Thursday, January 31, 2008

four commutes...

..and no frozen appendages in the last couple of weeks! It hasn't exactly been warm around here recently but at least it's been well above zero. As a result, not only have I been able to ride outside a fair amount but my trainer time has been minimal so far this season as well. Waaaahooooooo! In years past I've been able to churn out 1.5-2 hr trainer sessions but so far this year 45 minutes is about all I can muster and many nights I'll just crank out a quick 30 minutes to keep the legs and guilt moving. Thank god I've been able to get outside.

There are two main reasons I've been able to get out so much this year. 1. On my alloted days I'll ride no matter how cold it gets (-30 with windchill on a couple of days so far) and will only cancel for weather if it's too nasty (snow etc) for it to be safe with cars around. 2. With the El Mariachi set up single, with fenders and three sets of wheel & tire combos to chose from (slicks for good days, studs for potential ice and fat knobbies for in between days) there really isn't any good reason to not getting out. Except the puss excuse but thankfully I've only used that once or twice so far this year.

lookey who it is

Fellow Bikeman.com rider Andrew Freye on the cover of the Bangor Dailey News making it look like he's trying to find a job so the rents don't kick him out... I almost didn't recognize him without a helmet on.

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

The "pass" and what not to wear...

...while riding on Sunday




Marcy lining my brother Darren up for the pass


Here she goes.
Maybe not. Can you guess the 'what not to wear' segment of today's post? Didn't think so. In his defense, Darren doesn't give a rat's ass what he looks like when he rides because he hates it the whole time anyway.

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video

Monday, January 28, 2008

Off to a good start

I'm gonna lay it out there. Last week sucked. Plain and simple. Between work being out of control, Brynna beign sick most of the week and Marcy's grandfather passing away (It was great knowing you Frank) I can honestly say that the week sucked a big one. Thankfully it's over and we can hope for a better week coming up.

With as crappy as last week was, there was one good point. Marcy and I finalized a deal on a fairly good sized (17 1/2 acres) chunk of land on Friday and I am actively working on a design for our new home. We're pretty geeked about the whole thing for a number of reasons. One, we've wanted more land for both Brynna and Chance to be able to do their thing without needing to play frogger on the road outside of our current house. Two, the property is on a VERY quiet road in a nice quiet town; peace and quiet baby. Three, the new location will cut my commute in half and knock 6 miles off of Marcy's. Fourth, but definitely not last, is that the new property is less than a half mile from the Schmid Preserve where, as I've mentioned many times before, I ride on my way to and from work when the conditions allow. From what I've heard, there are hiking trails from the edge of our property that dump into the preserve too and when the River Link project is finished I'll be able to commute by trail door to door. Pretty freaking sweet!

Yesterday, I was also able to get out for some snowmobile trail riding up at the parents place. The first hour I was accompanied by Marcy, Chance, my brother Darren and my dad. All had fun except for my brother. He's not much into riding to begin with and when you add in cold temps and skinny tires on soft snow and you have a recipe for lots of bitching. Once back to the rents place I decided to ride part of the way home via trail and have Marcy pick me up on her way. I'm glad I did because I was able to rip off another 12 miles of sweet trail with most of it being easily rideable and it gave me a chance to test out some of my gear for next weekends adventure. More on that later.

Friday, January 25, 2008

common refrain

I've been super busy at work again (hmmm, don't think I've said that before!) and put in another 12+ hour day yesterday, worked until after 8pm on Wednesday etc. The sad thing is that it looks like things will be this way for the next 18 months (when my current project will be done). I certainly won't be working 12 hrs a day, every day, but there will be many, many days like that. I'm not happy. Those hours really cut into family time, relaxation time, bike time and, of course, blog time. When push comes to shove, the blog is the first to suffer but the blog's loss is your gain since you won't feel compelled to read it if I haven't written any worthless drivel.

Continue to enjoy!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Will I ever learn?

My guess is no.

Ok, I started to post today (see brown print below) but realized I was way off on a blabbering tangent. Verbal diarrhea if you will. I've left it if you want to read it but I would advise it. Here is the short version:

Yesterday morning's commute sucked donkey d* because of all sorts of bike issues, didn't freeze though so thats a plus.

