The Alps of Circle C

I’ve griped a time or two before about my slowness on hills, or even an inability to climb them without walking. I’ve kept telling myself this had to change. Recently, I’ve been riding routes that contain some decent hills, in an effort to build my thighs and not flinch from them as much as I have in the past. It’s helped — but I’m not going to win King of the Mountains anytime soon.

Today, that might have started to change. I went out on a friendly ride with a guy I haven’t ridden with for awhile. We cruised at a moderate pace, catching up on what we’ve been doing. But then, it was time to pick a route.

“Have you ever ridden the Alps of Circle C?” he asked. (We live in the Circle C Ranch subdivision.)

“Never even heard of it,” I said.

“That’s because it’s a route I cooked up myself.” he said. “I wanted a place nearby to get some hill work. So I looked around for hills in the neighborhood.”

We headed out on Mopac, turned west on Hwy 45, and rode the first hill up toward Escarpment Blvd. Not too tough, although he finished substantially ahead of me. Turning on Escarpment took us into the residential area, and the first small hill. Then we turned on some streets I hadn’t seen before (this is at the southern end of the subdivision, and it’s an area I seldom visit). We went up a street called Savin Hill, which curved, always climbing, for about half a mile. Then we did it again. I was huffing and puffing at the end of the second climb.

“Got another,” he said, as we turned down a different street. It was a long, looping road with a steady climb to Escarpment. Not tough, but another tester. Time to loop through a different area. Back out onto Hwy 45, with a series of mild climbs to the highest point on the route. But the return eastbound features a nice downhill that gave us a chance to recover — just in time for another series of climbs to the end of the route.

Real climbers won’t be impressed by the elevation change…

But as I said, my thighs burned.

“Whenever I want a quick workout, this is what I do,” said my friend. “I can finish it off in about 45 minutes and head to work.”

I thought I actually climbed better halfway through the ride than I had near the beginning, when I was fresh. I’m sure we’ll do this route again, many times. But I’m also going to be doing it on my own.

CO2 cartridges or a pump?

I’m probably flirting with danger here, but it’s been awhile since I’ve flatted.

Even so, I try to be ready if it should happen. My seat bag has a spare tube, a patch kit, and what I would most likely use in the event of a flat — a CO2 inflator and several CO2 cartridges.

The CO2 is convenient, but it’s not a panacea. When I have flatted in the past, I’ve found it’s not easy to get the right amount of air into the tire. I’ve resorted to a series of short bursts on the inflator trigger, and try to determine by feeling the tire whether it’s got enough pressure. When I first started using it, at a time when flats were much more frequent, I sometimes wasted a cartridge and needed two to fill the tire. And sometimes, I only managed to inflate the tire enough to make it home.

Another concern is the cost. The cartridges run about $3.50 each, so if one or two are wasted by fumbling around, the tire repair is suddenly costly. I usually carry four in my seat bag, so I can give one or two to another biker who might be flatted with no air.

Then there’s the environmental issue. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas. Do I really need to contribute to the Earth’s problems?

What’s the alternative? A pump. The choice is between a frame-mounted pump and a mini-pump that can mount to a frame or even fit in your jersey pocket.

A Zefal frame-mounted pump.

A Zefal frame-mounted pump.

A Blackburn mini pump.

A Blackburn mini pump. It's actually less than one-half the length of the Zefal.

The issue with the pumps is also one of convenience, and efficiency, too. I’ve had occasion to use a mini-pump, and I’m not crazy about them. They have trouble supplying enough air pressure, especially to a road tire that may take over 125 psi. But I like the convenience of the CO2 inflator, and I’m not sure if another gizmo fastened to my bike frame would be worth the bother.

For now, I’ll continue to go with the cartridges and inflator. I’ve had enough experience with them that I’m confident I won’t waste them in future situations. And for every day that I go without a flat, cost becomes less of an issue. But I’d sure like to hear your opinion. Inflator or pump?

(Since this post last July, I’ve resolved the issue to my satisfaction.  Here’s what I decided.)

