Monday, August 31, 2009

Bikes Belong ... Just Maybe Not Here

According to an article in The Tennesseean, Nashville police have been out on the local greenways lately, on the alert for speeding cyclists. Apparently, they set up at key locations with radar guns, and issue warnings to any biker going over the 15 mph speed limit.

They can't seem to ticket anyone for breaking the Three-Foot Law here in Tennessee, but they are willing to bust the chops of some cyclist trying to train on the greenways.

I'm actually kind of torn on this issue. I've biked on some of the greenways here, and most of them are not really conducive to cycling above 15 mph anyway. They kind of meander in and about the trees, and are more like paths in a park. In Brentwood, they don't really go anywhere other than the YMCA, or the library, or another park.

The main reason they want to keep the speeds down is because of the pedestrians, which makes sense. Most of the greenways in Nashville are better suited to pedestrian use anyhow, and it is a risky situation when you get a runner with his iPod being overtaken by a rider on a narrow path. I know too many people who have gotten hurt from that interchange.

But there are other trails that are very suited to cyclists. In Florida, we used to regularly ride the seven-mile loop in Flatwoods Park. This was a road that was actually built to help support the pumping stations at the acquifer there, but was open to the public. We would get there early in the morning and ride around this loop a few times, because it was easy training. However, we knew that after about 9 am the park would begin to fill up with people pushing strollers with babies, and little kids learning to ride their bikes. If you wanted to train there, you went early and then got out.

We also had a multi-use trail that ran down Bruce B. Downs Blvd, which I often rode to work. It was very open, and quite straight, and I usually did about 15 mph on it. There were times that I had to slow down for runners or skaters or people just out taking a leisurely walk. That was the price that you paid.

There is a trail here that reminds me of that one. It runs alongside Split Log Road, starting at Wilson Pike and going ... well, nowhere, really. It peters out at the top of the hill, just before Split Log Road turns right (and gets really crazy). But, for this length of it, the path is very straight and open. If I wanted, it would make a good cyclng path.

But I only use it climbing up from Wilson Pike, and stay off it coming down. Why? Because I can't go fast going up, but riding down Split Log Road to Wilson Pike I can easily go over 20 mph. It's also on the east side of the road, so that I would have to cross over when going south, and I don't want to hassle with it.

Now, I've had people yell at me when I am biking down this road to "get on the path." This is kind of funny because I am usually just under the speed limit on this road, and rarely am I any kind of impediment to traffic. Cars just seem to think that Bikes Belong ... but only on the path (or a sidewalk).

But I don't belong on the path, because on my bicycle I am a vehicle. If I was riding on the path, I would be, technically, a pedestrian. And if I was riding fast and yelling at the walkers "on your left" as I bombed down the trail, I would be behaving with them in kind of the same way that cars all too often do to me.

I would be a bully.

It would be great if there were lots of paths for bikes -- paved trails that actually go places and offer a travelling alternative. Many people prefer these, since they keep you separated from automobiles and, therefore, safer. A lot of folks would happily settle for good bike lanes on every road, or a good shoulder without rumble strips or broken glass or pieces of retread tires. All of these are the kinds of things that a government that actually supports cyclists should provide.

But I will settle for just a little patience and decency from the drivers with which I share the road. I'm just trying to travel somewhere, just like they are.

Runners, walkers, strollers, and lollygaggers on the greenways are just trying to get some exercise and enjoy nature. We cyclists can do that with them, too, but we need to be sensitive to their needs and circumstances as well.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dawn Patrol

Wednesday morning, it was still fairly cool when I rolled out just before 6 am. In compliance with the new Tennessee laws regarding bicycle lights, I lit up.

Even now that school is in again, I don't get a lot of cars on my commute when I leave this early. Here's the first car that I spotted, on Walnut Hill.

From there, I cut through some of the neighborhoods and over to where Liberty Church hits Edmondson Pike, then go up the hill past the elementary school and turn left into Chenoweth. This is a classic example of how a good bicycle route can use a road with speed bumps. If the road's got speed bumps, it must actually go somewhere -- since the purpose of the speed bumps is to keep cars from going down that road fast. The speed bumps keep the car speeds down to about bicycle levels, so it works out for us.

Here's one of the bumps.

There's another speed bump on this road that is not well-made. Coming home in the afternoon, if I hit it going over 20, I am airborne. While that would normally be fun, on a heavy bike with panniers full of clothing and a laptop ... not so much.

You got a lot of folks out walking and running at this time of the morning. The day later got up to 89 degrees, so this is a smart time to be out.

This guy obviously missed the cash for clunkers window.