Ride home started well but I falsely assumed (again) that the snomobiles would have been out to pack some of my trail commute home meaning I had to hoof it for a couple of miles. Good training for the Winter XC challenge I guess.

See how simple that was?



Marcy had the day off yesterday for MLK day so I seized the opportunity to commute to work. I had to really since it was going to be one of the coldest days of the week (how does this ALWAYS happen???). Things started off bad and just got worse as my morning prep got going. I had left some of my evening prep for the morning so I could spend some time with Marcy Sunday night which meant that I had to mount up wheel set number 3 (stans rims with panaracer rampages for extra float on the trails) on the El before riding. Seemed simple enough. I went out, pumped the front tire up a bit since it had leaked down somewhat, mounted both wheels and went back inside to finish getting ready. Come back out 15 minutes later to find that my front tire is now totally flat. F! It's a tubeless setup so I didn't want to pull it apart to put a tube in so I opted to just throw the wheel with the Nokian tire on the front. It's skinnier than the Rampage but at least it would get me rolling. Then it took me forever to get the brakes adjusted properly for the differently spaced discs between wheels. Cold hands and small knobs aren't a good combo! Finally, I was ready to roll so I put on my gloves (three layers: thin fleece, brown jersey gloves, large mittens with felt liners) which takes a minute or so because of the layers and mount the bike to ride out. Opps, not yet. Seems sometime during my fumbling around I had knocked my chain off so I had to strip my gloves again (can't get grease on the mitts!), fix the chain and finally mount up to ride out wondering if this was cycling gods way of getting me to stay home but I didn't listen. Couldn't listen really since I had so much time and mental energy already invested in the morning's ride.



Once on the road I felt a bit better. It was super cold but I felt like I was dressed pretty well. I knew everything would probably be good except my hands. I was right and all it took to keep the hands toasty was to do some windmills every 5-10 minutes to force blood back into the fingers. Unfortunately, I soon noticed that I also seemed to have a slow leak in the rear tire as well. Another Stan'd wheel. I just mounted these tires recently and haven't had a chance to test them out plus I almost out of sealant so each tire got a minimum amount of sealant so that is probably why they were leaking a bit. I just got a new bottle of sealant from Bikeman so I guess it's time to fill them up again! Anyway, thankfully the leak was slow enough that I was able to slog through to the office

Monday, January 21, 2008

11 vs 1... yeti

Eleven women to one dude (me) in Saturday's spin class. To top it off, I got there late because I underestimated how long it would take me to ride there so I go stuck on a bike right in the middle of the room. The area that every other bike faces. I felt like I was on display. Kind of made me wish I had shaved my yeti legs. Being a guy, I always assume that every chick digs me so hopefully they enjoyed the hairy show.

Friday, January 18, 2008

photos

It only took me about fifty tries (seriously, it's a hard angle to get on your own) to get a decent shot of the Ergon BD1 on my back. Notice the light cord coming out of the top? It is actually fed through the bladder hose port on the top of the pack. works pretty slick.


Here a couple of pics fo the El clad in the dead sexy new fenders. I need to cobble something for the front fender to get it closer to the wheel but otherwise they went on slick.




Mud flaps and reflectors.



At the same time I also Bonk'd the top tube to protect it from brake lever dings (there were several already) and then I livened it up a bit with some Ergon stickers. I would never typically put stickers on my bikes but with them being on the Bonk film they'll be easy to get off if I ever sell the bike.






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muddin

Here is the vid from this weekend's gravel grind to the inlaws. This section was actually pretty firm, shortly before it turned to soup. Although it was still pretty slippery for slick tires... This was the ride that cemented the fact that I needed fenders.


video

Thursday, January 17, 2008

great googly moogly

According to the thermometer at the house this morning and at the bank, today wasn't the coldest morning that I have commuted (between 7-10 degrees f), it's not even the coldest day in the last two weeks but good gawd was it cold! On a comfort level it was easily the coldest day this year. I'm not sure why it seemed colder than the -4 day but it did. Go figure... I made it in though and only had to endure a few minutes of the "my hands hurt so much I think they're going to fall off" routine. A long, hot shower really did the trick to thaw the body.

