Friday, July 31, 2009

Walk a Mile in My Bike Shoes

From Chicks and Bikes

There’s bunches of pelotons forming up in the mornings as blokes and lilies dust off the road bike that’s been sitting in the garage all winter, spring, summer and fall… Lilies as in lasses with lily white legs—contrasted with the grimy tan legs of the commuter.

Some fellows are friendly and will chat—but mostly when you catch them they squirm, scowl and speed up. Some are actually quite fit, even though they haven’t been on the bike. Others tire out quickly after trying to break away—but the ones that just smile and relax and chat for a moment are the best.

And then there’s a few good-hearted men I know now that when they see me, will slow so we can meet and chat—then they’re off again and I’m amazed at the speed they can fly.

The commute this week has been good, and riding the Trek 2.3 has made for a few minutes cut off here and there getting to the office and then home. Mostly it has been hot and over 100 degrees—but the winds have been calm.

Thursday morning I was about a mile from the Desert San, when the rear tire flatted. A quick inspection saw a large heavy-duty staple had embedded through the thick Kevlar, and then through the thorn resistant tube.

Rather than pull out the staple, because the tube was still holding some air, I opted to pump it up with the hand pump, and then ride a quarter mile or so—and then repeat. You can do this with slow leaks if you’re close to home or close to the finish of your ride. This is what I tried anyway. Once I got closer to the campus of the San I walked.

It was much easier patching the tube and doing all that in the AC of my office. After work I rode over to see Phil and Judy to have more of what Phil jokes as “fast air” put in the tire. Also it appears that the bottom bracket from the LeMond was going out and will have to be replaced. Phil had told me about that but I thought I’d wait a bit longer. Turns out I have waited too long.

I can ride okay but I need to have him fix it—with Little Egypt still unemployed, we have to stretch every dollar. It will be back to the Raleigh until a bit of extra money can be spared.



Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Riding the Trek 2.3

All the components of the LeMond are switched to the Trek 2.3 frame, so while not a Trek 2.3 you would buy right out of the shop, I’ll still put the bike through the rigors of commuting this summer.

First just let me say that my 1977 Raleigh Super Grand Prix that my father bought for me in Tulsa, Oklahoma, has been by far the best bike I have owned. It’s not quite a tank, but the steel lugged frame is comfortable and still like new—once I wash the grime and gunk from the road off—it remains a work of art.

My LeMond, also steel, was a top bike as well. It was a comfortable ride, quite light, and fast—but after years of brevets, many miles commuting, and even more miles out in Saguaro Nat’l Park—and let’s not forget those epic rides with Steve Star of The Blog riding from Marana to Scottsdale, and back to Marana—training for brevets—the frame gave out and cracked.

The Trek is a week-end bike. It looks sexy alright—and when out with the lads you should be able to hold your own. Should you have a wife that cannot believe you would want to spend a few thousand more—and would rather you be home mowing the grass than out with your mates all weekend—mon ami, if you got this bike you’re okay and it should serve you well!

The 2.3 just fits in the trunk of moi voiture

For brevets and commuting—we will see. The best thing is the guys at Trek Bicycles of Tucson treated me right, and were very helpful in getting a replacement frame. The Madone models they have now are very nice, but $3000 to $5000 is not within my grasp—maybe if I were a bike stud, but that I am not, mes amis.

Morning Peloton...

Climbing East on Ina into the morning sun, a group of us formed up into a fast pace line. At first a young guy and his girlfriend pulled up behind me at the light at Ina and Oracle. He wouldn’t even look at me or say good morning, but I chatted with the young woman. The young guy didn’t seem pleased with this and came back to make sure I was keeping my hands in the drops, so to speak. He picked up the pace (to try and drop me no doubt) but I hung on his wheel and then her wheel just to show I could be a pain in the ass if I wanted to be—and then let them go. Two other riders pulled onto Ina, much friendlier of course, and we decided to catch the young bloods for the heck of it.

I enjoyed the pace line but I was pushing it a little, and after a week off I didn’t quite feel like I had my legs back. No matter. The young bloods pulled off at Sunrise and Swan, and they waved and smiled. I kept going with the other two up to the top of my climb at Craycroft. They were going down to River Rd. then back home heading West. The woman was a bit nervous the three of us riding so close, so for the fast descent I eased up to give them room as I went on down to the San.

At the bike lockers. The Trek 2.3 is fitted out with saddle bags.

