Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I'm Out

I regretfully submit to my followers the letter which I just sent to the Commissioner of the MoMiles 2013 Challenge.  :-(

Honorable Commissioner,

It is with a heavy heart that I am notifying you of my withdrawal from the 2013 MoMiles Challenge.  Plainly, it is no longer fun.  When we initiated this Challenge, I had envisioned double secret centuries and stealthy commute over Mt Tam.  I imagined weekend rides with my buddies and truly embracing the love of cycling - stopping to chat over coffee and guzzling down beers after a long day's work in the saddle.  While I have done my part in maintaining the Purity of the Challenge, it seems that my competitor has another vision of 'success'.  What began so elegantly has deteriorated into a classless endeavor to accumulate miles for the sake of mileage - riding in circles in the dark just to keep up.  My competitor has destroyed the spirit of the bet in the name of the letter of the law.

You may ask why I would withdraw from the Challenge being ahead in the bet hundreds of miles.  Again, I simply cite that the Challenge has lost its purpose.  It is no longer fun.

I digress to admit that I, too, once got sucked into this worthless mile trap.  I did the famous 10pm Butterfield ride on the last day of April 2013.  This was done to prove the point that a) I, too, can play at this game and b) I can be equally impure.  But with the benefit of hindsight, I should apologize to the cycling gods for sullying the purity of the bet.  I admit, on April 30th, I had fun and I was pretty proud of myself.  But now I am ashamed.

I present to you the following two examples of ridiculousness that have led me to take this position:

Exhibit A - The 'Normal' Commute

One rider plugs along every morning, 21 miles.  Every once in a while, he adds a trip up Hawk Hill or a roll over Tam.  Remember those 50 mile rides to work that included 5,000 feet of climbing over four hours as we chatted and talked smack?  Those days are a distant memory for the other rider.  Now, when he leaves before 5am to ride, it is to ride by himself, in circles, flat as a pancake, just to add a few miles. 

Take today for example:
Same as always - 21.5 miles (an extra 0.3 miles to meet a friend at his house), 814 feet of climbing.  There was even a 45 minute coffee break to socialize with friends.

45.7 miles, 1,024 feet of elevation
The ride starts with 16.2 miles over an hour and twenty minutes ... to ride in a circle - Peets to Peets.  The ride ends with another 12.7 miles past the office, over another 50 minute period, climbing a mountainous 163 feet of elevation.  To top the nonsense off, at mile 40, he doubles back another mile and a half, just to accumulate 3 more worthless miles of flat land.  Seriously?!?

Adding insult to injury, the offending rider has the audacity to comment publicly on Strava, "My commute more than doubles your miles today and beats your elevation as well."  Are you kidding?  You are proud of this?  In a ride more than double the distance, your elevation exceeded mine by less than 25%?!?  You spend three hours riding in the dark to brag about a trip down 3rd Street in San Francisco?

Exhibit B - The Weekend Ride
60.6 miles, 1,338 feet of climbing, 3:33 ride time
56.1 miles, 4,193 feet of climbing, 3:49 ride time

Note how the two competitors spend a recent weekend ride.  One rides with a friend over a beautiful, car less West Marin road, soaking in the beauty of nature, attacking one of the steepest climbs (17 plus percent) stopping to see the waves crash on the the beach.  The other rides solo on the flattest course imaginable, in car traffic on Foothill Expressway and Stevens Creek Road.  Note the thousands of acres of open space immediately to the west of the urban ride (with hills, I might add) which go completely ignored.  Note the mileage and the ride time of the two rides within percentage points of the other yet, somehow, they seem to be two polar opposites of  rides.

In closing, I will continue to ride my bike and accumulate miles as if nothing has changed.  I will ride with purity.  I may yet win this bet, but the bet has lost all meaning to me.  As a man, should I lose the bet - which I won't - I will fulfill my obligation to the winner.  Following the letter of the law, which my competitor has famously abused, I will take him out to dinner with his wife and children.  But I will not disgrace myself or my family by being present for the victory celebration.  Should my competitor have more miles - any miles - on Strava than I do, my credit card is as follows:  5424 1809 2453 1524, exp 08/16, code 729.  Have great dinner on me,  You sure earned it. 

