Autumn doldrums

Yeah, I know, the doldrums are associated with hot weather, and it’s actually starting to get a bit cool around here now. But given the way my biking has been going over the last few weeks, I think I qualify for being in at least the biking doldrums.

I’ll blame it on my century ride. Leading up to that ride, I worked hard to put in the mileage that would allow me to finish it without struggling. I got stronger on hills, my endurance improved, my weight dropped (a little bit). It was fun to see how many miles I rode in a given month. I was in the mid-300s in July and August.

After the century, I no longer felt the urgency to get out and ride. I still tried to ride often, but found it easy to make excuses: Since the crash in October, I haven’t been motivated to go out on the Sunday morning rides with the club, Daylight Saving Time is ending, it’s getting chillier during the times I prefer to ride, I’m just not up for it today, etc. That’s really had an impact on my riding in November. My weight, too. I’m up about seven pounds.

After a 12-mile ride today, I made my usual visit to Bike Journal, where I entered my mileage figures. No 300 miles this month. My whopping total for November is 132. (At least I got out today. On Thanksgiving, we went to the fitness club where Mrs. Noob belongs, and I “rode” a stationary bike. Whoopee.)

Hey, I’m not Mr. Hardcore. I’ll get out there as the spirit moves me. I bundled up today to deal with a stiff wind. But I think I’m in the maintenance mode for awhile. Around February, I expect to step it up as I start getting ready for the MS 150 in April.  On the plus side, Austin’s winters are mild enough that we can get out on the bike all year around.

Be the first one to wave

While out for a quick morning ride, I noticed a lot of other cyclists trying to get some miles in themselves. But I also noticed something I’ve heard others mention recently — not a lot of them acknowledge other cyclists.

I get a kick out of it when I meet another rider, and we exchange a wave an a smile. In most cases, I’ve never seen the other person before, and probably won’t again. That makes it just that much more pleasant.

Back in my jogging days, I’d always wave and say “hi” to other runners. Just by being out there, pounding the pavement, they had a connection to you.

Biking seems to be that way more often than not, but lately, there are a lot of nots.

Today I wore my cheapest, plainest jersey and shorts. Maybe other riders thought I was too unsophisticated to waste a wave on. But whatever the reason, I got fewer waves today than usual.

And it’s not just the guys done up in the pro kits. Guys in cargo shorts and t-shirts can ignore you just as easily.

Come on, folks. Help build the biking community. When you pass someone headed in the opposite direction, be the first to wave. It’ll make them feel good, and you’ll have done your good deed for the day. If they’re grumpy, or shy, and don’t wave back — so what? Just keep waving.

Man, am I tired after a long ride

I don’t know if it’s the reduced amount of time I spend on the bike, now that training for the century is over, or if it’s inhaling cool air in our autumn weather, or if I’m just starting to put on my few extra wintertime pounds, but I’ve noticed that what used to be a routine ride really takes it out of me these days.

Sunday morning, I went out for about 20 miles.  Nothing special, although I did step it up several times to try to cover some sections at a good clip.  But at the end of the ride, I felt good.  Exhilarated, but not wiped out.

Then, after grabbing a quick lunch and sitting down to catch a little pro football, it felt like a wave of tiredness swept over me.  I went into the bedroom, flopped on the bed, and the next thing I knew, my wife was waking  me up.  It was 5 o’clock.

“I didn’t think I slept that much,” I told her.

“You were sawing logs,” she said.

During August and September, that never happened.  More often than not, I’d finish a longish weekend ride, say 35-50 miles, have lunch, and then do some yard work.  Even after I finished my century, I didn’t crash on the couch.  I took it easy, but I didn’t fall asleep.

I’ve noticed my tired spells have started over the last four weeks or so.  I’m not much for naps usually, so when I conk out in the middle of the day, it’s noticeable.  Not that I mind a good nap.  It just surprises me that after all the effort I went through to condition myself, that a lesser amount of activity should leave me tuckered out.

Does this happen to you?

Bikely –> Bike Radar

picture-1Way back last spring, I posted about ride mapping sites that let bikers trace favorite routes on a map and post them online. One of the featured sites was Bikely.com.

