Saturday, March 31, 2007

She's Alive! Ruby Rides Again

There were some tense moments, but Ruby is back together and ready to hit the roads again. Got the new chain this morning from Dave at Redstone this morning, and after a bit of wrenching and tweaking Ruby is ready to go with shifting that seems more crisp than ever before.

Ruby got some new shoes for the season, Michelin Pro2 Race tires mounted to Neuvation R28 SL3 wheels. I had to de-sticker the wheels from their stock form, and may end up pulling off another set (started with 4 sets, took off 2 sets) before I'm done. I'm not sure if I'm in love with the blue sidewalls on the Pro2 Races, but I thought my Johnny Cash like bike needed a splash of color so maybe they'll grow on me. Either way they should be considerably faster (and lighter) than the stock Roubaix Expert tires that come on the bike.

Couple quick pics from my neighborhood shakedown ride.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Blogs o' plenty

I read a lot of blogs. Cycling blogs, friends & family blogs, coworker blogs, etc. I got tired of checking a page only to find out that the blog hadn't been updated, sometimes in months. Yes I am blatantly calling you out Tracy Baird.

Finally I found a way to manage my feeds better, and after trying a couple different tools out (Newshutch for example) I settled on Google Reader. It integrates with all my other Google accounts (Gmail, Picasa2, Blogger, etc) nicely and does a nice job of organizing the RSS feeds from all the blogs I read. Its very easy to setup and allows you to group feeds into different categories.

The best part is that I can bookmark this one page, and instantly catch up on all the blogs that have been updated since the last time I checked them. Oh and I can get to it from my phone as well....

There are quite a few ways to tweak it to your liking (only show new, show all, etc) as well. So I thought I'd pass on this jewel that has made my blog reading life a bit less painful to any of you readers (I think I'm into double digit readers!) out there that might need something similar.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The life of a ski bum

In the last week, I've skied 4 days. Today was the culmination ("CULMINATION!") of the week run, ending in my 3rd straight day at Copper with Jill and her parents. We've got some pretty big numbers for the week, and tired legs to go along with them.

143 miles
82,700 vertical feet skied
55 runs
11 hours 42 minutes moving time

This morning, Jill and I killed it doing repeated runs of 2,200 feet drops one after another. We'd take the SuperBee express to 12k then drop to 9800 in a flash. Snow wasn't great to start with, but got better as the temps warmed up. No lift lines meant we were just doing laps up and down nonstop. We skied tons of different steep runs on the East side of Copper, just picking whatever run had the fewest people on it.

Back to the real world tomorrow...

Monday, March 26, 2007

New top speed record, and some shopping to do

Every since I started carrying my GPS with me during ski sessions, top speed data has been an interesting thing for me. Normally I don't set out to register max speed runs, and differing snow conditions make the numbers pretty meaningless, but its still an interesting number to note.

Last year after hitting 52 mph one day, I bought a helmet. The thought of hitting the slopes at highway speeds made me think I needed a brain bucket in a bad way. Well today I was skiing angry, and I hit a new top speed run of 54.7 miles per hour. Nearly the double nickel.

Now before I start getting hate mail about out of control and safety, let me clarify that I only let them run towards the bottom of the slope when there are no others around. This particular run today had a long, flat run out perfect for a speed run. You will also notice on the speed graph that after getting out my frustration in the form of speed, I backed way off the pace and just skied well within my limits.

So why was I skiing angry? Shouldn't I be happy to be skiing on a bright, sunny day when I would normally be working?

Well it would have been a great day, and it ultimately was, but as we were getting a locker to throw stores our shoes, someone jacked my ski poles. Seriously. I had put my poles and Jill's together between our skis, and when we got back someone had sorted our poles out and walked off with mine. They were really nice poles, about $90 retail, and new this season.

Well I was steamed, and unsure of what to do. Should I ski without poles? Should I go try to buy some new at one of the shops? Should I just snowboard instead?

