Day by day in Jefferson

Posts tagged “cycling

Of Cisterns, Cycles and Thunderstorms

It’s weird. Cycling has brought out a part of me that has remained hidden for fifty one years: I’m not sure what it is that pushes me to ride. True, I used to ride my Harley in cold, in rain, in 100 degree heat. But dressing up and letting a motorcycle pull you along is really not the same thing. I can’t stress enough how I’ve never exercised before in my entire life. True, again, I was in the military. So yes, there was a brief period where I was forced to exercise and a much briefer period following that where I did some exercising voluntarily. So, those times excluded – and they were very brief – my life has been blissfully exercise free.

Which is why I find it interesting surprising and confusing that the bike has brought out this side or slice of me. I’m not riding every day, but I am riding every fourth day or so. And if it were nicer outside, I might be riding every other day. And I enjoy it. I actually enjoy, for the most part, the most intense part of the ride – the climbing. My location provides a number of opportunities to climb.

Today was a brief respite in the series of winter storms that have been pounding us for two days with two or three more to come. So when 2pm hit today and it was not raining, I decided to go. It was warm and nice inside the house. I didn’t need to go out, at all. My Christmas shopping is done. I have food and coffee. Still, I put on my my bib knickers, my sweats and a long-sleeve shirt and sweatshirt. I added my beanie and helmet and my most insulated leather Harley riding gloves. These things go about eight inches up the arm. Warm. Thick socks. High top Nikes. Ready.

Here’s part of it – and if the idea that the desire to ride, all by itself, is confusing, then this is downright baffling: I’m trying to train for a race. Right. On Feb 10, there is a (34, 40, 60 or 100 – choose your poison) mile race. I’ve chosen to try the 40 miler. Given that I started riding November 4 and today was my longest ride to date and totaled 15.3 miles, and that I have six weeks to get ready and all those are in winter, I must be insane. Perhaps the gastric bypass is leaving my brain starved for fuel and it’s not operating correctly. Why else would I leave the warm house to go out in 33 degree weather?

Discussed the route with the better half. One of my ‘problems’ is going from zero to hero in no time. In my mind, at least. I also dislike doing the same thing over and over. So the idea of doing the bike trail yet again didn’t appeal. Longest ride to this point: 13.5 miles. 7 miles of uphill with 1800′ elevation change. On the plus side, not downhill. So the hero part picked a new route: 8.9 miles downhill, turn around, 8.9 miles back up. Go from 1850′ to 125′ and back to 2050′ then down to 1850′ at home. After a bit of Google Earth’ing, realized it was actually 11.9 miles down, then 14 miles up, then 2.1 down again. Hmm. SO suggests that there might be some other mis-calculations going on in my grey matter. I reconsider under threats.

New route is a partial of the previous new route. 6.2 miles down to the cistern (a good landmark). Turn around, climb 8.3 uphill to my turn around spot and 2.1 back to the house. 1850′ to 810′ to 2050′ to 1850′. A good day’s work.

Properly dressed, check the pressure. Tires are OK. Take off the little under-the-seat bag and replace with big rack bag. Out from the little comes fingerless gloves (into the closet they go) and multi-tool (that goes into big bag). Toss in tube, tire levers, slime bottle, big pocket knife (in case of wolves, bears or hobos), garage door opener, and …should be other stuff, but ready. Slip headlight on (finally get to try it out!) and tail light clipped onto back of bag. Iphone goes into SlipLock mount. Fire up tunes. Fire up riding app. Slip last glove on and go!

Ride down to Nunelly and realize it’s pretty bleak out. Big black clouds line the horizon – which is very, very close. Glasses fog up from breath. Pass the bank – 31 degrees. Up and over the small hump and down past the churches and to Pearson. Up the little hill there (in 6th gear!) and cross the road and meet the bike trail. Pop over the curb and down.

This time, after the fails when it comes to tunes, I’d set up in advance a couple of playlists. For whatever reason, the concept of “random” once again defies the abilities of either me or the device. I choose to blame the device. I’d selected the playlist called “hard riding”. Hard for the music type. Riding cause…I’m riding. Hard includes everything from Sammy Hagar (best of) to Iron Maiden. Random would have been nice but the gloves are on and the iPhone requires the human touch. Not going to happen so Sammy’s  album “Anthology” begins with Bad Motor Scooter which moves into Rock the Nation and Paper Money. The entire downhill is taken up by the rest of the album.

Riding the trail is relaxing in terms of safety. The worst that will happen (barring running into a giant crane truck or a falling limb) is being in the wrong place when someone wants to pass. Maybe the threat of a dog is in there, too. Both leashed and unleashed dot the trail. Riding the city streets, on the other hand, is not relaxing at all. No shoulders or sidewalks and blind corners are the norm on Neal rather than the exception. Sammy does help as he rocks out Red and You Make Me Crazy. Cars whiz by my elbow. I’m going downhill at speeds up to 24 mph – in a 30 mph zone. The app says I’ve crossed the mile 4 mark. I wonder what the cars will do when I’m going 5 mph on the way back up. Sammy tells me This Planet’s on Fire. I agree.

Mile 5 is more downhill, now out of town and in the ‘hills’. Ranchland extends on both sides as far as the eye can see. About sixty feet in the fog. Mile 6 is announced and I’m keeping my eye out for the cistern. I’d promised to make that my turn-around and by the time I’ve reached it, I’m quite happy I’d agreed. The cold is something at 20+ mph. I spot the cistern and look for a turn around spot and Sammy croons Two Sides of Love. I downshift and flip a u-turn.

There’s another aspect to leaving the trail. The trail is built on a railroad track – which naturally limited the angle of attack. Trains don’t go up steep hills willingly and inclines are limited. When ‘scaped for bikers and hikers, incline is kept in mind. As such, even though climbing often exceeds 300’ per mile, it’s smooth and steady. No such restrictions cover the pavement meant for motor-powered vehicles. Fittingly, Sammy sings I Can’t Drive 55 as I begin the climb. Immediately, the lack of concern for people-powered vehicles becomes apparent. The incline is much steeper than anything on the trail and is possibly matched only by the climb at Old Skyway. That was optional – I chose to do it. This is mandatory – otherwise I’m pushing for the next 6 miles. Down to 1st and start spinning.

