Wednesday, May 25, 2011

New wheels

Just built up my first 'performance' wheelset for the M5 CHR.

Ultegra hubs, 32-hole Velocity Deep-V rims, DT Swiss spokes and nipples, and ludicrously narrow (23mm) Schwalbe Ultremo tires. With any luck, they won't disintegrate under me...

We'll see how they roll for next week's Tuesday evening hammerfest.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

FAWOFYW 05/10/2011

For the first time in six weeks, the weather was decent enough that the Tuesday night hammerfest out of North Park wasn't canceled. This was also the first night that we were in full-on, leave 'em for dead, Find A Wheel Or Find Your Way mode, so I was feeling a bit of trepidation as regards my utter lack of fitness. All in all, it could have been far worse. :)

The group split rapidly while still in the park; a few of us kicked it up to high 20s and left the pack behind. I managed to hold onto the leaders' wheels until traffic at the intersection of Wallace and English separated us; likely a good thing, as I was burning way too hot trying to keep up with the three leaders. After that, I was trapped at the traffic light on 19, so the rest of the group caught up.

(I was delighted that Chuck Kennedy had shown up on his Carbent; it was nice having someone there with a riding profile similar to mind.) Once regrouped, Chuck and I stuck together; flagrantly abusing the recumbent aero advantage, we left the group behind on Gamelands headed down to the Red Belt, then followed the tradition 36-mile route back to the park.

'Twas a nice ride...although I was still a bit sick from yesterday's 24-hour bug, and my ankle is NOT fully recovered from CtC, I managed to maintain a good solid 19 mph average over a reasonably hilly route, and felt strong at the end. Bodes well for the rest of the year.

The M5 CHR held up well; I jury-rigged a computer onto it 5 minutes before the ride, so my calibration may be a bit off; but the shifting has improved significantly since this weekend's tweaking. I'm still on the fence about swapping out the hamster steering for some tweeners...I think I'll give the hamsters a few more weeks, then swap out and see how I like it.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Crush The Commonwealth 2011

The faces of midnight ultracycling, complete with nonplussed background normal people. Bill and Lane at the Chambersburg Waffle House.

Ah, Crush the Commonwealth. A lovely informal race 'twixt Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. This was my third time participating, and I'm happy to report that it was every bit as much fun as the first two years.

Ride Reports and Photos
Eric G.'s report
Various reports in the CtC blog comments here and here
Tom Oswald's report

Short Version
  • 403.28 miles door to door, ~15.6mph rolling average, 33:24 total elapsed time for the race itself.
  • My group took second place...for the second year in a row, the Tressler brothers set the gold standard for Commonwealth-crushing, with an impressive new west-to-east record of 28:28.
  • No mechanicals, no serious physical ailments or cataclysmic bonking, no problems with other road users.
  • The weather pretty much sucked the entire first day, in a low-grade water torture sort of way.

Long Version
Before the race itself, a few last minute preparations had to be made. I had to change my nutrition strategy (Perpetuem for the next 36 hours? Blah!), rewire my dynamo light (What can possibly go wrong?), and pick up Tom in Altoona. All of the above were more-or-less successful.

Once Tom and I were back in da 'Burgh, we prepped the bikes as much as possible, staged everything for the next morning, and set alarms for dear-lord-o' clock in the AM. A few minutes of sitting around chatting (while I surreptitiously watched to see if my cats would induce a violent allergic reaction in Tom), and it was off to bed at the positively civilized hour of 10 PM or thereabouts.

Ride Start/Neutral Roll to McKeesport
3:45 AM. Yeesh. What a positively uncivilized hour to start a ride. While Tom coolly followed through on his preparations, I stumbled around half-blind with fatigue, eventually managing to shove some granola in my mouth and clothes on my body. We walked out the door, pulled the bikes out of the garage, prepared to clip in, and WHOOSH came the rain. The ensuing profanity, though muffled in deference to sleeping neighbors, was truly heartfelt.

Fortunately, the heavy bit of the rain lasted only long enough to ensure our utter soakage by the time we arrived at the Point. We were the first to arrive, apparently. Tom hung out under the bridge in the park, whilst I rolled up to the Smithfield News 24-hour inconvenience store for donuts and a cup of coffee. Saw one cyclist inbound, and a few more converging towards the park as I returned.

Once back, I was happy to see that several other friends were present. Lane G. from the DC Randos, Bill H. and Dan G. of the Pittsburgh Randos, and Frank "the Sophinator" (on his snazzy-to-the-nth-degree Baron with the custom-cut reflective tape flames) had arrived by then. Eric McKeegan rolled up shortly as well, and kicked off the festivities at 5:11 (the earliest time I can recall the ride starting).

