Doing it all the hard way...

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Boot Dryer DIY

UGLY, but fully functional
For almost nothing I made a boot dryer. I bought a bathroom ceiling fan for $13 and used wood from a drawer. I cut off the cord from something that went into the trash and found some PVC pipe and I was in business.

This is the fan unit. I mounted it to a two by four and mounted that into the drawer.

Then I drilled the holes for the PVC and glued them in place with gorilla glue

Tux made sure I did a quality job....
Then I used some bathroom caulk and sealed around the PVC.
I used wood from the bottom of another drawer and sealed it off.
After last week's SSCXWC, it got put to the test.

What is good about this is there is NO heat, so you can leave it on overnight and not cook anything. It was cheap, it is quiet enough and by plugging, or opening the tops, you can dry one to five pairs of boots/gloves, etc..

The price of victory

My one and only Podium finish...

In my life, certain stories have so clearly captured an issue for me that they have become part of my mindset. As someone who has been on every side of competition; when I heard the following story told in the first person, I knew I would not forget it.

I grew up in a small town and our high school competed against other small town schools. I was the star pitcher on our school’s baseball team. Most teams including ours, had few if any substitutes on the bench. One game the other school had ten players in uniform, but one was acting as the bat boy and appeared to have no plans to enter the game. An outfielder on the other team sprained his ankle in the last inning and they substituted this player in for him. The other fielders shifted as if this player wasn’t there. After three outs they came in for their final at bat.

We had a big lead and I was pitching well. With two outs the bat boy came to the plate. I could tell he was nervous and I wanted to get one more strike out to beat my previous best. I threw a fastball and he stepped toward third base as if getting out of the way and the pitch. The pitch was called strike one. Another fastball had the same result. I knew if I threw him a curve he would step out of the way and the pitch would curve over the plate for the third strike. His teammates shouted encouragement him to swing and hang in there.

I threw the curve and he fell to the ground in fear. The ball arced in for the third strike. As I was about to begin my personal celebration I saw the batter sitting in the dirt with his shoulders slumped over, crying. His teammates were approaching him to try and console him. I had set my record; we had won the game. Baseball and winning just never meant as much to me after that.

That story struck me as I had seldom considered the price of victory. I had let my children win when we would race to the car; but aside from that, I had not entertained the concept of sacrifice in competition. We all do things for the greater good. We recycle, we make charitable contributions, we open doors for strangers, but these things really cost us little.

At what point do we yield our egos and/or our personal financial gain for a greater good? When does the responsibility we bear as leaders, or just as equals, mean we put the needs of others before ourselves. I have always felt that when I held leadership positions in companies that I had a duty to make money for the owners, but that I also had a duty to provide opportunities to those who worked for me. I felt this two edged sword was part of the burden of management and I have always willingly accepted it.

Nobody believes more in a capitalistic society where hard work is rewarded more than me. However, I believe that anyone who does not understand and seriously weigh the impact of their actions on others is unfit and undeserving of leadership.

That’s all I’m going to say about that.

For now.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cyclocross Equipment Failure

Short version: After the SSCXWC the bottom bracket on my single speed will turn no more.

Excessive pontification version:
For much of my life I made do with second rate stuff; actually, third rate stuff. When other kids rode Schwinn Stingrays, I had a purple bike from Montgomery Ward (I split the head tube landing off a jump). When other kids got Levi’s I had jeans from JC Penney that were made of polyester so they never faded. I remember rubbing the knees of my pants on the sidewalk trying to get them to fade. Not only did they never fade, my mother put patches on the knees.

As a teenager my fancy turned to backpacking and my dear mother taught me to sew and I began making some of my own gear. My stuff was ugly, but marginally functional. My father was, and remains, mechanically inept. Aside from an ancient hammer, a ten pound crescent wrench and two screw drivers, we had no tools. I’m not sure I ever saw my dad use the crescent wrench.

As I grew older I continued to scrounge equipment and make do with what I could afford. There were some areas where I refused to compromise. Rock climbing ropes were first quality and I cared for them and made them last. I didn’t have fancy cams, but made do with 1970 era stoppers and the like.

In my adult life, my bike equipment has been mid to upper end stuff. My wonderful wife has bestowed Park tools on me for birthdays and holidays. With better tools I have been able to maintain our bikes without spending a lot of money at bike shops.

This is my sixth season of Cyclocross. I have crashed and flatted and had all of the typical experiences. I haven’t had the broken derailleur or shifters that make us all cringe when we see them. Hank, my fellow equipment-o-phile broke his derailleur and his hanger a couple of races ago.

