An Interesting Day

I definitely had an interesting day today.

First my medical retirement hit a major milestone. Things will start chugging right along and I should be out of Texas in the next couple of months, bound for Eugene, Oregon. In-and-of-itself it wasn’t very exciting, just lots of signing and initialing.

As though that wasn’t enough, the Ride 2 Recovery‘s Texas Challenge rolled into Killeen, TX and we were ordered to go “support”* them. I was offered a ride, but I don’t see much sense in having someone drive me to a place that I can easily bike to, not to mention that it’s less than 2 miles from my apartment.

That was definitely the highpoint of my day, because I saw lots of familiar faces from the Gulf Coast Challenge, which showcased the duality of the pleasure of going on one of these challenge rides. Namely, you get to meet people who are giants in the cycling community, and also you get to hobnob with a bunch of people who are either recovering from wounds/injuries, or living with their aftereffects.

Tomorrow morning we get to send them off as they pedal their way onwards to Waco, so I’ll get to see them again. I’m very much looking forward to the Memorial Challenge that’ll be kicking off at the end of May. The funny thing about that one is that it starts in Washington, D.C. and heads to Manass, VA which was the site of the first battle in the US of A’s Civil War, and is only a stone’s throw away from where my Dad was stationed when I was but a wee one. So that ride will be a victory ride of sorts in that I hit by a car on Memorial Day weekend back in ’14, but also in that I’ll be to my old stomping ground back in my diaper days.

Yours in Bikeyness,

— OTB

*I enclose the term “support” in quotes because to me that would mean doing maintenance for them, handing them drinks or carrying their bags…you know, something like that. Standing on the side of the road and cheering someone on doesn’t constitute support in my book.

One Turn of the Wrench at a Time

Why haven’t I been writing? Well, I’ve been more than a little busy with typical day-to-day things, not to mention bike maintenance and the attendant research.

The first issue I’ve been working on is exploring the possibility of divorcing The Riddle of Steel from the Schwalbe Marathons I’ve been running since not too long after I first got it. During the Gulf Coast Challenge a fellow cycle tourer highly recommended Continental Gatorskins, so I decided to experiment with them and ordered a pair, as well as some Continental innertubes to go with them. I even went so far as to go with 28mm wide versions rather than the 32mm wide Marathons.

So far they’ve been holding up like champions. The Gatorskins roll with less resistance than the Marathons, and I haven’t hit anything yet that flattened one. (This is a real accomplishment here in Killeen.) They’ve even stuck to the road much better than I thought they would when it was raining, despite their recommender’s caveat.

So it’s a case of “so far, so good,” although I’m curious as to how quickly they’ll wear out. While the Marathons will last between 9,000 and 12,000 km (5,600 and 7,500 miles) everything I’ve read about the Gatorskins says you can only expect 2,400 and 3,200 km (1,500 and 2,000 miles) out of them. While I have to say that the reduced rolling resistance is nice, I can’t say I’m too thrilled at the prospect of a tire that lasts only roughly a quarter as long as their predecessors. Only time will tell, though. If I’m satisfied with their durability I’ll stick with them. If I’m not, my next tires will be Schwalbe Marathon Racers.

The other issue I’ve been dealing with is that it seemed my bottom bracket and/or bearings were going out. I’m running a FSA Mega Exo (19mm) and they have a horrid reputation when it comes to bearing quality (especially the BB30 version), but it turned out that all it needed some TLC in the form of removal, cleaning and lubrication. It turned out to be a lot easier job than I anticipated thanks to having read other people’s horror stories. Mmmm…so nice not riding along listening to “click-click-click” as I pedal along.

Well, that’s it for the moment. Now it’s back to reading about what you have been up to.

Yours in Bikeyness,

— OTB

Update

Sorry I haven’t been too active, but the past week has been a combination of pollen hell and a bad TBI week.

For those of you who don’t know, TBI recovery is a three year (or so) process. Essentially you make less progress as time goes on, but that doesn’t mean that you don’t go through spurts where your brain is busy rewiring, rearranging, etc., so that’s where most of your energy is going.

