Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Father's Day Ride...

What do you want to do on Father's Day?
This question came from my daughters who evidently don't know me as well as I thought....The obvious answer is "ride my bike".

Life continues to spin at a frenetic pace and free time continues to elude me. This of course results in less riding which brings with it a lack of fitness, shortness of patience and general dissatisfaction in my mental outlook

So, on the one day of the year in which it's not only acceptable, but expected for dad to do exactly what he wants and to heck with everyone else, I planned on riding my bike...by myself...for as long as I wanted (or for as long as I could)

The reality though is that as much as Father's Day is about what I want, I'm actually blessed enough to have kids that want to spend it with me. As a result, my time on the bike would still need to be balanced with time spent with the kids and the family.

Thankfully, I'm an early riser which allowed me to get up, out the door and over to Lake Chabot in time to get a good long ride in and still make it home in time to shower and clean up before the planned Father's Day brunch with the family.

I knew before I started that I was doing the "big loop" which in adds in Redtail and Soaring Hawk to the nomal route around the lake. This, in addition to taking it from 13 miles and 1500ft of climbing to 16 miles and 2000ft of climbing, adds in some of the only rideable single track in the park. I've done this a few times on the single speed lately and although it hurts, it's definitely do-able.

As I got to the top of Brandon though, an idea started to weasel its way into my head....I feel good...I should do the "big-big loop" immediately I pushed the thought away as stupid and a source of major pain and suffering...
The morning was beautiful with the sun shining and the weather still cool. The fog was hanging in the hills to the east, but I could see blue sky everywhere I was headed. There's something about riding in the morning that seems to make it easier. I don't know if it's knowing you have the entire day to recover or that you're out riding while most are still  in bed, but it's a good feeling and creates a level of energy that belies my current level of fitness.

I continued on the big loop with the thought of extending it continuing to play in the back of my mind.
As I stopped to take a couple of pictures and enjoy the still cool morning, it was decided. I was going to finish the descent to Bort Meadow and finish the big loop. I had places to be after all and there's no sense spending the rest of the day suffering for yet another bad decision.....ok, decided, approved and finalized...no big big loop for me today...

And then, the weirdest thing happened, I finished the Soaring Hawk descent, rolled into and through the Bort Meadow parking lot and began climbing again....despite all the reasons I had for cutting the ride short and getting home, I really just didn't want this perfect solo morning ride to end...

I had forgotten what the climb from Bort Meadow up to Skyline Bl was like and as a result had no idea I was in for almost another 1000ft of climbing before the day was over....although as nice as the morning was, I think even had I remembered I would have made the same decision.

The climb up to Skyline isn't particularly steep, but it is a fairly long climb and provided a perfect opportunity for my brain to check out for a while and my thoughts to reduce to the most basic level. Timing my breathing with my pedal strokes made for a good rhythm while my brain repeated the same mantra over and over again.....make circles, be smooth, breathe, make circles, be smooth, breathe....

Eventually, the trail ends and dumps you onto a road that points up at a pretty steep angle.....from here any rhythm I may have had disappeared and  my cadence went to pieces...my only goal was making it to the top without my heart and lungs exploding out of my chest.  I jerked wildly on the bars as I pushed on the pedals, sucking in as much air as I could, wailing the bike back and forth beneath me in a crude effort at forward motion...and eventually I made it....ugly, but effective.

The reward for all this work is a weird little stretch of really fun single track that sits in the middle of two busy lanes of traffic.....it weaves in and around trees and roots while continuing in a mostly downhill run....I could imagine kids on their full suspension bikes ripping this section up, but on the rigid SS, I continued to try to be smooth and find that elusive flow.

Eventually, this ends and, at the stables and you're dumped back on to the infamous EBRPD fire roads....graded to the width of a Southern California freeway and at this point in the year consisting of the powder over hardpack our regional parks are known for. Still I was riding my bike and not at work, doing chores, or sitting on the couch.

For the rest of the loop I continued to enjoy the ride although my legs were beginning to let me know I was not at the level of fitness I should have been at this point in the season.  The good news was that after a shower, I was headed to brunch with the family to replenish some of the calories I was burning....
Final Tally -  Mileage:19 - Feet of climbing: 2800 - Mental Health Restored: 100%

Friday, June 7, 2013

Beware the Rewards Program...

Today I got an email from my bike shop....a year or so ago, they initiated a Rewards Program which, like most, reward you with store credits based on how much you spend during the previous year.

