Thursday, December 31, 2009

2009: The View from the Dorkiscope

As we prepare to throw out the 2009 calendars (adieu, Ms. December!) and peruse the detritus of calendar stock at the local Walgreen's for 2010 (I'm going with the "I Can Has Cheeseburger Please Cat"), we often succumb to our basic human nature and reflect fondly on the feasts, foibles, and f--k-ups of the year gone by. In this way we revert to our simian ancestry and act like chimpanzees flinging poop at our enemies and chewing the faces off of our adopted human mothers, although the poop we fling is metaphorical and much more smelly, and the loss of face is orientally philosophical, but can be arrested by judicious injections of blow-fish poison.

End-of-year reflections, however, are like the view that cyclists capture in the little mirror we stick on our helmet or hang off the arm of our glasses. It's a small piece of the whole, usually irrelevant to the world at large, and makes us look like uber-dorks. But, like the view from that jiggling dorkiscope, a quick look will give us an idea of what's coming up -- typically a clueless Hummer who is not ceding a single inch of their God-given road -- while a long look leaves us tumbling into the ditch of despair.

Here, then, is my glance into the Dorkiscope of 2009:

January was cold. We rode a couple of permanents, and I turned 50. After 31 days, it ended. Yippee.

February was not quite as cold, but windy. We rode the Murfreesboro 200K and a couple more permanents, and I started training for the races of April (or maybe this was when Max Watzz first manifested himself).

March had more race training, a couple more permanents, and my first crash of the year. I hate any year when I have to number my bike crashes.

April was when the training paid off. My teams won the Heart of the South 500 and the Nashville Super 80. RandoGirl emerged, thanks in part to her training for the Nashville Super 80. The weather turned better.

May was wet. RandoGirl and I did 3-State-3-Mountain in the rain, and the Little River Century started wet but turned better. The RandoDaughter graduated high school, and that was good. The month ended with me helping support the 600K here, but still finding time in the middle of it to ride a 200K permanent.

June we went to Ireland. We had a great time, but didn't bike much. (Maybe we had a good time because we didn't bike much.) We came back to a very hot Tennessee, where I melted on the Cherohala Challenge and rode with a TNABA athlete on the Harpeth River Ride. (It's weird to look back at how hot it was then, when it's so cold now -- it almost makes you miss upper-90-degree temperatures.) We also had a great time watching Kevin Kaiser show the RAAM racers what a randonneur can do.

July we cheered for Lance at the Tour, rode a couple more permanents, and basically enjoyed some great weather.

August had more permanents. RandoGirl and I bought a new tandem, and the RandoDaughter went off to college.

September started with an excellent Bundrick's Revenge 200K, followed by some nice weather, followed by some wet weather, and concluded with a mostly laid-back Six Gaps.

October was great. RandoGirl and I did a fast Sequatchie Valley Century, then I rode 250 miles at the Little River 24-Hour Challenge before crawling into the van to sleep. RandoGirl and I finished October with a 550-mile self-supported tour down the Natchez Parkway -- a vacation that was so much fun that within a week of our return I began planning a week-long tour down the Oregon coast. Maybe in 2011 ...

November saw my second crash of the year. I still managed to enjoy a couple of permanents, in spite of the quickly cooling temperatures and missing skin in places.

December ends today. I hit 10,000 miles on the first Saturday, and then rode only 600 more miles during the rest of the month. Fortunately, 150 miles a month is enough to keep the legs strong ... hopefully.

What's the plan for 2010? I'm going to let Max Watzz out a bit more. In order to qualify for Paris-Brest-Paris in 2011, I'll need to do a full series (200K, 300K, 400K, and 600K) this year, and probably a fleche in April and our 1000K in September. In October, RandoGirl and I will celebrate our 30th anniversary with a cycling trip in Sicily -- fewer miles than the Trace trip, better food and lodging, and hopefully just as much fun.

