Two Wheels - Six Strings

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

Monday, June 29, 2009

Saturday Ride

Be sure to click for BIG! On Saturday, Mark, Carol, Dan (above) and I all met at my house and took a little 1-hour ride. Mark was test-riding my 53cm LeMond frame to see if he would want to purchase it to build a nice road bike out of it.

Unfortunately, the 53cm version of the frame doesn't fit to suit him (he had a 55, before, and we were hoping a stem swap would make up the difference). But, fortunately, the weather was great and the company was good and we all had a good ride.

Afterward, when we got back to the house, the front yard was a cave of tree-shade, so we brought the dogs out front and sat around in the lawn chairs with some frosty beverages.

Eventually, talk came around to the high-wheeler, and I went and got it out. After I demo'd it, for a couple of minutes, Dan jumped up and rode a couple of laps. Next time: Dismounting!


Friday, June 26, 2009

Beyond the Valley of Return From Vacation

The ride back to Denver was remarkable only because it was so unremarkable. There was no drama to speak of; no flat tires, mechanical problems, weirdness from other drivers or, even, bad weather. I saw a lot of storms on the horizon, but only got rained on for about 5 minutes. I stopped, put on my rain suit, rode about 5 minutes, then stopped and took the rainsuit off.

I spent the night in Topeka, then cruised on in to Denver on Sunday. During that part of the trip, though, there was one remarkable thing: my wrists and shoulders were killing me.

The Trident is set up for canyon carving (at least, as much as a big heavy bike like the Trident can be set up for that), with racing catridge emulators in the forks and the preload/compression damping on high at the back. Expansion joints, cracks and other pavement irregularities come right up through the handlebars and to your arms as you ride. Seven years ago, when I built this bike up into its current configuration, that didn't really affect me. Now, however, it does.

Combine that with my concerns about the age of the bike, and you'll understand that I solidified my decision to buy a bike more suited to travel. While I had originally thought I might get a Triumph Tiger, I decided to go with a Japanese brand so that I can find a dealer almost anywhere, if I need one while on a trip. Triumph dealers are relatively rare (especially down South), and Suzuki dealers are not.

So, I decided to look for a V-Strom (DL 1000). There were 4 or 5 interesting examples on Craigslist, so I shot off some emails. The one I ended up buying was actually in my neighborhood, about a half-mile away.

It is almost totally stock, mechanically, but has a number of accessories that I wanted: hard bags, top trunk, center stand, engine guards and folding highway pegs.

The fellow I bought it from was the original owner. He told me that 13,000 of the 14,000+ miles on the bike were from 3 long trips. This appealed to me, since that means it hasn't been creeping along in stop-and-go traffic on a regular basis.

The rear bags are waterproof, with an o-ring seal around the perimeter of the lid.

Aaaah! A bug-eyed alien! Japanese styling can be pretty interesting, at times. I think it looks pretty good, but definitely different from the Trident.

The view from the cockpit.
I may drop the shield down to the lower position and see how that affects the air flow. Right now, the windshield is in the upper position, and I get a bit of helmet buffeting at highway speeds. Lowering it might make it better, might make it worse. We'll see...

Popping the highway pegs down gives me a few alternate leg positions (both feet down, both feet up, left up/right down, right up/left down).

The Givi top box is pretty roomy. My size XL full-face helmet fits with room to spare.

Two or three minutes work, with no tools required, and the bags are off.

That slims the look down, quite a bit.

And, the bags become luggage, once off the bike. Only the Givi lacks a carry handle, but that isn't too big of a deal. (EDIT: Actually, the Givi bag has a built-in grip, just not a strap handle.)

Even with the bags off, the big Suzi makes the Trident look...well...diminutive. That's a good trick, as the Trident is not a small bike by any means.