Today I learn that Bikely is being merged into the web site BikeRadar.com. Bike Radar is a British site, connected with Cycling Plus and other biking magazines. It turns out that the company that owns these magazines also owns Bikely.

It looks like an obvious move. Bikely members who log onto Bikely will be automatically redirected to Bike Radar. “We want you to enjoy all the brilliant content that BikeRadar.com has to offer,” their email said. “Which is why we’re integrating Bikely into BikeRadar.com.”

picture-3I guess I’m surprised only that it took this long. The inclusion of Bikely turns BikeRadar.com into a one-stop site for biking info. Now, along with bike news, training and nutrition info, product reviews, and forums, the visitor can also check out bike routes in his or her area and elsewhere. It’s a good traffic builder for Bike Radar, which in turn can lead to more advertising sales on their site.

The transition won’t take place until the end of November. Until then, you can log onto Bikely and it will look as it always has. A check of the Bike Radar site shows it to be its familiar old self, too.

By the way, I still use Map My Ride for my ride mapping needs.

Shaving legs

The idea that shaving your legs can make bicyclists faster always struck me as silly. What will it gain you — three-tenths of a second over 100 miles?

Besides the increased speed, doubtful except at the highest levels of biking, there’s another reason to do it. Road Bike Rider says shaving our legs makes it less painful to remove the bandages that you’ll have all over them after a crash. We all know how much it hurts to rip a piece of adhesive tape off a hairy leg or arm. But even so, to shave your legs so you won’t appear to be a wuss also strikes me as — well, silly.

Until this week. After my fall last Friday, I wound up with a badly skinned leg. It’s not a deep wound, but it’s enough that it must be bandaged. The open sore doesn’t seem to want to scab over, so I change the adhesive bandage pad on it every day — and it’s no fun. In fact, it’s probably the most pain I’ve had from cycling. Just the act of removing the bandages gets me hyped up and nervous.

This morning, I was able to cut back from two bandages to one. One almost covers the expanse of the wound, and maybe by Sunday, I’ll be able to cut back to regular Band-Aids instead of the larger pads. I can’t wait for this thing to heal, if for no other reason than I’ll be able to avoid my daily painful bandage removal.

So maybe shaving legs does make sense. But I’m still not going to do it.

If the cleat is rockin’…

…at my bike shop’s door I’ll be knockin’.

All right, there’s a reason I’m not a poet. Or a lyricist. But it was a little disconcerting to me during my ride the other afternoon to feel my right cleat rock in the pedal. Side to side. I use Shimano SPD-SL pedals, and the cleats that have zero degrees of float.

The cleat is not clipping into the pedal solidly any longer. When I fell last week, it popped out of the pedal on an upstroke, which was the cause of the crash. This time, I was applying some pressure to ride a slight grade on a residential street, and the cleat just came out. Not good. It’s one thing when it happens on a steep hill, but on a one or two percent grade? Corrective action must be taken.

It’s my own fault. I’ve posted before about the sorry condition I’ve allowed my cleats to slip into. At the time, I said I was going to replace them, but I never did.

So tonight, on my way home, I thought I’d stop at a brand new bike shop just a mile and a half from my house. I hadn’t been in there yet, and they’ve been open only a month or so, so it was a good excuse to check out the new place.

The door was locked. A sign on the door said the owner (and apparently the sole proprietor) had stepped out for lunch, and would be back within the hour. The time was 5 p.m. Uh oh.

There’s no rush. I’ll work late the next two nights, and then on Friday I’ll leave for a weekend out of town. So I don’t know when I’ll get in my next ride. But before I do ride, this time I’ll make good on my intention to get some new cleats. Somewhere.

Long shadows

After making a deal with Mrs. Noob that I take care of some things around the house, I got out for a nice 17-mile ride this afternoon. It’s a ride I haven’t done for some months now, although I did it at least once every couple of weeks during the summer.

The difference in today’s ride was that I started at about 3 p.m. During the summer, I rode the route closer to 9 or 10 a.m. Man, do things look different in late afternoon!

Those long shadows look cool, but they can cause problems.