Ultimately I talked to a Copper Mountain host, and they very politely comped me a rental of a set of poles for the day. I was very gracious for the gesture, and skied all day on the borrowed poles before returning them.

So after 2 days at Copper I've put in about 65 miles and 45k vertical feet, and strangely enough my legs are pretty fresh. Tomorrow I'll be faced with the pole dilemma again, and I'm not sure what I'll ultimately do but it may be time for me to snowboard again.

Regardless, I'll be watching for some replacements...

And here is the speed data from my data today.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

The Fools on the Hills

The apparently annual visit from my cousin Barry & his offspring Kade came has come and gone, and just like last year not without a whole lot of laughs. We grabbed some dinner with Barry, Kade, and his parents on Sunday and setup a ski day for Tuesday. Nothing beats a skip work sunny ski day. Well maybe an epic mountain bike ride when you should be working but I digress...

Kade is a year older, just as ornery and grinned all day as he skied. Well he grinned up to the point where he wiped out and scraped his face up a bit, but he bounced back quickly. Kade had the speed snow plow mastered, although turning still eludes him at this point. I'm guessing with two more days and Barry's watchful eye, he'll be carving it up by the time they head back to Oklahoma.

We skied all over, finding conditions from solid ice to slush to packed powder depending on where we skied. The one consistent thing was no lift lines and lots of sketchy, bordering on out of control spring breakers. I've been there, I understand but its nice to have the skills to just dodge and outrun the newbies.

And for the grand finale, here is some hand-held footage shot from my digital camera. I started the movie mode, wicked up the pace and skied up on Kade. Notice the impressive cinematography as I pan when I catch him. I smell Oscar....

Poor Ruby

Well yesterday was supposed to be a fun easy road spin. And it was for the first 19 miles of my 20 mile loop, and then it happened. I was maliciously attacked by a vagrant grocery sack less than a mile from my house. It came from nowhere, assaulted my baby and then was gone like the wind.

I saw it, I thought I had avoided it, but somehow it grabbed hold of my rear cog and the havoc that ensued was not pretty. The chain skipped, then wheel skid to a stop and I looked down at my rear wheel to see a twisted bunch of metal.

I pulled the offending sack out, but the damage was done.

The derailler hanger was twisted and snapped.
The rear derailler cable and housing destroyed.
The Dura Ace derailler twisted beyond repair.
The hub in the rear wheel chewed up.
The chain literally twisted into a 90 degree angle.

It was matted up so much that I couldn't even attempt to untangle it. I simply shouldered the bike and began the long walk home. I was pretty steamed as I added up the costs in my head wondering how so much damage could come from one stupid garbage sack.


The chainstays were scratched (a concerning issue for a full carbon frame), but don't appear to be anything but cosmetic. I pulled the cassette, which allowed me to get the twisted hunk of metal that used to be a Dura Ace chain off. It went straight to the garbage. I tried to salvage the rear derailler, but to no avail. It was done too. The rear wheel suffered damage to a couple of spokes and to the area where the spokes mount to the hub. Unbelievable.

See if you can pick out the spot on the speed chart below where it happened. I'll give you three tries.

Yep that would be 15mph to 0 in the blink of an eye. Tire locked up completely before I could even reach for the brakes.

The good news is that all this stuff is replaceable with money, which means it isn't much of a problem in the grand scheme of things. It could have been a whole lot worse had it caused me to wreck considering the small amount of error you have in the bike lane riding next to rapidly moving traffic.

So yeah I'm pissed, but she can be rebuilt. I have the technology. Parts are on order, Ruby will be revived.

Nancy gets trail tested

Sunday Jill and I headed up to Devil's Backbone in Loveland for some "real" trail action. Sure I've been doing night rides on trails, but Marshall Mesa/Boulder Res/Teller Lake trails are more like dirt sidewalks than mountain bike trails. The good news is that we live on the border of Boulder & Larimer counties, so the rough, rocky trails of Larimer are in close proximity.

