Monday, March 31, 2008

Thanks, but I'm just browsing...

I was at the bike shop the other day lusting after the new bike offerings...
The shop I was at carries some hi end brands and I was practically drooling over the latest hi-zoot, low weight, carbon fiber offerings. These things, with their swoopy sculpted and computer designed tubes look more like something you’d see at the MOMA ( instead of a bike shop.
As I was wandering around, the sales kid (honestly, I think he was 12 and pretty sure his voiced cracked at least once during our conversation) came over to see what I needed. I said, no thanks, I have plenty of bikes, I'm just browsing. He then asked what I currently ride and when I told him, he smiled (you know, the smile that says “oh you poor, non-roadie clunker rider”) and made the comment, “when you get serious, you’ll want to move up to something like this”
“Really?” I said “Why, what’s the big difference?”
He then went on to explain in complete and painful detail that it was xx% stiffer than aluminum, xx% lighter than titanium, had smoother shifting, faster transition in the corners, less bottom bracket flex, better power transference when out of the saddle hammering, higher strength to weight ratios than any other material found in this galaxy, better tractability when taking downhill sweepers to the right (even better on the left due to chainline flexotension ratios and the pull of gravity on the extra grams from the super-space age Jupiter-tanium alloy), and blah, blah, blah.

It was about this time that my mind started to wander (yes, I have a short attention span) and I started to think about three different things…..1) how much cheaper it would be to lose a few pounds than it would to buy a new bike and 2) how, I hope that I never become like some of the people that populate this sport I enjoy so much and 3) how, even if this snot nosed little kid with 0.32578% body fat did have the coolest bike in the world…..he still couldn’t appreciate the simple joy of an ice-cold Negra Modelo with a bunch of good friends after a nice long ride.....on my clunker

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

I love my SOMA

And no, I don’t mean the psychotropic drug they used in Aldous Huxley’s book to escape pain and bad memories….although, that really doesn’t sound that bad either….no, I’m talking about my single speed mountain bike.

I bought the frame as a Christmas present from my wife to myself and it’s a great frame.
It’s fairly light, great looking and rides like a dream.
Plus it’s nice to deal with a company where you get a good product, a fair price and great customer service.

I looked at all the frame offerings from the various vendors and didn’t find anything that really worked for me.
I had several requirements. It had to be steel. It had to be within my budget (which is not large), it had to be cool looking, and it had to be something I wouldn’t see on the trail every time I went out.
So, I put together a spreadsheet with weight, price, options, customer reviews, manufacturers reputation, availability, head angle, seat tube angle, stand over height and finally boiled it all down to which one looked the coolest…..the SOMA won.

They’re not a custom builder, but they are smaller, their prices are really reasonable, they’re local and mine is the only one I’ve ever seen when I’m out riding.
In today’s market where you can purchase everything online and price is harder to be competitive on, customer service plays a huge role. And SOMA didn’t disappoint.

I emailed them and they responded within a couple of hours. They answered my questions quickly and when I finally placed the order, they shipped it right away. It came packed nicely and was delivered quickly.
Once I got it all built up and out on the trails I was as happy as a pig in…well you know what I mean.
So, now that I have my dream bike built up what’s next? Well... they have that really cool Delancey with the chrome lugs and the current 9-2-5 is almost a year old…..


Tuesday, March 25, 2008

On being a ride leader.....

When putting together a ride there’s a line that you eventually have to cross. I’m not sure at what point it happens, but at some point it goes from just getting together with a bunch of people for a ride, to you actually “organizing” the ride.
Now, while this may seem like a small differentiation its not. When you just show up to ride, everyone is kind of on their own and that’s cool. But, when you “organize” a ride there’s a whole level of responsibility that goes along with it.
Is everyone going to be ok on the ride, is everyone going to have fun, is the ride you’re planning going to exclude anyone, and on and on…..
How you respond when faced with this line says a lot about what type of bicyclist you are.

