Two Wheels - Six Strings

Random news and thoughts about various two-wheeled projects and music, especially my band, Skull Full Of Blues.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Good/Bad Luck On the Way Home

After 4 days of hanging with the family (which I'll post about, later), I loaded up and headed home. Once again, the weather was nice, and the bike was running fine.

About 6 hours after leaving my parents' place, I was in Wentzville, Mo, just west of St. Louis. I pulled into a QT Mart, and filled up with gas, then went inside to use the bathroom and buy a drink. As I walked out, I noticed that the rear tire on the bike looked a little odd.

I had debated with myself about the tires before leaving Denver, since the rear tire was showing some wear. I finally decided that it looked like it would make the trip, and I'd rather wait until I got home to replace it. Well, I should have replaced it, I suppose.

The odd look of the tire was due to a strip of steel belt showing through the rubber. I could see a portion of the belt about a quarter-inch wide and 8 inches long. So, back into the QT to use the phone book.

After a couple of calls, I finally saw the Yellow Pages ad for Donelson Cycles, in St. Ann, about 30 miles east of where I was.

I called them up, and told the lady who answered the phone what was going on. She told me to come on down, and they'd get me a tire mounted up ASAP.

Long story short, I babied my poor old tire back to St. Ann, got a new one, and was back on the road in about about 2 hours. With the added 60 miles of riding, the tire cost me 3 hours of daylight.

So, rather than riding until 8:00, as I planned, I ended up riding through until 11:30, when I finally stopped in Junction City, Kansas, and spent the night in the biggest, emptiest motel room I've ever been in.

I checked in, and asked for a non-smoking room. The only one available was on the 3rd floor, and it was $5.00 extra because it was a "large room", according to the desk clerk.

That was fine with me, so I paid, and unloaded my bike, then carried my stuff upstairs. As I opened up the door, I thought that the hours on the road had affected my ability to judge distances.

The room had a couch, a king-sized bed with side tables, a small coffee table and a dresser with a TV on it. Those six pieces of furniture were in a room that measured about 25 feet by 20 feet. The square footage of that room was close to the same as that of my house! You could have set up a game of croquet on the carpet between the bed and the TV.

Took a shower, and finally got to bed at 12:30. At 5:30, I was back on the motorcycle heading west. I figured that, if all went well, I might be home by 1:00 or 2:00 PM.

If all went well..

About 4 hours later, I was looking for a gas station to make my second gas stop of the morning. (I stop every 100 to 150 miles to fill up with gas and stretch out a bit.) I saw a Sinclair station, and pulled off of the Interstate. After removing my helmet and gloves, pulling the tank bag off of the bike and opening the gas cap, I saw that the station only had Regular gas. The Trident really requires Premium, so I put everything back on, and headed across the Interstate to a Shell station.

The Shell station had Premium, but the pumps decided to not work just as I started filling up. I got 8 cents worth (not a lot of gas, by the way). So, after trying two other pumps, at the urging of the station clerk, I gave up and headed on down the road.

I stopped at another Sinclair (Regular only), and pulled back onto the road, once again, without filling up.

As I rode, I noticed that I had a headwind, blowing at an angle across the front of the bike. It was actually making it hard to steer the bike. So hard, in fact, that it felt almost like...Dammit! I had a flat on the front wheel!

A BP station sat off to the left of the next exit, so I pulled off, and rolled into the station parking lot. There, I saw the "Out Of Business" sign on the wall.

Unsure of what to do next, I inspected the tire and found what I figured to be the hole where a nail had penetrated it. Probably happened at one of the Sinclair stations, I suppose.

I marked the rim with a Sharpie, so that I could easily relocate the hole, and looked around the abandoned gas station. I finally spotted a hand-written notice that read

