Sunday, March 29, 2009

New stoker-to-be

Our daughter, Elaine Margaret, entered the world this morning at 9:59 AM. Deena did great, the baby girl is beautiful, and I'm about to fall over from fatigue.

That is all. :-)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

North Park Tuesday

After work, I Lycra'd up and ventured out to North Park again for the Wheelmen development ride led by Cap'n Fred Klehm. That was Fun with a capital "F-You, winter conditioning loss!"

Lots of folks; 17 or 18 riders, including another guy with fenders (and riding single speed...dude was an animal...). This time, we revisited the classic Tuesday night Unfriendly Bastards route: Pierce Mill, 910, Emmet. English, Wallace, Swinderman, Bradford, Neely School, Mingo, State Gamelands, Red Belt, Hoenig, Mary Reed, etc.

I was feeling pretty good for most of the ride; it was familiar, so I knew when to chill a bit and when to power through the rollers. The only surprise was when we hung a right off Knob onto Tech 21 in Warrendale; that climb darn near killed me. I hit it too hard initially, and dropped from lead to 12th position in about 1/4 mile. Oops...way to perpetuate ye olde recumbents-can't-climb stereotypes...

All in all, I'm pleased. Was right up near redline for much of the ride, but never crossed over into the puking on the shoulder zone. Good workout, felt great afterwards, and the ride-end stats were decent.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

That's not recovery

Note to self: after a hilly century the previous day, and a light-to-moderate-intensity 35-miler in the late morning, do not plan to haul one's 42-pound child in a 20-pound trailer behind one's fully-loaded 45-pound commuter under one's fat-arse 200+ pounds up McClure Ave without feeling it in one's knees just a wee frickin' bit.

Weekend update

Scouting for the backbone route of next year's brevet series. Jim and I started in Meadowlands, cruised down to Monongahela via Mingo Creek Park, then crossed the Mon and headed up the hill to Rehoboth (Church) Rd. Over to Perryopolis, then some back roads to just past Vanderbilt (about 10 miles short of Ohiopyle), and back via more-or-less the same route. Nice route...challenging, due more to continuous elevation change than to any set of notable climbs.
Turkey Hollow-->Indian/Iron Hill Rd up from 906 to get up to Finley Rd and Rehoboth. Much preferable to Tyrol Rd up from Monessen.
Middle segment of Maplewood Rd. "Unimproved" does not do it justice: dirt lovers with cross tires would be in heaven, so long as the brambles and nearly impassable hard-packed ruts do not offend. Would be dangerous in the rain, and deadly in darkness. In dry daylight, was loads of fun.

Riding around town for "recovery ride". Briefly lost my mind and decided that climbing Sycamore fell under the heading of recovery; cured myself of that delusion about half-way up, but was suffering too much to turn around and give up. Also almost killed myself bombing down Pius, as there were either recent street repairs with a poor level of fit and finish, or someone was building a 1:5 scale-model replica of WW1 trench warfare across 75% of the street. Spun up through Junction Hollow to CMU and Schenley, then over to Greenfield via Pocusset and back to town for more aimless riding.
Spring has sprung. Saw more cyclists just today than I've seen in aggregate since January.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

I caved in, plus weekend plans

Yep. The 70-degree weather during yesterday's commute did me in. Despite my vows and fervent oaths to make it to the end of March, I couldn't bear to leave the studded tires on any more. Off with the Marathon Winters, on with the gently used folding Marathon Racers.

And, as a shout-out to all my commuting buddies, I'm sorry...expect ice storms shortly.

On a different note, we just hit 38 weeks of pregnancy, so I'm expecting that this weekend may be my last one with long rides for a while. I'm planning to scout a route from Meadow Lands to Ohiopyle with Jim this Saturday, then do some town-area riding on Sunday (Red Belt is sounding tempting). As I'm not a complete idiot, I've got a friend standing by to provide on-call taxi service on Saturday if, for some strange reason, I need to come back to town in a hurry. Sunday, and for the foreseeable future until spawning officially commences, I'll be sticking to an hour or so from town. Loops, loops, loops...

