Thoughts While Cycling (2)

Went out yesterday afternoon and almost immediately after I turned left from the right-of-way onto the W&OD headed west I saw a mature buck with about 7 point antlers.  He was in a swale that paralleled the trail, walking east.  The disconcerting thing is that he was not anxious or perturbed at all by his proximity to moving human beings on bikes.  Actually it’s just as well, because an anxious, panicked deer is a dangerous deer.  They’re big enough to do real harm.  At least he wasn’t in a position to veer onto the trail by mistake, or to leap impulsively.  As a friend pointed out yesterday, deer are never domesticated, only acclimated, and as such poise a threat to trail users.

It’s the zenith of leaf season, and as such a frustration and temptation to the cyclist.  When there are leaves to be raked and bagged, a couple of hours of yard work wear me out.  I don’t feel like hopping on the exercise bike or taking a ride out when I’ve just stacked up five or six bags.  Thus the frustration, and the temptation to let myself off the hook of conditioning exercise.  My legs and back are sore, my knees worked by bending, my arms achy, and my hands free of blisters only by the grace of leather gloves.  Yet I’ve had no aerobic exercises, and no reps for my legs, so it’s not really “cross training.”  But it is what it is, and I’m not going to let myself worry about it.

I was half-tempted to go riding off into the heavy darkening gloom of early afternoon today instead of raking.  It might even have been a bit of fun to ride home in the heavy mist that was falling during about the last half hour I raked.  But in all truth, nah.  I’m glad I wasn’t “out there” when it began getting moist, and that my bike stayed dry.

Sunday cyclists yesterday, in the pale sun and low-60s temperatures, included a number of family groups.  I love seeing adults and kids riding together, especially those out yesterday.  They all seemed to know what they were doing and to be aware of trail presence and safety.  I wish I’d ridden with my kids when they were small, and that I could ride with my grand-kids today, especially Anne Elise, who has a nice Trek bike and apparently knows how to use it.  Sigh.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.

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Headset Overhaul

For weeks the Trek had been increasingly noisy.  I guess I am sensitive to noise in bikes.  It suggests something is wrong.  After all, when I got the machine it was silent; it was fluid; it was beautiful.  Since then, every kind of noise it has made has indicated something wrong—-a loose stem, a loose pedal, a deteriorated seat post, a loose bottom bracket, a flat tire, a worn chain, a maladjusted derailleur.  I wasn’t even sure there was a

The headset

Headset on my 2009 Trek 2.1

place on the bike that hadn’t made a noise in the something over three years I have owned it.

This time it was a sort of random “ticking” from somewhere up front, every time I pulled on the handlebars when I was climbing a hill, seeking sudden acceleration, or whatever.  The noise was not periodic, so I knew pretty much that it had nothing to do with the drive train.  I lived with it for a while, but when I realized that I was perhaps avoiding riding that bike, or dreading some hidden malfunction when I did ride it, I knew it was time to take it in to Spokes, etc., where I had purchased it in the first place.

The mechanic who first looked at it identified the problem right away.  Since he knew how the bike is constructed, he knew how to put the right kind of pressure on the right places to replicate the noise I’d been hearing.  He promised it in two days, that day being today.  But they actually got it done on the same day I brought it in.  I didn’t feel like running over in the evening that day, and yesterday it was raining, albeit lightly.  I just cringed at the thought of all that light drizzle and road spray working its way into every crevice on the bike, so I waited until today to retrieve it.

The bike was worked on and delivered by Ron.  Ron is an exceptional bike mechanic.  He and I have had several conversations about aspects of bike repair and cycling, ranging from how to use toe clips to the satisfaction of new bar tape.  I know that Ron loves his bike, and that he loves every bike he works on as much as his own.  If there ever was a person who delights in his own skills and equally as much in using those skills to please his clients, it’s Ron.  So when Ron explained why my bike was noisy and what he had done to make it like new again, I listened with delight.  Regular preventive maintenance, performed by an expert who cares deeply about what he does and about customers and their bike.  That’s the ticket.  That’s Ron.  It’s a pleasure knowing he worked on my bike, and I am confident that his work made the bike 100% right again.

Headset overhaul: $30.  Ron’s headset overhaul: priceless.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.

Time to Re-Tire

The classic Fisk Tire ad from my childhood shows a sleepy, yawning kid in his Doctor Dentons holding a lighted candle in a holder in his left hand and supporting an automobile tire on his other shoulder.  “Time to Re-Tire” is the legend.  Actually this ad goes back to the early 1920s, a full 25 years before the versions I recall.  I suppose the appeal was nostalgic.  Many adults circa 1945 would have remembered wearing those pajamas with the trap-door rears and going to bed by candlelight.  The genial image of their own past is just sooooo cute!  And what 5-year old wouldn’t rather take a nice shiny new black auto tire to bed than a silly old Teddy Bear?  OK, maybe that’s where the logic breaks down, but the sentiment carries the day.

For weeks I had been telling myself that my bikes needed re-tiring.  The Trek hadn’t had matching tires almost all season, since a pebble punctured my front tire, and the rear (drive) tire on the Fuji had been balding badly for a long time.

