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Europe

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I’ve been away from the blogging lately due to a heavy work schedule.  I have missed the first few rides with SIR this year, as well.  I’ve been commuting a few times weekly, and plan to up that as I get my Hunqapillar set up for the Oregon Outback.

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I was in Europe a few weeks back on work meetings, and managed to get to Scotland for a weekend vacation.  From a flight into Glasgow, I hired a car and drove to Oban to stay at a bed and breakfast for 2 nights.  I didn’t get any biking in, but did a lot of walking about.  The main draw for me was the landscape and whisky distillery.

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I managed to get a few bike pics in Stockholm, Sweden.  It was the only place I noticed much biking.  The weather was quite mild in early March – I had assumed it would be frozen and snowy, but it seems not unlike home.

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I also noticed a few mail carriers using bikes.

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As for London – more cars than ever it seems.  I met a few friends who biked to the local pub, but I only noticed a few bikers braving the busy city streets.  They seemed to be very comfortable getting close to traffic – just not as much room on the streets there. One of these days I’ll have to rent a bike and do a bit of cycling.  The roads are inviting – especially the less busy rural roads of Scotland.

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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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