After SSCXWC I was cleaning my bike and the pedals were really hard to turn; as if there was too much preload. So much of my learning has been by trial and error that I assumed it was my mistake and removed the subject BB only to find it was frozen solid. I pried off the seal and the bearings appeared to be welded in place. No amount of solvent could remedy the situation. Although I didn’t check the time, I pronounced it dead at the scene.

I had a choice between ordering another crappy bottom bracket, or for 30% more, getting a bombproof one at cost through our sponsor bike shop. This will be my first, and I expect my last bike, where my BB retails for more than I paid for the frame.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

I hope it is "Other."

I went to look up something on my blog while at work today and here is what greeted me.

Blocked Website
Your access to the website
was blocked for the following reason: Blocked Reason:
Content Analysis Category: Hate, Other

Monday, October 18, 2010

Silver Lake Race Report 2010

2009 Silver Lake.... Same sand, different year.

Aside from some pathetic yoga on Monday after the brutal race on October 10th, I didn’t work out all week. I felt beat up and sick so taking the time off, made the most sense.

Sunday morning the air was crisp and there was frost on the grass. Tux was anxious as I ate my oatmeal; he wanted to come, but this wasn’t the week to bring him. I made my way to Silver Lake with SFW following me.

The early sun created a misty fog that gave the lake a surreal look. The ground was dry and if it weren’t for the sand it would have been a fast course.

Course description:
Crossing the start/finish line you are on the only flat pavement on the whole course. After only about ten rods in distance you are on sand. Riders would invariably try to ride the sand and in two to ten seconds the riders would be churning and wrestling their bikes to stay upright and keep moving forward. With rare exception, everyone would eventually grind (perfect word usage) to a stop and bail and run. The sand went on for about ¾ furlong which wouldn’t be bad except it was sand, so it took forever to run. I run better than most, so I generally made up ground here.

After the sand you had twenty yards before a sharp left hand turn took you to an uphill that had a barrier at the bottom (what idiot thought that was a good idea?). Up and over the barrier and then about one chain later you have a loose climb that you don’t stand a chance of riding up because it is too close to the barrier you just went over. In theory with a perfect remount and lots of power applied instantly it could happen. After ascending the loose run up, you mount up and begin a gradual climb on singletrack. Then a series of tight twisty turns where I did better than in years past thanks to tubies and Sam teaching us about cornering. This emerges onto a gravel road that starts flat and then turns sharply downhill. Then a sharp ninty-plus degree right hand turn onto a short, super steep loose trail and more tight turns including downhill off camber devil turns followed by short, but really steep climbs. Then seventy meters of pavement brings you back onto a sand section which can be ridden by about half the riders. You are trying to float effortlessly over the sand and put our mega watts of power at the same time. The best way to describe it is to imagine applying power through the full cycle of the pedal stroke avoiding the bobbing of only applying power on the down stroke.

After riding the sand you hit a patch of harder stuff followed by sand that 90% had to run. Then you emerge onto a super steep climb that takes you directly to the top of the park with only one short off camber respite from the double digit grade gravel and grass climb. When you get here you are absolutely gassed. Then a series of downhill, off camber turn, stupid steep uphill short flat to the next downhill, repeat turns. The downhills give you a moment to catch your breath and then another series of tight switchbacks lets you practice your tight turning skills. This final series seems about half a league long.

After crossing the start finish line, the sand looms ahead like a debt that cannot be escaped.

I got the call up to the first row. This was the first time I have been in the first row as a result of call ups. For reasons I don’t fully understand our first lap was in fact a half lap with a detour that took us through the first fifty meters of sand and then turned around and caught the end of the sand section on the last half of the lap. To my udder amazement I got the hole shot as we hit the sand. While all are equal in the sand, some are more equal than others. I soon was about tenth as we started riding the menacing hills. Out of the saddle I fought to hold my position and improve it when I could. I did okay on the steep downs and ups and was still about tenth as we hit the sand on the second lap. I rode most of the sand on the second lap and when I bailed I was able to keep my momentum up and moved up a bit through the sand. I tried to climb the loose stuff past the barrier and piled into the ivy. I lost a couple spots but then passed some who had just passed me. The Curtlo was awesome and went where I pointed it. I was a little too cautious and people would catch me on downhills, but I powered back on the climbs and flats. I felt whipped on the third lap, but pushed it on my final lap. I felt I was able to ride the tight stuff better by keeping my outside pedal weighted and just going for it.