Those long shadows look cool, but they can cause problems.

The shadows are so much longer. That’s not news to riders who do a lot of commuting, but this is not a typical time for me to ride. And once you get past the novelty of the long shadows, you see some of the trouble they hide.

One of the attractions of today’s route is its hills. They’re nothing like the ones my friend Mike tackles, when he rides Austin’s Tour Das Hugel, but they’re a good workout for me. I like the downhill part best. I was moving along at a pretty good clip, about 33 mph, when some of those long shadows darkened the road ahead of me. The next thing I knew, I was fast approaching a raised manhole cover. Lucky for me, it was built up around its edges with blacktop, so it didn’t abruptly stick up out of the asphalt. But I didn’t see it until I was upon it, and when my front tire hit it, I had the sickening feeling that here we go again, I’m going to lose control and fall. But I didn’t.

For the rest of the ride, I tried to really concentrate on what was under those shadows. Sometimes, it was a layer of acorns, fallen from the live oaks that line the road. Other times, it was broken glass. The shadows kept the glass from glinting in the sun to warn you of its presence. Most of the time, though, it was just irregularities in the road surface. I could feel them under my tires, but I couldn’t see them in time to dodge them or brace for them.

So the ride was a mixed bag. On the one hand, it was great to get out in cool but not chilly weather and ride. On the other hand, all things being equal — I think I’ll go back to my morning rides as often as I can.

Another fall? You gotta be kidding

Raced home after work this afternoon to get in a ride before dark.  We have a cold front coming through tonight, and this might be the last warm weather ride I’ll have for awhile.

Did the usual run to the Veloway.  It’s an easy way to get in a quick 15, or 18, or 21 miles, depending upon how much time is available.  I’ve been bad this week — haven’t ridden since last Saturday.  I was looking forward to a few brisk laps around the course.

The Veloway is mostly flat.  But on the back side, about halfway around, there’s a short, but steep hill.  I hit the bottom of the hill at about 20 mph, and did a quick downshift to spin up the grade.

hillThe camera always flattens hills.  This one is much steeper than it looks.  I crashed near the top, on the left.

I must have shifted down more than one gear.  The pedals started spinning fast and free.  My right foot unclipped from the pedal, which caused the bike to lean left.  I lost control.  The front wheel went off the left side of the track, onto a sloping gutter.  No way to recover.

The scrape on my shin stings, but that's about it.

I'll be nursing a large scrape on my shin.

The bike went over on its left side.  I managed to stay almost upright, except that my right leg scraped across the front derailleur, and my left hand scraped the rocks along the track.  Otherwise, no endo — no major bruises.

I got the bike up and pushed it across the track, out of the way of any other riders who might be behind me.  A quick damage assessment found the handlebars knocked askew, and my nice bar tape was scuffed down to the bare metal — but not where my hand contacts it.

Once I straightened the bars and checked myself over, it seemed things weren’t too bad.  I hopped back on and finished a 15-mile trip (The crash happened just over four miles into the ride).  The bike rode fine.

I still can’t believe I lost it on this easy hill.  I’ve ridden the thing hundreds of times — and that’s just this year.  It just shows to go ya — you can never take things for granted.

CO2 cartridges or a pump? I’ve decided.

After my fumbling experience with a flat tire last month, I decided to rethink my practice of carrying CO2 cartridges for dealing with flats on the road. I still think the cartridges are a neat solution to the space and weight challenge bikers face. But I’ve never felt that they worked the way they’re supposed to — that the tire inflated as much as it needed to (Yes, I know — it’s not the tool, it’s the carpenter). So I decided to go in the other direction. I bought a mini pump.

Actually, it’s kind of a hybrid between a frame mounted pump and a mini pump. It’s a Topeak Road Morph. And sharp-eyed readers will recognize that it’s not exactly new. On my first ride carrying the pump, it was the indirect cause of my fall.

The switch to the pump was not without some adjustments. Fall aside, I had to deal with two other problems: mounting it to the frame and a quality deficiency.

The Road Morph is not really a mini-pump, which some riders carry in their jersey pockets. It’s a little too big for that. So it must be mounted on the frame. Topeak gives the owner two options for that: fastening it to the top tube with zip ties, or attaching to the seat tube using the water bottle braze-ons.

