Bike Shopping!

Cracked rear dropout on the chainstay, driveside.

Since this can be considered a gear review, please note my standard review disclaimer.

This post was STARTED back in October but, well, life happens. I actually made the purchase last July. Now you can enjoy it after 3 months of editing!

Back in July my trusty all-weather commuter bike bit the dust. It was sad to lose an old friend but there is an upside...

I get to go bike shopping!

My primary training method for triathlon season is bike commuting so replacing my main commuter bike was a top priority before the weather turned sour.

At the outset I must let it be known that I am a geek: technically minded, detail oriented, and obsessive about certain things that most people would consider trivial. As such this entire process may seem remarkably similar to a technical RFP (Request For Proposals)

Why not just troll Craigslist for a cheap beater bike? I tried that for a few weeks and couldn't find a bike that fit my requirements that was in my size. There are lots of bikes on Criagslist but once you get into the larger/sturdier bikes... you would have better luck finding a date for Saturday night that wouldn't land you in jail.

In 2007 I went bike shopping for the first time in nearly 15 years. I was floored by the shear number of choices to be made. I like having lots of alternatives but the number of decision points can be staggering-

  1. Bike type: standard diamond frame, recumbent, or trike?
  2. Riding surface: road, off-road, or hybrid?
  3. Frame material: steel, aluminum, carbon, titanium, wood, bamboo...? (the list goes on)
  4. Big name brand, low-cost leader, or custom built?

I'll just stop right there. That only covers the basics of getting started. From there you have to think about brakes, drive train, handlebars, and a hundred other factors that go into making "the perfect bike."

HINT: This is no such thing as the perfect bike. Trying to find the perfect bike will drive you nuts.

Shopping Methodology

These are the basic steps I used to decide on my latest purchase-

  1. Gather requirements
  2. Look around at what is currently on the market
  3. Make an exhaustive list of possible choices
  4. Narrow down the list through online research, visiting local bike shops, and in online forums
  5. Test-ride the top 3
  6. Final decision and purchase

Step #1: Gather requirements

Buying my first real bike in 2007 was what my wife called my "rookie mistake." Over the next several years I took notes about what I liked/disliked about my bike and looked for other models that would have better suited my needs. I ended up with a pretty good list of priorities to use in my bike evaluation process.

Main purpose: serve as an all-weather commuter (95%) and a touring bike for on and off-road (5%).

Requirements-

  1. NOT carbon fiber: steel or aluminum preferred
  2. Disc brakes
  3. Lower gears via a compact triple or large granny-gear on the rear cassette
  4. Drop bars
  5. Mounts for fenders and rear rack
  6. Purchase from a local bike shop (LBS)
  7. Heavy-duty (rims, frame, forks) 

 "Nice to have" items-

  1. Mounts for a front rack
  2. 150+ mm saddle (I'm a big guy)

My first requirements were fit, durability, and a LBS but eventually I added disc brakes to the list after seeing how many were available in the 2011-12 models. In the colder/wetter months the route I like to use has a very steep hill (NE 42nd way, 16-20% grade) and going down that hill with wet rim brakes is almost a religious experience. 

Step #2: Check out what's on the market

This has been going on since 2007. Yes, I have been looking around and taking notes on bikes since I bought my last one almost 5 years ago.

Step #3: The exhaustive list

My short list turned out not to be so short-

Kona Honky Inc.

Kona Sutra

Redline Conquest Classic

Salsa Casseroll

Salsa Vaya

Specialized Tricross Elite Disc

Surly LHT

Surly Cross Check

Trek Portland

Steps #4 and 5: Narrowing down the list and test riding

After some extensive online research the was whittled down to the Kona Honky (Eastside Ski & Sport), Salsa Vaya (Kirkland Bike), and the Specialized Tricross (Pacific Bicycle). Now the real fun begins: shopping the local stores and test riding!

Kona Honky Inc.

2012KonaHonky.jpg

My first stop was Eastside Ski & Sport to check out the Kona Honky Inc. Don't let the name get to you: this bike is all business. Although it does sound like you are about to blow your nose.

Pros: 

  • Steel frame
  • Disc brakes (Avid BB-7)
  • Drop Bars
  • More "upright" geometry than your run-of-the-mill road bike
  • Mounts for front/rear racks and fenders

Cons:

  • Short cage derailleur, 12-28 cassette (not the best climbing gear)
  • No clearance for tires wider than 28mm.
  • Didn't like the fit on the larger sizes

Summary: It fell short in only a couple of places. Very nice bike with a quality build. Handling was great with fantastic response.

Salva Vaya

2012SalsaVaya.jpg

Next stop: Kirkland Bike to check out the Salsa Vaya. This bike caught my interest last year when I discovered they had a titanium version. If my budget was a little bigger I would have jumped on the Ti version: it is one sweet looking ride. 

Pros: 

  • Steel frame
  • Disc brakes (Avid BB-5)
  • Drop Bars
  • VERY "upright" geometry, more so than the Kona Honky Inc.
  • Mounts for front/rear racks and fenders

 Cons:

  • 48/36 Front chainring (compared to 50/34 on other models)
  • Didn't like the fit 

Summary: It was hard to say no to this bike. The fit just wasn't right. I had my eye on it for almost 18 months and was ready to buy it until I saw...

Specialized TriCross Elite Disc

2012SpecialisedTricross.jpg

I dropped into Gerks Ski and Cycle in Redmond, WA, on a whim one day after work. After only a few minutes I found the Specialied TriCross Elite Disc sitting in the very back of the store without a price tag. Turns out it belonged to the sales guy. They didn't have a floor model because it was a 2012 model and they weren't yet shipping in quantity. Gerks didn't even have literature on it. The bike was gorgeous! The look of the brushed aluminum was amazing. I was SOLD. The sales guy said he would call around to see where I could find one. I gave him my number and went home. He never called back.

The next day I went down to Pacific Bicycle, just over a mile from my house in Sammamish, WA. The sales guy was much younger than the other stores but he knew his stuff (turns out he was the son of the owner). They didn't have the new TriCross Disc model but they did have a TriCross Comp, which has the same geometry, and in the right size (61cm frame size, measured from the height of the seat tube). 

Pros: 

  • Aluminum frame
  • Disc brakes (Avid BB-5)
  • Drop Bars
  • Cyclocross geometry, not as upright as the Honky Inc. or Vaya but still quite comfortable
  • Mounts for front/rear racks and fenders
  • 155mm saddle
  • Secondary brake levers (along the top, flat-part of the drop bar)

 Cons:

  • Aluminum gets a little wobbly when I really load up the rack.  
  • Rear disc is outside the rear triangle, just above the rear dropout, which means I needed a rear rack that attaches via an extra-long skewer.

Summary: The aluminum frame isn't as stiff as steel but it still beats my carbon bike in terms of handling. Everything else about the bike is what I was looking for: durability, disc brakes, and the right gearing (climbing gears but high gears as well).

Step #6: Final decision

I was sold on the TriCross Disc before I even officially rode it. I took the Tricross Comp for a test ride and ordered the disc model on the spot. 

The first thing I did after getting it home was replace the incredibly cheap plastic platform pedals with my Shimano A530s(SPD/platform combo). 

