Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Mt Lemmon Approaches

As a special bonus for the year, Road Pixie has decided to mix family (Dad) with biking and fly to Arizona to ride the 200K Mt Lemmon Brevet. Described as "extreme" by some who have ridden it, the brevet is 40 miles through Tuscon followed by a 25 mile climb at 5%-8% up to the top. The return descent should be something.
The Golden Goat just got FedEx'd to Dad's for the winter where it will stay, providing reasons to go see Dad over the winter. Dad rides too, just not quite as far.
There are actually very few places one can ride 25 miles straight up. Some places in Colorado, etc. Road Pixie's current record is only 15 miles up (in Oregon). More later on the lessons learned from the assault on the Lemmon.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Austrian Anyone?

IronK spends quite a bit of time complaining about the number of bikes that I own. As a result, it just makes me want to change things so that every bike has a specific and useful purpose. This has resulted in my selling of my Surley Cross Check (which never fit right) and refurbishing the first road bike I ever purchased.

Okay, I was 13 years old when I bought in back in '82. I had previously had a 10-speed Schwinn that was stolen while I was buying D&D modules at the local hobby shop. My divorce-in-progress parents were not into getting me a new bike so I had made due with a Huffy Sante Fe that I got at a police auction. Finally, a year of saving and scrimping had netted me the $234.86 that I needed to buy my very first true "road bike", a Puch Alpina.

I road it for so many miles as a 13-15 year old. Every weekend was a new exploration of Cincinnati, Ohio and the many, many hills. Begin 13 isn't easy, and I now realize that this bike must have been an atrocious fit! But I paid for it, so it was wonderful.

In all the years since then, I have never gotten rid of the Alpina. My father finally bought me a Trek 2100 (which I also still own) when I was 25, but I kept this bike somehow. It had been behind the furnace for 10 years.

When I bought the Golden Goat, it came set up as a single speed and I promptly took all the parts off and put them in a box. I was lamenting the fact that, without the Surley, I had no winter bike! Then I was looking at Sheldon Brown's various faq's and thought about a single speed/fixey. He mentioned that the best type of bike to convert for the purpose was a 70s style road bike. Down the stairs and there it was: a nice steel frame with horizontal drop-outs and enough clearance for decent winter tires.

Quick trips to the LBS and the bike came to life. Sure the bottom bracket was a trashed mess. The headset was a mess too, but did clean up at least. I regret that I didn't take pictures of the process. The dearailleurs and brake calipers went to the trash, but I kept the mounting hardware and the cranks for posterity. So was born Rasputin (Marcy, the LBS manager, gets credit for the name).

The only issue is the headset. Though the original still works, the fork is a french-threaded one. I have now done more research than I thought possible on the history of bicycle headsets (I'm sure this will help me in some future trivia game). Back in "the day", there really were not the standards that exist now. Today, all threaded headsets (and even those are going away) are the ISO or British standard of 24 threads-per-inch (TPI). In the 60s and 70s, many European makers (including Puch) followed the now-extinct French standard of 25.4 TPI. There are other differences as well including the race size (French ones are a bit thinner in the head tube), but those can be subtly altered by a good bike shop. Hard to change the threads on the fork (though my metal-working artist friend BigG thinks that's do-able too).

I'd be okay with my French-style headset, but this was also before the days of sealed bearings. If I turn the bike upside down, I can see the lower race bearings rolling around in there. Okay now, but with winter grim and dirt, destruction is a foregone conclusion. So I am left with only a few options:
  1. Buy a new fork. Yuch! The original matches the very nice paint and has nice scalloping and lugging.
  2. Find a sealed bearing french-threaded headset. Promising, but even Ebay is having trouble. Seems that I am in line behind proud owners of classic Peugeots.
  3. Use the lower races only of an ISO headset - the upper races aren't so susceptible to weather. Advocated by Sheldon Brown, I like this approach, but at least two mechanics have been nay-sayers. I will have to consult Marcy.
  4. Get BigG or one of his friends to change the thread-size of the fork. Hmmm, might keep this one in the back pocket.
Since it is only fall, I am still riding the bike with the old headset. 27 years later, it fits very well. I remember the days when a bad dismount meant certain pelvic doom. Now I am amazed that I don't even have toe-overlap on the thing. Replaced the original drop bars with TT bars for stability over the winter. A bunch of frame saver and a bit of touch up nail polish (thanks Sally Hansen for all those color options) was all the frame needed.

Now if I can just find a reasonable headset...

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

IronK Conquers Coulees

This past weekend may have been the pinnacle of Road Pixie's yearly quest to lure IronK deeper into the sport of cycling. Along with the infamous Shredder (so named for his amazing ability to go through tires at the most inopportune time), IronK succeeded in completing the 43 mile Crusin' the Coulees biannual ride.

Highlights included a civil war era cemetary conveniently located halfway up a very large climb (no really the tombstones were way cool). Also, the $5.50 prime rib sandwich at the Waumandee Resort that saved us from certain starvation.

This was also the second ride for the Golden Goat, Road Pixie's fabulous climbing machine. A Salsa Casseroll with a compact crankset and a mountain biking rear derailleur, the Golden Goat boasts a gear ratio lower than a triple (I did the math). Alas, IronK had a triple and so relied on her iron thighs to push her way up.

A fabulous ride with only one tire falling to the Shredder....

Saturday, October 10, 2009

How to survive really foul weather (and still have fun)

I've done heavy duty exercise in all conditions for many years (and not just cycling). I did once spend a solid 5 days in the pouring rain the BWCA once and I have cycled at temps down to minus 23F and been comfortable. Brevets are somewhat challenging sometimes because you have limited space and a long time so things can change quickly and unexpectedly for the worse; that somewhat hosed me on my first one when temps dropped 10 degrees lower than we expected. I added a rack to my bike after that one so that I could carry extra clothes and stash others.

