Thursday, October 30, 2008

Brevet Lighting -- Schmidt Dynamo Hub

I set up my brevet light for the commutes.  There's the "hub" and my light mounted to the fork.  A wire from the light connects to the hub. It's simple and reliable--and it means brevet season is around the corner!

Early last week I found myself riding home in the dark.  The bike path was set to re-open, I thought--but when I arrived there was a new sign but no dates given or message that it would re-open anytime soon--only signs that stated to stay out and stay away.  

Not going to take the other side of the river path, I double-backed, rode down toward the Desert San, around the construction, and in no time I was moving along on the bike route.   Gee but it was like 5:20 in the evening--where had the time gone?  And the sun was setting quickly.  Its gonna be dark.

The colors of Randonneurs USA.

Last Monday here in Tucson, Gentle Reader, wind came to town and blasted us.   I was still recovering from my 70 tough miles on Sunday--now Monday morning, a strong relentless headwind wore me down and only got stronger as the climb in the foothills got steeper.   

After work, I stiffly shuffled outside, but was happy because I would have a tail wind and I could sail home.  I was beat from work and from the weekend.    But as I said above, I got to the bike path and it was closed, and I had to back-track.

Even with a tailwind, and riding as fast as I could--I ended up riding in the dark with only my small blinking light.  And I had to make that dangerous left turn onto busy Ina Rd.   I made it, but in the dark and with people rushing home, I'm uneasy when cars are speeding by so fast.

Light mounted on the fork at this height seems to work best.

The commuter light that recharges every night worked okay, but now I'm riding 12 miles in the dark before the sun comes up over the mountains.   My lights are dead just as the sun rises over Mt. Lemmon.  

So later that night, I pulled out the Schmidt Dynamo Hub, mes amis.  The hub means serious randonneering, and I swallowed hard because the hub is your constant companion through long and dark nights on a 300, 400, and 600 Km brevet.  Eventually one day as you gain experience with long hours of night riding, you will desire a Schmidt Dynamo Hub.   

Even when setting up the beam to aim it just right, the Lumotec lamp lights up like a  motorcycle light.  It is superior, in my opinion, to battery light technology for bikes.  

Switching on the light just as the sun is going down, and I'm off the bike path and in busy traffic once more...

The rest of the week, the light worked well, especially in the mornings when I'm riding down a narrow road called Thornydale.   The road is not in the best of conditions, but now I can see and this means I can ride faster on the downhill with confidence.

There is the issue of drag with the Dynamo Hub.  Yeah, you can feel it, and for some people, this is a major drawback.   By Friday I was beginning to lose energy--maybe it was the hub or maybe it was just that I was tired.  Over several hundred miles, like on a ride like Paris-Brest-Paris, the drag could affect a rider's time--but for me, its no different from having to carry all your gear along for a long brevet.   You must carry warm clothing for the early morning start, then peel that off for the day, and then have it ready again for the cold night in the saddle to the finish.

I would not want the hub for the climb up Mt. Lemmon--but if I was coming down in the dark, trying to make a controle, Gentle Reader of This Blog, nothing else would do!

Allure Libre! 

Sunday, October 26, 2008

70 Tough Miles

I went out to the base of Mt. Lemmon on the new 200 km Brevet course. I knew it was going to be cold in the morning, and I didn't want to carry much in the way of lights and clothing. Espresso Drini, our local cafe, was open--so I popped in for an Americano and waited for the Sun to come up over the mountains. Yeah, it was cold, but I warmed up as I really hammered the first 25 miles to Sabino Canyon.

I made a stop at Le Buzz, which seems to be the hang-out for Mt. Lemmon riders. Things just didn't feel right, mes amis--everybody seemed to have all the right bikes and all the right clothes--all very expensive. Everybody was beautiful and fit-looking. I was scruffy, unshaven, and caked with sweat. It was like I was the Dumb Okie who showed up to the wedding in jeans.

I couldn't tell if people had just finished climbing, were going to start climbing--or just showed up to chat and sip espresso. Instead I opted for the McD's and spent $1.40 on large Coke.

