Thursday, November 24, 2011

Happy Cranksgiving

I threw out my back yesterday playing dodgeball with the youth.  Nothing too serious since I continued to play for another hour.  But when I got back to work and sat down, WOW, fire went up my spine.  I struggled to find a comfortable position and couldn't get comfortable even in bed last night.  I woke up stiff as a board this morning and after some prodding, Sarah convinced me to go for a ride.  Riding almost always loosens my back up.  So as she was slaving away in the kitchen, I snuck off for my fourth annual Cranksgiving Day bike ride.  Not feeling up to mountain biking, I decided to dust off the road bike and finally put in the last 20 miles to turn over 4,000 miles on my computer.  The bike has been sitting in the garage waiting for the last 20 since I got my commuter bike.

I rode out to Lockwood up the hill on the Old Hardin Road.  It was a rather uneventful ride except having to dodge all of the gravel, rocks, potholes and debris on the roads and path.  I hit a rock that appeared out of nowhere and spent the next ten minutes repairing the resultant pinch flat.

I pushed myself to make it to the top of the hill.  It wasn't easy since I haven't ridden more than to work and back in the last two months.  It was a nice view up top though and I got to cruise back down at 30+ mph to the tune of Life in the Fast Lane by the Eagles.

When I got back to town, on probably the busiest road of my trip, I finally turned over 4,000 miles.  I can now put the bike away for the winter without thinking about the last 20 miles.

Oh, and my back loosened up and we had a great Thanksgiving dinner.  I am thankful for my bike/physical therapy that made the rest of the day more pleasant.  And very thankful for my incredible wife that pushed me to go for a ride and prepared an awesome meal.  Time to hang out with the family some more.

View from the top.
I thought that was a fence post when I saw it through the view finder.
I think those are the Beartooths
That's 4000.0 Miles

Monday, November 7, 2011

Road rage

The other day I was driving (yeah, I know, driving) back to the office after running an errand.  I was approaching a stop sign at a intersection with a one way street and out of nowhere comes a cyclist riding on the sidewalk and through the crosswalk against the direction of traffic.  Now, I wasn't even close to hitting him but he did startle me so I hit the brakes harder than I would have otherwise.  I got a nasty stare and the guy flipped me off.  With jerks like this on the rode, I can understand some of the tension between riders and drivers.  This guy was on the sidewalk (illegal), riding against traffic (stupid) and not wearing a helmet (again, stupid).  Several months back, a woman on a bicycle was hit by a car because she was doing the same thing.  The cops issued her a ticket because she was breaking the law and were justified in doing so.

Now, I'm not going to get on my soap box here because I've done my fair share of stupid things on a bike and gotten honked at or received the "finger" as a result and I felt bad about it because I'd done something wrong.  I almost got hit once because a friend blew through a yellow light and I, trailing behind, attempted to follow and braked at the last minute skidding sideways into traffic.  However, I've also been honked at, yelled at, and flipped off when I was doing nothing wrong at all.

My favorite driver/cyclist experience was when a friend and I where riding on a highway, two abreast but in the shoulder.  As a car approached from behind, I dropped back so we were riding single file.  What we did in no way affected traffic.  However the driver that approached from behind pulled up next to us, slowed down to our speed and began yelling at us repeatedly that we were not to ride two abreast while he swerved erratically into and out of the oncoming lane and held up cars behind him.  He argued with us for awhile until we pointed out that he was going to kill someone if he continued this pointless charade.  He sped off like a mad man.

Another time I was riding a three lane, one way road with no shoulder.  I took the entire lane, which I have a legal right to do in Montana.  A driver pulled up behind me laying on the horn for half a mile rather than passing in one of the two empty lanes next to me.  A coworker of mine saw this all happen and pulled up next to the driver and chewed him out.  He took off in a huffy, flipping us both off.  We had a good laugh about that when we both walked into the office.

Another experience occurred when I was neither on a bike nor in a car.  My bikes (both) were in the shop for repairs so I opted to in-line skate to work.  Since I've been ticketed for skating in the street before (that's a whole different infuriating story), I decided to stick to the sidewalk.  As I approached a blind corner, I slowed to walking speed so I wouldn't clobber some poor, unsuspecting pedestrian.  All of the sudden a cyclist rounds the corner nearly taking me out.  I jumped to the side just as the second cyclist appeared.  Calling on my years of playing street and ice hockey, I braced and took an incredible blow to the thigh and stopped the second cyclist in her tracks.  I even had enough balance to catch her and lower her to the ground.  I said nothing, waiting for some kind of apology or explanation.  They were both visibly angry with me as if I were in the wrong and stormed off as I stood there in awe.  I couldn't believe it.  Nor could I believe how my thigh screamed in a fiery agony as I attempted to climb the first step back at the office. 

My real issue is that people, cyclist and drivers alike, either don't know the traffic laws or, more often than not, choose to ignore them because they are in too much of a hurry or in the case of cyclists, too timid.   There is little respect for cyclists on the road and many drivers do not know the legal rights of cyclist.  Many cyclist do not know the laws themselves and are persuaded to do dangerous things like ride on the sidewalks because they fear the behemoth metal contraptions that occupy the roads.  Bikes and cars could better coexist if there was a general respect and understanding for each other.  Besides most cyclists are drivers too!

Saturday, November 5, 2011


Well, winter is officially here with about 4 inches of that dreaded white stuff falling this morning.  In preparation, last weekend I cleaned out the garage and built shelving to house all of the miscellaneous stuff that was scattered all over and taking up valuable floor space.  I now have room to set up my trainer.  As much as I didn't want to use it, it wasn't all that bad.  Granted, I set up our old 27" TV and DVD player in front of the trainer, otherwise I'd be bored beyond belief. 

Last night I went out after the kids were in bed, turned on a heater and put in a disc of the Big Bang Theory and rode through three episodes before deciding it was quitting time.  I was dripping with sweat and had to turn the heater off after about ten minutes.  The trainer feels very unnatural and its really boring.  I need to see if I can lube the thing up and raise the front tire off the ground a little more.  I feel like I'm riding down a hill but pedaling up one.  Plus the whole time I worry about whether not I set the thing up correctly and if I'm going to damage my bike.  I'd almost rather run on a treadmill but its doing something, right?

