Doing it all the hard way...

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Although the weather forecast had been updated to decrease the likelihood of precipitation I awoke to find a dusting of snow on my deck. Capital Hill was likewise adorned with a casual sprinkling of white. The photo below is a reenactment of 17th street this morning.


Six brave souls met at the appointed hour in the brisk 33 degree air. John, having blistered a metric century with Hank the day before, thought that with the icy conditions, it was the better part of valor to decline the ride and return home to do three hundred crunches and then run a dozen miles. 

 The five survivors rolled down and noted a stalker following that turned out to be Tom catching onto the back of the peloton. The six of us were all clad in our chosen armor to fight off the cold and the stiff breeze. After being away, Tim was eager to get his legs spinning again and without John to push the pace Tim led us to quickly form a double paceline and along we rode with almost military precision.

 Crossing the I-90 bridge the wind from the north was cold and cut through our miracle clothing so we could all “get our chill on.” Once on Mercer, more from tradition than actual need, Hank, Brad and Dave each peeled off a layer and we began circumnavigating the island.  There were snow crystals in the air and while you couldn’t say it was really snowing, the occasional pinprick on your cheek told you the air wasn’t empty.

Tim wasted no time in picking up the pace and Tom was right there. Hank and Dave caught on and a moment later Brad and Kevin brought our number back to six. We continued in formation to the base of the climb where Kevin was urged to attack. Everyone was out of the saddle and digging deep in their suitcases of courage. Our heads were bobbing as we danced on the pedals climbing to the top of the island. Soon we were back in our double paceline and our biggest challenge was avoiding the slippery manhole covers that seemed to be on every corner of the east side luge run.  Ever so gradually, the pace picked up and soon we were stretched out in a single line and then Tim attacked and it was a sprint to the park that marks the end of the competitive part of the ride.  Hank may have been feeling the miles from the day before, but he showed no signs of slowing down.

Kevin was begging for more and asked who would join him to retrace our route, but the call of coffee and baked goods was too strong and so we opted to return along the north end of Mercer.

The morning had warmed all of two degrees but the icy wind had picked up and the westward journey across I-90 became a challenge. Whitecaps on the north side of the bridge gave an indication of the wind.  Even though Tom had left his Aero wheels at home he was wrestling with the crosswind like the rest of us. I had to adjust my artificial horizon to keep from getting vertigo as we all found ourselves riding tilted to the right several degrees to keep from getting blown over.  Brad proved the wise one as his heavy machine was stable in the crosswind.


At the top of the I-90 climb we paused only long enough to snap a picture and then we were riding along the lake headed north into the headwind.  The hour was still early which meant there was still very little traffic and that allowed us to return to our six-pack riding arrangement. With the chilling breeze along the lake we were only too happy to turn off and climb to the Arboretum.  The pace picked up and the climb remained friendly as there were no King of the Mountain points today.


Once we were back on top of Capital hill we called the ride complete and thawed ourselves with hot beverages.

On the final climb to the bakery, some of our riders had managed to finish drenched in sweat their clothing soaked from head to toe and caked with salt. These riders all headed over to Tim’s place to try on team clothing before heading home to clean up. I could only cringe as I thought of those who would try on that same clothing after these slippery bikers…….  Perhaps I exaggerate this for the sake of entertainment…or to gross out the rest of the team…

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ten reasons why I didn’t attend the inauguration

10 No free ticket came in the mail
9 I have a fear of long lines for inadequate quantities of overused and underserviced port-a-potties
8 I was a bit too “bold” on my Priceline bidding
7 I’m saving my frequent flyer miles for the Garlic Festival
6 I am only interested in socialist speeches when they are given by men in olive green military uniforms
5 It is all just hot air until you actually do something
4 I’m too old to settle for just “feeling good” about something
3 I would hate to miss Ed McMahon showing up at my door
2 I am so ticklish that I might pee myself when I was being patted down by Security staff
1 I’m trying to reduce my sulfur footprint

Sunday, January 18, 2009

January 18th Ride Report

When young Dawn with her rose-red fingers shone once more it was time for the 20/20 Fuel team to assemble and again journey to the Isle of Mercer. From I-5 Mount Rainier was silhouetted against a bright blue sky. It appeared that clouds had been outlawed. Approaching the Ship Canal Bridge I could see Lake Union hidden under a thick blanket of fog.  Long fingers of fog extended along the Montlake cut and up Capital Hill.  Even though there wasn’t a lot of water on the ground there was a little black ice on Capital Hill so the potential for a slippery ride was worth noting. 
The sun chased the moon away and soon a quorum was present and we took off. The descent was especially brisk and everyone was evaluating their clothing choices. Gloves, ear, neck and foot protection were all topics of discussion.  The pace was friendly and although the elastic snapped and we broke into two groups; there wasn’t any urgency to close the gap. At the top of the I-90 lid we caught up with Matt and soon we were riding into the grey havens on the bridge. With little wind and thick fog the bridge had a surreal feeling as if the Island was a hundred miles away through endless fog. Finally we began the climb and knew we were approaching Mercer. 
We took a quick inventory and, finding all present, we started around the island. The sun was playing peek-a-boo as were still in fog, but with blue sky overhead we knew the fog was thinning.  A small group shot off the front and the peloton proper kept a reasonable tempo. Sam A.K.A. “the Piston” started pumping and we began to move out. On the southern tip of the island the fog was so thick, we didn’t realize we were at the base of the climb until the road turned up.

