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.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The ABC's of TTT's

From the vantage of the casual observer a mass of bike racers moving down the road in a surging, noisy, blurry amoeba like form must assuredly appear chaotic and disorganized. The speed at which a peloton passes a fixed point barely provides a glimpse of the level of coordination and organization which belies the apparent confusion and chaos. Cycling is a team sport. And like all team sports there are tactics, strategies, game plans and roles for each member of the team to play. Watch basketball players set up a pick and roll, or an offensive lineman creating a hole for a running back to charge through and one can clearly see the logic behind the execution. Similarly, although difficult to gauge from the sidelines, when an organized cycling team exerts its will against the pack they can control the play by play much like a skilled NFL quarterback. The tactics and strategy change dramatically when the team is stripped of its direct competition and placed into isolation against the elements as in the case of the Team Time Trial. In this event the level of coordination and interplay between riders stands visible for all to see, much like a choreographed dance or closely timed relay. In the TTT the group of riders works together as one fluid unit to maximize the efficiency of the paceline against the wind; leverages the strengths of individual members against the road and clock; and ultimately hopes to best the competition over a fixed distance.

The strategy for the TTT is simple. Ride in a swiftly moving line, continually rotating fresher riders from the back of the line to the front in order to expose them to the wind and maintain the pace of the group over the course: see simple. Riders generally tend to peel off in the direction of the oncoming wind, edging back their pace as they slide along the flank to the rear where they slot into the queue and progress back toward the front. When done well this motion is almost seamless. (Check out this link for a montage of the 2009 TDF TTT…set to truly fantastic techno music.) One rider quickly takes the front, carries the pace of the group without a jarring, disruptive acceleration and then moves over in time allowing the next rested rider to repeat the process. Starting out this balance proves challenging to maintain, as riders tend to want to push forward once exposed to the wind. Additionally controlling pace is contentious when unfamiliar with the other members of the team and where they stand in terms of fitness. A sloppy TTT unit will leave large gaps between riders and will rotate in wide bands, as opposed to tight lines. With the TTT practice makes perfect.

Our Team Time Trial practice this morning got started in cold and somewhat windy conditions, but the weather quickly improved and made for a relatively good day of riding. Out of the gate we lacked the Team part of the TTT as only 5 riders showed up to practice. What we wanted in terms of numbers we made up for in a series of good efforts around Chatfield Reservoir State Park. The conditions of the road around the park were pretty poor with potholes and rough pavement for much of the course (perhaps some of that build up American stimulus cash could be applied to this obviously worthwhile cause.) These craters netted us two annoying flats, though I think mine was due to a faulty valve stem. Getting started we pushed a pretty easy pace while sorting out the logistics of rotation, acceleration and communication. For our second pass we upped the tempo and pushed ourselves more. At this point our organization and communication seemed to gel a bit more and the rhythm of our rotations became clearer. Despite some lingering hesitation and awkwardness there were moments of solid cohesion. We did a pretty good job of keeping a tight line and not dropping riders off the back with accelerations. Our third effort left us with 4 riders as one of our group had to leave early. I found myself out gunned by stronger riders on TT bikes geared with large 56+ tooth chainrings, small cassettes, areobars and lightweight carbon frames. I left my TT bike hanging in the garage which proved foolish for this last run but paid off later when the otherwise useless TT bikes had to go home.

Chatfield doesn’t really lend itself to TTT practice as the route is short and there isn’t a discernable loop to keep the group moving around the park at a consistent pace. With 4 riders and one stranded in the park with a flat, our practice was really short and I suppose somewhat disappointing. Yet I enjoyed it and felt the effort to be worthwhile. While we didn’t reach the pinnacle of TTT greatness, we got our season started early and I took away a number of lessons learned for next time, like: TTT‘s are better with more people, bring extra tubes, Cervelo makes a nice bike, don’t try and out duel stronger riders on TT bikes with a road geared road bike, a two line rotation is good though I think less organized than a single line rotation, stronger riders should make sure to pull longer, call out if there’s shit in the road, if you’re cooked then gatekeep, we need to practice more, etc.) Keyed up on TTT glory I left the rest of the group back at the parking area and since I was not on a TT bike felt at liberty to head up Deer Creek for some climbing. I soaked up the remainder of the day’s retreating sun on my climb. With yet another cold front due to bring more snow to the Denver area tonight it seems somewhat ridiculous to be thinking of upcoming TTT practices. But that doesn’t stop me. And next time I’ll pull the TT bike down and bring it out for practice, which hopefully won’t be too far in the future.
Deer Creek Canyon
The road to Deer Creek...awash in sunlight, at least until those clouds get here.
Chillin' Vanagon Style
The post TTT kick back.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Surly Anton Oh-No!

