ToC HC for G Man

Cat 4 KOM: Hawk and G Man

ToC is short for the Tour of California, an 8 day bicycle race brought to you by the major biopharmaceutical company Amgen. Among their many fine products which help save lives is Epogen, aka EPO, the cheating  cyclist’s best friend. The irony is dripping enough to ease California’s drought.

I like to keep this blog upbeat, so I’m not going to write a lot about performance enhancing drugs and pro cycling. I’ve read many books and articles and investigative reports, and I have come to the conclusion that to follow professional bicycle racing one needs to have a ‘willing suspension of disbelief’. That is, enjoy the show and don’t ask too many difficult questions.

And the show is currently close at hand. On Monday the ToC finished in Lodi, practically in my back yard. And yesterday two buddies and I decided to see part of the mountainous course and the race up close and personal.

HC is short for Hors catégorie , a French term used in cycle races to designate a climb that is “beyond categorization”. In bicycle racing, climbs are designated from Category from 1 to 4, with 4 being the easiest. The designation HC is reserved for the toughest of the tough, long and steep and a real challenge for racers and amateurs alike.

G Man's First Time at the Top

There are a couple of HC climbs in this year’s ToC, the closest to home being the east side of Mount Hamilton just outside of San Jose. G Man and Hawk and I decided to drive to Raines Park and ride our bikes 27 miles to the Mount Hamilton summit. To get there we had to start with ‘The Wall’ a very steep part of Del Puerto Canyon Road.  ‘The Wall’ is 2 miles long and averages 8.3 %, with brief pitches up to 17%. And there was a raging headwind to add to the fun. Call it a Cat 1.

After the Junction at San Antonio Valley Road we were on the actual race route, and we rode over two short but steep Cat 4 climbs on our way to Isabella Creek, where the HC Mount Hamilton climb starts. 4.3 miles, averaging 8.6%. Steeper (but not as long) than Alpe d’ Huez, the famous climb often seen in the Tour de France. I’ve been on harder climbs, among them the Mortirolo and the Stelvio Pass in Italy, Mont Ventoux in France and Mount Baldy in Southern California, which will be in the ToC later this week. But Mount Hamilton is right up there, literally up, 4,200 feet at the top.

A Selfie at the Mount Hamilton KoM: Elevation 4,200

After filling our water bottles and admiring the view, we headed back down the mountain to a prime viewing spot on a hairpin turn.  We could see the racers from 3 miles away work their way up the ascent. Which they did, riding roughly twice as fast as our climbing speed. One pro’s Strava showed he did the climb in 22 minutes and change, and I know I was at least 45 minutes and probably more.  Hawk and I stopped once because we wanted to regroup with G Man, who is a little slower uphill and had never done this climb. But he made it without walking, and in fine style too.

The race took at least 20 minutes to get past our viewing spot. First came a lone breakaway rider, who eventually won the stage. He was pursued by 3 riders 1 1/2 minutes behind. Later came a small peloton, then the stragglers (called the ‘gruppeto’) of sprinters and lead out riders whose only goal was to make it to the finish before the time cut off and avoid being eliminated from the race. Even they were climbing quite fast by mortal standards.

Finally we were passed by the ‘broom wagon’ (a van for riders abandoning the race), an ambulance, an official ‘end of course’ car and a CHP van at the very back, designating  that the road was now open to traffic. We got on our bikes and rode back to the car. By the end of the day we had done 2 Cat 4′s, a Cat 1, and an HC: 54 miles total with 6,300 feet of climbing. The pros had to do something similar the next day, and for several days after that. They are world class athletes and I’m just enthusiastic, but riding the same climb and then watching them go by really emphasizes just how wide that gap is.

When G Man left my house to drive home, Stoker commented that she had seldom seen anyone look so happy. He had good cause; he had never been up Mount Hamilton and before the ride he was a little dubious about being able to make it. But he did, even though it was hard for him (and me too). We may not be pros but we win little victories every time we meet a new challenge, and on this day G Man bagged a big one.

 

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Don’t Bug Me!

It didn't want to share the road!

 

On Monday I was feeling a little bored, a little worried, and a little sorry for myself. So I decided to go for a bike ride. A particular type of bike ride, a ‘recovery’ ride.