The road that connects up to Shenendoah Road also has speed bumps. Again, it's because cars use it. I must admit, however, that at this point Wednesday morning I had only been passed by one car.

Here's Shenendoah Road. It's almost always nice and empty, since it kind of parallels Wilson Pike (which is almost always busy).

It was almost 6:30 now, so I saw my first school bus on Old Smyrna Road. This is another neat road (with speed bumps ... of course) with some big farms owned by rich folks. You'd have to be rich to be able to own this much land smack-dab in the middle of all of McMansion-Land.

Technically, sunrise had been 30 minutes ago.

As I'm going thru Annandale, I looked in my little helmet mirror (yes, I use one of those on my commute ... it's nerdy, but I like to see cars before they mow me down) and saw another cyclist.

I did a loop around one of the roundabouts to say "Hey" and get his picture.

I had still only been passed by one car when I got to Old Hickory Blvd.

This is about as empty as this road gets. I've tried biking on it ... the cars do not seem to tolerate me. So, this morning I crossed at the light and got on the sidewalk.

The cars kept their distance.

I stayed on the sidewalk down to where AIG insurance used to be. Well, it's still AIG insurance, but they changed their name to protect the innocent.

From there, I cut through an office building parking lot, and came out by the Holiday Inn. Again, this is where the Holiday Inn used to be. It's still there, but they've been doing stuff to it and it's pretty closed up.

I hope that a big part of Holiday Inn's portfolio was not AIG ... that would be ironic.

From there, I cut back past the other entrance to the weird AIG-Insurance-That's-Not-AIG-Insurance-Any-More building.

This brings me to a bus stop, and past that into the back of the Target parking lot.

Do you get the impression that I go waaaaaaaay out of my way to avoid cycling down Old Hickory Blvd?

Anyhow, at this point I get a momentary break on my commute.

Ah, yes. A three-seed demi and a coffee. Being a good Earth-person, I brought my own cup.

I then ate this wonderful breakfast and read my library book ("The Mission Song," by John Le Carre). I love libraries ... particularly since RandoGirl and I have shelves full of books in our house, with another 10 liquor boxes in the garage full of other books. We should get rid of them, but we love them all and actually re-read some of them. Others we just like to have on the shelves, since they make us look smart.

Breakfast over, I topped off my coffee cup (the other reason that I bring my own cup ... just so you know that it's not all about being green) and headed down Old Franklin Pike.

To my left is the CSX railway line, and just past that is I-65. You wouldn't know it, though, because it's usually pretty nice and quiet on this road.

Of course, it was now after 7 am, so I finally got passed by the second car of the morning (the ones on Old Hickory do not count, since I was on the sidewalk).

Two cars in 9.22 miles of riding in Brentwood, Tennessee. Not bad.

Here's CSX Park, which has ball fields. I wonder if the railroad donated the land.

Just past this, I cheat a bit and go through the railroad yard next to Traveller's Rest. It's usually pretty quiet in there, plus I get to see trains.

Any kid who ever had a train set when they were growing up likes to see trains (unless they're crossing the road that you're trying to drive down).

Past the rail yard I get on another busy street: Harding Road. I have to cross it and get on Trousdale, so I usually just go down to the light and wait. This usually gives me a chance to sip some coffee.

I like the image that I present when I am standing there in the intersection, with a bicycle, sipping coffee. I always hope that somebody will see me and think, "Hmmm ... that doesn't look like a bad way to get to work."

A guy's gotta dream.

Down Trousdale to Grassmere, and then to my building.

At this point, it's back up onto the sidewalk ...

... so that I can get to my bike rack.

Yes, it's my bike rack. My company paid for it, but only after I nagged them about not having a bike rack at the new office. And mine is the only bicycle that I have ever seen parked there. That's my lock hanging on the top.

If I stay there for seven years, I think that I can claim squatter's rights. Then I will take the bike rack with me and sell it on eBay, and live like Croesus off of the proceeds in Buenas Aires.


Monday, August 24, 2009

Less Cash, Less Clunk

Today was the last official day of the Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS), better known as Cash for Clunkers. This is the program that allowed drivers to trade in their "inefficient" vehicles for one that would get 18 MPG or better ... 15 MPG for certain trucks and vans.

Well, zippety-doo-dah.

For many folks, this was their chance to trade in that gas-guzzling 2001 Chevrolet Silverad0 and get a 2009 Buick Enclave (19 MPG), or a 4WD 6-cylinder Mercury Mariner (18 city/23 highway), or a 4WD 3.5L V6 Toyota Highlander (17 city/23 highway). The federal government will spring for $3,500 or $4,500 towards that new car.