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Tuesday Ride

Worked from home, so I took advantage of the opportunity to swing out to North Park for the 5:30 Wheelmen club ride. This is billed as a development ride, so the basic idea is "no-drop, but plan to work hard in order to improve".

Good turnout; a dozen riders, most of whom I'd met before, ranging from "solid" to "You're a high school freshman, and your cadence is 180?" I did take some pride in being the only guy with fenders, a rack, lights, and a dynamo hub, though.

The route was fun...out Pearce Mill, then up Logan to Babcock, out the Red Belt to Ridge, and back to Mars, then return via Babcock. One accident on the outskirts of Mars...John caught a wheel on the shoulder on a fast descending curve, and took a pretty good tumble; fortunately, Drew and myself (the next two riders) weren't in tight formation behind him, so managed to avoid a three-man pileup. After making sure that John and bike-de-John were functional, we made our way back up Babcock at a more sedate pace. Heh...except for the half-dozen of us that decided the rest of the way into the park from the Red Belt should be, let us say, vigorous. Drew, Jay, Dave, Jim, Chris, and myself had all kinds of good fun getting the heart rate up for the last few miles.

I was a good workout, felt great afterwards, and didn't completely suck nor slow down the group. Still need work on fast descents (especially blind curving ones) and climbing, but I'm not as bad off as I was afraid. Guess that daily commute, even if less-than-vigorous, helped prevent some winter loss of fitness.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Weekend update

Got up a bit early (okay, 5 AM), had leisurely breakfast, and rode over to Jim's house in Shaler for a 7 AM start on a Slippery-Rock-and-back century. Primary purpose was to scout a portion of the route for July's Pittsburgh-Erie-Pittsburgh 2-day ride; secondary was to shake down the newly rebuilt P-38. Oh, yeah, and to get in an extra century for March; gotta get back on track after missing January, eh?

Fun route: Babcock/Thompsons Run/Duncan, then through North Park back to Babcock. Mars, Evans City, then north via 528 through Prospect to West Liberty Rd and Slippery Rock. One good low-gear climb in Evans City (side-street way up to 528; Elizabeth St, if I recall correctly), and a few nice long grinders, but also plenty of opportunities to just let 'er rip.

P-38 held up well; probably need a bit of rear-wheel lovin' with a spoke wrench, but everything else seemed solid. Most of the random creaks, squeaks, and groans (except mine, of course) are gone; amazing what happens when one tightens and Loctites screws appropriately, as well as trimming off excess metal bits wherever possible.

After a barrage of house cleaning and handyman projects, I took some time to address the seat problem on the Rocket. Forensic analysis indicates that one of the two bolts holding the seat pan to the seat frame had gone walkabout quite a long time ago; in hindsight, that may account for the seat creak I'd been failing to deal with for the last six months. The lone remaining bolt finally work-hardened and snapped last Thursday while I was cranking around a corner.

So, I ran to ye olde corner hardware store and grabbed a couple of bolt extractors, spent 20 minutes(!) carefully drilling into the recessed stump of the broken bolt, then extracted said bolt with a minimum of drama and damage to the socket threads. New used hardware, a few minutes spent tinkering with the rear brake, and a few minutes tightening the rear axle when I noticed that there was at least an eighth of an inch(!) of side-to-side play in the hub; then the Rocket was ready for action once more.

Packed a picnic dinner (PB&J, bananas, and juice...what more can man and boy want?) for meself and me best boy, then hitched up his trailer to the Rocket and plummeted down to the river. Dinner on the benches by the Science Center, some train and tugboat watching, then hauling his heavy butt back up McClure to get home; a fine way to end the day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

P-38 Rebuild

After my chain-breaking debacle last weekend, I came down with a bad case of itchy hex wrench, and tore the P-38 most of the way down to bare frame. Ordered a new (11'!) chain and cassette from Hostel Shoppe; as per usual, it showed up two days after I ordered, without paying for expedited shipping.