I rode pretty hard on Saturday, up Stoney Creek Road and then did  Middle Bar Road, a steep bumpy descent followed by a steep bumpy climb. Then on Sunday I did 49 miles with Stoker on the tandem. I normally would not ride on Monday, but I decided to attempt to improve my mood with a little ‘cyclo-therapy’. It worked.

A recovery ride simply means that you ride a relatively short distance at an easy pace. For me that is about 20 flat miles at around 17 mph. It is sometimes called ‘active recovery’ and is supposed to be a better way to recuperate from some hard days of riding than staying off of the bike entirely. The jury is still out on whether this is the case, but there is a more important reason to do a recovery ride: it is fun! Getting out on the bike and easily rolling along, enjoying the weather and the feel of a nice road bike working perfectly and silently is great therapy. And you feel strong when you finish, as opposed to the near collapse state of some more difficult workouts or challenging, competitive club rides.

So I’m spinning along with a slight tailwind just west of Micke Grove Park when a bee or wasp or some stinging creature hits my sunglasses, bounces onto my knee and decides he dislikes the experience and makes his displeasure known with a sharp sting. Ouch! I stopped pedaling and tried to remove the stinger but I think it was a bite and run job. I kept riding and eventually the pain faded. My knee doesn’t hurt today, but it does itch and is noticeably swollen.

Bees and Bike Riders: the Aftermath

Bees, wasps, ants, stinging ‘no see ‘ems’ type bugs that sneak in under the open zipper of your jersey; I’ve been attacked by all of them when out on my bike. The most dramatic was on a tandem ride when a wasp got under my helmet and nailed me 4 times while we were descending a hill at around 35 mph. I had to bring the bike safely to a stop, unclip and get Stoker to do the same, before I had a chance to remove my helmet and stop the assault on my balding pate. The swollen lumps lasted for days.

Another time, also on a tandem ride, a bee hit me right on the bridge of my nose and stung me hard. The accompanying photo shows the damage, all the soft tissue around my eyes and nose swelled up like the result of  a collagen injection gone horribly wrong.  No one will confuse me with Brad Pitt or George Clooney under the best of circumstances, but this was ridiculous.

Bugged by aggressive, irritated drivers or bugged by aggressive irritated bugs: the roads are not always cycling friendly.

 

 

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A TT on a FF

The Measuring Stick for a TT

 

Cyclists and cycling fans know that TT is short for Time Trial. This is the simplest form of racing, where individual riders start at specified intervals and try to get from Point A to Point B in the shortest time. No drafting, no strategy, no teamwork, no wheel sucking; just go as hard as you can and the quickest rider wins. A TT is also called the ‘Race of Truth’, since presumably it reveals who the strongest rider really is.

Cyclists also recognize term ‘false flat’ (FF). This refers to a road that looks level but is actually slightly uphill. The gradient is undetectable to the eye but is obvious on the speedometer. A false flat uphill is some of the most frustrating pavement a cyclist can ride. Your eyes think you should be spinning along easily at 20+mph, and but your Garmin says you are barely doing 14 and breathing very hard to do even that.

Last Saturday, my friend Paul G and I headed to Murphys to do Mister Frog’s Wild Ride. The route is a hilly 60 miles with many climbs, none of them terribly long but some pretty steep, and adding up to around 5,400 feet of ascent for the day. One interesting feature of this ride is that it offers riders an opportunity to compete in a TT on part of the course. This is completely voluntary; if you do not want to be timed you do not have to be. Last year the time trial was only about 0.6 of a mile, but it was all uphill at around 7%. It took me 3:14, which was good enough to finish 8th out of 66 riders who chose to try the TT.

This year’s TT was completely different. For one thing, it started very near the end of the ride, at Rest Stop 4.  The course was just under 6 miles on Murphy’s Grade Road heading east. There was only 600 feet of elevation gain, which works out to a 1.9% average grade. And I’m pretty sure it is never steeper that 3%. A road like this is a prototypical FF: it looks level, but the slight uphill is a real irritant. I felt like I was working hard enough to be rolling along at around 22 mph, but the speedometer was stuck in the 14-17 range.