(Want to have some fun? Go to the Hummer web site and try to find the mileage for any of their vehicles. If you find it, post the link in a comment. First person to do this gets an ugly t-shirt that I got for a charity ride a few years ago.)

Now, I know that the real point of all this was not to get people into more fuel-efficient vehicles, but to try to stimulate a sluggish economy -- particulary in the automotive market. I'm fine with that. I just think that there are some better ways to do this ... at least, from the RandoBoy perspective.

Bucks for Bikes

Here's the one I would have liked. Trade in that Ford Mustang (17 city/24 highway) for a fuel-efficient Salsa Casseroll Triple and get $2,000. Of course, this is about what the Casseroll costs, if you throw in a couple of bottle cages, some cheap shorts, and a jersey or two. This gets another exhaust-spewing behemoth off of the road, replacing it with another person riding their bicycle to work, shopping, etc. The roads are clearer, the pavement less cracked, the air is cleaner, and the oil companies see their profits slip and slide like a drowning sea otter in Prince William Sound.

Is there a downside to this? I don't think so.

Lucre for Lanes

Yeah, it's normally "filthy lucre," but a lot of Americans wouldn't go for "Lira for Lanes" because they're still ticked at the French. I mean, "freedom fries?" C'mon.

This program is two-pronged. Just park your car in any bike lane, and the government is allowed to assume that you are donating it to this program. They will then take it, crush it, sell the steel to China, and use the proceeds to build more bike lanes.

Upsides: Fewer cars, fewer idiots parking their cars in my bike lanes (unless they really intend to donate them, in which case a hearty "Thanks!" to them), and more bike lanes. Also, the Chinese get more money to build more skyscrapers, enabling them to pass us American as the world's most obvious conspicuous consumers, and garner the enmity of the world's down-trodden. Let them take some of the heat for a while.

Downsides? Again, I just don't see any.

Hummers for Helmets

With this program, the government collects all of the Hummers (except those that are being used by our armed forces, because they have a valid use for a tank), crushes them, sells the steel to China, and uses the proceeds to buy bicycle helmets for all of the new cyclists.

This helps protect peoples' noggins -- thus lowering medical costs -- and builds more skyscrapers for China (The Evil Satan for a New Generation). It also gets Hummers off of the road, which is good because I hate Hummers.

Plus, the phrase "Hummers for Helmets" is funny.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The Evolution of a Cyclist

WARNING: I don't want to piss anyone off again about religious stuff, so if you don't believe in evolution then you may want to go to another site.

This past weekend, out on our new tandem, RandoGirl was telling me her theory about the Evolutionary Stages of a Cyclist. I told her that she should do it as a guest blog -- thus giving her a platform for her opinion and, even more importantly, giving me a day off from writing.

Okay, so I don't write every day. Sue me. And, to be honest, I enjoy writing my blog. Otherwise, why would I do it? Believe me, the ad revenues are flat. I make more money from the sale of RandoBoy Brand Taint Paint (Our Slogan: "For When Your Saddle Is Not Your Friend").

Anyway, I don't want to spoil RandoGirl's column, but I was reminded of our conversation last night at the track. As loyal readers will doubtless recall, a couple of months ago I did the Harpeth River Ride with TNABA athlete Dan Dillon. Since then, the Harpeth Bicycle Club has continued to work with the Tennessee Association of Blind Athletes, and every Tuesday night at the Nashville Motorplex we ride for an hour on tandems.

For those that don't know, a tandem is a "bicycle built for two." The rider in front is called the captain, and he steers. The rider in the back is the stoker.

So far, we've been putting the blind athlete on the back, but last night the TNABA folks were talking about swapping seats.

Ha-ha. They were kidding. I think.

You see, the thing is that they've gotten really serious about this. I mean really, really serious.

When we first started, almost all of the TNABA athletes were wearing jeans, t-shirts, and tennis shoes. By the time the River Ride came around, a few had gotten cycling shorts ... probably a good thing, since many of them were doing the 42-mile option or longer.

Unfortunately, this dashed my evil plans to expand the market for RandoBoy Brand Taint Paint (Another Slogan: "Put An End to the Pain in Your End").

Two weeks ago, Mark Montgomery rode on the track with me. As usual, the night before I removed the clip-in pedals from the stoker cranks, putting on flat platform pedals. Well, Mark shows up in shorts, jersey, and SPD-compatible mountain biking shoes. All night, his feet are slipping off the flat pedals.

So, last night I left the regular pedals on. Mark clips in, I get on, and we're off.

We do the first couple of laps just chatting and catching up. But then Mark hears someone coming up behind us, and he lays into the pedals like mad. I, of course, have to respond, so next thing I know we're in the big ring and zipping around the track at 25 mph.