My eye caught movement and I realized it was John on his foggy-pavement colored stealth bike coming toward us. He had turned and looped back to ride the hill again. Determined not to be passed by John on the hill; Kevin moved out to demonstrate he still isn’t old and Dave tried to hang on.  Shortly after the hill, John barreled by us without a word. Kevin grabbed his wheel and Dave latched on to Kevin’s draft. A few turns later Kevin drifted back and Dave tried to hang with John. This proved futile and soon Dave was in oxygen bankruptcy and sat up. Scott passed Dave looking for John. By now John was up the road really laying down the power and the rest of us were considering dietary supplements.

Mike had commitments, so he cut back along the top of Mercer while the rest of us retraced our route. The return was less eventful with Tom, Sam, Matt and Kevin taking turns leading our group. John, Scott and Hank had moved out and we regrouped just before descending to the bridge. Tom flatted on the bridge, which afforded an opportunity to help our fellow rider and show some class. Once we were again at full strength we again sailed northbound along Lake Washington. 

Scott pounced and took full KOM points on the climb up from the lake. The Arboretum was dry and traffic was light. The climb back up Capital hill was pleasant and cooperative.

Some Post ride Java at our sponsor’s venue was the perfect way to end the morning. We took our Joe and sat across the street in the sun and discussed the finer points of clinical trials. A great day.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Twilight Voyeur

For no particular reason I was especially excited to ride in today. Perhaps the departure of the recent snows in combination with the dry forecast gave me reason to be optimistic. Perhaps it was my ascension of the bicycle commuting learning curve that has allowed me to skip the apprehension that sometimes accompanies my rides in the darkness. Let’s just assume I can’t explain my reasons and get on with my most recent observations.
After assembling and packing my lunch I closed the pannier and made my way to the garage. The usual last minute fiddling was minimal and soon I was on my way. My quiet street is even quieter before six in the morning. As I began climbing Vuelta hill in the stillness I look around. The only sounds are my breathing and an occasional creak as my pannier and its contents settle in for the ride to work. The steep grade of the hill and my cold legs force me to traverse as I go up. I count my zigs; nine today. As the grade finally lessens, I look around. I have not seen another car, or a single person and it feels a little Twilight Zone-ish. There isn’t even a breeze and I take in my surroundings as if I am the only person in the world. I see lights coming from windows that, based on the window’s size and opaqueness, I assume to be bathroom windows. I don’t see any movement, but I assume there is life on the other side of those windows. Others are starting their days with hot water, while my hot water is still fifteen miles away.
As I continue my ride, there are amazingly few cars on my route. Were it not so, I would have to really evaluate the viability of commuting by bike. With no traffic and wide neighborhood streets all to myself, I can’t help but relax and look around. In January, just riding gets me training points, so I’m not worried about my speed. I finally see people. Some are watching morning TV, some are seated at computers, and some are leaving their houses headed toward their cars. After crossing over I-5 unseen on a pedestrian bridge, I am on another quiet street. As the road winds uphill, I can see curtains parted and I catch occasional glimpses into living rooms.
When asked what super hero power people would like to have, being invisible often makes the list. If you want to feel invisible, just hop on a bike and despite your valiant attempts to light yourself up like Robert Redford’s character in the movie The Electric Horseman, you will still be pretty stealth. I don’t know if these people mind, or even care that I can see them. The fact is I do see them, and they don’t know that I see them. That makes me feel kind of weird. It isn’t like I’m trying to catch a glimpse of I don’t-want-to-know what. I’m just out there passing by and it is dark, and since there isn’t much else to look at, if there is something that is illuminated, it will catch my eye, and I might feel weird about it.
Soon I am on the Burke Gilman trail. Just like the Interurban trail between Lynnwood and Everett, where you are next to the freeway, fifty feet from tens of thousands of people who don’t see you; here too you are invisible to those in cars who are travelling parallel to you. The trail is dark and where it is sheltered from the lights of the cars you have to strain to avoid potholes and tree root “speed bumps.” It seems strange to take a route that is so lightly travelled, while the road you can almost spit on is jammed with morning traffic.
The bike trail through the UW Bothell campus seems to always be foggy and ten degrees colder than everywhere else. Nearly every time I see the fog here I begin to hear Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” in my head.
As I make my way along the “Tweed Path,” so named by me (in my warped, but ever entertaining mind) because it is a meandering multiuse trail that is part paved and part dirt and I keep expecting to see a gentleman riding a Penny-Farthing in a tweed suit with a straw hat coming the other way. The curves of the trail, the surface itself, the foot traffic and the occasional scurrying creature prevent you from going very fast, but that just adds to the attraction.
This time of year it is still dark even though I am nearly to the end of my journey. The chill from the Werewolf zone has made me keen for the hot shower that is moments away. Now I am passing offices and again I see people who don’t see me. I am pretty sure they don’t care though. Besides, work is much more of a public place than their kitchens and living rooms.
The evening commute starts at twilight and gradually the sky fades to an inky black. There is a cold breeze and the hustle of the evening drivers means the return trip is not as tranquil as my morning journey. I find I am stronger on the hills and for lack of a better reason; I attribute it to increased core strengthening and leg weight training. While I am deliberately trying not to challenge myself and max my heart rate during this phase of the non season, I am pretty pleased with my new found power.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

