Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Week "Off" Wrap up

Went for one last grind before heading off to Vermont for some non-bike related fun (and torture). Struck out for Wayland, MA, where I hit a couple of my favorite roads.
Water Row is one of them, on many days the water creeps up to road level, on this day the ice took on that role. The other is Sherman's Bridge, a real good stretch to get the legs spinning.

The long shadows of winter.

Then it was off to Waitsfield, VT to visit Jeff and Jen Whittingham and the various cute creatures which inhabit their abode. Food was eaten, drinks were imbibed, and I made a rickety return to snowboarding after a 12 year sabbatical. I learned that my bones are no longer made of rubber and I don't bounce when I fall like I once did. But now I have contracted the bug once again and thoughts have wandered off to how I can spend more time sliding sideways on crystallized water next year. Greg "The Leg" has the right idea. He spends as much time skiing in the winter as he does riding in the summer. It shows, the guy rips.

After exhausting the hospitality and sweet hook ups of the Whittinghams we made our way to the Warren General store, the place that was responsible for developing a certain doughy eight year old's predilection for Boursin cheese. Boursin was had, this time around accompanied by smoked salmon and capers. Wow.

The next day it was XC skiing in the North East Kingdom. The icy conditions challenged our rookie skills. No chance you'll see this spastic freak show on two boards at the Weston ski track trying to chase down Colin and Alex any time soon.

The Village Inn up in East Burke is the spot...cheap, comfortable, and unparalleled breakfasts created by George the moose hunting, bacon smoking half of the husband and wife team that run the place. Can't wait to spend a night there during Mt. Bike season. Skipped another day of boarding at Cannon on the way back friday. A storm was coming in and even with the head start we got nailed. After watching countless cars lose it and slide off the road we opted to get off somewhere near Dracut and go overland the last forty miles home. Driving off the road on purpose might have been a preferable option.

Don't worry, I'm back on the bike and I'll have harrowing tales of commuter rage and more photos of weird crap up soon enough.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A Little Rain Never Hurt No One

Tom Waits said that...apparently he never rode a bike in New England in February. Worst case scenario weather, sub-forty degree rain on top of massive snow melt. Rode through Watertown which was aptly named today. The gutters ran deep, hiding my friends the crevasse sized pot holes, who wanted to swallow me whole, bike, pack, and all. Spent all day trying to finagle a ride home, had many generous offers but ultimately opted to dive back in like Jacques Cousteau and pedal back to Somerville.

Drying area. Only warm, dry article of clothing makes a stupid hat. There will be flood.

Magnetic razor holder. Cables. Proxy Pedal.

Huge warehouse rooms full of enormous cable ends and bolts for the bikes of giants.

Junk. Magnet Collection. Junk.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mondays are Not Really Rest Days

but I don't ride my bike. Watching two kids all day is way harder than anything else I do in my life. You can't drop out, there are no time outs. No matter how tired you might be, you can't show it or they will be on you like a pack of Hyenas. They don't except excuses and they take no prisoners. You have to be on your game at all times or somebody's going to lose an eye, take a header into the wood stove, or eat their brother's face.

Manny Mondays are far from rest days, but they are the best days.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

I'm a Street Riding Chihuahua With a Heart Full of Nougat

Procrastinated through much of the 40° rainy morning. Doing the ride the trainer (I haven't been on it in well over a year) or face the day dance. Three cups of coffee and a couple hours later I made my first attempt at a ride. Got less than ten minutes in when the first rain drops began to fall. My Burley has lost it's water-proofness so I turned back to grab real raingear. Then things went all white squall, snow blowing sideways, total craziness. I watched the swirling madness through the red door, contemplating whether I should really do this or bag it and go to brunch and spend the afternoon watching bad TV.

Alterations were made to my wardrobe selection and I set out again. This time making it fifteen minutes before realizing my core was not getting warm enough. Returning to the house would mean the end of the ride so I scanned the streets for recycling bins or free newspaper dispensers, looking for something to stuff my jersey with. A real estate guide did the trick.
From there on out the skies cleared, I headed up to Concord, Strawberry Hill loop with the addition of Annursnac Rd., a road I'd never noticed until they recently put in a stop sign. It's a super nice climb and a good addition to the loop.

