Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Commuting with My Schmidt Dynamo Hub

On the cold commute into the office this morning, a few solitary snow flakes fell as I climbed just below the snowline of Pusch Ridge.

My Schmidt Dynamo will serve me well on the long commute I believe I must now ride in to avoid traffic. It’s the Mt. Lemmon 200 Km Brevet course, which for the first 13 or so miles, takes me through some remote places. There’s still open desert out there, and I’ll ride through some older Tucson neighborhoods—dwellings that have blended into the landscape so things still feel like rural desert.

Thanksgiving Weekend will be cloudy with some rain. There will be snow on Mt. Lemmon!

How do I feel about the drag of the hub? I just know that the new ones have a lot less drag/no drag at all—that I’ve heard from a bunch of the fellows I met from out-of-town recently. My hub is older and there’s some weight—but I have to say that as I get going I don’t notice the drag that much.

What I will say is that it’s bright. Out in the open desert, and on the remote underdeveloped part of the bike path, it works great.

Busy traffic at about River Rd and Campbell Ave.

This gives you a bit of an idea of the beam of my Lumotec lamp. The beam goes out about 20 yards. Part of the beam falls a bit closer, and again closer to light the area around my wheel. The beam lights up an area about four to five feet wide.

I have a knob that I bought from Profile Design, that attaches to the fork, as you can see. The price I paid for that simple little attachment was a rip-off, but it works. The best thing I like about that knob is that I don’t have it so tight that I can’t adjust the beam as I ride. I can move the lamp up or down slightly depending on where I’m at. Also, if I hit a bump or something, there’s some give, and possibly the lamp won’t snap off.

I tried the lamp on my handle bars but it was too high—for me the fork works best. I have a white strobe/blinky light that I believe works best on the handle bars for visibility. As you know, the hub generated light dims as you slow. I want to have the blinky light such that no one turns left in front of me as I continue forward from a stop sign or stop light.

Here I'm about to jump off the bike path into traffic, and make my 3 mile climb to rendezvous with Little Egypt. The bike lane is at least eight feet wide, and the 3 miles of climbing is uninterrupted with no entrances for cars to pull in and out of.

Happy Thanksgiving, Gentle Reader!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Beer Can

Possibly an intoxicated motorist, with cohorts, threw a beer can at me as they ran me off the road last night. It was on the commute home—things happened fast—a mostly full can of beer sloshed over my shoulder. The black body of the automobile squeezed me out of the bike lane. I went into gravel and rocks beyond the pavement. I stayed on the bike but my front tire blew out and I got a hard jolt out of the bumpy ride over the rocks. It was getting dark, but I could still see a little—the car, which I couldn’t make out, was a few blocks from the traffic light at Ina and La Canada. The light changed red and they had to stop and wait. If my tire would not have been flat, I would have certainly caught up to them, got the plates, and called the police.

They were too far away for me to read the plate or make out what kind of car. Soon other cars moved in to fill the space at the light, and then it changed green.

I struggled to get the tire off the wheel, and then back on the bent rim. And I had a difficult time getting the tube to hold air—maybe I had a bad tube? Could have been. So I pumped up the tire, rode until it went flat, then pumped up the tire again—this I did for a mile until my tire pump broke—just like the night before.

I was in a fix because Little Egypt was not feeling well and I had driven the car to the YMCA then rode to work—that way she wouldn’t have t pick me up. My only choice was to walk the three miles to the Y parking lot.

For something different, I rode the same way back as I did riding in. It’s a bit more dangerous because of Ina and Oracle Rds—and it was a bit tricky when I reached that point—more on that in a moment.

Since most of my ride to work is climbing, when I reached the top of Swan and Sunrise—the very top of my climb and then a fast descent into work—now the way home would be fast, and it was very fast, Gentle Readers of This Blog!

Ina and Oracle intersection was packed and cars were backed up into the bike lane for a half mile. I rode precariously between the jammed cars in the bike lane and the jammed cars in the left lane—and in no time I was at the light in the safe zone of the bike lane. That was not a very safe thing to do and maybe that’s where the hater stuck in traffic saw me and got irate. He probably sucked down another beer to get up the courage to confront me on down the road—the fucker.