I crossed the line 14th which is my season best among a field of 48 finishers. Unlike last week, I was able to speak after finishing. Last week I just wanted to climb into a warm dry sleeping bag and close my eyes. This week I found some post race food and put on some dry clothes and prepared to double up and do the single speed race.

I had changed out my front ring from a 34 to a 38 last week. Kevin was running a 38-20 and said it was the set up to have on this course. My 38-16 was clearly too high and this wasn’t the course to go high. I will revert back tonight. The single speed category is largely young studs that could mix it up with the CAT 1/2 guys. I feel every one of my fiddy years when I line up with those lads.

I rightfully start at the back of the SS race and as we hit the sand ten seconds after the start the carnage exploded in front of me. Sand, arms, feet, and wheels were flying everywhere. I bailed quickly and ran through the Omaha Beach scene and was “not last” as I like to say. The climbs were almost, but not quite, impossible in my high gear, and I held my own through the turns. I moved up a few places among the rear of the SS field and was passed by a couple of the CAT 1/2 Women. The 45+ Master 3 Men were likewise catching me after my ninety second lead was squandered by my slow pace. I took a tumble in the sand and managed to scrape my elbow, but I quickly got up and kept plugging. The sand was beginning to lose its luster and although I continued to do okay, the day was wearing on me. On the third of six laps, at the run up I got someone’s brake hood shoved into my right kidney. Since your power comes from your low back something that rarely enters into a Cyclocross racers mind darted into my stream of thought; reason. I began hoping for a “mercy” mechanical.

As I crossed the start/finish line I looked ahead at the sand section. It looked a mile long. I coasted into the sand and shouldered my bike. I already had a top fifteen finish on the day and was still recovering. My low back hurt where I got jabbed and I was tired. I decided that was enough for one day.

I brushed the sand off my elbow and noticed I was bleeding. My hip had also taken the classic bruise/scrape that is the “I fell on my side during a Cyclocross race today” badge of courage.

I cheered on my teammates and when the race was over I packed and headed home. I was tired, bruised and bloody. By the way, Tux was totally fascinated by my elbow smelling like blood. It was a good day and I am looking forward to the SSCXWC race next week.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Wonderdog Update

With Hottie exploring the Cyclocross options within the Carolinas Tux and I are trying not to find ourselves humming the theme song from “The odd couple.” Tux is an affable companion and is content to join me on whatever task I am engaged. He has many endearing traits including his shoe relocation program. When my youngest daughter would get antsy we would get her to jump on the trampoline to burn off the excess energy. Tux sometimes starts to boil over and we take him into the backyard where he rips around like a motorcycle in a cage. It is enough of a spectacle that the neighbors race to their windows to watch him.

He does have a habit that we don’t like. He knows not to get on our bed when we are in it. When we’re gone, our bed is his safe place. He hops on and lies down. We don’t want to find his hair on our bedspread, so we toss a blanket on the bed when we aren’t in it. The problem is, he has developed an appreciation for the finer things. He pulls back not only the blanket, but also the comforter and sheets so he can plop his furry self on our high thread count sheets and pillowcases. We console ourselves that he could have worse habits like chewing furniture or leather shoes, or peeing. If the worst thing we have to do is wash our sheets more often; we’ll take it.

He is a gentle soul and loves to get affection. When he takes a treat from your hand he is grateful and your fingers are never at risk. As a racer he made his living chasing the little furry thing, and since joining our family he has caught a squirrel which seemed to me entirely consistent with his training. When Tux caught the squirrel he believed he had been chasing his entire life, he brought it in the house to share his joy. Hottie was less enthusiastic and called me very excited at work asking that I remove his “trophy.”

He is still a cool pup.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Bull Mouse

I am still recovering. While the race Sunday was really hard, I have just felt off since last Thursday. I ignored the signs until Sunday evening after my race when I collapsed into bed spent. Monday morning I did yoga, or what I have come to call yoga, and the rest of the week I’ve been sleeping in.

With recovery topping my list of training priorities in 2010, I am just taking it easy until I feel good. Tux the wonderdog has shown great patience with me in the meantime.

Monday, October 11, 2010

2010 SCX Race # 2 Beverly Park Race Report

Pretending to be Portland..
All winter we pray for spring. All spring we dream of summer. All summer we long for Cyclocross. All during the Cyclocross season we live for MUD. This past weekend did not disappoint anyone.