Bad things come in threes. First an Audi buzzed me. I had just been pondering how mountain bikers react to equestrians in the woods. You stop, you walk your bike, you ask if it's OK to pass, is the horse going to freak? Your goal is to not have the horse throw the rider and break their neck. This is about regard for human life. I have no particular fondness for equestrians, but I respect most human and animal life, I don't want to get the rider or the horse hurt. However drivers have no qualms about coming within inches of a cyclist at 50mph.
A little while later, a guy driving a life size Matchbox truck which just screamed "I have little or no penis" slowed down enough to say, apropos of nothing "Get off the road asshole". I can't actually repeat what my reply was. I have reactionary tourette's syndrome, I go way below the belt right off the bat. It had something to do with stating that he had been determined to be mentally disabled before the age of eighteen, and that his height to weight ratio was out of balance. The third incident involved getting cut off at the intersection of Pleasant St. and Mass Ave. All I could muster by then was "You don't do that!". Pretty weak, I was completely knackered by that point.

The goodness comes in spades though. Taking a left turn, using the car in front of you to block traffic, shadowing it off to the right, then seamlessly falling in behind it's draft as it straightens out and riding behind for a few hundred yards. Hitting 35mph on the downhill into Carlisle with a 66in. gear, the RPMs off the charts. The finest moment of the day came after I got caught in another Noreaster type deal outside of Lexington center, about a half hour from home. Thoughts went to holing up in Pete's coffee and calling in an evac from Miriam. Vision was impaired, my window to the world the few millimeters between my the top of my glasses (which I'd pushed down my nose as they had become useless) and the brim of my cycling cap. Just I was about to throw in the towel The Stooges "Search and Destroy" came on the ipod, I went after the snow covered road like Steve Zissou went after the pirates in The Life Aquatic. My cadence and velocity rising, singing "I'm a street-walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm" through my gritted teeth. Then as I spun softly down the clean, white bike path with it's fresh blanket of snow Shearwater's "The Makeover" came on, keeping it nice and mellow for the spin home.

This ride was fueled by chocolate covered peanut butter filled pretzels.

Friday, February 08, 2008

I'll Alert The Media

That's right, real exciting stuff going on here. How much can I possibly whine about bad roads and worse drivers? Maybe I'll reflect on the goodness and light for a moment. Today's commute wasn't as horrible as yesterday's. The few inches of snow on the ground made things more pretty than dangerous and with glasses and a cycling cap the flakes didn't blind me. The fatigue of all fixed gear all the time has set in. I had installed my new 44t White Industries chainring, I didn't have a 17t cog lying about so I went for an 18t over my existing 16t. Shh don't tell all the rookie messengers that grinding around town well behind your gear provides you with no real benefits, other than the fact that you never get your huge gear up to max speed so it's easier to stop your brakeless wonder. Despite the lower (66in.) gear and the fact that I'd adjusted my rear hub bearings which had been seized up for god knows how long I still felt like I was riding around in wet, stinky clothes with a twelve pound pack...oh wait, that's the reality. My ass was dragging.

I gotta say, that new chainring makes the drivetrain look pretty bad-ass. Doesn't feel too shabby either. Threw a Sram PC-1 [ 1/2 X 1/8 chain] ,on which is not normal for me. I usually run all 3/32 stuff, offroad and on. Big legs don't break chains (not like I'd have that problem) overtightening your wheel in the dropouts and bad chainlines break chains (can't hurt to replace it once in a while either). Haven't broken a 3/32 chain since I switched from Shimano to Sram. Magnus Backstedt doesn't use a moped chain so I don't feel I should have to either.

Found some magic on the way home. Hooked up with the bike path in Waltham. It was covered in a couple inches of fresh snow and there wasn't a soul in sight. I followed it to Watertown Square, the only sound the crunch of my tires, once in a while crossing a patch of pavement where the snow had melted off, the feeling was like throwing a medicine ball up a few times then having someone throw you a basketball which comparatively feels light as a feather.

We had another Wild America moment at the shop. A hawk showed up, not the same hawk, but maybe a mature member of the same species. It's probably a Cooper's hawk but we're not sure.

