An admitted shoe geek waxes philosophical about running, triathlon, and life in general.
Comments welcome!

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Help them on their journey

Sometimes people just quietly go about doing something epic, something amazing, something good. They choose to make a difference, and get on with the task.

And occasionally, it draws some attention.

Hopefully this post helps draw some attention.

Matt Broshat is slowly making his way clockwise around the United States. By bicycle. Unsupported. 

He's doing it to raise money for Young Life Capernaum, a branch of the Young Life charity ministry that focuses on disabled children. His goal is modest: $25,000 raised through pedaling some 11,000 miles solo.

I heard about Matt through his cousin, making a post on the Slowtwitch forum. He was starting out from Portland, OR, on August 8th. I read the post on the morning of August 9th. I looked at his route, and it seemed he was starting out by riding the Seattle-to-Portland route in reverse. Which, hey! just so happens to pass a couple miles from my house.

I made a contact through his website, and quickly got a reply. After some back-and-forth, it was all set up, and around 6pm on Thursday, Matt rolled into our driveway.

He was ecstatic over the prospect of a shower, bed, dinner, breakfast... Simple daily things most of us take for granted. After spending the previous night in his hammock, with sprinklers starting up around 2am, I can imagine that the accommodations were a considerable step up.

Matt is affable, unassuming, and humble. He isn't out to make any money for himself on this trip, it's all for the kids. He has been involved with Young Life for some 8 years, a third of his life already. His ride is completely self-supported.

Matt with my daughter before resuming his journey
on Friday morning.
I posted on Facebook after he resumed his journey on Friday morning, the next leg taking him into Seattle for the next day before turning east. I immediately got responses for folks willing to host him in Spokane, WA, and Bozeman, MT.

I saw in his route feed that he's in Spokane now -- hopefully with one of the volunteer hosts.

I wish Matt well, a safe journey, and generous people along the way.

Take a look at Matt's proposed route, and if you're near, consider hosting him for the night. Or even offering a lunch, a cold drink, some encouragement. And maybe a donation to his cause.

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Lucky Masochist's Gravel Deuce, Part IV

It's been a week, so the pain has subsided enough to think about another event. But I'm getting ahead of myself already.

Last weekend... Well, not last weekend, but the one before, the one after the Seattle-to-Portland support day... Anyway, it was the fourth edition of the Lucky Masochist's Gravel Deuce, my gift to the cycling community in the form of two days of riding in Capital Forest and areas to the south. 

Based out of the Lucky Eagle Casino, the first day travels counter-clockwise around Capital Peak, with some very long and steep gravel roads thrown in because... Well, because. The second day meanders southeast before hitting gravel again, then goes southwest to the Brooklyn Tavern for lunch.

Weather this year was the warmest it's been for this ride. I like the heat. I'm strange like that. But I think I still had difficulty keeping up with hydration demands. I suffered on the steeper inclines, watching my ride mate disappear into the distance every time the road tilted up to any significant degree. I was doubting myself the whole way. And then I had to walk some of the steepest grade.

I maintain that there's no shame in needing to walk any of this ride, and two of the four rides now I've been able to make it up this particular hill without walking. That day was not to be. My Garmin kept up the joke by telling my it was auto-pausing. Even when I finally got back on the bike, it couldn't decide whether I was moving or not. Lovely. Here, have some salt to rub in that knife wound, how about...

But I soldiered on, the descents a sweet reward. This was my first time using the Kinekt seatpost on this course, and I could tell it made a big difference in my descending. Some of the roads were "chunkier" than I remember from previous editions, but it made less impact (haha) to my speed. The ride was just that much smoother.

The last hill... mountain, really, is a long, LONG ascent. It just keeps on hitting you with more. But I made all that just pushing through the pain, slogging my way upward, and watching the elevation profile rather than my (low) single-digit speed. 

Tailwinds on the final run back to the hotel were a welcome relief, and the brews and sandwiches that my wife provided to feed us eventually brought be back to humanity.

Just in time for day two.

This time, again, I was alone. Just me, myself, and I for the ride. So maybe I didn't push as much at the beginning. Or maybe I had just recovered better. In any case, no difficulty. But also, since I was alone, I opted to not take the road all the way out to the Brooklyn. Traffic considerations had me cut off about 10 miles, along with the lunch stop, so I could get home sooner. The hour plus drive back can easily turn into three given Sunday afternoon highway congestion. 

I had been considering signing up for the Cascade Bike Club's High Pass Challenge, a 104-mile out-and-back jaunt from Packwood to the Windy Ridge lookout over Spirit Lake and Mount St Helens (site of the May 18, 1980, explosive eruption). For those keeping score, that also includes 7500 ft of uphill. Given how I felt on Saturday, I was having doubts. 