When I got to the last rest stop, where the TT started, I was pretty tired and really hungry. Since I had already ridden 51 miles and climbed 4,800 feet that should be no surprise. But after eating some grapes and a fig bar and some tortilla chips I decided to give the TT a shot, instead of pedaling leisurely back to Murphys. I made a big effort and was able to average 15.9 mph, and it took me 21:59 to get to the finish. This year I was 16th out of the 87 riders who decided to participate. Not terrible, not great. The winner did the course in 18:06, and the median time was 26:06, so I was a long way from the bottom.

I will never be a racer, mostly because I am not really strong enough but also because I don’t want to risk a crash caused by someone else. Or even worse, me causing someone else to crash. But I do like to challenge myself occasionally, seeing how fast I can do a climb, or how many watts I can average for 30 minutes, or sprinting for the sign at the top of ‘Mount Wallace’ (I always lose that one; I’m no sprinter).  A casual TT is perfect for that, and I’m glad I tried, even if it proves what I already know about how strong I’m not.

 

 

 

 

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These Go To Eleven…

New Local Shop: Service and Smoothies and Specialized

In case you were confused by the subject line, that is a very famous quote from the movie ” This Is Spinal Tap”. I’ve seen that flick at least a dozen times and it still makes me laugh.

But it applies to my new bike. Recall that my friend Steve was test riding my Tallerico for a couple of weeks and really wanted to purchase it. I wasn’t going to sell it, but a different bike practically fell into my lap and tempted me. Here is the story.

Around the end of February I became aware that there is a new bike shop in Lodi. I decided to check it out, and I met Ken Dovak. He owns the shop with his wife Ashley, and he is also doing all the service and repairs. The shop is pretty well stocked with the basics of tubes, tires, tools, etc., and he has a selection of cruiser, city and BMX bikes, along with some entry-level Specialized road bikes. He can also do special orders of many more items. So far the quality of the service work is excellent, repairs are done correctly and finished at the time promised.  I’m happy to have someone close to home and knowledgeable to take my bikes to for the repairs and upgrades that I can’t do myself. Ken’s wife Ashley runs the smoothie/juice bar, and I’ve enjoyed a delicious concoction there on a couple of occasions. Salads and wraps are on the menu too.

Fast Bike, Slow Rider

I  brought in a wheel for Ken to fix a broken spoke, and we were talking about his plan to become a ‘Specialized S-Works Dealer’. That would be a very big deal; Specialized sets very high standards for their top dealers and requires them to keep significant inventory of high end bikes in stock, something that is not always easy for a local shop to do. Then Ken mentioned that he had a bike for sale, but he wasn’t advertising it yet. It was an S-Works Tarmac, and it just happened to be my size.

The Tarmac is Specialized’s road race bike, and the ‘S-Works’ is the pro level model. A couple of  professional teams at the highest level of road racing ride the same frame. The bike has a reputation of being very stiff (a good thing) and either somewhat harsh to painfully rough, depending on who is writing the review. The bike is equipped with SRAM Red 11 speed components, while all of my other bikes are Shimano Dura Ace 10 speed. These go to eleven….

The bike is crazy light. It weighs 14.9 lbs. including the pedals, bottle cages and computer mounts. And the wheels are very nice but far from cutting edge light. A high end set of wheels could easily drop another 1/3 of a pound. My Tarmac is stiff and quick handling, but after 200 miles on the bike I do not think it is excessively harsh at all. I feel more road vibration than on my titanium bike or my Look 586, but it is not unpleasant. I’m not sure a double century rider would want to spend a 12-16 hour day on this bike, but since my limit is around 6 hours of riding a day and most of my rides are ‘only’ 3 hours, that is not an issue.  And the bike is really fun to ride.

A Pro Frame for a Club Rider

Most nice bikes are of course, and the Tallerico certainly was. But now everybody is happy; Steve has a bike that is a big improvement and makes him much faster, Bikes and Bites sold a high end bike, and I have a ‘new to me’ bike to ride and compare to my other bikes. And while I’m happily married to one great woman, when it comes to bikes I’m a confirmed polygamist. I think one spouse and three road bikes are enough, but you never know. About the bikes, that is.

 

 

 

 

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Next Left Brumby Road!

