Saturday, January 24, 2009

Tour de Trek Store, attempt # 1

Myself, Jim, and Jon ventured out into the cold today in search of a nice wintry century. At least the wintry part was a smashing success...

The intention was to nail down a century for purposes of the UMCA Year-Rounder Challenge, as January is drawing to a close. Rather than re-use a familiar and well-known route, it seemed like a good idea to go venturing into unknown territory; find some new roads, climb a few hills to keep warm, and all that good stuff.

Now, as every good route designer knows, the most important thing is not elevation profile, well-spaced rest stops, scenery, or areas of historic import; the single most critical thing you can do to create a successful route is to come up with a cool name. Sadly, I came up with "Tour de Trek Store"; but I never claimed to be a good route designer.

Simple route concept; starting in town, visit each of the four Trek of Pittsburgh stores in turn. With a few strategic road choices, a century was easy to put together. Eliza Furnace Trail out to the South Hills and TRM in Castle Shannon; then, over through Mt Lebanon, Heidelberg, Carnegie, and Collier on the way to Trek of Robinson. Cut over through Moon and Coraopolis to Sewickley, then climb the ridge and make our way over to Cranberry and the third Trek store. Finally, Red Belt our way back to town via Etna, then over to Trek of Shadyside and a triumphant return to the trail in Oakland. It was a nice idea, anyway.

We made it as far as Trek of Robinson without incident, although the cold was definitely starting to take its toll. I was happy to find that Trek had one(1) pair of Pearl Izumi booties large enough to (just barely) stretch over my size 48 clodhoppers, which greatly enhanced the comfort of my feet.

Once we started the climb up Beaver Grade Rd, however, it quickly became apparent that Jon was lacking the energy to finish the ride. He put up a darn good fight, but simply bonked too hard to realistically contemplate the second half of the ride. So, we cut it short in Coraopolis, and made our way back to town via the traditional Neville Island/McKees Rocks Bridge/Calfornia Avenue return. Jim suggested that he and I make a trip out to Tarentum and back, in order to get our miles in; it would have been a good idea, but I simply wasn't in the mood to ride a route with which I was very familiar; at least not when a comfy house, hot coffee, and a warm shower were a mere 3 miles away.

All that said, I'm very pleased with the route; a bit trafficky in the South Hills, but has plenty of varied and enjoyable terrain, including some lovely ridgetop roads. If scheduling permits, I think I'll take another crack at it next weekend.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Feh. Forgot that whole "cold water freezes" thing.

I had to drive to work today, due to my own foolishness.

After Wednesday's wintry commute home, I was a good and conscientious bike owner, and immediately washed off the worst of the salt and grime, dried off the moving bits with a hot-air gun, and re-lubed the pivot points. I even ran a few drops of lube into the cable housings, worked brakes and gears, etc.

Sadly, I neglected to take a basic precaution last night; I left the bike in the (unheated, detached) garage, rather than simply wheeling it indoors. As a result, I came out this morning to find that all four cables were frozen in their housing. D'oh.

I now better understand the urge to omit excess gearing/cabling/temperature-sensitive moving bits from the commuting bicycle. I'm becoming tempted to invest in an internally geared hub for the rear at least, maybe even with a drum brake.

Ah well. These things happen. Amusingly enough, it took me only 10 minutes less time to drive to work than to pedal; further verification that cycle-commuting really doesn't suck much additional time from my working day.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First hijinks of 2009

I'm not sure why, but it seemed like a good idea to lead a pre-Icycle Bicycle ride this year, for the benefit of the high-mileage types. Bright and early, 8 AM, 16 degrees or thereabouts. Five intrepid sorts coalesced at the Swinburne St trail head; myself, Lance, Alan, Don, and Jon. A decent assortment of bikes as well, ranging from my P-38 'bent to Jon's tasty 1982 Raleigh Pro.

Since I'd never done the route before, I decided to try out Oscar Swan's Gill Hall ride; basically, a 30-mile tour of the South Hills, primarily incorporating Streets Run, Brownsville, Snowden, and Gill Hall Rd. Nice route; the initial gradual climb up Streets Run is a good warmup (except for the crappy crossings of numerous RR tracks, that is!), and Snowden/Gill Hall have some decent climbs to get the blood pumping.

Attrition on this one was high; Lance took off early, as he had to get home for the benefit of guests. We managed to get separated from Jon up by Lebanon Church Rd; fortunately, he was equiped with a phone capable of accessing The Google, so managed to find his way back. Alan hopped off the road to pick up the trail in Baldwin. Don and I were the only riders out of the original five to make it to the start of the Icycle Bicycle as a group, although Alan and Jon met us there later.

Icycle Bicycle was well attended, and quite mellow. Since the trails were a bit slippery, we just did a loop consisting of Carson-->West End Bridge-->North Shore-->31st St Bridge-->Penn-->Second Ave-->Hot Metal, and back to REI. Good fun, although I was saddened to see that I was the only recumbent this year.

Lesson learned: put the frickin' fenders back on before going out in the salt and slush. Blah.