Leaving the Lucky Strike bowling alley downtown around 9:00 last night, the “storm” that arrived just in time to turn the rush hour commute into a wet mess had more or less run its course. The blanket of clouds unveiled a few dark holes revealing the faint trace of dim stars. What a lovely evening it turned out to be. Heading home Kate asked if I thought the heavily soaked roads would dry or at least remain wet by morning…the appropriate answer at that point should have been “No way in hell.” But I coolly replied that I thought they’d likely dry if the clouds parted and drier air moved in overnight. I am no meteorologist.

After walking the dog this morning Kate returned and pronounced after “nearly falling twice while crossing 20th,” that she would be taking her bike on the bus with her to work today. I contemplated my options but succumbed to my far-sighted mannishness and hopped on the bike. I can say that I have jumped out of a plane, led multi-pitch climbing routes with both traditional and free techniques, flown on a Russian airline and slept under a bridge in Texas in the winter. I have done many crazy and seemingly stupid things. Yet I cannot recall a time in recent memory where I’ve had more “Oh Shit” moments than on the ride in to work today. I wish I could have effectively captured the conditions of the road with my crap Sanyo camera phone, but the radiating glare of mirrored black ice only translated into hazy white splotches with every picture taken. I’d need some serious equipment and actual photographic abilities to truly do photographic justice to the god awful state of this morning's roads.

While I made my way through the neighborhood, I managed to keep to the shoulders where the snow accumulated at least enough to provide some sense of traction. On 20th the crusty ice in the bike lane crackled, snapped and popped like Rice Krispies or Pop Rocks. If you want a test of your bike handling skills very quickly get your bike out to Lakewood, Colorado before the temp rises and head down 20th to Carr. I could have brushed my teeth and combed my hair while looking at my reflection on Carr St. The entire stretch from 20th to 14th, my typical snow day detour, was a full curb to curb sheet of ice. The handful of drivers that slowly inched past me gladly returned my look of terror and panic because no one was going to have traction on that crap (the zig zag of previous vehicle tracks assured us of that). I actually think Kim Yu-Na passed me on Carr near the Volkswagen dealer…she didn’t give me 3ft either #@!%&. Cars spun their wheels in a futile effort to purchase hold of the asphalt while trying to cross Colfax. Turning onto 14th I fish tailed but managed to catch myself without putting my foot down; I only unclipped a half dozen or so times but never had to step down…doing so likely wouldn’t have helped much as my shoes had less traction than my tires. I scientifically tested this theory every time I stopped at a light. With every pedal stroke I shifted my weight to find balance and prayed that I wouldn't eat shit. I had a close call with some tracks on 14th. I ran out of shoulder and barely made it into the lane of traffic by Sheridan. I both cursed and prayed to every god and deity imaginable before I finally made it to drier land; I even busted out some chants from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom just to be safe....Kali-Ma owes me big time.

Leaving Lakewood and heading into Denver the conditions improved with each block towards the city center. By the time I neared Federal I felt much more relaxed. I was no longer tasting bile and my heart rate had edged back considerably (back to Zone 2 where Cat 3 Captain Jordan "I don't bowl" says I should be). I knew I’d make it at this point...maybe Kali-Ma likes me afterall. Perhaps next time I’ll be a bit more judicious in my decisions to ride in to work on ice. On the other hand as I’ve repeatedly proven in the past, what hasn’t killed me actually makes for a really great story. It also serves to increase the thickness of my skull such that, when the opportunity arises and being the dimwitted fool that I inevitably am, I’ll eagerly do it again, and again, and again...good times.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


Surprisingly I was the only visible cyclist at the Jefferson County Dept of Motor Vehicle Office this afternoon...I know shocked the shit out of me too. The Jeffco DMV (off Wadsworth) boasts a grand total of 0 bike racks. Not even a well placed handicap parking sign or slim light post. Fortunately the security guard out for a smoke when I pulled up let me place my bike inside the lobby. So I was the only bicyclist and my bike the only bike at the DMV today; kind of surreal. Especially so since I got to skip the typical DMV "take a number" routine because I just needed to pay for new tags. All the seething motorists already in the midst of the DMV-mind-melt eyed me with even more contempt once I sauntered up to the lady at the counter and handed over my cash. In and out in less than 5:  this cyclist is fast!  I’ve seen that look of bitter jealous rage before at stoplights, when I’ve ridden up to the front to be out of the way of the cars behind me and in the line of sight for oncoming vehicles potentially turning left. I'm sure that pisses drivers off more than anything (though technically its permissible in just about every state and municipality across this great nation.) Well I guess they got a taste of that medicine again at the DMV, cause I rode right up to the front and voila', on my way! Bike: 1 Car: 0....ha-ha-ha, suckas! Ok that probably took it a bit too far. I generally don’t like to play the “privileged cyclist” card because it upsets people to an inordinately irrational degree (and besides I’m not really out to pick a fight…can’t we all get along yadda-yadda).  But in this instance the irony of the entire scene was too much to ignore; best DMV experience of my life.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

You Gotta Try This

Yesterday when I cracked the cover on the freshly delivered copy of VeloNews I couldn’t help my amazement when I saw a 4-5 page spread on bike commuting towards the back; just before the table that subtly guilt’s you for not riding 50 miles a day for your March training plan. However I digress, back to my shock: bike commuting…in VeloNews? Maybe in Bicycling Magazine or some more germane, proletarian publication but not the great homage to cycle sport and racing that is VeloNews. But sure enough my eyes had not deceived me and back towards page 60, underneath the obligatory season opening Lance cover, replete with similarly obligatory Mellow Johnny’s photo op, there in fact was an article and gear review on bike commuting.