We kept the neutral roll simple...straight up Second Ave to the Hot Metal Bridge, then 837 all the way to the McKeesport Bridge. It was a fast group this year, and we managed to keep a nice 15-16 mph pace the whole way. In McKeesport, Eric and a few others peeled off at the convenience store; the Tressler brothers vanished off the front so fast that they actually began to age slower than the rest of us, and the game was on. A bit of confusion regarding the initial route led to a hillier-than-planned road to Boston, but then we could settle back and enjoy 90 miles of pleasant limestone rail-trail.

GAP Trail to Rockwood
The GAP was so boring that you could just read my description from 2009:
The less said about the trail, the better. That said, I'll now talk about how much I dislike that many miles of limestone: I dislike it lots and lots. To be fair, it was in better shape than I had expected and feared; the previous week's worth of rain had merely turned some spots into wheel-sucking phlegm, rather than the entire trail. Still, after the first 50 miles of trail, I was really quite ready to be done. Shame I still had 40 miles to go until getting off at Rockwood..
The only real addition I will make is to say that the 10 miles before Rockwood, which in 2009 were merely sticky, had this year degraded into a fine mix of kitty litter and Skippy peanut butter, basted with a fine topping of drivetrain-wrecking twigs.

Not too soul-crushing, all things considered. Stopped twice as much as planned (Connellsville and Ohiopyle), and was greeted by Travis (of Recumbent Journal fame) and camera crew at Rockwood. A quick stop at the convenience store, in fruitless hopes of finding a hose with which to spray the trail off the drivetrain, and we (myself, Bill, Lane, and Eric) were off for Somerset.

Rockwood to Somerset
I'd forgotten that Water Level Rd is not actually level. Aside from that, it was a quick and pain-free jaunt on blissfully dry pavement to the Sheetz in Somerset (albeit with a bit of a detour prompted by one of the numerous PA Bike Route Fungus decoy signs). There, we briefly saw the Tresslers before they next engaged their sublight engines and disappeared into the ether...we also saw Eric's buddies from Philly, one of whom was in a poor state. After a truly tasty Sheetz burrito and assorted sundry other comestibles, we girded our collective loins and set off on the hilliest portion of the route.

Somerset to Breezewood
It was on this stretch, specifically the long twisty descent into New Baltimore, that I finally remembered that cycling is fun. Part of the glee was remembering climbing that monster last year; part of it was merely due to a fortuitous parting of clouds and enjoying of some watery sunshine for the first time in weeks. I caught up to Lane and the gang here (shockingly, the fat guy on the 'bent fell behind on the hills out of Somerset)...we paused briefly in Bedford at the Giant Eagle for a bathroom break and some fluids, before making our way through Garret to the short hilly transit to Breezewood.
In Breezewood, we paused at (surprise! surprise!) Sheetz for refreshments; not only did we see Travis again, but, whilst casually marvelling at the pace the Tresslers were keeping, we were told by a nearby woman that she was married to one of them. Heh.
Thankfully, we had made good time thus far, so we were confident in our ability to get through the abandoned turnpike tunnels before dark. It was a long haul from Breezewood to the bustling metropolis of Chambersburg, so we made sure to top up on food and water.

Breezewood to Chambersburg
As we prepared to leave Sheetz, it became apparent that making a left turn across three lanes of traffic onto Rte 30 was a fool's errand. So, scofflaws that we are, we made highly illegal use of the shoulder to ride contraflow for a couple of blocks, until we could break free of the press of traffic and cut over to the proper lane.
A quarter-mile down Rte 30 is Tannery Rd...the goat path to access the abandoned turnpike starts at the corner there. (Note to trikers or users of wheelchairs...the access to the turnpike is, uh, not ADA compliant, to put it mildly. We all chose to hike-a-bike rather than even attempt a pedal-powered ascent of the gravely morass.) Once at the top, we had the blissful (and novel for all of us) experience of tackling the Pike-To-Bike in full daylight, rendering the crumbling pavement of no real account, and with two high-powered dynamo-driven LED headlamps lighting the tunnels as if it were by automotive high-beams. Absolutely luxurious.
Once we left the Pike, we were a bit dismayed to find that the surface on Pump Station Rd was almost as bad as the surface of the Pike; fortunately, it was only a short jaunt to rejoin Rte S at Hess Rd, whereupon the road surface improved dramatically.
We rolled across the undulating countryside as darkness the time we reached Burnt Cabins (the start of the climb to Cowan's Gap), night had fallen, and we had all donned our various reflective doodads and powered on our light-emitting-diode thingies. Amusingly, the climb up Cowan's Gap was far easier than I recalled, I suspect hitting it a couple of hours earlier than last time, in better physical condition, may have played some part in flattening out the hill.
After clearing the Gap and plummeting down the other side (a muffled yee-haw or three may have escaped my lips at some point), we made our way to Rte 30 and Chambersburg, stopping only occasionally to pee behind the odd Dumpster. In Chambersburg, we had a lovely breakfast at the Waffle House, then made our way down the road to the Days Inn where I had cleverly reserved a room. "Clever" is a relative term, because I had reserved the room for two people, one of whom wasn't even in the current group of four. Ah well...I left a key at the front desk for Tom, told the others to leave a bed clear for him, caught a blissful hot shower and clean pair of shorts, and collapsed into a heap of carrion for a good 90 minutes. Heaven, in budget-hotel form.