The disc brakes stop very quickly. When I first got on the bike I was just about to ask them to tighten the brakes and then, mid-sentence, I almost flipped over the bars in the parking lot when I braked too hard. 

So far I am very satisfied with my choice. I should cross the 1000 miles barrier by the end of the month (2 weeks away!). No issues so far other than normal maintenance and cleaning. I did have to learn the care and feeding of disc brakes. That little red wheel has to be turned slightly every few weeks to keep the brakes adjusted properly.

Here it is fresh home from the shop with rack and fenders (still has the stock pedals)-

WP_000194.jpg

A couple of honorable mentions:

Salsa Fargo: Imagine a 29er mountain bike with drop bars and you have the Fargo. Not quite what I'm looking for in terms of riding style but this one certainly is bullet-proof. The website even uses the term "bikepacking". They even have a titanium version. 

Salsa Casseroll: This one bike of note that was eliminated early due to lack of disc brakes. It reminds me a LOT of the old ‘70s Schwinn that my Dad handed down to me in the late 80’s. If I wasn’t so set on disc brakes I may have purchased this instead. Very sweet looking ride.

Kona Sutra: One of the best loaded-touring bikes. Not really the ride I want. It's like driving a truck. I was looking for more of a SUV-hybrid.

Specialized Source 11: Very similar to the TriCross but with a Shimano SuperNova generator hub, integrated lights with routed cables, rack/fenders, a front light, and a belt drive with interally-geared hub. I knocked if of the list due to the price ($2700) and the flat bar otherwise this is my perfect commuter.

Trek Soho: Like the Specialized Source but with a belt drive and internally-geared rear hub.

Update: I was just pointed to the Civia Bryant. WOW. Another worthy choice but it missed my radar before I made my purchase. Internally geared rear hub, belt drive, drop bars, disc brakes, steel frame... WOW.

Animal/cyclist interactions

A quickie about an animal interaction I had years ago while riding my bicycle. I remembered this little incident after reading about another unfortunate racoon-related crash.

American Striped SkunkI still can’t believe this happened to me…

When I was 16 I worked at Kmart in Roseburg, Oregon, on evenings/weekends. On one particular summer evening I was riding my bike home at twilight (no headlights) along a bike path through Stewart Park. A skunk came out of the bushes and tried to cross the path from left to right. I hit my brakes and shouted, “HEY!” It stopped in the middle of the path, juked left, and then kept going right across my path going between my wheels. I thought for sure I was going to hit it but miraculously I didn’t go down. I had to stop to catch my breath and let my heart rate come down before continuing home.

Was I going to fast in low light conditions? Yes.

Did the skunk really go between the wheels? Yes, it did.

I wasn’t going more than about 8-10 MPH by the time he did, since I was hard on the brakes and trying not to fall over. There is no way it could have gone from one side of my bike to the other like it did without going between my wheels. 

At least the skunk didn't try to do a victory dance on my head. And it wasn't a bear. Or a Red Hartebees (AKA antelope).

Anybody else with a fun animal/cycling interaction to share?

Keep the rubber side down, folks!

Bike Commuting: Safety

This post is the third in a series on bike commuting and covers some of the "how" related to bike commuting. Other posts include How?, Why?, When?, and Weather Issues.

Update: Active.com just posted a great article titled "How To Handle a Bike Accident With a Vehicle." It's a great read outlining the steps you should take if you are involved in a bike/car accident. The same principles apply in just about any moving-vehicle accident.

From the article-

"So what do you do if you're in a cycling accident with a vehicle? If you're healthy enough to walk away from the crash site, that doesn't mean you should consider that the only victory you need. Instead, take these steps to make sure you're as protected as you can be."

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When I tell people that I commute by bicycle to work year-round I get some pretty interesting responses. After telling me I'm crazy, the responses generally fall into three basic categories-

  1. "It rains 9 months of the year in Seattle."
  2. "It is really dark for 6 months out of the year."
  3. "Wait, don't you live at the top of a big hill?"

My first response is typically a rip-off of Dr. Sheldon Cooper: "I'm not crazy, my mother had me tested." Well, she didn't actually have me tested but it does get a laugh. Am I crazy for riding in the rain? Sometimes I wonder about that myself. I bike in all weather except snow/ice.

Sunny and hot? Check.

Sunny and cold? Check.

Cold and monsoon rain? Check.

Dark when I leave in the morning and dark when I get home in the evening? Check.

Dark and raining so hard that you literally POUR water out of your shoes? Check.

When I walk in the door, dripping wet and soaked through to the skin with a smile on my face, my wife always looks at me funny.

Me: "Wow, I feel like a wet rat."

Wife: "...And my nose is cold! And my tail is cold!" (Quoting 101 Dalmatians)

It is possible to be soaking wet and still warm but I'll leave that for a future post about commuting in the rain.

General safety

Safety is my #1 concern for any outdoor activity, much to the dismay of my children. My most stressful time as a parent was standing at the top of a 750 foot cliff east of Seattle with my three boys. I have never been more afraid as a parent as I was during our 15 minutes at the top looking down at the lake below. Now I understand those "child leashes" you see at the mall. Call me a control freak but when my kids repeated ignored my request to "stay away from the edge!" it ended our little hiking trip in a hurry. This is one of the few photos I took from the top before we headed down-

Boy #3 looking out over the great expanse of the Cascades from Rattlesnake Ledge just east of Seattle.

Boy #3 looking out over the great expanse of the Cascades from Rattlesnake Ledge just east of Seattle.

I could write page after page after page of basic safety information but I'm sure most of you don't need to partake of that particular brand of sleep-aid. Countless other folks have addressed that issue far more eloquently and authoritatively. I can't get away from some of that but, instead of waxing profoundly obvious, I hope to contribute some of the things I do that may be unique, peculiar, or just plain odd.

Riding a bicycle on roads in the U.S. is a risky proposition no matter how you slice it. You could be riding along a country road, minding your own business, when *BAM!* you are hit from behind by a driver with a suspended license who isn't paying attention (driver in this case claimed to not even know he hit a cyclist and continued on his way to work). You can't avoid the bad choices of other nut-jobs out there but you can make it easier for them to see you and avoid getting into a bad situation.

Visibility

A friend from work, who commutes by both bicylcle and motorcycle, gave me this advice a couple of years ago: "Treat all cars as if they don't see see you. You are invisible to them."

What happens when they don't see you? You have to take evasive action...

The rider in that case was crossing in a crosswalk, with the walk signal in his favor, and still was hit.  The driver wasn't paying attention and was trying to run a light. Riding between stopped cars like that is also fraught with peril but the main issue here is that the driver simply didn't see the rider in time to miss him. She did see him early enough to only tap him with her car as opposed to running straight through him which undoubtedly saved his life.