Although the article only grazed the superficial details of bike commuting (remember to pack clothes, ride the path, plan for the weather etc) it was good to see commuting get some press in between coverage of Will Frischkorn using the computer and the Tour Down Under. Granted, the editor’s idea of gear selection includes $200 Rapha pants and other such nonsense, but this article represents a pretty good start. They even play to some of the stereotypes that cyclists (read road bike purists) have of folks who commute; largely that they are nostalgic remnants of the oil crisis, clad entirely in neon, riding rusty, beater mountain bikes…slowly. And while I’m almost 100% positive VeloNews sports one of these stories every year (about this time when race season isn’t fully underway) I like to think that this story represents an opening of the fold if you will, to let commuters in to the greater biking family. The tongue in cheek characterization of the bike commuter that VeloNews satirized slightly, as they also imply, really ought to fade into history. It is about time we got past the image and focus on the ends that justify the means.

Sure I race, I did, I do…its day to day some times, but regardless of my ACA or USAC classification I am above all else a bike commuter. To me the bicycle is the simplest, healthiest, most enjoyable form of transportation, especially for an urban dweller like myself. As a commuter turned racer I generally never really saw much of a distinction, however now that I’ve been amongst bike race culture for a little while now there clearly is a bit of stereotyping or judgment of commuters on the part of road cyclists. I’m not sure why this should be, unless there is a sense that endurance or anaerobic capacity is somehow the only yard stick by which the quality of cyclist can be measured. I’m sure to the typical VeloNews reading, race crowd enthusiast (or wanna-be) the accomplishments of the full season bike commuter pale in comparison to a yellow jersey, podium finish or high water Power Tap reading. Yet the draw of being out on a bike seemingly unites both camps. Additionally, the broader role that bikes could play in our society, building a more bike friendly and bike reliant culture similar to what one might encounter in some European cities, opens the doors for both commuters and sport cyclists. I’m glad to see that VeloNews recognized this connection, at least for one article.


The weekend at home sitting around the house made me realize the importance of regular daily exertion of some kind; in short, if I don’t ride I go crazy. I considered myself lucky to have the means and nerves to ride in to work yesterday and today, despite the snow, ice and freezing morning temps. And today while I pedaled my ass in to work at a balmy 16 degrees, not breaking zone 3, not pushing serious wattage, not setting a blistering pace I still enjoyed my ride and got a lot out of it in return. Considering the alternative of sitting around in traffic in a car, I figure my return to be quite a bit more than most. So for all the accomplishment that regular bike commuting is not in terms of race output and impressive ability: I was out riding and it seemed at least on my route today I was the only one.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Enough about the weather already!

In looking back at the past couple posts I’ve noticed that I dwell on the weather quite a bit. If you farm or your livelihood depends on the elements, than the weather forecast and daily predictions becomes a key focal point of your day. Everyone talks about when it will rain or when the rain will stop. I think the same principle applies if you ride your bike to work: the forecast means everything, and the weather takes up a significant portion of one’s attention. Today the weather folks are calling for a chance of snow, potentially starting as early as noon. I really don’t like forecasts like this. I don’t mind riding in the snow or rain, but honestly must say that I almost prefer not to know that it will rain or snow and just be surprised. With a surprise at least you don’t anticipate it and you just react and deal. But now that I find myself armed with the knowledge of what might befall the afternoon I’ll start checking the windows more often and invariably will hit the news site more frequently to see the mercury drop. Well, why watch the weather then? That’s a good question, especially since I paint it in such a painful light. But you have to know. You need to be able to plan for what’s in store in order to be prepared in case it happens: it’s the Boy Scout in me I guess, that wants to “Be Prepared”—damn Boy Scout commonsense brainwashing. If I need long underwear, rain jacket or bus fare I want to have it and not risk missing it desperately later. The unfortunate side effect of this readiness is the resulting pall cast over the entire day in anticipation of bad weather. Maybe it is just my Seasonal Affective Disorder kicking in…I’ve been moody, just ask my wife...but we’ve had cold and snow now the past two weekends which has limited some team rides, kept clouds overhead and made it less pleasant riding in each day (though today’s 28 wasn’t bad at all.) For a February this should be expected, and I really have nothing to complain about. But I guess that never stopped me before. For the record its still only 28.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bikes at the Winter Olympics 2014!

