Saturday, September 22, 2012

Destiny Meets Her Match

Mark wins for most thematic lunch
Where would I be without my bike friends? Probably stuck somewhere in the woods north of Sinking Spring PA.  Or worse, at work drowning in mountain of emails. Let me elaborate...

It started early in the week with idle banter of playing "hooky" to ride Blue Marsh on a Friday. It was an entertaining thought but when a couple of Friday meetings cancelled, it became a real possibility. By Thursday night we had six responsible dads shifting gears into full delinquent mode.

Blue Marsh is one of the bigger rides in this area. It's a respectable 23 miles with a lot of ups, downs, and stream crossings. And it's lake loop so there is no bail out option, you have to be "all in." This and the fact you're doing it with five buddies gives the ride a mildly epic feel. Mere mention of the word epic brings out the seven year old in any red-blooded mountain biker, and as we know seven year olds don't always exhibit the best judgement when they get over-excited.

My lack of judgement shifted onto the big ring Thursday night as I was checking out the bike (tire pressures, chain lube, etc) and I noticed the rear brake dragging just a little. The thought of even a little brake drag for a 23 mile loop was disconcerting so I did what you never do before a big ride. I started fiddling around with the bike (in this case adjusting the calipers). And I went to bed and then I got up and I started fiddling with the bike again, this time cycling the hydraulic brake pistons while the bike was upside down. I should have known better but obviously two espressos had not cut the fog enough to bring out my better judgement, and now I had hydraulic brakes with air in them and rear brake power was severely compromised.

But now it was time to leave so I did what any self respecting seven year old would do with defective equipment on the morning of an epic. I loaded up the bike and I eagerly headed off for my 23 mile appointment with Destiny.

Destiny plays her third card
Well it turns out that Destiny is a crafty and patient lady. She had 23 miles to work with so she cradled me gently in her arms for nearly an hour. She did this so that I would feel safe and confident. She did it for 10 miles so I would be fully committed. And then she played her cards, three of them, in rapid succession...

First she bent my derailleur hanger and let me limp along with grinding gears for a couple miles. Then she loosened the bearing assembly in the rear hub just a tiny bit. She thought I would not notice, but I did. With some fiddling I fixed the hub and got the derailleur barely functional. But Destiny was not finished with me, oh no. At mile 11 Destiny sucked the rear brake spreader-spring into my brake rotor. The wheel ground to a halt with the horrible screech of metal on metal.

The trailside scene at mile 11 was a highlight of the ride. Imagine three guys (that's six hands) in there fiddling with the bike, disassembling the brake, bending springs, examining pads, and reassembling it again. My 51 year old eyes were struggling with the close-in detail work. Mike asked if we had a forty-year-old in the group, and Andy chimed in with "I had Lasik surgery!" Somehow with Andy's sharp eyes and Mark's technical know-how we got it back together with only one part left over (the spreader spring) and we were off.  Now the nearly useless rear brake would be totally useless with 12 miles of swooping downhills and waterbars to go.
Tangent: A waterbar is an abrupt 1-2' drop partway down a steep downhill trail. It forces water off to the side of the trail to reduce erosion. The last thing you want to do when going downhill over a waterbar is to use your front brake...which of course was the only brake I had thanks to Lady Destiny.
I became a better rider during the last 12 miles. I had to. I learned to shift my weight back and to generally use less brake. I learned to let'r fly. I made a mental note to add spare pads and some readers to my camelback before the next ride. And I managed to find "my happy place" (a skill I learned from D2M) on some of those long uphill grinds and the short punch-you-in-the-gut steeps.

Somehow I finished the ride without going over the handlebars. We rolled into the parking lot exhausted and triumphant. We headed to Ganly's Pub for well deserved beers and California Chicken Cheesesteaks and arrived home just in time to saddle up again for the Friday Happy Hour Ride. That my friends is commitment!

Our second ride of the day was mercifully short and not as painful as I expected, and our commitment was rewarded in spades when Don made his second annual pilgrimage from southern Vermont to join the Friday Happy Hour Ride and Jesse rolled in on her Spot Longboard with a batch of fresh baked vegan wheat germ muffins. This truly was a day packed full of bike rides, bike friends, bike food, and bike stories.

Destiny had met her match!


"I just like stuff that works"
     -- BobG comment during trailside bike component discussion

Monday, September 17, 2012

Other Side of the Tracks (Road)

Following is our track and statistics from Sunday's ride where we explored the east side of Appleton Road. We retraced our route a couple of times but it appears we did a pretty thorough job...