Riding with the B’s

After last weekend’s reality check, I figured I’d be better off riding with the B riders in our club. Just a reminder — we consider A’s to be able to ride decent distances at a fast pace. B’s are slower, and don’t go as far. I know many other clubs break down riders into more classifications than we do.

Anyhow, since our B’s haven’t been very active lately, I guessed that if we were going to have a B ride, I would have to organize it. But whadya know, another guy beat me to it.

The A’s had an ambitious and difficult route planned for today. The B organizer picked a route that would follow them for a ways, then head back to our starting spot. We’d be in for some hills, but the ride itself would be relatively short.

The route on Map My Ride. The tough hill is at the top of the twisty part at the upper left.

Ride elevation. The hill most of us had to walk is at the 10-mile point.

The morning was perfect. Sunny, warm but not hot, not much wind. We set off with the A riders, so about 17 of us cut a fine figure pedaling through the neighborhood. We turned onto Barton Creek Blvd., which winds through a swanky neighborhood by a nationally-famous golf resort. I hadn’t ridden this road before, and I knew it was hilly. But the hills weren’t too much of a problem, until the last one before reaching Ranch Road 2244. That forced most of us to get off and walk.

At 2244, the A riders turned west, and we turned east for the ride home. The rest of the route was on shoulders of sometimes busy highways. Plenty of hills through here as well, as seen by this cell phone camera shot along Loop 360, but these were not difficult.

We got back to our Starbucks starting point for some FrappaMochaCappucinoLattes, or whatever, and some chit chat. Ride time: about 23 miles in 1 hour 43 minutes, avg speed: 14.7 mph. None of us could have kept up with the A group, and none of us cared. It was the kind of ride I’ve been looking for since joining the club. I’m looking forward to many more of the same, now that the B’s seem to be up and running again.


Best bike web sites — The Results

It looks like response to the Best Bike Web Sites question has fallen off, after dropping “below the fold” because of a too-long tag response, so let’s compile what we have into one easy-to-click collection of links. Thanks to those who contributed their ideas.

Cycling News http://www.cyclingnews.com
Velo News http://www.velonews.com
Pez Cycling News http://www.PezCyclingNews.com

These three sites provide everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about the bike racing scene. Cycling News’ collection of links is overwhelming. Velo News may have the cleanest design of the three sites. Pez is arguably the funkiest.

Training For Cyclists http://www.training4cyclists.com

I’ll highlight this contribution by Mike Weiland, but if you’re into training, you might also check his list of training sites.

Road Bike Rider http://www.roadbikerider.com

A simply designed site for roadies, with links to info on training, skills, nutrition, fitness, equipment, inspiration and fun! They offer a lot of e-books for sale. I subscribe to their weekly e-mail newsletter.

BikeRadar.com http://www.bikeradar.com/

Associated with the British magazine Cycling Plus, which in my humble opinion is a far better mag than Bicycling, but its newsstand price in the States is $10.

Sheldon Brown http://www.sheldonbrown.com

The reference for all things cycling. Esoteric and arcane info you can’t easily find elsewhere. Although Sheldon is now doing his cycling in the Great Beyond, we can all hope his site will be around for a long time to come.

Adventure Cycling http://www.adventurecycling.org

For long-distance riders and bike tourers.

Bike Biz http://www.bikebiz.com/

If you’re interested in the bicycle industry.

OK, not an exhaustive list, or even a very long list. But these sites, along with all the blogs most of us read, will really cut into the productive hours of our days! Thanks again for participating.

Cripes! Double tagged!

I just got tagged, for the first time since I started blogging. It all started when Fat Cyclist responded to a tag and then tagged several others — but he went and told everyone that if they wanted to consider themselves tagged, they should. So yesterday, I find I’ve been tagged by mgrinrr, and this morning BikeMunky got me. I’d better answer.

If you could have any one — and only one — bike in the world, what would it be?

A bike that fits like a glove. One I could ride for hours on end with no numbness in hands or feet, no soreness in the butt. I would be able to generate endless reserves of power and fly to the front of any club ride.