In other news, what energy I’ve had has been expending on some side projects, like researching my “retirement bike,” which I’ll be putting together once I’m out of Texas. I’ve considering all sorts of options, everything from simply upgrading my Nashbar touring bike’s drive train, to getting a Rivendell frame and building that up, and so forth and so on. Currently I’m thinking that Velo Orange’s Campeur frame is a great starting point, and from there I’ll lump things like an Ultegra drive train on it…and end up with a sweet black and orange touring cycle. Mmmm…

Well, we’ll see. Still time to putz around on it, ’cause the whistle ain’t blown yet and heralded my departure from what is probably the worst cycling state in the union. Until then I’ll still be faster on a steel touring cycle than the people I ride with, even if they are riding carbon fibre-framed bikes with drive trains that are heads-and-shoulders above Tiagra.

At any rate, I’ll get back to posting about the Gulf Coast Challenge as time — and energy! — permits this week.

Yours in Bikeyness,

— OTB

Gulf Coast Challenge, Day 2

Day 2 of the challenge started in Columbus, GA, and was to take us 94 miles to Montgomery. If 94 miles seems like an odd number, there’s actually a hidden challenge built into it. Namely, that if you want to complete a Century and get a little badge for it, you’ll have to go a little bit further on the longest day.

I set out with Group 1 since I didn’t want to suffer while dragging along with Group 2, and found that their brisk pace was much more to my liking. I mean, I should be moving more quickly because to my utility-cyclist’s eye the bike I was riding looked…incomplete:

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Where’s the rack? How ’bout some fenders? Oh, wait! This thing’s made of carbon fiber, and you wan’t do anything with it except ride it. Hmmmph!

It turned into a pretty interesting day, to say the least. Why? Well, Group 1 had a lone “low boy” — a hand-cycle — that was pushed up hills by the oldest of the support riders. In fact, it turned out he 62 years old, and I have to say he was in pretty impressive shape. It also turned out that he was Wayne Stetina. Some people may be impressed by his having ridden on 3 Olympic teams, others by the fact that he is the vice president of Shimano USA. Personally, I’m impressed that he’s in such great shape at the age of 62.

Wayne has some interesting stories, to say the least. For instance, he had to have a hip replacement at one point. He was cycling again 6 weeks after the surgery. Not to mention that he did his first Olympics the year that I was potty trained.

At one point the Equipment Director (read: head mechanic) Scotty Moro came riding up. Scotty is an Australian, known for his accent, he crazy headgear, and his powerful thighs that can propel a bike at outrageous speeds. He looks like this:

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He asked me what my shoe size was and when I told him 13 wide he said he was pretty sure they had one on the truck. I said that I wasn’t interested, because I was completely comfortable riding with platform pedals, not to mention that the last time I tried toe baskets back in ’99 I fell down twice inside of 3 stop lights. He looked at me incredulously and said, “Yeah, but…that was like 45,000 years ago. This have changed. Y’know?” I just grinned and said, “Thanks, but no thanks.” My dislike of clipping goes a bit deeper, namely that they aren’t very handy when you’re going somewhere that you’ll need to walk around at — and waddle like a duck while you’re doing it — but as far as I was concerned Scott got the point and that was good enough for me.

The day went on and the miles racked up and soon enough we rolled across the finish line. At this point I was expecting a little break before we headed back out to pick up the last few miles needed for a century, but there was no such thing. One of the support riders said, “If you want to finish the century, follow me!” and we did a lap of the parking lot outside of the hotel we’d be spending the night in, then headed straight back out.

Since we only needed another 6 miles for the century we simply headed right back the way we’d come and after three miles out we picked up Group 3, turned around again and went right back the way we’d just come.

I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised when it was all over. While I definitely knew I hadn’t exactly been sitting around all day I wasn’t anything resembling exhausted, and that night at dinner I got one of these:

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My first century? Not by a long shot. But it was my first post-accident century, and that was important to me. Not to mention that I knocked it out while pedaling along next to fantastic people, ranging from giants in the cycling field to people who had sustained horrific injuries and yet there they were, mounted and pedaling.

At interesting day, to say the least.

Yours in Bikeyness,

— OTB

Some Thoughts on Strava, MapMyRide, Etc.

During the recent Gulf Coast Challenge Strava came up again and again and again. In fact, in order to get invited you have to have a profile detailing your rides, even if it consists of only manual entries.

Personally, I am not a huge fan of this or any other similar program. Any mileage details I posted on Tumblr were invariably based on calculations made with Google Maps, and didn’t take into account anything like having to pedal back-and-forth looking for a hard-to-find road, or missing a turn, etc. I’m completely cool with that, too.