This one is titled 'I Don't Believe It!". My favorite 'Tommy'

My former favorite Tommy: "I Don't Believe It!"

Sometimes it seems as if everything that happens to Stoker and me has a cycling connection. Case in point..

There was an art gallery in Lockeford called ‘Captain Mike’s Outsider Art’. Stoker and I drove by it many times on our way to rides starting in the hills. But one day we were riding our tandem from home  and our route went through Lockeford.  We peeked in for a look and found a painting we were interested in. The piece was reasonably priced and we both agreed it would look good in our house. So later that day Stoker went back and purchased it.

That is how we acquired our first ‘Tommy’. ’TV- Tommyvision’ is how he signs his work. Stoker and I are not art experts, although she minored in art history as an undergraduate. We find his art quirky, colorful, and entertaining. His style is distinctive and not for everybody or for every home, but we both love the ones we have purchased. There are a couple that make me smile every time I see them. We have since acquired a total of 8 ‘Tommys”, most directly from the artist. He puts a picture up on Facebook, we decide we like it, and he sends it to us.

Diane and I both mentioned to ‘TV’ (that is how he identifies himself on the phone) that we would never presume to tell him what to create, but if he was inspired to do something with a tandem bicycle motif, we would be practically certain to purchase it. He said he didn’t really like to work that way, and Diane said we understood perfectly.

But a couple of weeks later TV called and asked if we were going to be home next week, because he was sending us something as a surprise. When we opened the box, look what we found: He titled it ‘Next Left, Brumby Road!”

Next Left, Brumby Road!

Needless to say, Stoker and I love it.  TV has created for us a 6 seat bicycle, with Rich and Diane aided by a goat (we have had 5 pet goats over the years), a ‘Luke-like’ dog, a cat (we’ve had 6, down to one now) and a mouse just for fun. And fun is what this piece of art is, at least to us.

Tommy just said if we liked it we should send him a check for what we thought was appropriate, and based on the thank you card we received he was happy with the amount. But I think he was even more happy to be able to create something that brought us some real joy. ‘Next Left’ hangs at the end of the hall where we each see it many times each day, and we hope it will bring us smiles for many years to come. Thanks TV!

And none of this would have happened if we had not stopped in Lockeford during a bike ride.

Rich, Stoker, goat, dog, cat and mouse. Coming to a club ride near you!

 

 

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Tuesday Tire Trouble

No Coffee Today!

 

Last Tuesday, Stoker and I were doing another hilly ride getting ready for our upcoming trip to France. And we were feeling great. The CoMotion had a problem with the rear disc rotor that the owner/mechanic at Bikes and Bites, Lodi’s new shop, had detected and fixed. What had been happening is that the two-piece rotor was rubbing against the caliper arms outside of the brake pads. A shiny spot on each of the spider arms showed that we were suffering a small amount of drag with each wheel rotation. Small yes, but when we started to ride with the drag-free replacement rotor, we certainly thought we noticed a difference.

So things are going well. We feel strong, we are pretty much keeping up with some of the ‘biker chicks’ (it is their own name, so refrain from accusing me of being a male chauvinist), and we are climbing the hill up the face of Hogan Dam, almost 20 miles into the ride. We are only 2 miles from Common Grounds, one of our favorite coffee break stops, and Stoker and I are trying to choose between splitting a chicken pesto panini or a breakfast burrito. Both delicious. Decisions, decisions…

Psst! Air hisses from our rear tire, which goes rapidly flat. We stop and as I’m getting repair tools and supplies out of the saddle bag, Stoker lets me know that she has found the hole.  And wow, what a hole it is. Take a look.

I didn’t remember hitting anything, and the tread of the tire did not look excessively worn to me. So either I ran over something sharp or the tire casing simply failed.  Either way, I am going to have to put a ‘boot’ inside the tire.

At the suggestion of a fellow club member, I decided to use some cardboard from the box the new tube came out of. In fact, I used two layers to cover the hole. I pumped up the new tube and crossed my fingers. That hole was pretty big, and even though Stoker is a small person and I’m not excessively heavy, there is quite a bit of weight on the rear tire of a tandem.