I carefully thought out my choice of bike for the ride. On one hand, it makes a whole lot more sense to take my 6" travel, geared 575 to the Backbone than my singlespeed, rigid 29er. On the other hand, I built Nancy the Niner with the intention of riding it on the trails with Jill as to "even up the fight" a bit.

So I grabbed the Niner and we headed out for some trail time. The weather was splendid, actually pretty hot and the trail was filled with lots of other people experiencing some spring fever themselves.

Devil's Backbone isn't long, doesn't have a ton of climbing but it is pretty demanding compared to other trails in the area. What you think is a flat section running in the shadow of the namesake geological formation is really a slow, grinding uphill that is just weakening you for what is to come. And what is to come you ask? Just a little climb aptly named "Heart attack hill". What am I doing on this SS again?

We hit Heart Attack Hill and I attacked knowing that I'd need some momentum to make the really steep, loose section at the bottom. I started off strong, clearing the first rock step but then lost traction in the dusty powder and spun out. Won't be cleaning that climb on my first attempt after all... I remounted, talked with a couple other trail users and then started the grind to the top again. One more
small dab on the way up, but after reaching the first junction I was pretty pleased with how I had done.

After that the ride begins to mellow somewhat in terms of climbing, but gets very rough and rocky. Riders are treated to some great views of Long's Peak & Mt. Meeker (as seen below), but often your teeth are rattling too much to really enjoy them.

We continued out to the back loop, completing it in a counter-clockwise (i.e. harder) direction. The back loop is rough, with jagged rocks everywhere. The rigid SS was quite a conversation topic, as it seemed everybody wanted to stop and talk to me or make comments about how crazy I was to be riding a rigid SS out there. Crazy? Yeah probably so.

Jill was hot, and huffed and puffed her way up the climb but did admirably well. She has really come a long way with her fitness and ability to climb in the high altitude , especially given her problems with asthma. I could tell she was much stronger than the last time we had ridden here, which is a very good sign considering it was our first ride of the season. Good sign of things to come for her this summer I think.

And lastly, I couldn't have a bike post without an elevation graph. Since moving here I measure rides based on elevation charts instead of speed, averages or mileage. Sure mileage is a big factor, but I've had some climbing rides (Logan Mill Rd.) that kicked my butt a heck of a lot more than long mileage days.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

The Princess

Molly not satisfied with just sleeping on the bed, has now resorted to sleeping on top of the pillows.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Get Out and Get Lost!

Usually those words wouldn't be a good thing, but for me they are like a siren's call. Tonight after getting home from work, Jill and I took the pooches out for a walk around the neighborhood, then grabbed some dinner when we got done. After that, I was still didn't feel that I had taken advantage of the record 74 degree temps so I evaluated my quiver of bikes to see what suited my fancy.

The neglected Yeti? Not tonight, didn't make much sense with daylight fleeting and no trails to be had.

The super quick Roubaix? It was good to get out on Sunday, but the sand leftover from the winter snow removal might make some for some treacherous moments cornering in the dark.

The Niner SS? Quickly becoming my main steed, and gives me the ability to ride road, gravel, trails and pretty much everything in between. Yep, the Niner would be perfect tonight.

So I set out with no agenda, no route and no expectations. I cruised the neighborhood paths before deciding to check out what sits just east of us. I had seen the Union Reservoir signs pointing east on the dirt road near our house, but strangely enough I had never been down it. So tonight I took Nancy the Niner and set out down the gravel roads to the east of town.

I was shocked (and quit thrilled) to find out just how quickly I could get out of the hussle and bussle of suburbia and get out of town, literally. My route was mainly dirt roads, full of washboards and void of people and cars for the most part.

As the sun set over my shoulder, I decided to start making my way back towards home. Upon turning back west towards Longmont, I was treated to one of the most amazing sunsets I've seen in quite some time. Gorgeous arrays of reds, blues, pinks laced the sky above the Indian Peaks and Long's Peak. Yeah it was just a dirt road, and sure there was a stiff headwind but I couldn't help but just smile as I pedaled towards the painting in the sky.