I am sorry to take this stance.  But I must stay true to myself.  I ride with purity and I seek fun at all costs.  This bet is neither pure nor fun any longer.


Wheel Destroyer 

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

On the bus

Golden Gate Transit is usually the bain of the commuting community. Those guys take up more than their share of the roads (and bike lanes) and are quick to pass a bike, only to cut back in front to halt at the bus stop.

But sometimes, in the case of fatal bike mechanical issues, Golden Gate is the only way to salvage a commute short of calling home. And today is just one of those days. 

The remnants of my quick release and my view on the Bridge from the front seat of the bus

As noted in a previous post, I have been having trouble with the Surly and the rear wheel pulling out of the front facing horizontal drop out. This morning started innocently, with another slip on San Anselmo Avenue. I obviously need some way to tighten down the quick release more efficiently. 

On the hill up Alexander, I stood up and pulled the wheel out for a second time. Annoyed, I tightened the quick release pin extra tight, so tight that I couldn't get it all the way closed by hand. So I laid the bike down and finished the closing with my foot by standing on the pin. Well ... that may not have been the best idea. After only a single revolution of the cranks, the quick release pin snapped under all the tension. 

Snapped off at the pin

Now I'm truly screwed. No amount of gherry-rigging will be able to properly secure a wheel to the frame. Fatal Mechanical. Luckily, I was only a few hundred yards from the Sausalito Golden Gate Transit by stop. So on board I go. 

Half a bike is better than none at all, I guess. 

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I can break anything ...

It is a given that after a mountain bike ride, I will be either a) bleeding or b) heading to the bike shop to fix something that I broke on the bike.  Sunday's ride earned me teh bonus plan with both a bloody knee and a broken bike.

I was pretty cautious riding the China Camp back-side dodging roots and rocks and cliffs around every turn.  China Camp is especially daunting with tight trees to navigate, switchbacks and 30 foot drops down the mountain side.  But I am pleased to report that I made it out of the technical stuff unscathed.

However, upon hitting the fire trails, the path seemed to be 'groomed' to the point where gravel was added for traction or water issues or something.   This is where the blood comes in ... I got a little cocky and picked up the pace a bit.  I was chasing the guy in front of me through a slight left turn.  I leaned into the turn doing my best to keep momentum.  But the front wheel did not seem to like the angle of the turn combined with the looseness of the gravel below.  I hydroplaned (if you can hydroplane on rock) for a few feet as teh bike just slid out from underneath me.  Hence, the bloody knee and scraped up chest.  When I caught up to the guys I was with - 45 seconds later - Britt, noticing the dusted jersey, just looked at me quizzically and said, "Hey ... you went down".  Yup.  As usual, I went down.

Then for the mechanical issues ... As we were climbing back over the hill, I kept bumping my pedals on rocks.  This was not so much painful as it just interrupted any rhythm that I could maintain in climbing. On the single track downhill, I was, again, feeling more confident and started leaning into the turns again.  Somehow, I leaned too hard to the right into a rock or bush or something, and I bumped the derailleur into the bike spokes.  As you can imagine, the spokes grabbed hold of the derailleur and tore it completely off of teh bike.  The derailleur hangar snapped completely and the chain dragged the rear derailleur with us.

A good shot of the derailleur hangar (just above my index finger) which snapped off of the bike.

Bent derailleur

Luckily, we were at the end of the road.  I was able to get myself to the paved part to coast downhill back to the car.  But, again, straight to the bike shop for some not-inexpensive repairs.

Friday, July 26, 2013

I am a courteous guy

I have noticed that my commute times have been inching slower over the last few months.  Given the lack of rest and my prioritizing miles over speed, my ride which used to be a steady 1 hour 21 minutes has crept into a more standard 1 hour 24 minute pace.  Sure, I can still get sub 1.20 with the Raiders.  But a casual five-day-commute week pace makes me a happier person.

As a result, I seem to be getting passed a little bit more these days.  Generally getting passed doesn’t bother me.  Especially from the matchy matchy backpack-less guys.  But I have taken notice of people that like to ride fast.  And sometimes I jump on their wheel for an easier spin.