When I first got the voucher in my in-box I thought, wow it's been a slow year for me purchase-wise. The reality is that after looking at the program to see exactly how it works, that's not the case at all.  It turns out that their program is bi-annual and not yearly and the total I've spent is about $1500.00 over the last 6 months.
This wouldn't be a big deal except that I haven't bought a new bike in 3 years and haven't made any major upgrades to the several bikes I do have.  As a matter of fact I'm not sure what I've bought although I know I've never walked out of there spending less than $100.00.

I don't mind spending money there. They're an awesome shop, run and staffed by good people. Sure I still order stuff online, sometimes the pricing and lack of sales tax make it impossible for the small local guys to compete, but whenever I can I prefer to support my local bike shop.

After thinking about it though, the fact of the matter is, I would probably be ahead of the game if I just tore this up and threw it away right now.  There's a pretty popular outdoor equipment store with a 3 letter name that I tend to visit regularly and it's the exact same story.  I earn thirty or forty dollars a year in "free money" then go in and spend a couple hundred bucks.

If I was smart, instead of thinking about the $39.44 I'm throwing away, I'd instead think about the additional hundred dollars I won't spend......unfortunately, my brain doesn't work that way.  What I'll do is use this to justify spending money on something I wasn't going to buy and probably don't really need because it's $40.00 cheaper than it normally would have been. Yeah, I know. It's weird logic and probably wouldn't stand up to any financial planning or budgeting logic, but that's how my head works.

In addition, it's only applicable to "full price" items and I'm pretty sure their regular sales offer bigger discounts......oh well, I guess it's not worth trying to apply logic to things like bike shopping anyway so no sense wasting my time trying....besides, I've got to get by the bike shop before this thing expires....

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

A Victim of NRSS...

I have a buddy that's recently gotten in to mountain biking. In addition to buying a new Trek and trying to ride as much as he can, he's also become somewhat of an evangelist trying to get a bunch of his co-workers involved in the sport.

A week or so ago, he asked me if he could borrow a bike for one of his co-workers to ride after work.  Not thinking too much about it, I agreed and loaned him the Voodoo.  The Voodoo is my geared full suspension 29er and with me riding my SS predominantly it doesn't get ridden too often so I figured what the heck?

It's funny that after someone has been riding for a while they tend to forget what it was like to be a beginner. Not knowing how to use clips, not knowing how to shift smoothly and not realizing just how hard mountain biking can be both on the body and on your equipment.

Evidently, my buddy's co-worker is a completely new rider and hadn't been on a bike since he was a kid with his BMX bike.  This means that although he knew how to ride a bike, he didn't know how to ride a bike with gears....uphill....in the dirt. A classic example of someone suffering from NRSS (new rider shifting syndrome)

New riders, hills and nice bikes aren't made to play well with each other because when my buddy returned my bike, he mentioned that there was a "little bit of creaking" coming from the bottom bracket. I didn't think too much about it and actually brought the bike to Chabot that week for our Thursday rides.

Immediately upon starting up the Brandon climb, I noticed the "little bit of creaking" he mentioned....it was probably closer to loading up the coffee grinder with a handful of stainless steel nuts and bolts....holy cow what a racket this thing was making.

Over the weekend I decided to tear down the bike, clean, lube and tighten all the pivot bolts and connectors.  Service the bottom bracket and see what else needed to be done. It turns out I was in for some work.  The bike was filthy which was no surprise.  What was a surprise was the fact that there were actually several links in the chain that were twisted and on the verge of failing. The middle ring of the crankset actually had 2 teeth completely broken off and the bottom bracket had quite a bit of fine dust and dirt in it.

The dust and the dirt were probably the main culprits of the creaking and are no one's fault. It's the dry season around here and all the trails are loose, fine dust over hardpack. The chain and the missing teeth on the crankset though are most likely the victims of NRSS.  NRSS usually has two major and oft-seen symptoms: Shifting while under load, and Failing to softpedal during shifts.

Sufferers of NRSS tend to have an inability to look ahead or up the trail. They are usually surprised by hills and as a result, will wait until they are unable to turn the current gear before pushing the shift button while under full load. This of course puts a HUGE amount of stress on the crank, the chain and the derailleur.

It appears that my bike was a victim of NRSS to an extreme and as a result, required major reconstructive surgery. Since everything was torn down anyway and the bike and it's components are about 3 years old, I decided to replace the bottom bracket with a new upgraded XTR model. The chain and the middle ring of the crankset were both going to require replacement surgery and the rear derailleur received a complete soaking, cleaning and reattachment.

Tonight, I'll reassemble everything and restore her to her previous silky smooth riding status.....never to be loaned out to anyone suffering from NRSS again!