The app comes on to goad me and make fun of my progress. When did I switch it to ‘nag’ mode? Since I did not ‘clear’ it, it is telling me I’m behind my previous pace. Note to self – CLEAR the app. I don’t need to know I’m running slow. I can see I’m slow. The app says I’m making 5.5 mph and averaging 19 mph. That’s cause I went down 6.3 miles and I’ve climbed… about 800 feet. Mile 7 is announced. Tunes switch to Testament and “Practice What You Preach” – one of my favorite Testament albums. And it has nothing to do with me being friends with the lead singer, Chuck Billy. I enjoy their first three albums very much. The fourth too, but a bit less. And a lot less as time has gone on. “Formation of Damnation” is a return to form, but I’m more mellow these days. I find I don’t like new metal – even if it sounds like old metal. Old metal is familiar, has memories attached. New metal is often just noise.

Chuck attacks the title song and I keep climbing. I try 2nd gear and quickly switch back to 1st. No new mile markers are announced by the app. I’m actively looking for a place to catch my breath. My plan is usually to find a bench and rest, sitting on the seat. There are no benches along the street. The incline increases. My desire to find a spot to catch my breath does, too. Envy Life plays in the headphones. I’m envying breath. A side street appears and I aim for the curb. I miss by a couple inches and instead fall less-than-gracefully to the gravel. Since it was slow, and I’m numb, there is no pain outside pride. I pretend like it was intentional. The bike is held up by a pedal and gets no scratches. I rest and grab my water. This is perhaps the longest break I’ve taken in all my rides. On my ass. In the gravel. In someone’s front yard. At least the lycra is hidden by sweats this time.

Chuck sings Blessed in Contempt while I lounge.

He starts Greenhouse Effect as I pick myself and my steed up. Breathing rate controlled, I start back up. Mile 8 is announced. I detect snickering. Might be my imagination.

Road levels out a tiny bit. It’s slightly less than straight up now. I try 2nd again. The wind laughs as I go back to 1st. Again. Testament belts out The Ballad and I am looking for a resting spot again. A convenient side street presents itself. I make the curb this time. I look like a pro to no one looking at all.

The album switches again. Motorhead and “Ace of Spades”. Again, one of my favorites (which makes sense since I created the playlist). Lemmy abuses the title track and the road abuses me. I keep the climb going. I can see the end of the the now hated Neal. A quick right turn there will send me north up the bike trail. As Love Me Like a Reptile plays I make the firm decision that I’ll get to Pearson and, if need be, push it over the steep part of the hill. Then I can ride down to Clark. And push it another 2 miles back home? No. My firm decision changes. I’ll get to Elliot, then…same thing. All east-west roads have a very steep rise in between the trail and the road home, Clark. Lemmy tilts his head back and scream/sings We Are The Road Crew and I firmly decide to go to Central Park and THEN turn right to head home.

Before any of these can go from decision to reality, of course, I must make it to – and past – Pearson, which I’ve still not reached. I cross Foster and Lemmy, ‘Fast’ Eddie Clark and Filthy Phil Taylor play Jailbait. I cross Pearson. As I enter the trail again, a notice a few drops falling. Uh Oh. I read somewhere that if you ride in inclement weather you are a badass – period. I am now a badass. Mile 10 or 11, I can’t remember which, is announced. Since I’m back up to 6 mph, the app has ceased to taunt me. I am not forgiving and make solemn promises to kill the programmers. The rain increases dramatically as huge lightning flashes light the sky. My focus is downward and watching as water drops flash by my 600 lumen headlamp. The occasionally hit the front and sizzle a bit. Cool. A sad sack walker shields his eyes from the lamp. I’d not adjusted it prior to leaving – I’d not thought about anything outside keeping myself seen from the front. I rasp an apology as I pass.

Bite The Bullet gives way to The Chase is Better than the Catch – one of the standout tracks on the album, in my humble opinion. And I cross Elliott. Along with the change in tracks is my change in turnaround spots. I’ll make it to Rocky Road. As described in prior posts, that’s the one spot I can take where the east-west portion of the trip can be made with only a small hump in between the trail and Clark. And as Bille gives way to Wagstaff, “Ace of Spades” gives way to “Iron Fist”. Lemmy and company do the title track and launch into Heart of Stone as I turn onto Rocky and the app announces I’m not behind previous times anymore. Not because of my blazing speed – no. Simply because I’ve gone further than I ever have before – mile 14 is recorded. I finally am heading downhill again.

Between Elliott and Wagstaff, I rode through torrential rain and hail. I had to stop to take my phone out of the mount and put it in the bag in back. My hood filled with hail, which opened it further, allowing it to also catch freezing rain. That dripped down my back. My legs and feet are drenched, soaking. My beanie is completely soaked, dripping into my eyes. I took off my glasses, too, as I couldn’t see with the fogging and water. Strangely – I’m not bothered. Either I’ve actually HTFU or, which is far more likely, I’m so numb I’m not really noticing.

As I go down Rocky, I usually hear tell from the app of high speeds – 20+ mph. There’s a white coating of hail on the ground. Lightning and thunder actually drown out both my 600 lumen headlamp and Lemmy gently suggesting we all Go to Hell. And suddenly the tunes are gone. I’m much more concerned that I’m going to hit black ice than I am that the only sounds now are my heart beating and the thunder. I’ll worry about that at home. Suddenly the app comes on and tells me I’m going 12 mph and I’m at 14.3 miles. Huh. so the phone and headphones didn’t die. Maybe one or the other is protesting my choice of musical accompaniment. Again, bigger things to worry about. Mini-rivers run along the road. Cars pass by my elbow, running through the rivers and splashing a bit more on me.

