Tubeless vs. Staple

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After about 6 months of riding my Velo Routier on tubeless Hetre ELs, it was time to “change the fluid”. I wasn’t sure how long before the first batch would be dried up and gone. After riding to the beach and back, I noticed a slow leak in the front tire. I brought it back home, got out the Stan’s, and gave it a refill without having to remove the whole tire. I noticed that there was a uniform white residue along the inside of the tire including the sidewalls. There were a few chunks of latex that pooled up around what I took for small holes, and I wiped out the inside of the tire before putting in a fresh couple ounces and refilling the tire. I was able to remount the tire and use my floor pump to pop the bead back into place with little effort.

After a few rides, I started to wonder if I was running on borrowed time with the rear – since that is always the tire that goes flat for me. There had been no noticeable puddle of Stan’s in the front tire when I popped it open. To put my mind at ease, tonight I put the bike up in the stand and popped one side off the rim of the rear wheel. While wiping out the remaining Stan’s (about a teaspoon left – mostly viscous yellow – no sign of the white latex still in the suspension), I noticed the twin prongs of a perfect staple that had pierced the tire mid-tread.

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I tried to find it on the outside of the tire to remove it the way it had gone in, but the connecting bar had broken off the tines. I removed them from the inside. I have no idea how long that staple was in there. It could have happened shortly after I started riding these tires tubeless, or it could have happened last week. One thing is certain – I would have had a flat had I been using tubes. As it stands, I didn’t notice the puncture until I went to perform maintenance on the tire.

Pretty cool! I think a few more of my tires will be losing their tubes in the future.

Big Rides

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Calm January bay.

I’m going into 2015 with an open mind.  I would love to ride more brevets this year, but I’m leaving mileage goals wide open.  I did a few “permanents” last year (solo brevets that you schedule yourself), and I really enjoyed them. There are 200ks around Whidbey Island that I’d like to do regularly, and I even set up some rides in the Ride with GPS app, including one populaire (100k) that I may ride and submit for permanent status if it turns out to be good.  It’s quite a hillfest, however!

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I would still love to see how far I can make it in 24 hours (or if I can even ride that long) and then maybe try a longer ride at some point.  I am pretty sure I’m not up for the PBP or any 1200k quite yet – I haven’t the will power for that much time in the saddle in a short amount of time.  I’m not leaving it off the table, however.

One thing is for sure:  I want to bike into old age, and continue to enjoy my rides.

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I’ve been out about once a week since mid December.  I guess this is my yearly break.  I’ve been focusing more on diet and basic Pilates exercise to keep in shape, but I’m giving my knee a rest to get my adductors stretched back out. I also just tried out kayaking, and this will be added to my weekend relaxation/exercise plans for 2015. I really enjoy paddling around, and have a lot to learn about cruising about in the cold water of the Sound.  I also need some cross training so I don’t continue the descent into a biker physique combined with a tech slouch.

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One interesting ride I plan to try this year is the Oregon Outback. This is a 360 mile, mostly gravel journey that crosses the state south to north from Klamath Falls to Deschutes. There was much written about it last year, with some like Ira Ryan and Jan Heine “racing” the route and finishing in under 30 hours, and others taking a leisurely multi-day tour to the finish. I will be likely doing the latter with a friend and my Hunqapillar. I don’t get enough chances to really ride that bike under load in it’s primary capacity. The last time it wasn’t just a commuter was the Rivendell Entmoot, and that’s just sad and wrong!

This ride will be a benchmark for my spring riding season. I would still like to visit Babyshoe Pass, and Stehekin, as well. Perhaps more exploring in WA is in order…

Backup Bike

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Sometimes life throws you a lemon.  Don’t get me wrong – first world problem hit me today.  I’m chilling on Whidbey Island for the week, and my wife and daughter went back to the mainland for a cat feeding, and shopping expedition (the cat stays home in Seattle).  I wanted to ride to the local Ace Hardware to get a steelhead jig for shore fishing.  I planned on doing the ride with my Toussaint, but when I went to get it from the garage, I found the front tire nearly empty.  It appears that one of my rides to the beach brought it in contact with a shell shard that caused a slow leak.