The night before the race, it bombed rain. It was the kind of rain that wakes you up. The ground was saturated as we took a practice lap before the first race. There was mud. There are several types of mud. There is the cream cheese mud that Portland has. You ride through it and your tire tracks remain a six inch trench until the next poor soul comes along. There is the standing water over firm stuff that can be ridden. There is the shoe sucking glop that cannot be ridden. There is the sticky stuff that accumulates on your brakes and derailleurs like a brownish grey moss. This is dangerous stuff as it leads to broken derailleurs and snapped hangers. There is the greasy stuff that defies you to turn in it. There is the lava like stuff that you can ride with herculean effort then the mud flowing back after you leaving a seam where your tires passed. We had all these and more.

I held onto my rain jacket until the race official said there was one minute to go. It was raining hard and the rain was cold. I was in the second row and had a decent start. I hit the run up in the top ten. During the first lap I moved up as high as fifth. I was feeling strong and then I was feeling weak.

It was a tough day of racing. I later had a raspy cough that told me I had some congestion in my chest. This explained my fade in position. The mud made for a day when you could be putting out 400 watts of power on a flat surface with the right tires and tire pressure and only be going six miles an hour. If felt like the whole course was steep uphill. One racer remarked it was like plugging into a machine that sucked all of your strength out of your legs. It reminded me of riding when you are breaking in new brake pads, or just grabbing your brakes. The deceleration was that noticeable.

On Saturday we had practiced riding into sharp corners hard and then braking hard at the last second as you initiated the corner. The funny thing was the race course was so slow on Sunday; you didn’t really get enough speed on a straight to justify braking hard, so the technique was moot.

On the Evergreen course two weeks ago, you had stretches where you applied power followed by a break during a technical section. That was a fun course with some fast and slow sections. At Beverly Park, you didn’t get those breaks because with only one exception you never got enough speed to carry you through a technical section, so you had to keep putting out the power every second. It is tough mentally when you are putting out so much effort, and that effort doesn’t seem to be translating into the appropriate amount of forward progress. “How can I be working so hard and going so slow?” Your mind battles to reconcile the muscle stimuli (I’m going fast) with the visual stimuli (I’m barely moving).

In the end everyone was exhausted. It was the definition of a power course. A SLOW power course. Riders finished and slumped over their bars spent. One of my teammates crossed the line at the end of his race at full speed and stopped pedaling. Ten feet past the line he had rolled to a stop and was stepping off his bike. It was that slow. It was, however, very fun.

SFW and Evo apres' race

Friday, October 8, 2010

SSCXWC 2010 Progress Report

With Cyclocross season in full swing, the chance to bring in some variety to the suffering is always welcome. With Hottie covering the past two editions of the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships (SSCXWC) for Cyclocross Magazine and my annual race reports for CX Magazine, it has become a highlight on the annual racing calendar for both of us.

This year the race has moved to Seattle and I have been racing part time in the single speed category. At first glance one would think these two factors would help me. Alas, once again the SSCXWC has instituted a qualifying race, so my participation is clearly at risk. I have been finishing in the top 80% at my races. A similar placement in the qualifier would not advance me. I can only hope that bribery and treachery, as in years past, will be rewarded generously.

The single speed mindset is an amazing thing. On days when I have raced both my age division and the single speed events, my perspective shifts almost as soon as I cross the finish line of my age group race. The simplicity of Cyclocross is exacerbated by the single gear. I recall one SS brother who said he preferred to think of his bike as having infinite speeds, all achieved using one gear. Suddenly the complexity of gears and cables seems cumbersome and unnecessary. The choice of what gear to start off the race in disappears. Time spent selecting the right gear is instead spent pedaling. There is no need to ease off while your chain climbs or descends your cogs, you just keep cranking.

I still love my geared bike, but that isn’t the focus of this post.

I am considering my possible costume options. Knowing I will be photographed is a factor in that decision. Knowing that Hottie always slips a shot of me into her CX magazine submissions is also worth noting. The legs are getting in shape, I’ve dropped a few pounds. Although I don’t have any tattoos, piercings, or ratty facial hair, I can pretend to have the single speed mindset. I will be quick to condemn those who show up with white shoes or white kit, shaved legs or carbon frames.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Elisha a.k.a Lennard Zinn told me to grease my skewers..

I hate it when any of my bikes make any unexpected sound. I take a pride in my mechanic skills. One of my teammates, when he emails me a technical question, uses the salutation “Dear Lennard.” This reference is to Lennard Zinn the sage mechanic who literally wrote the book on bicycle maintenance and repair. Associating me with Mr. Zinn is a compliment I welcome.

It was with great embarrassment that I endured a persistent clicking sound as I rode my wonderful road bike this past weekend. When Hottie and I shared a ride up Chewuch Canyon on Saturday morning I tried to keep the pedaling force down to minimize the sound. When I later took a hard solo training ride I pretended the clicking was a training metronome and tried to embrace the sound. Oh, the lies we tell ourselves….