I hope that you and yours have had as great a 2009 (with fewer crashes), and will enjoy an even better 2010. As always, thanks for reading, and may all your rides be safe, beautiful, and longer than you used to think you could go.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Ho-Ho-Ho's and Frosty Toes

As the last of the "Oh" years -- at least for the next 91 winters -- grinds to a close, clacking towards stasis like a well-trued DuraAce hub, my riding has become lackluster. I guess that's because the weather itself has lacked luster. There is certainly none of springtime's lustrous growth and deep color in the middle Tennessee woods -- merely dry spartan branches clawing away at each other in a biting bitch of a wind.

It's difficult to dredge up motivation to ride when the weather is like this. Next month we can start putting in those death march foundation miles, doing 200 kilometer rides in 200 kelvin temperatures (-99.4 degrees fahrenheit, for the non-scientists out there). Max Watzz won't insist on sessions of intervals and hour-long tempo rides until mid-February -- until then, he is satisfied with three hours each week in the weight room.

Instead, the only reason to ride right now is because it's still fun to be on a bike, and that fun is grossly tempered by near-freezing cold and howling wind.

Nonetheless, irregardless, and e caveat emptor, I did enjoy a painful 55-miler Sunday with a few friends. It was hard work, but we saw some cool stuff.

These Santa Ho manikins (maniki? womanikins?) were dressing the window of a house on Waddell Hollow Road. I should have gotten closer to get a better picture, but manikins (maniku?) have always kind of scared me ... probably from watching Twilight Zone as a youth.

We had a coasting competition going down Garrison Creek, which I handily won by virtue of being gravitationally enhanced this time of year (I'd had three pieces of cake at the party the night before to celebrate RandoGirl's birthday, kwanzaa, and boxing day). At the bottom, I stopped to take a picture of the frozen wall by the road.

Maybe that's the motivation for cycling when the weather outside is frightful. It never looks like this in the summer.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Zombie Butterflies vs. Impaling Unicorns: Last Minute Gift Ideas

At stately Rando Manor, we're getting ready for Christmas, and all of the merriment and misgivings that the season entails. The merriment is obvious: Family, friends, fun, food, and fpresents. (See, Mrs. Cybulski! I did understand the concept of alliteration. I bet you wish now that you could change that C- to the solid C that I so richly deserved.)

The misgivings are primarily centered around the food, which I will eat too much of and be unable to burn off because the weather outside is frightful ... and the prospect of two even more crappy months of cold, where getting out for long rides will entail lots of warm clothing and/or frozen body parts.

I can't do much about the weather ... at least, not until I perfect the lasers on the RandoSatellite. Once that's working right, I will warm up the atmosphere wherever I am, so that I can always enjoy a glorious 80 degrees. Of course, the butterfly effect will come into play -- probably such that butterflies will become brain-eating zombies and soon rule the world -- but at least I'll get in a good ride. And a planet overrun with butterflies would be really, really pretty. It would be even better with some unicorns ... except the butterflies would eat them, too, unless the unicorns could stab them first.