So how do you make yourself seen? After you have realized that you cannot make people see you, consider the following steps-

  • Bright Clothing - the fluorescent green/yellow jackets seem to be very popular these days. I have a couple of jerseys that color but my jackets are old-school yellow. "Construction orange" also works well. On cold days I look something like this-
Me at the Cape Blanco lighthouse, Cape Blanco State Park, Cycle Oregon 2011 Day 4.
  • Reflective clothing and bike stickers - Most of my fall/winter commute clothing has reflective piping, screen printing, or decals. My bike and bags have them too. I even added a few. The best reflective material for stickers is the stuff they use to make road signs. There are various sources out there on the interwebs.
  • "Other" lights - I have been experimenting with other forms of "non-traditional lighting" for my bike. (UPDATE: My bike light review!) Seeing a guy with his bike wrapped completely in Christmas lights inspired me. A couple of people around Seattle even have the Down-Low Glow. This subject will have to have its own after I have some time to play with the lights and actually review them.

Not completely sold on the idea of bright clothing? This video does a nice job illustrating the difference between a cyclist wearing a bright jacket and one wearing all black. Which one would you rather be while riding in traffic on a rainy night?

Riding on trails

As far as overall safety is concerned you can't beat trails. Without the threat of cars your chances of actually dying while riding are significantly reduced. While this is true about fatalities it is not necessarily true about injuries or incidents in general. Trails are filled with other types of traffic such as walkers, joggers, kids just learning to ride their bicycle, skateboarders, roller-bladers, and, my all-time favorite, cross-country skiers. Yes, I have seen skiers on the trails that I use in the Redmond area but they are typically riding on skis with wheels. If this were Butte, Montana there might be real skiers on the trail but that would require actual snow.

...or cross-country snow boarders. You can't make this stuff up, but I digress.

I have a commute route that is back roads and trails all the way home. Yes, it is about 2.5 miles further but on cold, dark, rainy days I would much rather take the long way home and meet 2-5 cars than be passed by 100+ cars with impaired visibility and stopping distance.

Some tips for trail riding-

  1. Cover your light: When you pass oncoming traffic, be sure to cover your bright-as-the-surface-of-the-sun headlight. It's tough to see when you are riding into a bright headlight. As you get closer to an oncoming rider, cover your light with your hand. I've been known to shout at people who don't do this because if I can't see the least I can do is annoy or scare you. }B^)
  2. Watch out for young kids on small bikes. Multi-use trails, like the Burke-Gilman Trail in Seattle or Lake Shore Drive in Chicago, have all types of traffic but young kids, although cute, are the worst. They are unsteady, slow, and, worst of all, unpredictable. Don't get me wrong, I love watching little kids learn to ride, and they should always be allowed on public trails, but I find them very difficult to ride around safely.
  3. DO NOT wear headphones. They are very distracting and you can't hear me yell "on your left". Or the cursing of that jogger you just side-swiped.
  4. Watch out for Dog Walkers. Gotta love them. Most dogs are curious and want to play, unless they are looking to chew off your face. Either way dogs love to come toward you or dart across the trail to clothesline you with their leashes. Give them lots of room, slow down, and keep your hands on the brakes.

Riding in traffic

If you like to ride faster than 15 MPH then roads are pretty much your only legal choice in Washington State. Some trails have speed limits at 15 MPH, some don't have any, and some are as low as 10 MPH (no, I'm not kidding).

I have heard a few cyclists say that you must assume that all cars are trying to kill you. While this does put you in a defensive mindset while riding, which is a good thing, it can make you over paranoid and that doesn't really help you ride safer. You should ALWAYS be on the look-out and ready to react.

...even when you are riding across Africa and forget to yield to cross traffic, which apparently doesn't stop.

  1. Get a rear-view mirror. I use the 3rd Eye bicycle mirror bar end mirror. It has the perfect mix of adjusts and stability.
  2. Stay OFF the sidewalks! The only times I have EVER come close to hitting a bicycle rider while driving my car was when they were riding on a sidewalk at a faster-than-jogging speed (i.e. more than about 8 MPH). Drivers don't expect sidewalk traffic to be going faster than that speed so they rarely look.
  3. Ride in bike lanes or, when there is no bike lane, in the lane of traffic. Your local laws may vary, but in Washington State you are allowed to ride wherever it is safe: if the bike lane is not safe then you are allowed to take the lane (RCW 46.61.770)
  4. MOST IMPORTANT: be predictable.

Your local and state laws may differ significantly from Washington State so make sure to do your homework.

When I am riding in traffic I go for bike lanes and wide shoulders, preferring roads with these features over those that don't. If you find yourself on a road without either I suggest taking up a lane. Yes, I mean that you should block traffic if you have to. If you ride too close to the right then cars are tempted to squeeze past in the remaining space which may not be the safest thing for you, the rider. You should always use your best judgement and obey traffic laws but that is my personal suggestion about lane placement.

Drafting and Pace Lines

Call them drafters, pace lines, wheel suckers, whatever.. I hate them. Not that I personally dislike the riders I just don't like riding that close to other riders. It rarely turns out well for me. Several times, as recently as last month, I have almost crashed in pace-lines because of the stupid actions of another rider. Being in a pace line is a privilege, not a right. If you learn the etiquette and hand signals for pace line riding it can be a life-saver on long rides. It can also be a disaster.

Moral of the story: don't use aero-bars unless you are at the FRONT of the pace line. 

Many times people have come up behind me to draft and I don’t even know they are there. Now that I ride with a rear-view mirror this is not as much of a problem. One day back in '07, while riding home on a local MUT, I passed a guy going the other direction who waved vigorously and shouted, “Hi Tim!” Someone behind me shouted something like, “Hi Mark!” He was so close it almost made me jump out off my bike. I had no clue he was there. Perhaps I should be doing a routine clearing of the baffles a la “Crazy Ivan” from Red October (my wife’s suggestion)? Drafting behind someone without their knowledge seems like a very dangerous situation.

Not long after that I was riding on the Sammamish River Trail from Bothell to Redmond in Washington State. I passed through a section with some tight turns under a railroad trestle in Redmond. As I came around one of the bends I found a mother goose crossing the trail with her goslings. Canadian geese are very common in Redmond along the Sammamish River, especially in the fall and spring. Good thing I had already slowed down for the blind curves. When I saw the geese I hit my brakes hard and came to a stop when I suddenly heard, "Oh Sh*t!" behind me followed immediately by the unmistakable sound of metal hitting metal and carbon fiber several times. I immediately jumped to the side thinking I was about to get hit from behind. Scattered on the ground behind me were 4 riders all in a heap. They had been drafting me and I didn't even know it. They all ended up riding away from the scene with only scrapes and bruises leaving me shaking my head.

As they rode away I called out, "How long were you guys behind me?"

"Since Woodinville." That was 6 miles or about 20 minutes given my average speed back then. The next week I bought a mirror.

If you MUST draft...

  1. Stay away from me. Seriously. If I wanted you to draft me I would invite you. The only drafting I allow is in times of war.
  2. Make sure the person you are drafting knows that you are back there. Shout something like, "On your wheel!" or "Do you mind if I draft?"
  3. Know the etiquette and hand signals for turns, slowing, road hazards, etc. The best way to do that is to ask someone because everyone seems to do it somewhat differently.
  4. Only take the lead if you know what you are doing. If you don't have a clue how to lead a pace line admit it and ask to stay back in the pack. If you screw things up you will get some choice words from the other riders and then dropped like 3rd period French.