West on Ina Rd. for the fast trip home.

Supposedly the temperature for today in Tucson was somewhere between 105 and 109. While it did seem hot when I went out the door in the afternoon, that Monsoon humidity was not around like it had been all last week. So even if it was over 100 degrees, I didn’t seem to notice. I’ve found it better to get the long hard climb out of the way first, and then take my chances going West on Sunrise and Ina in rush-hour traffic. For one thing, most of the ride home is down hill and fast. The perspiration evaporates instantly—and I end up smelling not as bad and less dripping soaked in sweat. I’ve also learned to pace myself a bit and not try to hammer home to the finish—best to take it easy and have strength for the next day.


Monday, July 27, 2009

Phantom Riders of the Peloton

Phantom riders of the Peloton—on my wheel and on my mind—they are Hypertension, Obesity, Heart Disease, Cholesterol, Diabetes, and Low Testosterone. So far I have averted this group—I like to think—because of cycling. You see Gentle Readers of This Blog, as of late my older and younger siblings have been dealing with these maladies as we all near the age of 50.

I ride about 130 miles a week by bike commuting to work. They are lucky if they walk half a mile going from the front door of the car and from the car to their desk at the office.

This Phantom Peloton is a fast group and gets faster as you age. I would like to drop them—one by one—as I make my way climbing the busy commute route I take to work. When they will attack or even if they can, is yet to be seen. I’m holding my own climbing the Ridge and keeping them back. People in cars are probably just getting there faster than me—Obesity and Diabetes are sitting in their back seats and they don’t even know it.

My younger brother has been in therapy to get his testosterone up to normal levels. It appears for a few years it was very low, and he was much more of an athlete than me—he was football player, weight lifter, golfer and then runner. Things just got harder and harder for him as he turned 45. Fatigue, loss of muscle mass, and weight gain. Now he’s better and happier since testosterone patches have got his levels back to normal.

Low Testosterone for men leads down the path to Diabetes. So if you’re my brother and you’re looking over your shoulder and Low Testosterone in on your wheel, you can bet Diabetes is right there with him on the attack.

He’s taking a satin drug to lower his Cholesterol which in turn has lowered his Blood Pressure. It’s a close race and a tough one but he has gained back ground.

My older sister on the other hand, has struggled with Diabetes for some time. A few months after her 50th Birthday, she thought she was having a heart attack and rushed to the hospital. Unfortunately, when the Diabetes caught up to her in her early 40’s, Obesity was in the slipstream of big D—and she got dropped big-time. You could say that she’s not so much dropped, but on the wheel of this Phantom Peloton and they are pulling her deep into poor health. Luckily this last weekend she did not have a heart attack, but she had some clogged arteries so the doctors say.

Everything about me the “numbers,” indicate is that I’m “border line.” Border line diabetic, border line obese, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc, etc—numbers I got from a recent health screening here a the Desert San. The type of screening where they take blood and check your levels, check your blood pressure (I have White Coat Syndrome so the readings are always off) and they do a body mass index reading.

The numbers say I’m a train wreck—

Little Egypt looked them over, and well, she said things weren’t too bad really, and that I shouldn’t be concerned quite yet—stop eating like a horse she says.

My Doctor is a cyclist himself—I’m thinking about writing him a letter and sending him a copy of my results—and I’ll tell him that I’m feeling quite fit. He might have a few things for me to think about, and he’ll probably want to me to come in for chat and check-up.

I took a week off the bike. I believe the hot weather burned me out—sorry about that! But I’m back in the saddle once more.



Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Tucson by Bike

I often can't believe I'm actually doing this...

Half of July is over, and commuting on the bike to work I’ve ridden almost 300 miles—I think its okay to add the 40 mile ride on July 4th in with that mix.

All of June, and this half of July—has been hot—but the tough part of it has been the wind. The winds have been stronger than usual—scorching and relentless.

With two weeks of rides home in 102 to 104, I have to say that I’m feeling worn down.

I felt like I had a hang-over this morning when I got up, but I pushed ahead and soon found myself in that usual rhythm; the heavy work trucks rolling past, the half asleep commuters behind the wheel, and my heart and lungs warming up and getting me up the Ridge.

Steady as she goes, Gentle Reader of This Blog.

Yesterday morning, I converged on Ina and La Cholla Rds with a Tri-Girl. The wind was brutal and blasting us like a freight train out of the East. We worked together and made our way up Ina head-first into the Force—I took my turn to pull and we were almost to Ina—at least I was—when I turned to look around I saw I had dropped her. She shook her head—she’d had it and was slowing.