Not Lemons...

Not Lemons…

These tires are in a tubeless config, but I haven’t added any sealant in about 8 months, and that seems to be too long (a friend refills every 6 months or so).  I pulled the shard and spun the wheel a bit after pumping them back up, so we’ll see if it holds, but I’m doubtful.  Lemons.

Needs more sealant

Needs more sealant

Did this stop my jaunt to Ace?  Hell no.  I just jumped on my backup bike!  I have my old Stumpjumper Pro from 1991, and the tires had air.  No fenders, but it is cold and clear with no water on the roads, so no worries.  I was out and back in less than an hour, and even felt that old early ’90’s rigid mountain bike feeling sensing even some of the same smells I remember from riding my first real MTB.  The brain is a weird organ.

I read a lot of folks talking about getting an “extra set of wheels” or a “different cockpit” for different kind of rides. In my experience, you can often pick up a whole bike to do what you want for the same price as the parts to rebuilt your existing frame into something else.

More time to see the barns!

More time to see the barns!

Having another bike gives you more time to ride.  There are less excuses needed.  I read a great statistical analysis of Seattle commuters using the Fremont Bridge route. One of the points was a look at how rain affects commuting (spoiler – it does).  If you had a backup bike, say like a “beater” that had fenders and tough tires, you would have less reason not to bike in the rain, right?

In my case, most all my bikes have fenders, but I find myself pulling my Miyata out for rain duty more often than my other, nicer bikes.  It still rides like a dream, and looks great with the hammered Honjo fenders, but I don’t mind if it gets soaked, muddy, put away wet, etc…

2014 Redux

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An auspicious year for this family of horses, 2014 was pretty nice.  There were a few epiphanies, and a lot of riding.  I’m sitting around resting a nagging medial knee issue that has kept me off the bike for the past week or so.  I’ve been wanting to get out and do one last permanent to finish off the 2014 season, but better judgement is telling me to wait until the knee feels normal.  I know from past experience that the best way to heal is to go easy for a while.

Cycle Distance Stats-MonthlyWhile I didn’t do much more mileage this year, it was still a full year of riding with 3,111 miles (just over 5000 kms) so far.  Last year I did just over 3000 miles, as well.  I did most of my brevets early, with the organized rides over at the end of March.  That month was also my first 500-mile month.  I rode my first solo permanent in April, and did some Moab mountain biking over spring break.  July brought the Entmoot, and as usual, a lower amount of riding as I seem to slow down in the summer months.

cycling speed and distance aveI picked it back up in September, and peaked in November with a late season 200k permanent around Whidbey Island.  I am loving this island’s smooth hilly roads, and have a few more brevets and just general rides planned for the future.  My average speed has not budged in the past 3 years, so I may work on my fitness in the new year and see if I can’t bump that up with some interval training.  I am still hedging on the longer rides (over 300k) – I’m just not sure if I would enjoy them.  The Entmoot ride was an eye opener this year, and I feel like unorganized rambles have a special attraction with exploration and time for photos and camping with friends being great short vacations.  The planning and anxiety around an organized brevet sometimes feels like work.

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As for the mechanical side, I am slowly gaining more perspective and opinions on what works for me.  I really like the Cycles Toussaint experiment with low trail and plump 650b tires.  Tubeless has worked out well, too.  I appreciate the extra cush on the rides, and less worry about flatting.  I still enjoy the Hilsen’s ride with the 32mm Compass tires, too – they are almost as compliant with significantly less air volume.

I’ve come to feel that the 42cm Noodles are the right cockpit for me over the long distance.  I continue to enjoy the Selle Anatomica saddles, and Sidi shoes.  I am not bothered by having 7 or 8 speed cassettes, and index and friction both work, but on the longer rides, I appreciate the simplicity of indexing.  I have bar-end shifters on the Toussaint, and downtube shifters on the Hilsen, and both are set up indexed at this point.