Hills

I live around hills. Big hills. Think "San Francisco" style hills. They simply can't be avoided. Don't believe me? My rain route has a hill section 200m long with an average grade of around 16% and a max of about 20-22%. I don't always have to take that route but the alternatives are a 1 mile hill with a 10% grade and a 1/2 mile hill with a 13% grade. A pitch like that will get your attention. Going up steep hills is one thing but going down them, especially in the rain, can be tricky.

In 2007, when I got back into cycling, I bought a cheap bike computer. One day I was going down my favorite hill, in traffic, and decided I was going fast enough to "take the lane" and ride with traffic. I knew I was going over 40 MPH but it didn't feel all that fast. When I hit the bottom I glanced down at my bike computer to find my max speed: 52.7 MPH. Holy cow. That was, and will remain, my fastest recorded land speed record. On that descent I pulled into traffic about 50 feet behind a panel truck, thinking they might be safer to follow than an SUV or mini-van. What I didn't realize was that, even at 50 feet, I was still in his air pocket. In a sense I was drafting him. That's why it didn't feel that fast. I pondered on that speed all day. That was a risk I should not have taken. I control my speed much better now.

Over at the Fat Cyclist blog, Fatty tells about his experience riding in France where one of the riders in his group crashed on a fast downhill. That little incident resulted in multiple fractures for the rider, one of them a compound fracture.

In 2010 I found myself head-over-heels after coming into a turn too fast during a triathlon. It happens to the best of us. }B^)

If you ride hills...

  1. Check your brakes frequently - The last place you want to discover your worn out brake pads is when you are bombing a descent at 40 MPH. Your helmet is not rated for crashes at that speed and spandex... well, you get the picture.
  2. Invest in a bike with disk brakes - My new commuter bike has disks and I LOVE IT. If you can't put disks on your existing commuter then...
  3. Consider ceramic-coated rims for your next wheelset - They offer similar stopping power to disk at much lighter weight and can be put on just about any bike.
  4. Keep your speed under control - The best way to minimize stopping distance is to minimize speed. Yes, I love to bomb down my favorite hill but only in good weather and during light traffic. Other times I keep my speed down and my hands on the brake hoods.
  5. Get to know the stopping power of your brakes and how long it takes to do an emergency stop. Have you ever TRIED locking up your brakes at 30+ MPH? Would you be able to keep control and execute an evasive maneuver? The best time to practice is NOT while trying to avoid a BMW or SUV in traffic.

Snow and Ice

From early November through March I am constantly checking the weather forecast. Is there snow in the forecast? I would hate to get stuck at work with my bike during a snow storm. I'll bet I could get a lot of work done!

When I get up in the morning the first thing I look at is the temp outside. If that temp is below 35 degrees I don't ride that day. Or, if the sun is coming out, I wait until the sun has been up for a while to warm up the roads. Two-wheeled vehicles don't fair well on black ice. They tend to lose verticality.

There are companies that sell studded bike tires and one of these days I may make the jump. At $70-90 per tire I think I'll wait a bit.

What About the Pros?

This only applies to professional triathletes but I'm sure there is a fair number of pro cyclists with the same idea.

There is an amazing trend in professional Triathletes: a growing number of top pros are training almost exclusively indoors.

Why?

  1. Predictability of conditions.
  2. Nearly infinite ability to completely customize the workout (no reliance on location of hills or long straights).
  3. SAFETY – don’t have to worry about cars, trains, or other riders

Think about it for a minute. If your income and livelihood depend on your ability to perform on race day why would you go out and mix it up with crazy motorists, dog walkers, ninja joggers, and all the other idiots and road hazards out there? Training indoors makes perfect sense for that group of people.

It just doesn't make sense for me. I do have an indoor trainer which I use when the temp drops below freezing. Otherwise I would go NUTS spending all my riding time indoors staring at the walls or watching TV.

Conclusion

And that about covers it. Except for this...

No post about bike safety is complete without an '80s era rap video about riding safely. "Strap it on kids, and WEAR YOUR HELMET WITH PRIDE!"

Cycle Oregon 2011 Summary

Cycle Oregon Week Route MapI will be posting full reports for each day of Cycle Oregon later (yes, all 7 days). Why 7 reports? Because my father would kill me if I don't, that's why. }B^)

My special Cycle Oregon page is not up!

Summary

Wow, what a ride! While not as scenic as CO2009, where we climbed 4 mountain passes, it's hard to beat the Oregon Coast. Day 1 was short while Day 2 was long and actually pretty difficult. Days 2-5 were very scenic while Day 6 was a leg-burner. Day 7 was a nice wrap-up through areas around Roseburg where I lived during my High School days. In terms of effort I was surprised at the level of effort required on days that I thought would be quite easy.

Daily Ride Details

Here are the official online maps and my Garmin GPS details for each day:

Rural views along Elkhead Road

Day 1: Route map GPS Track Ride Report

 

 

 

 

 

Smith RiverDay 2:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Cape Arago State ParkDay 3:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Capa Blanco LighthouseDay 4:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

 

  Wigwam burner, Myrtle Point OR

Day 5:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

 

Stairway to Heaven!Day 6:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Covered Bridge, Riddle, ORDay 7:

Route map

GPS Track

Ride Report

 

 

Pictures/Videos

As of October 1st all pictures from the ride are on my Flickr website.

Ride Highlights

  1. No mechanical issues! No flats, no broken spokes, nothing! Can't ask for anything more in that category.
  2. No health issues or injuries.
  3. Great scenery: wonderful views of rural Oregon, the Oregon coast, and coastal mountain ranges.
  4. Great people: can't say enough about the fun, friendly riders and volunteers on this ride. They continue to be one of the best parts of the trip.
  5. Wonderful weather - only had 1 morning on the coast that was cool with heavy mist (i.e. not quite rain). The rest of the time was warm and sunny, which is unusual for the coast.

Ride Lowlights

  1. Lack of training - Just as in CO2009 I did not train nearly enough: not enough miles and not enough seat-time. Will I ever learn my lesson?
  2. My Camera - once again my Sony DSC-S730 camera has fallen below my performance expectations. I plan to make a purchase before my next major tour/ride/campout to avoid these issues. Several key shots that I wanted did not come out as expected.
  3. Shoe issues - I need new in-soles in my bike shoes. The current ones did not provide enough cushioning on the vast amounts of chip-seal we experienced.

Recovery

I am now Cycle Oregon +15 days and recovery is now complete, even though my bag is still not 100% unpacked. I was hobbling around only for 1 day with most soreness completely gone by day 3. On the Friday after returning I took a ride into Seattle for a work event(aka the annual stress test of the cell towers around Safeco Field) and ended up doing just about 50 miles. Wow, my legs were rebelling. If they could speak they would be saying, "I thought we were done with this?"

Next year?

Will I be doing Cycle Oregon in the future? Absolutely, but perhaps not next year. Taking 8 days away from my family is a hard sell initially and then hard on everyone involved (i.e. my wife).

On the night of Day 6 every year they give a hint about the next year's ride. This is what I wrote down on my phone as Jonathan Nicholas was speaking to the crowd. Accuracy is not 100%, so take that into account-

"Seed of a clue: That hill we climbed yesterday was too short. One day next year we are going to climb higher, longer, without backtracking, than we ever have."