Later that night, we get into a fast paceline of four tandems -- all with blind stokers -- roaring around the track as fast as we can. Everyone is working hard, trying to go faster than the other riders, and gaining major fitness. Afterwards, we're standing around at the side of the track, and we begin to talk about maybe doing a race, or at least a time trial. I told Mark that we had done over 11 miles at just under 18 mph. He was pretty psyched about that.

I wonder if Saris has a PowerTap with a voice read-out for current watts ...

Monday, August 17, 2009


One definition of insanity is doing something the same way over and over, and expecting a different result.

Another definition of insanity goes by the names "Bundrick's Revenge" and "Ten Gaps." I tried it last year, and swore I would never do it again.

So I won't. At least, not the same way.

I am now counting down the last three weeks before I tackle what has been called "The Hardest 200K in America" (Okay, so I'm the one that called it that. Sue me.) on September 5.

As Flounder said in Animal House, "Oh, Boy, is this great!"

Misery Loves Company

First, let me point out that I am not the only crazy person. Alan Gosart, who rode this with me last year, is coming along. Fellow middle-Tennessee randonneurs Peter Lee and Jeff Sammons are also planning to attend.

Even more incredible, Jeff Bauer and Fredia Barry are going to do the ride on a tandem. They say that they are not worried about going up Brasstown Bald so much as they are worried about going down it.

I am pretty sure that nobody has ever done this route before on a tandem. I am also reasonable certain that nobody else will do this in future years ... unless Jeff and Fredia have so much fun that they come back.

Jeff and Fredia normally do the Sunrise Century on this weekend, but they're skipping that for Ten Gaps. They also usually do the Six Gaps Century on tandem (again, they're the only tandem out there for that route), but must miss that this year as Jeff will be off doing the Endless Mountains 1240K. Doing Bundrick's Revenge is kind of a consolation prize.

My Plan

To be honest, I started preparing for this ride last September, when I ordered my new Lynskey. In addition to being light and very comfortable, the perfect randonneuring bicycle has something that this route demands: A triple chainring.

Then, during the winter, I lost weight and started training hard for Heart of the South and the Super 80. I got a little faster, particularly going uphill. All summer I have been maintaining that fitness, going long if I could and going fast if I couldn't go long. The past few weeks I dropped a few more pounds, getting under 180 pounds and staying around eight percent body fat. This is about 15 pounds and two percent fat less than what I was at last year for this ride.

I am now a lean, mean fighting machine. Or at least a leaner, meaner fighting machine.

The next two weeks are crucial, with some very short hard efforts, and a couple of long climbs this weekend. Then, one week before, I finish with a moderately paced 200K or 300K, and taper for a week. If I can manage to lose a couple more pounds during that time, so much the better.

So, what's the goal? 10 hours? Eight?

Well, since last year this ride took me over 12 and a half hours, I just want a personal best. More importantly, I want to be able to do it with no cramps, and enjoy the scenery.

Yeah, I could maybe go out and kill myself to do 10 hours, but then what? This gives me something to shoot for next year. Or, better yet, do 11 hours next year and then 10 hours the year after.

Doing the same insane thing over and over, but expecting different results. That's one definition for randonneuring.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Getting Passed by the Fish

So I'm biking in to work Wednesday morning, and I've just turned onto Regent Drive near the Crieve Hall neighborhood, when a string of cars passes me. It's about 7 am, so everybody's leaving for work at once. It's basically what I expect from my morning commute at the top and the bottom of the hour.

Anyhow, one of the cars passes me very close. Again, no surprise. It's that time of the morning, people are heading for work and they hate their jobs, so (for some reason) they hate the guy on the bicycle that is keeping them from getting to the job that they hate (they should be thanking me!).

No, the surprise was the big fish stuck on the back of the car.

Now, I'm not saying that Christians are perfect, or even any better than the members of any other religion, or non-religion, or group, or anarchy, or insert-here-anything-left-over-so-I-don't-piss-you-off. I'm not saying that they are worse, either. I'm trying not to hurt anybody's feelings, even though I know that this post is going to do this. Because, for some reason, you can't make an observation that has religious overtones without ticking everybody off.

No, all I'm trying to say is this: If you're going to go to the trouble of sticking a big magnet on the back of your car that supposedly proselytizes a belief system, you should kind of follow the tenets of that belief system.

Which got me to thinking ...

How Would Jesus Drive?

Now, I like to think that Jesus would ride a bicycle. Twin Six, which does all of the Fat Cyclist jersey's as well as a lot of other cool stuff, apparently agrees, since they have a really cool poster.