Heading back, it was hot--I'll borrow the expression from my friend Dan Trued; I was in the Death Zone--that's when it starts to get in the 90's and 100's. I also had head wind out of the West. Even though it was still early, like 10 a.m. I realized that I was dehydrated, pushing way to hard--and needing to stop and find water. I had only been off the bike once at McD's.

I found water at the top of La Canada and Naranja--where the Oro Valley City Hall's located. There was a drinking fountain and I filled up. But by then it was a little too late. I had worn myself down and started to limp home. In the whole 70 miles, I hadn't made a stop to use the bathroom, and that was the tell-tale sign of not drinking enough. I should have been smarter.

Callie was glad I was back. She was ready to play. I threw the ball for her in the backyard for a few minutes, and then I took a shower. I slept like a log for two hours.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

Week By Bike--Sabino Canyon

Top of Sabina Canyon Rd, at Stop 9

Early this week Little Egypt had a flight to Ohio--I would ride into work, she would pick me up at Noon--I'd drop her off at the airport for her flight--and I would drive home at the end of the day and take my bike. So not having to carry everything in saddle bags in the morning meant a chance to ride my swift road bike. Since I have change of office attire at work--all I need carry are keys and billfold.

Battery lights set up on the LeMond--I use the same on my Raleigh for the morning commute.

I've been wanting to add a few more miles to my morning commute because there would be two more good climbs. I don't really have time to ride up to Stop 9 in Sabino Canyon--but as I am the only one holding down the fort at work this week--I could get in anytime I wanted within reason. If I add the miles, I won't ride the 3.9 miles further up into the canyon. I'll turn around at the entrance and head into work.

I saw someone ride off a cliff one fine morning, and helped the Paramedics rescue the poor woman. Luckily, she was not seriously hurt...

Sabino Canyon--started as a Civilian Conservation Corps project in the 1930's. It was a favorite local hangout for picnics and swimming, and many hiking trail heads start here and then wind their way up to Mt. Lemmon. It was closed to automobiles in the 1970's --too much drunken ness, litter and vandalism.

Mornings see it now with runners, walkers (old ladies on Constitutionals) and occasional cyclists. Grumpy Rangers, who are usually  retired old farts that volunteer, don't care for cyclists much--and will lecture on going too fast. Do your very best to show that you could care less. Picking your nose, arranging your junk, farting, or some other retarded act will suffice...

Speaking of retarded, a handful of roadies have killed themselves on this road. They probably hammered the climb, and expected their reward of a fast, curvy descent--only to instead meet death. So yeah, you got to be careful, mes amis...

Okay, the Lion Thing in Sabino Canyon: The mountain lions came down, probably because of the drought, looking for prey. They began stalking the runners and the walkers--and the tourists. A few times, the Jones family or the Smith family from Retardville, Wisconsin found themselves face-to-face with a hungry lion eyeing little Timmy or Sally Mae.

And then lions were hanging out on the school playground that's across the street. Local Game and Fish set out on a mission to kill them, and unfortunately rightly so--but the mistake they made was not to inform the public why they had to kill the lions; because if they captured and removed them, the lions would find their way back to Sabino Canyon and the cycle would repeat again.

Perfect mountain lion habitat!

One of my buddies was a Park Ranger with the National Park Service. Often they had "problem bears" that is bears that are not afraid of humans. They would come up to your car, and rip out the windows to get to your food. They would even show up at your picnic and take what ever they wanted. Nothing worked to scar them away. They would catch them and fly them three and four hundred miles away--but a few weeks or months later, the bear would be back. After three attempts to relocate the offending bear, they would have to kill the bear. There was not much they could do, other than try to get people to understand that you don't feed the bears; they lose their fear, get into mischief, and ultimately have to be destroyed.

There was a lot of emotional out-cry from the people of Tucson, and I will admit, I was against Game and Fish killing the lions. But after my friend Bob, the Nat'l Park Ranger explained it to me, in a sober and thoughtful manner, I could see that there wasn't much else they could do.