This morning I tried again as the three girls were playing in the snow in the back yard.  They kept bugging me to help them with their snowman.  So there I was in bike shoes, shorts and a T-shirt building a snowman.   Brrrrr!  Back on the bike to warm up and then into the kitchen to make lunch.  I think I'll try again after the kids are in bed.

On a side note, its time to put the snow tires on the bike.  Maybe I'll pull the kids behind on a sled once I get the bike set up!  My snow tires make winter manageable.

P.S.  This is a trainer if you didn't know what I was talking about.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

New (to me) commuter bike

As you may recall, my commuter/mountain bike was stolen in June.  Since then I've been searching for a replacement for the bike.  Now that wasn't an easy task since I loved that bike so much.  I finally decided to get a nice mountain bike and a beater commuter bike.  A typical commuter bike is set up with 700c x 38 tires (skinny but not as skinny as a road bike) which isn't ideal for commuting in the winter so I set out to find an older mountain bike that wouldn't be such a target to thieves.  That was a tougher challenge than I thought.  I had a laundry list of requirements for the bike and finding on bike that fit all the requirements proved to be difficult.  In the meantime, I rode my road bike to work, burdening it with a rear rack and pannier bags.  This was usually fine but it looked stupid when I rode the Big Sky State games and Downtown Crit races.  I also hated changing shoes for a one mile commute but didn't want to put regular pedals (or even two sided pedals) on my road bike.

Here was my wish list.
  1. Not attractive to thieves (old and cheap)
  2. Functioning
  3. 26" wheels (so I can use my snow tires)
  4. Rack mounts
  5. Large frame (about 19")
  6. 21 speed (so I can use my spare rims)
  7. No clipless pedals.  I'm sick of changing shoes. 
  8. The right price.
So after months of searching pawn shops and craigslist, I finally noticed THE BIKE that I'd been looking for on the used bike rack at The Bike Shop on Grand.  They were even willing to work with me on price.  I ended up with a Raleigh Talon, probably early 90's.  It's still a nice looking bike which makes me a little nervous but I also have a U-bolt and a heavy cable lock which may deter most thieves.  So far I'm happy with the bike, but being an older style, it sure is a heavy bike.  I can really feel the difference.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Bike to the Beartooths

Day 2

Sunday morning we all reluctantly got our gear together, loaded the vehicles, and coasted down to breakfast.  It was chilly, which was a welcome change from the day before, and it appeared that it had rained a little over night.  The sky was overcast but calm.  It was turning out to be a perfect day for riding. 

We ate breakfast and talked until it was time to head down to the start line.  At the start line, I got distracted talking to a friend while the rest of my team headed up to the front of the line.  I realized they were gone right before they let us go.  I cut ahead trying to catch up with Sarah and the rest of the mass but there were too many riders.  Occasionally I caught a good break in the clump and sprinted on ahead only to have the mass of riders latch on to me and cut me off once I slowed down a little.  This happened multiple times and was really ticking me off.   I didn't really want to be in that lead pack but I did want to catch Sarah.  Finally I got another break.  I saw Sarah up ahead, took off and got within fifteen feet with one rider between us.  Again, I was cut off my the mob.  This time they also cut off the rider that was in between Sarah and I, Janet.  Janet is also on my team and we ride together occasionally. 

I finally gave up on trying to catch Sarah and decided to ride with Janet.  Jay, our team captain, soon caught up to us and jumped into our line.  We now had a good thing going.  Since we've all ridden together before, the line worked pretty smoothly.  We took turns pulling and then dropped back for a rest.  Going downhill like we were, you could drop back after you'll pull, tuck in tight behind the person in front of you and coast without pedaling to get your rest.

The three of us stayed together for the rest of the ride, picking up and losing other riders as we went.  It was hard to have other riders with us.  They didn't work well with our line and caused occasional problems.  One person didn't warn us of an obstacle ahead so we all had to swerve to get out of the way.  I was in the back of the group, or so I thought, so I braked instead causing the group that silently snuck up behind us to scatter.  We ditched groups like that when we could.  We made good time and were back in Billings in just over 2 hours averaging 23.5 mph over 54 miles. 

Sarah, on the other hand, booked it the entire way back to Billings with the lead group.  She said they were flying and I believe it.  They averaged around 27 mph and made it back in under 2 hours.  That's crazy!  She said it was kind of stressful with a group that large so I'm kind of glad I took it slower and got to enjoy the ride a little more.  Sarah's competitive and enjoys being first and being fast.  I like the experience so I think it worked out great for both of us.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bike to the Beartooths

Day 1
This weekend Sarah and I rode in our 5th Bike to the Beartooths, Montana MS Bike Ride.  This year was a different experience than our four previous rides.  Our first two years we had to deal with near freezing temperatures in September and cold rain.  The following two years we had mostly wonderful weather, with a little rain and one day of fierce headwinds, but it was doable.  On Saturday, we were in for a some new treats that I never would have expected.

Saturday morning was warm.  We usually start off the day with jackets on an shed them before we start.  No need for them on Saturday.  I was sweating already just with the horsing around that I had to do to get the bikes ready, find our team and load our gear into the team vehicle. 

At the start, Sarah and I got pushed to the front of the pack in a big mob of cyclists.  Everyone was trying to work out their pace and no one was very consistent.  I was getting pretty nervous with all the swerving I had to do to not get hit.  At some point, I got pushed into the opposing lane.  By then I'd had enough so I sprinted up to the front of the peloton and took the lead for awhile.  We kept a fast pace, more than I'd bargained for.   I was hoping that several lines would form behind me and pass.  Finally it happened and things started thinning out.  Eventually Sarah and I fell in pace with three other Conoco riders and felt much more comfortable there.
At the start line.  I'm in there somewhere with a bright jersey.  Sarah (barely visible) is right beside me to the right.

Somewhere, right before Joliet, I was leading our group and started to drop back to draft and take a break.  As I dropped behind Sarah, she told me she couldn't shift her front derailleur.  We stopped in at the Joilet rest stop and had some mechanics look at the bike.  We were told that the derailleur was shot and Sarah would have to pick a gear and stay in that one the rest of the ride.  That was pretty unnerving.  We were still on the flatter part of the course will the real climbs starting about 20 miles ahead so one gear just wouldn't do.  She picked the high gear and was able to jamb it into the middle gear for the climbs.