My main objection is that people get waaaaay too wrapped up in what a silly little machine is telling them rather than just sticking to Grant Peterson’s philosophy of “Just Ride,” which is a lot closer to the camp that I call into. What do I care how many miles I rode that day, how many feet I climbed, or other such silliness? Just ride. The rest will take care of itself, whether you need to get to work, run a miscellaneous errand, or pick up some groceries. Maybe it’s silly of me, but I’m far more interested in people I meet, places I go, and things that happen along the way. Statistical drivel is far less interesting.

Another aspect of these programs that I don’t like is that they take the mental work out of navigating. Map reading has rapidly become a largely dead art, and right along with it is Isaac Asimov’s dictum in The Feeling of Power that, “He knew that eight times eight was sixty-four, and he didn’t need a machine to tell him that.”

Yours in Bikeyness (and Map-Reading),

— OTB

Gulf Coast Challenge, Day 1

After a good night’s sleep and a hearty breakfast it was time for an early start on the first day of the Gulf Coast Challenge. The first day was to take us a whopping 47 miles from Atlanta toward Columbus.

Starting off we were in a parade formation, with the “low boys” (i.e. recumbents and hand-cycles) in the lead until we’d gathered at City Hall where the mayor gave us a speech about something or another. I confess I didn’t really pay too much attention since he wasn’t going to be riding with us.

Once that was over we moved out, splitting into three groups. The lead group was called “Group 1,” the second was “Group 2,” and the third was “Group Delta,” (also referred to as “Delta Force”. On earlier rides groups were all referred to by letters, and there were four. So the last group’s name was simply a remnant from the earlier rides.

Not having ever done one of these rides and also because I was on an unfamiliar bike I rolled with Group 2. Why over-tax oneself. Right?

As the first half of the ride wore away I came to regret that decision. Group 2 was moving too slowly for my taste. At the lunch break I spoke to one of the guys from Group 1 (“Jordan”) who suggested that I simply switch over. I went to look for someone I’d been riding with, but was unable to find him before Group 1 set off at the end of their lunch break, hence I ended up rolling out with Group 2 again…only to find that “Mitch” (the fellow I’d been riding with) was nowhere to be found. He’d done exactly what I’d been wanting to do, namely switch group.

Lunch complete Group 2 rolled again, and I was joking around with another guy. As I yelled something or another my top denture separated and was ejected. I saw it bouncing in the road, which had a half-dozen or so support vehicles in our lane following us and dozens of vehicles moving along the opposite lane.

Dentures are obviously an integral part of eating anything other than baby food, so I came to a stop as quickly as possible, and dismounted. One of the support riders was yelling, asking why I was stopping. I told him I’d lost my dentures, although I’m pretty sure it wasn’t put very politely.

As I searched for my dentures I saw the van which my Sergeant Major was driving, and stuck head in the passenger window and asked, “Have you seen my dentures?” The look on his face and his passenger’s — a rider who’d fallen out — was priceless…and I heard about this incident for days and days afterwards.

I finally managed to find them as the traffic cleared up. They were laying right, smack-dab in the middle of the road, almost perfectly centered on a stripe. I quickly inspected them, and to my utter amazement found no chips, scrapes or tire tracks on them. I cleaned them off as best I could and popped them back in. A support rider had stayed behind to escort me back to the group. Her name was Amber, and she is a middle-age woman who stands about 5′ 2″ (157 cm) tall. She’s a pretty strong rider, and can lay down the V when she needs to.

“Okay, we’re gonna have to catch up to the group now. Are you ready to kick it?” asked Amber. I gave her the affirmative, and on her signal I started to lay down the V. Not going all-out, because I had no idea how far ahead of us the group was, but definitely letting my leg muscles give some of the effort they’d been begging for the whole ride.

All too quickly we caught up to Group 2 because they’d stopped to wait for us. My legs were disappointed by this, and maybe I should have berated the other riders were cutting my sprint short. Amber latter informed me that according to her Strava we’d been going at least 32 mph (51.5 kph).

This was the shortest ride of the challenge, and we soon were were at…well, I actually don’t remember where the endpoint was, but all too soon we were there, and our bikes were loaded into a truck and were loaded into buses. I slept through most of the two hour bus ride, and then we unloaded at a hotel. The word I got was that dinner was only 12 miles away, so Mitch and I were joking about riding our bikes there because another 24 miles sounded just like more of what we wanted.