This morning, same thing—two blokes heading up Ina and I begin my pursuit. A pursuit into a modest headwind this morning wasn’t such a great thing because I was already exhausted before I got on the bike back at the YMCA—but I soon found myself with them and we formed a pace line for the climb. They were two big guys like me, cheerful and friendly. The head wind was getting stronger and our speed was slowing. One of them finally said he couldn’t keep the pace. I kept going and soon I saw that I had put a few blocks between us, and then they were out of sight.

I started thinking to myself, “No wonder I’m so tired all day at the office—I’m out here in a slug-fest with the Monsoon.” What am I doing?

Soon after I see another rider up ahead, and I begin the pursuit. I should have just taken it easy and kept a steady pace. But I began to chase the rider down. You probably know the rest—I gained little by little. The rider up ahead had a stop light—my chance to catch ‘em—but he or she ran the light. Dang he knows I’m on his tail. I knew then I wouldn’t catch them because I was coming up to the red light fast—but it turned green and so I cranked it up into high gear.

I was within a few blocks of catching the guy, but the wind got stronger and stronger, and on my last mile climb up to Craycroft I began to get tired and felt a cramp taking what I had left. The rider kept going straight and I made my right turn to descend South into the San.

All morning at work I was having bouts of sleep. I was exhausted and not getting much of anything done. The day wore on and I was still dog-tired when 4:30 rolled around. My feeling was that it would rain, but the clouds got burned off so that by late afternoon it was 105 degrees. Walking outside I felt the strong headwind coming out of the West (like I wasn’t expecting that, mes amis…) but you know it had a sweet rain smell and that I don’t mind.

On the bike route I soon found myself coming up on a rider on a tri-bike. He looked strong, and like me he was in the drops and just riding thru the headwind. He realized I was behind him and so sped up. I stayed with him for awhile and then at a point on the bike route where you have to get on the sidewalk to cross a street called Dodge, he made a bit of a wrong turn. Probably he hadn’t ridden on this part of route, and I now he was a ways behind me. He soon caught me, said hello with a bit of an embarrassed smile, and then was on his way. With those aero bars on that sweet bike of his, he gradually pulled way ahead of me such that on the flat smooth part of the bike route he took off like a rocket.

Before I started the three mile climb up busy La Cholla and on to my car parked at the YMCA, I drank half of the water bottle I had wrapped in my work clothes in the saddle bag. It was still cold and just what I needed. It was windy of course and the air was hot and dry. I settled in the climb and just tuned out the drone of the traffic rolling past. Sweat streamed down my face and dripped down my nose and splattered on the top tube of the old Raleigh Super Grand Prix. I just have to get to the top of this hill, and then make one last tricky and dangerous left turn in traffic—and I’m home free.

At the top of the climb and then setting up for my left turn, I noticed another rider behind me and he was going to go straight and then going right. “Hey Boss!” I said, kind of surprised that he was back there. “Thank you—“ he called back exhausted, “Thank you for that pull, Buddy—“ He must have at one point come up and sat on my wheel as we made the climb. He looked totally cooked—sweat pouring down his face and breathing hard—kind of like me at that point. A friendly wave and he was making his turn and I was set up for my left turn.

Waiting there for the left arrow I realized how hot it actually was—104 degrees. The bank across the street displays the time and temp. I’ve got about two miles to go before I reach my car… It’s been a good day on the bike.

I think I’ve earned a day off don’t you think?



Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Flying Up the Road

Tucson, Arizona 105 degrees in the afternoon, mes amis. As the workday ended I began mentally to prepare for what lay ahead. My ride home would be perilous sure enough.

But Fortune smiled, and I took the cue—as soon as I was out the door of the San—a large dark storm cloud appeared, and with fury put some muscle on 105.

Temps dropped quickly and O, the wind did gust, Gentle Readers of This Blog. The clouds rolled like ocean waves above me. Suddenly I found myself in an invisible peloton of energy—the tailwind I could only dream of was happening at that very moment!

Riding up front on the Tailwind, heading North up Swan Ave.

I am right in that place were the cool air is slamming into that hot muggy air that likes to loiter on the scorching black pavement. Things get moving—and I am riding—no blasting past automobile traffic. It becomes effortless, and I find myself in perfect sync with the tail wind. I am charging 20 mph up Swan Ave— I am flying…

I can only tell you that for years—I have been treated to either a cold stiff headwind bearing down on me in Winter, or unforgiving heat grilling me well-done in Summer.