Also, by Joilet, it was getting really hot and we had worked hard to get there.  I was looking forward to some bananas to ward off the cramps that I was beginning to feel in my legs.  There wasn't much to eat besides trail mix so we moved on as soon as the mechanics were done fiddling with Sarah's bike.

We pushed on and made it to lunch at the rest stop between Boyd and Roberts.  We ate quickly and jumped back on the bikes.  I was really stiffening up and dreading the climb to the gate.  Sarah took off up ahead and I started struggling.  I was sweating so much that it was dripping off my head onto my glasses making it hard to see.  Then I stated getting crazy painful charlie horses in my right thigh.  I tried to work through the pain but eventually had to stop to stretch my leg.  Not a good sign when you still have 35 miles to go.  I didn't make it even a mile before my other leg started seizing up as well.  It was bad.  Charlie horses in both legs at the same time!  I've had leg pain while riding before, but never charlie horses.  Uggh!

I pushed through the last ten miles to get to Red Lodge, met up with Sarah and started again to climb up to the gate on the Beartooth Highway.  I think pride got in my way.  I've been to the gate every year, once on a mountain bike, and I wasn't about to let some charlie horse stop me.  I didn't even make it through Red Lodge before I had to hang back and let Sarah go.  In fact, I was hurting so bad that I stopped at the hotel, sat on the couch, raided my luggage and switched shoes thinking my old worn out shoes might be more comfortable than my new ones.

I mounted again and took off at a less than leisurely pace hoping that Sarah noticed I dropped in Red Lodge and would just go on without me.  I really struggled the whole way up.  The pain was unbearable and on top of that, I started to have problems breathing.  I took things at my own speed and stopped when I needed to but I was determined to keep going.  It was a long, long time before I saw anyone.  I figured at my slow pace, I'd be getting passed left and right, but as it was, the few that passed didn't look to be in much better condition than I was in.  One of my teammates, Wayne, passed and gave me some gel to eat to hopefully give me a boost and relieve some of the pain.  Another teammate, Jay, caught up.  I shared some of my water with him and kept up with him for awhile until I couldn't any longer.  Finally the end was in sight, but it was also the steepest part of the ride.   I jumped in behind some friends, Chris and Cheryl.   Chris kept shouting back encouragement to his wife who was struggling.  This gave me motivation to keep going.  We finally reached the top and as I hopped off the bike, I noticed that I couldn't breathe.  I struggled for probably five minutes to calm down and normalize my breathing before I could even speak.  I really need to see a doctor about that.  I was so relieved to be at the top, but I still had to go back down.

Sarah had waited at the gate for me, and even though I wasn't quite ready to get back on the bike yet, we started off down the mountain.  I just wanted to get to the hotel and be done.  Usually it's an easy 13 mile decent back to Red Lodge with just a little climbing.  I even struggled on this leg of the ride but I pushed through knowing it'd be over soon.

After we finished, we jumped into the hot tub and pool to relax and recover.  I thing we were both pretty spent.  Our ride to dinner was leaving at 4:30 but we decided to take our time and pedal (coast) down to the MS village when we were ready.  After dinner, we stopped at the supermarket and bought a half gallon of ice cream and brought it back to the hotel.  We vegged on the couches for a bit before busting out the ice cream.  We shared a suite with Mike and when I saw him coming to the front door, I jumped up to let him in.  Instantly, charlie horses attacked both legs.  I couldn't move without searing pain.  I jumped around in agony and then fell back onto the couch while Sarah laughed at me.  Mike had to let himself in.  Then we dove into the ice cream and polished off the entire carton in a matter of minutes.  We all conked out soon after.

Hope you enjoyed reading about our suffering on the first day of the MS ride.  I'll follow up with Day 2 later.  Day 2 was much better.  In the meantime, take a look at the video link below about the ride.  Sarah, Mike and I all make an appearance as well as some of our other teammates.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Catching Up

Looks like the last time I posted was the Big Sky State Games.  I haven't been super active on the bike since but I have gone out for a few small adventures. 

Sarah and I participated in our fifth NAMI Bike Ride, a 33 mile loop from Molt, MT, down Molt Road, over to Buffalo Trail and back into Molt.  This is a fairly easy ride up until about mile 25 where you turn up the 7 mile accent up Buffalo Trail.  The weather was perfect and I got pushed to the front of the pack at the start line.  At the start, I shot off, not so much to take the lead, but to get out of everyone's way.  Much to my surprise, I lead the pack at a good pace for several miles and could have kept going except that I wanted to ride with Sarah who wasn't too far behind.  I felt good and really excelled on the rolling hills on top of the rims near Molt.  Mike always says "Your feet don't see hills!"  Sarah, said "Mike lies, your feet see hills and they speed up!"  That's probably true to some extent.  I hate to drag out a hill, but that's my downfall too.  If the hill is too long, I burn out quickly.  That's what happened at the State Games and that's what would happen at the end of this ride.  As we turned up Buffalo Trail, Sarah took off like a rocket and I could only watch as she disappeared into the distance.  Having spent myself early, I couldn't respond.  I watched as people ahead of us struggled to climb the hills and she passed like they were standing still.  I'd love to have that kind of drive, to push on when it gets tough and keep going.  I think I'm kind of all or nothing on the hills.  In fact, it's usually all, then nothing.  Got to work on that. 

I've done a little mountain biking as well.  Mike and I have been road riding in the mornings when we can but have snuck away during lunch for the occasional mountain bike ride.  Two Moon is finally dry enough to ride but some of the trails have been washed away.  The trails are not as smooth as they used to be.  I also planned a mountain bike venture with the youth.  We were to ride the rims and then head on down to the bishop's house for a pool party.  I guess the pool party was well attended but Nathan and I were alone on the bikes.  We decided to ride anyway and had a great time, and we didn't have to wait for the slow pokes!