This issue is only compounded when riding with new people or people that were invited by others. Now normally, when I ride with my friends we enjoy seeing each other suffer and purposely try to see how close to cardiac arrest we can force the other person.

But, when there are new people, or people you don’t know, you’re “supposed” to feel bad when they crash or collapse in an oxygen deprived heap on the side of the road or trail. As a matter of fact, I’ve been told it’s actually rude to laugh hysterically when someone new biffs it, no matter how entertaining it may have been.

So, the question becomes,
A) Do you just close ranks and not ride with anyone but your regular group….or,
B) Do you open up the rides to everyone that wants to join and just suck it up when you have to go back to see if the last person is still coming or has actually gone off a cliff?
a) And, if they have gone off a cliff, are you a strong enough person to hold back your laughter and at least pretend you’re concerned long enough to make sure they’re ok….
If you answered “A”, chances are you own and ride a road bike and wear the full “kit”
If you answered “B” chances are you’re a mountain biker
If you answered “B” but are still struggling with a) ….well, we’re not so different.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

I’m not addicted, I can quit whenever I want…..

Or so I thought…
It’s funny how easily I became hooked, once or twice a week just for the social aspects, then it got to where I had to go by my dealer every morning before work, now I’ve gotten to where I actually find myself heading over there in the middle of the day…..

Its ok, they tell you, one time won’t hurt. Pretty soon they know your name and have your dosage all set up as you walk in the door. It’s all polite and pretty and socially acceptable at first….then you go in for your physical and your doctor tells you there might be a problem and it could be directly related to your habit and your whole world turns upside down.

What is this insidious substance that has come to rule my waking hours…..Starbucks venti drip coffee...

It all started when I went to the doctor a few weeks back for a physical and everything looked good but he said my blood pressure was high.
I explained that it was probably due to the fact that I’m over 40 and he had a box of rubber gloves on his desk….I’m not an idiot, I know what that means….

Well, after talking about my diet, which is actually pretty good, and my exercise level which is also better than average, he zeroed in on the fact that I may need to switch to decaf for a while. And here I sit… a recovering caffeineaholic. “Hi My name is Rich. I’m a caffeineaholic and I’ve been on decaf for 2 whole weeks”

You know what though, and in no way am I admitting he might be right, but it’s really not fun. I feel tired all the time, I’ve been a tad bit cranky (ok, so my wife may think I’ve understated that) and I have these headaches every day.
The question now is, this morning I had my follow up and the bp is right where it should be. So, was he right and it was the caffeine or was I right and have suffered this past week needlessly?
The next question is, now that I’m past the worst of the withdrawls, do I continue on the straight and narrow or go right back to my addiction. Sneaking around, feeding the monkey on my back...bumming triple mochas, and hitting people up for spare change? "Hey buddy can you spare 4 bucks for an americano?

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Is exercise really good for you???

As I rolled out of bed this morning I was struck by just how long it takes me to be fully mobile in the morning.
It’s usually a process. It starts with swinging the legs over the edge of the bed, hopefully with enough momentum to get me mostly vertical. This is followed by a straightening of the legs with pops and cracks coming from both knees. Once I’m standing, I slooooowly straighten up trying my best to avoid tweaking my lower back which pretty much just hurts constantly.
After a long hot shower, things have usually loosened up to the point that I can move almost normally. A couple of stretches and extensions and I’m pretty well mobile and ready to face the day.

I was whining talking about this with a guy I ride with the other day and we came to the conclusion that despite what everyone says, exercise is not good for you.
For instance, I rode the single speed around Lake Chabot last night and had a great ride at a decent pace. As soon as I got home, I took an Aleve since I knew my shoulders, which are messed up from working out, would start to ache in the middle of the night.
This morning, my legs are sore and my lower back is tight. Both a result of doing something that is supposed to be good for you.
My buddy, who 2 years ago gave up smoking, drinking and sitting on his fat a$$ and started biking, commented that prior to riding and working out every day, he was never sore.
He could sit on his big comfy couch all weekend and watch sports and feel rested, relaxed and generally pretty good on Monday morning.
Now, he either rides or works out on the weekends and come Monday morning he’s tired and it hurts to walk up the stairs to his office.
Of course, although it didn’t hurt to walk up the stairs with his previous lifestyle, it did leave him winded for about 10 minutes – but is that so bad????