I opted to zip tie it to the top tube. That turned out not to be the best solution, at least for me. The zip ties kept catching on the inside of my thighs when I dismounted, even after trimming the ties back as far as possible. I was concerned they would tear my riding shorts. Then, the hose popped out of its cradle when I rode on a rough stretch of road.

The second deficiency was a quality issue. The bezel that attaches to the tire valve was missing. It’s not an obvious thing, because the end of the hose looks pretty normal even without it. I didn’t discover it was missing until the morning of my century, when I had to scramble to find a floor pump to top off my tires. I rode the century with the pump zip tied to the frame, but pulled it off as soon as I got home after the ride.

pumpThe LBS was happy to exchange the pump for a new one — one that had the bezel. I decided I didn’t like the zip tie attachment, so I took off one of the water bottle brackets and mounted the pump there. Now it not only works the way it’s supposed to — it looks better, too. I think.

Yeah, I know, I’m down to one water bottle per ride now. Not a problem. One bottle is good for about 20 miles for me, and when I run low, I look for a gas station or some other place where I can fill it up. Since I’m not planning on riding another century anytime soon, I can get along fine with one bottle. And if I really need a second one, I can put it in one of my jersey pockets.

So far, I’m happy with my decision. The little pump has several features that make it act like the big guys. It has a little flange that flips out so you can hold it under your foot, just like a floor pump. Its handle can flip sideways to resemble a t-shaped handle for pumping. It even has a rudimentary pressure gauge.

I have yet to try the pump under battlefield conditions. It’s only been used to pump up some spare tubes in my garage. But it worked just fine on them, got them to full pressure without a hassle, and when my next flat comes (knock wood) I’ll be ready.

Loving and hating Bicycling Magazine

Back when I first took up “serious” biking, I tried to read a lot of material about the sport, so I could bring myself up to speed quickly. One of my monthly reads was Bicycling Magazine.

Actually, it still is. I read it every month. The trouble is, I can read what I consider the important stuff in less than an hour’s time. Even the featured articles are so short, they often don’t cover more than two pages. And much of those pages are taken up by ads or pictures.

And the teases on the cover — they drive me crazy. Talk about promising more than you deliver! A cover headline that reads, “Stay With the Pack,” will often have no relation to the article title it’s promoting. After skimming the magazine fruitlessly, a search of the table of contents points you to something like, “21 Tips for Getting Faster.” Then, when you finally find the article, those 21 tips are a list, with short descriptions. Usually, some of the tips (many of them?) are so elementary, they even offend the Bike Noob: “Learn to draft.” Ah ha! That means next month, there will be another article on how to draft, and since there are no new breakthrough techniques on drafting to report, the one-page article will rehash stuff you probably know already.

Rodale, the publishing house that owns Bicycling, is feeling the same economic pressures as all media are feeling these days — falling ad revenue. So they laid off 10 percent of their workforce last week, or 111 people. I don’t expect the look of the magazine to change much, since a lot of it seems to be done by formula anyway, as these three covers suggest:

lean

“OK Herb, just plug in the ‘Get Lean Now’ headline on the cover again this month. We’ll hold off on the ‘Great Abs’ headline with the picture of the good lookin’ girl in the unzipped jersey until next month.”

abs“Wait a second, Herb. When you do the abs cover, let’s not be sexist about it.”

cplusThere are alternatives. In my opinion, the British magazine Cycling Plus delivers a lot more solid information each month than Bicycling. The ride reports are well written, with terrific maps and good pictures. Of course, all the rides are in the British Isles, and it’s not likely I’ll get over there anytime soon. And its big drawback is the $10 news stand price here in the U.S.

Ah, what the heck. I know darn well what the weaknesses of Bicycling are. But I still find myself looking forward to picking it up every month. I’m part of that “old media” generation that likes to hold pages in its hands when reading, instead of squinting at a flickering computer monitor. I suppose the evolving media landscape will solve my dilemma for me — when Bicycling and just about every other print publication adopts online as its only delivery platform.