Today at this very moment, everything is perfect.

That tailwind only lasted three miles, but they were perfection. At the top of Swan and Skyline I was stopped at the light and waited to turn left. I could still feel the steady push of the wind flowing over my back and shoulders, continuing to stream up into the mountains.

Heading West on Ina Rd as the Storm rolls across to the North.

For a time heading back West on the fast rollers of Sunrise and Ina Rds, those gusts of wind were often crosswinds. I’m a big Clydesdale rider, so for crosswinds to send me leaning into them, you know they’re forceful.

We can have 100 days of 100 degrees—and each one with a story to tell.

Cheers! Bruce

Friday, July 10, 2009

103 Degress of Hyperbole

Breaking in the Trek 2.3 on the commute.

Our AC broke down early in the morning here at the Desert San, and by 11:30 it was 105 inside the building--and not long after we were evacuating. This meant an afternoon ride home for me, Gentle Readers of This Blog, in 103 temperature at the hottest part of the day. To say I got cooked is an understatement. Still, there is something quite surreal about extreme heat--and I survived with just a bit of sun on the arms.

The air was hot, muggy, and eerily still. The headwind I usually struggle with in the late afternoons was not to be felt as I made my way out of the Desert San and into the Day.

Days gone by for some old places. A pre-WW II homestead, now in the middle of town.

Used to be the very edge of town where this site is located. I dropped by the bike shop as I was still having a few shifting problems on the new Trek. Phil helped me out and then I took a short cut from the shop to get to Pima and Swan Ave. The old place above looked like it was from the days when Tucson was a one-horse town. Now its full of Shit-heads and Old Farts.

Swan Ave looking North to the Catalina Mtns and Pusch Ridge.

I hop onto Swan Ave and it is busy with traffic. But the traffic will taper off as I gain some altitude and make the climb to the ridge.

103 degrees out this afternoon!

I op-out of the long climb and way home on Ina an Sunrise (too hot and too much traffic) and decide I'll take the River Path this time around.

Very hot and thick air to ride through along the River's edge.

The ride home was okay and as long as I kept moving, the sweat evaporated instantly it seemed. It is best to take it easy because taking in that hot air into you lungs heats your core up quickly. Also, I put down a water bottle before I left, and kept an iced-down extra bottle folded up in my work clothes stowed in my saddle bag. That seems to work well--I have a fresh cold bottle for the last climb up to the YMCA.

Shaded corridor to cool down before the hot climb in heavy traffic.

102 and 103 and even hotter is okay--because evolution has given us the bodies to survive these conditions--and brains to invent ways to carry water and make the best of it. I've noticed that my mind and body turn on ancient DNA or something, and I begin to adapt physically and mentally to the environment.

As I've said before, I've noticed a lot of fat-ass people fight for close parking spots at the YMCA--trying to bully their way into these spots with the idea that their big SUV or pimped-out Jeep (with AC) gives them some kind of right away.

I see this aggression, and then observe the occupants getting out of the dripping-libido vehicle, and then making their way to the entrance of the Y--for a work-out. Most often it is a portly, mean-looking soccer mom, trailing a string of little tubby offspring. A cell phone stuck to the jowl of mom as the little ones shuffle behind.

Pretty Fucking Sad

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Ride Home In Pictures

My new Trek 2.3 fitted for the commute into the office.

It was quite gusty this last Tuesday morning for the ride in, and there were a few issues with the gears not wanting to shift smoothly--but over all the new Trek frame felt great.

This is looking South down Swan Ave. and toward downtown Tucson. This is looking back after climbing up from the Desert San to the base of the ridge.

Once again I have to face tough headwinds, and the storm is on it's way in. I dropped by the bike shop and Phil made a few quick adjustments with the gears so they worked well on my ride home.

Things start to cool down pretty fast as I'm riding just on the edge of the rain.

Scooting West toward the YMCA on Ina Rd, about 5:30 p.m.

I just make it to the car before a good rain begins to fall.



Monday, July 06, 2009

Ride Report -- 102 Degrees


80 degrees at 6 a.m. this morning when I saddled up--and a fierce head wind, which is rare, coming out of the East. It was a brutal ride into the office. For the afternoon's ride home, the headwind was now coming from the West. I had been hoping for a tailwind, because mes amis, by 4:30 p.m. it had cooled down to 102.