So, until I solve the energy-displacement issue surrounding argon lasers, the best that I can do towards making the world a better place (at least, during this time of pre-butterfly apocalypse) is suggest a few stocking-stuffers for the cyclists in your life.
  1. Toe Warmers. Your local bike shop has them, or you can pick up a case of them at Costco. Tell your cyclist to stick them on the outside of her socks -- maybe with another pair of socks over them -- just before the start of the ride. This will help keep the blood going to her toes for the next six hours -- which is good, because not even mutant butterflies like to eat dead toes.
  2. Glove Liners. Very often during the winter, you start a ride when it's about 40 F outside, and it will warm all the way up to 60. On these days, your cyclist can put a pair of glove liners on under his cycling gloves at the start of the ride. This will keep his hands warm, but still let him get the full benefit of shock-absorption, protection, and nose-wiping chamois from his usual cycling gloves. When it warms up, he just has to take off the liners, roll them up, slip them into a jersey pocket, and ride on wearing only the cycling gloves. Note: Tell him to wear the liners with that pair of cycling gloves that's a little too big, so things don't get too tight.
  3. Hand Warmers. In the store, right next to the toe warmers, probably made by the same company, are chemical hand warmers. On days when it's just above freezing when the ride starts, your cyclist should put these inside his glove liners, on the back of the hand, to warm the blood going to the fingers.
  4. Triple Tube. This is probably the most versatile way to keep any part of your cyclist's head warm. Rivendell makes the one that I use, and I carry it on any brevet where the temperature may dip below 60 F. It rolls up to nothing, keeps the cold out down to about 25 F, and can even be put on in such a way that it won't mess up your hair. Try that with a balaclava.
  5. Jimi. This plastic wallet made by Koyono is much better than a ziploc baggie for toting ID and cash. I carry one with an expired driver's license (I don't need to drive with it, since I have a bike -- I just want to be able to prove I am who I say I am), and $30. For rides over 300K, I'll also put in a bank card. It takes up almost no room, and nothing gets soggy from sweat. I only wish that they made one that was just big enough for a brevet card.
  6. Lantiseptic. This is the best taint paint for ultracycling, ever. Jeff Bauer is one of their spokesmen, and appears in some of their ads. This stuff does not come off in the rain, in gallons of sweat, or after a couple of hundred miles of riding.
  7. Batteries. This time of year, there isn't much daylight, and your cyclist had better bring lights even on a 200K. A spare set of batteries doesn't weigh much, and if it turns out that he needs them they are as good as gold.
  8. Zip Ties. An assortment of these in your bag can save your cyclist's ride. If she loses a screw, a zip tie may serve as a short-term replacement. If something is rattling, she can probably snug it up. If her headlamp breaks, she can get a flashlight at a Mapco and zip tie it to the handlebars. Imagine the possibilities.
  9. Big Box of Patches and a Tube of Glue. Inner tubes are expensive, and other riders seem to always want to throw them away after they've gotten a flat. Maybe they get them free from their sponsor, but if the cyclist in your life has not yet turned pro, he should offer to "dispose" of his friend's tube and take it home. He can then patch it, test it, and put it in his saddle bag for the next time. It's environmentally sound and it's cheap ... and that's a killer combination.
  10. Citrus-Based Degreaser and Cleaner. Again, you can get this at your local bike shop or Home Depot or Costco. Tell your cyclists to use it sparingly, because it can eat away grease in places that grease needs to be. Used properly, however, it will make his bike look better, ride better, and last longer.
So there you have it. Nothing says, "I love you, and understand your need to ride off into the frozen wasteland for hours on end, abandoning your dear family to the ravages of killer butterflies," as well as gifts like these.

Happy Holidays!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Cycling: Riding the Razor's Edge

Riding a bicycle during the winter in any of the United States forced to straddle the schizoid meandering jet stream is kind of like being the sole offspring of a broken marriage of two abusive shmucks.

The jet stream plummets and you are shuttled over to stay with your Ice Queen mom. Life isn't too bad there, so long as you dress correctly and are constantly on guard against the barbed comments that strip the flesh from your bones and bring tears to your eyes. Her icy embrace leaves you trembling like a dog staring fixedly at the gleaming tip of a steel-toed boot, and your nose runs so much that you wipe it bloody. The harsh glaring blue of her skies brings no warmth, and is as fleeting as the smile with which she blesses you when she thinks someone may be looking.

Then dad punches out the jet stream as he blows up from some Gulf Coast casino in a backfiring Cadillac convertible that he "borrowed" from his beach whore girl friend, coughing fumes fraught with unfiltered Pall Malls and bottom-shelf blended bourbon from one end while blasting methane laced with last week's gumbo from the other. He is always wringing wet, with alcohol seeping from his moon-crater pores punctuated by delirium tremens-inspired storms of last night's gumbo and stomach acid, slowly abating to mournful dry heave rumblings about something lost.

The only thing worse is the hand-off, when they scream and spit and spew years of pent-up rage fueled by unrequited narcissistic self-loathing, as you cower below, rolled into a tight fetal wad with your hands clamped over your ears moaning for the kind of succor that you read about in a book whose title now eludes you.