This last weekend we went to Island Park and stayed in a cabin with my parents, grandmother, two sisters and their families.  We had a blast and hopefully I'll get to post more about that on the family blog (with pictures).  Sarah and I really wanted to do some mountain biking while we were there but time was short so we didn't get much of a chance.  I had planned a route that climbs to the peak of Lionhead, a 2,500 foot elevation gain over 7 miles.  Since it was a 14 mile round trip with steep climbs, we decided to forgo that idea (not enough time) and searched out a place to go off-roading with ATVs on Sunday.  Dad told us about the Divide Creek Road so we decided to check it out.  It was about 2.5 miles away from the cabin but there were some double track in the burrow pit next to the highway.  We took the burrow pit, which was a rough ride, and found the entrance to the Divide Creek Road.  At first, it appeared to be a nice dirt road but quickly got steep.  We had to turn around at that point but it was all downhill back to the cabin.  This time, riding down the double track, we were able to catch some good speed and even some air over the jumps.  We had a great time. 

The next morning I decided to explore the Divide Creek Road a little more.  Once I passed the point that we turned around the night before, the road started to deteriorate and get steep.  I had to lock out my suspension and shift all the way down.  My chain fell off a couple times and I had a hard time getting back on my bike because the road was so steep.  The rear wheel would spin out beneath me before I could get going and I'd have to start all over again.  Once I did get going, every time I pushed down on the pedals, my front tire would lift off the ground.  I finally just decided to go with it and let the bike take me wherever it wanted to go.  When I needed to correct, I'd slam the front tire down hard until I was going the right direction.  I climbed long and hard, really trying to get in at least a 10 mile ride for the morning.  I finally crested the mountain with just a little over 5 miles on the computer and decided that was good. I looked out over the valley and watched the sun rise.  It was a breath-taking view, granted I was already out of breath. 

The road continued down the mountain on the other side, and again, short on time, I decided to turn around and go back.  I flew down the mountain holding my brakes most of the way.  It was steep and there wasn't much room for error.  It was fun but scary at the same time.  In 17 minutes, I undid a whole hours worth of climbing. I got back to just in time to watch the sunrise again over the mountains behind the cabin.  We had a really great trip which I will have to post more on later. 

As for now, Sarah and I are doing our 5th Montana MS 150 bike ride tomorrow.  We are mostly set and ready to go but there are some last minute preparations I'll need to take care of tonight.  (Sarah is making me take the rear rack off my bike because it looks ridiculous if I'm not going to use it.)  Wish us luck!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Big Sky State Games

Chris finally convinced me to ride the Big Sky State Games this year.  I decided to do the 25 mile race.  I'm not competitive or fast so I thought I'd completely bomb the 40 mile race.  I thought I might do okay with the 25 miler though. 

The race started in Laurel and traveled up Buffalo Trail to Molt and back finishing on a climb.  The race also started on a climb, not a good thing for me.   I warmed up a little before the ride and the group started a little too slow for me so I attacked early.  As I rode past riders that I knew I shouldn't be passing, I got nervous, but I was also on a climb and didn't want to slow down.  My weakest point is cresting a hill.  I work so hard to climb that its hard to transition to the faster pace flats without slowing to catch my breathe.  That's something I need to work on, but it drives me crazy to go slowly up a hill.  On short hills it's usually to my advantage but anything over a half mile and I loose steam before the end.  That's exactly what happened this time.  As I reached the top of the hill, when I should have picked up speed, I watched the majority of the group leave me in the dust and I only overtook a few of them later on, again on climbs.

Because my riding style differs from others, I rode most of the ride alone.  I would hook on to the back of a train on the flats to catch my breath and then try to lead on a climb but I usually ended up dropping everyone and have to ride alone again. 

On the decent, I realized that there was no one ahead of me for mile and no one in my age bracket behind me.  I had no chance of catching up and no one behind me to lose to so I jumped in a group with two women, one, Cheryl, I'd ridden with before.  They helped me on the flats and I pulled them up the hills trying to hold back as much as I could so I wouldn't drop them on the climb.  I lost some time but no one passed me and I was glad for the help and the company. 

I didn't finish strong like I hoped I would, but like I said, I was last in my heat so where's the motivation.  I'm not a racer so I wasn't in it to win it but I did have fun.  Maybe next year I'll be ready for the race.

Congrats to my friends on their medals.
25 Mile Race
Ryan - Gold
Cheryl - Gold
Nash - Silver

40 Mile Race
Chris - Gold
Brenda - Gold
Janet - Gold
Dale - Silver

BTW - Had I ridden the 40 miler, I'd have taken home a Gold by default. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Finishing the ride with a bang! (many)

55 Miles

I decided to go for a 4th of July ride before everyone got up.  It wasn't that early since everyone slept in.  Determined to put some miles on, I trucked it up the Molt Road and coasted back down Buffalo Trail and worked my way back home through the country roads between Billings and Laurel.  It was a pleasant, uneventful ride besides the fact that I got lost.  I knew which way I needed to go to get home but my roads kept ending in Ts forcing me to go north or south when I really just wanted to go east.  Finally I found a familiar road that brought me into territory that I've ridden before.  Next time I should map my route.

Just outside of Billings I found a fireworks stand and figured, what the hey, I can stop and get fireworks now and not have to come back out later.  (Plus I could buy them now and beg Sarah's forgiveness later rather than try to convince her that I need fireworks.)  I needed a break anyway.  The headwind was a real drag and after doing fifty miles of hills into the wind (it shifted after I turned to come home) I was pooped.

I logged 55 miles on the ride, and after about an hour of vegetated comatose state, I got back to work on the yard while Sarah went on her bike ride.  Closer to dark we all piled into the car and headed to Laurel for the fireworks.  The girls had a blast, even Evie who cried, screamed and hid from the fireworks while clapping for them.  It was pretty funny.  We set of the fireworks that I bought tonight.  I'm convinced they just don't make them the same as they used to.

15 Miles
Nathan and I got together for a Saturday morning mountain bike ride up on the rims.  I slept in and raced over to meet him.  Still battered from last weeks wreck, I rode cautiously but had a great time.  I even tried the big rock again.  Nathan can clean it every time so I have to try when he is around.  I'm still not used to my disc brakes so I took a couple approaches before I felt comfortable with them, then dropped back behind the seat and went for it.  The problem was, when I tried to get back on my seat, my shorts got stuck and I ran into the bush.  Cleaned the rock but crashed into the bush, pathetic.  Anyway, besides that, I had a great time and am loving my new mountain bike.  Sarah and Spence love their 5 inches of float on the suspension but I'm so used to not really having any that it's a little unnerving still.  I lock it out whenever I don't need it.  But it sure is great on the bumpy sandstone on top of the rims.  I let Nathan ride my bike for a bit while I tried his mountain bike with no suspension.  My wrist where throbbing when we traded back and he dusted me while I slowly jolted myself silly on the rocks.  It makes a huge difference. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Breaking in the new bike!