But the BoneShaker looms over them both, like the Eiffel tower over barges along the Seine.
Now, I need to make a couple of long trips and make sure the bike is how I want it. It has the original seat on it, and I may want to get a Corbin like I have on the Trident. Anyway, the reason I went ahead and got the bike, now, is that I want it sorted and I want to be comfortable with it before I ride two days to Tennessee on it, next summer.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

The 1970s Are Dying...

David Carradine, Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson...It's been a bad month for 1970s pop icons.

I'm feeling kinda old.


Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mountain Biking Maury County, Tennessee (Vacation, Part 2)

While we were visiting the parental units, my sister (along with her two boys) and I decided to go over to Maury County and visit my cousin Carol and her kids. My cousin Jeff caught wind of it, and called me up to see if I wanted to sample some of the local singletrack. I'm always up for a mountain bike ride, so we made plans to hit the trail after Jeff got off work on Wednesday.

Jeff is one of those guys who can really get to you if you are the least bit competitive. (Luckily, I'm not...) He's always the quickest to pick up any new activity, can ride a wheelie for miles (on either a pedal bike or a motorbike), races (and wins, unlike me) and just generally shows me up...I mean shows up the competitive guys who happen to be around.

So, I went into the ride with the full knowledge that I was about to get my butt kicked.

Disrobing in public! Tsk, tsk...

Jeff is a bit taller than I am, so his bikes are just a tad big for me, but rideable. He graciously let me have the new Jamis, with hydraulic disc brakes and XTR components. Keep in mind, though, that I was riding in street clothes, on platform pedals using shifters I've never ridden offroad with and Jeff, in full moto/Eurotrash mode, has his brake levers set up opposite what I'm used to. The front brake is on the left, and the rear derailleur is a Rapid Rise, so the shifter works in reverse.

It was a recipe for hilarity.

Jeff called some buddies, to see if they wanted to meet us. Apparently, the dark clouds and near-constant thunder and lightning scared them off. Sissies!

The two of us took off for the first 8.5 mile lap, and I was instantly soaking wet. No, not from the rain (it was a gentle shower, just enough to turn the trail into snail-slime); I was soaking from the 180% humidity that is the norm in Tennessee. We rode along, with Jeff in the lead, warning me of upcoming turns and obstacles and occasionally asking (facetiously, I suspect) if the pace was too slow. Every time he asked, I'd suck my lungs back into my chest and say, "Nah, it's fine." Then, I'd go back to slowly dying and shifting in the wrong direction.

At one point, the trail tops a small bump, drops precipitously to the creek bank, then curves back to the right, away from the creek. I got a bit sketchy, so I grabbed a big handful of rear brake to correct my line. Of course, I actually grabbed a big honking handful of front Magura disc brake, and launched myself down the trail, sans bike. Oddly, I landed on my feet, avoiding a faceful of mud, and then almost fell down laughing.

Jeff, meantime, was soft-pedalling along waiting for me to catch up so that he could drop the hammer, once again.

I got back on, shifted to the wrong gear, and struggled on, slipping and sliding on the greasy trail. Minutes later, we were back at the truck.

"Want to do another lap?" Jeff asked. "We don't have to. I'll just be doing it for fitness, at this point..."

"Hell yeah, let's go," I replied. "Just keep in mind I'll be even slower than I was on this lap."

And, I was. In spades. But, I had a blast. It was nice to not only ride a mountain bike while I was there, but it was the first time that Jeff and I have been able to do something together in more years than I can remember.

If you embiggen this picture, you may think that someone hosed me down. Nope, that's auto-hosing (sweat to you Yankees).

Let me advise you, though, that even if you subscribe to the idea of Bicycle Chic and don't want to wear special clothes to ride a bike, it's not a good idea to mix cotton Fruit of the Loom underwear, high humidity, 17 miles of technical singletrack and this "saddle". I walked funny for two days. (Actually, I've walked funny for about 45 years...)


Actually, I'm at work. I got home on Sunday and got the bike unloaded.