I believed that I would be okay riding this way home because it is the El Tour de Tucson course, and there have been so many cyclists out that one more—me—wouldn’t bother anyone. Little Egypt says for me to stick with my regular route, and our planned pick-up point.


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Flat Tire Night Ride

I rode about three miles into the commute home, then had a blow out. Problem was that the pump I have broke just after a few strokes. Hmm... Not good. I'm in a part of town that you drive or bike through and you don't want to stop--its a rough area; dirty, run-down, and full of low-life. I called Little Egypt for possible evac--but I wanted to get the hell out this area so I scanned about for a back-up plan.

Across the street, a fleet of tow trucks are pulling in and they're closing up shop (more like "chop shop") and they can see I need some air for the tire. I'm looking for a break in the haul-ass traffic for a dash across the street. For you Tucson fans, I'm on Alvernon Rd near Ft. Lowell (yeah, that shitty part of town...)

Tow truck guys air up my tire and its good; I wait for the chance to sprint across the street back to the bike, which waits in the parking lot of a seedy looking apartment complex. The complex is old and run down, and the inhabitants are arriving back after their day of what-ever-it-is they do. One young kid about 20 or so looks me over--and spits on the pavement, as I snap on the wheel to the Raleigh But we will have no chance for conversation because I am out outta there.

My tire blew, but when I changed the tube, I didn't find any puncture. I left it, as well as the piece of shit hand pump there in parking lot. That 20 yro convict-looking chap can have to make himself a bong for all I care... But my hub wouldn't work. It was getting dark fast and really there's no time to waste--a cell call to Little E and evac will be at the Rillialto River Park.

The sun is going down. I'm good and riding fast--no one is out here. The air is clean and the sky is wonderful to behold. I would never have seen such sights had it not been for a flat tire, Gentle Readers.

I have my small blinky light on board, and that's enough to get me by. As the sun goes down, it sure starts to cool off. Then on one stretch of the bike path, it becomes quite dark. Wish my hub was working!

Little Egypt arrives just as I do, and in a matter of minutes, we are on our way home. It was 6 p.m. by my watch, so my speed in the dark was good and 6 is my regular time to get a lift.

I discovered that the bulb on my Schmidt Hub had blown out as well, after about 20 minutes of checking every connection. When I removed the bulb and looked closely at it, the thin wire inside was broken. The the replacement bulb I've had forever was now in service, and with the new bulb, the beam of the Lumotec lamp was brighter than ever. It occurs to me that I should order a few more bulbs, and always carry a spare with the bike. What ever I ran over in the road, and then the blowout might have possibly been enough to cause the bulb to fail. Who knows?

I should also carry CO2 for a backup just in case the hand pump fails/gets lost/falls off.

Callie was very glad to see me, and I her. I threw the ball endlessly from the garage for her as I worked on the lights, then packed up for the next day's ride.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Cycling Mt. Lemmon: You Can Do It!

Here we go!

Unofficial start of Mt. Lemmon Climb, mes amis--Le Buzz. This morning it was cold, and the sun was not quite warming the patio, hence--only the most intrepid cyclists. Without the cyclists, the locals were in abundance. They seemed quite nice and didn't mind us click-clacking around. Last time I was here, I was by myself, and the place was full of cyclists with the current most expensive bikes from Europe--and Lycra advertising corporate France and Italy. This time, there were some serious looking back-packers and hikers--getting that last cup of joe. Coffee is good, as is the food. So--if you are in fact going to ride Mt. Lemmon, why not treat yourself?

We've driven to the base. You will need water and Cliff Bars and Hammer Gel, as you will burn calories quickly. It will be cold, then hot, then you will be cold--and then hot again. You will need to bring the right clothes if you plan to ride to the top as coming down will be chilly.

Its a few miles out until you actually start climbing. The newly completed Brad Gorman Memorial Hwy is smooth and comfortable. A local rider who loved this climb, Brad, was killed by a reckless motorist. We owe gratitude to his family and friends who went the extra mile and stood up to indifferent law enforcement and an uninterested justice system--to make sure we all have a safe place to ride.

We pick up some other riders and invite them to climb with us. The sun is out and time to shed some of the cold weather jackets.