Game and Fish took on a condescending, Great White Hunter attitude that only pissed people off and fueled the fire. Had they just communicated with the public in a forthright, respectful manner, all the mis-information spewed by the peace-queers wouldn't have resulted in the above sign. Which is really a poor compromise. Since we've destroyed their habitat, like other wild animals, they are forced to hunt for food in our parks and backyards.  The lions were eventually captured and released.  But they had to take them many thousands of miles away to guarantee they would not return.  Still, there are reports of lions in Sabino Canyon.  Actually I think it would be really cool to see one in the wild--they are very rare nowadays.

Before I left Sabino Canyon, I turned around to get a shot of Sabino Canyon Rd for you. I need to get going to the office as its about 8 a.m. Bikes are allowed until 9 a.m., and then later in day after 5 p.m., you can be back on the road. No bikes on Wedsday or Saturday.

Sun coming up starts to warm my bones--I'm having to wear leg warmers and under-shirt to keep out the morning chill.

As I put away gear and un-load my bike, Callie and I throw the tennis ball before calling it a day.


Sunday, October 19, 2008

Steve, Star of the Blog

Steve drives down early Saturday morning to Dog Mtn.

We didn't want to carry lights, so we left right at Sunrise. This is heading East on Moore Rd--you can see Mt. Lemmon dead-ahead as the Sun comes over Pusch Ridge.

Its still a bit cool, and there's a few cold spots when you ride near a wash. Steve and I are heading South on La Cholla--part of the Mt. Lemmon 200 km Brevet course.

Before you know it, we're through Oro Valley and headed East on Calle Concordia. The sun is rising over Pusch Ridge and this road will end on Oracle Rd.

The morning is perfect for cycling. Even a flat can't dampen spirits.

Steve and I made good time climbing Ina and Sunrise--my commute route is a good portion of the Brevet course--now we're starved. Its best to shot down Swan Ave and head straight for the Hungry Fox!

The food is great! Traditional American Heartland cooking! All the regular patrons of this restaurant are obese--you can eat this food, but if you're not working the farm, working cattle and driving calves, or training for a brevet up Mt. Lemmon, Gentle Readers of This Blog--you will become a fat tub of goo...

After eating 8,000 of the most tasty heavenly calories in your life, mes amis, you must get back on the road. Steve and I will climb back up Swan from downtown Tucson back into the mountains. This climb alone will burn 4,000 calories from the get-go!

Climbing up Swan Ave into the Catalina Foothills...

Okay, I talk Steve Star of the Blog into one more climb--that light below is the intersection of Sunrise and Craycroft. Normally I turn and head down this road into my office. Instead I talk Steve into turning left and going up a few more miles into the mountains. He was overjoyed to burn off another 2 or 3 thousand calories on one of my whims!

This is a three or four mile loop carved up in the foothills. There's some pretty luxurious homes up here. It does feel remote and rugged. We can see the Rincon Mtn Range from up here as well.

We are just just below the top of Pusch Ridge.

At the Sabino Canyon visitor center there's water and bathrooms. For us, a rest stop in the shade as well.

It's time to head back home. Temps are reaching 95 degrees--its getting hot mes amis. We've ridden 40 miles, and to get back we'll have to climb considerably.

This was a good ride. Great weather and easy going. Often because I'm running late for work, I have to really hammer on my commute--it was nice not to have that pressure, and just make it to breakfast for biscuits and gravy, and hot coffee.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Week By Bike

My commuter light is great, and I've needed it these crisp mornings for the first 10 miles of the ride into the office. One thing I've noticed is that the light attracts bugs while I'm making my clip down the road. Early this week on a fast descent, I small knat or fly hit me in the eye, somehow under my glasses.

It was a bit painful, and I rubbed the insect out of my eye pretty much I thought--but by yesterday morning my eye was red and sore. The employee nurse here at the Desert Sanatorium looked me over and said some bacteria or whatever got in there, and now I have a sty on my eyelid; it will go away in a few days.