Then, I mowed the front yard, since my house looked like abandoned property. The back yard was high, but of uniform length. The front, though, looked positively unkempt. So, I took care of it before I even sat down after getting off the motorbike.

Yesterday, I caught up on all of the other "been out of town stuff", including pedalling down to Kaladi for coffee. I looked at the computer a couple of times, but decided to wait until I was a bit more caught up and rested to make a big picture-heavy post.

So, this post is just to let you know I haven't dropped off the face of the earth.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Vacation: Part 1

Brad met me at my house on Friday morning, and we rode over to Kaladi Brothers for a little pre-trip coffee. We sat for a bit, and had some Joe, then took off. The plan was for Brad to ride to Kiowa with me, where we would have breakfast and then he would turn back asI travelled on.

We got to Kiowa early enough that Brad figured he had plenty of time to continue on to Limon for the Truck Stop Breakfast. We blasted on down Highway 86 to I-70, then to the big truckstop. Greasy eggs, bacon and toast went down well (as always), and then we filled up with gas. Brad headed west to Denver, planning on following the Interstate back to town, as I headed east toward Tennessee.

It was nice to have a bit of a ride-out. It's been a long time since we have been able to get out on the motorbikes, together. As we rode, I started thinking that I might like to get another Bonneville and set it up for touring. The Trident has 53,000 miles on it and, while the motor is good and strong, I am beginning to get a bit nervous about the ancillary systems on a 13 year-old bike. I don't really relish the thought of some cable/hose/wire/fitting failing from age and leaving me stranded in Kansas at 10:00 PM.

Oh, well, I'll worry about that later.

I don't listen to an iPod, or a radio or anything as I ride. I listen to the sound of the motor, and the wheels on the pavement, and I think. I believe this is as much of the reason I enjoy touring by motorbike as anything else. It's rare that you spend 8 or 10 hours in a row, nowadays, without a lot of distracting input. On the bike, I pay attention to what I'm doing, and I provide my own entertainment.

One of the things I was thinking about as I rode was how pretty the plains of Eastern Colorado and Western Kansas are, right now. We have had a wet spring, and the grass on the rolling terrain is lush and beautiful. The trees along the drainages and around the widely spaced farmhouses are leafed out in brilliant green.

I always think that this part of the trip is tedious and ugly in a car, but I find myself amazed at the beauty of the area from the seat of a motorbike.

The first day's riding was relatively uneventful. I blew into Kansas City a bit after dark, made my way through to the eastern suburbs and pulled off at Blue Springs, Mo. for the night. Thirty minutes after I got my stuff unloaded from the bike, a huge thunderstorm broke loose
with high winds, drenching rains and that kind of fast-strobe lightning that looks like a fluorescent light with a bad ballast.

I had, with my amazing ability to find the worst lodging possible, checked into an old motel which, while clean, was obviously past it glory days. The vending machine area was an empty room, and there was no ice machine. I did find a pop machine by the pool (90 cents for a 12-oz. Diet Coke) and a chip machine in the lobby. So, after a sumptious feast of Fritos and Diet Coke, I turned off the light and went to sleep. Outside, the storm raged, but I was warm and dry and tired enough after 11 hours in the saddle to sleep through anything.

Saturday dawned bright and cool. The rain was long gone, but a bit of fog remained. I wore my rain jacket over my ventilated riding jacket for about the first 5 hours that I rode. The temperature never climbed above 80 degrees until late in the day.

At one point, after I had passed Saint Louis and was headed south on I-55, I was startled by a crotch-rocket style bike blowing by me at about 110 mph (I was cruising along at 80, myself). Within the next minute, or so, another dozen similar bikes came screaming by. Many of them had been lowered, and a couple had extended drag-style swingarms. Obviously, a club out for a ride (and about a third of them were women, which I thought was pretty cool, considering what a boy's club motorcycling is).