The only problem that I have with this depiction is that Jesus is riding a fixed gear bike (or at least a singlespeed, since there are no visible shifters) with no brakes and no helmet. Also, I think that His robe could easily get caught in the chain, and that worries me. But, He looks like He's having a blast, tooling around hands free, so His heart is obviously in that righteous Jesus place. And, given His record for miracles, He probably won't have any trouble doing a perfect skip stop.

Twin Six used to have a t-shirt with What Would Jesus Ride, but they seem to have discontinued that. It was pretty cool, and I think it was also in the right spirit, but I think that it pissed some people off.

Some people just take things too seriously.

But, back to How Would Jesus Drive. Frankly, I think this would be a great catch phrase for the Three-Foot Law. I'm going from what I read in the Bible and saw in a few Cecil B. DeMille movies, but Jesus strikes me as the kind of Lord who would obey the Three-Foot Law. Actually, He strikes me as the kind of driver that wouldn't really need to be told to keep three-feet between His vehicle and any bicycle that He might pass.

Do unto others, and all that, you know.

I would love to see a poster with Jesus driving a car (probably a hybrid ... maybe with a Star of David magnet on the back), passing a bicycle, with arrows showing that He is giving the cyclist three feet of space. Jesus, with the long hair and halo, would be waving, and the cyclist would wave back. At the bottom, the poster would say "How Would Jesus Drive?" and, below it, ""

A real Christian would see this poster and get it.

Funny thing: When I was researching this (well, yeah, I kind of research my blogs ... in a way), I ran across a Cascade Bicycle Club discussion thread asking "What Would Jesus Bike?" This answer killed me:
While there are no clues about his bike, the Christian Bible tells us about what kind of car Jesus had. We all know that Jesus drove a Plymouth. It says in John, regarding the money lenders: "And in His Fury he drove them out." Jesus was also obviously an advocate of car pooling. As it says in Acts, "And the Disciples were all of one Accord."
That must have been the Accord wagon. Although, again, if You can feed five thousand people with five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, then I'm sure that You can fit 12 guys into any car You want.

Anywho ...

My point here (and, yes, I do have one) is that I expect bad behavior from certain cars when they pass me. Don't ask me why, but red trucks are usually the worst. And I can generally look over and see bumper stickers of a specific political ilk (you know who I mean) far too easily ... and if I can read them, they're too close. Some people claim that the more expensive the car is, the more likely it is to pass in a bad spot. But I've been buzzed by Hummers and junkers, with no true trend along economic lines.

If you're going to claim to live your life according to Somebody's teachings, then do it all of the time. You can't just toss out a belief system when it's expedient ... or when you're late for work.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Old Roads and Old Friends

We all have a group of people that we like to hang out with. If it's sitting around Starbuck's and talking about movies or books, the people in our group are usually folks with whom we've seen these movies, or who have read the same books. If it's work, we usually sit in the lunch room with the folks who are on the same project as us, in the same department, or do the same kind of work. Conversation usually centers around what a jerk the boss is.

As cyclists, our gang is usually a group of other riders with similar riding abilities. The Cat 2 and Cat 5 racers may enjoy a great conversation in the parking lot, but 20 minutes after rolling out they are with their own respective pedaling peers. Later, the Cat 2s will get together and talk about how many watts they were putting out going up Backbone Ridge, and the Cat 5s will talk about what a jerk the boss is.

There's nothing wrong with this. It's really in everyone's best interests, since the Cat 2 will not remain a Cat 2 for long if he/she rides slow with his friend, and the Cat 5 would have to ride harder than is smart in order to give the Cat 2 a good workout.

It gets even more tricky with randonneuring. As my friend, Mary Crawley, once said, "Ultra-cyclists are the fringe element of a fringe sport." She meant this on a statistical basis -- the percentage of bicycle riders in America is pretty low anyhow, so that the number of riders who would actually choose to do the ridiculous distances that we do is a miniscule subset of a tiny percentage. Of course, the "fringe" comment also applies to some of the personalities we get in ultra-cycling ... but that's a different discussion.

Given that there are relatively few ultracyclists in this world (although there is a planet near Sirius where they are the dominant species ... go figure), I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have a group of randonneuring friends that live close by, and who are at about the same level of skill as I am. Most of them can ride faster and further than I usually can, and will make me work hard. Even better, we get along really well and have similar points of view about most of the really important things in life. This means that we can ride hard for long distances, because when we slow down we have really great conversations.

Sunday, I rode my Green Acres permanent with two friends like this: Jeff Bauer and Peter Lee.

We rode just about on the edge of our abilities for the entire 200 kilometers, sprinting for every county line and city limit sign, each of us knowing that we had better kick it hard or we were not going to take the points. It was a typical hot, humid, August afternoon in Tennessee, so we should have been miserable, but it was a blast.

