Smoked by a smart gal

I took advantage of the first day of Spring Break and the first really nice weather day in Austin in some time, to get in some real bike mileage this morning.  I went out to Mopac, planning to do a few loops.  Since I have the week off, I plan to be riding every day (well, almost — golf tomorrow) and beef up my mileage and endurance.

On my second loop of the eight-mile route, I saw a biker pull out onto the road about a half-mile ahead of me.  Aha, I thought — here’s a chance to see if I have what it takes to catch him.  I picked up the pace a little.

It was going to reach a high in the mid-80s(F) today, but at the time of the ride, it was still in the 50s.  I was nicely warmed up, but didn’t plan to push too hard to catch the rabbit — just a bit more than my usual pace.  When I rounded the turn at Route 1826 for the return leg, the other biker was out of sight.  But I soon saw him emerge from a swale in the road.  It looked like my chances of catching him were pretty good.

Several hills mark this stretch of the route.  Not big hills, but enough to make you work.  The other biker was not pumping very hard, but keeping a steady, even pace.  I was closing the gap.

Toward the end of the eastbound leg, there’s a nice downhill that lets me exceed speeds of 30 mph.  Not so today, with a southeast wind blowing in my face.  I got up only to 30, but was still gaining.  I expected to catch him on the level ground at the bottom of the hill.

It was then that I realized — the other biker was female!  (That’s fine — one of the strongest riders in my bike club, who regularly leaves most of the guys behind, is a female.)  And since she was obviously younger than me, she was probably stronger than me, if she’d had any kind of experience on a bike.  Heck, I was pleased to be able to catch anybody.

“On your left,” I called, as I closed on her.  She barely gave her bike a flick over to let me by.  I passed, still gaining speed, and gradually eased over into the center of the paved shoulder.  The road was approaching a sweeping left that would turn us north, and up another series of moderate hills.  I kept up the same pace I’d been riding, and attacked the first hill.

My legs must be getting stronger.  I actually gained speed going uphill, at least for a bit.  I felt good — what a great day to be out on a bike ride!  Then I heard a telltale click.

It was a bike changing gears, and it wasn’t mine.  I looked back, and there she was — inches behind my rear wheel!  She’d grabbed a draft right after I passed her.  That gave her a chance to recharge her batteries.

I saw her wheel pull up on my left side.  We crested a hill, and started down.  She pulled in behind me again.  At the base of the hill, I downshifted and applied more power.  Again the click just off my ear.  And then, that nice silver Merlin with the rider in the purple and white jersey slid by me.

I figured I’d use her tactic, and grab her wheel.  But I was losing ground climbing the hill, and she was pulling away.  By the time we reached the top, she was out of reach.

I’ve been smoked by old guys, smoked by young gals, smoked by mountain bikes, and now I was smoked by someone who really knew what she was doing.  Good for her, and good for me — I learned something today.  I learned that I’m not as young as I feel, and I learned that I still have a way to go conditioning-wise (as if I didn’t know that already).

I finished another loop of the Mopac route, then headed home.  Good average speed today — almost 16 mph.  It’s going to be nice for the rest of the week.  I hope I have several repeats of today’s ride.  But this time, I’ll grab the other rider’s wheel and save my strength for when it counts.

CO2 — A new top post

co2Here’s a minor milestone for the Bike Noob blog — there’s a new King of All Posts. “CO2 cartridges or a pump?” from July 29, 2008 has overtaken “Smoked by an Old Guy” from April 16.

“CO2″ has racked up 1,082 page views, passing Smoked’s total of 1,078. Both posts got a little added push after I created the Favorite Posts tab at the top of the blog, but lately, I’ve watched CO2’s visits jump by as much as 30 a day to rapidly close the gap.

“Smoked By An Old Guy” has some sentimental value for me, because it was this post that made this blog catch on. Kent Peterson, the author of the popular “Kent’s Bike Blog,” spotlighted this story on his blog, and my daily number of page views surged. So once again, thanks Kent.

I appreciate the attention both posts continue to get, and I wonder: Are there still some unresolved issues about using CO2 cartridges as opposed to pumps? Let me know — I’m interested in what you have to say on the matter, and I’ll be happy to update everyone on where the sentiment lies.

How long should gloves last?

Got out for a nice 15-mile ride today — first time I’ve been on the bike in a week.  Felt great.  In fact, I think the ride was just what I needed to chase the last vestiges of my cold away.