Tonight marks the opening of the 2010 Winter Olympic Games. Ho-hum. As a Colorado resident and skier I appreciate the bountiful diversity of winter sport: snow shoeing, cross country skiing, backcountry skiing etc. But Super G?—I’m not that in to it. Skeleton?—nope. Ice Dancing…? You get the idea. Winter sports are great but leave me wanting a bit more, and besides this is a bike oriented blog and not a ski one. So the question is, where are all the bikes at the Winter Games? You can ride bikes in winter (it can actually be harder than riding bikes in the summer), so why discriminate against biking at the Olympics?

For all intents and purposes Cyclocross could be a winter game; Cross season really just ended in December/January so why not reinstate it for the games in February? Just scrape off some of the snow (leaving enough to make it interesting), put some logs on the track, a pile of sand, some steps, beer and voila’: a cross race. Pile up some of those curling rocks and make them ride over them; that would be awesome. Hit the riders with brooms too, why the hell not?—its Cross! Ok if not Cyclocross, how about cross country riding on Pugsleys? Have you ever seen one of these monsters? It rivals the Moots Ice Bike I highlighted in this post. These beefy rigs easily could crush through snow on a cross country ski circuit. Instead of skiing and shooting, how about cross country skiing while being chased by any angry messenger on a Pugsley shooting you with paint balls? It would be like the Kerin but more entertaining.

Winter is also the season of the Velodrome as many cyclists do find the cold too daunting and retreat to the comfort of the indoor track: so why not include indoor riding as a winter event? You could cover the Velodrome with ice and everyone could ride studded tires if the Olympic organizers really feel it that important for there to be a ‘cold’ element. Another great event would be the overnight, outdoor trainer ride. Put spandex clad riders on trainers in the freezing Vancouver winter air and make them ride all night: the rider alive and pedaling at dawn takes the gold. If that’s not Nordic I don’t know what is…certainly Disney on Ice isn’t.

Finally, I suppose there are in fact ski-bikes. They don’t have wheels, or pedals or really anything resembling a bike other than handlebars and a seat. They are more akin to motor-less snowmobiles for people who can’t ski and don’t mind looking ridiculous. If one could get over the humiliation of riding one of these, they could be quite competitive in a winter sports environment. I’m sure at least the athlete’s parents would come and watch the event. Then again they’d probably get more enjoyment out of looking at Lindsey Vonn’s shins.
So I’m starting my petition now: Cycling Events at the 2014 Winter Games! Who’s with me?

Cross pic taken from
Pugsley pic taken from
Ski Bike from

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Sharing the Road...Bikes Too?

Standing at the light at 26th and Youngsfield I held the front of the left turn lane, line of traffic politely waiting behind me for the light to change. I wear a bright yellow jacket. I have a flashy, blinking light. Factoring in that it was only 5:00 with the pretty mountain sun a-setting, should imply that I’m one visible dude on a brand new shiny bike. So when the light changes and I proceed forward with my turn left onto the bike lane, imagine my shock when I hear the familiar sounds of brakes and tires grabbing pavement behind me. No, not car tires, or truck tires…or crotch rocket motorcycle tires, or cement truck, Fedex van, Ford F250: it was bike tires. “Oh sorry” was the acknowledgement I received from the cyclist who ran the red light in the bike lane before nearly t-boning me in the intersection. I stammered trying to come up with just the right words to say. In my astonishment I think all I got out was, “Guh waf a flick a dumpus” (you get the idea--gibberish and maybe an expletive-- I don‘t recall it happened so quickly.)

And to think that one of the chief complaints of motorists is that cyclists don’t obey the stated rules of the road. Imagine what the drivers waiting patiently for both the lights and me to turn would have thought at my getting rammed by some spandex clad, commuter tool on a bike. “I told you so” comes to mind, and it is sad how right they would have been. I know not everyone who gets on a bike wants to be an ambassador for the entire population of American cyclists. Some people don’t want to involve themselves in the politics of “sharing the road,” others don’t think it’s that big of a deal either way and some cyclists just prefer to do what they want. Yet, let’s face it, when you’re out riding a bike, even by yourself, you become “cyclists.” Most of the outspoken critics of bicyclists having equal access to public roadways do not distinguish between those cyclists who play by the rules and those who choose to make them up as they go. They see one rider run lights, weave through traffic, or see a group taking up more than their necessary share of the lane and these examples feed vitriolic stereotypes. Providing these cynics with more examples to justify their ‘cyclists gone wild’ view of bicycling only encourages their resistance and belief that bikes have no place on the road with cars.

Consider recent local legislative efforts here in Colorado to ban cyclists from riding on certain mountain and rural roadways. What began as the perspective of a handful of people, based on their negative reactions to what they perceived as cyclists pushing the limits, now has gained momentum to the point that local governments are actually considering these types of rules. While the messenger or the roadie may feel very cavalier or entitled in their navigation of traffic at their own personal discretion, they need to consider that their actions will reflect not just on themselves but on everyone else who wants to put two wheels to pavement. And while consideration for “the other guy” is not often the hallmark of this type of self-centered behavior, eventually it will come full circle. Unfortunately, until cycling becomes more accepted in the US as a method of transportation, the public will be on the watch for examples of how cycling just doesn’t fit in with the norm. In my opinion, all bike riding folk then have but two options: help provide an example of how bicycling can be a safe and logical method of transportation or just steamroll those people in traffic and see how far you get by yourself.