Its amazing what you can find and the places you get to see when you just get out and explore. So get out and get lost.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Leg Punishing Double Header

I bookended the best day of the year (now 3 weeks earlier!) with two big activities, a big powder day at Winter Park on Saturday and a nice road ride today. A typical spring weekend on the Front Range, where you get snow in the mountains and gorgeous temps on the Front Range. Temps have gone from downright frigid for the most part to incredible without much transition, but I'm not complaining.

Saturday, Sarah & I headed off early for a ski day at Winter Park. Jill came down with some sort of head cold, so she opted to stay and rest and that was probably a really good decision given the snowy conditions we encountered. We burned up a couple runs on Mary Jane, then headed up Timberline lift to 12k feet before sneaking around the back entrance to Vasquez Ridge hoping to find some open slopes and small lines.

Our efforts were rewarded, as Vasquez was pretty open for the most part. We blasted down all the blue trails on Vasquez, then hit a couple blue/blacks before heading back to Winter Park mountain. We did several more runs there, including a new run we had previously never done, and then made our way back to Mary Jane to do a couple more runs before going home.

We did 17 runs in rapid fire succession, never stopping to rest and hopping in the singles line anytime the lines weren't instant. We covered about 43 miles of distance and 21k feet of elevation drop, while pushing our legs to the brink. It ended up being about the 3rd biggest day on the mountain but given the rutted, powder conditions it was probably the hardest on the legs overall.

Sunday I joined forces with The Punisher for an "easy road ride". I rode to John's house, and then we continued on to Boulder, then heading north up 36 to Lyons. When we hit Lyons, we both felt good enough to add on the Rabbit Mountain section. No "real" climbing, but as you can see from the elevation graph you are basically riding uphill most of the way until the drop into Lyons.

We kept the pace very reasonable, which was good for my cooked legs. I'm sure John was having a tough time swallowing all the people passing us, but then again its Boulder County and the people that blew by us could be UCI Pros for all we knew.

We averaged a pretty slow 16.2 mph for the 50 mile route, which was fine with me. I was just very pleased to be able to get in a 50 mile ride the day after such a hard ski day, and the weather was downright fantastic. March is off to a great start, and I'm going to continue to take advantage of the weather, as it can change in an instant around here.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Seeing Double?

Worlds collided at the Boulder Res. last night. The Punisher setup a night ride, and after our Moab trip was scrapped at the last minute (0-2 on Moab attempts now) I decided I'd make the ride. Never being satisfied with getting destroyed by just one person, I had invited Chris Plesko of SlipAngles blog fame to join up if he wanted a nice, easy ride. I don't have a nickname for Chris yet, but if John is The Punisher then Chris should be The Executioner or something along those lines. John hurts you, but I think Chris buries you.

5 of us showed up, 3 on rigid singlespeeds, John on his geared hard tail bike that he would ultimately ride in a single gear all night and Justin on his Titus dual squish. The Boulder Res is a good night ride option, but it is really beat up right now making the rigid that much more rigid.

The Punisher continues to make claims about not riding and how terrible of shape he is in, but I know better than to fall for that trick. Chris has been doing ridiculous things all winter (1000 miles in a frigid, snow filled January! What?!$#@!!) so I knew he'd be in top form.

We set off with everyone seemingly pulling about the same pace, with the pack leader continuously falling to the back as they held one of the numerous gates for the rest of the us to pass through. The climb up to the Mesa looked steep and super sloppy from the 2ft deep snow bank that has just recently melted, so we decided to just loop the Boulder Res instead.

We mixed some dirt, paved roads, double track and bits of singletrack as we made our way around, slowly turning back west towards the foothills were the wind started to kick up and blow our pack apart. Off the front, Chris & The Punisher chatted it up while seemingly not realizing that we had kicked the pace up as we did a slow, gentle climb into a headwind. I held on to their wheels knowing that I wouldn't be able to hold pace if I dropped the draft. Clint, who was riding flat pedals, and Justin, on his first ride of the season, were the victims and fell off the pace a bit before we all regrouped at another one of the gates.