Man, you can sure tell when you’ve been off the bike for several days.  I didn’t really feel like my old self until I had put down about eight miles.  But then, the legs seemed to loosen up and everything was all right.  I even chased down a rider some distance ahead of me, caught him and smoked him!  Nice to be the smoker for a change.  (Once again, he had no idea we were in a race.  But he was wearing a cycling jersey and shorts, and rode a pretty nice Specialized Roubaix.)

Today I wore the gloves that have been relegated to back-up status for the past few weeks.  They’d been showing signs of wear, so I got new gloves to wear on the century.  In fact, the new gloves were the ones I was wearing when I fell, and they did a great job of protecting my hands from the pavement.

Today’s ride reminded me why the previous pair is just used for back-up.  They’ve really deteriorated.  I bought them when I bought the bike, back in February — so that means I’ve had them for eight months.  And they’re shot.

The left one is in about the same condition.

Now, these are Pearl Izumi gloves.  I think PI makes good quality stuff, and I own a number of different items of theirs.  But eight months?  I’d a thunk these would last longer.  As I said, they’re still  good enoughfor back-up, or for short rides like today’s, but probably won’t be for much longer. Their replacements are also by Pearl Izumi, but a higher-priced model, with thicker padding, especially around the heel of the hand.

I wash my gloves about every two weeks, maybe more often in the summer when my hands get so sweaty they soak right through the synthetic leather palm .  I wonder if the washings contribute to their shorter life span?

What’s your experience with glove wear?

Smoked by a mountain bike

Just when I start to get a little cocky…a little confident in the way my training is going…

I was wrapping up my Tuesday evening fast ride on the Veloway.  With just a mile to go to reach home, I stopped at the red light at the corner by the supermarket — the corner that leads up to the Mild Suburban Incline where I’ve had some adventures in the past.

The notorious Mild Suburban Incline from the stoplight across the street.  Sorry for the poor quality cell phone shot — dusk was fast approaching.  Although the road ahead looks flat, it slopes uphill for a good half mile.  The supermarket is barely visible on the right.

Sure enough, it happened again.  A young guy pulled up behind me at the light.  He was on a mountain bike, dressed in a t-shirt and cargo shorts.  He did have on a helmet.  We nodded at each other, and I turned my attention to the light.

It changed.  I stood on the pedals, and headed across the intersection.  Young mountain bike guy (I’m guessing he was in his early 20s) pulls out beside me, passes, and heads up the incline, gaining speed.  I can’t believe it.  This isn’t supposed to happen.  My bike has skinny tires, and is therefore fast, right?

I shifted up one, and pulled on the pedals.  He stood on his pedals, and pulled away.  I kind of stayed with him, but I wore myself out and shifted down to an easier gear.  He got to the top of the hill, and peeled off to a side street on the right.

Well, kudos to him.  Anyone who can outrun a road bike with a mountain bike — even when he has an age advantage of 30-35 years — deserves praise.  I hope he doesn’t gloat over it too much, because I’ll be looking for him, and the next time we meet — that hill is mine!

Smoked by a young gal

Actually, this is more along the lines of what I consider a normal biking experience. This morning, I was pulling up to a stoplight in the left turn lane. Two young women on bikes were waiting to make the turn also. I wrestled with the wrapper of a Clif bar, and finally got to take a bite, when the light turned green.

We waited for the oncoming traffic to pass, then made our left turn onto a wide shoulder along a highway. I was still ripping the remainder of the wrapper off the Clif bar, so I didn’t pay much attention to them. But once I jammed the wrapper into one of my back pockets, I settled in for a charity ride pace on this eight-mile stretch of my route.

One of the ladies rode a red Motobecane. I didn’t get a look at which model it was, and didn’t really care. I couldn’t tell if she was an experienced biker, since she wore a gray racer-back top like women triathletes wear, and not a biking jersey, but didn’t have aero bars on the bike, like triathletes often do. The other young lady wore a pink helmet, which I thought clashed with the celeste color of her Bianchi road bike.

I had assumed they were riding together, but Ms. Bianchi quickly fell behind, and once my Clif bar distractions were settled, I called “On your left” and passed her. Ms. Moto was pedaling easily, in what appeared to be one gear harder than I was, and we maintained about a 25-yard gap between us.

But at the bottom of a gentle downhill, I was picking up speed, and went around her, too. Now, this was not a race. I had planned to ride farther than usual this morning, and I was determined to keep a steady, but not killer, pace. I concentrated on my cadence on a half-mile long uphill, and was pleased that I didn’t have to shift to the small chainring.