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I really enjoy the centerpull brakes on both bikes, but the post-mounted Dia-Compes on the Toussaint have amazing modulation and easy setup.  I appreciate the simplicity of the older brake style.  I think a great project would be to have centerpull braze-ons added to the Hilsen, perhaps with a low-trail fork, S&S couplers, and Compass Mafac copies added.  Hmmm – perhaps when it’s ready for a re-paint, I can convert her over to 650b as well?  Probably a silly experiment better addressed by a custom.

If I were to have a custom built at this point, it would be a titanium or ultra-light steel tubed, low trail 650b all-purpose bike.  I really feel like this is a do-all, go anywhere bike.  The Rivs would remain my country and camping bikes, and the Toussaint would be backup brevet and city porteur bike.  It would be great to have a lugged Weigle, MAP, or Pereira.  Maybe a Bantam?  Still dreaming of good rides ahead…

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Late Season Permanent

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I saw the opportunity and took it.  I’ve been meaning to try a ride around Washington State’s largest island since I’ve been coming up here in 2003.

My wife and I fell in love with Whidbey Island at some point, and we’ve had properties here twice in the last 11 years.  Last week, I decided to take the holiday week off, and spend some time up here.  Now “up here” is a mere 35.7 miles from “home” in Seattle, so I feel a little funny going up to the cabin, as we say in Minnesotan.  This is less distance than a lot of folks commute to work every day!

When I was growing up, a trip to the “cabin” in northern Minnesota was a 4 hour trip one-way.  It was always the last half hour past Brainerd that I really felt like we were getting out of dodge.  Now it’s just a short drive north that takes a bit over an hour, and I’m in another world, my happy place. The ferry ride helps.  Once you get off the boat, it’s sort of another planet from the urban/suburban bustle of Seattle. There are large tracts of forest, farmland, and a few small picturesque towns dotting the island.  A lovely place, really, and it just feels sleepy and awesome!

Anyway, on to the ride.  The last brevet I had done was a mean, rainy 300k at the end of March.  A long, long time ago.  Now I’ve been commuting plenty, and had several 50-80 mile weeks going, so I felt that stepping up to the 126 mile 200k was reasonable, and my fitness was still good.  I also tried to ignore the little bird telling me that this ride had over 7500′ of climbing.  I figured that this was just a few more hills than a more normal 200k.

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I thought I would be well prepared.  I brought both my rando bikes up with plans to ride the A. Homer Hilsen.  I wanted to make sure the shimmy was gone, and the Swift bag worked well on a longer ride.  I had most everything packed up and ready the night before, and got plenty of sleep knowing I had a big day in front of me.  In the morning, I made eggs and coffee, and still managed to get down to the ferry dock around 8:15.  I had set my start time for 8am, so I was already running late.  After a few more minutes of figuring out where I could leave the car all day, I parked and was off at just past 8:30am.

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Then I started climbing.  The first hill off the ferry wasn’t too bad, but they seemed to just keep coming.  I was happy I had a 34 big ring on the cassette, so I had extra granny help.  Entering Langley – a small town with an artsy vibe, I wanted to stop at the local coffee shop, but I wasn’t ready for a break.  I had packed a rain jacket, camera, phone, wallet, and a few food items in the Swift.  I had my tool bag under the seat.  I felt that I was packing light, but I did have 3 full water bottles.  I wasn’t into the photo mode yet, but couldn’t help but take a snap of the local museum.

BH-2.jpgAs I rode on towards Freeland, I wondered if I had too much.  The weather was great, and my thin wool undershirt, SIR jersey (also wool), and reflecto vest were keeping me toasty.  There were lots of eastern beach vistas on the high bluffs to keep me occupied, and there were about 3 cars that passed me in 10 miles.  No traffic to speak of, which held true most of the day.  The roads were also glorious!  Smooth, fresh blacktop that looked to be laid in the past year or two.  These islanders keep there roads up really well.  That said, I started noticing the many squashed slugs, as well as some small orange salamanders.  1000 slug trails seemed an apt ride name.