Part of this route includes Baker Mountain Road -- with around two miles of non-stop climbing. The sun was beating down on this road as we started up, so we decided to make it even harder by turning onto Old Baker Mountain Road, instead.

Here's a tip for people planning a cycling route. If a road has "Old" in it, it usually ends up at the same place where the "New" version does, but is either curvier, hillier, un-paved, or all three. Sometimes it will run into a lake or dead-end at a highway, which is a real pain. However, on the plus side, the "Old" version of the road usually gets less traffic, because the only people that get on that road instead of the "new" version are the people that live there or are going to the lake. Oh, and it also gets crazy bicyclists.

So, we took Old Baker Mountain Road. It was paved, which was nice. It was also a little steeper than Baker Mountain Road, which was less nice. Best of all, it was mostly shady and had no cars. Sweet.

Once up Baker Mountain, we took the pace up to over 20 mph. Just before we reached Fall Creek Falls State Park, it rained on us enough to cool things down, but stopped before we reached A&H Market. We ate lunch at the market, and the rain came back just after we left.

It rained hard, so we hid under an awning at the Van Buren County Head Start center. Then, it started raining really hard.

We waited for it to stop before we got back on the road, but in less than a mile we started down Hwy 30. Ordinarily, this is a great descent. When it's wet, unless you have Fabian Cancellera skills ... not so much.

Once we got off the plateau, the rain pretty much stayed away and things got steamy again. We stopped about half-way on this stretch to take some pictures at the Hodges Family Cemetary.

I've ridden past this a number of times, but had never stopped before. Besides the very nice arch at the entrance, it also has some extremely old gravesites with what seems to be sheets of slate or granite perched over them. Here's Peter checking them out.

Many of the headstones are from the early 1800's. The one below that looks really old is actually one of the newer graves, since many of the very old graves have had their headstones replaced.

As with this one ...

At the bottom, this one said "A loving wife and mother dear lies buried here."

Must be Fall

It's almost become a tradition at the RandoCave (also known as my garage). Every fall, a bouncing new baby bicycle comes.

In this way, the RandoCave is kind of like living with Mrs. Cebulski, my kindergarten teacher at Saints Peter and Paul in Decatur, GA. They had 13 kids, each just over a year apart in age.

No wonder she was so mean.

Of course, there are differences. Bicycles move out of the RandoCave every so often, either being sold to friends or loaned to family members. My brother, John, currently has my old Masi, on which I did many of my brevets. A friend at work bought my the old hybrid that I used for commuting when we lived in Florida.

I love my bicycles, but probably not as much as Mrs. Cebulski loved her kids. I'm pretty sure that she never sold any of them, at least.

Anyway, here's the most recent addition to the RandoCave.

No, not the pretty girl on the right. That's RandoGirl. I mean the bike that we're holding, our new Co-Motion Speedster. It's pretty, too, of course ... probably because the color matches RandoGirl's hair. Or it's kind of close.

We've been considering getting a new tandem for a while now. It kind of bubbled to the surface back in April when we rode my Green Acres permanent with Alan Gosart. We had a great ride, but realized then just how much our Santana Arriva SE tandem did not quite fit us. RandoGirl often hits her knees on the handlebars, and I am almost as cramped up front.

So we started looking around. All of our tandem-riding friends in Nashville rave about Tandems, Limited, in Birmingham, AL, and we decided that we would go there and get their opinions on what we needed. We finally had a Saturday open up this past weekend, so we quickly set up a visit.

I was pretty sure that we would need something custom-built for us. We left the house just after 6 am for the three-hour drive, and brought our Santana along for comparison ... and on the off-chance that we could go by Little River Canyon "on the way" back. (If your curious, I put quotes around "on the way" because Little River Canyon would actually be about an hour out of the way, but I had enjoyed going thru it so much on Heart of the South that I wanted RandoGirl to see it. Unfortunately, we ran out of time. Maybe another weekend.)

Jack and Susan Goertz run Tandems, Limited, out of the basement of their home in a quiet neighborhood south of Birmingham. We talked for a long time about what we liked and disliked about the Santana, how we liked to ride, and what we planned to do in the future. Since we wanted a tandem for brevets, loaded touring, and fast evening club rides, they immediately started thinking about a Co-Motion. We worked over the ills of caliper brakes versus disk brakes, how big a bail-out gear we might need, and whether we would be better off with the comfort of a carbon front fork -- although we could not mount front panniers on them -- or stick with steel.

After measuring the Santana, Jack quickly copied the setup onto a Co-Motion that he had built up in the shop that week. Carol and I went around the block once, and Jack tweaked a few things. Then we went for a longer trip in the neighborhood, over a few steep climbs and fast descents, and Jack tweaked a few more things.