2012 will be the 25th anniversary of the Cycle Oregon week ride. I'm sure they have an EPIC ride planned. I'm just not sure my family is ready for me to do it again.

}B^)

Cycle Oregon Countdown: 2 Days To Go!

Packed and ready!2 days to go until Cycle Oregon 2011!

What did I just type? 2 days left? AAHHH!! Panic time! Well, not quite but time is very short. This is where I will probably spend the least amount of time sleeping. Why won't that be tomorrow night? Well, because tonight is my last night at home before I drive down to Sutherlin, Oregon and begin my adventure. That's right, Cycle Oregon Day 0 starts tomorrow at approximately 10 am.

Tonight I will spend several hours laying awake in bed running through my packing list and memories of the 2009 ride thinking about all the things I may have forgotten. How many times will I get out of bed to check my bag to make sure _____ (fill in the blank) is still in the bag? My prediction is 2. Any odds on 3 or more?

The entire drive from Sammamish, Washington to Sutherlin, Oregon is about 357 miles which I should be able to cover in just about 6 hours. Leaving at 10 am will put me there around 4 pm, assuming I don't stop to do any shopping along the way, which I most likely will do.

Several people have asked me if I will be using my blog or social media on this ride and the answer is a resounding, "YES!" And so I present...

Top 5 Ways to Follow Me on Cycle Oregon 2011

  1. NormalGuyTri.com(i.e. this website) - You can do the direct link or use the RSS feed. If you are reading this then you know where to find me. I will be posting regular updates, possibly every day but at least 2-3 times during the week. After the ride I will post a full-write up. But first I will need have some time to sort through all the pictures and collect my thoughts.
  2. Facebook - You can Like me on Facebook or even read the RSS feed. I will be sending out brief updates throughout the week, most likely several times a day.
  3. Twitter: @normalguytri - This will be almost a full duplication of what's on Facebook since the two are linked.
  4. Flickr - I will periodically be posting pictures taken from my phone on a Flickr Set I created for this ride.
  5. Google+ - Just look for Lee Donnahoo on Google+. Not sure I will update it much but maybe I'll post there a couple of times.

Of course all this assumes that I have the right cord for my phone to recharge it along the way. Or maybe I'll use the Blogmobile. I considered buying a Spot or the Garmin GTU 10 to automatically broadcast my location but I couldn't justify the cost. The ability to have a website with your current coordinates is very attractive, especially with the Spot where you don't need cell service to use it, but with a ride like Cycle Oregon they have you covered in emergencies. For future hikes or unsupported rides it may help to ease some minds (i.e. my wife's) but that decision will not be made today.

}B^)

 

Cycle Oregon Countdown: 10 days to go!

10 days to go until Cycle Oregon 2011!

I have a countdown on my door at work which reminds me every time I walk into my office.

Today, while parusing the Cycle Oregon Forum on my lunch break, I decided to come up with...

The Top 10 best songs for cycling to be played from a SAG wagon. OK, it started as 10 and grew to 15 before I was finished. And then 20 when I added the hill climbing songs.

Disclaimer: I don't wear headphones when I ride and neither should you. I do wear them when I am inside, on my trainer, and looking at the 4 walls of my family room on cold, wet, and icy winter days.

So what's a SAG wagon? Well, on Cycle Oregon they look something like this...

  Cycle Oregon 2009 SAG Wagons at Glendale, OR  According to Wikipedia, which is never wrong, a SAG wagon is a vehicle that follows riders on a race or recreational ride to pick up riders who are unable to complete the event. Why "SAG?" It's supposed to be short for riders who are "sagging behind". They usually have a driver and a radio operator and carry supplies for the riders.

On Cycle Oregon they have loud speakers mounted on the roofs which they use to play motivational music for the riders. SAG wagons are basically party wagons. The CO SAG drivers/volunteers usually have a theme for their crew such as pirates, cowboys, race car drivers, etc.

On the Cycle Oregon forum they asked what type of music they should play? Such is the genesis of my list.

The Top 15 Songs to be Played by SAG Wagons on Cycle Oregon 2011...

  1. Bicycle Race - Queen: This absolutely must be in every cycling play list. It's the law. Don't bother looking it up because you will find it on every law book, article, or court judgement regarding cycling play lists.
  2. Cool, Clear Water - Marty Robbins: I know what you are thinking. No, I haven't lost it. They should play this on long, hot climbs. Trust me on this one.
  3. Bad Motor Scooter - Montrose: It's about getting out and riding. Need I say more? OK, it's about motorcycles, but so what? So is the next one...
  4. Slow Ride - Foghat: For when you need to slow down and chill.
  5. Runnin' Down a Dream - Tom Petty: Makes me want to ride fast every time I hear it.
  6. Danger Zone - Kenny Loggins: This one works best at the top of big hills just before you descend.
  7. I Was Made For Loving You - KISS: One of the worst songs KISS ever produced (come on, it's DISCO!) but it has a great driving beat and inane lyrics that make you want to run away. Or pedal really fast to get away from it. MAKE IT STOP! MAKE IT STOP!
  8. Radar Love - Golden Earring: Come on, it's half past 4 and I'm shifting gears! Doesn't that make you want to pick up the tempo?
  9. 1 Bourbon 1 Scotch 1 Beer - George Thorogood: I don't know why but I love to ride to this song.
  10. Jailbreak - Thin Lizzy: This song makes me want to ride. Not sure why.
  11. I Wanna be Sedated - The Ramones: Sometimes I feel like this during and especially after a long ride. Just put me in a pace line and shut off my brain while I try to beat this head wind...
  12. Immigrant Song - Led Zeppelin: Hard to beat this one. Hard driving, good lyrics, great song for riding.
  13. Riding the Storm Out - REO Speedwagon: For some reason this one really speaks to me and, no, it's not just because it has the word "riding" in the title. This song means road trip.
  14. Going the Distance - Cake: Are you going the distance? Are you going for speed? Hopefully my wife will not be in a time of need while I'm away experiencing the wonders of southern Oregon.

And finally, to be played in the last 10 miles of Day 7...

15. Take Me Home - Phil Collins: The ultimate "going home" song from an iconic singer.

Best Climbing songs-

  1. AC/DC - TNT: Any AC/DC song may fit the bill here, but this is the one I like the best.
  2. Mungo Jerry - Summertime: Good cadence and a happy message. Makes me want to dance! (Sorry for the bad audio on the video)
  3. American Woman - Lenny Kravitz: Not the original Guess Who song (which is a FAR better piece of music) but this cover does work really well in one scenario: it has a really slow beat which is great for climbing steep hills at a slow cadence. Like we did climbing up that Forest Service road out of Glendale, OR, on Day 5 of Cycle Oregon 2009.
  4. So Whatcha Want - Beastie Boys: Very funky beat that stays steady and keeps you moving. Can't ask for much more in a climbing song.
  5. Bad Horsie - Steve Vai: This is the "dark horse". OK, it's more like silver (watch the video). Probably one of the hardest driving bass lines of a rock song. Of course it also helps to tune your guitar down 2 full steps from E to C. Gives it that extra punch.

So there you have it. These are MY favorite riding songs, your mileage may vary. I took out the climbing songs and put them into their own category below because they are that cool.