Last night I got a chance to take my bike out for a joyride.  Since Sarah said the river was so high that she had to ride through two feet of water on the bike path during her ride, I figured all of my favorite rides would be underwater except for the trail on top of the rims so I decided to give that one a try.  I started at 8pm so I didn't have much time but I figured I could finish the trail and be back on the streets before it got dark.

I trucked it up to the trail head, which is all up hill from my house.  That gave me a chance to play with the suspension.  I found that if I left the suspension fully open, the bike just floated but it also asborbed most of the energy from my downstrokes, not good for climbing, so I locked out the suspension until I reached the top of the rims.  I only opened the suspension about halfway because I'm still not used to all of the bouncing with the 4 inches of float.

On top the riding was easy and quick.  In fact, it was so quick that I had trouble staying on the single track in some areas and actually rolled right over a cactus but surprisingly my tires were unscathed.  I floated over the sandstone flats up top that usually kill my wrists.  I was even going to try one of the technical drops over a large rock but I was having a hard time adjusting to the disc brakes, suspension and pedals.  When I saw that the trail below had been washed out and there really wasn't any place to land, I decided to skip it.

Anyway, I had a blast on the trail and made it through before dark.  When I got to the bottom of Zimmerman Trail at Rimrock, I decided to call Mike and Marcia and go to there place to show off my new wheels.  As I was heading over, I noticed a single track trail about 30 feet off the road.  I figured this to be safer than the road so I hopped on over.

I quickly rode over to Mike and Marcia's place and showed off the new bike, chatted for awhile and then decided to head home before it got too dark.  I did borrow a headlight from Sarah's bike so I figured I'd be fine.  As I was leaving, I noticed my bike bag was open so I decided to take the single track back to Zimmerman Trail, where I had opened the bag, to look for anything I may have dropped.  Since the riding was relatively flat, I locked out the suspension so I could travel a little faster on the roads and single track.  I followed the trail all the way back to where I had jumped onto it but decided to continue on the trail the last several hundred yards to Zimmerman Trail.

It was getting dark and hard to see but I was almost back on the road.   All of the sudden there was a large stone in the path.  I quickly dodged it only to find another.  I dodged that one, hit the brakes and nailed the third rock.  The front tire stopped and I went over the handle bars, my feet still clipped into the pedals, causing the bike to follow.  Perfect Endo!  I landed hard on my face, shoulder and ankle.  I think I landed on the fourth rock, which I didn't see until I got off the ground.  I couldn't breathe and struggled to regain composure.  I got jacked up and was confused. I looked around and found railroad ties running the length of a white vinyl fence on one side of the trail and these large stone in the middle of the trail for the whole length of that fence.  Some jerk homeowner with some kind of bee in his bonnet had set up a trap for cyclist on the city easement behind his property.  What kind of lowlife scum bag would do that, and does he even have the right?

I was so confused and banged up that I had to sit down on the railroad tie and calm down.  I couldn't breathe very easily, had shooting pains running up my neck and wasn't sure what kind of damage I'd done to myself.  I called Sarah just to make sure I was still coherent and somewhere through the conversation, I was able to catch my breathe, regain composure, and determine that I could finish the ride.  Eventually I got back on the bike, and besides feeling sore, continued on until I hit downtown.  With the start/stops of the traffic lights, I could feel my muscles locking up on me.  I finally got home, picked the rocks out of my shoulder and realized how badly my ankle was hurt.  It had swollen up and I couldn't put pressure on it.  I think I must have gotten twisted went I went over or I hit it on the rock.

Anyway, not exactly the way I wanted to break in the new bike.  I also wonder if I would have rolled right over the stone if I had the suspension opened up.  Oops!

Friday, June 24, 2011

The wait is over!

After checking out multiple bikes at the bike shops, pawn shops, and Craigslist, and trying out bikes that were either too small, too expensive or in a serious state of disrepair, I finally found the bike for me.  It's a Specialized FSR XC, fully suspended with 4" of float and only about 60 miles on it.  It came will all kinds of extras that I would have spent a small fortune on if bought new.  I got the whole package for less than the price of the Trek 6000 hard-tail that I had my eye on at the Spoke Shop.  Not bad!

Since Sarah had the camera out, she took a few shots of the new swing set.  I spent the last month building this monstrosity for the kids.  I hope they appreciate it.  I didn't really take a full month to build, it took a full month to get all the right parts from the manufacturer.  However, I did leave off a crucial step in the instructions, adhering the manufacturer's name plate to the swing arm.  Not after the mess they made for me.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Bike Shopping

Sarah has told me to pick out a new mountain bike for Father's Day.  I should be excited.  I am just drained.  I shouldn't have to look for a new bike.  I mean, if I trashed my own bike I'd be upset and probably angry at myself but would be able to justify getting a new bike, especially after getting as much use out of it as I did.  But I'm struggling to replace a bike that just disappeared one day even though I'll probably never see it again. I'm out the $500 or so invested in my Trek 4300 and now have to buy a new bike.

Here's my dilemma.  I was perfectly happy with my situation before with a low end Trek mountain bike and a low end Trek road bike.  I figured I'd get into the sport, learn to maintain my own bikes, learn the components and eventually upgrade as I wore out my bikes.  I was hoping to upgrade my mountain bike to a fully suspended mountain bike and keep the old one for commuting and snow biking.  Now I don't have that option.  I have to either find a nice bike that I can afford and a junker to commute with or find a good deal on a bike similar to my Trek 4300.

I was soooo close to the perfect deal.  I found a used Trek 6500 for $150.  It was the right size and in good condition. I would have been back in a similar situation to what I was in before with my Trek 4300 and I was happy about it.  It was snatched up before I could even drive over to take a look. 

Tonight I went over to look at a fully suspended Trek Fuel 90.  It was a really nice bike that I thought I could pick up for about $800.  I liked it but it was too small and it didn't have some of the features I was looking for on a bike that expensive.

