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

Monday, November 28, 2016

No fanfare

This is how the world ends
Not with a bang but a whimper.
 - T.S. Eliot (The Hollow Men)

I surpassed my year's goal ride time over this past holiday weekend. This is the second year I've made it over 500 hours of on-the-bike time, a goal I made on a whim towards the end of 2014 after feeling like I hadn't done all that much (though I'd made just over 385 hours of ride time).

I passed the 500 hour mark on Black Friday, while much of the nation was joining the annual shopping melee. With the typical Pacific Northwest weather, and my lack of desire to go out onto the roads when visibility is already low or to subject myself to prolonged exposure to rain and road spray, I put in a session on my stationary trainer. In fact all my riding over the holiday weekend was on the trainer. Yeah, the goal died with a whimper.

The "drainer", as it's lovingly called in many circles, is comprised of an old Scott Waimea aluminum frame, cracked at the seat tube extension that holds the seatpost in place, semi-permanently affixed to a Cyclops "The Silencer" Direct Drive trainer. Which means I take off the back wheel and clamp the frame by the rear dropouts. But I don't find it all that silent. In fact it's just as noisy as the 20-year-old Minoura it replaced.

Anyway, I've been tracking the hours of the various forms of riding I've done the last two years, and find that I've been putting in a LOT of time on the trainer. More this year than last year, to the tune of 160+ hours so far. More than I've done on the mountain bike this year, and approaching the road miles I've put in so far. And given that the remainder of the year is often the worst, weather-wise, it's likely that the number will only go up.

I've also been participating in a 30-day plank challenge on Velocipede Salon, which started with short daily planks and has progressed exponentially to over four minutes (with two days remaining, and upping to 5 minutes on Wednesday). Between that and the time on the trainer, my wrists are constantly aching.

Which brings me to the reason for the entire post. (yeah, we were all wondering where this was going)

I need to fix the position on the trainer! Too much weight on my hands, and at the wrong angle. The Waimea was bought as a knock-around road bike that I could leave somewhere with little worry about weather (aluminum frame), ready to just jump on at a moment's notice. In its first year of life in my passel, it resided at work and saw many training rides around the local roads. But the position wasn't ideal, so it eventually fell out of favor. When the prospect of a permanent trainer bike came up (due to another frame essentially corroding out of existence), this was the bike that was the logical choice. But again, the non-ideal position is catching up to me.

I'm hoping that a different stem can fix the issue. And I think I have the tubing in the garage to make it myself. It would be my first attempt at a part that makes a lot of people nervous (along with forks, a bridge I've already crossed with no issues). We'll see how it goes. The reason I'd be making it myself is that I suspect it will end up being a very non-conventional design. A one-inch steerer coupled to a 31.8mm handlebar, and likely very long and tall.

So a new stem, a new construction, and hopefully new life and comfort on the trainer.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Punched another one through

In a couple previous posts (here, and here), I've documented my habit of building some (unofficial) single track trails on the worksite of my day job. It started just barely over a year ago, and to date I've created about 1.5 miles of new trail where once untamed wilderness (or a decade-plus old cat track) existed.

That squiggly line is the new trail. I began the left
side some 9 months ago, and pushed the last
20 yards today. Sweet.
And today I "completed" the longest single section yet. A half-mile long winding path connecting two otherwise completely uninteresting dirt access roads. I started this particular stretch on the last work day in December of last year. Yep, nine months of 2 or so days a week average, a half-hour at a crack.

I put the word "completed" in quotes because I kind of forced the last roughly twenty yards, where I could see the road at the end. It's passable, but still needs a little work to be clear. That's okay, another day or two and it'll truly be trail.

Yes, there are plans for a lot more, including a couple side trails that connect to this one. It's a long-term project, and actually a nice extension of the riding workout. My back has gotten a lot stronger -- good core work.

My gift to any fellow riders that happen to work here.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Time to get political

I recently had a co-worker at my day job stop by my desk fairly early in the morning, and ask if I was a Trump supporter. I answered with my standard response that there is a reason we have a secret ballot in this country, and I don't divulge my voting habits to anyone. She then said she couldn't talk to me and walked away.

But it wasn't done then, as she came back a few minutes later and launched into a "my candidate is great and why is the other getting a pass for X" search for validation. I wouldn't submit to that thinking, and discussed it in a completely neutral manner.

Fact is, neither candidate is getting a pass on anything, and rightfully so.

But my point with this post is not about which candidate deserves the office, or which one will do the better job of The Highest Office in the USA.

I really have two points to make. So I'll get right to it without much discussion.

One: You cannot vote against anyone.

You get one vote per office, and you can only for FOR one person. That's your voice. It only flips one number in one column, and doesn't affect the numbers in any other column, regardless of what anyone tells you. Your vote is only a "for" vote when it comes to electing anyone to an office. So vote your conscience as you see fit FOR whomever you would prefer to see in that office. Remember, there's always the write-in option if none of them appeal.

Two: I wish there were better candidates.

Truly. Yes, both candidates of the major parties are human, and thus prone to error. To say I support either one would be a gross misrepresentation. I just wish that we had ONE candidate who approached the office of President with humility, treating it as the daunting responsibility to The American People that it is. My wife and elder daughter and I have been watching the new series Designated Survivor. My wife said we need Kiefer Sutherland to run for president. In reality, I think the last president who remotely came close to being a servant of the people was Ronald Reagan ("the actor?" to quote Doc from Back to the Future). It saddens me that this is what we've come to, but here we are, let's make the best of it.