[Note to readers: as usually happens when I don't type up a ride report in timely fashion, the latter bits degenerate into a blurred list of convenience apologies in advance.]
Chambersburg to York
Upon awakening in reasonably non-surly fashion, we staggered across the street to Sheetz, fueled up on various overpriced, over-processed delicacies, and began the long climb up 30 to Michaux State Park and Rt 234. While a bit unpleasant in the throes of early morning malaise, this particular climb is a notable landmark; once we turn off 30 onto 234, and conquer a couple of short orchard climbs, the route is pretty much downhill all the way to Philly. Burning along 234 in the high teens and low twenties was a glorious relief after yesterday's slog.
We stopped at (NOT Sheetz!) a Rutter's 24-hour convenience store midway between Chambersburg and York, mostly to take advantage of their restroom. I was starting to enter a bad state where I knew I should eat, but didn't want to put anything anywhere near my mouth...Lane's suggestion of a random parfait proved to be a good one, as choking it down re-activated that switch in my head labeled "Food==Good Idea."
After passing through York proper, we stopped again at the Maple Donuts on 462. At this point, I was vacillating between sticking with the group and going on ahead, as hitting my 32-hour target was still within my grasp. I decided that, since we'd ridden the entire thing together thus far, I'd be happier sticking together and finishing with the group in 33-34 hours, rather than going solo for barely sub-32.

York to Morgantown
In hindsight, I'm really glad I stuck with the group. While passing through the gorgeously scenic riding country in Lancaster, I found myself blowing up pretty good on Weavertown Road. Not a full-on bonk, but at least a close relation. Limped into Morgantown and made a beeline for the first mini-mart I saw (Turkey Hill, in this case), and shoveled a fairly disgusting amount of crap down my throat, washed down with several varieties of fruit juice, milk, and carbonated beverage. Bonk averted, we continued on our merry way, on the final leg of the route before the trail.

Morgantown to SRT
The approach to Valley Forge via Phoenixville was reasonably pain free. There was a bit of confusion and bonus mileage near the turn for Coldstream Rd; also, the first trailhead encountered on the route is NOT the correct one...the correct one is about 1/4 mile further down the road, and involves acres of parking lot; the incorrect one involves fighting off wolves and portaging your bike over old minefields. You Have Been Warned.
Anyway, we finally found the trail. With a brief pause to pee (modesty be damned...those other trail users can't possibly see anyone peeing behind a tree of a good 4" diameter...), we set off at a nice mellow pace down the SRT. Time-wise, we were on track for a comfortable 33+ hour finish, so no-one was feeling any pressure to rush. Besides, the SRT, in nice weather, on an early Saturday afternoon, is heavily trafficked enough to make rushing ill-advised. (Unless one is a tri-dork in the aerobars, in which case you apparently are automatically issued a dispensation from riding with any concern for or awareness of other trail users.)

Liberty Bell
Rolling up to the Bell was almost prior CtC endeavors had accustomed me to feeling an utter wreck upon completion. This time around, while I was certainly tired, I didn't feel the overwhelming urge to dive head-first onto the grass and pass out for a few hours. We milled around for a bit, took a couple of photos, then diverged on our respective merry ways.

Left to right: Lane G., me, Eric G., Bill H. Photo credit: Eric G.'s camera in Lane's buddy's capable hands

The remainder of the weekend can be summarized as follows: meander through Philly to the hotel out by the airport, call home, SHOWER, amble over to Denny's for ~4000 calories, amble over to WaWa for a pint of Ben&Jerry's, amble back to hotel, stare at TV for a solid 30 minutes, sleep, wake up, have breakfast at hotel, have second breakfast at Denny's with Tom and Penny, drive to Altoona, swap cars, drive home with Tom, kiss kids, kiss wife, pet cats, sleep. A fine way to end the weekend.