"Fuel Available 24 hours 1/2 Mile North, Credit Cards Accepted"
I looked north, across the Interstate, and I could see a group of buildings, but no gas station sign.
"What the hell?" I thought, "Might as well see what's there."
So, I started the bike, turned on the emergency flashers, and crept up the road at about 5 mph, rolling on the flat tire. The bead was holding, so I was hoping it would work out.
It did, and I pulled up to the "24 Hour Fuel" stop, the local Farmer's Co-Op. As I pulled up to the building, there was a fellow in the service bay fixing a flat on a pickup truck.
"Think you could patch my motorcycle tire?" I asked.
"Don't see why not."
Ten minutes, and five dollars(!), later, I was on the road again. I bought a gallon of fuel (Regular) to get to the next town where, I was told, there was a station with Premium fuel.
I was a bit nervous riding on a plugged tire, for about the first 100 miles, then I just figured it was going to hold and I quit worrying about it.
I rolled into my driveway at 3:00 PM, unloaded the bike, and took a nap.
I'm always amused at how my luck seems to run. Was it bad luck to wear through my tire on the way home, or good luck to do it near a shop which could replace it quickly?
Was it bad luck to have a flat on the front tire, or good luck that a. it wasn't my brand-new rear tire that picked up the nail, b. I didn't dump the bike at 80 mph on the Interstate when the tire deflated, c. I pulled off at an exit where a tire repair was available almost immediately?
Ah, well. Maybe luck is like Karma: It's neither bad nor good, it just is.
Either way, I'm satisfied with mine. It keeps things interesting.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I'm Back, and Man, I'm Tired!

Just before sun-up on the 19th, the Trident is loaded and waiting for departure.

I'll be making a number of posts about my trip back to Tennessee. Too much to write about to cram it all into one post.
First, I'd like to apologize for not replying to the comments on the previous post. After I put that post up, I was out of Internet contact until I got home. I appreciate the offer of food and shelter (where do you live, Phatty?) and I was about 100 miles east of Memphis, in answer to Tom.

The trip to Tennessee, last weekend, was about as uneventful as two days on the bike can be. It was windy and hot, but no rain or other weather-related problems. The bike ran great, and I stopped in Topeka, Kansas, to take a picture of the odometer as it registered 50,000 miles.

50,00 overall, 565 miles so far that day

When I started riding bikes in 1974, it was really unusual to see a motorcycle with that many miles on it. And, if you did, it had typically been overhauled a couple of times. The motor on the Trident has never been opened up, and it's still running like a new one.

I stopped about every 100 to 135 miles and filled up with gas (23 stops, total, counting the fill-up as I left my neighborhood, last Saturday), even though the bike has a bit longer of a range than that. I have to stop due to butt-range, more than gastank range. In the four days of riding, I covered 775 miles, 460 miles, 835 miles and 460 miles again, for a total of 2530 miles.

At one of the stops in Kansas, there was huge wind-farm across the Interstatee from the gas station. It wasn't there the last time I drove by, and a number of the wind-turbines were under construction, still.

I used 63.162 gallons of Premium gas ($260.08 worth, at an average of $4.12/gal.), and got 40.1 miles per gallon. Average speed, including all stops, was 55.0 mph. Cruising speed hovered right between 80-85 mph for the majority of the trip, excluding the State Highways in Tennessee and rush-hour just west of St. Louis on the way home.
I guess that's enough for now. More, later.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Taking Off

I'm leaving for Tennessee, early tomorrow morning. I'll stop at Kaladi Bros. on the way to see Brad and have one last good cuppa coffee, then I head east on the motorbike.

No posts until my return, next weekend. Everyone have a good week, and stay safe. I hope to return with tales of good times and wondrous adventures. Or...vacation photos. Whatever.


Sunday, July 13, 2008

Getting Ready To Roll

I'll be riding the Trident to Tennessee, next week, so I prepped it for the road, today. The oil is changed (the exhaust system has to be removed to drop the oil filter), a new sealed no-maintenance battery is in place, and the chain is tensioned and lubed.

When I started it up, the bike ran great, then started pumping gasoline all over itself. I shut it down, and took a look under the tank. The upper fuel line had split where it slips over the nipple on the petcock. (All that sounds slightly dirty, but isn't).

Anyway, I cut the bad spot off of the line, and reinstalled it. Everything seems fine, now, and the test ride up and down the street didn't uncover any new problems.

I'll air the tires up, Friday, in preparation for an early-Saturday departure.


Saturday, July 12, 2008

First Ride on The STP

Since the 24 Hours of Moab is fast approaching (3 months away), I decided I need to start doing some longer rides to train myself to stay in the saddle for long periods of time. I ride every day, and I'm feeling relatively strong, but I ride for about only an hour and a half a day and that's not preparing me for a 24 hour effort.