I think I fell asleep three minutes ago, why are you guys still here?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Down and Out in Belmont and Waltham

The quest continues. I have found even more bombed out roads in Waltham, it is simply just not a place to ride a bike. This is unfortunate because it lies between me and my place of work. If I had an hour and a half in the morning to ride I would bee line it for Weston or Lincoln, or one of the other rich suburbs where three people live. Places with really high property taxes which help maintain beautiful roads.

The deluge this morning made for a heart pounding game of "What's in The Puddle?". A Coelacanth? A chest of Spanish Gold Doubloons? Or a giant pot hole, waiting to take me out and send me careening into traffic? Why is it always the latter? Why? Oh, because Waltham sucks that's why. You know what also sucks? The way this guy in a Volvo was driving as I came down Walnut Street in Newton tonight. I was riding up to a red light, he came up next to me and squeezed me to the curb. When I caught up to him at the next light I tapped on his glass and asked "Hey, I'm just curious...are you an asshole or an idiot?". That's kind of a standard of mine. Of course he started shrieking something through the rain streaked glass and flapping his arms wildly about. I couldn't hear a thing with my headphones on.

Listening to the sounds of "13 and God" while absorbing images like the ones bookending this post make all the stress of my silly commute worthwhile. Like the Icelandic Hidden Person run amok Bjork once said "My headphones - They saved my life".

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Super Secret Training

Oh yes, it's so freakin' super secret. It entails riding my fixed gear...a lot.
Riding a fixed gear, is good for anyone, but it's particularly beneficial for someone who forgoes gears entirely. I've been rereading Joe Friel's Mountain Biker's Training Bible and assessing my strengths and weaknesses. I've determined that my strength is my ability to spin like a blender on puree mode. My weakness is strength. It might seem weird but I can't push very big gears compared to my single speed brethren. Not like a Skip Brown, Paul Simoes, or Marko and Jesse Lalonde anyway.
To remedy this deficit I have upped my gearing to 70 inches (42 X 16) on the fixed gear (the same gear which Jesse won Chequamegon on...off-road) . Oh that's a wussy little light gear you say? Not when you ride up stuff like the Arlington water tower hill on the way to work, believe me, that hurts enough for Mr. Chicken Legs here. To get the benny's of the fixed gear you must spin more than you mash, I let the terrain not my gear dictate when to grind. I like to be able to spin out pretty good on flat ground without going anaerobic.

Now the secrets out, so you and your gramma can heckle me when you pass me during Root 66 races this season yelling "where's your sweet fixie now douche bag?".

The real secret is in the recovery food...Peanut Butter and Jelly and Chocolate Covered Peanuts and Marshmallows.

Monday, February 04, 2008

I've been experimenting, trying to find the worst possible commuting route to work. Riding the same route day after day has begun to wear on me, change is needed. If I have to ride my bike down North St. in Somerville, past the Mickey Mouse projects one more time, I swear I'm going to jerk the bars into a damn bridge abutment.
I consulted the good old Rubel map, they claim there are "Green Streets" (preferred cycling routes) through much of Waltham. This is a lie. I have not found a single road in that town which is anything more than tolerable on a bike.
The other night I had survived the mentally challenging route I had chosen through Waltham, only to flat out just a few miles from home out in Belmont. It happened as I was blindly rattling down a hill on a dark, pot hole riddled street. You know a death blow when you feel one. I pulled off to the side before my rim started banging asphalt.
The bike does roll faster with it's new Conti Duraskin 700 X 25's, but I can say with certainty that I never once flatted while running the Conti Top Tourer 2000 700 X 32's. I rode them 3,000 miles (most of the way) across the country, messengered for two years on them, and commuted I don't know how many 1000's of miles on them, not one flat. Just a few weeks ago I whacked a pot hole so hard in the rain that I put a hop in my rim...the tire did not go flat. That was all on the same pair of tires, not just that particular model, sounds insane, but is' true.
Fascinating stuff, I know. Christ, it's two months till my first race and I'm already talking about commuting tires. Maybe I should drive my computer into a damn bridge abutment.