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

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The future of cycling is being shaped now. And needs your help.

I didn't discover bike racing until well into my adult life (okay, I was about 28).

Until that time, I'd been a runner, and then triathlete. Racing on a bicycle was very different than the individual sports in which I'd been immersed to that point -- not only were the tactics a whole new world, but the on/off nature of the race taxed me in ways I'd never known before. Being involved with a team made the transition much easier, and provided a social aspect that was sorely lacking in other areas of my life.

How might my life have differed had I found opportunities to race on a bicycle earlier in life?

While I'll never truly know the answer to that question, I can take some guesses -- I would have been more outgoing, self-confident, and would have learned bike mechanics much earlier. I can see issues with high-school level athletics dealing with the myriad logistics of road bike racing, especially road closures, traffic control, and insurance coverage. Mountain bikes can make most of those issues go away.

Okay, mountain bikes hadn't really even been invented when I was in high school... But in any case, if I'd had the opportunity, I think I would have dived right in head first.

The National Interscholastic Cycling Association (NICA) is out to change that lack of opportunity. Already they've started leagues in 12 states, and their goal is to have leagues in every state of the nation by 2020. They provide coaching, scholarships, and helps shape the future of cycling and cyclists.

But that takes money.

Dick's Sporting Goods and Sports Matter have a funding campaign in place to raise the moneys needed to continue the spread of these leagues into more states. This campaign has a goal to hit $75000 by May 23rd, and if they hit that goal they get matching funds from Sports Matter. The dark side -- if they don't hit the goal, they don't get the money.

I'd ask that anyone with the means consider donating to this campaign, help the spread of cycling into our nations youth.

Click here to donate.


Thursday, April 17, 2014

I think I'm a quart low...

That's what I said as I wrung out my socks.

Some days I question my own sanity. Today is one of those days.

Usually, I don't like to start a ride outdoors if it's raining. If it starts raining after I'm already on the road, then fine, I'll gut through it. Rule 5 for me has limits.

For my lunchtime rides at work, if it's not raining bad I'll opt for riding off-road. If it IS raining hard, I'll skip it and do some time on the trainer at home.

Today, I just decided to do it anyway. After the first 10 minutes, it just doesn't matter anymore, right? I mean, wet is wet. What, are you gonna get MORE wet?

All those puddles and low spots that had finally dried out were full again, though thankfully the ground has had a chance to firm up, so it wasn't a total slog-fest.

Glasses got relegated to the pocket within 2 miles. Gloves were dripping by the time I got to 30 minutes.

After the ride, I put all the wet clothes into a plastic bag and then into my gym bag. I think that now weighs 20 pounds.

Hopefully my shoes will dry by tomorrow.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


A week ago I posted about This Old Bike, an old Specialized Sirrus I had bought to ship to Illinois so that I had a bike there to ride while visiting my wife's family.

Yesterday I took it out on its "maiden" voyage.

The verdict? It's close, just a tweak here and there, new tires, and it'll be finished.

Here's how it looks now.

There was one more addition to the parts that I listed in the previous post: a front derailleur. I found that in dropping the chainring size to 46T (a common cyclocross size), and bringing the front derailleur down the seat tube to get proper shifting, the long cage of the triple rested on the chainstay. Hm...

I just happened to have an old 7-speed Shimano 600 front derailleur in the parts bin. Works beautifully.

So how was is the ride? Sprightly, responsive, as a good steel frame should be, faster than many of my recent rides over the same course (could be the weather too, as we had nice sunshine and warm temperatures). The braking performance isn't all that great, but that's what single pivot brakes do, so no surprises there.

After I got home I saw that the old tires were flaking off dried rubber from the gumwalls. I'd planned to replace them before shipping the bike anyway, I'll just have to do it before I ride it again.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Anvil Bikeworks weighs in on NAHBS.

It isn't often that I would just post a link to a Facebook post, but this one is so spot-on, and as a beginner in the frame building world, it's both exciting and very, very daunting. Don says it best:

Give it a read here.

This Old Bike

I guess it really didn't take long to find an appropriate bike (read: cheap) to store at my in-laws in Illinois, though in the short span I was searching, it seemed that it might never happen.
Plenty of tire clearance.
Plastic ring has got to go.

The idea was to find an inexpensive, yet serviceable, bike that I could use for hour-or-so rides on the roads of north-central Illinois (read: no major hills of any kind) when making the twice-or-so visits a year out there. I'm a morning person, and it's not unusual that I'm up well before most of the rest of the family. Getting an hour on the bike will go a long ways to keeping my sanity. (NOT meant to be a comment on my wife's family.)

I looked at several single-speeds, had a cart all ready at Nashbar just in case, had a Chicago local willing to help me out with facilitating a Craigslist buy so I didn't have to ship the bike... I perused Craigslist in both the Chicago and Seattle/Tacoma areas for decent bikes at awesome prices. There must be a whole lot of very tall people out in the general population that I just don't see on a daily basis -- I was shocked at the number of bikes with the seat slammed all the way to the top tube... "fits riders 5'4" to 6'6"...  I missed out on a number of really good deals... Called/emailed a few sellers who just didn't respond...

But Monday night I picked up a bike from a local Craigslist ad. A Specialized Sirrus Triple, circa 1991-ish. I talked with the seller for a while, and the story was one I'd heard many times before: bought the bike to do Seattle to Portland way back when, basically stored the bike after and never rode it again.

Suntour Edge components, with single-pivot brakes, Wolber box-section rims, indexed 7-speed back end with a thread-on freewheel (hm... this could convert to a single speed easily) and down-tube-mounted shift levers, one-inch threaded steerer with quill stem, all steel. With a nice coating of dust. But the rear indexing is still dialed in... Makes me feel a little like a Velo-version of Bob Villa.

It's in good shape, but needs a little work. The task list (for now) is:

* Swap the gel monstrosity saddle to something more to the liking of my tush. (check -- already have this)
* Pull the plastic platform pedals and replace with some SPDs. (check again)
* New bar tape. (check times three)
* Swap the tires for something more suited to the potential of running on gravel roads. (half check -- I'll need a second one).
* Clean the drive train. 20 year old lube plus a healthy sprinkling of dust makes awesome grinding compound.
* Repack the hubs. They're running the original grease, which is probably dried to a hard patina now.
* True up the wheels. They're really close, but a little tweaking of the spokes will dial them in nicely.
* File off the fork ends. Lawyer tabs? Uh, the quick release is supposed to be QUICK, eh?
* Maybe swap out the cranks/bottom bracket. This would lose some significant weight, and ditch the very-unnecessary third chainring. (have them, just need to decide if I want to do this)
* Get a box to ship the bike to Illinois and pack it up.

Torture device. Outta here.
Nice shifters, still dialed in.
And no extra charge for the coating of dust.

That's not a whole lot, really, and won't cost me much of anything.

While not a high-end bike, and likely not the perfect geometry for my liking, it'll do nicely for the week-at-a-time trips across the country when I don't want to hang up my cleats and get all stir-crazy. 

Edit to add: Upon beginning the disassembly, as in all projects, there's a thing called "scope creep". Meaning that the project grows as you dive in. Nothing catastrophic, but the threads on the right crank arm stripped when I tried to take it off, I found that the chain was one good hard shift away from exploding, and the plastic under-bottom-bracket cable guide disintegrated as soon as I took the cable tension off. So far, though, that little plastic piece is the only one I don't have in the parts bin.