I was surprised that I did okay. I just keep a moderate pace and kept in the drops, trying to make myself as insignificant as possible in this drama of Wind and Rain, Sun and Humidity.

As long as I kept moving I kept cool and the sweat evaporated. I also had a chilled second water bottle wrapped in my office attire to keep it cold. That came in handy before the big climb.

102 is pushing the limit I think.

Cheers! Bruce

Sunday, July 05, 2009

Monsoon Ride, Saguaro Nat'l Park

We started our July 4th Ride at 5 a.m. to beat the forecast 102 degrees. This is Eric and John and Kathy on the tandem. We're heading East on Cortaro Farms Rd, over the Santa Cruz River to start out the ride.

Heading South on Silverbell Rd, you can see the conditions of the road after the Monsoon Rains. This is part of the last 35 miles of the El Tour de Tucson course, mes amis--the road is rough with lots of fast local traffic. This morning those locals are sleeping off hang-overs so they're not around this early. Already its hot and humid.

From Silverbell, we're now on Sweetwater, and the climbing starts to reach Gates Pass and Saguaro Nat'l Park.

Rain clouds will quickly burn away in the morning July sunshine.

Up Gates Pass!

I'm taking out the Trek 2.3, Gentle Readers! It is my new frame with all the components of the LeMond. So far so good--except its a bit muddy and wet this morning. Already we're getting covered with a thin layer of grime and sweat. Climbing Gates Pass is a breeze, and I am feeling fit from my commuting during the week.

The road on the left is the way into the overlook parking lot. When you ride up you're on the road on the right, and you've come up from the Tucson Valley--you can see Tucson in the background about eight miles away.

After a short break at the top of Gates Pass, we descend down into Saguaro National Park for the fast rollers and then McCain Loop.

The new Trek feels great. I had heard that aluminum frames would be stiff and uncomfortable--so far on the test ride, the bike has done well--over rugged pavement and on fast rollers at 40 mph. The frame is the Trek 2.3 and all the components are Ultregra and up-grades from the LeMond. I'm very happy and the bike is quick.

The fast rollers of McCain Loop.

The Wolf appears to us on the Loop. Ride In Peace, My Brother...

In this part of the Desert you ride in two worlds--the Mystery of the Seen and Un-Seen are evident, and no words describe the time you're here and what you feel--but you do sense the difference. The Wolf makes sure all who enter are safe--it is not a world for mere men and women to tread recklessly, but carefully and respectfully.

Kitt Peak in the distance, about 50 miles away and near the border of Mexico.

Its getting hot and we're heading home--we need coffee and some breakfast!



Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Tucson Monsoon Time

Monsoon clouds coming in from the South East--Gulf of Mexico.

One thing about being on a bike is that you can see the Monsoon making its way into the Desert. Most of the time I am able to get home right before the rains start. It starts out clear in the morning and there's no worries--but by afternoon She's tip-toed into the picture.

The Mountain Bridge.

Phil is putting together the Trek at the shop, and he called saying he needed a part. I could get the part at the Tucson Trek Store--just $12.00--by making a slight diversion off the bike bath. I'd just take the Mountain Bridge to Ft. Lowell and Campbell, pick up the park, and then be back on the road for the commute home--before the rain started (was my hope, mes amis)

Share the Road and Eat the Dirt.

Umm. . . Mountain Ave is like way under construction. This could be a muddy mess if I was here during a Monsoon down-pour! Luckily, I made it, got the part, and was on my way back--back along the same route. It was slow going actually--all the street crews were ending the day and all the large dozers and equipment they had to park. It was hot and dusty and I had to wait a couple of times as the big machines rumbled past.

Behold! The Monsoon has arrived in Tucson!

The Monsoon clouds seem to shoot straight up as they meet the Catalina Mtn Range--then the clouds will spill over and we get the rain.

Yours on the bike.

This is turning out to be a hot muggy and gusty ride. Rain is right on the wind and a down pour could happen at any moment.

Mt. Lemmon meets the Monsoon.

I must tell you Gentle Readers of This Blog, that the headwind was very strong--I had to stop mid-way up the climb home to turn into the quick store to buy some Gatorade. I was out of water and it was so hot and humid that I began to feel the cramps in the legs coming on.

Still, I was able to relax because I felt the rain would give me a break--after her sibling the headwind whipped my ass around like a dried up leaf!