Lessons Learned/Thoughts for the Future
  • I'm developing a case of randopaparazzi envy; after riding with so many gifted photographers in the last few years, I'm feeling the lack. I want to investigate proper techniques and equipment for on-ride photography.
  • It was refreshing, and rather pleasant, to finish CtC without feeling utterly shattered. I was certainly tired, but, unlike prior years, wasn't wiped out; also, with the exception of a very mild bit of tendinitis in the left ankle, I've had no physical aftereffects whatsoever. Perhaps a bit of introspection as regards conservation of effort compared to results is in order.
  • The biggest mistake I made this year was to not more carefully monitor my nutrition. 'Twas not the end of the world, but there were several low patches that, in hindsight, were almost certainly due to inadequate food intake.
  • As counterpoint to the nutrition theme, I relied significantly less on pseudo-food in the form of Perpetuem; I used it for the night-time stretches, but that was about it.
  • I need to dial back on the "gone all weekend" rides a bit...I want to see my family once in a while, and especially don't want the various projects that Owen and I have started to lie fallow.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Band Of Bents 2011 Fleche Report

Mike, Dan, and Larry, of Band Of Bents 2011, happy to be at the finish. Hero pose on dork in middle can be attributed to severe sleep deprivation and/or goading by onlookers. Photo by Christine Graham.

The route (copied from Larry Graham's original)
The Bacchetta forum thread (includes John Foote's late-night photos on page 2)

Short version
  • Successfully completed first fleche.
  • 248.6 miles, ~ 14mph rolling average
  • 1 flat tire, moderate sunburn
  • 1 team member bailed out in St Paris.
  • 70+ miles of headwinds (Harpster to Sidney) sustained 15-20 mph, with bursts 25+. Ouchie.

Long version
Flush? Flesh? Waazat?
A Flèche is a 24-hour team ride, with all sorts of arcane rules. Although I've done many other randonneuring events, the flèche has never been one. So, when Larry Graham (co-owner of Calvin's Challenge, member of Team Bacchetta) put out the call for an all-recumbent flèche team practically next door in Ohio, I couldn't pass it up. Besides, riding 250 miles in 24 hours sounds like a great way to taper before Crush the Commonwealth, right?

-Westerville to Marion (Mile 43)-
The day dawned with the unfortunate discovery that the hotel in which I was staying didn't open up their lobby for coffee until 6. So, uncaffeinated, grumpy, and bleary-eyed, I loaded up the car and drove over to the Bob Evans to meet the rest of the gang. Larry and Christine Graham were there in short order, as were Rick Armstrong, Mike Griffith and his wife (whose name I have unforgivably forgotten, but shall always adore for being "she of the bag of delicious jellybeans" later in the ride). Larry and Mike's respective spouses had volunteered to provide support services...a fine and kind thing indeed.

Shortly, we rolled out. The roads were wet, but temps were already groping towards comfortable. With the exception of a slippery-as-ice metal grate bridge, the initial leg to the Bob Evans in Marion was quite pleasant and uneventful. Once there, we sat down for a proper breakfast, operating under the theory that it's better to be well fed and slow than speeding on our way to Bonksville.

-Marion to Harpster (Mile 60)-
After our delightful breakfast, we headed out towards the bustling metropolis of Harpster. A quick hour or so (and the beginnings of some stiff headwinds...note the mileage, dear reader) and we had arrived at the Backwoods country store. Friendly staff, limited selection of food, and a cop who pulled up and jokingly inquired as to how many kilos of drugs we were smuggling on those bikes were the high points of the stop.

-Harpster to Russell's Point(Mile 108)-
Sad to say, the headwinds did not diminish. Our average speed plummeted: we frequently found ourselves barely maintaining 10-11 mph on the flats. By the time we reached Kenton, several of us were due for a break, so we invaded the local Wendy's burger joint.
To add to the joy, weather reports out of the south were becoming gruesome...damaging winds, torrential rain, plagues of locusts, rains of sulphur, etc. Given the fact that we'd eaten all of the time we'd banked earlier, and that there seemed a strong prospect for weather-related debacle, we decided to call in for better forecast and plan for a reality check once we reached Russells Point. If it looked like we couldn't complete in time with some degree of safety, we'd need to throw in the towel.
Once we got to the McDonalds in Russells Point, things started looking up. The headwinds continued, but the forecasts for the southern areas to which we were heading looked promising; thusly, we chose to soldier on.
This was yet another demonstration of the "avoid quitting by committing to go *just* to the next stop, and see how things look then" works wonders when things look grim.

-Russell's Point to Sidney (Mile 132)-
Aside from the ever-present headwinds, the only excitement in this leg was immediately upon leaving town: due to recent rain, the lake was running high, and the lakeshore road had been closed due to flooding. 'Twas passable by bike, but only just; two more inches of water, and the road would have been completely invisible.
Once we got to Sidney, the prospect of finishing on time started looking less remote. We needed to travel 88 miles in the next 8.5 hours, to make the 22-hour controle time cutoff. So long as the weather cooperated, and we didn't have any serious mechanical issues, all should be well.