We decided to take the shortest route back to the car, and skip the break; no burrito for us. We’ve got about 15 miles to go. We rode 9 of them before we heard another Psst! Now what?

Here is where it is nice to ride with a club and have a friend who will help when there is a problem. One rider had followed us to make sure we got back ok. He saw we needed a lift, so he rode his bike back to the cars and then drove to pick us up.

For some reason this member wishes to remain anonymous. He is afraid this kind gesture will undo his hard won (and occasionally well deserved) reputation as a curmudgeon. So I cannot  give him the public credit he deserves. But be assured that he received profuse thanks from Stoker and me, and the next time I saw him I presented him with a very nice Jessie’s Grove ‘Old Vines’ Zinfandel in appreciation for his Good Samaritan action.

I’ve done similar good deeds. Once I drove 20 miles to pick up a rider who had his frame break. Another time I rode 35 very slow miles to make sure a new rider who did not know the route didn’t get lost. So maybe we had some good karma working for us.

I got some grief afterwards for allegedly trying to stretch the mileage of a worn out tire, but everyone who knows me is aware that I do not skimp on equipment or maintenance. Tandem tires do go from ‘looks fine’ to completely worn out very quickly, sometimes in the middle of a ride. At which time it is great to have friends who look out for you, anonymous or not.

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Would You Buy a Used Bike from this Man?

1990's bike tech: Softride comfort over performance

My friend Steve is a relatively new retiree, and has become a regular on the Tuesday and Thursday club rides in the foothills starting in Wallace. The bike he has ridden for years is heavy and inefficient. It has a frame designed around a ‘soft ride’ saddle beam. Between the heavy weight (23 lbs.) and the inefficiency of the bouncing beam and poor aerodynamics of the frame, he was losing at least ½ mph.

 

I told that to Steve, and he said yes, maybe so, but the bike was comfortable and he didn’t really think there was that much difference.

I have been urging him to ride one of my three road bikes to see what a difference a more up to date bike would make.  My ‘Tallerico’ is a carbon frame with a custom paint  job. It is a very nice bike, with full Dura Ace components (including the wheels). It is a little smaller than my other bikes, and it fits Steve just fine. The bike weighs 16.7 lbs. and is a very nice ride. Not as nice as my LOOK 586, but still very nice.

Finally, about a month ago, Steve took me up on my offer, so we swapped out my pedals for his, adjusted the saddle and seatpost height, and he started riding it. I think he liked it: he sent me an e mail saying “Your bike is light.  And it goes uphill like a rabid mountain goat on amphetamines.” He also said “I am now a true believer”; lighter and more aerodynamic bikes are faster.

16.7 lbs. of 2011 bike tech: Light and quick

He said he wanted to buy it. I laughed, and said it wasn’t for sale, but told him to keep riding it for a while. My only motivation was for him to discover just how slow his other bike was and how much he needed a new one.

The next week he said he had his checkbook and would pay a fair price. He really liked the bike and didn’t want to have to go bike shopping when he could buy such a nice bike without any searching. We talked to a neutral and knowledgeable third party, who put the value at what I thought was a pretty high level, but Steve was still was very interested. I was tempted, but while I don’t really ‘need’ three bikes, I ‘want’ three bikes.

But then, through a sequence of unlikely events, I found a new (lightly used) bike I wanted to buy. So I sent Steve an email, settling the price of the bike at around 10% below the bottom of the range set by our ‘consultant’ and Steve agreed to buy it. With alacrity; he really wanted the bike and he got a good deal.

So I said goodbye to one bike. This is the first bike I have ever sold. I rode it around 8,500 miles over the three years I had it. And hello to my new, and completely different, third bike. To be continued….

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A Pedaling Pair at Pedaling Paths

Not really slow after all!

 

My wife’s name is Diane, but in the context of riding our tandem bicycle I invariably refer to her as ‘Stoker’. The term was used to refer to the person who shoveled fuel into the boilers of steam locomotives or the engines on steam ships. It is also used to refer to the second person on a tandem bicycle. That is where Diane sits, and from there she cannot steer, or brake or shift gears, or even see much of anything of the terrain ahead of us. Her role is to pedal and add power to our progress up the road, ‘stoking the fire’ of our tandem engine.