Friday, March 14, 2008

Another sign I’m getting old…

My youngest daughter has pretty varied tastes in music. Like her dad, she likes classic rock, but she also listens to some country, some modern rock, a little R&B (or whatever it’s called nowadays) and she even likes even some of the oldies. (although, the line between classic rock and oldies is becoming harder to discern)
Because of this, she always has music on her iPod that I’ve never heard before and some of it I actually like. I’ve been introduced to several bands that I never would have even thought to listen to and have added them to my iPod as well.

Herein lies the indicator of age. I was talking to someone at work the other day about music and mentioned a band called the Ataris and their remake of the Boys of Summer.
It’s actually a pretty good remake. The funny thing is one of the young ladies that works in the office overheard us talking and knew the song. What she didn’t know was that Atari used to be a really cool game console before Nintendo and X-box and that the Boys of Summer was actually a remake. The even crazier part is I owned and was playing on an Atari before she was even born…

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I love daylight savings time….

Well, other than the first Sunday where it feels like you give up way more than an hour of sleep. I know, you’re saying “well just go to bed earlier”. I can’t. I take enough ribbing from my family for heading for bed at 8:30 in the evening as it is.
I can’t help it. I’m old and tired and I get up early….and 8:30 is a perfectly acceptable bedtime

So, back to my point. I love the extra hour of daylight. Combine that with the longer days and soon we’ll be able to ride until after 8pm.
It really adds a whole new dimension to our rides (and after-ride festivities). We no longer have to try to rush out of work so we can get a decent ride in before dark. Last night we started at 4:30ish and took our time and still had plenty of light to hang out and have a beer and chew the fat afterwards.
On the other hand, I guess now I have to come up with a new excuse for rushing out of work early

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Conflicted…yeah, that’s it….

So, today is the day we were able to find out if we were chosen (selected, pegged, picked, doomed, sentenced) to participate in the upcoming Death Ride. And I wasn’t….
It’s funny because I was torn as to whether or not I really wanted to be picked for the ride this year.

On the one hand, not finishing last year was a huge blow to my ego and I was going to redeem myself this year by finishing strongly. On the other hand, if I did get picked, it would add a whole different attitude to my training. I wouldn’t be able to just go out for a fun ride, I’d be “training”. Every ride I did between now and then would be part of a program to gear up for the death ride.

So, I’m really not sure how I feel about not being picked this year. I’ll probably start keeping an eye on craigslist for someone selling their ticket, but then again, I might just have a fun year and do the rides I enjoy. I can start signing up for the metrics and not worry about doing the full centuries for the mileage. I can ride my mt bike more and not worry about the fact that I’m not logging huge miles and thousands of feet of climbing.
I can skip the weekly training ride and take the grandson out in the trailer I just ordered for him….
But still, there’s the knowledge that I should have finished and didn’t….it’s a good thing I’m not competitive or that knowledge would eat me alive… I hear chewing?

Monday, March 10, 2008

How do you eat an elephant????

One bite at a time… How do you finish a century you’re not in shape for? One sag stop at a time.

Saturday dawned cool, damp and foggy and we donned leg warmers, arm warmers (or arm warmers worn as leg warmers), jackets and flashing taillights. We were glad we had made the decision to start from the campground instead of driving the 4 miles into town along with hundreds of other cars and trying to find parking… whether or not we’d be glad when we had to ride the 4 miles back to camp after riding 100 miles or not was yet to be seen.
We started out with 6 riders and a great attitude….all of which would change at varying points throughout the day.