For the Trek I got Forte Pro+ 700x23s, replacing MIchelin Kromions.  The Pro+ tires are about 60 grams (about 2 oz.) heavier than the Michelins, but they have twice the thread density at 120 tpi.  They sport royal blue sidewalls, as opposed to the Michelins’ sky blue.  And they’re not true “slicks,” but have a light tread on the sidewalls only to give a bit of stability in the corners.  They look sharp, seem to be performing very well, and provide me with extra confidence against punctures or compression flats with their additional wall strength.

I’ve just loved running Panaracer UrbanMax tires on the Fuji for years.  They’re bigger, of course, at 700×32, but they’re the “skinny” kind of 32s, with tread for streets, not offroad cleats.  Unlike the Pro+ road tires, which take pressure up to 125 psi, these top out at 95 (I usually run them at 90).  They weigh 420 grams, almost a full pound (!), and need only 27 tpi with the lower pressure.  But the tread’s just right for road and trail, and they have good-feeling rolling resistance along with a quiet ride.

Mounting new tires is not without risks, however.  The first Pro+ I put on seemed to mount and fit smoothly enough, though those folded-bead tires are difficult to get started with sometimes.  I went through all the rigamarole of pumping it halfway up, letting the air out, pressing in around the rims on each side, repeating the pumping and pressing, and then inflating to full pressure.  I always let the wheel sit overnight with the new tire just to give any pinched tube a chance to blow.  Better to destroy a tube in the garage than on the road ten miles from home.  Well, this first one exploded in my hand halfway between the front steps (where I do my re-tire-ment work) and the garage.  Blew the tire clean off the rim, too!

Since I’ve gotten the Trek, whose wheels have deep rims with logos on them, I’ve been paying more attention to the aesthetics of mounting tires on the rims.  I line up the printing on the sidewalls with the inner tube valve for a consistent balanced look.  And so I did with the single UrbanMax on the rear wheel of the Fuji.  Then I regretfully looked at the front wheel and thought “too bad that one’s not lined up too,” since that mounting was done in my pre-aesthetic “ignorant” period.  And darned if Fate didn’t try to do me a favor.  When I went out to ride the Fuji the next day that front tire was flat.  I had to do a quick-change of the tube, inspired by the Good Samaritan I recently wrote about.  it was torn at the base of the valve stem.  I was thinking “be careful what you (almost) as for” and muttering “OK, Fate, don’t do me any more favors” the whole time I was working.

Only one bike left to do and I’ll have new or nearly new tires on everything.  Then I can relax and take a nap with a Teddy Bear again.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.

Would You Believe It? I Have A Cold.

This title will resonate with older TV viewers, because it was the tag line of a commercial for some cold medicine that unstuffed your nose so your voice didn’t sound funny.  But that’s what I have, though it’s now on the wane, and it’s neither kitschy nor cute nor nostalgic.

In the wake of the frustrations of schedule, injury, and weather that grounded me for much of October, I vowed to myself that November would begin on a different foot.  After the CCHA Convention in Forth Worth I’d come home and ride outdoors or pedal inside for at least 14 straight days, beginning Monday, October 31.  On “recovery” days I’d do a super-easy indoor spin, but I’d go for long enough to get the cardio exercise requirement fulfilled (20 minutes, though I planned to do 30).

But on the plane flight home from North Texas, the guy next to me had a cold.  He was sniffling and coughing the whole trip, with only half-hearted efforts to turn away.  Worst of all, according to the conversation he had while boarding with his traveling companions, he wasn’t even supposed to be in that seat.  He inadvertently sat there, and when the ticket-holder–one of his friends–came along they just switched off.  I tried to keep turned the other way, where Jane was sitting, but it wasn’t enough.  By November 1 I had my first symptoms.

Consequently I have only been able to ride outside twice since then, missing a couple of heartbreakingly beautiful riding days, sunny and warmer than average for this time of year.  Those days don’t come back to you in autumn, either.  Each one is an exception, and  can’t be counted on again until late April or May.  I’ve also ridden indoors three times, reviewing the 2008 Tour de France, when the Schleck brothers ended riding for the overall victory of teammate Carlos Sastre, a victory they ultimately delivered.  Having a youthful Andy Schleck setting tempo on climbs gave Sastre a huge advantage over rival Cadel Evans, whose best support came from one guy, a slightly inconsistent Yaroslav Popovych.

The cold, luckily, has been a quick mover and not too deeply entrenched.  It began, of course, with a sore throat, and then migrated into my sinuses.  I have medicated aspirin and nose spray, and am now a dedicated Afrin user.  I know, it can become addictive, but it really has been working for me for at least the 12-hour max, with shut-down results.  I only use one squirt per nostril, and am weaning myself from it now.

So today, I happily proclaim, was my second day in the last three out on my bike.  My muscles still need a lot of tuning, though, since instead of being eight-for-eight days on my exercise program, I’m only five-for-eight.  Luckily, good weather is supposed to last through the coming weekend.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2011.