Sunday, May 28, 2006

Cross Training

That's what I call it when I can't find time to actually ride, but I somehow manage to do something else active.

I volunteer as a scoutmaster, so one night a week I am involved in a scout troop meeting, and about one weekend a month we go on some kind of campout. This weekend we incorporated some light backpacking on our overnighter. We camped at the Loop Campground in South Willow Canyon, near Grantsville, UT. The convenient thing about this campground is that it is at the top of the canyon almost exactly 4 miles from where you enter the Forest Service Boundary. One of the requirements for the Camping Merit Badge is that you backpack 4 miles.

So mid-afternoon on Friday we parked a Suburban I had borrowed from a neighbor and filled with scouts, unloaded equipment and took off up the canyon. It's not flat by any means, gaining 1500+ feet in the four miles, but it's not that steep either.

Some things you learn on an overnight backpacking trip with scouts:
  • At least on kid will be complaining about his pack weight, fit, the distance, etc. before you are 500 feet from the vehicle.
  • 4 out of 10 will not be adequately prepared with the proper outerwear for the weather.
  • Someone will always be playing in the campfire.
  • It's hard to let the kids learn things for themselves sometimes when it would be so much easier to do stuff yourself.
  • Kids expect to be entertained. It's not enough to be outdoors, some kids have to have everything dictated to them.
Clearly this doesn't have a lot to do with cycling, but I can tell you that my legs hurt today. After backpacking to the site with the kids, I later hiked back down to the Suburban to bring it up to the site. Then the next morning we hiked about 3 miles into the Deseret Peak Wilderness Area, for a 6 mile round trip. So for the weekend I did about 14-15 miles of hiking (at an altitude near 8000 feet no less). Today it feels like my calves are just slapping against the back side of my shins with every step...

I'm not going to have a chance to ride tomorrow either, so I hope the crosstraining and the rest pays off.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Cycle Salt Lake Century

JuniorSprinter and I went to ride the Cycle Salt Lake Century Saturday morning. It is a fantastic ride from the State Fair Park in Salt Lake City, to Antelope Island in the Great Salt Lake and back. It is about as flat as a ride can get here in the intermountain west.

Everything looked like it was going to be a great day. We met a friend (WI) from work who was planning on riding with us. Saw another friend from work with his team all decked out, ready to hammer. Then the ride started...

JuniorSprinter Spits Out A Lung
JuniorSprinter has been sick most of the week. He was feeling better on Friday, and had started eating again, but I was already worried about being able to do the full century. As soon as the ride started he began coughing. A couple of doses from the rescue inhaler helped a little, but he wasn't doing well. So at the first rest area we made the decision that the century was out, but we would try to push to the second rest area and do the 67 mile option.

GeekCyclist Was Stupid
I don't know how many times I have told people, don't make changes before the big ride. I even talked myself out of replacing the bar tape and switching seats from my mountain bike to the road. But I couldn't resist. I had picked up a nearly new wheel set for the road, and it already had an 11-28 cassette on it. My old rear wheel has had a bunch of spokes replaces and I have a hard time keeping it trued. I had to swap it out. BIG MISTAKE!

When I got to the ride I noticed a little "thumping" as I rode to the start. I figured it was just the repairs in the parking lot. But as the ride started, the thumping stayed constant relative to my speed. We went about 6 miles before I couldn't take it anymore. We got off, checked the wheel, removed and reinstalled the tire. No luck. This wheel has a definite flat spot. I am pretty good at maintenance, but I think I may take this one to the shop.

Lesson Learned: Never, Never, Never change something the night before the big ride...

We Survived
The wind was very favorable as we rode north out of SLC. That just meant coming back, with JS coughing and me cringing every revolution, we were headed into a pretty stiff wind. Luckily we had WI from work with us. He did some monster pulls at the front, and dragged us back to the fairgrounds. In the end we did about 72 miles in about 4:30 which isn't to shabby, but certainly not what we wanted.

Our next big organized ride is going to be the MS-150 in Logan at the end of June. Hopefully we will perform better there.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Company Cycling Events

I am part of a bicycle commuters club we have at work. We have about 35 members in a building with about 600 people in it. The last couple of years we have run a couple of cycling events during Bike 2 Work week. Below are a few of the different events we have put on.