Yesterday I finally got around to registering for the Winter XC race in Vermont in three weeks. I guess there is no pussing out now. Here are a couple of quotes from the website:

"Winter mountain biking is not for the faint of heart. If you get a flat tire or mechanical problem, your life can turn into a nightmare. The wind might bring the temperature down to a point where most people on snowmobile would rather stay home. Your Camel Back tube will freeze. A snow storm might result in the need to walk most of the course. Rain could make your life miserable. "

"If you are not considered normal by your peer, this is probably a race for you."

There is no question that I'm not considered normal around here so I guess this IS a race for me.

On Tuesday, when I was at the shop, I also found out that a shop employee (Steve) will be going over on the Carver winter bike that I posted a while ago so now I have someone to share gas money, misery and the back on the element with. Did I mention that I plan to sleep in the back of the car for the weekend of the race. My rationalle for doing so are two-fold. First, I'm cheap. Second, it adds to the adventure aspect of the weekend. Who doesn't want to do an ice crit on Friday night, curl up in the back of an ice cold car for the night and then get up bright and early to race again the next morning? At least if things get too cold Steve and I can spoon.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Good stuff

Yesterday I was unable to do my typical Tuesday commute for two reasons. 1. I forgot my winter riding shoes at the in-laws on Saturday (stupido!) and 2. I needed to get to bikeman to pick up my chick magnet fenders and blinky light after work. With that in mind, I skipped out of work a tad early and headed to the shop and picked up my goodies and all I've got to say is DAMN are those some huge fenders! I had fenders on my Van Dessel before giving it to my bro for Christmas but those were normal size fenders. Kind of what you would expect on a bike. These new fenders, because they are for 29'er with large tires, are gi-normous. Regardless, I was able to mount up the front last night and will do the rear tonight so that I'll be slush and grit free for my commute on Thursday. Just in time for the roads to be perfectly dry I might add. I also got my new blinkie set up (as if that takes any time) and got to do the in-house test. After Marcy, B and I woke up from our epileptic fits, cleaned up the drool and vomit and regained our composure I can honestly say that it is the brightest blinkie I've ever used. If a car runs over me now its because they were trying to...

Because of the missed ride and the fact that we picked up 10" of fresh powder on Monday I also got out for 1:15 or snowshoeing with with pooch. There is nothing like a hike in fresh snow under a bright moon to make a day complete.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Dinotte

With Jason's recent ramblings about bike lights and all the options available in LED lights has got me thinking again. Always dangerous. As I've probably mentioned before, I'm not all that crazy about the Marwi Titan light that I have now. It works reasonably well, mounts easily and puts out decent amount of light BUUUUTTTT, the battery is really heavy and the sheer number of wires and connections make it a real pain in the ass to use. I have finally figured out that if I attach the switch directly to my helmet (right next to the light head) than I can do away with one piece of wire and make it somewhat reasonable to use. Pair that with a pack or camelback to carry the heavy ass battery and it's a workable solution. BUUUUUTTTT, things could be better.
I've been watching the whole LED lighting thing develop (both for cycling and for home lighting)over the last few years and have been waiting for the right time to move. From my recent research, architectural LED's aren't quite there yet as far as efficiency goes but it sure does seem like LED bike lights are coming of age. There are literally dozens of companies throwing their hats into the ring including all of the heavy hitters in the HID market but one company has really caught my eye, Dinotte Lighting in New Hampster. They work exclusively with LED's, have a fairly wide variety of lighting options (including some super bright taillights) and are closer to me than any other lighting company (I love to use local whenever possible).
One of the coolest things that Dinotte does is offer most of their lights in both litium-ion versions as well as AA rechargeable versions so if you're looking for a convenient light with minimal fuss you can pick up a AA set that still gives you 2 hour run times. In a pinch, you can even throw regular AA batteries in to get you home if you wander further than expected.