-Sidney to St Paris (Mile 152)-
Finally, the wind had died down. (Of course...we would shortly be turning east, when it would have helped us, so of COURSE it ceased!) We were all rolling a bit slow and low-energy, but the leg was uneventful.
Once we arrived at the controle (the Valero in downtown St Paris), Rick decided to throw in the towel. His wife picked him up, and the remaining three of us proceeded onward in slow, low-slung, and stately fashion.

-St Paris to Yellow Springs (Mile 181)-
(Here's where fatigue really started setting in for me, so my memories of the rest of the ride are a bit, uh, disjointed...)
Along the way to Yellow Springs, we were ambushed by paparrazzi, AKA John Foote. His skills with the camera were enough to get some half-decent pictures, but nothing was going to make us look perky at that point...
However, we were certainly interesting sights to the denizens of a couple of bars that we happened to pass. The first, featuring a cast of interesting characters engaged in intellectual discourse on a rickety balcony, erupted in a cacophony of utterly indecipherable drivel, all of which came from one individual who had apparently been chasing the magic grape for much of the evening. The second, in Yellow Springs proper, at least included courteous-if-slurred invitations to stop and bend the elbow for a few.
Regardless, we got to the BP gas station right before it closed at midnight, refueled, and hopped on the bike path for our leg to Xenia.

-Yellow Springs to Xenia (Mile 191)-
Trail. Trail. Trail. Headlights?!? On trail? Local sheriff was cruising the trail "because there had been some burglaries in the area." Ooooh-kaaaay; why enhanced public safety required driving on the bike trail was beyond me. Of course, many things, such as complex navigation, basic arithmetic, and, indeed, much in the way of intelligible discourse, were beyond me at that point.
We finally arrived at the Speedway in Xenia. Deserted upon arrival, it rapidly filled up with a horde of raucous youth, most of whom were too baffled by our alien appearance to even do more than venture the occasional sidelong glance. Ah, least we may have broadened their horizons. Onward to London!

-Xenia to London (Mile 221)-
Trail. Trail. Trail. EDGE of trail! Wobble. Trail. Trail OTHER EDGE! Thankfully, we had banked a bit of time at this point; so, a mile or two short of the 22-hour controle, we stopped in a sheltered picnic area, and I collapsed into an immobile pile of carrion for 30 minutes or so. (Per Larry and Mike, I was snoring almost instantly.) After a refreshing power nap, we made our way to another Speedway for our penultimate controle at the 22-hour mark. Almost there...a mere 25 miles to go.

-London to Columbus(mile 246)-
I blush to admit that I recall almost nothing of the final 2 hours. We got to Bob Waddell's house a few minutes early, peeled off several soaking-wet layers of foul cycling togs, and pigged out on sundry breakfast goodies until it was time to drive back to Larry and Christine's place.

I slept for the 30-minute car trip back to Larry and Christine's place...there, they were kind enough to offer me a shower and a cot on which to nap. After the shower, I was feeling fairly awake, so bid Christine (Larry was sleeping the sleep of the just) a thankful farewell, and leisurely drove back to Pittsburgh.

Lessons Learned
  • With regards to nutrition, I used Camelbak Elixir tabs in the Camelbak bladder; all other nutrition was via more-or-less real food, rather than Perpetuem or similar liquid fuels. Seemed to work well at a brevet pace, so I suspect I'm going to transition my liquid fuel regimen to be used solely in races.
  • Power naps: still an excellent option when the drowsies set in. I have not yet found a reliable way to perk up when I start getting really drowsy; a good 20-30 minute nap goes a long way towards getting me back into semi-working order. I intend to use that technique this coming weekend on CtC.
  • My fitness level is pretty good overall; aside from inability to keep my eyelids open, I felt strong for the entire ride. This tells me what a good sustainable pace should be.
  • The live-blogging thing seemed worthwhile...I liked it for retrospective purposes, and the kids liked getting remote Daddy-updates. I shall continue for a while, methinks.

CTC 2011 To-Do

1) Service the filthy pile of rust that was a bike before the Band of Bents Fleche.
1a) Replace front/rear brake pads
1b) Replace frayed front shift cable
1c) Tune up rear shifting, check cable and housing for wonkiness.
1d) Roll dice to determine if rear tire should be replaced. (Somewhat worn tire==more fender clearance==less rubbing grit on limestone trail, new tire==less chance of flats. Chronic low-grade annoyance versus potential serious annoyance...)
1e) Adjust front derailleur to eliminate chain rub.
2) Format/print general cue sheet, probably based on the one Tom put together (Overview of major roads is worthwhile, just in case signs go missing.)
3) Review packing list, repack sundry bags.
4) Bag up post-ride care package with clean civvies, shoes, and whatnot.
5) Confirm sleep arrangements.
6) Confirm travel buddy arrangements.