But as I said at the beginning of this little diatribe, it's been a week, the pain has subsided, and I've had another weekend of test rides to see if I am, or at least will be, ready for the ride. And I think I'll be okay.

I signed up yesterday.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Seattle-to-Portland Classic, from the repair stand

I had explored the idea months before. A way to help the riding community while putting the Mjolnir Cycles name in front of probably THE largest gatherings of riders each year.

Volunteering to provide mechanical support for the riders of the Cascade Bike Club Seattle-to-Portland Classic at the first major rest stop. Which happened to be about 3 miles from my new dwelling place. Convenient for me.
I contacted the organizers, and eventually my inquiry landed on the right desk -- I was immediately accepted. Apparently there is more need than volunteers.

There was a span of no communication, and suddenly it was two weeks before the day. I hadn’t been given any direction on just what should be provided (I was told that we weren’t expected to give away any repair parts, and that riders were instructed to carry cash to pay for any needed items – we were volunteering our time and knowledge), so I made my best guess and put in a large order for tubes, patch kits, cables, and other items I thought would be needed. 

With that plus tent, banners, work stand, tools, and bike rack loaded into the truck on Friday evening, I set my alarm for 4am and went to sleep.
The st-up, next to the entrance road.

The opening time for the rest stop was 6am, so I arrived about 5:30 to set up shop. A local middle school (where my daughter will eventually attend, given that we stay in our current house for another 7 years) provided the area where riders would enter, pass the repair area, and on to the port-o-potties, medical support, and food. I made full use of the proximity to the only entrance, and set up just at the curb. Ready to greet the ten thousand of my new best friends.

Duran Delgado -- a godsend
of previous experience
and gregarious nature.
I had a working partner in Duran Delgado from FSA/Vision Tech, who had volunteered the previous year. He had some valuable first-hand knowledge of the volume of work coming, and the types of repairs we would be performing. And a lot of stories to tell of his growing up in the Dominican Republic.

I’d also brought my own road bike, sporting the Kinekt seatpost, which generated some interest and conversation through the day. Courses like this one are tailor-made for the Kinekt, with many miles of rough chip-seal.

At 6:01, the first riders rolled into the rest stop. Just a few, well spaced. With this stop situated some 50+ miles from the start, I had to wonder just how early these riders set off. I didn’t see lights on all their bikes, and I know it was well before sunrise. Regardless, these riders didn’t need any mechanical help, and we just watched them roll by. But it wasn’t long before our first customers arrived for bike first aid.
The surge begins.

And from that point it ramped up to… the only term I can come up with is “frenzy”… of going from one bike to the next, making adjustments to shifting, airing up tires, changing tubes, lubing chains. There were a few broken spokes, and while I didn’t have any replacements (and the rider was loathe to spend the time waiting for a full repair anyway, with removal of cassette, brake rotor, tire, tube, rim strip… just to get AT the spoke), I could make it better than it was. 

Gregg’s Greenlake Cycles was ready to help with repairs at near 10. I had been told that they hadn’t brought any spare parts, but it turns out they did – they just ran out of a few things (specifically tires, which I had run out of as well by that point). 

I sold a lot of tubes, CO2 cartridges (which I wasn’t sure I would even want), all the tires I had brought (as an afterthought, and I could have sold a couple more), a few brakes pads, a chain. I didn’t move any of the spare cables or housing, or patch kits. Which is fine – I can still use them.

The front table set-up. Tips welcome.
I also had a tip jar, “Mead Money”, placed on the front table. I took payments for parts in cash to that container, and also had Paypal set up through my business email address. It was amazing how generous many of the riders were. Tips poured in. In one case I spent as little as 30 seconds making a derailleur adjustment, and the rider tipped me $20! While I’m sure there were more a couple tubes or such that got out without payment (especially when given the option to pay via Paypal after the fact), overall I didn’t lose money, for sure.

No saving this one.
The most extensive repair inquiry came from a young gentleman aboard a Novara (REI house brand) road bike, whose downtube had completely failed. Truly, there was nothing that could be done for that one, and the best I could offer him was a call to REI for a warranty replacement. I saw him a couple hours later walking out to catch his rescue ride, his STP done at 50 miles.

This Firefly is a rare bird in the
PacNW, and a relief lifting into
the repair stand.
At around 12:30, things tapered off a bit, a good three-and-a-half hours of steady work where I didn’t sit, didn’t eat or drink, just jumping from one bike to the next, performing triage and first-aid to bikes. And in all of that, there was only the one bike we couldn’t get back on the road in short turn-around.

As I was breaking down my tent, one lady pulled into the rest stop with a rather shell-shocked look.

“Oh no, did I miss the lunch?”

I directed her to the area behind the school where they had a veritable banquet set up still. The relief on her face was apparent. 

I was packed up and on the road back home by 2:00. I felt good about the morning, and was already thinking about how I could better support the ride next year.

