Doing it all the hard way...

Thursday, February 11, 2016

In between Dreams

Although January felt like it was only a week long, during January it seemed like Spring, and all that comes with it, would never come.  Suddenly February was underway before we knew what was happening.  Now the realization that even though winter is far from over, and with the apparent concurrence of a Pennsylvanian Groundhog; change is on the horizon.

The spike in New Year’s Resolution gym attendance has subsided. Football is done and dusted.  We have once again figured out how to dress for the cold so we are comfortable.  The days of leaving for work in the dark and getting home in the dark are behind us.

There is talk of baseball and plans for spring and summer are beginning to take shape. I have thousands of kilometers to ride before our trip to the Dolomites, but my saddle time in December and January has given me a head start. 
There is still much to enjoy about winter. The frost in the trees and the brightness at night when the moonlight is on the snow is magic.  Fat bikes, skiing and the crunch of snow under your boots is thrilling in part because it is fleeting.
Spring isn’t so close that winter activities feel rushed.  Rather, it is like when you are finishing a good meal and you know your favorite desert will follow.

After more than a year of battling a wrist injury, Hottie is on the mend and I looking forward to riding on the trails in spring.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Winter Cycling in Seattle…. What do my shoes even look like?

I have followed what feels like a pretty normal progression in my cycling evolution. It started with a road bike and then a mountain bike.  Then I took up Cyclocross and that changed everything. 

Once I started racing I was willing to ride in real rain and I realized those clip-on fenders really don’t do the job.  I can’t say we have crappy weather especially when compared to Detroit or the like.  I can say that around here we have lots and lots of rides in the rain. 

More than a few cyclists have a special bike they use either as a commuter bike or a rain bike or both.  They deck them out with full fenders and buddy flaps.  If you don’t know what buddy flaps are, then you must live somewhere dryer than Seattle.
Excellent Flappage
Buddy flaps go on the end of your full fenders and just about touch the ground.  They knock down the rooster tail that comes off your rear wheel so anyone riding behind you in the rain (your buddy) doesn’t get your spray in their face.  Anyone showing up to a group ride in the rain without buddy flaps begins by apologizing and finishes by buying the coffee after the ride.

The rain bikes get dirty and the maintenance is far from glamorous.  I love working on a bike in a bike stand out in the sunshine.  Getting the drive train pristine and shiny is rewarding.  Contrast that image with a muddy bike and rims coated with a charcoal colored film, brake pads peppered with sand and shards of aluminum and a chain black with grease.  The downtube is plastered with mud, leaves, worm parts (really), and sand.
You get the idea...
Following the Zinn Protocol I wipe, lube and wipe the chain cleanish.  I try to floss the cassette but the task is made harder by the fender hardware.  My jockey wheels are caked with goo.  My spokes and hubs do not shine.

In addition to the infinite options of rain jackets and pants that are pressed into service everyone wears shoe covers.  I don’t mean the socks worn on the outside of your shoes.  I am referring to the booties designed to DELAY the rain from getting into your shoes. They all keep you dry for a while...... None of them work all the time.

The rain dictates that you start wearing booties in October. In Washington State if it is dry in the winter it is cold so you still have to wear booties to keep your feet warm.  The result is that when spring finally comes and you look down and see your actual shoes pedaling instead of booties spinning around you realize it is a sight you haven’t seen in months.

When the conditions allow you to pull the cobwebs off your “good bike” typically you hoot at how much lighter and faster that bike is compared to your fendered behemoth. Yes that day will come but it will not come soon.  For now we ride in jackets, pants and booties. 

But we do ride.

Coffee and Lies and Cobbles #163

Is there such a thing as a Kinder and Gentler flavor of Suffering? 

Dry weather combined with the steady progress the calendar is making toward our June cycling epic created critical mass for a longer ride this past weekend.  We didn’t have our usual Barn Burners out this week so we enjoyed a more congenial pace after leaving the Island.

For the avoidance of doubt; longer means longer with a TON of climbing.  My weekly elevation totals change from hundreds of meters to thousands of meters.  We try to get creative as we find routes to link up the local climbs without resorting to the mental torture of hill repeats.   There are only a handful of climbs nearby that exceed a couple hundred meters and sooner or later we manage to climb them all.

Zoo Hill, Montrose, Lakemont, The soft side of Cougar, Sauk, Sake Pass and the Top of Cougar are names that cause my quads to quiver just saying them.  Pizza Hill and Madrona get relegated to bumps in the road.  When given the choice, at least for now, we always take the steepest option.

On this ride we regrouped often and those in front doubled back if they got too far ahead. During the ride it felt like I spent time riding alongside every other rider.  On some of our more aggressive rides we typically split early and spend more time apart than we do together.  On our Volcanoes trips I tended arrive at the food stops in time to see the fast guys leave.
This day our ride reminded me of the “Gentleman Style” riding we did at the Goldendale and Winthrop Fondos.  Big John once commented that the Winthrop Fondo was among the best days he has ever had on a bike.  In addition to the awe inspiring scenery the experience of suffering with our little band of brothers made that day standout. This ride had just a fraction of the suffering but it did have a similar vibe of brotherhood.

This group has been riding together for several years.  We slogged out wet miles as a group back in the soggy late winter of 2012 as we prepared for the trip to the Alps that summer.  Sharing all those months of preparation made the actual riding in France that much more enjoyable.  Under warm sunny skies in France we laughed as we recalled the Medina Marge/Wet Sock ride that featured a three hour dance with hypothermia. 
Never a bad time to confirm bike fit......
Over the years we have supported each other through job changes, parenting challenges, surgeries and prolonged recoveries.  More than a few of our clan have stopped racing.  For some, the Fondos are the perfect vehicle for the transition to civilian riding.
It strikes me as odd that so far in 2016 we have been averaging about a dozen riders each Sunday morning.  Wet or dry, cold or colder our group is showing up.  There was a Sunday back in 2010 when it was just Marc and I and that was it.  We aren’t as fast in 2016 as we used to be and we appear to appreciate our post-ride coffee more than we did in the past.

Before you start humming “We are the world” and thinking we are a Peloton of Gandhi’s let me assure you that while we may be getting older and kinder, we are still pretty darn fast and every one of us looks forward to dropping you and your friends on a tough ride in the near future.  We may regroup more than we used to but rest assured we don’t hesitate to call out Rule # 5 as early and often as required.
I look like this and then I get smaller and smaller 
as I pull away from you as you gasp for life.