mart). 39.5 miles
  2. Controle 2 (Wind Gap Petro Mart) to Controle 3 (Top of Fox Gap). 15.3 miles. Note: includes 2.3-mile segment with 1000, count 'em, 1000 feet of elevation gain. Heh.
  3. Controle 3 (Fox Gap) to Controle 4 (Portland Family Restaurant). 8.7 miles
  4. Controle 4 (Portland Family Restaurant) to Controle 5 (Homestead General Store). 34.2 miles
  5. Controle 5 (Homestead General Store) to Controle 6 (Point Pleasant Post Office). 12.4 miles
  6. Controle 6 (Point Pleasant Post Office) to Controle 7 (Weisel Hostel). 16.9 miles

Caveat/Warning/Caution/Disclaimer: These are not official brevet materials, and there is no guarantee that the actual route will match these. In fact, one note on the ride page indicates that, depending on the surface of the gravel path by the Homestead General Store, the route may be alttered to include an extra-special bonus climb instead.

Looks like a great'll be fun.

Monday, March 3, 2008

200K Preparations

So, the PA 200K Brevet is coming up next month: the 12th of April, to be precise. I've got a lot to do to prepare. In no particular order:

  1. Get camera and voice recorder ironed out

  2. Finish "Virtual Ride" mapping on Bikely

  3. Register for the event

  4. Decide if I'm taking a day off work for the preceding Friday

  5. Work out potential carpool arrangements with Matt.

  6. Add reflective bits to bike

  7. Lose as much weight as is possible and relatively sane.

  8. Set up lighting system

  9. Print cue sheets/maps on waterproof paper. For that matter, buy waterproof paper

  10. Set up cue sheet holder on bars

  11. Order Perpetuem

Oh, yeah...and one of the really big ones:

  1. GET NEW BIKE!!!!!

Why am I here?

All wise-arse comments aside, I wanted to have a place to talk about my experiences in randonneuring, ultra- and long-distance cycling, touring, and, generally, the part of my life which is fixated on reclining on two wheels for what some may consider excessive periods of time. (Hi, honey!)

So, of course, I've finally jumped on Ye Olde Blogge Bandwaggone. Grand. :)

In the interests of filling space and burning precious electrons, here's my goals for the next few years:

  • 2008: Complete Eastern PA brevet series, with an option on the 1000K as well if I'm feeling particularly nutty.

  • 2009: Brevet series, fleche, plus the London-Edinburgh-London 1400K. Heh. Oh, yeah, and try to get a Pittsburgh brevet series off the ground.

  • 2010: An 'off year'. Prep for PBP in 2011, do a brevet series, fleche, and a North American 1200K TBD.

  • 2011: Big year. Brevet series, fleche, and Paris-Brest-Paris.

  • 2012: ???

  • 2013: ???

  • 2014: ???

  • 2015: ???

  • 2016: I turn 40. Time to ride across at least one continent.