No one coming at Wagstaff so I don’t slow down and turn east. Down to middle ring and 3rd gear. Pedal hard. I can hear my breaths and my heart. Both sound good. Down to middle ring and 1st. Up over the corner and it’s all downhill on Clark from here. The road is white with snow and hail. The sidewalk is brown and white – pine needles, cones and snowplow residue. It’s pouring. The app says 15 miles and I’m going 14 mph.

I make the light at McDonalds and the woman who should be crossing in front of me from the side street – she has the green – is instead texting her bff about how it’s raining. Or maybe her mom about how she’s a DUMB FUCK! Put the damn phone down and drive you stupid…. sorry. I yell at her as I cross in front of her. She has her window down partly but DOESN’T EVEN NOTICE. Doesn’t notice me. Doesn’t notice the green light. She goes on to kill seven in their mini-van cause she needed to text her aunt that her dog pooped. Or whatever it is that driving-texters find important enough to text each other about. I secretly wish her bloody stools and wisdom teeth pain on Christmas eve. Instead she’ll probably get a new phone.

I make the west turn onto my side street at a crawl. No sense in sliding across to the ice-covered pavement to a crunching death on the curb on my own street. Probably end up being video’d by the texting bitch at the light and my dying lycra-covered ass ‘trending’ on YouTube two hours later. None of that happens because I take the turn slowly. My last turn onto the court. I glide up to the garage.

1:48 time riding. 1900+ feet of elevation change. 15.45 miles ridden. 1002 calories burned. Two Motorhead albums plus one Sammy Hagar. Turns out my helmet bumped a button and killed the tunes. Last trip, the helmet kept summoning my digital helper Siri. I’m gonna have to find a different way of wearing these things. Numb fingers freed from soaked gloves, I press the opener. Headlamps and tail lamps off. Route saved on app. App ‘cleared’. Garage closed.

I’m happy. I say that at the end of every ride and I mean it every time. Some weird thing has taken over. I’m stripping off wet clothes, soaked clothes. Ice drops from them. Ice. Shoes and gloves are soaked completely. Dripping. Even underwear – under sweats and bib knickers – are soaked. And I’m happy. Stupid endorphins.

Can’t wait to do it again.

(A note here: I’m going to be moving these posts to my other blog: Ascending to Paradise. I will dual post for a while and leave a link to the other site. This blog was never intended to hold my cycling and I don’t want to bore you with other interests. Please wander over to the other location and please subscribe, comment or browse. Thanks)




One of the things that I worry about when I get in a new hobby is GAS. Gear Acquisition Syndrome. It often characterizes how I behave with my hobbies. The path goes something like this:

  • Something sparks my interest in new hobby. As a boy, I saw an ad for a ‘Chinese Hawkheaded” pigeon. That somehow lead to a lifelong interest in falconry. I was rather lucky here, because falconry is highly regulated and getting in takes lots of time, money and most of all, effort. Yet it did result in a 12 year old boy taking a bus (this was 39 years ago) over 100 miles to get a book from a library about falconry. Something simple and off-handed can often result in my interest aroused and from there….well, anything is possible.
  • Interest piqued, I now begin to learn. Most often, this process (with the advent of the web) begins with forum searches. In the old days, when there were actual ‘print’ magazines, I would find every magazine, every book on the subject. Since for me, it must MUST be the rare, the unusual, the off-beat or off the main track to interest me in the first place (hence, falconry in the 1970’s). Even when I choose a mainstream interest, I always choose the most obscure of the pieces. One of my current fascinations is reptiles. The variety is lizards. The special group is monitors. How many folk have monitors? Few.
  • Initial research done, I now begin the coveting. Hannibal Lector said we begin to covet what we see every day. My ‘research’ phase is typically done every day and so I begin to covet what I see. Quickly, I progress from entry level to whatever the ‘pro’ version would be. When I first began to be interested in reptiles, the usual firsts are, for snakes the ball python and for lizards the bearded dragon. For ‘shelled’ reptiles, most go for the red-footed turtle, some for the russian torts. For me? Ah well. I love a challenge. So I picked for snakes, the green tree python. For lizards, the chuckwalla. For tortoises, a desert tortoise.
  • So the GAS begins! When I was “into” motorcycles, I began with my 2002 Harley Davidson Fat Boy. Then I added seats, engine work, chrome of all kinds to all places, wheels, another Harley (a 2001 Dyna Low Rider) onto which went the same gear. Thousands and thousands of dollars. With my reptiles, custom caging and lighting, racks for those cages, special grow chambers for bugs. Diet packs. More lights.
  • The last stage is typically overwhelmed. Too much. Too many. And finally, a loss of interest. There are a few exceptions. I wouldn’t have sold my Harleys if my back was not a ruined piece of garbage. I would still ride. I still have (and acquire pieces for) my cameras. That started at 15 and has never quit. Perhaps because you can keep adding and never really reach the end. I have so many computers, I need to use my toes to count them all on, not just my fingers. And I love my lizards.

Which brings me to my topic: cycling. I did something out of sorts here. I knew I needed a bike. I wasn’t going to walk, not alone despite what Green Day may sing of. I knew I needed exercise. I wasn’t going to the gym. I wasn’t going to use a treadmill or a treadclimber or a stationary bike. I’d checked out the recumbent lineup and liked them – cause they were unusual – but they weren’t for me. My back does not like all my weight, however much reduced, resting on it’s lower portion. So I was left with bikes. What was unusual is that I did not research. I “knew” what I wanted. And took off to get it.

I skipped stage one and two: the initial entry was not some obscure finding and I did no research. I jumped straight into GAS. I bought the bike. At the same time, I also bought new bars, grips, seat and bag, plus a bottle mount. I had most of the other needs from my trike adventures. For a month, this sufficed.

Now I did research. And began to covet. Oh dear god how I covet. The height of coolness, for me, has to be internal geared hubs (or IGH) and planetary cranksets. Add to those the new carbon fiber belts (oh, reminders of the Harley days!) and you have a formidable GAS buildup. Plus the knowledge that perhaps my 25lb bike is a bit heavy. So maybe a Spot bike…perhaps the Acme? OHHHH YES!.