This morning, I was riding a respectable 20 miles per hour on the MV bike trail when I got dropped by a chick in a Team Red kit.  She seemed to be working extra hard to get in front of me, so I let her go.  Of course, as they always do, upon getting in front of me, she immediately slowed down and interrupted my pace.  I thought about passing her again, but I could tell that she had it in her keep the pace going.  I eased up and enjoyed her slipstream (and by slipstream, I mean staring at her ass).  I also didn’t want to get in a yo-yp battle with her.  I had to brake on the Mollie Stones downhill to stay in back but her cadence immediately picked up by the time we gotto Poggios.  And, as predicted, she was gone once we hit Golden Gate Market.  When I reached the top of South Street, she had already passed the next hill on Alexander, never to be seen again.

Damn those matchy-matchies …

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ahoy, matey

See all those gaps in the stacks of containers?  How many do you think fell off during rough seas?

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Breaking bikes in new and exciting ways

I tend to learn about things by hands on experience.  The same applies to bikes in that I learn the mechanics of a bike usually only when something breaks and I have to fix it on the spot.  On this morning's commute, I got to get my hands dirty and learn a few tid bits about wheels and dropouts.

The new Surly Cross Check is my ultimate commuter bike.  It is a steel frame with lugs and eye bolts everywhere.  I can add panniers, baskets and all sorts of other fun parts.  I put beefy 28mm tires on my monster 36 hole Deep V Velocity wheels.  This allows me to just up and down curbs, roll on path or dirt, whatever my heart desires.

The Surly frame is outfitted with horizontal, front-facing drop-outs for the wheels (unlike the more traditional vertical drop-out).  These drop-outs are intended for either geared bikes (like mine) or single speed bikes.  The horizontal nature of the drop out allows easy access to the wheel in order to loosen or tighten the chain tension around a fixed gear (I learned this today on the internet, after the fact).  

So today's lesson revolved around the physics of pedaling and the stresses that are placed on the chain, cassette and wheel.  In pedaling forward, tension comes from the pedals, runs through/around the chain, which then turns the cassette attached to the rear wheel and propels the rear wheel around.  Even so, the  pedaling places tension that squeezes the rear wheel towards the pedals.  In a vertical drop-out, that squeezing is dispersed through the frame of the bike and the wheel is held in place partly by the frame, partly by the lawyers tabs (future lesson) and partly by the quick release pin.  However, with a horizontal drop-out, the squeezing tension is focused mainly on the quick release pin which takes the majority of responsibility in holding the wheel to the frame.

Being the Wheel Destroyer Fat Guy that I am, I produce an enormous amount of torque when I hit the gas.  Combined with a climb, all gravitational forces conspire against me to create massive pressure/tension/squeezing on the bike frame.  This is how I broke both carbon bike frames in 2012 - torque passed from the pedals snapping the chain stays.  Well, with a steel bike, all of my force was transferred into the quick release pin.  Today, succumbing to the power that is the Wheel Destroyer, the pin slipped inwards, pulling the entire wheel out of the drop-out.

As I was only going 6-8 MPH, the bike did not crash, but just came to an abrupt stop with the wheel/tire pressed up against the down tube and chain stays.  Lucky for the 'Fatties Fit Fine' wide clearance between the chain stays that allowed me to keep my balance with the cockeyed wheel.

I figured out the issue pretty quickly, placed the wheel back in the drop-out, and tightened the quick release in even tighter than before.  I will do my best to adjust the set screw on the drop-out a bit deeper as to get 'more grab' of the quick release onto the bike frame.  

Cool lesson and no damage done.  What can I break next?

Col de la Bon Aire

There is a great segment just made for the FatGuy behind Bon Aire Shopping Center.  It is a quick 65 foot rise over less than 0.1 mile at an 8% grade.  It is the most annoying part of every commute home from the Larkspur Ferry as it is impossible to get over the steepness sitting down in the saddle.  Every once in a while, however, I am inspired me to hit it hard to try and get the KOM.  Last night, I got 21 seconds which ties by best attempt.  I have four attempts at 21 seconds, one at 22 seconds and seven at 23 seconds - and dozens north of 45 seconds.  The KOM was 19 seconds until a fishy ride showed up last month at 17 seconds (on top of several other top 10s on other segments).  Long story short.  No KOM love yesterday.  I am waiting for the unicorn tailwind to get me sub 20.  Stay tuned.