A new Trek Fuel EX will put me back $1,750 and I just can't spend that kind of money, even if I had it.  A new Trek $6000 is $860 and is similar to my Trek 4300 with better components and disk brakes.  It is not a fully suspended bike so I'm hesitant to jump into it.  A new Giant fully suspended bike runs around $1000 and it looks nice, but its a Giant and my brain is wired for Trek.  It's going to take a lot of convincing and maybe some brain washing to get me on a Giant bike.  And that is something I just don't understand.  As a teen and college student, I was completely obsessed with in-line skating to the point that I'd spend three hours a day on the blades if I could.  I've had a pair of Rollerblades, a pair of Roces, and two pairs of K2s.  I don't have a favorite brand there.  In fact, I hate my first pair of K2s and was so fed up that I decided I needed a new pair of skates and they were not going to be K2s.  Unfortunately the only decent pair of skates I could find in Billings freakin' Montana were K2s, hence the two pairs. I've owned three Fords, a Chevy, a Hundai, a Chrysler and an Isuzu.  I have no favorites with cars either even though its a major purchase.  I'd try any of those brands again except Isuzu (worst purchase ever) and would try many others.  So I don't understand my obsession with Trek.  I can't stand our only authorized Trek dealer in town either but I keep crawling back to them to buy bikes.  Ugggh!  

This shouldn't be so stressful.  The idea of buying a new bike should be exciting and enjoyable.  I'm hating every minute of it, yet I hate being without a mountain bike even more.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Blood Boiling Experience

This was a tough weekend as I set out on a personal vendetta to find my bike.  I hit two of the bike shops to spread the word (and get a taste of the new products), but then set out on the frustrating task of visiting the local pawn shops, and they are everywhere.  If you know me, you've got to know how unpleasant of an experience this is for me.  I hate going to thrift stores.   It just feels dirty in there.  Pawn shops are even worse.  They are not just filthy places full of used junk, but likely stolen stuff too run by crooks who prey on the weak and poor. Before my bike was stolen, I'd only been in one before and didn't muck like it.  Now I get to go to them all on a regular basis because I don't trust them to turn in my bike if it turns up there.  Granted, some of these pawn shops I'm sure are run by honest people who do try to keep stolen goods out of their shop.  And how are they going to know what is stolen and what is not? 

I believe I met one of these guys this weekend.  The owner of the shop has just closed his doors when I pulled up.  He came over to me, on his bicycle, and asked what I was looking for.  I told him my situation and he assured me he'd look out for my bike.  In fact, he said he will not pawn a bike unless the person can prove ownership of it.  Being a cyclist himself, I truly believe he'd report someone bringing in a stolen bike.  I can only hope so.  

As I left, I followed the shop owner down the street before turning on to Broadwater.  I saw a cyclist ahead of me, and as I now do automatically out of paranoia, my eyes immediately go to the bike.  My heart jumped out of my chest.  A YELLOW TREK 4300.  MY YELLOW TREK 4300!!!  It had to be.  I passed him but didn't get as good of a look as I needed.  One of the girls in the back seat saw my concern and yelled "Dad, that's your bike!"  I tried to remain calm.  What am I going to do?  I can't just push this guy off the bike and hope its truly mine.  If I confront him, he'll take off and I'm sure never to see the bike again since I'm bound to a car and he can go anywhere on that bike.  If I call the cops, they'll never get here in time.  And what if its not my bike? 

All of this is racing through my head in the matter of seconds it takes me to pass the guy.  I decided I needed a better look.  My blood is boiling now and my heart pounding in my chest.  I only have a few more seconds to figure out what to do. Okay, how can I identify my bike from a distance.  I had a bike bag, speedometer, fenders, and bottle cages.  That bike didn't have any of those but those are easy enough to remove.  I replaced a rim but how am I going to see that as he's riding.  Wait, I replaced the crank arms, and I think they are chrome now instead of the stock black ones.  I quickly check the picture and sure enough, chrome crank arms.

I slowly pull back onto Broadwater and approach the cyclist (who is illegally riding on the sidewalk).  Excited and terrified, I pull up next to him.  My heart sank and another wave of disappointment hits me.  BLACK CRANK ARMS.  It's not my bike.

We take off.  Now the girls are super revved up and ready to take on the world to get my bike back.  I just want to go home, eat lunch and die on the couch, but Tara pushes to check out more pawn shops.  There are two more on the way home.  I figure we can duck in quickly and take a look.  Nothing.  As I walk out the door, the guy on the Yellow Trek that is not mine passes on the sidewalk and just about hits me.  It takes all that I have to not reach out and shove that jerk off his bike.  I hate him now and its not his fault.  He has my bike and its not fair.  I try to brush it off but it still stings.  I can't even yell at him to get off the sidewalk without shouting other things that I'll regret so I bite my tongue, hang my head down and get back in the car.  What an exhausting day and I don't think I even accomplished a thing. 

It will sure be nice when this paranoia  and frustration fades.  I bought a brand new heavier lock and still haven't used it yet.  The bike comes inside with me now.  I had to go to the library today and instead of riding over after work, I rode home and got in the car and drove to the library because I couldn't think about leaving my bike unattended (although locked up) with selfish thieves roaming the neighborhood.  I am considering buying a U-bolt lock for extra security, plus I'm sure it would knock out a few teeth if I ever find that jerk who took MY bike!

The Roadster

Without my trusty steed, I've had to start using my much neglected road bike again, but its been a pleasant experience.  Mike and I once compared our road bikes to Beamers and our mountain bikes to Jeeps.  Sure, the Jeep is fun to drive off road and even through the city, but that Beamer is a blast on the open road. 

Mike and I went on three morning rides last week and had a lot of fun.  Although we were tired and out of shape, we were able to get in close to 20 miles the first morning on hills and with a head wind.  We did one of our favorite rides up Hillcrest Road, well probably one of my favorite rides anyway.  Its climbing the entire way to the end of the road and all downhill on the way back.  Tons of fun but I think I cranked too hard and my knee still hurts nearly a week later.

The next morning was a cold one.  I was all decked out in my base layers but that does nothing for the rain.  Halfway through the ride, the rain hit hard thoroughly drenching us. We were still 6 miles from home and shivering.  It was a nice, relaxing ride.  I just wish I'd had my rain gear.  When I got home I dumped the water out of my shoes, wrung out my clothes and hopped in the tub to thaw out.  I froze all day long.