Commute by Bike Clinic
One of the members of our group ran a lunchtime clinic on biking to work. He led a discussion of the typical stuff, clothes, showers, riding in traffic, etc. In addition to that, we had a representative from UTA there with handouts and info on bikes on busses and bikes on Trax.

It generated interest from a handful of people who weren't commuting by bike before. At least one of them has made the round trip by bike since the clinic.

Tune-up Clinic
For the third year in a row we have offered free tune-ups for anyone in the company. One of our members has worked as a mechanic for a shop, for a touring company, and teaches the repair and maintenance classes for the university. A couple of us that are "somewhat experienced" mechanics help out as much as we can. We did about 15 bikes in two hours this year.

Biking Buddy
We didn't do this one this year (mostly because I have been busy out of my head at work). What we have done in the past is designate a few meeting places around town, and offered to ride into work with anyone in the area. I figure in the past that this has helped us pick up about 3-4 bike commuters each year.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Quick Trip to Milwaukee

It's bike to work week in Salt Lake City, and Cycle Salt Lake week to boot. Instead of being there participating in all the festivities, I am in Milwaukee. Why? Good question.

As part of my job I maintain a national database of occupational wage information. This database is the primary source of information for Foreign Labor Certification (people trying to get employment-based green cards).

There is a Human Trafficking case going on in Milwaukee, and I have been subpoenaed by the US Attorney's Office to provide a prevailing wage history in the case. When you look at the details in the case (I know, presumed innocent...etc. etc.) you have a hard time believing that people could still treat another human being in this manner.


If all goes well, I should be back in SLC by very late Thursday night. I hope so. We have a bike tune-up clinic scheduled at work, and then the Cycle Salt Lake Century on Saturday. I would hate to miss either.

Ride Safe!

Monday, May 15, 2006

First Metric Century for 2006

Okay, so a metric isn't a big deal for most serious cyclists. But since my commute is usually 14-15 miles one way, and typically my long rides hit right around 30, it was kind of a big deal to me.

It all started with JuniorSprinter, LT and I went for our Blakemore Bikers training ride. The ride was scheduled for 50-60 miles, but because of construction on SR 201 and I-80 near the Great Salt Lake, we had to switch routes. We headed down south on SR 111 (AKA 8400 W or the Bachus Hwy) toward the New Bingham Hwy. This road is probably best described a "rolling". LT was on her mtn bike with slicks, JS and I on our roadies, but she did a great job of keeping up. One of the best early happenings in the ride was when JS was trying to chase down another bike and motored up this steep hill, completely missing the turn north on 5600 W. LT and I waited for him to come back down, laughing at the base of the climb.

LT bailed at about 30-35 miles, but JS and I continued north to the International Center, West to Saltair, and then back to home on SR 201. As we approached home I realized that we were going to hit 55-56 at home, so we passed on by, headed down the frontage road, detoured through a subdivision, and worked it up to 62.5 by the time we hit the driveway.

It was a great ride. This was the first time I have been on most of SR 111 since the mid 80's. There is a lot more traffic, but the road has been widened in a lot of places, so there were only a few uncomfortable spots. I was actually pleased with how good I felt going up the hills. I am still sitting at around 230, but I know there has been some fat to muscle transition because while I am still slow, I am climbing much better this year.

Well, the time spent composing this post was supposed to be spent on cleaning my office and the basement....Off to catch up.

Ride Safe!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Essential Tools - Or what's in my seat bag...

Before you ever get into doing tune-ups or repairs, you need to have the essential tools to get yourself home if something happens while you are riding. Most people will buy a little multi-tool, a couple of tire levers, spare tubes and a pump and call it good. The problem is, many mini-tools are missing a few key pieces that come in handy for even some minor mishaps, like broken spokes.