Took the opportunity to rework rear fender mounts; I didn't manage to eliminate tire rub on sharp turns, but it's definitely less of a pain in my posterior than before.

Mounted and wired the SON dynamo wheel, an old DLumotec LED headlight, and a Busch&Müller Seculite Plus wired taillight. Took my time on the connectors this time around, and the taillight works without a hitch. (Unlike last year, when I rushed the job and ended up with a heavy, ludicrously overpriced fender-mounted rear reflector on the Pa 1000K...) I made heavy use of the spiral wrap used to bundle electrical cables to anchor the wires, as well as some velcro tie-wraps; in fact, the only place I had to use zip-ties was on the sensor mount for the cyclocomputer. All else is nicely secured in easy-to-modify fashion.

Also threw on the rear rack, and dug out much of the rando luggage. *sigh* It was nice when the bike ONLY weighed 26 pounds. Loaded for rando, it's gotta be near 40.

Rode it to work today, as the Rocket's seat is less-than-happy right now; looks like the P-38 will be okay for the scouting ride to Grove City tomorrow.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

The long and the short of today's ride.

"Long" refers to the long arm of the law; "short" refers to the duration of ride before unrecoverable mechanical failure.


If you couldn't guess, today's ride was not the best I've ever had. Originally planned to do some exploring in the North Hills, then saw a Ken Cushey (Mr. "Hills Are My Friends" himself) ride posting for 11 AM out of Cecil. Looking at the clock, I figured I'd have just enough time to hop on the bike and make it out for the ride start, so aborted the North Hills plan and set off for Bridgeville and parts south.

Something was in the air today...lots more impatient drivers, and LOTS more drivers who seemed incensed that I had the effrontery to be on their roads. Apparently, in the 2-mile stretch of Route 50 up from Main St in Carnegie, two motorists called 9-frickin'-1-1 to complain about some guy on a weird bike who was "riding in the middle of the lane" (true, at some points), "signaling cars to pass without giving them enough room" (uh, what? I've signaled you to pass...if you don't feel there's enough room, that's on your head), and "running red lights" (not, in point of fact, true). A very polite officer signaled me over at the Wal-mart, and gave me a quick warning about following the rules; no harm, no foul, but it kinda shot my mood for the rest of the ride.

From there, I headed over on Thoms Run to Prestley, then back over to 50 through Bridgeville. Millers Run to Presto-Sygan, then a left up the hill where the road was closed, then falling over sideways on the hill because my chain suddenly dropped. Brief profanity, brush myself off, get road grime all over my new cheapie gloves as I reset the chain, then repeat the exact same thing 6 feet up the road. WTF?

A close inspection seemed warranted. Turns out that I'd somehow blown a sideplate on one of my chain links; under any form of load, when that link hit the chainring, *pop* goes the drivetrain. Also turns out that, for some moronic reason (probably related to "I never use this"), I'd neglected to pack both my quick link and my chain tool when I stocked the tool bag. More profanity ensued, mostly self-directed this time. Ended up calling Deena for a ride, as I just didn't A)feel good about making it up to TRM when I couldn't apply any power or B) feel good about hitting up a hardware store for a hammer and punch to do some impromptu chain surgery. Bugger.

So, I've now doubled the number of times I've had to call for a bailout. Not bad in 4 years, but still, a ding to my pride.

On the bright side, I now have no reason to delay the spring teardown and rebuild, while I wait for a new 11' length of chain to arrive. So, the P-38 is in fragments in the basement, and most of the complicated bits have been degreased, cleaned, and lubed. I'll go ahead and get the fenders mounted (I want to fab some different mounts, as I was getting a bit of wheel rub when cranking hard on curves.), the rear rack installed, and see about hooking up the dynamo and lights. Might as well complete the transformation from relatively light and agile road machine to unstoppable juggernaut of randonneuring fury now, rather than next month.