And then -- oh so rarely -- that wondrous thing happens, and Grandma and Grandpa come swoop you away ... maybe for an hour, and sometimes for a day or maybe two ... and life is sweet again. Sure, they are the creatures that spawned your abominable parents, and the bloodlines run strong and bloody, but time has worn off the sharp edges of their temperament, making their fury more furry. You would never mistake an afternoon with the grandparents for one of those glorious days with Aunt Summer, but it is enough. In a long schizoid winter that even Chekhov could not have survived, it is these respites that keep us sane.

Well, guess who's coming to visit tomorrow?

For all of you out there, if you can find time to slip away from work, holiday shopping, and family duties: Get on your bike Tuesday. It is the first day of winter, and we're getting what may be the only break we're going to see in a while.

And then, tomorrow night, when you're warming up by the fire and feeling some good pain in your quadriceps, call your grandparents. You owe them one.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Putting the Ego in Alter-Ego

Many authors use pseudonyms. George Elliot, who wrote Silas Marner, was actually Mary Anne Evans. She used a man's name so that her works would be "taken seriously." There are also a number of authors who are famous in one genre, but publish under a pseudonym outside of their regular realm. Stephen King uses Richard Bachman, Nora Roberts uses J. D. Robb, and Dr. Seuss uses Tom Clancy.
Could you, would you, with a squadron of light infantry soldiers armed with Heckler and Koch submachine guns?

I could, I would, with a squadron of light infantry soldiers armed with Heckler and Koch submachine guns!
I, too, have an alter-ego. Or maybe it's just a recent manifestation of my multiple personalities disorder. As Ian Hunter once sang, you're never alone with a schizophrenic, and once bitten by one you will be twice shy.

But, as usual, I digress.

Just as the phone book validated existence to Navin R. Johnson, so did a document that arrived in the mail yesterday force the formerly dormant racer wraith within me to blast it's hoary head through my brittle sternum, hiss caustically at a horrified world, and leap onto the nearest Big Wheel to roll hell-bent for spandex.

Meet Max Watzz. I would describe him for you, but I can feel his life force consuming me again ... too strong ... can't stop ... argh ... yadda-yadda.

Whew. Thank goodness we got rid of that loser. What kind of moron rides a bike for more than 100 kilometers anyhow? I mean, I can see it for the Spring Classics, but just to go riding out in the country for hundreds of miles ... for "fun?" With no podium at the end?! Puh-leaze!

And I want to make something clear, here. This dork RandoBoy DID NOT win the Super 80 and the Heart of the South 500 last year. I did. Me, me, me, me, me. That's my favorite word, by the way, so I'll say it some more. Me, me, me, me, me.

Okay, now I'm done. Yes, I am. Me done. Heh-heh. Me, me, me, me, me.

But back to the races that I won -- not RandoBoy. He wouldn't know how to reach into the barrel of pain, stir around in the victuals of strength, and pull out the kind of performance that it takes to be a winner. I know how to do that. Me.

I also know how to show restraint. It's part of the class that is only shown by true champions. Eddie was like that, and maybe Lance. They are like me that way ... the lucky bastards.

And I have shown lots of restraint lately ... maybe too much, if it is possible for me to make a mistake. It was actually all part of my master plan ... yeah, that's it. I had a plan from the start. Because another mark of the true champion is the ability to change history in his mind so that it continues to validate his world view.

So, my plan all along was to let this RandoBoy character get me enough good bikes that I could then strip control from him and bring myself out to bask in the limelight that is my own magnificence. Not that I need a good bike to win, of course, because it's all about the power that flows, barely controlled, through my massive loins.

Speaking of the power of my massive loins ... why, yes, I don't mind if I do. I will be using my brobdingnagian quadriceps this year to set new records in time trials throughout Tennessee. I may also bestow my skills to some road races, but will mostly limit myself this year to the Race of Truth. For that is where my Greatness shall most surely shine.

Anyway, back to power. My 42-centimeter quadriceps are capable of delivering untold wattage. Why, my threshold wattage alone is ... what? ... wait ... no, you can't take over again ... I won't go back in the box ... Nooooooo!