Dave Glasgow--Ultra Rider of the Year, RAAM Qualified, Furnace Creek 508, Fireweed 400, Super Randonneur--just to name a few of the epic and ultra rides Dave has ridden. Dave is the consummate cyclist, Domestique, and guru of ultra riding.

Get ready for a great climb!

Its cool today, so that makes this first part pleasant. I must tell you that in summer and spring--very hot and you can use up your water quickly.

We are all of us at different levels of fitness. John and Kathy will ride strong and steady. Dave will press on ahead and ride fast, as he knows how to climb at maximum efficiency. The other people in our group have never climbed Mt. Lemmon before and will go as far as they can today.

Mt. Lemmon is difficult, but you can do it--if not the first time, then maybe the second or third attempt. A few times I've had to turn back because I was not quite fit enough. I'd had the flu a few weeks before, or hadn't rested enough from a brevet.

Some people will go up and have no trouble, and if that is you, you will certainly enjoy the ride and fellowship of all the other cyclists coming up and down. Stronger riders will pass you, and you will no doubt find yourself passing other riders as you all make the climb. That is okay! There is plenty of room at the top for all!

Climbing Mt. Lemmon.

Kathy leading the way.

John and Dave--look how high we've climbed in such a short time!

There's a stop at Malino Basin with a camp ground and restrooms. No water here however. Malino Basin will be just past the fee station. If you are on a bike, you will not have to pay. Ride through, and if you need to stop for a break, and to regroup, this is a good place.

Before you know it, you are in the pines. They are dark and cold this morning. In other times I've ridden with Steve, they offer welcome shade.

We are at the halfway point and Windy Vista is a good place to turn around if you feel the need to call it a day. There are the radio towers and they can be seen at night from Tucson, as can the telescopes. I can see the telescopes from my house in Dog Mtn, about 35 miles to the West.

Dave has gone on ahead, and John has waited for Kathy. Kathy has had a cold, and she's feeling a bit weak today. I went up a few miles to Windy Vista. As stated, this is the turn around point for a lot of people. Really Gentle Readers of This Blog, you have done the hard part and if you're here, you've done well. Many local riders just ride to this point and turn around. Their training ride is complete and they need to scoot home. Climbing Mt. Lemmon is an all day affair, so if you have all day, great--if not--Windy Vista is still a good climb.

No turning back for me. There are still some challenges ahead. Remember, you've gotten this far--you can do it! Keep going!

If you keep your groove going, like I was luckily enough to do this time, you will amaze yourself at what you've accomplished! This has only been a few miles of climbing--I'm exhausted and need to rest a few minutes--whoa! This has been some serious climbing mes amis!

Your chance for water here at Palisades. I have used up my camelbak and one water bottle for the climb. If you are fit you could ride with three water bottles--be careful because if it is warm, you will sweat, be hot, and drink most of your water. By the time you get here and if you've run out of water, you could really be hurting. To turn back here would be okay.

Also, there's been no cell phone service for most of the trip. My phone went off to tell me I had a message. John and Kathy have turned around at Windy Vista. They'll wait for me at the cafe. I could not get a call through to them with my phone.

There is a pay phone right across from you at this water and bathroom stop. If you need to call and talk to someone--as you will not have cell phone service even at the top--you can use that phone to leave a message or talk to someone who's maybe not on the mountain. Otherwise rescue may be awhile--but hey you're okay! Keep going or turn around--its all good. You have ridden well...

I believe I will go to the top after a short break to re-fill with water.

These last 10 miles--there and back--will be difficult. You are almost there, mes amis. You get a break with a few miles of fast descent--a nice but brief break from the climbing--but you have to climb again for a few miles, and then a short downhill to Summerhaven.

My base miles commuting, and doing a significant amount of climbing on that route to work, has made me feel pretty good today. However--I am tired and its cooling off. We are so close! Keep going!

Just as you enter Summerhaven, on your left, is the Mt. Lemmon Post Office--it is easy to miss, as your eyes are on pedestrians and cars milling about. This is where brevet riders will drop off their postcards to prove they were at the top.

I have not stopped in the new community center but there are restrooms and possibly water. Really I can't stay too long today. I need to get a few pictures for the blog and get back. It would be nice to have a beer and a hamburger. If you have time--go for it! You earned it, Gentle Reader.