And I’ve already put in my offer to volunteer at the 2019 edition.

Thursday, June 28, 2018

They call me "Lightning"...

We had a few trees taken down on our property a few weeks ago. Nine in all -- four fir, two cottonwood, two paulonia, and one maple.

It was a very impressive sight, watching them climb up the trees, limbing on the way up, then taking the trunk down in sections. All done in one day, including clean-up, chipping all the branches, and cutting the trunks into lengths for firewood.

The cutter seemed to know just exactly how to tip each section as it dropped so that it landed flat lengthwise, regardless of its length or height. No digging into the ground. I guess that's why they're professionals...

The chipper was rather intimidating -- a tow-behind model that took the entire cottonwood trees, from 8" diameter trunk to every small branch, chewed them up and spit them out into the back of a truck.

We also had them leave the chips for us to use. It's quite a large ridge alongside our shed.

But that also left a very large pile of firewood sections for me to split and stack. I literally had my work cut out for me.

We've been working at it a little bit at a time, an hour or a little more here and there, progress.

I started out just using an axe. Something that I inherited from my father, it's fairly old, and the head slowly creeps towards the end of the wooden handle. I need to either get a new one with a fiberglass handle, or get a new wood handle installed on this one. But in any case, I got some of the paulonia done with just that axe. The fir, though, was a totally different story. The axe just bounced off, making small marks on the rounds, but nothing in the way of cracks through the wood.

I needed something more aggressive.

My wife, bless her, was all for renting a hydraulic splitter. I'm a hands-on kind of guy. I build my bikes by hand, and prefer hand saws to electric skilsaws. Maybe I'm just an anachronism.

Splitting wood is about the maul. Part wedge, part axe, heavy, effective, and most importantly, manually operated. I have the head from one that has traveled with me for almost 30 years through several moves, the handle long since lost to use. 

The most effective implement to
split firewood -- at least manually.
So my wife picked up a new splitting maul from the local hardware store, a nice fiberglass handled model, with yellow rubber grips, all shiny black and sharp.

I started in on the stacks of fir rounds. The familiar heft, a quick heave, and the satisfying sound of the wood fibers separating. Slowly, the rounds became pie-shaped pieces (well, if the pie were 18" in diameter and 14" tall) suitable for the wood stove. It's kind of cathartic.

Mentally, it takes me back to fall and winter days with my father, cutting and splitting firewood. Sometimes we would sell a few cords, sometimes it would be kept to feed the wood stove in the basement.

We had a running joke when it came to splitting the wood.

"They call me Lightning."

"Because you're so fast?"

"No, because I never strike twice in the same place."
Note: This is not our pile
of firewood.

It's getting better, the aim and control of the maul. It's been a lot of years since I've swung one.

And my wife even recognizes the satisfaction of a good workout and seeing the wood getting split.

Now to get it all stacked in the shed...

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Under Pressure

A couple weeks back I posted about the Vicious Cycles Gran Fondo I had ridden in Ellensburg. I also mentioned that I was providing mechanical support for the BuDu Racing Moses Lake Triathlon the day before.

And I was astounded. 

Far and away the most requested service was use of the floor pump, whether they wanted to wield it themselves or asking me to do so. In fact, I think there was only one person that wanted me to do anything besides air up their tires, and that was replacing an inner tube (which then needed to be pumped up).

Just a little topping-off to be ride-ready, I asked what they usually ran in their tires.

"One hundred twenty." "One-ten." Oh my...

I'd look at them, look at the tires, and sometimes ask them why they were running the pressure so high. All they were accomplishing is rattling their teeth out.

I get it. Really. It makes sense that a firm (or in this case rock hard) tire is a faster tire. And if that tire is rolling on glass, or as near as you can get on a road equivalent, then yes, generally a firmer tire will exhibit lower rolling resistance.

It will also slide easier, and transmit less torque. But that's only an issue if you turn, hit the brakes, or want to accelerate. Not a lot of call for those shenanigans in a triathlon.

The facts are that the tire, in real world conditions, rolls faster when it's not so firm. And the rougher the surface (within reason -- we're talking about road surfaces here), the lower the pressure desired.

And as the tire carcass gets larger (as in a wider tire), the need for higher pressure to avoid a pinch flat (where the tire bottoms out on the rim when hitting a sharp object such as the rim of a pothole). It's a balancing act of enough pressure to protect the tube (and as the rider/bike weight increases, so does the required pressure) and comfort.

For standard road bike tires of 23mm width, 100 psi is plenty. I routinely run mine at 90-95. For 28mm tires, 85 is considered fairly high.

That number printed on the side of the tire is the recommended MAXIMUM pressure, to avoid the tire blowing off the rim.

So ease up, people!

Your dentist will thank you.