January 4th Ride Report

It is with some reservations that I share this ride report.  I feel that as the “new guy’ I am not in a position to pass judgment on my fellow team members all of whom have seniority over me as I am the rookie member of the 20/20 Fuel team. Additionally, I can’t recall all of the names of the riders I have met so far. Finally, I usually use nicknames to protect the innocent and the guilty and again as the new guy, I would be out of line assigning monikers so early in my team tenure.

As the darkness was giving way to the daylight on this first Sunday of 2009 the riders quietly rolled up at the assigned time.  After handshakes and introductions, we rolled out with commendable promptness. 

It was 33 degrees when I left my place and the dopler radar indicated we would have a dry ride, so I decided to bring the Ti Flyer and leave my fender-clad rain tool back in the stable to keep the other bikes company. We quickly made our way down to Lake Washington where we were greeted by breathtaking views of Mt. Rainier cloaked in pink snow to the southeast, and a panorama of the Cascade Range leading all the way to Mt. Baker to the north. The sky and water had a golden glow that made us feel alive despite the face numbing wind and near freezing temperatures.

We met up with two more at the top of the I-90 lid and I grabbed a quick picture. The chill kept our pause brief, and in a moment ten of us were sailing across Lake Washington on the I-90 bike lane. 


Soon we were circumnavigating Mercer Island and enjoying nearly vacant roads. John showed his strength and Tim seemed ready to go faster. On the east side of the island, Sam, who had been moving up and down amongst the second group took over the pace making and led us in a single file paceline. Gradually we reeled in the three breakaway riders. Although this had been described as a leisurely ride, as we approached the park that marks the end of the route on the east side, testosterone took over and I watched the leaders break away from me despite my indicated speed of 26 mph.

On the return trip I regret to report that I became “that guy” when I flatted. Sam, Kevin, Matthew and Tom stopped and I did my best to make quick work of the tube change (by the way, at home I checked and I got 90 psi from the C02).  After we resumed riding the chill that had set in during the brief stop quickly burned off.

The return was uneventful and as riders peeled off to fulfill various obligations, the balance of us had a friendly gathering for coffee and a snack. It was the perfect ending to a great winter ride. Hank and I waxed eloquent on the finer points of component mixing as Kevin considered his gearing options for the Cyclocross season that is only nine short months away.  I got to babbling on about chain keepers and to make sure there isn't any confusion; here are two photos of the subject weapon.  Not in the second shot you can see that you can adjust the angle (by rotating) and extension (the screw and slot mounting) of the chain keeper.  I got mine from


36 miles, 2:10 ride time, 16.2 average, 1,900 feet of climbing. Whew..

Friday, January 2, 2009

Just Ducky so far in 2009

It was thirty four degrees and the predawn morning was as dark as my heart when Evo departed for work on the bike this morning. I am trying out the new Craft rain jacket I picked up in Portland at the USGP and was delighted that it wasn’t raining or snowing when I left. The steep hill hits me right off the bat and although it is no doubt bad for my knees to have a Vuelta-quality hill before getting warmed up, the heat I generate climbing the hill usually takes the chill off pretty quick.

It was a joy to be able to go at a nice pace and let my mind wander. Although I was craving more light from my headlight, I have convinced myself that if I got a better light I would just become a junkie and would always want even more. Awesome Mike at work periodically shows me new light systems and I shudder at the cost of those. And for me to shudder at the cost of bike equipment, as you can imagine, they are rather spendy. I am pretty visible from behind and since I trust myself more than others, my priority is to be seen more than to be able to see.

I was surprised at the amount of snow left in the highlands and I had to dab to cross the snow on both sides of Cipollini Bridge. I thought I could channel my cyclocross skills on the snow, but slick road tires and a single loaded pannier kept that concept in the realm of outrageous fantasy. I was able to keep the rubber side down and although some areas of the Burke-Gilman trail necessitated that I alter my route ever so slightly, I arrived intact.

I’ll offer a full review in a later post, but so far the jacket is great.