Honorable mentions-

  1. I Predict A Riot - Kaiser Chiefs: Instead of this one I went with The Ramones.
  2. My Way - 7 Mary 3: Hard driving song. Also because 7 Mary 3 was the call sign of Ponch from Chips.
  3. Slow Ride - Kenny Wayne Shepherd: I have loved KWS's music since I first heard him back in '95 when he was just a teenager. Good song but it didn't make the cut.
  4. Fire - Jimi Hendrix: I loves me some Jimi but the beat is constant enough in this song.
  5. Momma I'm Comin' Home - Ozzy Osbourne: This one almost made the top 15 until I saw an even better "coming home" song in Phil Collins. Sorry Ozzy. You still ROCK!

 Counting down the days!

}B^)

Iron Horse Trail Ride Report (Almost)

On July 5, 2011, the Snoqualmie Tunnel was re-opened after completion of a significant repair project. This tunnel is part of the John Wayne Pioneer Trail in Iron Horse State Park just east of Seattle, WA. It was closed in 2009 (actually didn't reopen after the '08-'09 winter closure) due to safety concerns (falling rocks and an underground RIVER flowing through it). The tunnel was fenced off with big warning signs advising you not to enter...

Snoqualmie Tunnel east entrance, Snoqualmie Pass, WA, as it looked in 2009-2011 during the safety closure. 

This tunnel has been on my "bucket ride" list ever since I heard of it when I first moved back to WA in 2001. I never made it up there until they closed it. Then the economic downturn and state budget cuts made it seem like they would never get it fixed. I heard about the opening several days after it happened (I was out of town on vacation at the time) and was pleasantly surprised.

Trail surface: gravel, packed gravel, and packed dirt.

Bike recommendations: anything with tires wider than 28mm (i.e. don't ride on a road bike with skinny tires). Cyclocross bikes should be fine. The last time I rode I was on a bike with 26" x 1.7" road tires and they worked great.

The WA State Park Service has contracted with a private company to provide a shuttle from the trailhead, near Cedar Falls and Rattlesnake Lake, all the way up to the summit at Hyak. This allows you to park your car and, for somewhere around $20, you and your bike can be shuttled up to the top and ride the ~23 miles downhill back to your vehicle. Total time, including shuttle ride, should be in the neighborhood of 3 hours.

I fully intended to ride through the tunnel with 2 of my kids (the 2 that can ride) leaving the other home with Mom but when Saturday arrived Mom was sick in bed. Change of plans! Our ride down the trail turned into a hike through the tunnel with some geocaching thrown in for good measure.

We started out playing the compass game...

Playing the compass game at Snoqualmie Pass, WA

To play the compass game you simply find an object in the distance, using your compass to get the magnetic bearing. Then you have someone else stand in the exact same spot (very important!) and try to determine which object you were pointing at using only the compass bearing. My kids love to try to stump Dad but I always get it. }B^)

We ate some lunch and read the information signs at the Hyak parking lot along the trail.

Informational board at the Hyak parking lot, Iron Horse State Park, WA

And then we hiked the very short distance (less than 1/3 of a mile) to the tunnel entrance. This is the east entrance of the Snoqualmie Tunnel.

East entrance of the Snoqualmie Tunnel, Iron Horse State Park, WA

Inside the tunnel we hiked for about half a mile before we turned back. My boys were not in the mood to hike the nearly 2.5 miles to the west entrance on the other side of Mt. Catherine. So we hiked in a bit, found a geocache, and called it a day.

Looking out toward the east entrance, Snoqualmie Tunnel, Iron Horse State Park, WA

So the tunnel is open ready for riders. The trail in the tunnel was very smooth but a bit moist. There are a few dripping leaks from the roof (expected in a 100+ year old tunnel) but the eastern 1/3 of the tunnel is virtually brand new trail surface and walls/ceiling. I'll be back again this summer with my boys to ride the tunnel and trail again.

Our next stop was a great little lake called "Gold Creek Pond", a reclaimed gravel pit right across the freeway from Hyak on I-90. This is a very picturesque lake with picnic tables, a paved trail around the perimeter, and great views of the mountains. We intended to ride our bikes on the perimeter trail but USFS rules stated "no bikes" so we ended up walking.

Gold Creek Pond near Snoqualmie Pass, WA

If you are looking for a quick picnic at Snoqualmie Pass this is a great place. The trail was flat and easy, the picnic tables are 100 yards from the parking lot, and there weren't many people around.

To make up for the fact that we didn't get to ride in the tunnel or around the pond our next and final stop was the Marymoor Velodrome, Marymoor Park in Redmond, WA. This is one of my boys' favorite places to ride, and for good reason-

Marymoor Velodrome, Marymoor Park, Redmond, WA

The track itself is open to the public (when not in use for classes or races). The surface is textured concrete with banked turns and a 400m circumference. This is one of the few outdoor bike tracks in the western US and it is just a few miles from my house! I highly recommend checking it out and taking a few laps. 

As I was playing around on the track with my oldest son I broke the frame on one of my favorite bikes, my nearly 18 year old Schwinn High Plains. After nearly 10,000 miles it finally gave out under my weight. I can generate a lot of torque and have replaced many parts on this bike over the years. It's like losing an old friend. Yes, I almost cried.

Broken rear dropout, drive side on the rear wheel of my 1993 Schwinn High Plains after nearly 10,000 miles. Goodbye old friend! 

...but then I remembered something very important: NOW I CAN GO BIKE SHOPPING! In the past 3 years this bike has served as my year-round commuter bike and has seen everything from thunderstorms, sleet, and hail (which really hurts your face). Now I need another bike that can fill this void.

Upcoming posts: shopping updates!

 

 

Tour de Blast 2011

Elk Rock Viewpoint, Mt. St. Helens National Monument during Tour de Blast 2011On Saturday, June 18, 2011, I participated in the Tour de Blast, a fabulous ride up SR504, the Spirit Lake Highway. It starts at Toutle Lake High School, going all the way up to the Johnston Ridge Observatory in the Mount St. Helens Volcanic National Monument.

This ride has been on my "to do list" for quite some time. Last year somebody called it "Tour de Frost" in reference to the very cold/wet weather they experienced. It even snowed at the turn-around at Johnston Ridge. The weather patterns this year are very similar to last year so I decided not to take any chances and significantly over-packed.

I brought everything except my rain bike: shorts, thermal pants, rain pants, rain jacket, winter gloves, short gloves, balaclava, thermal shirt, shoe covers, wool socks, regular socks... the list goes on. Why did I do this? Because the weather at this altitude is incredibly unpredictable. As I drove to the camping area the day before the sky was clear with temps in the mid-70's, a perfect late spring day in Western Washington. A couple of days before I pulled a graphic from weather.com showing the extended forecast. Can you guess on which day the ride was scheduled?

As I arrived at the camping area (a field next to Toutle Lake High School) the weather was gorgeous. I pitched my tent and enjoyed good conversation with my neighbors as well as a good novel. As far as camping goes it was fabulous. Little did I know this was the highlight of the trip.