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I hit my first walking hill just after Freeland. Resort Rd. climbs back up to HWY 525, and at 10%, it was a bit much. It gave me a chance to stretch my legs. A nice walk in the woods, really – no traffic at all.

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The first jaunt on the main island highway was a nice few miles downhill. I was doing 30 with the cars only going slightly faster. Greenbank is a tiny town at the thinnest part of the island, where if you stand on the field by Greenbank Farm (an old loganberry farm), you can see both Saratoga Passage to the east, and Admiralty Inlet to the west. Here, I stopped to photo what turned out to be 20 herons resting/hunting in the marsh below the farm. They all took off when I circled back to get a photo.

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Onward – I still had a long way to go. The next walking hill was Rhodena Rd. at about an 8% grade just before Parker. This one was a bummer, but it was in another pretty area.

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I realize that all these hill pics look flat, but believe me, they went UP!!! Phew – made it to Coupeville on some nice twisty roads. This is a Washington’s second oldest town, founded in 1853 by a guy who evidently was the only person to have sailed through Deception Pass with wind power alone. X-Games circa a long f’ing time ago! Now I could nearly smell the halfway point.

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The aptly named Madrona Way around inner Penn Cove offered great views of the mussel farming rigs. This was one of my favorite rides, with light traffic, nice curvy roads, and great views of the cove.

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After a wake-me-up short ride on HWY 20 with lots of cars ripping by, I was back on the easy streets heading into Oak Harbor. I stopped to get a few pics, but I was starting to worry about time, as i was taking pics, and my legs were starting to get tired. I wasn’t quite halfway yet, and I knew I would be fighting a headwind going back south. The forecast was for 15-25 mph gusts, and I was quite tired from the climbing. I had no idea how much of the southerly route echoed the hills on the east side of the island. It was already 1:30, so I was 5 hrs into the ride, but not halfway yet. Hmmm…

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After a few more hills, and some duck hunters on Dike Rd. I stopped for a bathroom break a mile from Deception Pass. This was technically past the halfway point, but I didn’t consider it that until I was at the top of the island. I had a reuben and some “power milk” and this picked me up. At the Pass, I watched a seal swimming around the kelp in the shallows. This is a beautiful spot with a high bridge over fast-moving bright green water famous for their whirlpools and standing waves during tidal surges.

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This was the turnaround point.

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Next stop was Ault Field after a jaunt down the highway again. This wasn’t too bad, but I was ready to get off the main road for a while.

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The Navy evidently put their air station on Whidbey partly due to it being in the “rain shadow” of the Olympic Mts. I just figured it was due to the natural beauty – a great place to fly over if you ask me. Just past Joseph Whidbey State Park (closed) it was starting to get dark. There was a great big hill climb here, and halfway up, I noticed writing on the road, “Legs Up Shut” – ahhh, there have been cyclists before me on this! The infamous Jens Voight “shut up legs” quote. That was a major pick up for me, and got me to the top of another 400 foot hill.

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I’m not going to lie to you. I thought about shortening this ride many times over the course of the 12 hrs on the bike. As I got closer to the end and realized I would make the 13.5hr 200k time limit, I knew I had to finish, but every time I went by one of the Island Transport stops on the highway, I thought hmmm…

I made a stop at the Keystone Ferry south of Coupeville for another bathroom break. A bit further south at South Whidbey State Park, I filled out my control card while standing in the dark entrance by the street. At this point, I found that I really liked Clif Shots gummy energy bar nuggets! Yum – there is nothing like junk when you are feeling tired. The tiny bits of rain were good at keeping me focused, but really it was just a long old slog back down to Clinton.

I had one more walk up Lancaster hill, but that was short-lived, and the last few miles were mostly a cruise along the summit of the hills of south Whidbey. The ride back down to the car was awesome! I had a bikers high for the rest of the night thinking about this great day in the saddle and everything I’d been able to see on the way. Pretty cool way to spend a day off.

Special thanks to a very special wife and daughter for giving up Dad on the day before turkey day!

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