The word was incorrect, however. It turned out that we were bused 35 miles to Ft. Benning, where we had dinner at the Infantry Museum. Since I wasn’t told where we were having dinner I didn’t take my camera, which was a pity. I hadn’t been to Ft. Benning since 2006, and what used to be “Home of the Infantry” is now “the Maneuver Center of Excellence.” Lots of changes, that’s for sure. Hell, even the main gate had been revamped with lots of statuary.

Mitch and I found ourselves glad we hadn’t talked our way into another 70 miles of riding. We also vowed to move with Group 1 the next day.

All-in-all an interesting opening day.

Yours in Bikeyness,

— OTB

Gulf Coast Challenge, Day 0

On Friday, March 4th, we left for Atlanta, Georgia. The trip got off on the wrong foot when one of the guys I bike with here at Ft. Hood freaked out because I had every intention to take my steel touring cycle along with me. Believe it or not, he didn’t think that I could make the ride on my “dinosaur.” Needless to say I was more than a bit miffed about having to take a loaner once I got there, especially since the Ride 2 Recovery folks were under the impression that I was bringing my own.

The next hurdle was that the lovely folks that style themselves my bosses had dropped the ball and didn’t have my paperwork done. Since I was leaving with some fairly important people I wasn’t too worried. Basically, I left the problem in the laps of the people who had caused it.

So it came to pass that I left Ft. Hood in a 15-passenger van loaded with 4 bikes and 5 people on a 14 hour drive to a multi-day bike ride. Can’t say I’ve ever done that before. While I didn’t take my bike along at least I had my Ortlieb bags along, so at least there was that.

Arriving at the hotel in Atlanta we were given room keys, and I was a bit a bit confused by the fact that my room’s floor was “G”, which I took to stand for “Garage” or something of that nature. Soon that proved to be nothing of the sort: it stood for “Garden.” In fact, I had the most advantageous room from a cycling perspective, because its veranda was right by the support trucks. Once bikes were being handed out, fitted, maintained, etc. my veranda looked like this:

Yes, the head mechanic was a bit miffed that he had to dig out a bike for me to ride, but he understood that it was not my fault…although he did think it was more than a bit funny that I asked if they had something made of steel, not to mention that I ended up being the lone rider in the formation who was riding platform pedals.

The bike did take some getting used to, mainly because it featured electronic shifter rather than the standard brifters that I’m used to. I do have to say that the bike handled differently than what I’m used to with a Shimano Ultegra drive-train and a carbon fiber frame. The weirdest thing was that I found myself having to consciously think

Once all that was done those of us who were first-time challenge riders had to attend a class. I confess that I felt a bit patronized, because I really didn’t need to have an “ABC check” explained to me, and I further confess that I felt the need to interject things like that the C was “part of the D,” or that presta caps “mark you as a duffer.” (Ooops!) Oh well, that’s what they get for making me sit through that…which is partially understandable considering the very wide range of experience in the challenge’s riders.

Travel and orientation complete I settled down for a nice night’s rest in a city that I previously had experienced only the airport in.

Yours in Bikeyness,

— OTB

Gulf Coast Challenge Complete

I returned yesterday evening from the Gulf Coast Challenge, which is part of the Ride 2 Recovery program. Definitely an interesting experience, which was quite different from the cycling that I’ve been doing for years. I’ll be trying to do a day-by-day write-up over the next few days of an event that took 138 riders plus support personnel and vehicles from Atlanta all the way to New Orleans with some very interesting stops along the way.

Yours in Bikeyness,

— OTB

Ride 2 Recovery

Yes, I’ve been remiss about posting, but for the most part I have to say that the process of being medically retired has been really draining, and takes up too much of my day. Hence I have no energy when I get home in the evening.

On the bright side, though, I’ll be heading out in a couple of day for the Ride 2 Recovery’s Gulf Coast Challenge. Not a race, just a ride for multiple groups. It starts in Atlanta and ends in New Orleans and will be taking place between the 6th and the 12th of March, so time is short.

Incidentally, the Ride 2 Recovery program is part of the process of military personnel recovering from wounds, injury or disease. I really have to say that no expense has been spared on the bikes that my fellow riders are mounted on…of course I’m riding my own bike, and so far I’m the only one that’s riding steel.

Yes, I’ll be taking The Riddle of Steel II on this ride. While it’s partially because I’m not exactly a big fan of carbon fiber, it’s also a matter of pride that I’ll be mounted on the bike that took up the torch after I got hit.

I hope you’re all having yourself a bikey leap-year day. More to follow.

Yours in Bikeyness,

OTB