Do you already have that coveted dream bike? If so, is it everything you hoped it would be? If not, are you working toward getting it? If you’re not working toward getting it, why not?

Nope. Not sure it exists. I’ve only owned my current bike for five months, so if I made any serious effort to get another, I might run into some trouble on the home front.

If you had to choose one — and only one — bike route to do every day for the rest of your life, what would it be, and why?

I could be very happy riding out of Dripping Springs, Texas, on the county roads southwest of town.

What kind of sick person would force another person to ride one and only one bike ride for the rest of her / his life?

Yeah! My feelings exackly.

Do you ride both road and mountain bikes? If both, which do you prefer and why? If only one or the other, why are you so narrowminded?

I own both, but ride road 99 percent of the time. I am seriously thinking about putting 1” wide slicks on my mountain bike and using it for an around town utility bike to cut down on needless gas-wasting car trips. I’ll ignore the loaded question.

Have you ever ridden a recumbent? If so, why? If not, describe the circumstances under which you would ride a recumbent.

Nope, never had the opportunity. I would like to try one out. A friend swears by his, and if I ever develop physical problems that make riding my current bike too much of a hassle, I would seriously consider it.

Have you ever raced a triathlon? If so, have you also ever tried strangling yourself with dental floss?

No to both. I was a jogger for 28 years until my knees couldn’t take it anymore. Swimming bores me, and I wouldn’t have the patience to train for a longish open water swim.

Suppose you were forced to either give up ice cream or bicycles for the rest of your life. Which would you give up, and why?

That’s a weird either-or choice. Under what circumstances would anybody be forced to make a choice like that?

What is a question you think this questionnaire should have asked, but has not? Also, answer it.

Would you like to respond to this tag by answering only three of the questions? Yes.

You’re riding your bike in the wilderness (if you’re a roadie, you’re on a road, but otherwise the surroundings are quite wilderness-like) and you see a bear. The bear sees you. What do you do?

Is it a black bear or a grizzly bear? The answer would be different for each.

Now, tag three biking bloggers. List them below.

  1. Red at Spokesnspin (I know you’ve already answered one of the questions, but tackle the whole thing!)
  2. Jeff at 331 Miles (Once Hurricane Dolly has been dealt with.)
  3. Arlyn at Adventures on a Bike (But don’t mess with this until you come back from La Belle France.)

Sorry guys!

Best bike web sites

Since I started this blog, I’ve become aware of lots of other blogs aimed at cyclists, and my feed reader contains a lot more than I list in the Blogroll. Reading them all keeps me busy.

But there are other web sites aimed at cyclists, too, that aren’t blogs. They might be news sites, or information sites, or picture sites, or something else altogether.

So — let’s compile some top-notch bicycling sites. What’s your favorite and why? Which ones do you read on a regular basis?

I’ll start. I like Bicycling.com, the web site for Bicycling Magazine. While I have some complaints about the magazine (which I still read every month), I think the web site is terrific. Lots of equipment reviews, pro racing information, how-to articles — there’s a lot more than you can take in in a single sitting.

I’ve got a couple of other ideas, but I’ll hold off until I hear from you. (Include the URL in your comment, please.)

Alltop

I recently added a graphic/link to the sidebar for Alltop. Alltop bills itself as a “digital magazine rack” of the Internet. It can also be thought of as a one-page aggregator.

Alltop’s home page features a number of topic areas, and each topic area features a number of web sites and blogs pertaining to that topic. The Alltop graphic in the sidebar links directly to the Cycling topic.

There, you will find the big cycling news sites. As this is written, the Tour de France is in full swing, and Alltop has several sites for Tour news. The big blogs, like Bike Snob NYC and Cyclelicious, are featured, too. But so are a lot of less well-known blogs, like Bike Noob.

One of the founders of Alltop is Guy Kawasaki, the original Apple evangelist. Guy is now a venture capitalist, based in Silicon Valley, and maintains a popular blog, “How to Change the World.”

I don’t know how Alltop found Bike Noob, but I’m sure glad it did.