Geez, what an obnoxious peckerwood. You'll probably hear more from him during the course of the year, and for that I apologize. We all have our dark side, and we occasionally have to let it out in the sun in hopes that it either dries up and blows away, or at least stops raising such a stink.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Flash Frozen Dog Meat

RUSA (Randonneurs USA) has an award called the R-12, which any member can win, more or less, by riding a brevet or permanent every month for 12 months straight.

This sounds easy, particularly if you live in middle Tennessee where we have so many brevets during the season, and lots of good permanents to choose from. I've done two R-12's, as have many of my friends.

The tricky part of the R-12 is getting the brevet in during certain months. Naturally, this includes the winter, but it also can be hard during the spring, when the weather is usually great. There are so many other great rides around here that are not brevets that you may have to choose to skip one of your favorite club centuries to ride a solo permanent. In fact, I did not ride a brevet or permanent this past June, since I was off on vacation for two weekends, and the rest of the weekends were consumed by the Harpeth Bicycle Club's River Ride, and the Smokey Mountain Wheelmen's Cherohala Challenge.

But the perfect storm, of course, is December. This is when you can have really crappy weather here, plus you have trips to see family, holiday parties, shopping, and so forth. Inevitably, in December, you have to watch out for the best weather date that you can get when you are going to be in town, and then either skip out on something else that you're supposed to do, or ride the permanent fast enough to get home in time to do it in the evening.

Which is a long way of setting up why these three idiots are standing here in Murfreesboro freezing to death.

Jeff Sammons, on the left, needed a permanent for his R-12 -- this is either his second or third. Although the weather Saturday was not great, he figured it would be best to get in his permanent early just in case. Peter Lee, next to him, and myself were out there to keep him company ... or maybe we are just idiots for the sake of idiocy.

As usual, we started at 7 am from the Starbuck's on Nolensville Road near where Concord Road runs into it. It was 27 degrees. I had ridden over from my house two miles away, and had actually gone back home to get my warmer gloves and a balaclava. Thus, I had to guzzle a fast coffee and scone before we rolled out.

The extra clothes felt right as we rolled out. I felt nice and warm as we climbed up Pettus Road, watching the sun try to slip through the clouds, and then rocking down the other side the few slivers of skin that were exposed felt the biting cold.

Jeff had actually named this route for me, thanks to all of the dogs that chase you on these rural roads. But the cold Saturday kept the usual varmints on Old Hickory and Cane Creek inside, and it was not until we were south of Nolensville on Fly Road that the first dog -- a lumbering but lethargic beast that may have been a small polar bear -- actually came into the road to chase us.

The traffic was also very light as we rode down Rocky Fork Road to Del Thomas, over the steep climb on Paw-Paw Springs to Independent Hill, and then down Almaville Road to Shores Road. From there, we touched the edge of Murfreesboro at the first control, a convenience store on Hwy 99 and Armstrong Valley Road, where we grabbed a quick bite, topped off our bottles, got cards signed, and rolled on.

The wind had been light for most of this section, but it slowly gained strength as we went southeast on Armstrong Valley Road. Although the name of the road changes a couple of times, navigation is very simple here: Get on this road and keep going until it ends. As usually happens this time of year, the wind was in our face for the entire 25 miles, but one advantage of riding with randonneurs as strong as Peter and Jeff is that we were able to trade off pulls and make pretty good time down to Shelbyville.

After again clearing the control quickly, we then turned west, putting the wind a little more behind us. We zoomed north up Old Nashville Dirt Road, then tacked down Shaw and Troupe before settling in on a beam reach down a series of quiet country lanes. The dogs were still staying mostly inside, but we did manage to scare the two buffalo at the farm just past the creek on Fishing Ford Pike. I'm not sure if two running buffalo constitute a stampede, but it was more fun than dancing with wolves.

Eventually, we found ourselves back on Highway 31, being pushed by the wind up through Henry Horton State Park and in to Chapel Hill. The skies were still ominously overcast, promising rain and keeping the temperatures down to a level that would make things extremely unpleasant; thus, we skipped the stop at Subway and, after clearing the Shell station control, rode on.