At the top of the hill is a cross street which is my cue to upshift and pedal harder. But before I could, I heard “On your left,” and Ms. Moto glided by. That hill must have been lots easier for her than for me. I upshifted, and watched her pull away. She must have been easing into her ride when I passed her, because she was increasing her distance from me with every pedal stroke now. I kept her in my sight for most of the remainder of the eight miles, but lost her with about a half mile to go.

I pulled into the Veloway, not to ride it, but to take a quick break, drink some water, and walk the numbness out of my little toe. Just as I was about to remount and head out for another 10 miles, I heard a bike finishing the Veloway loop. I always check out the other riders, to see if they’ve got cool bikes, or if they’re someone I might happen to know. I knew this one. It was Ms. Moto. She had turned into the Veloway too, but instead of stopping, she did a quick 3-mile loop.

‘Tis as it should be. She’s 35 years younger than me, and 80 pounds lighter. There’s no way I’m going to be able to keep up with her. I’m just content with the fact that I finished a 33-mile ride today at a 16.8 mph pace, and still had enough go power to clean the garage this afternoon. What more do I need?

What I’ve learned about blogging

This post is going a bit off topic, in that it deals with blogging more than biking.

After posting awhile ago about the blog and what it’s taught me about biking, it occurred to me that I’ve also been learning a lot about blogging.

Bike Noob has been more successful already than I’d ever thought it would be. I average about 100 page views a day — a small number, compared to some of the really big blogs like Bike Snob NYC, but substantial enough after being online for only five months or so.

So what’s important when blogging?

Comments are golden. I can count visits and page views, but when readers take the time to write a comment about something I’ve written, that starts the “conversation” that the Internet promised way back in the ’90s.

Commenting on others’ blogs is almost as golden. There are some devices the blogger can use to drive new readers to the blog, such as commenting on others’ blogs. That may prompt some of their blog readers to check out yours. I know I’ve picked up a number of regular readers that way.

Post at regular intervals. It doesn’t have to be every day, but shouldn’t be too long between posts, either. I’ve tried to develop an every other day routine. I’ve noticed that my page views fall off markedly when I go a day or two without adding new content.

Content matters. Well-written items that resonate with others’ personal experiences seem to attract the most views. It’s still a surprise to me, but my most viewed post is a little narrative titled, “Smoked by an old guy.” I felt I needed to post something that day, but I had nothing until I went out for my ride and the incident happened. I thought it was a cute, okay item. But the popular Kent’s Bike Blog from Seattle stumbled onto the story and linked to it. My traffic soared that day. “Smoked” has now had more than 900 views in just two months, and still gets several visits every day. (And now I’ve ensured that those views will continue to mount.)

Even the most mundane posts seem to get the greatest response. An entry on whether I should choose bandanas or sweatbands to keep my forehead dry drew 10 comments (a lot for me). Maybe it was the picture of my dog that did it.

In that case, here’s another look at Emily, my 13-inch Beagle.

By the way, I still wear bandanas, but my preferred SCD (sweat control device) is a HeadSweat — one of those things that makes you look like a pirate.

Sometimes, people discover you by accident. I use WordPress as my blogging platform, and WordPress generates links to what it thinks are related posts at the end of every entry. Sometimes those “related” posts bear no relation at all to the subject of the entry, but by clicking on the link, folks have found me.

Always check which sites referred visitors to your blog. It’s weird to find some blogs that link to you that don’t seem to have any connection to your subject. My favorite of these oddball links comes from “Being grown and sexy: Fashion, tech and politics from the prospective (sic) of an (sic) black male nerd.” What he finds of interest in a biking blog written by a white guy in late middle age stumps me, but I’m in his blogroll.

Nonsensical search terms can somehow connect readers with this blog. Every so often I check to see what search terms people wrote that brought them here. Some favorites: expensive beer bicycle jerseys, my foot goes numb with road shoes, one up two down, sidi soles number straps mean, and why do my jerseys stink when i sweat.

The most recent posts are not necessarily the most-read ones. Sometimes posts I did weeks ago show up as the most viewed on a given day. I have no idea why.

Some bloggers actually make a living from their blogs. I don’t expect to ever do that. (If you’re interested, Australian uber-blogger Darren Rowse’s Problogger site is loaded with tips to make the big bucks blogging.) I do expect to keep up my posts, and hope to keep interacting with commenters. Regardless of topic, the most important thing I’ve learned about blogging is to keep up the conversation.