Chris and John were obviously faster riders and as a result we saw them for the first several hundred yards but after that they were gone and on their own. Since Jerry and I had decided ahead of time that we would be taking it easy, there was no pressure to try to keep up with anyone that passed us….and I’m pretty sure EVERYONE passed us.
And then there were 4…..

We started out nice and easy and, since it’s such a pretty ride, the miles to the first rest stop went by quickly. The sun had come out which was nice, but the wind had picked up too, which wasn’t so nice.

The ride for the next 40 miles was pretty much into the wind…..and it sucked! At mile 25 or something like that, Victoria and Lisa split off for the 50 mile route.
And then there were 2….

By the time we hit the Santa Maria airport at mile 60, I was fried. Although my legs felt great, my eyes were toast from the wind and the dust, my neck and back hurt and I just wanted it to be over. Amazingly though, after a snack and a couple of Tylenol I felt a lot better. Plus the wind was now at our back.
We wound through Santa Maria for a ways and got back out into the countryside and my attitude improved immensely. Leaving Santa Maria and heading up Clark Rd we talked with a lady briefly who explained that this was her first century and asked if there would be anymore hills like the one on 101… Jerry explained that there were still a couple of significant climbs yet to come and you could see she wasn’t thrilled.

At the Sag stop at mile 73, we ran into the lady again(found out her name is Marissa) and after chatting she decided to ride with us.
And then there were 3….

One of the interesting things about the Solvang Century is that whatever sick, psycho bas%^&* laid out the route decided to put the toughest climb of the day at mile 92!!!
I felt pretty good as did Jerry, but we were a little concerned about Marissa. Turns out she pedaled up Foxen Canyon (past several others who were walking) and was so stoked and rejuvenated by the accomplishment that she handled the rest of the ride with very few issues. This fact only confirms my belief that riding a century, or any long ride for that matter, is just as much a mental thing as it is a physical thing.
The ability to suffer and not quit is just as important as any physical training you need to do.

The infamous wall comes up after mile 96 and is more psychological than anything since it’s only about ½ mile. But it is steep and you can see the whole thing it from the sag stop at the bottom which can mess with your head.
With this out of the way, the rest of the ride is pretty much rolling hills and beautiful countryside. Our pace was relaxed as we had decided it would be at the beginning and the views and the countryside were gorgeous! We even saw these guys on one of the ranches in Foxen Canyon. (of course some people were so focused on their pace and the tire in front of them they never even saw the buffalo, or the deer, or the ostriches or the topiaries)

We said goodbye to Marissa and several of the other people we had met on the ride and headed out for the 4 mile ride back to camp which other than being a little cold wasn’t bad at all.

So, 10 hours after we started we pulled back in to camp. We followed up the ride with the most amazing meal at Cabernet Bistro (btw – if you want the crab and lobster raviolis tell them when you make your reservation) and slept that night comfortable in the knowledge that we were not as old and feeble as we sometimes feel.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tomorrow we ride....

It’s Friday, the day before the first century of the year. Last year by this time I was averaging about 200 miles a week on the bike with at least one ride of 80+ under my belt.
This year, I’ve been averaging about 75 miles a week with my longest ride being 46…this is gonna hurt…

I spent last night getting the bike cleaned and prepped. I ordered new tires as I do at the beginning of every season. The tires came on Tuesday so I put them in the garage to install last night. Only problem is when I went to put them on, one was a 700x23 and one was a 650x23!!!! I know, I know, I shouldn’t wait till the night before I leave to do this stuff, I should have checked as soon as the order was delivered, I should have just gone to the bike shop and bought the dang things…..oh well, I didn’t and now I’m stuck with one new tire and one old tire….I’m sure it will all be fine, but you can bet I’ll be thinking about it the entire ride. At least until the pain from lack of training starts to dominate my thoughts.

The weather this year is supposed to be perfect so I’ll just take it easy, make sure I hit every rest stop, and enjoy the views. Last year, I was wishing I had taken more pictures, so this year, that’s going to be my excuse. Every time I need a rest, I’ll just pull out the camera and when people ask if I’m ok, lying on my back on the side of the road, I’ll tell them I’m just getting some “artistic” angles for my pictures

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Another Milestone reached....