Camping at the Toutle Lake High School

As I went to bed I noticed some high clouds rolling in. By 1am I was awakened by HEAVY rain which lasted through the rest of the night and all the next day. I finally got up about 6am, packed up my things, and got ready to ride. This is where some decisions had to be made - how do I dress for the ride: winter commute gear? light rain gear? no rain gear at all and hope the rains stop altogether? The weather forecast called for temps in the upper 50's and a 40% chance of rain. With this in mind I opted for the light rain jacket, short gloves, and rain pants over my short sleeve jersey and bib shorts (mistake #1).

Just as I was about to start out on the ride I found Gordon, a friend from work who just arrived at packet pickup. He asked, "Have you already been out and come back? You are soaked!" No, I just walked across the field from the camping area to the start/finish line. Yes, it was that wet but the temp was in the upper 50's and felt quite warm (mistake #2). And on that note I started up the mountain.

Start/Finish area, Toutle Lake High School

The first 13 miles were slow with some rollers. Within the first 10 miles I found the "unofficial Tour de Blast Rest Stop." They call it "unofficial" because they give away free beer. I'm sure the ride organizers cannot endorse this because it may lead to someone "riding under the influcence". In Washington State you can be charged with DUI for riding a bike while drunk. I passed them around 7:45 am and they were already out hootin' and hollerin' as riders went by, with a big sign advertising "free beer". They were already drinking as I went by and I'm sure the party went on well into the night. They even had a guy dressed as sasquatch. Very cool in attitude in such a small town.

Around mile 5 I noticed that my Garmin was registering my speed as 33 MPH. While I would love to think that I'm in pretty good cycling shape, I'm not THAT fast. I did a quick adjustment (changed wheel size in the bike profile to "auto") and within a minute it showed my actual speed of 16-18 MPH in the flats. Within a few more minutes my Garmin kept beeping at me with "auto pause" and "auto resume" notifications, effectively telling me that I was starting and stopping even though I was riding down the road at a fairly constant rate of speed and cadence. This is an ongoing issue I am having with my Edge 705 and the cadence sensor (more on this in a later post when/if it gets fixed). To fix it I simply disabled the cadence sensor which leaves the system to use your GPS coordinates to calculate speed and distance traveled rather than the cadence/speed sensor on the back wheel. The end result of these 2 issues is that my ride profile shows me going very fast in the first few miles and about 2.5 miles further than it actually was.

As I hit the first rest stop I was feeling good. The legs were great and I had a lot of energy. The only downside was that I was completely soaked through. This actually happened in the first few miles but the slow and steady climb raised my body temp enough that it was easy to stay warm. The food was fabulous: fruit bars, brownies, fruit, peanut butter bagels, and lots of sports drink. After a few minutes of food and liquids I was back on the road.

The first rest area, Hoffstadt Bluffs Visitors Center, Mt. St. Helens National Monument, Tour de Blast 2011

The climbing really began in earnest after the first rest stop. The grade changed sharply from 1-4% to 6-9% (as registered on my Garmin). I kept up a slow but steady pace of 6-7 MPH and slogged up the cold and wet road. The views along the way were very limited, even at the very picturesque Hoffstadt Creek Bridge.

 The Hoffstadt Creek Bridge, Mt. St. Helens National Monument, along SR504.

At this point I was doing pretty well, finding my "groove" but starting to feel some fatigue in my legs. My lack of training (mistake #3) became very apparent as I approached the second rest stop.  

A rider climbs up the last few yards to the second rest stop at the Elk Rock Viewpoint, Mt. St. Helens Volcanic National Monument

The second rest stop was quite crowded. They had a tent and a couple of canopies setup. The tent had copious amounts of food while the canopies were crowded with riders huddled around 2 fire stands setup to keep people warm and dry.

The second rest area on Tour de Blast 2011, Elk Rock Viewpoint, Mt. St. Helens National Monument.

As I filled up on snacks and water I spoke at length with a support guy standing next to a while board with the temp and conditions posted along with mileage and climbing elevations on the next two climbs. It didn't look good.

Current conditions at Elk Rock Rest Stop: 46F, Raining

Current conditions at Johnston Ridge Rest Stop: 40F, Sleeting

I walked over to the fire to warm up and dry out a bit while chatting up the other riders to see if any of them had made it to the top. No one there had been to the top yet and most intended to either turn around right there or wait for the SAG wagon. As I stepped away from the fire, fully intending to ride up to the top, the wind kicked up with some really strong gusts and the rain started blowing sideways. It continued for 15 minutes. As I waited I did dry out a lot but started getting colder and colder (mistake #4). The combination of the wind and low energy output (riding up the hill was keeping me quite warm) started to really bring down my body temp.

My next thought was, "I'm done, time to ride down." I hopped on my bike and started down the mountain. I made it only about 1/4 mile before I was forced to stop. My hands were shaking so badly that my front wheel was unstable. At downhill speeds in the 30-40 MPH range this could be very dangerous. It also signaled the first stage of hypothermia, uncontrollable shaking and somewhat blurred vision (eye issues will be yet another topic for a future post). I slowly climbed back up to the warmth of the rest stop to wait for the SAG Wagon.

Pooh Bear enjoying the ride back to Toutle Lake High School aboard the SAG wagon.

The SAG Wagon was a small bus similar to the smaller busses used by some transit agencies on short routes or in small towns. There was no bike rack so we put our bikes in the aisle, as many as would fit, and hunkered down for the 30 minute ride back to the start. My day was finished. This was the first, only, and hopefully last time for the SAG wagon.

Speghetti and meatballs! A great (warm) way to end a long/cold ride.

OK, it was almost finished. Back at the High School we were served a very warm and yummy spaghetti dinner by the Rotary Club volunteers. I'm not sure which was better: the warm food or the actually very tasty pasta. I followed it up with a big vanilla ice cream with strawberry sauce.

And there you have it. Score - Me: 0, Mt. St. Helens: 1

I made lots of mistakes on this one-

  1. Did not dress appropriately for conditions. I had the right clothing in my bag in the car: thermal shirt, balaclava, thicker Showers Pass rain jacket, and Gore rain gloves. If I had over dressed, just like I had over-packed, I would have been much warmer and continued the ride. Without a doubt.
  2. I trusted the air temp at the bottom and did not ask the ride officials about weather conditions up the mountain.
  3. Lack of training. Gordon asked me earlier in the week how my training was going. My quote: "I've been tapering for a month!" That's my sarcastic way of saying I wasn't prepared. And it showed.
  4. I waited too long at the rest stop before continuing on. Because of this my core temp went way down and it went downhill from there.

I ate my lunch with some of the race organizers. They passed on some interesting stats:

Registered riders: about 950 (permit allows for 2500 riders)
Riders who picked up their packets: around 750
Number of riders who actually went out on the ride: 600

So how did Gordon do? He made it to the top! With 1.5 miles left he had a flat and rode that last bit on a flat front tire. I'm sure his speeds were slow enough that this wasn't an issue. He also didn't want to stop and give up his momentum, physical and mental. Then he made it all the way back to the High School.

Another friend from work, Bret, put this in his ride report: 

"Before we start, our group typically gets together and shares some kind of inspirational/motivational thoughts. I thought I would be funny and use a quote from the biblical story of Noah’s ark, apropos the weather: And the waters prevailed exceedingly upon the earth; and all the high hills, that were under the whole heaven, were covered. (Genesis 7:19) People in general are not amused. Literally as we wrap up our little pre-ride meeting, it starts to rain harder."