Funny thing was, they all slowed down about a quarter-mile in front of me, and did the same speed I was doing for the five miles I was behind them. Eventually, they all peeled off at an exit and gathered in a filling-station parking lot. I tootled on by at 80, gave them a wave, and continued on my way.
Eventually, I got to I-155, and crossed the Mississippi River into Tennessee. To give you an idea how tiring two long days, in a row, on a motorbike can be; I actually thought I was smiling when I took this picture!

I eventually got home, after passing the same Model A Ford three times in 100 miles (I guess they continued on past as I would fill up with gas, eat an ice cream bar, etc.) in time for my mother's 78th birthday dinner (corned beef and cabbage).

The next day, I actually went to church and listened to my daddy give the sermon (as guest speaker). As I walked in, the Holy Water boiled out of the font and the crucifix caught on fire, but other than that it was pleasant.

My sister and her boys showed up, that afternoon, and the real visiting began. Kyle had ordered a Diabolo, and we broke it out and started learning to use it. I'll leave you with some video of that action...


Sunday, June 14, 2009

in Tennessee

Well, I made it here, safe and sound, last night. Somehow, I managed to avoid thunderstorms, rain or any other bad weather. But, I shivered all the way across Kansas.

Last year, the temps were well over the 100 degree (F) mark all the way here. This year, I never saw 80 degrees until I was within 100 miles of my destination.

More, later.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

On The Road, Again...

Heading out for Tennessee, tomorrow, on the motorbike. I'll be posting along the way, from the Crackberry. If my sister and I are successful at setting up my dad's DSL, I'll also post pictures, etc, while I'm there.

I love riding the motorbike over long distances. I just hope I don't have the tire adventures I had, last year.


Sunday, June 07, 2009

24 Hours of E-Rock Photos and Race Report...Plus!

Race Almanac:

Laps: 13 (6 Night Laps, 7 Day Laps)
Riding Time: 9:40
Mileage: 104
Elapsed Time: 18:30
Average Speed (rolling): 10.3 mph
Average Speed (overall): 5.6 mph
Top Speed: 31.5 mph
Cramps, muscle spasms, etc.: 0
Fun Factor: 9.8 (out of 10)
Placing: 12th (of 14 Solo Men! I've never claimed to be fast.)

Home, sweet home. Carol was kind enough to come down and help me set up camp. I ended up camping just uphill from the car-camping, which was in a gravel parking lot. The grassy area was much more pleasant, and had better views.

In the foreground is the car-camping. Farther back, the campsites for the 4-person and larger teams.

The Timing Tent, where we swiped our cards in order to get lap credit, to the left. Another competitor coming through on his way to set up camp, right of center. Go-Fast was the major sponsor, obviously.

Pike's Peak was looking pretty, with fresh snow well down from the summit. The clouds were looking a bit threatening, and the forecast included a 30% chance of thunderstorms.

Just a little bit closer look at Pike's Peak. About 20 minutes after I took this picture, a cloud obscured the top third, or so, of what you can see of the mountain, as a storm moved into Colorado Springs.

The antlers of the wild mountain-bike racer are a popular trophy among some hunters.

This is the Pavilion, with picnic tables and sanitary facilities (outhouses) in the background.

First blood for Team Grinderbike, drawn by a non-rider, before the race even started.
About another 20 minutes after the top of Pike's Peak was covered by clouds, a strong wind blew through our area. It lifted our neighbors' easy-up shelter off the ground by about 5 feet, carrying one of their bikes along with it. Carol and I (and eventually about 4 or 5 other people) ran to grab it. As we were holding onto the easy-up trying to keep it from blowing away to Oz, the chainring on the bike took a bite out of Carol's leg.
Carol had to leave at about 4:30. Randy showed up a bit after that, to take the night shift. At the Race Meeting, the Director outlined the start procedure. We lined up at the entrance of the open space, and ran with our bikes to the fence which separates the Pavilion area from the trail, and got on our bikes once through the gate.
In this picture, I had just jumped on the bike. Randy made a good decision to not take a picture of me running with the bike. Imagine a mother duck trying to hurry her babies across the road, with me in the role of Momma Duck and the bike as the baby, and you'll get the picture anyway.