And, although we had not expected this at all, RandoGirl and I found that we really liked the feel of this bike. It just felt ... well, right. It was not quite the same as riding a single, but it was much more sure and responsive than the Santana had been. Whereas the Santana had always felt solid, this bike felt like you could almost bunny-hop a curb on it. And RandoGirl was loving the amount of room that she had on the back.

We took the bike back out one more time for a longer stretch outside of the neighborhood, and were able to really open it up. The day was quickly getting hot, but moving fast on this bike we felt great.

So, when we got back to the shop, all talk about ordering a custom-geometry tandem was over. I said that I liked the newer models because they had the Ultegra STI rear derailleur, instead of the XTR that this one had, and Jack said he would change it now at no charge. Carol said she would also like a compression seat post, and Jack pointed out that the one on the Santana would fit perfectly. Just after noon, we were loading up the bike and rolling out, having paid about half of the amount that we had anticipated when we were looking at custom bikes.

We haven't ridden the bike for any kind of distance, yet. We may take it out on the track Tuesday night, or could wait and do a longer ride on Sunday. We hope to do either a 200K or 300K the last weekend of this month. We need to get everything right before late October, when we plan to take a week off and ride the Natchez Trace from Nashville down to Natchez, staying at hotels and living out of panniers.

Before then, though, I have to take care of a major problem. The RandoCave is only so big, and a tandem takes up a lot of room. Two tandems take up too much room.

Looks like one of the kids is about to get kicked out of the house.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

For Susan

Susan Nelson, the wife of Elden Nelson -- a.k.a., the Fat Cyclist -- passed away last night. Regular readers here will recall that she has been fighting cancer for years. Last night cancer won.

I'm not good at sitting around and feeling bad. Maybe it's because I'm a guy, if you believe that whole Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus, and Your Mother-in-Law is Like Uranus. Tragedies are there to be avoided ... or at least fixed so they don't happen again. When bad stuff happens, you analyze it, do a root-cause analysis, and move on. If it's something that there really is no fix for, make a joke about it ... and then move on.

But I'm not ready to say that there's nothing we can do about this, and right now I hurt too much to make jokes. Well, except for that Uranus thing.

Maybe Susan is gone, but cancer is still here. My friends and fellow randonneurs Bill Glass and Peter Lee beat it. Wilson Fly -- without whose store most of us would not be able to ride very far on the Natchez Trace -- is going to beat it.

Here are some things we can do:
  1. Donate some money at Fatty's LiveStrong Challenge page. If you do it soon, you'll be entered in a prize to one a really sweet Orbea Orca with eletronic Dura-Ace. You will not be able to help being the first one over Gosey Hill on this bike.
  2. Cancer is expensive, and Mr. Fly doesn't have insurance. I'm going to try to get some of the Nashville bike shops to put a jar out for him. If you're in a bike shop and see the jar, put some money in it.
  3. Ride your bike. Feel the wind in your hair ... well, your helmet ... and the sunshine on your face (don't forget the sunscreen!). Work hard, climbing a hill faster than you ever have and hanging with the lead pack further than you did last time. Sweat. And make sure that you appreciate every freaking second of it, because you are alive and healthy and free. Live your life with every carbon fiber of your hydrocarbon being.

    Live hard for Susan.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Fresh Meat

Last week, I was talking about "sweet pain," and I thought up a new one Saturday: The feeling that you get when you finish your first brevet.

You're tired (duh), and certain parts of your body that have rubbed against a bicycle and found pain there in the course of a century now know that an extra 27 miles will make that part hurt a lot more. The muscles in your legs are twitching like there's boiling lava just under the skin, and it kind of feels like there really is boiling lava under the skin. You are spent and -- although you don't know this at the time -- it will not feel better for at least 12 hours. Even tonight, while you sleep, your legs will be twitching ... as if they don't yet know that you got off the bicycle.

Okay, so where's the sweet part?

Well, I saw that part about 4 pm Saturday, as we were finishing up my Dog Meat Permanent. We had three new randonneurs out there ... well, actually, two new randonneurs and one new randonneuse ... in the personage of Kurt Schusterman, Mike Willman, and Karla McVey.

Mike and Karla were on Mike's tandem, since Mike's wife, Patty, was off in Colorado for the week. Here they are looking very comfortable going down Armstrong Road on the way to Shelbyville.

Well, at least Karla is feigning comfort. At this point on the route, we had finished the nasty climbs of Pettus and Paw-Paw Springs, and were just tooling along in a nice paceline on the flat road at about 20 mph. It's hard to be really comfortable doing that.