Monday, February 8, 2010


Surly: bad-tempered, unfriendly, rude, and somewhat threatening

The bad tempered part pretty much summed up my attitude this morning when I woke to find 3-4 more inches of snow on the ground. Didn’t Mother Nature know that I have a new bike I wanted to ride to work today? I procrastinated my departure all morning, shuffling around, lounging on the bed, anything to avoid either riding in the crap or catching a ride. I tend to be one of those people who can readily forgo the lure of material possessions, however when I do have something I somewhat obsess over it. I’ve always been very diligent about taking care of things, almost to the point of neurosis. The advantage is that your stuff tends to last longer and look newer for the life of the object. The bad part is that your wife gets annoyed at your perpetual fussing and you never get comfortable with things. I hated the idea of riding my new bike this morning. I think it almost made me violently ill; certain that I’d crash it or get it covered in Mag Chloride and have it totally eaten through with rust by the afternoon. My psychosis was bad enough I almost considered riding my Cannondale instead…how sick is that?

Then I recalled something that I read in a book or on a blog once about people who covet their bikes. The author, making fun of people who have “rainy day bikes” said something to the effect of, “Bikes are tools and nothing more.” A bike doesn’t have a soul. A bike isn’t your best friend. It won’t last forever. Keeping them inside all the time, or stored in your dining room (what nut job would store a bike in their dining room…oh yeah me…) only speaks to the degree to which you’ve come to project emotions onto an object that never had them to begin with. This mental state is sick. It is wrong and it had me firmly in its grasp. I needed to just build a bridge and get over it: time to ride.
Sprint PictureMail
Well if a bike is a tool, then the tool you want for riding on a cold, snowy, slick, awful day such as today is a Surly Long Haul Trucker. It would be like showing up to a duel with an AK-47… “Oh you meant pistols at dawn? Kak-kak-kak-kak-kak—suckka!” I’m not sure if it’s the weight of the bike, the wide track of the wheels, the tread on the Continentals or my superior, innate bike handling prowess or what (it could be my prowess, don’t laugh), but the bike hammered through the snow, slush and crud. Where my Cannondale would have chattered and bounced among the tracks and blocks of snow on the shoulder, the LHT plowed through them with ease. Halfway through my ride I became thoroughly convinced that if everyone had an LHT no one would fear riding in snow. I couldn’t believe I almost grabbed a ride or hopped the bus today. Think how sad my bike would have been sitting in the garage missing out on its opportunity to prove itself…ok personifying again. But it would have been an insult to the folks at Surly who took a very brash and menacing attitude towards the elements when they crafted this bike; like cold-cocking Mother Nature in the eye and not even feeling bad about it.
Sprint PictureMail
So I made it to work and pulled in to the bike room glad to have ridden. I didn’t crash. I didn’t drop the bike on ice or slip on some slush. I made it in one piece and I think my Surly will live to ride another day…especially since I brought a little towel with me to wipe it off and make sure that Mag Chloride leaves my shiny blue CroMoly alone...its all about baby steps, old habits die hard...the first step is admitting you have a problem.
Safe and Sound

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Long Haul Truck Drivin’ Man

So I'm an Aquarian…big deal. True to form I'm kind of a detached, independent, free spirited, brainy type, and this being the frigid season of the Aquarian I recently had a birthday. Yahoo for me, cause my wife and parents conspired to hook me up with a new touring/commuting bike as a gift. Imagine my shock the other day when I came home from work and rounded the corner into the living room and standing next to the fireplace was a bright blue, 2010 Surly Long Haul Trucker! I couldn't even really talk for about 15 minutes. Now, I've commuted to and from work for 4 years and we've done some long riding and touring trips but these have all been on Craigslist beaters. I got a new mountain bike 10 years ago and 3 years ago got my first new road bike since I was a teenager and my parents got me a Murray for like my 13th birthday. So I've ridden auction and Craigslist bikes for everything in between. My ride across Missouri a couple years ago was on an old Novara touring bike I got from some old timer up in Evergreen. My current steed, the 84 Cannondale, has held up well and been a tremendous ride for a $60-ish dollar find. I made my bike trailer. I've scavenged parts from swap meets, sale bins etc. I do pretty much all of my own maintenance and firmly believe that the best aspect of bike ownership is the low cost-footprint of it. I love a good cheap bike like an old pair of sneakers: reliable, comfortable, carefree and therefore expendable. All that humility aside and in the brilliant duality only a true Aquarian can muster…I LOVE NEW BIKES! Some people want $50,000 cars and fancy clothes and nice homes. Screw all that crap…but a shiny new bike…with crisply shifting components, unmolested tread, waxed frame…there's nothing like it! I don't care if it's a $10,000 road bike or brand new $300 cruiser: new bikes are cool and every time you get one (which I've only had one new bike in the past 10 years so this isn't frequent) it's like that childhood first bike Christmas all over again. So I hugged my wife upon finding my birthday present…but I'll readily admit it, I hugged my new bike even harder!

