KC/DC Cycle

Ride to live... live to ride

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


When I started riding longer distances I didn't carry water. There were enough convenience stores that I was able to sustain a ride without carrying water. Now I know better. Water is a critical to performance and health. In the Washington, DC area we have hot, humid summers with some periods of time where the air quality is poor for days. There were times I went on rides and couldn't figure out why I was so tired or pooped out so completely. I now realize that I should have been hydrating better. I watch the color/frequency of my urine. That is my indicator. When it's darker I know I need to drink more. When it doesn't come out at all I know I'm dehydrated. I haven't been a huge fan of sports drinks and gel, but I'm coming around. If I have sweated a lot then I usually get a sports drink like Gatorade. Another test of dehydration is pinching a flap of skin. The more it stays pinched after release the more dehyrated you are. The skin should resume it's former shape immediately under good hyration.

I carry water on my rides that are longer than 20 miles especially in the summer months. I've gone from plastic bottles to thermal plastic to stainless steel. The steel bottles hold NO tastes, so I can put any type liquids in the bottle without aftertaste. I love the new stainless steel. I've gotten the 20 oz. from Walmart and Backcountry.com for as little as $6 per. You have to keep in mind the type of top you want. I don't drink with the top on. I tend to stop and remove the top. If you want to drink while riding get the kind of top you want when you buy the bottle. The tops are expensive when bought separately. Water bottles are a little difficult to clean, but nothing compared to Camelbak systems. I found the Camelbak systems difficult to get used to.

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Monday, August 30, 2010

When I was young and poor I would wear whatever clothes I had while riding the bike. As I grew older and had more money I was resistant to change. The first thing I tried was the shoes. I tried thick rubber soled Bata Biker shoes. I liked them because they slid in and out of the toe clips without getting snagged. Later I got some beautiful Detto leather cycling shoes that had a sort of cleat that would keep your foot from sliding out off the back of the pedal. I loved the feel of the leather. I tried a pair of wool riding shorts and they didn't have a small enough size at the shop I went to. The guy at the shop said I would 'grow into' them as I rode more. I laughed. If I hadn't grown enough by 20 years of riding to fit the shorts, I would never grow enough. Finally after 35 or so, I tried some clothes that actually fit. There are advantages and disadvantages to the special clothing and I'm thinking mostly of the shirt/jersey. Typically the special clothing is a synthetic material that clings tightly to your body. They tend to cost upwards of $40 per item. Non-synthetic wool and leather (chamois) short portions options are vastly more expensive.

  • the pants don't get caught in the pedals/chain.
  • the shirt doesn't flap in the wind at speed
  • shirt pocket is handy and well-placed for carrying various things
  • wool doesn't stink
  • unzip the shirt/jersey all the way down your belly

  • expensive
  • stench of synthetics
  • they can be difficult to remove as you 'grow into them'
  • wool must be washed carefully
I am much more partial to the shoes. I had graduated to clipless racing shoes and now SPD shoes I can almost walk comfortably in. These tend to be expensive for a single use type of shoe, but they are worth it in my book. On long rides your footwork gets sloppy and if you fall of the pedal it can be disastrous. On sportier rides the cleat allows for pulling up and pushing down and even allows for full circle locomotion.

I also use sunglasses/eyeglasses to protect my eyes from wind and bugs. When a bug gets in your eye at any speed you're in critical danger. I highly recommend eyewear.

Helmets have changed so much since I began riding. At first they were very heavy and poorly ventilated. I didn't use a helmet for my first 20 years of riding. After I started wearing a helmet I had a few wrecks where I was very glad to have the skid lid. I've seen folks with skater (non-vented) helmets riding bicycles. Altho they are adequate protection in my book, the lack of ventiliation is a huge problem.

I have been annoyed lately by my shorts riding to work. There is a little binding after the downstroke so that the pants (short) leg stresses against my leg. Am I getting picky in my old age? Bike specific shorts are stretchy and don't bind unless they are too small.

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    Friday, August 27, 2010

    This mornings ride to work was one of those perfect rides. Traffic was moderate to low. Motorists were polite. I am in good shape. The bike and I were one.The end of August weather was cool. The route was even nice, it wasn't new but I've refined my route so that I really don't interact with cars a lot. There wasn't even any wind. I appreciate the simple things. The exercise helped me wake up. The exposure to the fresh air and sunshine made me aware of gods grace.

    What it wasn't
    • sitting in annoying traffic confined in a cage (motor vehicle)
    • getting angry at motorists who cut me off
    • bad weather
    • hours wasted while my body becomes soft and ill
    • polluting the environment
    I love my life today. I love my wife who agreed to live where we are so I can ride to work. Life is so good.

