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!