My name is Jason and this blog is about bikes and biking, plain and simple. I don't claim to be a gear head, a former pro, a hipster or an afficionado. I just like to ride my bicycle.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy T-Day

Thanksgiving is a time for being grateful for all that we have. So, to celebrate this holiday I thought I’d stop and take some time to reflect on all of the many things there are to be thankful for, such as:

• Carbon fiber
• Gore Tex Windstopper fabric
• The DI2 electronic shift option for Dura Ace
• Wonderfully Dura Ace components like derailleurs and pedals
• Hell all those other gruppo’s too for the Campy and SRAM crowds let’s not be bigoted in our hardware selections
• The Zipp Sub 9 aero wheel
• Brooks saddles
• Balloon tires
• Lance and Alberto likely dueling to the death in the 2010 TDF
• Bike lanes
• Phil Ligget
• Embrocation
• Tom Boonen getting off the rock
• 3 months to get back into shape
• Universal Sports covering cycling
• Cadel finally getting a big win so he’ll shut up for a while about not getting a big win
• The new ACA website
• Team rides
• Solo Rides
• Cruiser rides
• Those rides to the store when you forgot to get bread and Cheerios
• Commuting to work…on even the not so nice days
• Johnson and Johnson’s Multi-Day Ultra Wound Care Pads
• The afternoon mail delivery when you get the new VeloNews
• Fat Tire (its bike related)
• Finally getting your mis-matched Velo Swap parts to work
• Selling the mis-matched Velo Swap parts you couldn’t get to work
• Hipsters…they give people something else to make fun of instead of roadies
• Catching at the light that bastard in the SUV who buzzed you and giving he/she the “kiss my ass” gesture of your choice
• 3 feet to pass
• Lube
• Following the Tour of Missouri in a Vanagon
• Having Levi and Lance show up at the Rock the River Time Trial outside of Glenwood Springs
• First Places…Last Places and all places in between
• Pro Race 3’s
• The end of Goat Head season
• Chrome Bags
• Leg shaving
• Roadie tan
• Railing the descent down Lookout…or any of your favorite descents
• California courtroom justice
• Jens Voigt

Have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Better safe than sorry

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sub 20 Degree Day

Despite the conflicting weather reports between the radio and tv, there could be no denying that this morning was a cold one. I generally tend to run a bit on the warm side, so these cold days don't bother me too much. Still with temps hovering just under 20 degrees, its good to recheck the layers to make sure nothing gets too chlled. On days like today preparation for riding in the elements goes a long way and can make the difference between an enjoyable ride and a near hypothermic experience.  Here's the list of gear I used for today's ride:
  • Long underwear top and bottoms
  • Pair of canvas pants (I don't commute in bike just doesn't seem necessary to me and this way I get by without the expense of having wearing out multiple pairs of bike shorts)
  • Gore Windstopper bike jacket
  • Manzanella Ranch Hand gloves w/ liners
  • Mountain Hardware skull cap.
I typically can get away with this level of clothing for most 20-40 degree days. If its closer to 40 I generally don't use long underwear bottoms and just get by with pants. With temps just on the cusp of that range today, I figured they'd be necessary but didn't feel like going to extremes. My threshold is generally positive temperatures. If the temp drops below 0 degrees Fahrenheit then I'm typically on the bus with my bike hoping for a warmer afternoon (which thankfully in Denver usually happens.) On these really cold days I'll beef up my wardrobe in order to stay comfortable.
  • Long underwear top and bottoms
  • Canvas pants if I feel brave, but generally a ski pant or rain shell
  • Mountain Hardware technical jacket
  • Black Diamond alpine gloves
  • Skull cap
  • Nose and mouth mask
  • Shoe covers
With this level of protection I've been reasonably comfortable at -5, but the level of mobility and cumbersomeness of the layers makes the riding more difficult. Still, if the goal is to ride in all conditions this type of layering certainly will help towards accomplishing that. In the end, my general rule of thumb is: if I would pay to go ski in weather this cold, I ought to be able to ride my bike.  That being said, here's hoping it warms up a bit!