Regardless of where you fall in the political spectrum, exercise your rights as a citizen and vote. Vote your conscience. And come November 9th, when the results are in, let's get together as one people, one nation, and make this thing work.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Goodbye anonymous, you'll be missed.

Some equipment gets neglected, more because it just works, taking daily (or nearly-daily) abuse and just continuing on without complaint. Time goes on and you just kind of don't notice it.

Until it doesn't. And you do notice it.

Yesterday was one of those rides for me, and the equipment that got noticed was my shoes.

I have issues with shoes, being a difficult fit. No, my feet aren't particularly wide or narrow. In fact, some time back I actually measured them against the industry standard and found that they were pretty much spot on the medium width of D for men.

Toe problem is my toes. Or really, where my toes point.

Take a look at your shoes. Chances are, unless you're wearing Altra running shoes, or Bont cycling shoes, or some variation of Vivobarefoot, Vibram, or Birkenstocks, your shoes come essentially to a point at the toes.

Draw a line from the center of your heel to the center of the ball of your foot, and then another from the center of the ball to the center of the big toe. Do they form an angle? Do they form a significant angle?

For some reason I cannot fathom, most every shoe maker assumes that everyone has that same significant angle. It's called a bunion in the medical community. But it only comes to medical attention when it causes pain and joint degradation.

But the funny thing is that in cultures where shoes aren't worn, those two lines aren't two lines at all -- they're one continuous line. Straight from heel to ball to toe. And bunions just don't happen. Kind of begs the question of whether the shoes cause the condition.

Anyway... My toes do the same thing under weight bearing. One straight line from heel to toe. So finding shoes that really fit is an issue. I love Altra for sticking with their FOOT shaped last. And if the market for running and casual shoes is thin, cycling shoes are downright dismal. Bont comes close, but the depth of their heel cup causes the collar to dig into my ankle.

So anyway, back to yesterday's ride. After doing my normal trail work, I hopped back on and started riding. My right foot started feeling a little sloppy. So I cinched down the strap a bit more.

And it still felt sloppy.

No matter how much I pulled the straps tighter, I could still feel my foot moving around. So I took a closer look.

The upper was peeling away from the sole all the way from the tip to the arch, and well into half-way across the shoe's width.

After three-plus years of complaint-free riding, doling out abuse on these kicks and doing little more than letting them dry out, they finally said "enough".

And I'm okay with that. I don't feel like they owe me anything. I bear no ill-will toward Bontrager.

My search for new mountain bike shoes begins in earnest. I've employed my old Sidi Lazer road shoes for the task of my lunchtime rides and trail work until I find suitable replacements. A stop-gap measure that is less compromise than a desperation move. To say the Sidi's are less than ideal is to exercise an extreme gift of understatement.

But I'll find them. The foot wear unicorns...

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Gravel Love/Hate

Gravel rides can be funny things. Usually they start and end on pavement, the means to get to what the ride is really all about -- getting OFF pavement and onto gravel and/or dirt roads. But the progression of the mood is what makes it so amusing. It becomes a love/hate tug-of-war, all the more polar as the distance increases.

This past week I took a trip to the northern Oregon coast for a couple days of relaxation. Manzanita was our base, about 30 miles south of Cannon Beach (famous for the rock formations on the beach). I had mapped out a few ride routes and loaded them onto my Garmin with the idea that I could get out on a couple rides while there. Two of the three routes I had planned incorporated gravel roads linking road sections to and from our rental house.

It's a given that, especially on the western side of the Cascades, gravel roads mean hills, usually long and quite often very steep. Getting to a 1:1 gear ratio is highly recommended. I'm close, with a 34/32 low gear. Even with an elevation profile, though, I was unprepared for what hit me.

First, you'd think that 101, being the COAST highway, and following the coastline and all, would be, you know, flat. It follows something at sea level, right?

Well, that's a glorious yes as well as a disappointing no. Riding north out of Manzanita heading to my turn-off at the Short Sand Cutoff road, I encountered what seemed like one long uphill, followed closely by another. Taking the right hander onto the gravel was a relief. FINALLY some flat road!

But that relief was short-lived. Within another quarter mile, I was headed up again. WAY up. Bottom gear, rear tire slipping with every pedal stroke kind of up. And it just went on. And on. And on...

The crown in the gravel road made it interesting, with each slipping of the rear tire sending me closer to the edge of the road. Several times I had to get off and walk, keeping myself on the road and giving myself a little bit of a break. Getting started up again was another problem in itself.

At the three mile mark from leaving pavement, I hit what I hoped was the summit. I slumped myself over the handlebars for a minute, letting my heaving lungs subside into a more natural rhythm, then rolled on into the mist.

Fortunately, it was the summit. Unfortunately the downhill portion was no better than the uphill, and in fact was worse in many ways -- far rougher in sections, and just as steep.

Passing around a second gate on the descent, and finally seeing pavement again, I was surprised by five HUGE black birds taking flight just to my right. I had to take a close look -- TURKEY VULTURES! I had never seen these birds on the west side of the Cascades before. I decided to keep moving to make sure they didn't mistake me for their next carcass.

And even with the sad state that this pavement was in, it was a wonderful relief to be back on something smooth again.

After just a few miles cruised back west and south on the North Fork Road, I was back at home base, tired and dirty. And glad to be done with the ride.

That's the mood progression that's so funny. At first, on pavement, you can't wait to get to the gravel. Once on the gravel, and hit with the normal hills, it becomes a grind, possibly some of the most strenuous riding around. Then heading back down from all that, it's a balancing act of caution and terror, maintaining speed and control. By the time you get back down, pavement is such a relief, and you're glad to be off the gravel.

For the next day's ride I opted for a road loop, relatively flat.