Departing West Depot to Daughrity, swinging up Smiley to Sweeney, riding Thick, and then Dowdy, the route became hilly again. We went over the ridge to Bethesda on Cross Keys, then took Bethesda-Arno to the fun little climb and even more fun descent on Cool Springs Road. The southern wind buffeted us a bit more on Peytonsville and over I-65 to Old Peytonsville Road, but we ended up at the penultimate control at Henpeck Market about 1:30 pm.

I've mentioned before the Tomato Basil South at Henpeck, so I won't wax poetic about it again. Suffice to say that finally stopping to sit down here, after 110 miles, for a cup of this soup was sooooooo good.

Unfortunately, we were still trying to beat the rain, so we rolled out to start the last 24 miles about 2 pm. After getting beat up by the wind again on Old Peytonsville, past the Williamson County Agriculture Center, and all the way down the rollers on Long Lane and Crowder Road, we finally got our tailwind back on Peytonsville-Trinity.

It was about here that I began to get tired, probably because I have not ridden as much as usual in the past few weeks. I was able to hang on down Wilson Pike to Tuloss, but then let a gap open up on Clovercroft. The wind was against us down this stretch, but I knew that I had plenty of time and it looked as if the rain was going to give us a break.

Jeff, in an act of mercy, dropped his chain going up the last steep climb on Clovercroft, so that I could catch up to him. Unfortunately, he dropped it too far and the chain ended up slightly jammed. We had no trouble on Pleasant Hill Road, but on the first steep hill on Split Log the chain snapped.

In the perverse world of randonneuring, however, a mechanical problem is just an opportunity. I pulled out my Crank Brothers multitool, and Jeff quickly took a couple of links out and repaired his chain. It meant that he would not be able to use a couple of gears for the rest of the ride, but since we only had another five miles to go it was no big deal.

We took Split Log to Sunset, then north on Waller to the SUV-choked hell that is Concord Road. When we got back to Starbuck's, Peter was getting ready to come looking for us in his car. It was almost 4 pm, we had beat the rain, and none of us has to do another permanent for the rest of the year.

Unless, of course, the weather is really good this weekend ...

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

A Perfectly Good Waste of Time

Today was the sixth straight day of coming in to the office by car. I could've biked in -- it was almost 50 degrees out this morning and dry -- but was deterred by the 20 mph winds and prospect of steadily declining temperatures all day as a cold front moves in.

I'm a wimp.

Since I've been riding less, however, I've been reading more. Reading leads to ideas, which can be very dangerous things in simple minds (like mine) that are ill-prepared to handle them. Here are some of the stupid thoughts that have wandered forlorn across the barren landscape of my non-riding consciousness -- a mental image that conjures up thoughts of Ed, Edd, and Eddy trying to find Thunderdome, or maybe Cormac McCarthy's "The Road," starring Beavis and Butthead.
  1. A cartoon version of Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome could actually work, and Ed Edd n Eddy as comic relief would not hurt. In the season finale, Ed, Edd, and Eddy have to battle in Thunderdome. Three go in ... one comes out. It could only be an improvement.

  2. In the spirit of fair play, somebody needs to talk to Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. American jurors are normally very fair-minded, and I am certain that they will listen carefully to all of the facts presented at his trial before finding him guilty, guilty, guilty, and decree that he must be hung by the neck until he is deader than hell, and even offer to "string him up right here and now" before the judge tells them that they don't get to do that. In which case they may pout. But my point (if indeed I have one) is that Khalid (do you mind if I call you Khalid? not that I know how to pronounce it) might have a chance if somebody would explain to him the concept of "manscaping." I mean, really? This guy is a freaking hair farm. A good barber, lots of hot wax, and a few hours on a treadmill and he could walk into the courtroom looking like this.
    And do I have to point out that this dude used to have a license to kill? American juries would probably still find Khalid guilty ... although they might not if he also hires a dialog coach and can get Pierce Brosnan's accent right ... but they would merely sentence him to a three-season contract doing "Remington Steele" on ABC. And everybody knows that ABC is synonymous with Hell ... at least until "Lost" comes back. NOTE: As of press time, Stephanie Zimbalist could not be reached for comment. Her dad is either undercover with the FBI, or doing the voice for Batman's butler.