At the moment, the long-range weather forecast looks quite promising all the way across the state. I think I'll stop checking it now, so as to preserve some illusions.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Band of Bents 2011 Fleche - Preliminaries and Premonitions

I'm siting in the Baymont Inn & Suites in Westerville, Ohio. Just finished re-lubing the bike, after a delightful 3-hour drive in drenching rain washed away every bit of previous lubricant.

Tomorrow, I meet Larry, Rick, and Mike in the parking lot of the nearby Bob Evans, so that we may set off on our Band of Bents fleche. This is my first flèche, so I'm rather looking forward to a new style of endurance riding. Shouldn't be too ghastly; we've got a solid 24 hours to cover 360 km, so I'm not terribly concerned with pacing or my ability to keep up. I am, however, a bit concerned over the weather; it's been a darn wet and violently stormy spring, and the forecast for tomorrow isn't exactly a stellar departure from the norm. Ah, well...what can possibly go wrong? (And yes, I just heard a peal of thunder...excellent timing, Whoever Is In Charge Of Weather. Thanks!)

Also, I'm experimenting with some form of real-time ride blogging; mostly just planning on occasional snapshots and position updates, but I want to see if I can better preserve the flavor of the ride this way. So, take a look at; with any luck, I may remember to actually post a few times as the ride progresses.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Ah, sweet variety...

Vik just posted a set of snaps from the BC Randonneurs Eau de Hell Week 600K. Some nice setups indeed.

I always love checking out the different rigs people put together...everything from utilitarian tourers to high-zoot titanium road bikes, a single handlebar bag to matched sets of luggage, battery-powered headlamps to dynamo lighting systems that cost as much as many decent bikes...

Actually, the part I find most interesting are all the little tweaks and hacks and unique mods that people come up with. You very rarely see two rando rigs that are terribly similar, even if they derive from common retail ancestry. ;-)

Monday, March 28, 2011

New Toy: The M5 Carbon High Racer

So, I've been saving my pennies for a few months, in order to pick up a dedicated go-fast. Rob Gentry at RBR, with the connivance of Tom Hovan, came across a lovely used M5 Carbon High Racer, and decided it had my name all over it. (Eventually, I was to find that this was not merely a figure of speech...)

So, without further ado...
(Ignore my filthy basement, please.)

It's quite a bit different from the original incarnation: when I first took it for a spin, the package included HED3 wheels, a bunch of really nice XTR/Dura Ace components, and a matching tailbox:

Amusingly, the initial owner's name was Don, which had been added to the boom as part of the unique and attention-getting custom tribal paint job. In order to *ahem* help cement the deal, Frank (who wrenches at Rob's shop) personalized it for my benefit with the stroke of a Sharpie.


Honestly, it didn't take much to get me to decide to spring for it. Tom (on his Musashi), Frank (on his Baron), and I on the M5 CHR went for a lovely 30+ mile test ride; while I had a bit of difficulty dealing with high crosswinds, I was delighted to find that the bike climbs as well as my old P-38, and is significantly more aerodynamic.

After purchase, I simplified things a bit: went to a nice 10-speed system using Paul's Thumbies and Dura-Ace 10-spd barcons. Also swapped out the minuscule bars for slightly larger ones, and tightened up the cable routing a bit. Made a bit of difference in the cockpit, as you can see:

For wheels, I went with a couple of mismatched Velocity hoops that were floating around. I'll likely do a new wheelset based on a pair of Deep-Vs at some point, but that's not urgent...what I have now is enough to get rolling.

Had a couple eccentricities with which to deal as well. For some reason, the cable for the front derailleur had been run bare through a tunnel in the carbon fiber boom, so had been gradually sawing its way through one edge of the upper hole. I threw in the lower portion of a rivet for leatherworking to act as a grommet...should be a decent temporary fix, but I'll need to work out something a little better suited.

All told, with seat pad and the ridiculously heavy A530 pedals I'm wont to throw on my bikes, it weighs in at something in the 22 pound range. I suspect I could get it sub-20 without trying too hard, but I'm going to spend some time getting to know 'er before I do much more tinkering.

Tomorrow, I'll take it out for the Tuesday evening North Park ride. We'll see how things hold together...

Pittsburgh Randonneurs 2011 Spring 200K

Tom Hovan, with his Potter-esque balaclava-induced forehead seam. Chillin' at the Midland Subway controle, roughly 70 miles into the ride.

Short Version
125.3 miles, ~14.5 mph rolling average, ~7000-8000 feet of climbing, no mechanicals.
Starting temp: 19 degrees Fahrenheit. Yeesh.