But on my last brevet of the season, an October 200K in Rochester Minnesota, I was toasty warm and never had any issues with either the cold or the rain, both of which were ever present. Since I am lucky enough to actually have a thermometer on my bike (a feature I highly recommend), I can say that the day started out at 42 degrees once we were away from the Rochester heat island. It rained lightly, but continuously until about 2:00 pm at which point the showers started to come and go. It rained harder in Rushford, about halfway; I expected that since valleys hold clouds. It warmed up to about 46 and stayed there for most of the afternoon with brief surges. The wind picked up considerably at about 3:30. I had my clothing perfect for the weather (having honed it with year round commuting). Here is everything I had on and my comments:
  1. Wool cycling socks (high ankle) with plastic bags that I added at Stewartville. I had regular cycling shoes on which are highly vented so I added wind blockers. For me, the wind covers are great, but if I zip them up, they really constrict blood flow to my feet so I like to leave them half zipped. So the plastic bags extend up into the tights and make sure the rain water flows into the shoes, but doesn't get directly on my feet. It then drains through all those air holes. Happily, wool insulates when wet so the sweat doesn't make my feet cold. Also, I tend to completely loosen the buckles on my shoes so that I have lots of wiggle space. The wind blockers ensure that this isn't a problem.
  2. I had a pair of specialized equinox gloves that I bought at my LBS. These had a lot of neoprene in them and worked well. These were wind-proof and breathable and were warm even when soaking wet. I have also cycled with my 2mm scuba gloves (which are made to insulate using the water as the insulation).
  3. I had regular cycling shorts on with bib tights over the front. I bought these a few years back for winter riding. They are neoprene on the front and regular lycra on the back. The venting of the back ensures that they draw any sweat away, but the front blocks everything.
  4. I had a long-sleeved cycling jersey that had some wind blocking abilities on top. I added a thin vest for more wind blocking and a waterproof, breathable jacket on top. I got the jacket from REI and it's great but I notice that Novarra (the REI brand) has cheap zippers, so I am careful with them. Pit zips are a really nice feature so that you can open them and vent/dry when it isn't raining.
  5. I had a cycling beanie on my head and a lycra neck wrapper (also from LBS). I brought my balaclava, but didn't need it. I eventually put a shower cap over my helmet. My helmet is so well vented that as long as the cap doesn't wrap my head, it still vents. In really pouring rain, keeping a ton of water off your head is a good idea. In light rain or scattered showers, it's optional.
In the years of commuting (pouring rain, thunderstorms, snow, sleet, etc). I have several cardinal rules for dressing:
  1. If you are not cold for the first 3-5 minutes of the ride, start taking things off. You are overdressed. Overdressing is the number #1 cause of being cold while riding. Another way to think of it is that if you are standing around waiting for the ride to start, you should be quite cold. Have an extra jacket for this period and throw it in the car right before you leave.
  2. It's more important to block the wind than to block the rain. You generally don't need much in the way of insulation until you are at or near 32. Your body generates its own heat, your clothing needs to ensure the wind doesn't blow it away. Along with this is the importance of not wearing anything totally impervious to water from the inside out. Breathable fabrics ensure that you move the sweat away from your skin. Modern base layer fabrics work this way - they keep the side facing your body dry while the outside saturates with water and slowly evaporates. If you wear a rubber suit, the base layer can't get rid of the sweat. Then you have the problem that any time you stop, you instantly get shivering cold.
  3. Leave anything with cotton at home. In mountaineering, the saying is "cotton kills". Cotton gets wet and sucks the heat out of you. It also dries poorly.
  4. Layers don't work unless they are thin (makes them easier to pack too). I only wear true fleece (and it is only about 5mm thick) when it is under 20 degrees. Above this temp, it's generally too thick. Thin wool is in vogue, but there are all kinds of fall jerseys that block wind. Always plan that the temps will be at least 10 degrees less than the forecast.
  5. Protect your core first. If your core is warm, your extremities take care of themselves. Wear a wind vest, even if it is under your jacket.
  6. EAT - your body uses lots of calories to keep you warm. The amount you eat at 40 degrees and raining should be greater than what a summer ride is on the same course. I looked at my records and found that I burned about 150 calories per hour more on this brevet than on the 400K in late August riding at about the same pace. Who doesn't need an excuse to eat peanut butter cups? And don't forget to drink - in the cold rain, you don't get as thirsty, but you still have to drink to avoid dehydration (more trips to the restroom though since you are not going to be sweating so much so avoid drinking too much).
Everyone should read about the symptoms and stages of hypothermia which are on the net somewhere. Shivers are your body's last defense so if you are shivering and suddenly stop shivering, it's a really bad thing (unless you have come into a warm area or done something else to warm yourself up). Time to knock on someone's door and beg for mercy.

Friday, October 9, 2009

In the beginning...

There were two lesbians both of stunning latent athletic ability. One followed the route of iron and now deadlifts 210 lbs, the other decided to find out just how far a girl could go without stopping on her bike. And so was born this blog, a testimony to the few, but significant, number of females in the sport of Randonneuring. Maybe it was the whole French thing (I do have a degree in French Literature) and I was just desperate for a really good reason to go back to France. Maybe it was because I despise competition with anyone other than oneself. Maybe it was because I really like pain.

Having just finished my very first season of randonneuring by finishing the Super Randonneur series of 200K, 300K, 400K and 600K rides. I now set my next goal on the Cascades 1200 next June. 770 miles long with 40,000 feet of climbing in 93 hours seems like a great idea. So this blog will detail how I intend to get to the finish line.

Also, there will be continuing updates on the additional saga of my quest to get the weightlifter onto the back of a tandem.