  3. The guy who "invented" Twitter, Jack Dorsey, has announced his Next Big Thing will be a device that lets people make credit card payments using the iPhone or iPod. Wow. That's just what I need. It's always been so much trouble for me to make a credit card payment by actually pulling out a credit card and swiping it through the reader at Publix (where shopping actually is a pleasure ... I'm serious). Of course, I'm not sufficiently narcissistic to "tweat" anyway (I'm barely narcissistic enough to blog), so I'm probably not in Dorsey's target demographic.

  4. I do seem to be in Rivendell Bicycle Works's target demographic. They've been sending me e-mails pushing certain products, and then mentioning that they will not be laying off employees in spite of the current economic downturn. While I generally like Rivendell's stuff, particularly their bags, promotional material like this bears the faintly sour aroma of desperation, a la "Buy this bike now, or the kitten dies."

  5. Have people in cars always been this cranky, or is it just the season? Since I've been commuting in a car lately, I've been on the more traveled thoroughfares, and the people there are freakin' nuts! Maybe they're just feeling the time crunch of holiday shopping and stuff, but this is no way to get on Santa's "good" list.
That's about all the thoughts that I've had, or at least all that could survive on the marrow of desiccated bones and moldy bits in the bottoms of old cat-food cans that litter the drifting dunes of my post-apocalyptic mind. I'm hoping to ride a permanent Sunday, maybe even on the single-speed, and perhaps that will force my brain to change course to a less introspective mode. I'm just not equipped for deep thought.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The Weather Outside is Frightful

For some reason, flipping the calendar over to December here in middle Tennessee this year was like flipping a switch on the big thermostat in the sky. We bypassed the "Cool" setting and went right to "Cold," and then had snow flurries this past weekend ... yes, snow flurries. In the freaking southeastern United States, on the first weekend in December, still three weeks from winter, and we get SNOW?!


It was so lousy last week that I didn't even bike in to work. Not one day. There were only about half a dozen weeks this whole year when I didn't bike in to work at least one day, and two of those were because I was on vacation.

Of course, in January, I rode in one day when it was five degrees. And last November I had a programming class over on the north side of town, and biked in to that ... even though it was an extra 20 miles round-trip, and pretty darned cold that day, too.

I think the problem is actually that I'm suffering from my own success.

Last year, I had to ride in some crappy weather to get in my 10,000 miles. This year, I hit that mark this past Saturday morning, riding a little 40-mile route in mid-30 temperatures on the first true Polar Bear Ride of the season.

Durk Peterson has been leading the Saturday Polar Bear Rides in Leiper's Fork for as long as I have lived here. No matter how cold and windy it is, you can count on a good hilly workout with Durk every Saturday. I would say that he likes to suffer, except that he is always so good-natured about these rides.

As you can see, we were all bundled up. I was wearing my beloved Assos gear, with winter shoes and chemical toe warmers on the socks, plus lobster mitts keeping my fingers warm. Frankly, I was dressed just about perfectly, which was easier to do since I kept the ride short and finished before the day reached the balmy 40's.

I started the day 39 miles away from 10,000. We rode 41, so that I pulled into the parking lot at 10,002. Goal met.

I could have ridden during the afternoon. It was not too windy, and it got all the way up to 42 at my house. Instead, I did some chores, and got ready for the Harpeth Bike Club's Holiday Party that night. RandoGirl and I chatted with friends, ate good food, listened to some really great music, and boogied.

Sunday, we met Mike and Patty Willman, and the four of us rode our tandems down to Henpeck and back. Again, the temperatures stayed in the 30's, and there was just a bit of wind, so we rode just under 40 miles.