Friday morning was similar to the day before but not as wet.  My shoes were wet from the day before so I had to use my other shoes.  It was cold but nice.  I forgot how easy it is to ride the road bike.  Once you get going, very little effort is put into maintaining speed.  You are always working with a mountain bike with thick knobby tires.

The other thing I've enjoyed is my bike rack and bag.  I've been commuting to work with the road bike and its been nice to take off the backpack and use the bag.  I feel naked going too and from work now because I'm so used to the backpack but it is really nice to not have it.

That said, I'm anxious to get a mountain bike.  I love dinking around in the parks and trying to not kill myself on the technical stuff.  But with the river flooding, I'm guessing I won't see much of my favorite parks until the end of summer.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Goodbye Old Friend

I can't believe you are really gone.  I didn't think it would ever happen.  And to think I almost didn't take you with me to work today.  I had to drive the kids around to the babysitter's and the Boys and Girls Club, then run to the shop to drop the car off for repairs.  It was so easy to just throw you on the bike rack and go.  Maybe had I followed through with my plans to take you for a spin during lunch, you'd still be with me.  I just can't believe your gone.  We've been everywhere together.  Heck, you came to Idaho with me last week just so I could take you for a spin around the block with the kids.  We've been to Yellowstone and Northern Idaho together, to Utah and up to Red Lodge and the Beartooth Mountains.  And I'll never forget the fun we had just playing around in Two Moon Park, Riverfront Park and the Rims.  We had some good times together.  If I never get to see you again, I hope that jerk that stole you from right outside my building finds someone new for you to explore with, someone that will appreciate you as much as I did.  Its was a good run.  We almost had 5,000 miles together and I was really looking forward to sharing that moment with you.  Hopefully we do.  Here's to the good times we had together and the places we've seen.

Yeah, this was pretty cheesy and sappy, but I didn't really want to focus on how fuming angry I am that someone had the audacity to walk right up to the front door of my building in front of a huge window with 6 people working right there, clip my bike lock and walk away with my bike.  You know, its not even that nice of a bike, but its mine and I was hoping for another 5,000 miles out of it before I retired it! 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Bikes, trees and soot

24 Miles

Yesterday the boyscouts volunteered with the Montana Conservation Corps to remove dead and burnt out trees in Lockwood.  Being reasonably close, our troop leader egged me on to ride my bike out there so I took him up on it.  Unfortunately I didn't Mapquest the directions first and trusted the single-line map that I was given, which would have been fine, except the map started with Old Hardin Road.  I thought I knew where Old Hardin Road was but I didn't.  I ended up taking the Hardin Road in the wrong direction for about 3 to 4 miles with a howling headwind.   As I started getting up into the foothills I figured out that I was in the wrong place and called Sarah on the cell phone for directions.  I had to back track all the way back to the highway where I found the Old Hardin Road.  I'm surprised how many roads in Lockwood are not marked.  Anyway, I finally got on the right track and made the turn on to the last road on my directions.  And the road kept going and going. The buildings were thinning out quickly and I was beginning to wonder if I was supposed to take one of those unmarked roads.  I came around a bend and my heart sank.  I'm exhausted from trying to find this place and fighting a strong headwind the whole way.  Now I'm confronted with the steepest hill I've ever had to climb.  I quickly shifted all the way down into my lowest gear.  I can usually spin all the way up a hill, slowly, but with little resistance on the pedals.  I had to push hard to get up the hill and thought of quitting several times.  But I finally made it.  Out of breathe and unable to go any further, I stopped at the top of the hill and rested while drinking ice cold water to recharge before beginning my service.  I could see the action about 500 yards away.

When I finally made it to the work site, I grabbed a hard hat and lended a hand hauling brush and limbs up a hill to the top where the chipper waited to turn the stuff into mulch.  It was actually kind of fun work but exhausting.  Many of the trees were burned in previous years so I was covered in soot by the end of the activity and chipping that stuff put all kinds of soot and ash in the air for us to breath in.  I was spitting black all day long. 

At the conclusion of the service project, the other Boy Scout leaders asked if I wanted a ride back. Are you kidding.  The ride up was work!  Now its time to play.  I hit 45 mph on the way down that steep hill, and that was being conservative.  I just rolled down.  Had I been pedaling I could have easily broken 50 mph.  With a tailwind, I made it home quickly.

After cleaning up, I took Tara out to pick out her birthday present, a new bike.  She was so excited that she fell in love with every bike she saw.  The first was a used teenagers BMX bike that was heavier than my mountain bike fully loaded with my gear.  The second was a little girls bike with tiny wheels.  It took some doing but I finally explained to her which kind of bike she needed and narrowed it down to three.  She finally ended up with a hot pink mountain bike with 5 gears and handlebar brakes.  It's a little big for her but she'll grow into it.  She's happy and I guess that's what matters.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Biking Again!

This week I broke my biking hiatus.  Sarah had to work and since May is bike month, I decided to dust off the road bike and trailer and haul Evie to and from the babysitter's.  It worked out nicely and now Evie is addicted to the trailer.  When I tried to put it away, she came running after me crying "Mine!  Mine!"  It was only seven miles a day but that's four more than I've been doing. 

Then, on Friday I was able to sneak out on a lunch ride to Two Moon Park.  I love that place.  I was so pooped from my 10.5 mile ride that I fear I wasn't very productive the rest of the day.

Yesterday morning I was able to sneak out for another ride to Riverfront Park.  I was determined to make the most of the time I had and ride hard.  And that I did until I took a trail that ended in sand on the river bank.  Not wanting to turn around, I pressed forward, spinning my wheels in the sand, looking for the continuation of the trail.  I thought I saw it several times leading me further and further away until it lead me to a really nice stash of driftwood.  I got excited instantly thinking about how great the wood would look in my fish tanks.  I scavenged several small pieces and then worked my way back into the middle of the park looking for a trail.  When I finally found the trail, I struggled to hold the driftwood and ride at the same time so I found some green saplings and used them to lash the driftwood to the handle bars.  I got some strange looks on the way home!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Sweet spot

Occasionally when riding with a tailwind you find a sweet spot where you are moving the exact same speed and direction as the wind.  No wind blowing in your face, no wind to your back and there is quick moment of complete silence except for the noise of your tires rolling on the asphalt (on a country road anyway).  I find it quite the experience although its subtle enough that most wouldn't think anything of it.