Personally, I'd be in the market for the Endurance Series of lights with lithium-ion batteries. With their impressive run times, kick ass lumen output, ease of use/mounting and the fact that all lights come with two (thats right two!) batteries and it's a no-brainer. If I had money to spend that is...
The 200L Dual, mounts with o-rings. Super easy.
The 600L. Same mounting system as my Marwi's. Very quick and easy.
The crazy bright taillight. Insane!

more boring stuff

More boring commuter news if you're interested (I'm guessing no). Not only did I order up some super manly fenders last week but I also got myself a new, super bright blinky light as well. I might as well tuck my jersey into my tightie whities (under my riding shorts of course) and mount a mirror to my helmet because I'm getting dorkier by the day. Oh, and did I mention I also ordered some reflective stickers for the bike too???


I know that fenders, blinkies and reflective tape aren't going to have you running with the cool crowd anytime soon but anything that helps me get out riding, getting exercise and saving gas is pretty damn cool in my book.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

road grind

Yesterday I found myself with the opportunity to ride my bike up to Marcy's parent's new house. The question was, do I ride the bike I've been riding almost exclusively for the last month or so, the El Mariachi, or drag the road bike out of the basement and it's trainer servitude and let it breath fresh air for the first time in weeks. For the road bike's sake, I'm sorry to say that I chose the single speed Salsa. The reasons for the choice were many. First, the Mariachi was already in the garage, ready to go. Two, I have the fat, slick Schwalbe Big Apples mounted up for road duty such as this. Three, there is a two mile section of dirt road that I have to hit if I want to take the most direct route. Four, with the race in Vermont next month, it makes sense to spend as much time on the race bike as possible.

I was a little concerned about riding a single speed mountain bike on the road for 30-ish miles. Before this year two miles on the road with a fat tire rig was WAAAAAAYYYYY too much. Somehow, though, the El Mariachi seems pretty good on the road. Maybe its the geometry, maybe its the rigid fork, maybe its the sexy blue. Who the frick knows, all I know is that I like it on the road. I knew from my commute that I had roughly the right gearing on the bike for a road ride, kinda low gear for the flats and kinda high for climbs so a pretty good middle ground.

Two hours and thirty miles later I'm happy to say that I made the right choice. I probably could have gotten away with a slightly higher gear (I can already feel myself getting stronger since the beginning of the year) but overall things went well and I'm definitely glad I had the fat tires for the dirt road section. With the temps hovering at 38-40 degrees the gravel was very soft so the fatties helped me stay at least somewhat on top. The road bike's 23's would have dug in like a pizza cutter. Even with the fat tires, though, I was really wishing I had fenders for the El because of all the mud and water being sprayed in my face and on my back (and spiffy pack by the way). Thankfully, I ordered a set just this past week so by next weekend, I'll be sporting a set of Planet Bike Cascadia 29'er fenders and smiling on my dorky way.

I have a super exciting video from the gravel section to upload but my wanker dial-up connection from home isn't haveing it.

Also, I have a review on Ergon grips up on Bikeman.com's home page right now. In it, I offer up a set of grips to try out and wouldn't you know it, I already have a bite...

Friday, January 11, 2008

What does it hold?

For yesterday's commute, I decided to up the ante with the Ergon BD1 pack and carry a bit more stuff:



I chose to go with some heavy and awkward items, the type of stuff I wouldn't want in my other bags. For example, that tupperware is full of Marcy's famous turkey chili. A hard container like that would have been death in my messenger bag but the BD1 gobbled it up and I didn't even notice it was there. If push came to shove I could probably jam twice this much in there...
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Thursday, January 10, 2008

A great dog has passed.



We'll miss you Petey.


You didn't always listen,

We couldn't get you to "Come!"

But if we were going for a bike ride,

You were up for the run.


You were such a happy dog,

Master of Drake Hill.

Cruising up and down the street,

Stopping cars at will.


Ambassador of the neighborhood,

Ruler of the bunch.

Meeting neighbors at their driveways,

To eat their leftover lunch.


