Highlights of 2011

Well, here we are again — at the end of another year. I suppose it’s as good a time as any to take stock of my biking, where it is, and where I want it to go from here.

It looks like I’ll finish the year with about 3,750 miles. I thought I would fall well short of the 4,000 I rode last year, but it turns out that if you ride a lot, even if the rides aren’t all that long, the miles do pile up. And since I hadn’t set a mileage goal at the beginning of the year, I have to be satisfied with what I’ve done.

Today was a good example. Nice day, 67 degrees (19C), sunny, moderate wind from the south. My wife wanted to go for a ride, and suggested a Mopac loop. That’s a tad over 13 miles round trip from our house — a good ride for her, but not enough for me. (Funny story about today’s ride: Before we left the house, she noted it was 66 outside, and was anxious to get going. I was a little surprised when she wore her new long sleeved jersey with the windstopper panels and the brushed insides. Then, about five miles into the ride, she asked to stop so she could shed her neck gaiter and her full-fingered gloves. I suggested that when temps are in the 60s, she can get by with a short-sleeved jersey and arm warmers, and maybe shed the arm warmers halfway through the ride.)

However, as we were wrapping up, we got into an involved conversation about her work, and the next thing you know, I’m pulling into our garage and putting the bike away. I hadn’t even realized that I was supposed to take off and do another 10 miles or so. Okay, today will be my easy day, and I’ll ride a little stronger Friday and maybe Saturday.

I’ve already blogged about my relatively short rides this year compared to 2010. And looking back, it seems I had planned to ride longer this year. One resolution by the wayside.

In addition to not riding long, I realized that except for a metric century way back in March, I never really pushed myself on the bike this year. I never felt really done in after a ride. The rationale for that is that I’m a recreational rider, and I’m not out to kill myself by training hard. But no training means no improvement. I do enjoy riding for riding’s sake, and not pushing really hard, but it’s obvious I have to do more.

So, what are my resolutions for the New Year? I don’t do formal resolutions as a rule, but I think we all have to have some idea of accomplishments we’d like to pursue during the year. So here’s what I’m thinking:

  • Some century rides. At least two. I did none this year. Targeting a goal like that will force me to train more.
  • Randonneuring? The shortest brevet is 200 kilometers (about 125 miles). I’d like to try one once, to see if it’s something I’d like to do regularly.
  • New routes. My riding is predictable. I need to get out and ride in areas I haven’t been to before. I can do that and still stay reasonably close to home.
  • More organized rides. There’s a 180 for you. I decided I’d do fewer this year, and I did. But I found that I missed them. I always enjoy myself on these things, and they often provide the exposure to routes I haven’t ridden before. My wife and I will be doing one on New Year’s Day.
My weight is exactly where it was last year at this time, and two years ago at this time, and…you get the idea. So is weight loss a goal for the coming year? Nah. If I say it is, then don’t do it, it will be another unachieved goal. If, by some stroke of good fortune, I do lose some weight — well, then I’m ahead of the game.
So, that’s where I’m headed in 2012 — more time in the saddle. I hope you’re able to ride a lot, too. Have a happy and prosperous new year.

The New Old Crank Set

As we neared the end of the year, some issues with my bike started cropping up. Because I am me, I immediately diagnosed them as problems with the front derailleur. Because I am me, my diagnosis was 100 percent wrong.

The problem was a noise — a sort of a creak — that started whenever I pedaled in the small chain ring. When I shifted to the big ring, it was quiet. On a club ride two weekends ago, I spent as much time as possible in the big ring, just to keep from hearing the noise. But some hills were involved in that ride, and riders near me were treated to a “creak — creak — creak” noise whenever I applied power or started climbing.

I dropped it off with our club’s bike mechanic, who was surprised to be seeing me again so soon. He’d just done some work on my rear derailleur. The next day, he sent me his verdict: bad crank arm and bottom bracket. My mind  brought up memories of  an incident that happened on a New Year’s Day ride. My left crank arm fell off. Having to tighten it before each ride after that got old fast, so I got some blue Loc-Tite and smeared it into place. Once it cured, no more crank arm problems.

Don's crank set.

I was pleased about that, because I liked this setup. Guest blogger Don Blount had sent me the crank set after I’d posted about needing 172.5 mm cranks instead of the 175s that came with the bike. The shorter crank arms let me deliver more power to the pedals. But it turns out my fix was only temporary, and in the long run it did damage. The bike mech summed it up:

“The noise issue appears to have been started by a degrading crank.  The non-drive crank arm appears to have worked loose over time.  This damaged both the crank arm by wallowing out the splines and, because it allowed for play on the crank, ended up damaging the non-drive bearing on the bottom bracket.”

The only way to fix the problem, he said, was to replace both the crank and bottom bracket. Yech. But I had a solution, sitting right in the garage — the original crank set and bottom bracket that came with the bike.

The original.

He put them on, and I was rolling again the next day.

Because Christmas intervened, and we were out of town for five days, I haven’t ridden it much yet. I have gone out on some short rides with my wife, and really pushed hard today when we did Veloway laps. I will have to lower the seat a bit — maybe not the full 2.5 mm the new cranks have added to my pedal stroke, but enough to keep that twinge away from my knee — and futz with the saddle, because lowering it means I have to put it back a bit, too. Heck, I haven’t had the bike fitted for almost two years. Maybe it’s time to do it right and make an appointment to get it done right.

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Click to embiggen.

Christmas was a modest affair around our house. Pat set a low gift expense limit, so neither of us went overboard, but we both got what we wanted. I got some new wool socks, because I like the ones I have so much. But these are truly high-tech socks. They’re even sized for each foot. And they tell you which one, right on the toe. Makes me feel like being in kindergarten again, when we had red ribbons tied to our right shoe so we would be able to learn left from right.

The “Woo-woo” Ride

“Woo-woo!” exclaimed my wife, about a half mile into our morning ride. “I feel better already.”

We were both on our bikes for the first time in several days. In her case, a couple of broken spokes had knocked her rear wheel out of true. I had to replace my crankset. Our bike mechanic had finished the work the day before.

We were concerned about getting out this morning. When we went to bed the previous night, we were in the middle of a heavy rainstorm. But now it was sunny, a little cool still, perhaps, at about 44 degrees, and the streets hadn’t started to dry yet.

Pat rides mostly for exercise. She doesn’t “train” for anything– she just rides. I could tell she was enjoying the morning.

“This is a good stress reliever for you after yesterday,” I observed.

“After yesterday, and after Tuesday, and after Monday…” she retorted.

We rounded a corner and started an easy climb.

“Woo-woo!” she called again.

Yesterday, she told me she had seen Santa Claus at the Performance Bike store.

“That’s funny,” I replied. “Why, only Monday, I saw him at REI.” I think it will be a bike-themed Christmas this year.

I hope your holidays are filled with biking things, too. I won’t be posting until Christmas is over — probably Tuesday. Then, I can tell the story behind my bike’s latest trip to the shop.

Have a very Merry Christmas.