An Alfine 11 IGH in back. Add a Patterson drive up front (two speed planetary geared crankset). Comes WITH a Gates carbon fiber belt drive. Throw some new Ergon grips on that barset and you are set! Ah yes. Yum.  I already have hydration, pedals and lighting.

Those of you in the know will see I’m reasonable. Right? I didn’t say a Rohloff. I didn’t say a Schlumpf. And while I didn’t pick an Alfine 8, either, I’m not being absurd here. It’s not a carbon fiber frameset. I’m being realistic. Right?

What I fear is two things. That my SO will notice that’s not the DS 8.3 that once graced the garage and that I will hit final stage: disinterest. I’ve not ridden in three days. It’s been pouring every day with MASSIVE lightning and thunderstorms yesterday, so I’ve reason not to ride. But today, there are patches of blue and shafts of sun. I’ve a new Pearl ‘Attack’ bib knicker. Not insulated, but workable. New Niterider tail and headlights. My headphones are charged and my outer sweat gear is clean. And the kids are still in school.

I’m pretty sure, on the inside, that, despite the war waging in there about what’s right and what’s wrong and whether I should have more coffee or some cereal (with the gastric bypass, there’s room for one, not both at a time) to warm me before I go, that I will see that spot in my garage filled with that Spot from the website. Particularly if I can talk to them and find out if I can indeed swap out that crankset with the Patterson. I’ll sell my Trek and that will help pay. $2100 for the bike plus $300 for the drive. Plus tax.

Ah well. Maybe the monitors will lay eggs in spring and I’ll make three or four thousand dollars. Then I can buy the SO one, too. GAS to the second power.

Notes on my ride to follow. It’s 36 degrees out now. And that’s here at 1825′. I’l be going to around 2200-2300′ so it’s most likely below freezing there. After last nights’ rain, probably some ice on the ground mixed in with all those pine needles and cones. Yea!

First 10 miler

Ah, man. I got a new pair of bib knickers and was trying them on and decided, well, might as well ride. It’s 35 out and I’m cold already, but what the heck? So, underwear, then bib knickers (not insulated) and sweat pants over. Shoes and thick socks. Long sleeve shirts, then a thick sweatshirt. Beanie under the helmet. Headphones.

Swipe the iphone to get the app working. Mount my new tail light! Woo hoo! Sucker is BRIGHT! Pump up tires. OK, let’s ride. Down to Pearson, a mile down from the house. 1/4 mile to the trail. And up we go. First two miles I’m hating life. Everything but my butt hurts. Been eight days since I rode. And I feel it. I pause at 3.1 miles for three minutes. Why 3.1? No reason. It had nothing to do with passing the high school and there being no kids or walkers on the path. It didn’t.

Three minutes, three ozs of h20. Pull up the sweats so they don’t catch and off we go again. Today, it’s Destroyer and Detroit Rock City playing through the headphones. App says I’ve reached 2000′. Started at 1650′. Pull over again. Rest three more minutes. Slug down 3 more ounces of water. Actually feeling pretty good. Legs don’t bother me – ass does. Lungs do. Heart has slowed down and so has breathing so… off we go. I usually (twice now) turn at Rocky Road and head back but I cross the road and keep going. Up past the 7/11 Quickee Mart thing. Feeling pretty good, except for my back. I had switched from using the center of the pedals beneath the center of my foot to under the ball. I liked how I spun like that. Till now. Now my back is really hurting bad – bad. I decide to HTFU and keep going. Up to the end of the trail and a graceful u-turn and back down. Two hundred yards and the woman who I just passed at 5.1mph covered in sweat I now pass at 15mph and the sweat is freezing on my forehead. I yell ‘on your left’ and she’s confused about which side that means and jumps off the trail yanking the little dog. That was funny. I wave as I go by.

Down over Clark and a little climb (funny, don’t remember coming DOWN hill on this section!) and back to downhill. Adjust butt which is on fire. Even with new padded knicker bib things. Left on Rocky Road. Pedal hard in 12th gear. Oh yeah – foggotta mention I never dipped below 2nd on the way up and spent most of the time in 3rd-6th!!! I pay myself on the back. Get up speed only to slam on those disc brakes as I come up to Wagstaff and there’s cars galore. Slink across and pedal in 10th. 9th. 8th. Up over the corner and onto Clark. It’s (literally) all down hill from here. Off the sidewalk and in the street and pedaling in 19th. For all I’m worth. App shows 32mph. Speed limit is….uh oh…30. Slow down ever so slightly. Run the red at Central Park and slow down a lot cause my turn is … now. Hard right followed by more braking and hard left and I’m in the driveway. 10.1 miles. 664 calories. 532′ of elevation change. It’s all good.

‘Cept my sweats are caught on the seat and I fall over in my own driveway. Sigh.

Trek 8.3 DS – and a few changes

OK, so back in November, 11/5 to be more precise, I was able to buy my first bike in about 35 years. Probably closer to 40, but I’m not counting. Last year, I did buy a used TerraTrike Tour and found that leaning back, plus the leg pain and all, was not for me.

Truth be told, I’m not sure how I would feel riding one now with the majority of the gut gone. It really had a lot to do with the troubles of riding the trike. Too, TerraTrikes just aren’t that great. Perhaps the newer ones are, I don’t know. Mine was about 5-6 years old and had maybe 10 miles on it when I got it. I did get that verified by a TT dealer. He wondered if it had EVER been ridden! The quality is very low on the older TT trikes. Again, I can’t say whether that trend continues. They are among the lower priced trikes out there but that does NOT mean they are cheap. You’ll drop an easy $1500 on a low-mid range model. Most of the 8-10 models they offer have different ‘trim’ levels, like a Chevy, so you can get a high trim line, lower end one for about $1500 or a low trim line, mid-range model for about the same. Most decent trikes are well over the $2000 mark. Many top $4000 and still quite a few are over $5000.

I know the same is true of high end bikes, but you can get a very decent bike for around $500-700. Which is what I did.