Brett made it to Elk Ridge and then turned around and rode all the way down. He, at least, was prepared for that, unlike me.

Summary

Ride Stats-

  • Rolling Time: 2:53:03
  • Actual Time: around 4 hours (included rest stops, warming by the fire, and SAG ride)
  • Rolling distance: 29.19 miles (distance is suspect, about 2 miles more than it should be)
  • Average rolling speed: 10.4 MPH
  • Elevation Gain: 3630 feet
  • Average Heart Rate: 142

Highlights:

  • Perfect camping conditions the day before.
  • Camping on-site allowed for quick prep for the ride.
  • FOOD! Wonderful food at the rest stops and a pasta feed at the end, with ice cream!

Lowlights

  • The weather day of the ride.
  • Not mentally prepared for the cold
  • Not dressed for the cold and wind
  • Didn't train enough hills, although I didn't stop due to training limitations
  • Issues with my GPS continue to frustrate me.

Will I be back again? - Absolutely. I want to conquer this one.

Would I recommend it to a friend? - Yes!

Post Ride

During the drive home (2.5 hours) it rained the ENTIRE way. This was a much bigger rain system than the computer models were letting on (refer to the 30% chance of rain above).

Ride recovery was fast since I didn't actually ride that far. As an example, my commute to/from work the next day was quite fast. I use the "Courses" feature on my Garmin to track my commutes to/from work. I use the best ride from the previous month and try to beat it each time I ride. This time I had a PR (personal record) by almost a full minute, breaking 34 minutes for the first time on this particular route. That means I had something left in the tank and very well could have finished the ride from a training perspective. Oh well, there's always Tour de Blast 2012!

Looking forward to Cycle Oregon 2011!

}B^)

 

Cycling Merit Badge

This weekend I had the pleasure of teaching a group of Boy Scouts about the joys of cycling. I have been a Cycling Merit Badge counselor for about 5 years now and find it very rewarding.

The main purpose of this post is to link to all the information I discussed in the class and give a short description of some of the routes I have used for the 10, 15, 25, and 50 mile rides required to finish the merit badge.

 

10 mile rides

Camp Piggot 10-mile loop

Marymoor Park to Redhook Brewery - very easy ride on the Sammamish River Trail.

15 mile rides

East Lake Sammamish Trail - Easy ride on a gravel surface (although they are paving the trail in the summer of 2011)

25 mile rides

Issaquah-Preston-Snoqualmie Trails - Easy to moderately challenging ride with a great view of Snoqualmie Falls at the end.

Snoqualmie Valley Trail - Snoqualmie Falls Easy trail up to the falls from Carnation.

50 mile ride

Marymoor - North Lake Washington Loop - moderately challenging ride around the north half of Lake WA. We finished it off with some laps around the track to make it an even 50 miles.

Iron Horse State Park - FABULOUS ride with great views. Can't go through the tunnel. Easy ride.

 

Cycling Skills: http://bit.ly/jeqVCF

Cycling Classes: Cascade Bicycle Club, REI

Bicycle Repair info: Sheldon Brown, Park Tool "Repair Help"

Low Cost Helmets: Cascade Bicycle Club Helmet Campaign

Ride Report - Bike To Work Day 2011

Commuter Station at NE 124th between Redmond/WoodinvilleLast Friday, May 20th, was Bike To Work Day (BTWD), a great excuse to get people to ride their bikes to work who usually don't have the time, energy, or motivation to otherwise do so. What does that mean for those of us who regularly commute via bike? More people to share the fun! The more people we can get biking the better.

There are bike snobs out there (sorry, I refuse to link to them) who think that Bike To Work Day is the worst day of the year. Some of those even boycott the day completely. I relish it! OK, maybe not, but I am no where near the attitude I refer to. If you want to read the vile put out there about the N00bs who dare to get in their precious way, then please go and do a search yourself. Go ahead, my blog will be waiting for you when you get back from cleaning the vomit off your keyboard.

My favorite BTWD in 2008 was the best. I was in fabulous shape (compared to years previous). I pulled up to a stoplight at the back of a pack of about 20 cyclists waiting to go up a big hill (corner of E. Lake Sammamish Pkwy and Leary Way in Redmond). As the light turned green the guys in the front (obviously not regular riders) were having trouble getting started which caused the group to stop, accordion style. I pulled out to the left of the group and was able to pass the entire group. As I climbed the hill I was able to look back using my rear-view mirror to see the incredible carnage playing out behind me: people falling over because they stopped mid-stroke and couldn't unclip, pushing their bikes (out of shape), while the regular commuters weaved around them trying not to become a victim themselves. Overall there were no serious injuries but lots of colorful metaphors.

This year I decided to do something new: a long route starting early in the morning that would take me by 2 of the BTWD commute stations (i.e. SWAG stops). I even invited some friends from work to join in the fun.

  • Start time: 7:20 am
  • Estimated distance: 19.24 miles
  • Estimated climbing: 1033 feet
  • Estimated time: 90 minutes
  • SWAG stops to hit: 2

Of course things don't always go as planned...

  • Actual start time: 7:35 am (missed meeting my friends)
  • Actual distance: 28.87 miles
  • Actual climbing: 1520 feet
  • Elapsed time: 2:01:55
  • Swag stops hit: 3

      Commute Station on the Sammamish River TrailThe weather was FABULOUS (sunny, highs in the 60s) with very little wind. I kept to my route for the most part but diverted north on the Sammamish River Trail a bit to hit a third SWAG stop in Woodinville. The bad news was that they were closing up shop. The good news was that they told me to take as much food as I wanted because they didn't want to transport it. SWEET! I loaded up on samples of nuts, dried fruit bars, Cliff Bars, and assorted other snacks (this proved useful later). The other commute stations along the way at 60 Acres and the 520 trail were also very thin so I didn't stay long at either place.

The final destination of the morning was a BTWD breakfast hosted by my employer but when I arrived I found that they had literally just run out of food. No! What was to be the highlight of my day turned out to be a bit of a downer. As I was sulking, looking at the empty tables, a good friend, Steve, arrived as well to find the bad news. That's when I remembered by bag full of snacks! The two of us sat down, exchanged ride stories, and chowed down on all the snacks I picked up earlier. The morning had been saved.

Overall the day was a success: I got in my long-ride for the week, hit the commute stations, ate some pretty good food, and socialized with some friends. When I got back to the office I took inventory of the SWAG take for the day, including the snacks that weren't eaten earlier...

BTWD SWAG collection

My ride home was supposed to be an easy 8-mile ride that I have done hundreds of times before but it was not to be. Only 3.5 miles into the ride I popped a spoke nipple and ended up taking the bus home...

Popped rear spoke, drive side spoke nippleMy saving grace, KC Metro route 269

To end the day I took the family down to the Marymoor Park Velodrome in Redmond for some bike racing action. My kids eat this stuff up, especially the Kiernan race with the scooter...

Setting up for the Cat-4 Chariot heat

Next year I think I'll start something new: "Bike to anywhere but work day," thinking that I will take the day off to just bike anywhere that suits my fancy.