Also, memos went throughout the institution--one of the employees that lives nearby the campus seems to have lost their pet goat. The campus of the Desert San here in lovely Tucson, Arizona, is large, Gentle Readers of This Blog. A goat or even a cow could stomp around unnoticed for a few days until you discovered the creature in your parking spot. A few washes cross the area, and wildlife abounds. Several large packs of coyotes live on the campus too. They're so used to seeing me that they never give me a second look.

I was contacted and asked if I'd seen the goat, as my commute route takes me on roads that follow the washes and then the river path. Besides joggers, horseback riders, and cyclists, coyotes are represented quite well in the mix.

I would say that Goat was a welcome dinner guest at the home of Senor y Senora Jorge and Martha Coyote, mes amis!


Monday, October 13, 2008

Leg Warmers

I'm helping scout out the new 200 km Brevet Course which goes up to Mt. Lemmon. Lots of construction on the old course. Gerry Goode reported this to Susan, as did I a few weeks ago. Susan, RBA for Arizona, sent me a route as suggested by Gerry--which I drove home last week--and rode part of this morning. I did not know most of these roads even existed. For years most of them have been under construction. I must report that the new course is perfect--not much traffic, and it's fast and smooth--and will prove challenging to all riders.

Heading East on Moore Rd. Mt. Lemmon in the background at 7 a.m.--It was quite cold--just below 50 degrees. This was the first day that I had to wear leg warmers, mes amis.

This is La Canada, looking North. I've ridden East on Moore, then headed South down La Canada. This is a great piece of road but until recently, it was dangerous near Moore and Tangerine Rds--and also not easy to ride to get to this point. This is the corner of La Canada and Calle Concordia. I didn't know of this road, and now thanks to Gerry's suggestion, we'll take this route and head East from here.

This is the town of Oro Valley. You'll see the valley and you'll ride right through and over OV via this bridge. It's huge--and for a long time there was nothing here. Most of this road was simply crumbing two-lane hwy and sometimes dirt. Now golf courses and up-scale homes are everywhere.

East on Calle Concordia, and pictured above is Pusch Ridge. Pusch was the name of a ranching family (Mt. Lemmon is behind the ridge here) and the area appears to have some of the old ranch spreads in tact.

This is where the horse people still live. The road isn't so much for a bike lane as for horseback riders. Calle Concordia is paved, but all the neighborhood backstreets are dirt.

Oracle Rd is just up ahead--if you follow my blog or live in Tucson, you know that Oracle Rd is pretty damn fast and congested and a major hwy in this town. You wouldn't know unless you rode through here on a bike that horses out-number cars and people. And the people are laid back and wave as they tend horses for work and for riding lessons. Lots of people out for riding lessons. I saw jumpers and dressage riders, and I saw Mexican and Anglo cowboys riding side by side--but soon the road is newly paved, the houses are McMansions, and the wide street for cowboys to ride on the side of the road is now a bike lane for Yours, Gentle Reader of This Blog.

I decide I won't ride on Oracle this morning--instead I'll turn around and head home, and I'll watch the young women ride English and post and canter. I have today off and there's no need to rush anywhere. The clock isn't running and I'm not trying to make a controle. I still need the leg warmers all the way back to Dog Mtn!


Friday, October 10, 2008

Of Mice and Bikes

This week I rode into the office three days for a total of 120 miles. Each morning was cooler, and I needed lights for the first 12 miles or so as sunrise is later and later--but just by minutes. Tuesday and Wednesday I wore gloves--Fall has certainly set up shop!

I had one very close call Monday morning--I was making a left, and I had signaled and was setting up for my turn. As I'm just coming down from Dog Mtn, I'm riding about 22 mph--which is fast--and the turn is a fast turn. I almost always have the green light. Some Joe Sixpack decides to try and beat me to the left, he speeds up, passes me, then cuts me off to make the turn. He misjudged his speed and mine, and the distance, such that in the turn we almost collided. The expression on his face was like, "Holy Shit!" He slowed down to make sure he hadn't in fact made me crash--then he floored the gas pedal and took off.