For those who have been reading my ride reports and blog posts for years, this is old ground. I want to make it clear to new readers that I use ‘Stoker’ as a term of great respect. Riding a tandem is a joint effort, and major responsibility falls on the person sitting in front, who is usually the more experienced and enthusiastic (and sometimes stronger) rider, to insure the safety, comfort and ride enjoyment of the person in the second seat.  Because if Stoker isn’t happy, nobody is happy…

That is a running joke between the two of us. I am very proud of the cyclist my Stoker has become. We have done some amazing things riding together. Death Valley, Highwood Pass in the Canadian Rockies, the entire Oregon Coast from Astoria to Crescent City, CA, and ‘Going to the Sun Road’ in Glacier National Park; we’ve done all of those and more on two wheels under our own power.  And we’ve managed to stay married and not have to put the tandem up for sale on Craig’s List either.

When we ride with the Stockton Bicycle Club, we are usually the slowest bike, especially if the ride is hilly. This is not a problem, we are not usually that far back, I know the route, and my friends do not feel compelled to wait unless they want to.

But the tandem really is not that slow. A few years back we did a tour in Southern Arizona with Sojourn Bicycle Tours. There were 18 bikes (19 riders, we were the only tandem), and our CoMotion was faster than 15 of them. But keeping up with the typical SBC Peloton is another matter.

Which made Saturday’s Pedaling Paths ride so much fun for us. The ride is a metric century (100 km) and benefits the Community Center for the Blind. Stoker and I started at 9 am with our Stockton Bicycle Club teammates, who promptly disappeared up the road. But there were 400 riders on the course, and the tandem team passed quite a number of them along the route. It was fun to catch people, call out ‘On the left’ to let them know we were passing, and then power up the road and watch them recede in my mirror.

Honesty compels me to note that we were caught and passed (quite easily) by a couple of young and fit looking racer types, and of course we didn’t see our SBC teammates until the lunch stop and again at the finish. But with 4 miles to go we were swept up by a group of Delta Velo riders, led by my friend Rafi wearing his SBC jersey. The tandem was able to latch on and enjoy a huge draft from the double pace line in front of us cruising along at 19-21 mph. We finished the 67-mile course in 4 hours 10 minutes of riding, an average of slightly over 16 mph. Not too slow at all!

Stoker was really ‘stoked’ at the finish. She enjoyed the course route, commenting on how pretty it was several times. She liked passing other riders and realizing that while we are not as fast as most SBC regulars, there are plenty of cyclists out there that we can keep up with and even pass. She was all smiles at the excellent post ride meal at Davinci’s  in Linden. And we really enjoyed our pre-prandial cocktails that evening. As I said, when Stoker is happy, everybody is happy…

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What a Drag…

There's the Rub!

Stoker and I have begun riding in the hills again. For a variety of reasons (weather, travel, family medical issues) she and I have not been riding much, and when we did it was mostly from our house, which means there weren’t many hills to climb.

But we are going to ride a tandem in France in June, and Provence is not flat. We certainly will not attempt Mont Ventoux, but the rolling hills of Southern France require some preparation. So last Tuesday we headed for the hills.

We started with the Tuesday SBC ride from Wallace. This is a 41 mile loop with lots of little hills, totaling 3,200 feet of climbing. We did fine; we were the slowest bike but I expected that, and our average speed and riding time were quite acceptable. We both felt pretty relieved that we were still able to do this.

I did the Saturday club ride on my single bike (sans Stoker), and I felt very strong. So when we took the tandem to Ione on Sunday for a relatively easy ride up to Plymouth (only 2,000 feet of climbing) I expected a delightful day.

But the grades on Irish Hill Road, which are a bit too steep for tandem comfort, seemed even steeper. The gentle false flat on Old Sacramento Road seemed to go on a long time and we were riding it a lot slower than we should have. And the last one mile climb up to Plymouth was a trial. Stoker and I have done this hill many times, and when we are strong we do it in the middle ring, but today we needed our lowest gear and even that had me puffing very hard. When we finally got to the trailer park for a break I was sweating and a little dizzy and felt awful despite the perfect cool and sunny weather.