Long Version
Well, it wasn't the warmest 200K I've ever ridden. However, with multiple layers of everything, Lake boots, and a firm belief in my own invulnerability to cold, riding in almost any temperature is possible. We shan't discuss the difference between "possible" and "advisable".

Starting at Jim's place in Shaler, we headed through town to the West End, then up Noblestown and into Carnegie. After a brief jaunt through retail hell on 50, we peeled off onto Thoms Run, then Presto-Sygan to Millers Run all the way to the first controle in Avella. The climbing around Hickory was unaccountably a bit more imposing than I recalled (perhaps because I'd only ever experienced it in a car), but, all in all, it was a very nice first leg. Bob Kerr, who had volunteered to keep an eye out for us during the event, showed up in a van laden with innumerable bags of cookies...a fine bonus.

From Avella, we struck out for more northerly climes...heading up to Burgettstown, we picked up 18 through Raccoon Creek State Park, then 168 until we finally plummeted down to the river and the shadow of the nuclear cooling towers at Shippingsport. Our second controle was just across the river: the Subway in Midland, a classic stopping point for various rides in the area.

After briefly retracing our path, we took 68 through Beaver, Rochester, and Zelienople to Evans City. (Cyclists possessing some familiarity with the region will recognize that this is not exactly the flattest possible route.) We all survived, however, and, after a brief stop at the Evans City Uni-Mart clone, enjoyed a mostly flat transit to Mars (the town in PA, not the astronomical body or the cranky deity).

On the classic Mars-Evans City Rd segment, I had an amusing experience. A car full of young whippersnappers (perhaps early 20s) began blowing their horn , pumping their fists, and cheering as they approached in the opposite direction. Then, the words penetrated my mildly addled brain: "YEAH! Recumbent! Yeah!" Although I certainly could have misinterpreted their demeanor, it appeared to be honest enthusiasm. Says something about the market penetration of these funny bikes that A) youngsters actually recognize them for what they are and B) seem to believe that they are something other than dork chariots.

In general, I'm pretty pleased with this new version of the route. The Millers Run--> Avella leg was very pleasant, and the northbound stretch to Midland, while a bit trafficky in spots, was still enjoyable. I'd like to come up with a controleable-within-reason alternative to the Rochester-Zelienople-via-68 segment at some point,'s a bit mean for 80+ miles into a ride.

Lessons Learned
  • Lake boots do a wonderful job of keeping one's tootsies warm. But, fortheluvvaBuddha are they ever heavy over long distances.
  • It is indeed a brilliant idea to try to thaw one's frozen water bottle by placing it inside one's wind jacket. Unless, of course, it is an insulated bottle...said insulation works in both directions. (Pro tip: tuck the bottle inside the jacket or jersey BEFORE it freezes next time.)
  • It's okay to utterly lose control over one's caloric intake once in a while. I completely forgot about any form of metered, measured intake after the first 30 miles or so, and just went with whatever my body asked for. In hindsight, that may not have been sustainable for much beyond the bounds of the ride, but it seemed to work well for a 200K. Every ride doesn't have to be managed to a fare-thee-well.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Inaugural FAWOFYW of 2011

Find A Wheel Or Find Your Way is actually bit of a misnomer, at least until slightly later in the season. It's the Western PA Wheelmen's Tuesday night fast ride out of North Park, and is usually spirited, but no-drop, until at least May. Once the switch gets thrown, though, it's pretty much Katie bar the door...

Anyway, I managed to make it out after work. Fred was leading the ride; myself and Tony were the sole participants, as the weather was cold and threatening enough to dissuade many of the regulars.

'Twas really'd been a while since I had a nice fast group ride, and the riding style was a good change of pace from A) commuting and B) sustainable stupid-distance.

The route was an abbreviated version of the usual; rather than head down State Gamelands and back up Conway Wallrose or Hoenig, we took Mingo to Knob via Pleasant Hill. Skipped Tech 21, too, which no-one seemed too distraught over. ;-)

Nice to blow the cobwebs off. The compact crank worked well, and I've finally gotten all of the fender rub adjusted away, so I guess it's time to trim stays and semi-permanently affix wire for tail light and whatnot. Just in time for the Pittsburgh Randonneurs Spring 200K this Saturday...

Monday, February 28, 2011

Shakedown ride

The P-38 has been undergoing a mild metamorphosis this winter. Since I managed to ride the old drivetrain into chronically creaking, mis-shifting, skipping-on-every-hill nubs of rusty metal, replacing some of the more consumable bits seemed warranted. And, while I was at it, trying my hand at wheelbuilding, fitting a spiffy stainless steel fender on the rear (rolled edge inside fender makes running wires to tail light much cleaner), and redoing all the lights and wiring seemed like fun too.