It was a very stupid move on his part, and quite illegal. Usually at that time in the morning there's a few Sheriffs Deputies cruising past at this intersection--they drop into a cafe just down the street. They wave when they see me now. I ride past their substation when I pass the YMCA. Had they seen Joe Six pull that maneuver, his name would be mud!

Going home is surreal--the sunsets are postcard-amazing and you'd want to send to your friends back in Wisconsucks, Minnesofreakingcold or Ilkinnoise... Trouble is, you can't see as you're blinded. Rides home this week have been close to 95--and I have to tell you that's fine because imagine this sun in the summer when its 102!

One morning I was stopped at the light at Oracle and Ina. A very busy intersection and I'm there squeezed in between cars and cement trucks and buses. The bike lane ends back where the right turn lanes starts--so cyclists have to maneuver into position so as not to get hit by traffic on the left, and not get hit by motorists setting up to make a right. Again, this is busy intersection and for a time, the sun is blinding you and the drivers. It is best when the light is red because everyone has to slow down. The light is long to accommodate all the traffic.

As I waited for the light to turn green, a rat crossed from the other corner of the street and headed toward the Starbucks on the other side. He gave me a glance but really seemed not to care much for the likes of me. You look around, every body's on their cell phone--rats got yer number, Baby!

Wednesday after work, I jumped off Swan, and into the park--Whoa! I practically crash into this sign. This wasn't here yesterday evening--

The other side is mostly dirt. It's used by runners and horseback riders. There's also heavy construction that seems to be going on all the time too. It was a mess, and the actual trail I needed wasn't always clearly marked.

A few people walking their dogs gave me good directions, and then I met up with another commuter and he showed me the way to Dodge and River Rd. He had a mtn bike so he had no trouble riding the dirt trail--but he was a good sport and when I had to walk my bike, he did the same. I won't be able to use the bike trail because its too slow. I know a few other ways and I'll get around all the construction they're doing for a few weeks. Some parts you couldn't even ride your horse through let alone a bike.

Not many joggers or runners out, so I make some time and ride fast on the bike path. Normally I wouldn't ride so fast because I believe it bad manners to speed while people are walking and running. They can't hear you, and if they sense someone behind them, they turn to look and you can run right into them. As there's always kids and dogs--best to be safe and relax.

All clear on the bike route. The street above will have slow moving traffic.

As Hurricane Norbert is making his way to the coast of Mexico, the wind picked up by mid-week. I get a pretty good shot of headwind--more than usual--but mostly I pace myself for the long climb I've got to make to the YMCA. If I try to fight the wind too much, I'll start to cramp on the climb--I need to have enough for my sprint into traffic to make my last and dangerous left turn onto Ina and then home.


Monday, October 06, 2008

Picacho Peak Dairy Queen

Eric calls me on a sleepy Sunday afternoon--"Let's ride, Bro!" I suggest riding up to Dairy Queen and back, for a quick 50 mile spin.

Eric leaves from his house, and I leave from mine. We meet on the Frontage Rd right at 3 p.m. I take out the Raleigh Marathon; the bike has a 69 cm frame or "Big Sexy" as everyone likes to call it.

Picacho Peak DQ is 28 miles from my house up in Dog Mtn. This shot is about from eight miles out. We're heading North up to Phoenix.

We've got a steady headwind and we're riding strong. Eric says as I'm sitting up so high on Big Sexy, there's a incredible draft.

The DQ is one of the controles on the Brevet routes. You can see this tower and its red flashing beacon from 10 or so miles out on the Frontage Rd, in either direction. Eric and I stop just to fill up our water bottles--we need to get back before sunset.

A much needed tailwind drives us home for the return trip. We've brought clip-on lights in case we need them for the last few miles.

John and Kathy come out to meet us--bearing ice cream!


Eric "The Wing" and "Eye Candy" Heller...

A strong tailwind going home, and I make it just in time for dinner. That's the perfect way to wrap up the weekend, mes amis!