You were always gentle,

Great with all kids.

and tolerated Chance,

More than anyone did.

This is Brynna's first lesson,

Of a loved one passing away.

She doesn't understand yet,

But will one of these days.


We'll miss you Petey,

The cuddles on the floor.

The warm companionship,

Always meeting us at the door.


And though you're gone,

we won't forget.

What a great dog you were,

the best we ever met.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

look what the brown santa brought

Last night, after work, I hit up the evening spin class at the local Y for an hour of suffering and copious sweating. I easily went through two water bottles (despite having two glasses of water an hour before class) while everyone else in the class had less than one. I don't know how people get through a class like that with only one bottle, I guess their bodies are used to being dehydrated. Anyway, after the class I hopped on the El Mariachi with its freshly mounted fat slicks and set out for home and quickly realized that the class had taxed me more than I thought because every hill HURT! I savored the pain though since its been a few months since I've tried to ride hard and with the start of the new year comes the start of my training so I sucked it up and soldiered on.

When I rolled into the garage a little over an hour later I was greeted by this:


No, I don't have a fridge and dining table in the garage. I took the pic once inside.


Inside of the box. Sorry for the bad pic.

Another angle of the pack.


It took me about 10 minutes last night to get the pack adjusted to my back and I was immediately in love. The pack sits low on (off actually) the back putting the weight over the hips with little weight on the shoulders and once on, it basically disappears. My biggest problem with packs and messenger bags while riding has always been that they've always felt awkward on my back. In the past I've tried several day-hiking type packs that worked OK but I always felt like I was carrying much more weight than I actually was. I've also got a sweet messenger bag that I use on a daily basis but once on the bike all but the smallest loads start to weight you down. Its comfortable but you feel the weight. At first glance, it seemed like the BD1 was going to take care of that.

Thankfully, it wouldn't be long before I got to put it to use since I was riding in again this morning.

This morning I decided to put the bag to the test and carry more than I typically would. Nothing too heavy yet since it would be the first run with it but I stuffed in most of my food for the day, an extra jersey, pump, batteries for my light and other odds and ends and the bag took them all easily (I could probably have put in 2-3 times that much) and once on my back the load essentially disappeared! The weight was obviously still there but somehow it felt less than I expected it to. Same for the ride in, the pack was so comfy that I forgot on several occasions that I even had one on. This same load in my other bags would have been a pain.

This was just one 1-hour ride so time will really tell but for now I'm super psyched to have this bag.
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Monday, January 07, 2008

craptacular weekend but a good day

Wow, am I glad that weekend is over. Friday night, because Marcy was going out with friends, I decided to have my brother over for some beer pong. Stupid move since it meant I'd be up late and with B not sleeping well recently it was a recipe for very little sleep. Sure enough, B was up waaaaayyyyy too early leaving my plan for an early Saturday ride in the gutter. To top it off, we also found out that my parents dog of 14-ish years was being put down Saturday morning after a full day of seizures of unknown cause. Damn good dog too so it was really sad to hear.

Marcy and I decided to head up to my 'rents place Saturday afternoon to distract them and planned to stay over and head to Marcy's parent's new place sunday with the two of us sneaking in a couple hours of either snowshoeing or riding in between. Well, B threw a monkey wrench into that plan when she decided to wake up several times during the night. Finally, at 12:30 we threw in the towel, packed our shit and headed home figuring a few hours of good sleep was better than the alternative.

Theeeeeennnnnn, to top it off, my mountain bike ride on Sunday was f'ed after less than 20 minutes with some chain/cog issues on a wheelset I did a hasty change on. Of course, I could have fixed it back at the house and headed back out but my mood had soured considerably so I hopped on the trainer and watched an episode of Lost to try to salvage the day.

I don't think I've ever been so happy to see a Monday arrive than I did today since today is chock full of riding goodness. Well, maybe not chock full but I do have a spin class this afternoon followed by the commute home in temps over freezing. Amazing considering the temps I've been riding in recently.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Whats next?