View 09/16/2012 8:57am in a larger map

Total distance: 22.21 km (13.8 mi)

Total time: 2:19:41
Moving time: 1:51:10
Average speed: 9.54 km/h (5.9 mi/h)
Average moving speed: 11.99 km/h (7.4 mi/h)
Max speed: 28.80 km/h (17.9 mi/h)
Average pace: 6.29 min/km (10.1 min/mi)
Average moving pace: 5.00 min/km (8.1 min/mi)
Fastest pace: 2.08 min/km (3.4 min/mi)
Max elevation: 85 m (277 ft)
Min elevation: 33 m (109 ft)
Elevation gain: 230 m (754 ft)
Max grade: 6 %
Min grade: -4 %
Recorded: 09/16/2012 8:57am

Friday, September 14, 2012

FHHR Hat Trick (or "Blood Sweat and Tears on the Double Bonus Loop")

It has been a punishing couple of months at work. The sort of stuff that, if you're not careful, can take a real toll on you over time. It sounds silly, but the Friday Happy Hour Rides (FHHR) have been instrumental in helping me put the work week behind me and carve out a few days to relax with my family and start the next week re-energized. The FHHR is a magical concoction of blood sweat and tears:
  • Sweat - take the tension from a long workweek and HAMMER it completely out of your body with your bike and miles of wooded singletrack. This is the one physical activity where I can completely commit myself physically and come home utterly exhausted and drenched in sweat and endorphins.
  • Blood - occasionally one of the group will get a little banged up. Nothing life altering, just a little mud and blood. If you're lucky it will be you. If you're really lucky it will be the guy in front of you. It jars you out of your day-to-day and reminds you that you're alive. If it's the guy in front of you, it's a reminder it could (and eventually will) be you.
Tangent: How does getting banged up make you feel alive? Well, that scraped shin or sore knee that starts throbbing during the noontime conference call is a tangible reminder of the adventure had - the fresh air, the speed, the laughs, the risk that you took, the high that you had just a few hours or days before. It's a daily reminder that you sometimes live outside the comfort zone of day-to-day life, in a place where shit happens to you. Stuff happening. That's living. That's alive.
  • Tears - of laughter. At The Overlook on a Friday afternoon there is nothing but your fellow bikers, some dirty bikes, a beautiful view, a warm beer or two and lots of great stories and laughter. Nothing heavy. We're twelve years old again. Riding bikes and carrying on in the woods. 
During the Friday ride, this concoction helps us switch gears from the workweek to the weekend. It happens subconsciously. We don't know it's happening. All we know when we saddle up at 5:00pm is that we'll return home in a couple of hours exhausted and energized, with the workweek fading in the rearview mirror and a full weekend of family, relaxation, and maybe some more adventure stretching out in front of us.

This week's FHHR installment was particularly notable for:
  • The un-frickin' believable weather. Yes this is truly the best riding time of year. 
  • Picking up a walk-on FHHR player. We will see if Mike becomes a regular (that would make three Mikes in the group of regulars, I am feeling outnumbered). 
  • Our emerging Object D'Art at The Overlook (according to Wikipedia an Object D'Art is "a work of art with some artistic merit. An artwork exhibited for the purposes of decoration or the reflection of social status"). This week Mark added a performance element when he did his imitation of "a monkey using a tool" to make his contribution.  We also instituted a "no repeat rule" to the performance art elements which elevates this from an Object D'Art to an outright competition. 
And if a walk-on and an installment of competitive performance art isn't enough, we were also treated to a reset of the crash counter on the hard charging return leg when Mark tried to bunny hop an 18" log pile at full speed (On most days a prudent rider would slow down just a little before hitting that log pile. This wasn't most days). We already had the sweat and tears in the bag. Now we had the blood... 

...which made today's FHHR a bonified Hat Trick. A FHHR Triple Crown!


"They say money can't buy happiness. But it can buy bikes and beer."
     - ecards

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Thursday Morning Shredfest

DB5 with Shredded Chain
I don't know if "it's darkest before the dawn" but when I saddled up this morning it was well before dawn and it was so dark I nearly collided with a couple of pre-dawn hikers on my way to the lake (I like to ride by moonlight when I can).  When I met DB5 around 6:00am the lake was shrouded in mist and the eastern sky was just starting to give up the ghost.

We decided to hit the hills on the west side. Of course this demanded that we eventually assault (again) The Sidewinder from the downhill side. I bailed on the first punch and waved DB5 in on the Furly single-speed. He fully committed all 220 pounds to the assault but unfortunately his two year old chain failed him, well, catastrophically. I mean it just shredded. I've seen many broken chains in the field but this was the first time I've seen the side plates on a chain literally ripped in half.

We took 15 minutes to laugh about how bad it could have been, take some pictures, repair the chain, and saddle up for the return leg.

An hour later I was showered, dressed, and at the office...snickering to myself and glad that there are DBs in this world who also like bikes and are crazy enough to ride them in the woods with me. In the dark. In the early morning on a weekday. It's one of the things that gets me through the day...


"Cycling is like church-many attend but few understand"
     -- Jim Burlant