First things first, let me talk about the Surly LHT. The 2010 model comes in both a 26" and 700c wheel size: Kate rightly got the 700. Surly builds its frames from 100% CroMoly steel: don't be fooled this is a beefy, strong bike. It features: Shimano bar end shifters, Tiagra and XT Derailleurs for front and rear, an 11-37 Deore cassette for a wide range of gearing, Alex Adventurer wheels and Continental tires. This bike comes complete from the factory with rands and eyelets for bolting every form of bottle, rack or touring accoutrement known to man. It stores its own spare spokes on one of the rear chainstays. It includes a notch for mounting a frame pump. Includes mounting points for fenders and 3 bottle cages "…and I even like the color." This particular one, the first of the 2010 models to be delivered to Campus Cycles, arrived the day my wife picked it up and was assembled by our good friend and very talented bike mechanic Jason Gardner (owner of Jinji Cycles.) No one had ever ridden this bike…ever! My ass would be the first to grace the new WTB mountain bike saddle: that's awesome.

After I got my head straight and exited my new-bike daze, I set to work stripping the Cannondale of its racks and accessories (sorry Cannondale, you'll make a great fixed gear project.) Each component got cleaned, de-grimed and put on the Surly with loving care.
Gearing UpMounting Rack
Actually, everything fit into its appropriate eyelet with ease and the entire transfer of racks and fenders went the smoothest of any of the bikes I've mounted them to. I had an appointment yesterday to go in to Campus to get fitted and select pedals. We got to the store shortly after they opened and within an hour were back out the door with a pair of Shimano SPD pedals and a ripe and fitted LHT, ready for its maiden voyage. The bike is a beast. Those online reviewers who say the bike is slow will be pleased with the 700c wheel offering (new this year but only on 54+ size frames) but will still likely complain about the bike being somewhat of a lumbering giant. The upright posture characteristic of the touring fit will take a bit of getting used to, since I typically ride hunched over in more of a racing position. See a crack or bump in the road…just go ahead and hit it, why not? The Surly's frame makes for a ridiculously comfortable, stable and quiet ride. Unlike my aluminum frame bikes, the steel dampens road vibration and absorbs bumps like nothing else. Hell, driving down the street I hit bumps alongside cars and the cars made more racket from the impact! The bike initiates into turns surprisingly well for a tank, likely due to its long wheelbase. I'd compare it to driving a very large sedan: big, stable, comfy, cup holders and fancy trim everywhere...its everything but the old person smell. Touring on this thing will be a piece of cake.

Yesterday, despite the crap weather, we set out to put the Surly through its paces. I loaded up a pannier with a bunch of weighty junk and we set off to ride around town for a while. Not a sprinter up hills, the gearing however offers options for handling inclines with ease. After a while the upright positioning seemed less annoying and more comfortable. I didn't mind riding down the path, hitting every seam and crack in the pavement because the frame barely translated a shudder to my handlebars or seat. I easily could get used to a ride this smooth. We rode almost 30 miles in the afternoon and upon returning home I felt pretty relaxed, not too tired from pushing the hefty bike or sore from the deliberatly taxing riding. Now I have visions of loading the bike up with gear and heading out onto the open road: free to roam and take in the scenery with ease. I'll probably adjust the angle of the handlebars a bit, to get a little closer to that race feel I like, but I won't go too crazy. I don't want to ruin the pleasurable experience of the H-auling part of the Long Haul Trucker. And in true semi form, when I get this bad boy loaded up with 60-70 lbs of gear just stay the hell out of my way, cause I'll be truckin'.
New Long Haul Trucker
The Long Haul all its glory
Aptly Titled
Aptly Named
She's taken
Sorry guys, she's cute, has great taste in bikes and is taken!

Friday, February 5, 2010

"We Are Traffic"

Parking flanks both sides of the narrow funnel for traffic in and out of the office complex parking lot. This layout creates a gauntlet of sorts for pedestrians trying to play frogger with the morning traffic coming in and out of the lot. Such was the case today when a line of a dozen or so cars streamed off the side street and into the thin entrance way. On the far side of traffic stood a mother with her very young child, she had to have been 3. Hair in a dozen tiny braids, wearing her pink coat and carrying a lunch box, the child held her mother’s hand as they waited for one of the cars to let them cross. Even while inching forward at micro speeds none of the cars wanted to give way and yield; not even a tiny human sized opening was permitted to allow this child through. They waited in the 20 degree temps under a hazy blue cloud free sky. The little girl stood close and frowned. She’s obviously seen cars before, but in this manner, streaming forward, exhausts billowing and brakes squealing with each creeping shudder of progress, the sight must have scared her. She stepped even closer, practically huddling in refuge under her mother’s coat. But at the end of the line of cars, silent and wobbling in a creeping track stand was a guy on a bike. He let them forward, in fact he could pass as close or as far from them as possible in the line of traffic and still only seem a whisper to them; the ticking of gears and derailleur no louder than a mantle clock. The mother and child freely stepped forward and made their way. Confidently clutching her lunchbox the little girl now moved out into traffic, but there was no traffic. No exhaust, no menacing grill bearing down on her, no large tires to dwarf her and render her an obstacle no more imposing than the often ignored speed bump in front of them. No traffic, just a guy and a bicycle. This too must have been a familiar sight to the child’s eyes, because she turned and looked straight at the rider, raised her arm and pointed, smile beaming on her youthful face. She locked eyes with the rider in wonder, all the while her small feet quickly stepping haphazardly across the street, lunch box flapping at her side. Once safely across and pointed towards the entrance of the building, she glanced up at her mom, still pointing, as if to ensure that her mom took note as well. “That’s right dear; a bicycle.”