I went to the Giant and Specialized dealers. I also checked out the Trek dealer. I wish I had seen the Cannondale Bad Boy lineup, but I didn’t. Trek was the one that ended up catching my eye. Normally, I research the hell out of things on the ‘net before buying. Be it a flashlight, an incubator or a blanket, I check out reviews and web sites and forums. Why I did not do that first with my bike is still a mystery to me. Which, I guess, means I’m even luckier having bought the Trek. Cause it is one fine machine.

I ended up getting the Trek 8.3 DS or Dual Sport. The .3 is the third trim level of six available. They start around $500 and go up to nearly $2000. Between 3 and 4, the primary differences are hydraulic disc brakes instead of mechanical and better tires. The cost difference is about $2-300. Since I did NOT want hydraulic discs, I guess I was in luck.

I am jumping ahead of myself here. First, I should say I knew I did not want a ‘road’ bike. I knew I did not want a mountain bike, either. I wanted aspects of both. Living in the hills with lots of fire trails and such around me, I knew the skinny tired road bike with the drop bars (really never going to work with my back) was something I wasn’t going to do much with. I actually thought I wanted more of the mountain bike features than road bike. Really, I knew what I wanted more than I knew what I didn’t want.

What I knew I wanted was: disc brakes, shocks, and an upright sitting position.

Disc brakes are nice for up here – they work better in the rain and wet and won’t fail if there’s some mud or debris at the rim level. So I did ok there. Some would disagree, I don’t care.

Shocks, well, shocks were an absolute. One of the few things the sales guy actually told me – and it was very few – was that the shocks probably wouldn’t be that much help on the trails I wanted to ride. They would also (and I would have known this had I done research) take some energy away from my pedaling and put it into the pogoing of the shocks on level ground. This is the action of them going up and down as you pedal – fine when you’re on bumpy trails and off-road, not so fine on level pavement. I know now that I could have had a lighter bike with perhaps some better running gear for the same money. Trek makes the FX lineup and I could have bought the 7.4 disc for about the same money. Oops.

I will say that, even with what I just said and what I’ve learned, the shocks do help on the road to a degree: sometimes I ride the sidewalk and up and down over driveways, plus the broken concrete is much nicer with the shocks. Once spring comes and I can ride in the dirt a bit more, they probably will do a little more for me. So the shocks are a draw.

The upright position is also something I changed. Without some kind of beach cruiser setup, you’re going to lean over. Turns out my back appreciates that more than putting all my weight on it alone. Leaned over, you put 20-40% of your weight on your arms, which in turn means less weight on my bad back. Big plus. So… neither a win nor loss since I didn’t get the upright position I wanted. Win for the position I did get.

So I went in to the Trek dealer armed with these things I wanted. I also knew I wanted a triple up front and at least eight gears in the rear.

The fact is, I knew less of what I didn’t want and really didn’t know why I wanted the things I wanted. I knew (whether right or wrong) that discs were better than rim brakes. I knew this cause all the trikes had disc brakes. Well, most did. Some had drums, like cars from the 60’s. I didn’t know enough about what I wanted or why.  My assumptions were just that and some, like the triple chainring up front and discs were holdovers from my trike days. I didn’t know enough about modern bikes to do comparisons or really shop.

The real reason I ended up buying Trek was that they offered me a credit card – no other maker has one! Sigh.

OK, the painful truth is out.

So, I went in knowing one other thing: I was getting a Trek.

The sales guy started out by suggesting a ‘comfort’ bike. I actually liked the look and all: big seat for my big ass. Shock under the seat. Upright seating. Oh no! No discs. Without telling him why, I said no. I went over to the mountain bikes. I had checked out the store and their inventory and saw a nice mountain bike (MTB) that was about $800 that had a nice Fox shock fork and disc brakes. Seemed good. I pointed that one out and he pulled it for me.

What should have happened here was some sort of measuring to see if the bike would fit me. Instead, he aired up the tires and sent me for a ride. Pushing it along (pedaling, not walking) just felt very difficult. I don’t know whether it was the bike MTB tires or what, but it wasn’t right. So he set me up on a slightly bigger model along the same lines. It was about $600, so it was cheaper. Did have disc brakes – that much I can tell you. Same thing. Pushing it along is just not fun.

While I’m out on this second ride, my sales guy goes on break. I talk to a girl when I get back. I say ‘it would be nice if there was something like a dual purpose bike’. She points out the dual sports or DS line. Hmm. AH! Disc brakes. OK. I’ll try this one. Still more difficult than I’d like. She finally pulls the bike that will be mine: the 2013 8.3 DS in Blue and White. OK, I wanted black and something but ok. This one rides so much nicer! I feel like I’m not pushing it along, but riding it. Not like I’m forcing it to move. I like the feel and the riding position.

One thing: I’ve not discussed it yet with my girlfriend. So, being a bit guilty, I decide I’ll come back.

An hour later, I’m back and I’ll take it. But it has a nearly solid plastic seat. No padding. And despite my huge weight loss, I still need some padding for my ass. So I pick…a woman’s seat. The girl helps me and shows me a man’s seat with some great padding. Lots of padding and gel. Perfect. What else? A small bag for my phone and keys. My plan is to ride the trails of Chico and so I’ll be driving down from the Ridge to the flatlands so I know I’ll need a place for my bit o’ gear. What else? Eh, that should do it.

A few questions about the warranty and they pull it in back to the shop to go over it and install my stuff.

Twenty minutes later, she’s back. I take her outside and realize…. I have no idea how to put this brand new bike in the back of my truck and get it home without scratching it! It doesn’t even have a kickstand. Which wouldn’t help much in the bed of a truck anyhow. I quickly find out that the bed of my Frontier is too short to just lay the bike down. CRAP! I really didn’t think this through. I get it in and get on home.

About forty minutes later, I’m suiting up. For me, I have a pair of bike shorts from my trike days – two sizes too big. Doesn’t matter, they have some padding. Pair of sweats over it. Plus a tshirt and I’m off. I’m not going to go over the ride since I do that at length here on the blog, but within a half mile, my rear hurts so bad I can’t sit down. I still manage almost three miles.