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Trainer Tires

After two winter's of riding my Cycleops Fluid trainer for most of my evening workouts, I decided to get a dedicated trainer wheel and tire for use with my road bike (I'd like to say that I upgraded to a Computrainer, but for now the tire will have to do.) Typical road bike tires wear at a faster rate than normal when used on a trainer due to the constant contact with the resistance roller and heat build up from friction. You can usually spot a trainer rider by their characteristic squared off rear tire. Last year when I was riding the trainer during the evenings and then riding on the road on weekends, I went through a couple tires due to the harsh transition from trainer to sandy streets. This year I plan to reduce the wear on my wheel and outdoor tire by using a trainer specific one.

There are handful of trainer specific tires on the market. Many of them employ a harder, less supple rubber than a typical road tire and usually have some type of ribbing or tread to help dissipate heat. While riding a trainer tire on pavement is generally not advised, the guys at my local bike shop told me that it technically could be done and probably wouldn't hurt the tire too much (Continental expressly suggests warns against doing this with their tires.)

The Continental Ultra Sport Home Trainer tire is a popular and well rated Home Trainer tire. It comes in a standard 700c size, has 3 ribs that run along the circumference of the wheel and has a suggested max psi of 120. The tire typically runs $34-$44 from what I could find and seems to be long lasting and reliable; typical of what I've come to expect from Continental (I think their Gatorskin tires are bomber).

The Continental Ultra Sport
The Vittoria Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Tire is structured identically to the Continental aside from a red rubber instead of orange. The Zaffiro is technically lighter than the Continental, not that it matters when mounted on a stationary set up, has the same profile and tread for heat dissipation and supposedly can be pumped up to 145psi--though with the force and heat generated from trainer riding I'm not sure if this would be advisable. The Zaffiro Pro tire typically ranges $24-$34 and therefore is more of a bargain than the Continental.
The Zaffiro Pro Home Trainer Tire
I've also historically had good experiences with Vittoria tires, and although I generally don't think they are cheaper than Continentals because they were in this case I went with the Zaffiro Pro.
Everything needed for the job, picked up for under $100.
I picked up a standard, cheap Shimano rear wheel with 8-9-10 hub. Mounting the tire was no different than a regular road tire. I used a cheap tube and made sure to use a rubber liner strip to protect the tube. Since I have more than one cassette lying around I put my Dura Ace 11-23T on this trainer wheel to allow for a pretty good range of gears for training.
The whole job was really straightforward, and now I have a dedicated setup that I can leave in the basement and will not have to worry about trashing my outside tires.
Hopefully I can get through the off season with my Gatorskins and then not have to worry about them wearing out before April, when it will be time to switch to summer race tires.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

A Multi-Modal Kind of Day

Today I woke feeling somewhat poorly. My head ached and my stomach felt a bit queasy. I missed the 8:30 start for the HART team ride and moped around the house for a couple hours until my wife, Kate, started to chide me for what she affectionately termed “wallowing.” After some breakfast and coffee, consumed in the slowest manner possible, I did start to feel a bit better. With my mood and overall physical state improved, we set about planning what to do with the uncharacteristically warm November Saturday. We decided to take our cruisers out and explore parts of Denver and Littleton via bus and light rail connections. Now you might be thinking, can you fit balloon tires on a bus bike rack…? Of course you can. Won’t your back hurt after lifting a heavy steel frame cruiser in and out of trains and up onto bus racks...? Of course it will. Will you look good doing it…? It’s a vintage Schwinn…of course you will.

Kate works for a very forward thinking and eco minded employer, and as a result can ride the bus or light rail anywhere she wants with her eco-pass. I on the other hand needed to head to King Soopers to get a day pass. RTD recently updated its website and now offers a number of nice features for route planning and navigating bus and light rail schedules. You can use an interactive map to look for routes and they have a much improved search and timetable tool for checking schedules. We planned to get me a day pass at the King Soopers at Quail and Colfax and then catch the 16 down to Denver. Contrary to the info on the RTD website, King Soopers, at least that one, doesn’t sell day passes so I grabbed a booklet of 10 ride coupons for $18. Not the deal I hoped for, but the extra ride coupons might come in handy if I get stranded on a snowy day.