As I sipped my Gatorade I tried to figure out what might be wrong, Was I just tired from riding the day before? Was there some mechanical issue? I would never suggest this out loud (I want to stay married and not have to sell the tandem) but was Stoker perhaps not putting out much power? I spent the break a little discouraged and wishing the ride was over.

As we prepared to start back to Ione, I decided to check the wheels in case there might be a brake pad dragging or a bearing seizing or some such thing slowing us down. I thought it very unlikely since I hadn’t heard any noise indicating this was happening. The front wheel was fine, but when I gently spun the rear wheel it went around twice and stopped abruptly instead on continuing to rotate for the 30 seconds or so that it normally would.

Mystery solved! I swore a little under my breath, loosened the brake calipers a bit, and spun the wheel again. Rotation normal, drag gone. There are only a couple of hills on the return trip but we went up them much easier and it felt as if the bike had lost 10 lbs. That rear disc drag had really been a drag!

I have no idea how the drag started. Disc brakes seem notoriously difficult to adjust properly, and the difference between dragging and being too loose is quite small. I don’t really like our disc brake, but it is more powerful that a rim brake and also keeps the rim from overheating on a long descent, because the pads pull against a rotor and not the rim itself.  Overheating rims are not a good thing; we once blew out a rear tire going down Rams Horn Grade before we got the disc brake.

Next time I feel like the bike is glued to the pavement, I’m going to stop and see if there might be some reason other than my own lack of power.  And I’ll never even think we might be going slow because Stoker isn’t going strong. Remember, I want to stay married…

 

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Riding, ‘Weather’ or Not

Perfect and Depressing Dry Weather

 

Often in February cyclists have to decide whether the weather is acceptable for riding. Typical conditions in late winter include cold, damp and foggy days, cloudy skies, and rain varying in intensity from a light drizzle to drenching downpours. Yesterday’s weather, like most of the winter, was not typical.

No one is more concerned about the continuing drought here in California than I am. Diane and I live in the country and get our domestic water from a well. We are surrounded by some of the most productive orchards and vineyards in the world, in a state with a near perfect climate for growing just about anything. Just add water…

And that is the problem. We have wet years and dry years. But there are more people in cities, and far more acres of irrigated orchard and vineyard than there were even 20 years ago. Drive around the countryside and you will see new orchards planted where dry land (not irrigated) pasture and grassland used to be. We haven’t built more dams to store water, so after a series of dry years we really are running on empty.

The ongoing dry weather has been depressing me for weeks at a time. I kind of wonder how everyone around me seems so calm. Don’t they realize the enormous adverse economic impact the drought is going to have if large areas of irrigated farms go dry? Or how irritating it will be to let golf courses and lawns turn brown? Like a clean car? It could get bad enough that washing your vehicle will be banned. Everyone will be adversely effected by this.

Post Ride Smiles: Drought Worries on Hold

Which makes yesterday’s perfect cycling weather a dichotomy. On the one hand, who could not enjoy the clear, sunny, warm but not hot, and wind-free conditions? The sky was blue and the grass covering the rolling hills was green (for now). Our club ride attracted 22 riders and many of us dressed in short sleeve jerseys and cycling shorts, instead of the jackets and leg warmers and caps often necessary at this time of year.

But on the other hand, even as the sun warmed my skin and the cool air kept me from overheating on the climbs, on this perfect day for cycling, I had a sense that I really should not be enjoying myself. And I realize that this perfect day is also another day without the rain and snow we need so badly.  And the days of what used to be our ‘rainy’ season are passing by and there are not that many left.

Today Diane and I are going to do a tandem ride, and although the weather will be beautiful and we will enjoy ourselves, I will have an uneasy feeling. Wondering if I will ever have to decide ‘weather or not’ to ride this year because we actually have some rain to deal with.

 

 

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    Rich Freggiaro

    Richard Freggiaro is a Stockton area native who grew up on his family’s farm. After an nine year detour to Davis for College, Washington DC for work, and Iowa for graduate school, he returned to San Joaquin County and spent the next quarter century farming with his father. He has been married to Diane for 31 years. He is (mostly) retired which leaves him plenty of time to ride each of his 4 bikes, and he is an enthusiastic and passionate cyclist. Read Full
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