This morning was just a drab, snowy mess on my way to work.  We woke up to the wind howling around the house and the sky was streaked with white as huge snowflakes sailed by.  I was not looking forward to my ride to work.  I bundled up just as I would in January, except it's spring (or supposed to be).  I turned the last corner onto Montana Avenue, which is a 4 block straight-away, and hit that sweet spot.  It was a totally surreal experience that I've only seen once before.  This time it was as if time froze.  The snowflakes stopped flying past me and just hung there, suspended in the air if even for just a second.  I had the road to myself so I heard that same eerie silence broken only by the noise of my tires on the pavement.  There was enough snow that my view of the surrounding buildings was partially blocked.  I felt like I was cycling in place.  Now I'm not a Trekkie (Star Trek Trekkie anyway, because I'm definitely a Trek Bike Trekkie) but it was almost reminiscent of the instant the Enterprise comes out of warp speed where the stars streak past you through space and freeze in place before you.   

Experiences like that is just one of the many reasons I love cycling.  And now I've let you all know just how much of a dork I really am, as if you didn't know before.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Ending the hiatus

10.5 Miles

Life's been busy lately and with Sarah working, multiple home improvement projects, and other weekend responsibilities, I have been hard-pressed to touch the bike other than my daily commute to and from work (if I'm lucky).  Yesterday Sarah had to work the night shift so she was home all day sleeping.  While the girls played downstairs and Evie napped (or cried in her crib), I tried to make some headway on the bathroom remodel.  While waiting for spackle and caulk to dry, I decided to fix Tara's flat and de-gunk Sydney's rollerblades.  When Evie woke up still grumpy and crying incessantly, I decided that I needed to be a good dad and spend time with them rather than continuing work on the bathroom. We decided to go on a bike ride hoping that putting Evie in the trailer would shut her up for an hour or so.

Everyone was finally ready to go around 6:00pm and although they refused to wear them, I grabbed jackets for everyone and threw them in the trailer.  We took off, managing the busy streets carefully until we reached the entrance to the paved trail where we stopped and donned the jackets that Dad insisted on bringing but the girls refused to wear.  Then we took off, Tara, in front, of course, tearing it up as fast as those little legs will pump insisting on being first, and Sydney traveling at her own pace, so slow that she can hardly see Tara off in the distance.  After a quick snack of Nutter Butters and a drink of water, we set off to climb the big hill at the stinky water fall (water treatment plant). 

The girls did great, and although tired at the top, Tara insisted that we keep going.  I, however, was carefully watching the clock and the sun on the horizon.  When Tara refused to turn around, I agreed to go to the top of the next hill.  When we got there, she again refused to turn around and insisted that we go to the end of the trail.  I bargained with her and we agreed to go to the tunnel and turn back so we'd get home before dark.  Sydney reluctantly followed us hoping that we'd turn back any second.

We got to the tunnel and Tara kept going.  I had to force her to turn around.  In fact, Sydney and I left and waited on the other side of the tunnel for her to change her mind an follow.  She eventually did and we coasted quickly back down to the river, but wind chill from quicker speeds began to get to us and we started getting really cold.  By now the girls were done riding and complained the rest of the trip.  I was panicking, knowing how tough it would be to get the girls home in the dark and it was starting to get really cold.  With some prodding, and sometimes some yelling and precious little daylight left we finally made it back home, frozen and tired.  I think they had fun but it was a little too much for them.  Sydney immediately jumped in the tub to thaw out and Tara climbed into her pajamas and went to bed (without dinner).  So, my attempt to be a good father ended up more like child abuse, or at the least, neglect.  At least Evie stopped crying, not a peep other than excited squeals, the whole trip.  We'll have to try it again with warmer weather and more time to rest.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Slushy roads

11.75 miles
48 degrees

Being that our slightly above freezing temperatures are going to quickly give way to sub zero in the next couple days, I decided to take advantage of the nice weather (for January in Montana) and do some pedaling in the snow.  Since our last snow storm was over a week ago and we had rain yesterday, I assumed that the roads and trails would be a little easier to ride than my Thanksgiving Day ride on the same route.  Ohhh, so wrong.  Inside Riverfront Park the hard packed trails had turned into a slushy mess making it almost impossible to pedal in anything but my lowest gears.  But it was possible and hoping that things would improve as I got closer to the road, I pressed on.  I was able to pedal most of the trail except the deepest parts.  Which poses the question, why are cross country skiers always so skinny?  I need some heavy weights to pack down the trails for me.

Anyway, in one of the tough spots I had to jump off the bike and walk.  Then I noticed that my bike computer was no longer there.  I had to turn around and retrace my steps to find the thing.  After my quarter mile detour to find my computer, I finally reached the first of the lakes in the park.  I looked at the slushy mess I was riding in, then looked at the smooth snow covered lake.  My studded tires are made for ice you know.  At first I was leery and cautious but there were deer, dog, and ski tracks all over the place.  I figured the ice was thick enough.  I gained real confidence after discovering the lake was pitted with ice fishing holes that were at least 4 inches thick.  I took off, shifting up a couple gears and circled the lake a couple times before I decided to move on. 

Shifting back down, I then rode the trail around Lake Josephine.  Out of breathe and super tired after the trail, I decided it was time to play again, this time on Lake Josephine.  Again, I was able to gain some speed but biking on the frozen lake with 4 inches of slushy snow on top is still no picnic.  I think I may have hit 6 mph which felt like flying compared to the slow progress on the trails. 

I finished playing on Lake Josephine, exhausted, wet, sweaty and ready to go home.  Then I looked at the disappointing mileage on my bike computer and determined to go another mile or so around Norm's Island.  Norm's Island is a popular dog walking area where I figured I might have better luck with the trails being packed down from so much traffic.  I was right.  I was able to shift up a couple gears and again hit 6 mph.  Flying comparatively. 

The ride home afterwords was a long one.  I was exhausted and ready to be off the bike.  I had overdressed so I was sweating and just wanted to strip my gear off and shower.  I think that has to be of the hardest 11 miles I've ever done, with exception of riding to the Beartooth Highway Gate above Red Lodge in below 40 temperatures in a t-shirt and shorts after having already ridden 50 miles in the rain.