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Headwind Blues

Tonight while I struggled to surmount the slight incline up 26th near Crown Hill, one of my fellow Primal 1st Bank riders passed me going the other way. Clad in spandex, riding what must either be a carbon or lightweight aluminum bike, heading downhill with a massive tailwind, he looked utterly effortless in motion as he waved hello while speeding past. I on the other hand, riding my behemoth 1984 Cannondale touring monstrosity, wearing corduroy pants heavy gloves with full panniers dangling off the rear rack, labored into the headwind continuously buffeting me on my journey westward. I could barely hold a tempo enough to reach 14 mph let alone manage much of a wave or hello; in all honesty it was at times an effort to wipe the snot from my nose as pleasant as that sounds. Yet this is sometimes the lot in cycling. Sometimes you have the draft or the advantage of a full tailwind helping to propel you forward at superhuman speeds. Other times you get hit in the face with a cold front and it stops you dead in your tracks. Today’s wind probably wasn’t the worst I’ve ever encountered, but towards the end of a long week, after a long day and a fast run at lunch, it was not what I needed. As my mother in law is oft to say, “Sometimes you’re the bug, and sometimes you’re the windshield.” I felt a little flattened today…glad I get to ride eastward tomorrow morning.
Windy Ride Home
I tried to capture the essence of how crappy today's ride home was but this flag just wouldn't cooperate. While its not flying totally at end (which I swear it was before I snapped the shutter), I think you get the idea.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Pondering Traffic...From the Bike Path

Yesterday Kate sent an email to see if I wanted to head down with her to the Cherry Creek Mall so the Apple Store dorks could take a look at her I-Pod. I didn’t hesitate, why not? I’d ride north from work up the Platte River Trail, meet Kate at REI and then we’d head down the Cherry Creek Trail to the mall. There we could park our bikes just outside the door, head inside and take care of business and then roll homeward. Heading home we’d reverse our trip back down to Confluence Park and hop on the bike route up 23rd to the route on 26th and comfortably ride the bike lanes into Lakewood on the way home. An entire 15-20 mile round trip journey almost entirely on paths or bike lanes.

The popular statistic of the urban bicycle movement notes that the majority of trips Americans make are within 3-5 miles of their home. The idea being that most of these trips could easily be handled by bicycle instead of automobile. Certainly many don’t have day-to-day trips which fit this boundary. I seldom had a trip under 3 miles when living in the foothills, everything but the post office was well outside that boundary. Even our net distance for this I-Pod trip surpassed this threshold. However, the leap frogs of destinations pretty much approximates it: 7-ish miles to work, about 2 miles up to REI, a couple miles to the mall etc. The longest sustained riding we did was the stretch from Cherry Creek back home: a bit over 10 miles I believe. Considering that higher concentrations of people live within cities or densely packed urban areas these average trip distances probably apply. Yet as a society we’ve steadily pushed away from focusing on inward urban mobility preferring to flee urban centers to well crafted suburbs where land is cheap and neighborhoods are tailored to provide the average middle-class American with access to a cul de sac, Wal Mart and Mini-Mall all within an easy drive. These subdivisions and suburban oases are often several miles (often 20 or more) from urban centers and dense business or commercial locations. As a result Americans cram onto freeways and sit in rush hour traffic for a significant portion of their daily commute. Additionally the piling of subdivision upon subdivision often occurs along broad boulevards spanning sometimes two or three lanes in each direction. So while in the suburbs serenity is supposed to come via proximity, it still is proximity measured by travel dependent upon the automobile.