I realize I have made mistakes about the source of creaks in the past. I was once convinced my headset was creaking when it was in fact a spoke creaking in my front hub. With all my experience I was pretty sure this was my BB. I have had my share of creaking bottom brackets (BBs) in my riding experience. I have learned to remove and re-grease a BB as fast as anyone. I keep plumber’s tape in my tool box for repairing creaking BB’s. I live on the fine line between being an experienced mechanic and being a creaking diagnostic snob.

A few weeks ago I re-greased all the Speedplay pedals that Hottie and I have, just in case. I have SRAM Rival cranks on both my road bikes. I had some creaking coming from my rain bike BB at a certain point of the pedal stroke. It wasn’t constant and seemed to have gone away sometime during the summer. Now the nearly identical creak was coming from my prized road bike. I was beginning to suspect SRAM, which was a scary thought.

I removed my road bike BB and removed the seals and cleaned (with an effective, but hazardous chemical that I will not list here) the bearings and races. I then greased them with a magic built-for-purpose grease. I replaced them and the clicking was totally unchanged. I then suspected the pedals so I swapped a pedal, and once again no change.

I jumped on the web and looked for other things to check. I read about loose derailleur hangers and broken bottle cages. Ungreased seat rails, ungreased seat posts and a myriad of other oddities. I looked at Lennard’s own words and he said after checking the BB, the next sources were pedals (and cleats) and skewers.

Feeling like I was on a wild goose chase, but wanting to check the box, I descended down to the man-cave and greased my rear skewer and frame interface points. Rolling out the door I took my traditional driveway up and back while listening. No creaking. I realized why my rain bike stopped creaking. When I built a new rear wheel I changed to a different, and perhaps greased, skewer. I am an idiot. Thanks Lennard.

I feel like the king of the world once again. This is Voodoo. But it is such cool Voodoo.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Wombat in the room ?

I have come to realize that many old people make really weird sounds when they sleep. The older they get the weirder, louder and more frequent the sounds get. That is all I am going to say.

Friday, October 1, 2010


Cyclocross is on the one hand the definition of simplicity. Get around this course as fast as you can, any way you can. You can ride, climb, run, claw, or do whatever it takes. On the other hand; the nuances of tread patterns, tire pressures, frame characteristics, brake options, not to mention embrocation, make this sport a true black art.

As my readership is well aware, I take the Classical view of biking as opposed to the Romantic view proposed by Robert Pirsig. For those of you who just like the Zen of riding, peace be with you and feel free to skip this post.

We spend time pondering the best bar tape for Cyclocross. Over the last six years I have raced with one set of handlebars and no less than six different front brake set ups. If I were to add brake pad experiments into that number, the result would surely exceed my finger based numeric system. I love my ride and feel it is pretty dialed in. For all the hubbub we make about gear, the race nearly always goes to the guy with the fastest legs. Yet because several places are often decided by a few seconds, we are constantly evaluating training, nutrition, equipment and clothing. When I went to Nationals last year I think I took five or six pairs of gloves. By the way, I’m still looking for good gloves for cold and wet conditions.

I recall the fit of rage I was in when I swore off Shimano SPD pedals and went the eggbeater route (I’ve never regretted it). I also recall when Kevin put his tubular front wheel on my bike and had me ride around. I couldn’t stop smiling.

Low pressure means great traction, at the risk of more flats. Get beat up or flat out? Pit wheels ? Pit wheels or pit bike ? I recently looked at my front wheel. It was just sitting there wondering why I was looking at it and wondering if I was some kind of cycling pervert. To the naked eye it was a wheel and a tire. I knew I had cleaned the carbon rim before I used the special glue and magic Belgium tape to glue the tire to the rim. I had of course put a valve extender on the tire before this and had taped the sides of the rim to prevent glue slop from getting everywhere. See my post about gluing the Evo way. Then I put a special sealant into the tire that would be at the ready to plug any small holes it might get while riding. And I had also coated the sidewalls with a special glue to prevent them from getting sliced while racing. That wheel is about as far from simple as you can get. It is, however, wicked fast.

I find myself riding a trainer downstairs before sunrise. Embrocation is a concept that freaks out people. There are several aspects of my Cyclocross life that seem to require explanation to the majority of the world. But to those that understand my sport, or love me, or both, they think I’m okay.


I worked out today. It turns out that is the 201st time in 2010. That's it. Oh; maybe not. I suspect my shoulder is going to become a big deal.