NOW I start reading. I decide what I need: tires and probably some pedals. Oh, and something has to be done with those grips! I check out the Trek website and find a set of integrated bars and nice grips. Iso-Zone is what Trek calls them. Again, a too-quick decision cause the construction of these bars means no bar end grips nor mirrors. But I KNOW what I want. Again.

I do some more checking and find my pedals: Wellgo B-67’s. Those actually ARE a great choice. I’m NOT clipping in, at least not for a good long time.

I do a second 3 mile ride and take her down to the shop. Shifting up to the middle ring on the front is a chore and I know that shifter needs some work. Plus my bars are in. I have the pedals in hand that I found only on eBay! The shop installs all this, plus my new seat (second new one). Today I ride in town.

My ass makes it two miles before the pain sets in but I ride seven miles. I decide I’m not going to find my seat at the store, so I do some research, discard what I learn and buy a Selle. Do a couple rides while I wait for it to arrive. Both in town and both around 4 miles. Ass is still hurting but each ride it makes it a little longer. The Selle arrives.

This time, I install the seat. Boy, I’m getting salty. I can install a seat. And my seat bag. Woohoo. I’m a real bike mech.

For my next ride, I head down to the flat land again. Now I have a rail-based fork mount in my bed. The Frontier has rails along the sides and floor which allow you to mount various things  – like fork mounts. You pull the front wheel via the quick release – which isn’t all that quick, but that’s for another post – and mount the fork dropouts on this bar and a lock tightens down. NICE.

Down on the flats and ride my new seat. It hurts at about 5 miles. Improvement.

That takes us to now – new bars with grips (Iso-Zone), pedals (Wellgo B-67’s), bolt-on the seatpost rack plus my little seatbag. Just got my Niterider 500 headlamp and .5 watt taillamp. Going to return the tail lamp as I wanted the 2watt USB charge-able one. Without glasses, I didn’t notice that was NOT what I got. ARRRGGG!!!! And I did research it this time!!!!

So that takes us to today. I’ve got my Trek DS 8.3 with a few changes. Next has really got to be tires. Really. And maybe a Shimano Alfine 11 speed IGH.

Riding Bidwell

My original intent when purchasing my bike was to ride the flatlands of Chico. There are many bike trails and more than a few parks to ride through. In spring and fall, plus parts of winter, these trails can be absolutely gorgeous. I leave out summer because nothing, save perhaps beef stew and brownies, is gorgeous when it is over 100 degrees. What really happened is that, like most things, I’d not considered everything in my intent. I’m a master – absolute zen freakin’ master – at the middle-level of detail. Nothing above this level escapes my notice or commentary. Likewise, my attention to detail when it comes to planning often finds the minutia lacking. So I’d not considered things like: how to transport the damn bike, the cost of going down and back, how I would dress for that portion of the trip or how long those trips would take.

Naturally, I didn’t account for these because these details – and knowledge of myself and how much I hate all the prep work involved in things (fuck getting ready – let’s dance!) while strangely enough loving the ritual of all things preparatory – would have made the dream of riding in Chico out to be a personal nightmare.

Still, I wanted to try out riding the flats after finding the hills both fun and challenging. I figured then the flatlands, with the lack of needing to climb, would be just plain fun. Again, that lack of attention to the smaller details would damn me. The devil, as they say, is in the details.

Get all the gear together for the ride – helmet, shirts, layers of pants (tights and sweats), shoes. Get a separate batch of clothes for after. Don’t want to walk around in sweaty nastiness after, right? Grab bike, throw it up in the bed of the truck, pull front wheel (why do they call these quick release when they still require all the work?) and lock the forks into the fork mount. Toss the front wheel in the back seat. Check again (giving knowledge of my lack of attention to detail) that I have things like wallet and iPhone. Proceed down Skyway.

1 gallon of gas and $4.20 less rich, reverse process. Get back in cab, slip off jeans, throw on sweats. Put on headphones and get proper app going. Helmet on. Check out bike. Make sure front wheel is actually on, given that I took it off. No wiggle. Get on bike. Worry some that truck will be here when I get back… it’s insured. So.. up to upper park or down through lower? Lower is flatter. Lower it is.

On bike, up on saddle. Off saddle, pull damn sweat pants up so they don’t catch on saddle horn again. Back up on saddle. Headphones pumping out some Pink Floyd ‘Echoes’. Strangely works. Off to the trail. Last look at what I hope is not my last look at my truck. Chicoans excel in stealing cars. Down the trail.

Bidwell is divided roughly into two pieces, lower and upper. Lower is flat and has picnic grounds. Upper is divided further into about 2/3rds of which is anything but flat and contains the dead bodies of other fat bikers who thought they could make the trails and 1/3 mostly flat. This is why I’m riding towards lower. While I’m headed for Lower, I’m parked in Upper and that’s where I’m starting. Down the trail for a bit, PF echoing (ha ha ha) in my headphones, down under the separation between Upper and Lower proper and back up the other side. Why is it that people can’t understand that bikes have to maintain the proper left/right lane deal on trails? Do the same idiots who ride on the left side of a trail also drive on the left side when they leave pavement? Puzzling.

Down the left side of the park trails. One of the two Chico Creeks (Little or Big, can’t remember which) runs through the park, dividing it further. Amazing naming convention given this is a university town, yes? Perhaps big and little, upper and lower is all the alcohol-addled brains of those students who go here could handle when naming came up. Or it was done by cowboys. Not sure. This left side has creek to the right, house backyards to the left. And large numbers of walkers, runners and riders. Some walkers have poopers, also known as dogs. I will be forced to ride through several poop piles on this ride.

Middle-level detail number one: bike is not rolling as it should. In other words, effortless. On level ground – check. Properly inflated – check. On pavement – check, check. So why is it still taking so much effort? Freakin brochure promised effortless pedaling. That was in the brochure…right? No mind. Echoes still playing – it is a long song – off again. It’s late fall and all the color is in full display. Birches and oaks line the path. So does dog poop. First pile ran through. Thank goodness for fenders. Nod hello to other males on path. Wonder for a moment if nodding to females is permitted – and why there should be a difference.