We stood across the street and waited for the 16, and after getting the wave from the 16L which didn’t stop at the cross street were camped by, decided to head out and cruise along on our bikes. We went down Quail and caught the D-10 detour by the Lakewood Technology Park and rode through Lakewood Park. This small network of trails is actually kind of neat and offers pretty good views of downtown and the foothills. The trail takes you through some weird science themed sculptures and art before dumping you off in a neighborhood. The RTD West Line light rail project in this neighborhood rerouted the bike route all over the place, and the detour signage in this area was pretty poor. Since we knew the way to go from previous trips, we made our way up to 13th and across Kipling. We awkwardly circled two Lakewood cops and a couple in the midst of a domestic dispute before we had a clear shot at the trail entrance through the neighborhood and back out onto 12th. From this point it was a smooth straight stretch down 12th and 14th to Pierce where we hit Colfax and the 16 bus.

We got on the D line heading south at the Auraria light rail stop alongside Colfax Ave. Now that RTD no longer requires a special pass for taking your bike on the light rail, getting your bike on the train is a piece of cake. They even have signs on the ground to let you know which doors you can use with your bike. Lifting your bike up onto the train would definitely be easier with a lighter bike, but we like a challenge. The only other complaint would be the general lack of room to stand on the top platform with your bike while on the train. At each stop we inevitably were in someone’s way. The train took us south to Littleton where we got off at the main station downtown and cruised up to the Main Street area. We stopped off at Merle’s for lunch. I had a buffalo burger with cheese and bacon, which was cooked superbly and tasted great, along with a chocolate milk shake—which was a bit warm but really chocolaty. After our pit stop we walked along the streets in Littleton and stepped inside a number of the shops and stores in the general downtown area. After a couple hours of walking around we went back to the station and took the D further south to the Mineral stop. Here we crossed Santa Fe using the pedestrian walkway and went to the Aspen Grove shopping area. Kate wanted to go by the Apple store to check on a battery for her IPod and I wanted to check out the Sprint store for a possible upgrade to my phone. All in all the trip to the mall was relatively uneventful and not terribly exciting. There is limited bike parking near most of the vehicle entrances, all of which are somewhat out of the way in and unassuming spots. Additionally there are no public bathrooms since it is an outdoor mall, which combined with an entire day of riding and commuting around made for a bit of annoyance.

Bladders at the point of explosion we headed back up north on the C line and stopped off at Union Station. From here we needed to just get to 15th and we could catch the 28 or 32 back out to Lakewood. With the unseasonably warm temperatures we opted for the 32 which would drop us off on the north side of Crown Hill park where we could enjoy a pleasant night ride around the lake. We had 20 or so minutes until the 32 was due so we opted to head over to the House of Commons and get some tea. The nice folks there graciously poured us tea even though it was an hour after they supposedly closed (the lights were still on and they were just putting away their outside placard so how were we to know?) Armed with tea and bus coupons we headed up to Central St and caught our bus back home.

The blanket of clouds reflected the urban light pollution and lit up the park much like a full moon night. We enjoyed a leisurely ride through Crown Hill around the lake and back to 26th. We’ve ridden down to this area a couple times using the Platte River trail and other bike routes; it’s a nice ride, though a long one from our part of town. The combination of bike and public transportation allowed us to explore a part of the city that we typically don’t get to. To do it again it might make more sense not to drag cruisers along, instead using lighter road bikes. However the pleasure of rolling along on a big heavy steel frame cruiser cannot be denied and doing so around scenic Littleton under the autumn sun and back home in the cool night air made for a great way to spend a Saturday.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Universe Knows

After the ride in this morning I am fully convinced that the universe knows what kind of week this one has been. After the early week commuting on black ice and snow, cold mornings (it was technically still kind of cold this morning), atypically draining days at the office, long cold rides home in the dark, fighting with html etc…karma, or something, kicked in and doled out a really nice ride in to work today. Aptly timed for the inaugural post to the Spoked in the Eye blog, I hit most of my lights, had blue sky and sun over head—no black ice underfoot, traffic was light and despite it being like 29 degrees it just felt warmer. I managed to leave the house late, dilly-dally stopping to take pictures in the park off 14th and still managed to get to work on time. This ride came like a sorely needed shot in the arm to ward off the work-week flu. The only other bike rider I saw this morning seemed to be having a similarly good start to his day. Despite being fully wrapped up in his coat and hood, a clearly discernable smile shown through the opening. Yes, its good to be out on a bike today. And with that I can look at 8 more hours here at work where I have no tedious meetings. Tomorrow there’s a team ride at 8:30 and the morning promises to be similar to today. And I’m finally getting this blog concept out into the world. Things are looking up.