I Suck At Mountain Biking

Instead of the usual Sunday road ride, my friend Maggie and I decided to get out the mountain bikes this morning. She put an invitation to join us on our club’s message board, but we had no takers. When we showed up at the club ride start, some of the roadies greeted us with bemusement at our getup, but soon we left in different directions.

Our target was Bauerle Ranch, a subdivision surrounded by nice singletrack trails. (I’ve written about it before.) We had had a little bit of rain overnight, and the dew point was high, so once we got onto the trails close to home, we could see that today’s ride would be somewhat muddy.

The thin grass along the trail has exploded in growth with all the rain over the past couple of weeks, and being wet, it gave us leg baths as we pedaled along the skinny trail.

But the rain had had another effect, too: It put a lot more rocks across the trail. I don’t mind rock gardens the way I used to, but the ones today were loose, and I could feel my rear wheel skid out to the side when it glanced off them. Nothing serious, but I did find myself stop and walk over a couple of areas that I had ridden just weeks ago.

route

At Bauerle Ranch, the trail starts out as easy singletrack, but soon starts to dip with lots of rocks to navigate. I was leading the way, and came around a corner to see a large rock in the middle of the track. The front wheel slid a bit, and I realized I  would not be able to navigate around the rock — but I wasn’t about to hit it, either. Yeah, right. I hit the brake — the front brake — at the same time the front wheel hit the rock.

Bam! Endover! My right leg slammed into another rock along the trail, and I wound up on my bottom, legs across the trail and my bike on top of them. Already, I could see blood start to roll down the shinbone. I struggled to get the bike off me, as Maggie sympathized.

“What a sight you are right now!” she exclaimed. “I wish I had a GoPro for that one.”

“It felt like I was going over in slow motion,” I said.

“It looked like it, too,” she shot back.

After the crash, the sticky blood on the knee collected grass and other crud that I didn't find until the end of the ride.

After the crash, the sticky blood on the knee collected grass and other crud that I didn’t find until the end of the ride.

I got untangled, and we mounted back up and kept going. The rest of the ride was mostly uneventful. Maggie got well ahead of me when I slowed to chat with another biker we encountered, and when I caught up to her, she was at the side of the Veloway, intently staring at the ground.

“Look at this cool spider!” she said. “It was in the middle of the Veloway, so I got it off to the side so it wouldn’t get run over.”

A bit hard to make out, because it's well-camoflaged against the pavement of the Veloway.

A bit hard to make out, because it’s well-camoflaged against the pavement of the Veloway.

It was cool, but neither of us had any idea what it was. (If you know, fill me in.) We left it, and headed home.

Back at Starbucks, we got to assess just how muddy we were from the day’s ride. Our bikes took the brunt of it, but we were well-spotted, too.

Muddy buddies.

Muddy buddies.

It was good to get back on the mountain bike again. But I still suck at it. I’ll keep flailing away, and hope to get better.

The Lost Weekend

The_Lost_Weekend_posterNo, this post is not about a Ray Milland film from the 1940s. I’ll be traveling this weekend to Oklahoma, where I will attend a conference. That means much of my time will be spent sitting in open, airy rooms where they pack in too many seats, listening to speakers who never learned how to make an effective presentation.

The downside of that (you mean, that was the upside?) is that I won’t be able to get in any biking.

With any luck, I’ll be back Sunday in time to take out the mountain bike for awhile. Its gears are all working properly now, but I haven’t ridden it since I got it back from the mechanic two weeks ago. We’ve had a lot of rain around here lately, and the trails have been muddy. They ought to be dry enough to ride now.

Don’t cha just hate it when the demands of everyday life trump the fun stuff?

The Spam is Outta Control


WordPress, the platform I use for this blog, has a pretty good spam catcher. I know it’s pretty good, because every morning when I check my dashboard it tells me it caught x number of spam comments.

But it’s having a tough time keeping up with the barrage of spam that’s been hitting me lately. Monday, it caught almost 200 spam comments. This morning, another 79.

The problem is, with that many comments barraging the blog, some spam is bound to get through. So after deleting the dozens of comments WordPress managed to catch, I have to go back and delete the ones that got through, one by one.

Most often, the readers of this blog won’t even be aware of the spam that got through the gates, because the spammers pick ancient posts to spam — from two or three years ago, or even older than that.

This morning, they got to a post from just last week. I cleared it off, but also deleted a legitimate comment by a reader who responded to the spam. I hope I didn’t offend him by doing so.

I don’t know of a way around the problem. I’ll keep deleting the junk that gets through, and remain grateful that WordPress is as good as it is at catching most of the malefactors.

Isn’t It Interesting…

Only two other B riders showed up for our club ride Sunday, and we decided to head to Creedmoor. This staple of our Sunday routes had been forgotten lately; in fact, I hadn’t ridden it since June. The others were looking forward to the ride, too.

After not riding a route for awhile, some changes are bound to crop up. Most of the ones we ran into had to do with road construction. Our main way east out of our neighborhood narrows to a two-lane, unstriped, country-style road for a short stretch. Then, at a T-intersection, we turn left, and then pick up that road again at the first right.

The city is eliminating that zigzag. It’s adding a curve to the road, and the new route will meet the old at that first right. But it’s not ready yet, and while they’re working on it, the two lanes are quite narrow. I debated getting up onto a new sidewalk that has been put in along the road, but at 8:30 in the morning, there’s not a lot of traffic here. We got to the T-intersection without a problem.