Song finally switches to Shamus. I’ve never had headphones or music while ‘working out’. When watching others, whether in my sporadic (meaning less than ten times in fifty years) trips to the gym or watching runners or cyclers, I never got the whole music while working out thing. I have no idea why. I’d never tried it myself and now that I have – nirvana. Simple as that. Just wonderful. True, I’m not pumping Judas Priest or some other ‘workout’ music (JP is workout music, right?), but I have it on the iPhone. Still Pink Floyd in my ears while riding my bike. Wow.

Keep on going while app announces that I’ve already hit 1 mile. Cool. Calorie count, compared to that of hill climbing, is way down, but so is effort. With the exception of how much perceived effort there is to keep the thing rolling. I’m used to a steady cadence while climbing – I get that. What I don’t get is why I can’t coast for ore than about 30 feet while riding the flat lands. I might change tires.

Down through the trees and now some Temple of the Dog comes on. Nice! I didn’t even know I’d set up a playlist. Although a longtime tech freak, my attention to detail often means I don’t know everything about every piece of tech I own. What fun would that be anyway? TotD is better riding music than Echoes. I get it, I get it.

Two miles. Three miles. Over the bridge just past the underpass for the freeway. The (Big or Little) Chico Creek glides silently beneath me. Silent except for the Mad Season that is now playing. Back up the trail. This side is much more popular, judging by the number of runners, walkers, moms pushing weird things that I’m guessing carry babies or toddlers or probably teenagers in this freaking lazy nation and other cyclers. I ignore those I can, weave around the others and nod to the cyclers. When I rode a Harley, we had this thing called the low wave. Left hand extended down and out as you passed. Way cool. That’s replaced by the nod for cycling. No matter how cool the bike, they are never going to approach the cool factor of a Harley. Sorry.

Five miles and six. Finally some Priest! And Maiden! Up the Irons! Seven miles. Testament playing ‘Souls of Black’. Eight miles. Never have I done eight miles. Almost back to the lower part of Upper. Down under the tube and up again. Nine miles. And there’s the Blue Mule! The truck has survived. Me too.

Off comes the front wheel, bike in the bed and hooked up to the fork holder. Gear comes off. Some water goes in. Yeah, remembered the headphones – forgot the water bottle. Wrong sense of priorities. Rest and try to look cool having just ridden….well, ridden more than I ever have. That’s an accomplishment. For me. 440 calories. Oh! and 220′ of elevation change. Huh. Didn’t know that. I’m pretty happy.

I decide to go off to the bike store and get myself a little something. Yeah, like teflon tires. Hmm. Tires.

Ascending Paradise

I’m starting to get this route down. Even my app has it named correctly and reports it to the web with accuracy. I’d prefer it lie a little – maybe they can get a fishermen/programmer to write the next version. Today was much warmed than my last ride – must be like 54 out there. F not C. So I went with helmet, tshirt under sweatshirt, underwear under sweat pants and socks and shoes. Oh, and some old Harley gloves I have. Turns out, I have about seven pairs of them. All in classic Harley black which goes with everything.

So it takes a lot less time to get ready this time. Slip everything on, grab the phone, put it in the new SlipGrip holder (check them out – awesome stuff!) and dial in the music app. Left glove on, right off to fasten the helmet buckle and start the bike app. Check pressure. A few pumps. Good to go. Out the door and up the driveway and GOD DAMN IT. I forgot the headphones again. Turn around. Once without them is plenty. OK, glove back off, stop, delete ride. Run in, grab headphones, ready. Turn ON headphones. Now ready. What jerkoff asswipe corporate pennypinching punk made the labels so small on headphones? They were easier to read when I was a kid.

Check the music – good playlist of Motorhead (Iron Fist), some Green Day (again), Metallica, Mad Season and Temple of the Dog. I won’t need all this so chose shuffle to ensure I get at least a couple songs of each. And off we go. Up the short court (short now – killed me first ride) and down the first leg. Almost exactly a mile to the bottom starting point of the climb. Takes four minutes. Average speed just over 10 mph. This time, hit the trail and not the park walking trail. Nice. Looks like I know what I’m doing. Gear down almost immediately to second. Start spinning. See, the incline at this point is minimal and I don’t have to mash – yet. Spin for a while, focusing on how my legs are moving , how they tilt and go up and down. Motorhead plays – abuses “Religion”. I keep my attention on Lemmy and cadence.

I’m convinced that, now that I’m going to ride, going to go through the pain, that it’s going to be worth it. In other words, I’m not going to laze through the climb. I want to keep the cadence – and therefore heartrate – up. Spinning works, so does a higher gear and a little pushing. So up to third. Push and push and push and back down to second. Then I spot them. Four teens on the trail. Holy spinning bat spit what time is it? 3:15???? I left when school lets out?? About half the kids – the ones that aren’t pussies and get their moms to pick them up – walk the trail. Terrific. Great. I’m riding, already in 2nd gear, pulling nearly 6.1 mph and now I’m going to be passing kids. Did I mention my huge enormous self-confidence issue? The one NOT made better by me already panting, ney, gasping for air and the app hasn’t announced the two mile mark yet? I roll past the kids who pay no more attention to me than they did all day to their teachers. I relax a bit and check cadence. Shoot, another grouping. Why do they move like that, in groups? Are they afraid of gangs? In our completely whitebread, mostly retired (even a large number of still living retired Nazis from what I’ve heard) town of 24000? Or is it just the want-to-belong mechanism? One thing, they aren’t going to acknowledge me nor move so I can remain on trail rather than mud/pine needles. Bastards. At least you’ll grow up in a world even more messed up than ours! And I helped screw it up! HA! Revenge.