Here's Kurt doing a better job of feigning comfort.

The thumbs up is always good. Had he given me the Contador finger pistol, I would have been concerned.

Behind Kurt is Jeff Sammons, Alan Gosart, and Peter Lee. In front of Mike and Karla, Jeff Bauer (no relation) and Fredia Barry were on another tandem. As I've mentioned before, doing this route sitting in on Jeff and Fredia on the tandem is the way to go -- it's fast and a hard workout, but at least you don't have to fight the wind.

The weather was extraordinary. It had rained a good deal during the week, but Saturday stayed sunny and fairly cool for middle Tennessee in August. It was humid, however, and we were riding hard, so I stayed soaked with sweat. It felt great ... as long as you kept moving.

Just beyond Shelbyville, Vida Greer joined us for a few miles. For some reason, when Vida rides with us on this route the pace gets up a bit, so that this rolling section went by closer to 22 mph. When we got to the control in Chapel Hill, we were all a little cooked. Ice cream at the convenience store helped.

Jeff Sammons went to the Subway there, but the rest of us rolled on for the Henpeck control. The hills return on this route the further north you go, and Vida, Alan, Peter, and I split off from the rest of the group and got a little frisky, sprinting for KOM points and taking hard pulls. Jeff and Fredia stayed with the "virgins," sheperding them on the climbs up Cool Springs and Peytonsville roads.

We all met up again at Henpeck. As I've mentioned before, the food at Henpeck Market is the real purpose of this route. A big plate of cold pasta salad after 107 miles on a humid afternoon, and I was ready to take on the world.

Vida headed home from here, and Jeff showed up as were finishing lunch, so the nine of us soon rolled out for the final hilly 20 miles. We were not fast here, but we got 'er done, and soon we were all loading up the bikes in the parking lot of the Kroger on Nolensville Road, and then getting recovery smoothies at Starbuck's.

This was when the sweet part came for Mike, Karla, and Kurt. Maybe it was just relief, knowing that the ride was over. Maybe it was the smoothies, which were blessedly cold. But I could see more than a little bit of pride there ... the knowledge that they had just ridden further than ever before, finishing a ride even when it would have been sooooo tempting to get off the bike and throw it into the back of the next truck that offered to take you back to the start. Mike, Karla, and Kurt all had that. Kurt was even asking if we could do another 200K next weekend.


Some Final TdF Thoughts

It's been a week now, and I'm almost over TdF withdrawal. Cycling fans the world over know what it's like: You get up early in the morning, turn on Versus, and find yourself watching "The Camo Life." Where's Phil? Where's Paul? Where's Bob? Heck, I'd even take Craig over this fat doofus with a composite bow.

Sigh. Only three more weeks to the coverage of the Tour of Ireland.

Of course, this does give you a better idea of why pick-up trucks seem to come just a little bit closer to our elbows when we ride in July. For three weeks, they've been turning on their TV in the morning hoping to see "The Bucks of Tecomate," and instead they get a buncha skinny foreign fairies in spandex. Where's my Camo Life?!

Their baser needs un-sated, they then hoist their girthy selves into the cab of their F-250 to head over the job site. In this state of mind, is it any wonder they don't remain mindful of the Three-Foot Law when they see the lone cyclist on Carter's Creek Pike?

Separated at Birth?

We were watching Alberto Contador's time trial on stage 18 when the RandoWife noticed a similarity.

Contador ...

And Zorak, the evil alien from Space Ghost ...

You decide.

Back in Black

Did you notice that Versus started showing where everyone was in relation to the day's break based on jersey? The captions at the bottom were something like "Break" and "Peleton," and they would show who was in which based on the current jersey wearer. If the yellow jersey was in the break, a little picture of a yellow jersey displayed, and so forth.

This was cool, but then they started to show a little Astana jersey to indicate where Lance was.

C'mon. Really? Isn't that being a little overt in trying to make this the Tour de Lance?

However, it got me thinking. If they're gonna have a white jersey for the best young rider (under 26), then why not a black jersey for the best old rider (over 36)? I've bounced this idea off a few folks, and we all like it. Of course, we're all old farts, so the idea naturally appeals to us. But, then, that seems to be the buying demographic of Versus.

If you like the thought of a black jersey, comment below. If I get enough folks interested, I may put together a petition and send it to the UCI or ASO. Maybe we can even get Bernard Hinault and Greg LeMond back out there for one more try. If nothing else, when LeMond gets up on stage and starts rambling about how everyone but him is doping, and the Badger jumps up and tries to push him into the audience, it should mollify the Versus viewers missing their morning fix of Ultimate Cage Fighting.