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    Wednesday, August 25, 2010

    As of today I've been riding 49 years! I say that I ride for environmental and economic concerns, but I have always ridden for fun. After first learning it turned quickly into a passion for me that has continued thru my life. I think I was 12 when I first took to the roadway, but I remember a long ride on my 20" banana bike with someone clocking us going 40mph down a hill. The ride was probably less than 20 miles, but it is drilled into my memory. There were a group of us and dad organized and led us. I was always into the environment as well. At about the same time I was very agitated that they were tearing down the woods behind our house to build a parking lot. I have a distinct memory of huge piles of freshly cut or dug up trees burning. It was a travesty to me.

    I remember walking thru the devastation and smelling the green-ness of the bark shaved trunks. It was carnage to me. I used to hike in those woods and discover so much beauty and quietness. I would play in the creek that became enclosed in a storm drain. It was a daily odyssey to me prior to the destruction. I discovered abandoned buildings and excavated ancient rubbish heaps.

    So merging the two passions occurred naturally. The parking lot that was created thru the destruction was a by-product of society's craving for motor vehicle parking. The battle lines were drawn. I had encounters with the law early on as well. I would ride 12 miles to church often and had run-ins with police who told me I didn't belong on the street. I definitely lost respect for the law with each incident. I would register bikes and they would get stolen and never found. My first bikes were precious to me, but after a few are stolen they lose the personal meaning and attachment so many people have for these things.

    Part of my ethos for riding had to do with fixing it myself. I could take care of the bike myself. I often got parts from bikes that were thrown away in the neighborhood. I became a scavenger, much to my mothers consternation. So early on I was a reuse, recycle, reduce person. I definitely didn't get new bikes because I didn't have the money. I still don't, though I have the money. I am much too particular to select a ready made bike and I am still cheap.

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    Friday, August 20, 2010

    I took the long way home last night up Beach drive north to near Twinbrook. This is a fairly regular route for me. This adds 20 miles to my ride. The route is great because there are TONS of cyclists who are on this road. It goes in a park and has a good trail next to it. I'm sure a lot of cars avoid it during the daylight because there are so many bikes. On the weekends major sections of the road are closed to motor vehicles, which diminishes use because you can't get very far without going into neighborhoods. The Rock Creek Park in which Beach Drive resides is a National Park and kept very rustic.

    Last nights ride was at a time when a racing group meets at the far end of my route and then proceeds along my route returning south. There were about 20 members of that group and they whizzed past me. I caught up when they stopped at lights. It is wonderful to be able to ride on roads that bike dominate. "If you don't like bikes get off the road!".

    The weather was perfect and I worked out pretty hard.

    I've been sustaining a dream that began while I was reading posts from crazyguyonabike.com. I want to travel the Silk Road from Europe to China. Certain Asian countries are difficult in terms of security, but the idea of living on a foreign road and interacting with passersby fascinates me.
    • Most of the trip is barren and difficult which satisfies some of my requirements to find solitude and experience myself. 
    • I want to challenge myself physically with mountains and deserts. 
    • I want to interact with other cultures
    • I want to see the effect industrialization has on Chinas environment first-hand
    I will offer music if I bring my backpacker guitar. I will do portraits with pencil/pen on paper. I want to develop some photographic skills.

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    Thursday, August 19, 2010

    I finally finished my rebuild of my Surly 1x1 with the 7 speed Shimano Nexus internally geared hub. It was complicated by a number of factors. I had completely wrapped Albatross bars on the bike with Oury grips. That made it a little difficult to change the brake lever configuration. Last time I had the bike operational it used the Nexus 8 speed hub with a built-in foot brake. The 8 speed shifter claimed the end of the bar so the other track lever would not mount to the bar. I don't have a lot of money to blow on these projects so I waited for the right solution to come rolling thru. Well, I had a spare handlebar setup with brake levers that worked. I had to remove the shifters and it worked. I also had some trouble routing the long shifter cable through. I ended up taping sections because I wanted to hold it in place in a certain fashion.

    I was thinking about apparel in my years of riding in all types of weather. Yesterday was an unusual day because it poured down rain all day. I wore my helmet cover and poncho even tho it is summer. Summer here is 90 degrees Fahrenheit and above normally. Humidity is often very high. It's like a rainforest or a swamp. The air just doesn't seem to circulate. Most of my rain rides in this high humidity/high temperature environment I don't wear my poncho. I often still wear the helmet cover tho. My feet get wet but I change at the office, so I don't sit in wet shoes. This week was different. This rain was pouring down all day and the temperature was a bit cooler; it was probably about 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    The other extreme that my co-workers don't understand is how I can stand to ride in the cold. I know that I am hot-blooded. I stay warm because I have a high metabolism. I get a lot of exercise regularly. Cold just doesn't seem to bother me. I don't feel the cold. I don't like to feel cold, but maybe I have a higher threshold for cold.

    What does bother me is wind. Wind is my mortal enemy. I want to ease down the road. When there is wind afoot it seems like whichever direction I turn I'm FACING the wind. You work very hard as a cyclist against a headwind.I've dealt with rain, snow, cold, ice, but wind & flooding are the real fun-stoppers.