The build
For the drivetrain, I broke with long-standing recumbent tradition and ditched the road triple (52/42/30) in favor of a Shimano R700 50x34. Upped the cassette from the prior 11/32 to an 11/34, so the lower end of my range is only slightly higher.

The new rear wheel is a Velocity Dyad laced to an Ultegra road hub. I'm not entirely thrilled with the lacing job; tension on the non-drive side is way lower than I expected, such that I'm wondering if I didn't reverse the spoke lengths when I laced it up. Ah well...we'll see how it holds up for the next few hundred miles before I get worked up over it.

The one bit of unnecessary bling was the fender: a tasty Giles Berthoud number in stainless steel. Of course, now I'm trying to figure out how to find something that sort of matches in 406 for the front fork...

For lights, I went with a Lumotec IQ Cyo and a Seculite 4D. There's brighter stuff available, but I like what I've seen with regards to beam pattern, and I was happy with the older version I've used in the past.

The Ride(s)
Not yet wanting to properly torture-test the poor thing, I took a spin out to Oakmont via Allegheny River Blvd, and back via Freeport Rd. Felt pretty good; although my fitness is definitely lacking, the bike felt pretty solid, and was rolling very well. (Aside: I adjusted the seat to it's maximum recline...probably a 4 or 5 degree difference. Not huge in terms of aerodynamic efficiency, but naught at which to sneeze either.) No shifting/skipping problems at all; the only factor marring things was that, as seems to be my wont, I was getting a good bit of fender rub when applying a burst of power. Hopefully, a bit of tweaking shall resolve the problem.

After my return to town, I recalled that the Major Taylor club had posted an opportunistic ride starting at 2, so I swung over to the North Side and hooked up with Bruce &company. Got to meet a few people In Real Life who I had previously known only through the Bike-PGH board, which is always nice.

To Dos
The job's not yet done: I still need to tweak the fender line and trim the stays, affix reflective bits, and redo the wiring properly. However, I can say that it's riding pretty well. At least on the flat and gentle hills around town, I felt a bit faster than I would expect to be at this time of year, by probably .75 to 1.0 miles per hour. My shifting instincts are off, but I'm sure I'll pick up this compact thing before I break off too many (more) teeth on the cassette.

Friday, February 25, 2011


Just 'cause, I put together a FAQ for Crush the Commonwealth.


Let me know of any questions, requests for clarification, or suggestions for extra stuff to include.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Cross Training

From Sledding in Riverview
Repeated hill climbing in snow boots...a nice change of pace from breathing salt and plumbing the depths of slush-filled potholes.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Flock of Cycles

The urban, social riding group is growing up, going non-profit, and just fired up their website.

Flock currently offers a couple of Friday evening slow-paced social rides, a late-night mellow party ride, and the faster-paced, mildly hilly Midnight Mass. These rides focus on fun, building confidence, and encouraging coexistence with all road users. Tall bikes, portable speaker systems blasting an eclectic mix of audio joy, and the occasional charitable endeavor feature heavily in the group's motif.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

CTC 2011 Planning

It's winter here in the 'Burgh, with another few inches of snow on the way so what better time to fantasize about my plans for Crush The Commonwealth 2011?

I've got some feeble hopes of breaking 32 hours this year, unlike my third-place 37 hours last year, or my first-place 36 hour finish in 2009. So long as I don't screw around at rest stops, maintain a decent pace, and keep my sleep time to a couple of hours, that should be well within my capabilities. If I stay calm through Chambersburg, I may be able to hammer pretty well for the last 150 miles, as the route trends fairly smoothly downhill: ideal for a (*ahem*) dense guy on an aero bike.

With regards to gear, I'm going to try to go a bit lighter this time around. Nothing crazy, but I'll cut down the extra clothing to a spare pair of shorts ands socks, instead of the full change I carried last year. I've got nutrition pretty dialed in at this point: a 4-hour bottle of Perpetuem and 70 oz bladder of water with Camelbak Elixir tabs should get me through each leg. Bike-wise, I'm gonna try out a compact 50/34 crank instead of my prior 52/42/30 triple; by bumping the cassette from an 11-32 to an 11-34, I doubt I'll feel any more pain on the low end than I usually do.

Here's a reasonably accurate route map/elevation plot:

And my basic ride plan:

Thursday, January 6, 2011

I wasn't planning on any non-local rides this year, but...

The Big Wild Ride looks awfully interesting.

August 21st, 1200K through some of the exciting bits of Alaska. Yummy...

Monday, January 3, 2011

Chilly commutes are still worth it.

This morning, 6:45 AM or thereabouts, on the way to work. 18 degrees and windy.

(Please forgive the craptastic phone camera quality...)