Ah, crap, never mind. Down to 1st. Already in 1st. Incline has increased, cadence has decreased. Heart rate up, sweating and drippings from nose all present. Great. Must wait for gangs…er groups… to pass so I can pause. Catch my breath a bit. As mile 2 is announced, I notice that my ass doesn’t hurt yet! An improvement. Groups passed, I take a rest. Just straddle the bike, grab the h2o and take in the 3oz I can swallow. One limitation of the gastric bypass is the ability to take on liquid. Pouch is limited to 3-4oz – no matter the input. Makes keeping hydrated a challenge. I keep it under a minute. Foot on right pedal, push up to seat. Damn. It. To. Hell. Sweat pants catch on seat and pull down, exposing fat ass. Great. Check behind. No teens. Whew. No Amber alert about some guy on a bike flashing high schoolers. Pull UP sweats and off we go. Minute break was all I needed. Now this is my tenth ride, I’m getting some things down. I know where to put my ass on the seat, feet on the pedals, hands on the bars. Green Day does “She” from Dookie. Favorite GD album. Yes album. It doesn’t imply vinyl – it implies a collection. So album for me.

It’s all uphill for at least 3 more miles. Sounds like nothing but it’s  a lot to a former fat guy on his tenth ride. Feel like I can’t make it – KNOW that I can. Ride to app says mile 4. Also tells me that my speed was 6.4mph and average speed, which by now has dropped to whatever current speed is on previous rides, is still 8.2mph! More signs of improvement. That does not make the climbing easier. Still spinning in second gear. From mile 1 through mile 5, it’s solid uphill without a single foot of level or downhill – ever. From 1250′ to 2000′. Mile 4 is rest time. Again. Panting. I’ll rest two minutes. I’ll gasp for two minutes. Stomach/pouch still complaining from last fluid, so I forgo that. Two minutes is up – so are my drawers. Up on the seat, off up the trail.

From here, I have a couple choices: before I hit mile 5, I can turn right and head down and back to home. If I keep going up, I can get about 2 more miles in before I run out of trail. I’ve done it before. As I hit mile 5, the choice is easy and a graceful right turn is made. Speed picks up. App tells me I’m at 12mph, 2104′ elevation, 5 miles. Up the gear range getting some speed and power on the slight decline and level section. Hit the main drag and start the very fast descent. I go this way for two reasons: 1) faster downhill and 2) the other way has one last climb I’ve not made without walking. I don’t like to walk. Turn past the bank, jump a couple bad sections of pavement and speed piles on. Off to the left on the other side of the street, some kid on a mtb that cost as much as my laptop sees me and flies across the street. First driveway he pulls a wheelie which he rides across the green light and back up over the curb onto the sidewalk and down the sidewalk. Showoff.

Mile 6 chimes in (interupting Mad Season) and telling me I’m going 33 mph and rapidly descending. Duh. Mile 6.3 and a slower right turn and down into my court. 45 minutes, 6.3 miles, one aired-out ass. Can’t wait to do it again.

Riding the Ridge

Since my gastric bypass surgery, I’ve been losing weight pretty steadily. Now that a year has gone by, I’ve got some of the stomach (or pouch) size back, so I can eat a bit more than I used to following the surgery. That, of course, means more calories and with my limited lifestyle, intake is beginning to approach outgo. Which means weight loss has stabilized. In other words, I’m not losing any more. That means I’ve got to do one of two things: decrease the intake or increase the calorie burn.

Let’s face it, had I been able to control the calorie part, I wouldn’t have needed gastric bypass. I do control it to some degree – I don’t eat much garbage food and the stuff I do eat is more healthy than the stuff I used to eat. I still have the occasional candy bar and piece of cake, but I don’t drink any milk (down from a gallon – GALLON – a day) and I don’t snack on potato chips and dip. Like, ever. So I have brought down both the quantity and raised the quality of the stuff I do eat. That said, I still eat too much and too much of the wrong thing. Enough so that weight loss is not happening.

The other part is increasing calorie burn. Again, we have a pre-existing condition. With calorie intake, that condition is the almost complete absence of willpower. With burn, the limiting factor is the massive sciatica and back pain that I have. Both have remained constant, despite the weight loss and even the addition of additional drugs aimed at lessening nerve swelling. So most aerobic and all strength building exercises are right out.

Last year, while I was 365, I bought a recumbent trike. The fact that you sit right on the part of the back that is the worst for me, plus the HUGE GUT that rested on my thighs while in the seat made it impossible to ride. I was able to piece together perhaps four total rides of maybe 3 miles each. Each left me in horrible pain for days. I sold the trike.

So this year and against what logic would seem to dictate, I bought a regular bike. A hybrid model which sits you a bit more upright, without placing all the weight on your butt.

My intention was to take it down to Chico and ride the multiple bike trails the town has – and they have many. Like most things with me, if something is challenging or even a bit inconvenient to do, I won’t do it. If my vitamins aren’t out in front on me all day, I won’t take them. And since going to Chico means taking the front wheel off and on, hooking up the bike to the fork rack and then driving up and down the Ridge, well, I ain’t doing it for every ride. Instead, and again, defying all logic, I decided to ride the Ridge.

Since our town is about six miles South to North and two miles East to West, the boundaries and riding areas are limited. The other part is the main reason I planned to ride Chico – the elevation changes. From my house to the bike trail involves a 110′ gain in elevation then a 112′ drop. In 2/3 of a mile. 100′ of elevation change per mile is considered steep for new riders. Once on the trail, and heading up, the elevation change averages 400′ per mile. It’s steep.

Nonetheless, all but two of my rides so far have been on the Ridge. I started at 2.8 miles, then 4.8 miles, then 6 miles and my last ride was 8 miles. That is round trip, of course. The 8 mile trip involved a total elevation change of nearly 900′.

You would think I’d be hating it. After all, I’ve hated even the word exercise my entire life. I’m loving it. I can’t wait for each ride. My ass hurts like someone branded it after 3-4 miles, but it’s toughening up. And now I have a really good seat (saddle) so I should improve. Each ride, I want to increase my distance. With the last ride, I went to the top of the trail. That means I’m going to have to ride down to be able to ride up. I’m hoping to be able to do the 10.8 mile roundtrip from bottom to top by the end of December. I will make it. That should burn around 800 calories.

While my back and sciatica really don’t appreciate the riding, the rest of me does. For once, I plan not to listen to the pain and instead, listen to my iPod.