A similar diversion is going in about a mile farther east, as the city straightens out another zigzag route. This time, the road was blocked by large barricades, but there was just enough room for a bike to get through. We were feeling good that bikes could get through where cars couldn’t.

Creedmoor is about 16 miles from our starting point. After a pleasant trip, we wheeled in for a breather at the convenience store stop we always use.

“Isn’t it interesting,” asked Maggie, “how easy that ride is now? Remember when we used to do this ride?”

I remembered. There were times I’d get to the store and want to stay for an hour, just to unwind. This time, a ten-minute stay seemed a little long, and we got back on the bikes for the return leg.

The ride is easier now, for a couple of reasons. One, I’ve been losing a little weight. Not much, mind you, but enough that I can tell. It feels good to have to fasten my belt to the last notch on some of my pants. The other is that I’m stronger. I credit mountain biking for that. It’s beefed up my legs. Hills are never going to be my strong suit, but by powering my way up short, steep climbs on the MTB, the longer, less steep climbs on the road bike aren’t the struggle they used to be.

Now, all I have to do is attend to some bike maintenance again. Isn’t it interesting that a chain can start skipping some cogs after a two-hour plus ride, when it was shifting smoothly at the start? I see a new chain and cassette on the horizon.

Thinking Time, Not Miles

It occurred to me the other day that once again, my riding has settled comfortably in the 25-mile range. Oh sure, I’ve got some longer rides under my belt — but nowhere near the metric centuries I did semi-frequently a couple of years ago. It seems that lately, my rides have been stuck in a range of between 23-27 miles.

A few years ago, I bemoaned the fact that I rode so many 25-milers. I felt that I was shortchanging myself — not putting in enough effort to improve as a cyclist. And I did work to get those long rides to longer distances. But now, I hardly ever think about distance.

In fact, if I pay attention at all, I pay attention to the number of minutes I spend on my bike. A long ride is anything over two hours. At my 14 mph average, that’s a 28-mile ride.

Most often, I keep my riding to familiar routes around my house. I can combine any number of roads and streets and the Veloway, and wind up with a ride that includes challenging hills, fast sections, and recovery segments. Most often, I knock off after I’ve done between an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes. I feel refreshed. I’ve had some good exercise. I’ve spent time on the bike, which I really enjoy.

Then, if I want to push myself, I get out the mountain bike. A two-hour ride on that thing, and I’m ready to pass out. And I’ve probably covered only 14 miles or so in that amount of time. But the next day, I can tell I had some strenuous exercise — much more than a road bike gives me in the same amount of time.

So, I’m not complaining about the 25-mile ride anymore. Some might say I’ve gotten comfortable, but I say I know what works for me. I’ll continue to ride as often as possible, but I’ll keep an eye on the clock — not the odometer.

Bike-Work Balance

We finally had a taste of fall here over the weekend. It only lasted a day and a half, but the hint of the new season got me taking stock of some recent developments around here.

I’ve really cut back on my riding. The start of the new school year does that to me every year, but this time around it’s tougher. You see, in addition to being an instructor, this semester I’m also a student. I’m enrolled in a class for faculty that teaches us how to prepare a class for delivery online.

Now, you’d think for a blogger that wouldn’t be too difficult. But this class is far more rigorous than I expected. That’s good — it means we won’t take it lightly. And it’s really opened my eyes to some of the issues that must be confronted when moving a class online. But the work I’m doing on the class on my own time is eating into other areas of my life. Like biking.

Friday has always been a dependable biking day, and I can usually get some miles in then. Even if I have a bunch of meetings, which happens once a month, I can get home in time to take an hour ride. Not this time.

Friday is online class day. I’m expected to be working face-to-face with my instructors, adding to the materials I’ve already created. It’s been a month since I’ve ridden on Friday.

Tuesday evenings, I can often get home early to sneak in a ride of 12-15 miles. Not this time around. I’m at my desk, working on online materials.

Then there’s the work around the house that must be taken care of — nothing unique to me. I know we all have our household tasks to perform.

The problem for me is time management. Right now, I’m managing my time to make sure my online class work gets done. I’m not making a priority of any of the other stuff.

The upside of it is, I’m fresh on the bike. I took a two-hour ride Sunday, and racked up a couple of Strava personal records. I know that’s because my legs haven’t been put to work during the week. It felt good.

The downside is, if I continue to ride less, my fitness will suffer.

Well, it’s just a series of trade-offs. I’ll get to the end of this class in late November, and it ought to allow me additional time starting in January to ride. And blog. And rake leaves, and hang a new storm door, and fix the loose shingles on the roof, and… and…

In the meantime, if my blogging gets spotty, you’ll know why.

The Octogenarian Record-Holder

My virtual friend Steve Martin, he of “There and Back Again” fame, linked earlier today to a feel-good story: a British cyclist who broke the one-hour cycling record in the 80-84 year-old category. Sidney Schuman is 84.

He covered 28.388 kilometers (17.64 miles) in one hour.

Sidney Schuman, one-hour record holder.

Sidney Schuman, one-hour record holder.

“This is not much of a record,” he said, “But that’s not the point.”

The point is that maybe 21 years from now, his record might be broken by a guy who now spends some time blogging about biking.