Five miles back to Palisades Ranger Station. They will not be easy, so you still have to push yourself and climb out of Summerhaven. It will be cold for most of the trip down. Be prepared--I dug in a trash can and pulled out an old newspaper to put in the front of my jersey; that was just enough to block out the chill.

Traffic was light, so I got to ride down fast. But it was quite cold for the trip and didn't start to warm until just half way.

Catch my breath and take a photo.

Riding down can take about an hour—I have climbed for 25 miles, so naturally riding down at 25 to 35 mph means that you should count that time to your day. Traffic for the trip was light for me this time, so I enjoyed the smooth and winding road to the base. It can be biting cold the first eight to ten miles, so be prepared.

Also, going down is like being in a deafening wind tunnel, and before you realize it, you may have a motorist behind you. You should be alert to them and check up the road by looking over your shoulder when you have an opportunity. Be polite and move over as far as you can, where you feel safe, and let them pass—it’s my feeling that a lot of the local people that live on the mountain have a real dislike for cyclists—as will the redneck ignorant crowd. Just let them continue on for that beer run, or to get Momma’s bail money. But those types are few and far between thank goodness.

My trip up and down took 5 hours and 15 minutes. I felt like I had a good day. There have been times when climbing this hwy has been much harder. Since I’ve been consistently commuting to work and putting the time in the saddle—plus having lost a bit of weight—this was a respectable effort on my part.

You can do it—there will be the mental hills that are the real demons working against you, Gentle Reader. But you near the finish, you will find yourself looking over the other side of the mountain—gliding the last few miles into Summerhaven.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Wicked Cold and Fast

Getting dark and cooling off as the Sun goes down for the rides home.

When cold weather comes to the Western United States, with rain and snow —the Desert down near Ol’ Mexico gets a blast of cold crisp air. Now that the intense Sun seems to be backing off roasting us down here in Tucson (it was 91 just a few weeks ago and I got all beat up riding out to Mt. Lemmon) things have cooled off. But the wind arrives which makes temps drop a bit more.

For cyclists it means headwinds, and headwinds are tough enough—but when they are biting cold headwinds—we suffer. See we’re so used to getting roasted and having it being hot as Hell, that when it’s cold, we’re sort of slow to catch on.

Like yesterday on my commute in for example. I wore the usual thin cycling socks and my feet were frozen and stinging all day. I am happy to report that I wore two pairs this morning and I was fine—Duh!

Riding home the sun is going down in a brilliant fireball. I am racing through and past a few dangerous spots so I can hold on to the last rays of light. Headwind made that difficult as usual, and I was starting to feel the front half of my upper body—muscle bone, and blood—coldly harden like cement.

I had been dressing like it was still Summer. I had ridden so fast, and against the headwinds that now I was ten minutes ahead of my rendezvous with Little Egypt and voiture. The sweat started to pour out, soaking me, and I began to shiver in the parking lot of the YMCA. My morning jacket was at the bottom of my tightly packed Carradice bag—I dug it out, put it on, and while waiting for her I reflected on why I was freezing.

In the Desert, in the Winter, when the sun is out—Baby it is warm and beautiful… When the sun is not in the sky—it is cold. Got to be at work and in the office for that warm beautiful part I’m afraid.

But when you see shooting stars fall into the Sun as it begins to rise over Mt. Lemmon—Gentle Reader of This Blog, for an instant you are thankful Winter is in the House.

Allure Libre!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Changes Round Here

It was a cold windy morning for the ride in, Gentle Readers of This Blog. The air was colder, and the sun seemed to have as much trouble getting into the sky and up over the mountains--as I did getting out of the sack.

There was a cold head wind as I left the office. I hammered to get as far as I could--the sun is in a hurry too--it gets darker and colder as it sets.

Actually I made pretty good time. Dang! Little Egypt and I decided we would find a new rendezvous point for pick-up. I made it to the lower parking lot of the YMCA to meet her with the car, but Holy Shit--I almost got hit twice within two miles of the photo! People driving really fast--running stop signs, speeding past to try and make a right turn and almost clipping me. I say lay off the diabetic foot, you fat tubs of goo...

I like my big safe comfortable car too sometimes--but take it easy on aggressive driving.