Thursday, January 22, 2009

Making Friends

It didn't take long before I found myself feeling sorta lonely on my rides. Not feelings very safe. Not feeling like I knew where I was going. Not being able to related my progress to others. So I did a Google search for cycling clubs in my area. I found one, saw they had a Saturday ride, and I went and showed up.

Everyone I met was very nice. The ride had about 40 people on it. People looked out for one another. I got to see some really good cyclists and see how they were doing it. At the end of the ride, I found out, I'm pretty good on a bike. I don't suck nearly as much as I thought I did. So I decided to do a second ride next week.

This ride had tons of nice people too. The same amount of people showed up. Some people looked out for one another. This ride was a nightmare. The leader just sorta took off. Didn't divide into groups. Didn't ask who was new. Didn't offer directions to new riders. I ended up hooking up with a couple who was riding with the club for the first time. Luckily the route we were on was one I was very familiar with, because before long I was in a group that was dropped from the main group.

I really wanted to ride fast. I really wanted to push myself. However, I was with people who I just met and they were nice and I didn't want to just take off on them. I roughly knew the route. They didn't. It didn't seem right to just go and race ahead. They were by far stronger riders than I am. Probably could climb all day if they wanted to, but I was faster. So I slowed it down and hung with them and guided them along the route when we came to turns. After all, this is why I wanted to be in a club in the first place. To ride with cool people.

The first ride I went on was fantastic. I felt very looked after and I learned a lot. The second ride I was sorta on my own and looking after others. Not really what I wanted, but maybe something I needed. I don't have a lot of cycling confidence, but here I was making others feel confident in where they were and that someone was looking out for them. My cycling performance wasn't a hinderance and didn't even really come into play. My cycling ability was 2nd nature and I think that's what I ultimately want.

The Unbearable Consequences of Winter

All is ice and slush, and the slush is impregnated with sand and salt. The roads, already little more than paved cart paths from Revolutionary times, have shrunk still further by the banks of snow pushed curbward by the plows.

It's a difficult time to ride.

And I've been off the bike too much in the last weeks, confined to train cars and bumpy bus seats. I've had my nose in books and magazines. I've walked from bus stop to office and shaken my head at the frozen mess and slowly withered inside.

So today I said, "FUCK IT!!" and rode my bike. It was 20 when I left the house. Once, trying to feather the pedals to avoid a squirrelly driver in front of me, the back wheel locked up. I felt like one of those fancy-dancy trick riders skidding with purpose. Then I rolled the cranks and set the wheel to spinning again. Slick.

Tonight I will run by the bike shop, purchase clips and straps and fenders and finish building my new wintertime cross bike. I can beat this slush. I can keep riding.

It's supposed to get up to 37 tomorrow. Practically spring.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

In with the new.

For 2009 I bought road shoes. My old cycling shoes were an old pair of mountain bike shoes I had. Someone once told me to get rid of them as someone was going to make fun of me for wearing them on a road bike. However, in 5 years of using them, nobody ever did.

I had gone to pick up a bike stand that I had ordered and lo and behold 169 dollar road shoes were on sale for 99 bucks. They fit me well and had carbon fiber soles which doesn't mean too much to me, but I was excited to see if I could fee a difference now having a super stiff sole vs. the flexible mountain bike shoe. So I bought the shoes. I had a set of speedplay pedals that I had bought this summer and was excited to put these on my bike and use them with the new shoes.

I got home took, the pedals off the shelf then promptly lost them. I mean like they're gone. I've searched every where. I can't find them. I had moved the pedals, waited a day to install them and then they were gone. I have a sneaky suspicion I may have laid them with a bunch of boxes near the recycling pile and thrown them away. Oh and the garbage and recycling had been taken that morning. Ugh.

So I really wanted to go on a ride and I really wanted to use my new shoes. So I bought a pair of Shimano pedals. Now I could have kept looking, but this was 4 days ago and I still haven't found the pedals. So I'm glad about my purchase and I sorta like the larger surface that the Shimano's give me. I put on the pedals, put the cleats on the shoes, road up and down my street adjusting everything and went on a ride.

Things were real nice. The shoes were comfy. I felt I had more power when I was pedaling out of the saddle. Sweet. I then went on another ride a few days later. This one 18 miles. Still the shoes were comfy. Didn't feel if I had more power or not as the feel of my old mountain bike shoes was gone. I did really notice the feel of being aware of my pedal strokes and trying to be smooth. Very positive stuff.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Things not to do.

I cleaned my road bike. That is a thing to do. I cleaned all the road debris off. It was awful. I'm a shit pig with my bike. I cleaned one derailleur sprockets off and got like a tablespoon of grease and dirt. It was that bad. This bike cleaning was long over due.

My chain was a mess. I have read that some people say just wipe it off. Don't take if off unless you have to. Some people say take it off to clean it well. My chain was gross. I figured it was worse this dirty than it was to take it off. So I used my chain breaker and took it off. I was going to plop it into a soda bottle just like Da Robot does. Put in some citrus de-greaser and let it work it's magic. One problem. I didn't have a soda bottle. I had a glass mineral water bottle.

Guess what!? Getting a chain out of a bottle is damn hard. Hard enough where you think "Hey, I'll just break the bottle!" This is a bad idea. Don't do this. I did this. I took the bottle and held it over my recycling bin and hit it with a wrench. Glass everywhere. Like little shards of glass. Like all up and down my chain. This was perfect for use in a street fight, but not so much for cycling. Proceed to step 10. Wash each link individually to ensure all glass is gone. Little glass shards flying off your chain is a bad idea. It's an even worse idea when you have a little kid on the premises.

Wait! Don't stop reading! It gets better! I finally get the chain cleaned off. I put it back on the bike and use the chain breaker to drive the pin back in and presto! The chain is back on! Yeah! Oh Sweet Jesus, it's back on the bike wrong! I threaded it through the derailleur wrong. Ok. No problem just use the chain breaker and pop out another link. Don't get too cocky and drive the pin all the way out. Whoops.

Putting a pin back in through a chain link once it has come all the way out...this is almost impossible to do. Just throw the chain away at this point. It's a total nightmare. I zip-tied the chain in place to try to hold it still so I could drive the pin back in using a vice grip. I really couldn't think of any other way to do this. I don't have a vice or anything. I could have taken the chain off and then started the pin back in but it would have been the same thing as doing it with the chain on the bike.

After about half an hour, I got that pin sorta in. In enough that I could drive it back in with the chain breaker. Phew. I finally was able to put everything back together and get the shifting working smoothly, the brakes tight, and check the tightness of all my bolts. Everything seemed good.

I took off on a hour and 20 minute ride. It felt great. Especially after all that stress and toil. My chain seemed fine. The end.