Sunday, December 20, 2009

Almost - 22 @ 15.5

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Often times the difference between my percieved failure and success is one move, a catalyst that sends the course of action off into a different trajectory. Chit-chatin' like a couple schoolgirls we both missed the turn to 74 and would have been in Chicago had Jason not realised in Paxton. Woops. :25 min late arrival meant cel-phoneless Larry would probably already be off doing solo miles since none of the other usual suspects were answering phones or planning on riding.

We decided to scout cautiously after I spent some time doing ice slides in the parking lot. After a few "this is crazy" comments we struck out agianst hills, ice and snow covered roads, temps in the low 30's winds WSW @ 8, a fast running spillover road crossing and bridges that seemend to change from completely ice-covered to partially melted and dried in :20. The big hills had just enough traction to make them passable safely but with plenty of brake and smooth lines going down.

Plenty of sections were 100% covered and the hidden ruts almost sent my ride mate down on several occasions. I was more fortunate and felt solid the entire time except for when I was testing slide conditions and a few times rolling onto the shoulder distracted by the beauty. Thankful for keeping the rubber side down.

I really like Kickapoo and the scenery. Lots of nice benches and approaches to the water as well as scenic bridge crossings.

This is usually the view I see as I crest the hills. Jason is a strong rider and hates to have people ride around him up a hill. Great burst speed, its like he can lurch his bike forward 6' in the time it takes to blink. I'm grateful for the oppurtunity to have people to push me and build comradery with.

Good ride today, did some hill work and we both felt good about a short ride. It's nice to have the feeling that skill and effort allowed one to cheat potential disaster and walk away a little bit better of a person for it. Life seems to be a series of navigating similar obstacles, giving it our best or good enough effort and maybe with luck, somehow, sometimes it pays off.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Principle of Locality

Memory Lane - 120 Coral Reef Aquarium

I've been missing my tank a lot lately. I don't miss the work, stress or inability to leave the house for more than 8 hours without being atleast a bit concerned about its status.
All of the sps (sticks) were grown from fragments from other reefkeeper's tanks.
from 3/07

Sunday, December 13, 2009

62.8 @ 18.2

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Finally made it over to another Kickapoo ride. I had forgotten how steep some of the hills were. Boy am I glad I didn't do the 130 miler out and back, would have been calling for a sag wagon.

Temps were in mid 30's to start finishing in the low 40's but felt much colder to me. Was pretty trashed from yesterday but still managed to give Jason a run for his money and we both felt pretty wiped by the end of the ride. I could do without the muddy trail section next time but I guess its better than more of the hills since it was part of a shorter route. Larry is strong as an OX and takes good care of us. Seeing that we were tired he took longer gentler pulls and chose a shorter route home. Think he said we had 2400' of climbing in about 3/4 of the way home.

Foggy conditions made picturesque scenery seem dramatic:

Suffer faces:

Pics never do hills justice: Losts of winding country roads bordered by forest and river:


Fog on the water:
Big mileage weekend for me with hills. Been hearing comments how I'm riding strong so thats encouraging. I feel like I've been struggling to feel well but fakin' it till I make it. Good enough for now.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

83 @ 18.7

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Legs felt meh untill about mile 50 and never recovered after that. Took 3 malto bottles and 2 granola bars and I still felt undernourished and lacking for energy. Hope I can make a good recovery for tomorrows miles at Kickapoo. I'va arranged for a ride over so I'll have no excuses.

Breakfast on the trail:

18 degrees and winds from the SE at 5 met 9 brave souls for departure. Pace was brisk with winds picking up to 17 mph and temps finishing at 38.

Congrats to Jason (White Jacket) this year's State Champ !
Pee break at the bridge on the super crappy road:

Hinsdale (I think ?) at the 5 N's store where a lady asked me why we do this stuff.

I kinda want a lady to hit me with her SUV if it means I get wheels like Larry.
Cold and wet is no way to go through life. I'd had enough lollygaggin so I started back early hoping to encourage others.

Was snappin a few profile shots as I floated back from my turn at the front, Mark siezed just the right moment to blast through for the shot. This must be his "I win!" face. Well played, sir.
Fast guys lookin fast:

Besides dropping a chain at the bottom of the last hill, burying myself to bridge, not being sure the next turn right after that, having Thomas attack as I start cramping, being undernourished and generally feeling like crap, this ride was great ! I even got to watch Mark polish Thomas' rear mech with his front spokes. Neat trick but not one that I'll be looking to do for many moons. Thanks to Larry for organizing us into a rotating paceline and letting us borrow the van for tomorrow's ride !

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Anatomy of a Winter Commuter - Sub 35 Degrees

Managed to find time today at lunch to wander around a bit. As I was waiting for a friend to spin around with I was approached by a gentleman asking questions about my "extreme" bike setup.
I think he said his name was Idan. He had just arrived and locked his bike up around the corner and flagged me down as I floated into the sanctuary of an east-facing wall.

As I started rattling off all sorts of what must have sounded like gibberish detailing my gear, I realized I should write this up on the blog so others like Idan could use it as a potential reference for building their own commuter kits.