In answer to Jason's comment to yesterday's post as to what is next for my bike after adding XM radio and hot coffee; I give you this:

exhibit A: handlebar speakers.

As silly as they are, they don't look half bad. If I had a cruiser bike they just might work.

Exhibit B: Handlebar speakers with entertainment system.

The next step, of course, is a multi speaker system with built in lcd tv, dvd player, amplifier etc.

What do you think?

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Man points +1

Is there no end to my manliness? More likely, there is no end to my idiocy.

This morning's commute hit a new low, temperature wise, at an eskimo freezing -4F. What is it with Marcy's and my schedules anyway. Everyday that she goes to the gym its about 20 degrees in the morning and then my alloted days it drops into the single digits and below. Looking on the bright side though, these cold temps have given me plenty of opportunity to test out my cold weather gear for next month's Winter Challenge in upstate Vermont. Today I found that by using my xc skiing pants with one thermal below was more than enough to hold off the cold temps and the simple addition of one more thin layer on top (undershirt, craft thermal top, no name thermal top, long sleeve jersy and light weight coat) was more than enough as well. In fact, despite the cold, both my legs and upper body were kind of hot so I'll have to cut back a bit depending on race day temps since there is nothing worse than getting really sweaty and than having a chill set in.

My hands also did well with a pair of gor-tex and felt mittens with a thin pair of fleece gloves inside. My head was good with a balaclava which always works well and keeps drafts from heading down my neck and I tried Marcy's Aquaphor (she uses it for winter dives to keep the skin on her face from falling off) on my cheeks and nose since those are hard areas to cover while on the bike. The aquaphor seemed to do the trick because my face and nose never got cold. That stuff will be going in my bag in a month!

Finally we're down to my feet. Unfortunately, they froze. I went with a liner sock, wool sock and winter riding shoes but that didn't cut it and my little piggies were frozen solid by the time I rolled in. I guess next time I'll also go with the neoprene booties and in Vermont I'll be carrying some chemical packs just in case.

I also had a chance to try out this bad boy my brother gave me for my birthday. Its a mini thermos with a flip top lid to allow for easy access on-bike. He also "customized" a bottle cage with some fancy black electrical tape to be sure it was a nice snug fit. My days of carrying an insulated mug and splashing cold coffee all over my bike are over. This sucker kept my coffee hot hot hot through the whole below zero commute. Saweet!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

new links

I've added a few new blogs in the link section recently including the "amigos blog" from the Salsa website, check in there to get the inside scoop on up and coming things from Salsa and occasionally for a chance to give your opinion on a new product. Good stuff. I also added "Gnat", the head honcho at Salsa's private blog. Last, I also linked to a new blog from a guy I occasionally race against here in Maine, Michael Patrick. Michael's story is very cool. Michael has brain cancer and has had two brain surgeries as a result but still manages to go out and compete at an elite level (kicks my butt easily btw). In fact, Michael credits cycling as saving his life. I'm not sure how often he'll post but he is an inspiration.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy new year!


Happy new year to all you bike geeks out there in cyber land. Maine is getting hit with a 1-2 punch right now. We got 8-10" of fresh, fluffy powder yesterday rendering the trails temporarilly unrideable so the Nelson clan headed out for some picturesque snowshoeing instead.







Today we're expecting another 8-14" so it'll be at least a week or so before the snowmobiles pack the trails enough to be rideable again. Maybe, just maybe, I'll be able to sneak in a road ride or two if they get the ice off the roads. If not it'll be more showshoeing and trainer time.

In the meantime, I'm waiting not so patiently for a couple of packages from the Brown Santa. Package one is a set of grips and a new pack from Ergon. I'm psyched about both since I'll finally have Ergons for the Dos and I hope to use the pack for the race next month in Vermont (must carry lots of safety equipment!). Many thanks to Jeff K. for getting them out so quickly.

The second package is an XM Inno handheld receiver/mp3 player. My parents and bro got it and a year subscription for me for x-mas after all of my bitching about there being no good radio stations in Maine anymore. If you're not into country or top 40 you're out of luck. With XM at my fingertips I'll be able to rock out all day long!
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