Randy was waiting at the Timing Tent, at the end of Lap 1. He yelled at me to slow down, as I had come in 7 minutes faster than my target lap time of 45 minutes. I had told him that my plan was to hold the lap times down to around 45 minutes and try to do the slow and steady thing, rather than go out hot and burn myself out early in the race. (You have to keep in mind that, since the Moab race, I haven't ridden more than about 35 miles in any 24-hour period.)
I passed on through to start Lap 2, concentrating on slowing down a bit. I was trying to hold to a leisurely 80 to 90 rpm cadence, shifting up or down on the long stretch along the railroad tracks. A constant 10 to 15 mph south wind blew in our faces all through the race, on that stretch, so that kept my speed down to 10 to 13 mph for the first 4 miles of each lap.
But, at the 4 mile mark, the trail turned back south, and began to climb. The initial climb probably accounted for 300 of the 500 feet of vertical gain per lap. After that came a short down, a short up and then a close to 3 mile mostly downhill stretch of twisty, flowy, trail back to the Timing Tent. I hit my top speed of the race on the first short downhill, on the second lap.
All through the race, every time I topped that first climb, I would start grinning, looking forward to the fast shot back to camp. This trail is a really fun ride, unlike the trail at the 24 Hours of Moab, and the race was like a really long, fun trail ride with 72 friends.
You can probably tell that I had just had a good, fast downhill run, if you enlarge this photo and note the look on my face. Lap time: 44 minutes.
I came into camp after Lap 2 and changed into my "night helmet", with the headlamp mounted on it. With this light, and the handlebar-mounted Cygo Lite, I hoped to be able to maintain the downhill speed, even in the dark.
The helmet light is a $15.00 Energizer brand 6-LED Headlight that I picked up at Target. The package says it will deliver a fifty-hour run time on either of the 2-LED settings (spot, or flood), 20 hours on the 4-LED "high-beam". I ran it on the "spot" setting, and it worked great.
Even though it's not marketed as a bike light, it is easily adapted. I put some self-stick industrial-grade Velcro on the helmet to hold the light, itself, and to hold the strap in place. I wish I could take credit for thinking of this, but I read another blog (I think it was Guitar Ted) about using this type of light for night races, and just ran with the idea.
The light is bright, even if the rider is a bit dim, at times.

The thunderstorms developed as the sun went down, but they left us alone. We could see flashes of lightning in all four directions, at times. But the majority of the action was north of us, over Denver. At one point, I had to conciously stop watching the show as I came down the hill, for fear that I was going to run off of the trail and crash.
I never crashed on the fast downhill, but I did crash on the second night lap. As I was riding along on the first portion of the trail, parallel to the railroad tracks, I noticed that my handlebar light was pointing down a little more than I wanted. So, without stopping (hey, it was a race, after all), I started trying to twist the mount on the handlebar. As I did, I ran the front tire into a rut, and over-corrected. Now, if I had ever hit the brakes, I could probably have just stopped and never fallen. But, I'm so used to riding fixed gear that I was frantically pedalling backwards, trying to slow down, when I hit the gound.
I managed to get all tangled up with the bike as I fell. Somehow, the bike ended up lying on my back, with the saddle hooked to the tire pump sticking up out of my CamelBak. Every time I tried to stand up, the bike was levering me back to the ground. I desperately fought to stand up, not because I was in "race-mode", but because I was afraid another rider would come along and see me!
Eventually, I got up and continued on, after first adjusting the light while not moving. No need in a repeat performance.
The full moon had risen during Lap 4. That's me, lounging around in the background.
Chef Randy cooked up some elbow macaroni with spaghetti sauce and meatballs, for dinner. I ate about a ton of it, and drank a bunch of water and juice mixed together. I ended up hanging around, digesting, for about an hour and a hlf. This was to become the pattern for the rest of the night: I'd go out for 2 laps, then come in and eat something substantial, then hang around for a couple of hours to digest it. Plus, truthfully, I was just enjoying hanging out with Randy.
This is probably a good place to give credit where it's due. Randy did a bang-up job as camp-master. He made sure I wrapped up and stayed warm, plied me with food, coffee and Ibuprofen, and was always good for a pep talk when I needed it. He probably deserves as much credit for me reaching my goal of at least 100 miles ridden as I do.
Thanks, Randall!