Last night we had a big turnout for the weekly training ride. In addition to the regulars, we had a couple of surprise riders. One, whom after turning around part way out Cull Canyon a few weeks ago said… and I quote, “never again, I’ll stick to water aerobics”, another who after the recent “incident” vowed she’d be back, a third who every time I’ve broached the subject has said… “um, no thanks” in one of those tones that really means “you guys are nuts and I have no desire to go out there after work and suffer” and a new rider that has joined the team for the upcoming Tour de Cure

All in all we had 10 riders, a strong headwind and a great evening. 4 of those riders did a total of 10 miles which was actually tougher than it sounds since the first 5 were into the wind.

The second group did the full 20 which was a huge accomplishment for most of them. The route is a flat out and back so it’s a great training ride but last night’s wind added a whole new dimension.
As a matter of fact, the headwind the last 3 miles to the bay made it so if you stopped pedaling you stopped moving and took us longer than I had planned. We actually ended up doing the last couple of miles back to the truck in the dark.

All in all a great evening, a nice ride and the quote of the day...."this gel pad thingy on the seat don't work for S*%#"

ps - everyone says I'm never in any of the pictures since I always have the camera and tha's not true - you can see me in the bottom of the first picture holding the camera

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

When the heck did this happen???

Last night I went down to UC Santa Cruz to see my daughter. I took her and a couple of her friends out to dinner and that’s when it finally dawned on me…. I’m getting old….

I’m not sure when it actually happened, in fact I'm pretty sure it’s one of those gradual things that you never really realize and don’t even notice until after it’s happened. (kinda like my hair loss and weight gain)

Now, I’ve always thought I was a pretty cool dad and that since we had kids when we were young that the wife and I would always be the hip parents that all the kids liked. And, actually, for the most part that’s true. But, last night I kept picking up subtle little signals that we’re not as young (or as hip) as I thought.

Granted, all the kids were very nice and very polite, but still the signs were there.
They used words and language I didn’t understand, they laughed at things that went right over my head, they even referred to me as “Mr Sims”….but that wasn’t the killing blow….the thing that did it is when some of them ordered beer with dinner…LEGALLY!!!
There’s no way I have a kid old enough that her and her friends can actually buy alcohol legally at a restaurant. It just can’t be...

Maybe I need a corvette….yeah, that’s it. They’ll never know how old I am if I have a corvette….

Monday, March 3, 2008

5 days and counting....

The Solvang Century is this coming Saturday and so far my longest ride since last fall is about 46 miles with about 3000 ft of climbing. So I'm obviously totally ready to go out and do 104 miles with 5000 ft of climbing......right? I mean afterall, I've almost done half the distance on any previous ride this year...

I'm pretty sure this will be the first time I've done a century and been this far away from my training goals prior to it.
Even back when I did my first century in Chico a few years ago. True, I had never actually ridden 100 miles before, but I had done 80+ a couple of times prior to the century that year and actually didn't want to do 100 until the century.

I'm not really the kind of guy that will just say "ok lets do this" and go out and do it. I hate failing and am kind of a wuss when it comes to suffering so I'm usually pretty anal about making sure I train for things. Up unitl this one anyway.

It's not that I haven't been riding either. Granted it's been a pretty cold and wet winter here and this is still pretty early in the season, but I actually rode quite a bit through this winter. Only it's mainly been on my ss mt bike. I kept thinking I needed to be on the road getting a good "base" and putting some miles in, but that ss thing is just so dang fun!

Oh well, it's really too late to do anything about it now but stock up on butt butter and advil and get ready mentally for a long day in the saddle. Kind of like one of my buddies that's been off the bike for the last few months and then yesterday went out with us and did 40 miles with 2000ft of climbing. Was it fun? kinda. Did it hurt? sorta. Did he survive? pretty much. Was it better to be outside on a beautiful day than in the house or doing chores - absolutely!