Here is what is in my bag, on my bike, or in my pockets every ride:
  • Spare tube, sprinkled with talc, in a sandwich bag
  • Patch kit (I've never had good luck with pre-glued patches)
  • Pump or CO2 inflater
  • Multi-tool that in addition to the standard screwdrivers and hexes includes a:
    • knife
    • chain tool
    • spoke wrench
  • Bare bones First Aid kit - Mini ziplock bag containing:
    • regular bandaids
    • finger tip and knuckle bandaids
    • a couple larger sterile pads
    • a foil packet of antibiotic ointment
    • a few pre-moistened wipes
  • A couple dollars cash and a couple of bus/train tokens
If I am leading a group ride where I know there will be more than one or two novices, I throw a rack trunk on with:
  • A couple extra tubes for both road and mtn tires
  • A schraeder to presta rim adapter (I picked up a bunch from - and all my tubes are presta)
  • A couple extra energy bars and/or gel packets
  • Sometimes an extra bottle
Know how to use what you carry

It's not enough to carry the stuff, you need to know how to use it to fix common mishaps. Take and old chain and practice with the chain tool, including figuring out how you are going to break the insertion end off of that Shimano link pin.

Practice changing and patching tubes if you haven't done that. Some tire and rim combinations make it very hard to get the tire on and off.

In short, try to be a self-sufficient as you can on your ride.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Do It Yourself

A friend of mine from work bought a bicycle work stand over the weekend, and told me about some of the maintenance tasks he had already tackled. Then he asked what he should learn to do next.

I thought about that for a while and basically came up with two answers:

1. Learn what ever it is that you have the shop do for you the most.
2. Start with the basic tune-up and work your way up to a complete overhaul.

Learn whatever it is you have the shop do for you the most

When I first started bike commuting a few years back, I was on a hard tail / rigid fork mountain bike that I had purchased almost a decade earlier. It wasn't in working condition so I took it in for an overhaul, which with parts cost me about $180 (could have bought a new bike - a new bike fixes everything). I am a pretty big guy, and I was loaded with panniers full of books and clothes going each way. I also cross rail road tracks 7-9 times on my commute. Between the weight, the load, the tracks and the potholes, I started breaking spokes within a few weeks.

Now, I have a good shop, and I still rely on them for parts and emergency fixes while I am at work. But at the time I was too scared I would mess something up, and afraid that I didn't have the right tools, so I has the shop replace the spoke and true the wheel. They are good guys, so they only charged me about $12, while I have seen truing jobs go for $30 plus. Everything was great for a few weeks, then I broke another spoke. Back to the shop, another $12. When I broke the 5th spoke (this took about a year) I decided I could really save myself some cash if I learned to do it myself. I'm far from being an expert wheelbuilder, but I figure between my bikes, and the other 5 bikes that live at my house so my family can ride, I save myself easily $200 truing wheels and fixing spokes.

You may have some other problem that you have to visit the shop for - maybe you ride in the rain a lot, so you have to do a lot of drivetrain maintenance. Or maybe you travel and rely on the shop to pack and ship your bike. Maybe you wear out brake pads quickly and need to learn how to replace them so they don't squeal. Whatever it is, you can start by learning that first and save yourself a chunk of change.

Start with the basic tune-up and work your way up to a complete overhaul

Your bike deserves a basic tune-up every 3-4000 miles, or at least once a year. The typical basic tune-up costs between $40-$60 and includes services like:
  • Check bike for loose bolts, rattles, etc.
  • Clean and lube the drivetrain.
  • Lube and adjust brake and shifter cables if needed.
  • Adjust hubs, bottom bracket and headset.
  • True wheels laterally.
  • Clean and test ride.
A few of those tasks may seem hard, but if you have the skill to change a flat, you have enough mechanical ability to learn to do all the tasks in a basic tune-up.

About once a year I like to give my bikes a complete overhaul. At my LBS an overhaul usually costs between $100-$150. It typically includes all the services of a tune-up plus such things as:
  • Remove an clean all major parts and cables.
  • Replace cables and/or housings if needed.
  • Clean, replace bearings, repack and adjust hubs, headset, bottom bracket and pedals.
  • True wheels, including dish, tension and round.
  • Some shops remove, clean, grease and replace all bolts, even the minor stuff like bottle cage bolts.
When I do an overhaul on my own bikes I usually add new cables, housing and chain. I also like to replace the bar tape. It make them look and feel like new bikes.

For both a tune-up and an overhaul, the job is faster and easier if you have the right tools, but tool lists will have to wait for another post.