I'm pretty sure that I'll get interested enough in riding to suffer the current temperatures again. It may not be in the next couple of weeks ... but it doesn't have to be. I've met my goal mileage for the year, and I'm having fun.

I'll let you know when that changes.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

An Open Letter to Mark Lynskey

Dear Mark:

I'm writing this to let you know how you saved my a$$.

First, let me be clear that by a$$, I mean my posterior. My tush. My keister.

The dollar signs are in no way a commentary on the price of your bicycles. They ain't cheap (although I managed to get mine at a ridiculously good price), but then quality such as this rarely is. Especially titanium quality. I mean, it's a rare metal, so it's expensive. And it's only a little easier to work with than adamantium (the stuff that Wolverine's skeleton is lined with, for my nerd readership), so anybody that sells a titanium bike cheap is an idiot.

Of course, I'm not calling you an idiot, even though I did get my titanium Lynskey pretty cheap. And I certainly wouldn't call Lynn Greer at Gran Fondo (a.k.a., "the Greatest Bike Shop in the Universe", where I bought this bike) an idiot. Not just because he's my friend, and not just because he is certainly not an idiot. And only partially because I'm a little afraid of him ... well, maybe more than a little. He can be crazy intense.

So, we're clear, right? There are no idiots here, even though I have been known to do idiotic things. But I was certainly no idiot when I bought this bike.

Of course, again, to give credit where credit is due, I did not just decide one morning that I wanted to buy a new Lynskey randonneuring bike. Credit for that has to go to Lynn ... or maybe his wife, Vida. They knew that I wanted a new randonneuring bike, and that I probably needed a new randonneuring bike. I was just finishing up a season where I rode a 1200K on an aluminum Masi, and although I survived this ride, it was not without damage, and it certainly wasn't an entirely pleasant experience. They knew, and I knew, that a custom geometry frame made out of a more forgiving material would make future brevets more enjoyable.

So, Lynn put together a great deal, and RandoGirl gave the OK. All I had to do was get measured and decide what to put on the top tube.

Which brings us back to my a$$.

I've now been on this wonderful bicycle for just over a year. I have crashed it once, I have raced on it, I have been on it for 18 hours and 250 miles almost non-stop, and I have ridden lots of brevets and centuries and just little fun trips and commutes. Basically, I now have almost 5,000 miles on this bike.

And I still love it. Rarely this season did I find its caress unkind, and most of those instances were probably the result of too much time on other ill-fitting bikes ... or maybe some shot shorts.

I rode my Lynskey on some crappy roads this year. When I had ridden those crappy roads on other bikes, I would raise up out of the saddle a bit. Not so with this bike, as it somehow smothered the crap.

Some bikes would make you pay for this shock-absorption. Not this one. When I want to quickly climb a hill, or jump for a county-line sprint, it is right there with me. If my legs are giving power, then the Lynskey returns speed.

A lot of fast bikes are twitchy, but not this one. Since I don't have mad bike racer skillz, I don't take my hands off of the bars much ... but I can on my Lynskey. It goes straight when that's the way I want to go, and when I lean into a turn it carves a sweet tight curl ... like Danish butter. Mmmm ... butter.

And, of course I don't have to tell you how tough it is ... I mean, it is made of titanium. When I crashed on some gravel on a turn in March, my wheel tacoed and I had a couple of scratches on the left brake hood. But the frame? Fuhgeddaboudit.

But, back to my butt.

In 2010, I plan to do a full series of brevets, culminating in the fall with a 1000K. In 2008, I took at least a full week off the bike before the 600K and 1200K, to ensure that the "human/saddle interface" was unmarred by lingering issues. This year, I won't have to do that. This year, with this bike, I feel pretty sure that I could go out next weekend and ride a 600K without any problems ... other than suffering from the cold and wind, and of course the lack of sleep and muscle stress that are inevitable with riding 375 miles in 40 hours or less.

Part of this may be due to the fact that I'm pretty well trained up right now, but most of it is due to you and the wonderful bike that you built for me. You helped make 2009 a great year for me in cycling, and you have given me hope for an even better 2010. For this, I thank you from the bottom ... of my heart.