My favorite piece of saftey gear to date:

German Mirror from Rivendell

Rear brake cable froze up by lunch, it was a pretty soggy ride home last night. Luckily I still had a front brake and just unhooked the rear so the wheel would spin. Tonight the cables will be lubed with Phil's Tenacious Oil and I'll hope for the best. Was careful not to shift out of the little ring up front and stay in the bottom few gears in case the shifter cables froze too.

Temps at 18 degrees and head winds at 35 gusting to 50 for the ride home. Only thing I added to the pic below was a fingerless fleece mitten over the top of the patagonias after a mile or so.

Anatomy of a winter commuter:

Here we have the setup for anything I'll see below 35 degrees with the potential for icing. I tend to run cold so I need windproof everything.

These are the specs for the items that I think make a big difference:

Bike: Cyclocross bike from with a cargo rack that includes a support towards the rear of the tire to keep pannier bag out of the rear wheel
Studded tires: Schwalbe Marathon Winter 700x35
Fenders: SKS P45 with custom mudflaps made from plastic nursery pots
Lights: 2 superflash stealths for the rear and one minewt headlight
Mirror: German Mirror from
Panniers: Ortlieb back roller classics from
Reflective decals on frame: These are the rectangle DOT approved stickers you see on semi-truck trailers. I bought mine from an autoparts store and cut them in half along their length with scissors.

Goggles: Bolle Shark
Jacket: Columbia Titanium Wildcard Jacket purchased from Champaign Surplus
Base layer: Columbia long sleeve
Balaclava: Outdoor Research brand with Windstopper fabric
Gloves: Patagonia windproof gloves from Wild Country in town
Pants - Columbia Snowboard pants from Wild Country in town and fleece sweats from Champaign Surplus underneath
Overshoes: NEOS ordered online, stands for New England Overshoes. I believe the ones I have are the villager model. They allow you to wear street shoes underneath and still keep my feet warm and dry.

As far as freeing frozen locks go, Ive had good luck with lubricating them well with graphite dry lock lubricant making sure to get it all the way into the key portion as well as where the metal pieces slide inside the u-locks. For freeing one that is already frozen I recommend the small tubes of lock deicer sold at gas stations or carrying around a bottle of rubbing alcohol to pour on the lock has gotten them open for me. I've been known to carry one in my jacket pocket to collect body heat.

I didn't have it on in the pic since I wasn't planning to be out in traffic, but a yellow safetly vest has proven to be a game changing piece. Its almost as if people think Im a bike cop and offer a little more room or time in our road sharing activities.

Think thats about it. Hope it helps.

Update pic from yak shaving session(new rear shifter cable and oiled up the the rear brake cable):

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


Love this weather. With the news of 1-2" and 40+ mph winds for tomorrow, I figured I should get back in the saddle and work out the kinks before it gets really messy. For one poor excuse or another I've been a spotty bike commuter this fall and now winter. Thankfully, I've somehow influenced several friends to go primarily car free which has been a fantastic motivator watching them enjoy the good life. Actually, it's the guilt from near incessant teasing but whatever works.

The baconators went on last night since there was a good chance this wet stuff would be mixed with slick stuff and still need to grab a spare tube. Last year the studs started abrading the tubes on the first season of the tire. Schwalbe said not to ride it on pavement more than 30km?? and warrantied the worst one. Don't quote me on the exact number, was so silly I couldn't bring myself to memorize it. Hard to change gears from pushing it in turns, acceleration and braking to slow and steady like a barge.

Thought I'd share the top view of an under-utilized hardened commuter steed with locks waiting for it's arrival:


Sunday, December 6, 2009

34.4 @ 16.9

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34° and winds from the SSW @ 12 met Jay and I for a semi-relaxed ride past Sadorus. I had to get realistic with myself at 5:15 when the alarm went off. Everything was ready except the engine and I didn't see a good outcome to any attempt at 130 miles. I went back to sleep and woke up with no regard to time and had a nice relaxing breakfast around 10am.

For being such a fancy phone, his droid takes some pretty craptastic pics:

and back to my env3:

It felt good to ride with Jay, miles seemed to dissapear as I was either lost in thought or chatting away like a farmer at the implement dealership. It's been several months out of the road bike saddle for him so there was plenty of whining and sitting in for the ride out. Legs felt like ass and never really seemed to flow, 130 would have been silly for me right now. Maybe next time.

Fred power:
Happily frothed:

Tractor back! :

Only got buzzed by one farmer in a semi at what looked like 50+. They're hot footin' to get all the corn in so watch out right now.

Lichen on the bridge:

Kit was spot on. Bag lined neoprene booties, fleece pant, windpproof knee warmers, stealth lite bibs, PI shorts, stretchy base shirt, light fleece longsleeve, windproof shell, arm warmers, jersey, patagonia gloves, windstopper balaclava, and LG power cap. What a funny name for a hat, power cap.

On the way back someone had puppy legs and threw down a little attack as I fumbled to get the camera phone for a farmer shot.

Earnin' it:

I feel pretty comfy no hands and was chasing with a tailwind.

Thanks to Jay's mom-in-law for a fantastic post ride feast. Scarfed on ham n beans with cornbread, a sandwich, pasta fajole soup, 2 cokes and a couple awesome cranberry oatmeal white choc. chip cookies. Sometimes, just a life, rocks.