So, having gotten the STP complete, finally, I decided to do a long ride to break it in. I left the house on it, this morning, and went to the coffee shop to see if Brad was there. He was, so I hung around with him until about 10:00, then took off toward Mt Falcon.

As I rode through the neighborhood toward the Bear Creek Trail, the sky was bright blue with puffy clouds, the temp was about 75 F and I had a tailwind. It was really one of those magic rides that makes me happy to be where I am, doing what I'm doing.

I made an effort to keep my speed in check, since I was planning on riding for a few hours and I didn't want to burn myself out. Even on the climb to the top of Bear Creek Dam, I let the bikes in front of me maintain their gap, even though I felt like I could chase them down.

I rode through Morrison on the creekside bike trail, and avoided the heavy traffic associated not only with Saturday in Morrison, but also the drag races going on at Bandimere Speedway. It was very pleasant riding along the creek, away from the heat and exhaust of the main drag.

Once you get to the west end of Morrison, you turn south to go to the Mt. Falcon Trailhead. I hate the climb up out of town. The road is teep and heavily travelled by big pickups and Volvos whose drivers don't seem to want to give you much room. It's a popular bike route, and I guess everyone has just gotten blase' about it, but I still find it pretty unpleasant.

The road goes uphill until you turn on the road to go toward the trailhead, at which point it goes up even more steeply for a few hundred yards. Then, you turn back north on Tycoon Street and go downhill to the trailhead.

Once at the trailhead, I stopped to use the bathroom, and noticed that I was a bit over 20 miles into the ride, with an hour and a half on the clock.

I started up the hill, and actually passed a guy who had left the trailhead about 2 or 3 minutes ahead of me. I was feeling good about how the climb was going, and felt pretty strong considering I had over 20 miles in, already.

I hit the flat spot at the halfway point on the climb, went around the corner and came up behind three hikers. I figured they didn't hear me, because they made no effort to move over and let me by, like all the other hikers had done thus far.

I poked along behind them, until we hit a wide spot in the trail. Just as I was about to tell them I was going to pull around them, I heard "Clang! Crunch..." and my pedals locked up.

It may be a little hard to pick out the carnage in the picture(click for BIG, and it's pretty apparent), but what had happened was I hit a good-sized rock with my tire and flipped it into the spokes of the rear wheel. The spokes carried the rock around and it snagged my rear derailleur and snapped the cage in half.

The funny thing is that, when I had my first OCLV mountain bike (The Red Menace), I had a chain link separate about a mile into a 25 mile cross country stage of a 3-day race. It did pretty much the same thing to the derailleur that this rock did. SRAM actually warrantied it for me, since their chain had done the damage, and the derailleur I broke today was the replacement derailleur that they sent me. It's been on 3 different mountain bikes since then, but got destroyed on the first ride of my "new" OCLV frame.

Well, there isn't much else that can be done, in this situation, than just remove the broken derailleur, shorten the chain, and singlespeed it back to town to get another derailleur at Redrocks Cyclery. Thankfully, except for Tycoon Road, it's all downhill.
I rode back down the road I had recently sweated my way up, and pulled into Redrocks Cyclery's driveway and placed my bike in the rack by the front door. One thing I've always liked about this shop is that they have an espresso bar in the shop, and I ordered a nonfat latte as I walked in ("We only have 2%." "That's fine, I'll take it.")
One of the other things I've always liked is that the management knows their stuff. Or, I should say, knew their stuff. The shop is under new management (a recent development, apparently). The new guy is very nice, but a little overwhelmed and, apparently, used to dealing with idiot customers who don't know anything about bikes, because that's how I felt I was being treated.
I showed him my broken derailleur, and jokingly asked if he could fix it. He spent about 30 seconds launching into an explanation of why he couldn't, before I got a chance to point out that I was just kidding around and really just needed to buy a Shimano derailleur to replace it.
Since the broken unit was a SRAM, he started in on telling me what SRAM derailleurs he had in stock. Again, I had to interrupt and point out that I had asked for a Shimano derailleur, since mine was a Shimano-compatible model. Unfortunately, he had nothing in stock.
"I just took over the shop and I have some holes in the inventory," he said.
"Okay," I replied, "what Shimano road derailleurs do you have?" I could see a number of them in the display case.
"Oh, the short cage won't work for you. I'll need to order you a mountain derailleur so that it will have the long cage."
At this point, I was losing my patience, and I finally dropped the old "I was a bike-shop Service Manager for 8 years" bomb on him. (I hate to do that, because it seems like name-dropping, or something.)I then explained that I was 20 miles from my house, in the middle of a ride (something I had told him, already), and I really wasn't in the market for ordering a derailleur.
After further not-so-great communication I was able to convince him to sell me a 105 road derailleur. I took it outside, finished my latte and had a Clif bar. Then I installed the derailleur, realized that I need a longer piece of housing, and went back in to get it. To his credit, the fellow gave me a new piece of housing at no charge.
I took it outside, finished the install, and hung my bike up in the "public workstand" outside and adjusted the shifting. Worked like a dream.