As I sat waiting for Kate I caught a rare glimpse of this phenomenon in action as the waves of traffic queued up on Speer Blvd for entry onto I 25. I’ve never really considered the proximity of the bridge to the Confluence Park area: its right freaking there! I ride under it all the time but usually am looking at the river, other path travelers or more enjoyable sights, I can’t ever recall sitting and watching the traffic. Yet I found myself with time, and I couldn’t but help feel sorry for all of the flickering red brake lights as they filed their way onto the I 25 arterial to head either north or south to the suburbs beyond the city’s reach. I wondered how many were heading to far remote sites (Arvada, Brighton, Westminster, Castle Rock, Morrison), much like I did for 4 years; heading out from the city to the foothills up HWY 285, nearly 30 miles one way. As I pondered the building of the evening’s rush hour I’d notice the bikes that passed by me on the path: old mountain bikes, fixed gears, race bikes…dozens of different people out riding, some for recreation but most heading home with a backpack, pannier or messenger bag. As we rode up the Cherry Creek path we passed or were passed by dozens of people out commuting or riding their bikes. It actually surprised me how many people we saw, even on our return route west as we headed into ’the burbs.’

The investment in bike paths and bike lanes, coupled with an expansion of redoubled residential development within the Denver urban center has helped contribute to the growing number of people commuting by bicycle. I don’t know if it necessarily takes an oil crisis, global warming or economic catastrophe to help encourage people to ride. I suppose these events help assist in the belt tightening and alternative seeking of people looking to save a dime or a tree. Yet when it comes down to it I still think its just a simple question of quality of life. People like suburbs because they offer safety, convenience and comfort. Once people realize they can find these things in urban areas (and cities focus more on offering them) I think they too will gravitate to bicycling as a means of transport. People will ride because its fun, easy, convenient and safe. It ultimately doesn’t have to be more political or decisive than that. Perhaps the trick at this point is reaching out to the flickering lights in traffic and letting them know that they don’t really have to wait for that day to come, from where I was sitting at Confluence Park it pretty much already seems to be here.
Speer Traffic

Monday, February 1, 2010

No LSD For Me, I'm Straight...Straight Out Of My Mind That Is

Despite a wonderful home cooked meal of steak, potatoes and asparagus the night before, I woke Sunday starving. Not a good sign before the last all team ride of the month. I slowly ate a stack of delicious pancakes drank some coffee and could feel my energy levels start to return. After a quick clean and lube of my bike, change into my kit and multiple warm layers (it was a touch over 20), I hit the road. The team planned to meet at Golden Bike Shop for what was cryptically labeled in the weekly email as the 'Denver West Loop'. When I got to the shop I discovered that this was nothing more than our typical ride out north to Superior and back, I felt a bit deflated at this prospect as the route only takes a couple of hours, offers but a few rolling climbs and barely scratches 40 miles: not what my legs, sadly lacking in base miles at this point, needed.

Hollow threats of a timely departure to the contrary, we left late after about 15 min of standing around freezing our asses off while waiting for folks to show. Rolling out the pace was smooth and steady. The chill in the air gave way to casual banter and chatting as we wound our way up northward from Golden. Crossing the tracks west of Indiana two guys flatted out so we dropped our pace and stopped to wait while they changed tubes. The standing around provided an opportunity for some food but also rapidly cooled warmed muscles; starting out again was painful as we greeted the frosty air with cold cores for a second time. As we hit the stretch before Simms a sprint point contest developed. I positioned myself well moving up to the 5th or 6th wheel. Watching a break on the right side I quickly pushed forward hopping wheels after a short rise in the road and caught the wheel of powerhouse Lucas heading into the final couple hundred meters. I held the draft for a few seconds and shot around Lucas for the sprint; a well executed lead out and uncontested dash to the line.

At the half way point in Superior my legs felt fresh and energized and I wanted more…fortunately for me one of my fellow CAT4 turned 3, Grant, felt the same way. We decided to leave the group and continue rolling north to Boulder. Our loop wound us up Cherryvale Road down Baseline to 75th, up to Jay and back some random road to Valmont before winding into Boulder for some food. Neither one of us could really tell how fast the other wanted to ride, and in typical macho-bike racer fashion didn’t talk about this while actually riding, so we ended rolling a pace that both of us in hindsight thought to be a bit too fast. After our break for bagels and bananas, where food gave us newly found conversational skills, we agreed to edge back the tempo a bit while climbing up the hills and eventually ‘The Wall’ out of Superior. At this leisurely pace we talked about Grant’s Triathlon training, discussed the upcoming race season and generally shot the shit. Legs feeling the lactate acid building we cruised the final rollers before heading back to Arvada. The wind from the north gave us a bit of a push and helped us maintain a decent cadence despite both us feeling the day’s mileage, which at this point was rapidly building. We parted ways at 44th, where Grant took the right back to Golden and his car, and I went straight on McIntyre to 32nd and home.

Once home I enjoyed a warm bowl of homemade potato soup (crafted by Kate from the prior day’s leftovers) and a sandwich before jumping in the shower and then pleasantly falling asleep for a quick afternoon nap. Although the temp never got into the 40’s as promised, and the skies were partly clouding hiding the sun’s warmth for most of the day, it was nonetheless a good day to be out riding. While not quite the textbook ‘Long Slow Day’ preached by trainers and coaches alike, the 80 miles of riding at tempo felt good on the legs and helped energize me for the season to come. Next weekend is Team Time Trial practice which promises to be a lot of fun.