"The Grub", as Randy remarked.
At one point, we had a French press full of coffee, and wrapped up to sit a spell and just rest. The temperatures had fallen to the low 40s, maybe upper 30s, and I was happy to let the legs rest a bit. Eventually, I began to feel a bit chilly, even in my Grub suit, so I took off again in as much of an effort to warm up as to get more laps under my belt.
Once out on the trail, I was very comfortable. Oddly, the coldest spot on the whole trail was at camp. As I rode south, the temperature consistently rose, dropping as I came back toward camp. About 1/3 of a mile from the Timing Tent, there was wall of cold air, 10 or 15 degrees colder than the surrounding area. Strange.

"You vill go out und ride!"
At this point, the sun had charred the other side of the world and returned to us, painting the smoke over our heads an Imperial Violet, as the Soul Coughing song "Screenwriter's Blues", says. Note that I am holding my CamelBak in my hand, as I prepare to go out for the Dawn Lap.

The Dawn's early light...

Here I am returning from the Dawn Lap. See my CamelBak? Nope, you wouldn't unless Randall had taken a picture of the campsite. I was beginning to get a bit punch-drunk at this time. I had promised myself to not sleep until I had the 100 miles in, so I had been up for about 22 hours at this point.

The train tracks along the side of the course are active...very active. I bet 50 or 60 trains went by while we were racing. "Quiet Time" at camp was from 10:00 PM to 8:00 AM. I don't think that anyone told the train engineers, though.

The Internation House of Randall opened at 7:30, with pancakes and...

This is the result of my crash on the second night lap. Carol's leg looks better, but I got the bigger owie.

I finally changed out of the clothes in which I had started the race. It was a relief to get the sweaty togs off, and have fresh rags draped over me. Back to shorts, with no leg warmers, as the sun warmed us up.

The wind picked up as the air warmed, and my speed along the railroad tracks slowed accordingly. Climb speed and the downhill speed stayed about the same, so my lap times climbed toward the 50 to 55 minute mark. Here, I am coming in from lap 10, the last time I would see Randy. He needed to go home, having a life outside of being my Race Guru.
So, I bid him goodbye and took the camera from him.

I got the 11th and 12th laps completed, and went back to the tent for a ham sandwich before tackling the lap which would take me past 100 miles. Once I got back on the trail, I decided to take a few shots of the sights along the race course. Here is a shot of a Bison herd across the
railroad tracks.
Close-up of some Bison.

This is a shot of the double-track paralleling the railroad tracks. It has a slight uphill trend, but no real climbs. If not for the headwind, it would have been a pretty fast stretch.

More of the same stretch, with Pike's Peak peeping over the horizon.



After Lap 13, the wind was howling and I was sunburned, so I lay down in the tent for a little shut-eye. I lied to myself that I might go back out for another couple of laps, but I knew I wouldn't. I had gone without sleep for the 100 miles because I knew that, once I let my mind shut down for a while, the body would follow suit. And, it did.


But, I was very happy with the race. I had formulated a plan, followed it, and attained my goal. That felt good, especially in light of thre Moab debacle, last October.


Today, I'm tired, but relaxed. It was fun, and challenging. Next year, I may take a team there for the race, and make a party of it.