For some reason, Blogger rotates this picture, no matter what I do to it, so just tilt your head. This is the "public workstand".
Then, I got to make the climb up out of town, again, and started up the Mt. Falcon Trail once again. I made it from the parking lot to the top in 46 minutes, including a couple of rest stops. Mentally, it was very hard until I got past the point where I had turned around, before.
I was disappointed to see that the Open Space people decided to "improve" the trail and covered the rocky parts of the trail, near the top, with smooth dirt. I suppose the hikers were turning too many ankles, or something, but it really took a lot of the trail's personality away.
After sitting around at the top talking to a few people (including a guy on the same bike I was riding!), and listening to the dragsters down at the dragstrip, I took off to continue with the 5Parks Loop. About 200 yards up the trail, I decided to turn around and just head for the house. The extra climb up out of Morrison, and the 1.5 climbs up the trail had taken a toll on me.
The ride home was nearly as pleasant as the ride there, except that I was a good bit more tired and I had a headwind. Still, it was very enjoyable. It was just one of those perfect bike-riding days.
Just after I turned on the South Platte Trail, a lady a few yards in front of me dropped her wheel off the edge of the trail and flipped onto the metal guardrail which separates the trail from the riverbank. She was relatively unhurt (scraped knees, etc.) but quite shaken up. As her husband (I think) tended to her, I trued her front wheel and adjusted the brakes. The wheel and the brakes had taken the brunt of the crash.
Twenty minutes later, and I was home. I was a bit disappointed to not get more off-road miles in, but I'm pretty happy with the ride. I spent 4.5 hours in the saddle, out of 7 hours of trip time, and rode 51.61 miles at an average speed of 11.4 mph. Considering the climbs and the fact that I was on a knobby-tired mountain bike, I 'm pretty satisfied with my performance.
One thing I learned is that I'm not going to be able to rely on Clif bars at the 24 Hours. Back in the day, they worked fine for me. I don't know if the recipe at Clif has changed, or if my digestive system has changed, but they made me feel bloated and gassy, today. I know fig bars are my friends, however, so I guess I'll stock up on those as my easy finger food on the bike.
I need to make at least one long ride a week for the rest of the summer, so I guess the bike sales and repairs are going to suffer. I hope everyone understands that my schedule has gotten a bit busier.

Monday, July 07, 2008

250 Days

Today was my 250th day of commuting.

Of course, I spent an hour, on the way home, filling out a Police report about a racially-motivated assault on me by a car driver. No one was hurt, but it was pretty exciting. I don't want to get too much into detail on a public forum until I find out if the Aggravated Assault charge goes anywhere. At least I had a witness, so something might actually get done.

It annoys me when these things happen, because I just want to ride my bike and have it not be any big deal. I'm constantly trying to get people out of their cars and on their bikes, and this kind of stuff just makes it look more dangerous than it is.

Two hundred fifty days, and I've really only had two serious encounters with anyone. Yet, those two days give so many people an excuse to not ride.

There's something about the round-numbers. You may recall that a kid backed into me at an intersection on my 100th day. What's in store for day 500? ;-)

So...How was your day?


Friday, July 04, 2008

Eight Months Later

...and I finally built up the softail TREK STP.

Twenty five pounds, even, with tubes and wire-bead tires. I'll swap out to lighter tires for the 24 Hours of Moab. Hopefully, training with heavier rubber will improve my fitness a bit more. (That means I need to get on the trail, too!)

I loved my hardtail version of this bike, ten years ago. I'm thinking that this one will probably suit me as well as that one.