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    Wednesday, August 18, 2010

    I've bought and sold many bikes since I've last posted. One interesting example was an Anker Rad swiss built bike. It had a newer Pletscher Athlete rear rack, Specialized Armadillo Infinity 700C 35cm brand new tires, steel painted fenders, stainless steel upright handlebars, Weinmann cantilever brakes, Union bottle generator hooked to front and rear lights, Pletscher double kickstand, french Maillard hubs, Columbus Aelle frame, Brooks double sprung saddle, an unknown brand of crankset, Suntour derailleurs with lowrider dropout fittings in the front fork. I loved the nice heavy duty Weinmann brake levers and the long reach cantilever cables.

    I bought the bike, took off a bunch of stuff and sold it for $5 less. I took the tires $40, bell, kickstand $50, generator/lights $50. I left the Brooks saddle cause the guy I bought it from had left it out in the rain for a long time. It had hardened and I had a bunch of Brooks saddles anyway.

    The model was called a camper and it was heavy as lead. It was very utilitarian, but the weight was too much.

    All these parts but the bell will eventually be migrated over to my Surly LHT.

    Another interesting bike I bought and sold recently was a Viner which had a high level Italian Gipiemme component set including headset, bottom bracket, beautiful shifters & crankset. The frame had dents, heavy rust and a frozen headset/stem. The headset bearing were perfect and smooth but I couldn't unfreeze the stem to raise it. The bike was very light. I rode it about 10 miles, but since the stem was so low it wasn't much fun. Bought it for $150 and sold for $200.

    The Surly Long Haul Trucker is new since my last post. I bought the frame/headset/fork/fenders/Tubus cargo rack as a unit and built it up from there. I have nice bartape on the Surly which helps with the pleasure factor of riding this bike. I also feel the quality Chris King headset and nice quality bottom bracket bearings. The wheels/derailleurs/crankset came from another cheap Schwinn MTB. I got a nice quality set of SPD pedals from one of my bike purchases. The brakes are Tekro. I bought them from a guy who was upgrading his Surly Crosscheck(?). Apparently the Tekro Onyx are standard on the Surly.

    I got a steal on a Trek 420 from the mid 80's. I paid $20 for it. It was on Craigslist in my neighborhood. I put new tires on it and sold it for $300. If it had lowrider dropouts on the fork I would have kept it. The 420 is a lower end Trek touring bike.

    I bought a mid-70's Schwinn Suburban that had nice fenders but was completely disassembled. It was a beautiful glowing neon green color 10 speed. Bought it for $60 and sold for $125.

    Finally sold the Performance 20" child's bike with 11" frame. I had it for about a year trying to decide what to do with it. I got it for $35 and sold it for $65.

    I bought a Novara Safari which I loved but couldn't convince Karen to trade her medium frame for the small frame. I knew I could make some money off of it. I bought it for $200 and sold for $300. It probably had 50 miles on it. I almost kept it for myself. It's quite a neat bike with big, fat, 26" tires, mechanical disk brakes, butterfly handlebars with foam padding, 27 speed gearing and fittings for a lowrider rack.

    I bought and sold a Nishiki Hybrid Colorado. It was beautiful and clean, had 26" slicks and SKS fenders. It had a very laid back seat tube and head tube angle which made it an interesting change from the more road race style frames I typically ride.

    To update the accident report I was listing a few posts ago I had another wreck on a extended commute. It had rained the night before so the roads were damp. I was going around a curve just before crossing a bridge and felt the rear tire start to slide. I was able to regain control. It was November 2008 if I remember correctly. So I thanked the bike gods and slowed down. I had a sharp hill to descend after that. While on a speed bump on that hill my rear wheel lost traction and I went down pretty hard. I slid about 15 feet. The injury to my wrist caused problems for about a year afterwards.

    Karen had a collision with a cab back on 'bike-to-work' day. I went down to DC to escort her home. We were coming north on 14th Street near Wallach St NW. We were in the bike lane. A cab was waiting in a line of cars when suddenly the rear passenger door flung open and hit Karen and knocked her to the ground. She's going to need surgery to repair a torn ACL.

    I got a couple wheelsets at a thrift store. One I sold and the other I put on my sons bike. He chose red tires to make the bike his own. He has a 2004 Trek 1000 54CM which has a bar extension for triathlons and other long distance rides. Today was his first ride with all the parts in place and he said it was beautiful.

    I read an old post about a night ride I did. Well I did another night ride last fall which was really fun. I went out in Rock Creek park on Beach Drive near the beltway. I did not use a light and only encountered a car or two. It was probably 10PM when I left home. It was peaceful and quiet and invigorating. All I could hear was the quiet whir of my tires. I could almost guide myself by the moonlight. I was in my quiet dark world in the middle of the city. How remarkable to be in a city of 5 million and to be out in a park alone. I rode about 20 miles in quiet solitude. It gave me great peace.