Then the mechanical happened. I guess its one too many cheeseburgers, but as I stood to crank on a small uphill my chain pretty much exploded. I'd like to think it was raw power, but I'm guessing it was sheer weight. With some trail side surgery, The Punisher was able to take a link out and piece it back together. It was a super tight fit even after rotating the EBB as far back as possible. It made lots of creaking and crunching, but it ultimately held for me to nurse it back to the parking lot. So its a new chain for me today, and a lesson learned. Just run a 9 speed chain so if/when you snap a chain, you can bum a powerlink off someone to get you running again.

All in all a fun ride, even if there were two Punishers out front this time. John seemed to be really strong for a guy who says he hasn't been riding, and I'm not sure Chris ever got his heart rate over 100bpm. Maybe when he was hammering out that 300 yard long one hand wheelie on his SS, but probably not even then. Good ride, good to meet Chris & Justin and always good to ride with The Punisher and his sidekick.

Monday, March 05, 2007

From 2 planks to knuckle dragging

Well more like face dragging down the slopes. What in the world am I talking about? Snowboarding. I'm getting to be a pretty good skier these days, so I decided to try my hand at snowboarding again. I have done it previously, and really enjoyed it, but its been two years and a couple severe injuries to shoulders since I've been out. Until this weekend that is...

Saturday we hit up Copper Mountain, choosing to go a little later in the day hoping to avoid the super chilly morning temps. We skied hard and fast, but stood in lift lines for a long time. After 10 or so runs, we gave up as the sun was setting and we were cold. And FYI, The Dam Brewery makes for a nice after skiing stop.

So Sunday we got up early and headed to Winter Park for some more turns. Sarah started out the day on her board, but Jill and I both were sporting 2 planks. We did Sleeper (a steeper, long blue/black run) several times to avoid the long lift lines on Mary Jane while Sarah felt her way down the hill on the board.

Around noon, we caught up to Sarah and she was visibly beat from a hard day adjusting to the knuckle dragging lifestyle again. I was wanting to try out my shiny new board and related gear, so I decided to try my luck for a run or two. I did the change over from skis to board and met up with Jill on the Corona Way road to the base of Mary Jane. It started out pretty well, as I was able to make it down the easy road using mainly the heel edge but staying upright nonetheless.

Now the hard part. The lift is a 2 person chair, so Sarah & I headed up together with me being very nervous about taking both of us out. When we got to the top, I was very relieved when I was able to scoot right off the lift without problem. So on to the slope.

I should have known better to start on a blue run, but that would have been the easy way. I tentatively edged my way down using the heel edge, as the toe edge still felt very, very foreign. After falling, somewhat from being worn out, I stood up and regrouped as Jill said to me...

"You just need to commit"

So I committed.

I started down the slope feeling it was time to check out this lauded toe edge. I was quickly picking up speed when I tried to get on the toe edge when it all went wrong. Before I knew it I was flying through the air and doing a snow auger with my head. As I was laying on the slope writhing in pain, Jill & Sarah had a good laugh at my expense. When the pain subsided enough for me to open my eyes, I looked back to see several 8 inch deep holes where my knees, wrist and head had planted the snow.

Thats the dangerous thing about getting too much toe edge, because with the combined nature of a 30 degree slope and falling forward its a long time and too much momentum before you make contact with the snow again. You can see this illustrated in my awesome MS Paint recreation (inspired by Kade's drawing) below.

So I've learned a couple things...

1. Start on greens till I can figure out this toe edge thing
2. Take a lesson. Its taken me 12 years to get decent form on skies after teaching myself how to ski, so it would be great to learn the right way to board.

I'll be back, once I get full control over my body again. My arms and shoulders are so sore they are rendered pretty much useless right now. I've basically got Trex arms right now.