Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fooling around at the Fools Classic

Someone mentioned to me a couple of months ago this non competitive ride, a Gravel Grinder, or what the Bicycle Times' Beginner's Guide to Randonneuring would label a Populaire, called the Fools Classic and I thought it would be a great opener for this year's riding season (although I never really stopped riding).  According to the Race/Ride Promoter: The Fools Classic is a challenging ca 75 mile ride held in bucolic Bucks County, Pennsylvania. It is among a growing list of rides in the US that emulate the conditions of the Northern European Spring Classics. 

Friday's sunset was a little deceiving

After the fun I had last year on the Deer Field Dirt Road Randonnee (D2R2) and a couple of other self guided rides through Western Connecticut, New York, & Massachusetts, I decided that this year I would do more of this type of riding, starting with the Fools Classic.  Between my son's skiing and the winter we have been having it was extremely difficult trying to find time to train for this distance.  My brother-in-law and I were able to get together the previous week to see how we would do riding 75 miles by riding an adaptation of Westchester Cycling Club's fall gravel grinder, the Dirty Apple, which I renamed the Dirty Martha.  I also pushed myself to ride 100 miles to work the previous week as part of my personal training.

We got a hotel room in New Hope, PA the night before so we wouldn't have to be driving really early Saturday morning and  Will found a local brew house called the Triumph Brewing Company in which to have dinner at and of course beer!  We were 15 minutes from the start, so after a great breakfast at a local diner in New Hope we headed over to the Point Pleasant Fire House which was the start of the ride.

Most of the participants were from New Jersey and Pennsylvania.  There was one guy from Northhampton, MA who was from the area and the guy who rode sweep was from Virginia!  There were quite a few cross bikes present, road bikes with fatter tires, a few mountain bikes converted to Gravel Grinder bikes, and of course some really good Randonneuring bikes with big handlebar bags and fenders.  I guess my Surly Cross Check falls into this category. 

Photo Credit Will Mansfield
Figuring out what to wear was a challenge.  The mistake I made right off the bat was forgetting to bring my new Cannondale Cycling jacket because it would have been perfect with one base layer underneath and then a rain jacket for the inevitability of the forecast which called for rain.  I made due with what I had with me but weather got increasingly worse over the course making it tougher and tougher to stay warm.

Photo Credit Will Mansfield
For as flat as Western Pennsylvania is often depicted to be, there was still a lot of climbing.  This course was laid out to take advantage of the dirt roads that descended into the tributaries of the nearby Delaware River and what goes down must come back up again.  

Photo Credit Will Mansfield
The climbs never topped 500 feet but there were a few and they were tough.  While not as long, it seemed, as what I saw last year at D2R2, they more than made up for in grade.  They were the kind of hill that just kept giving and giving you more pain and agony, but, they were all doable, except one.  

One of the roads didn't have winter maintenance making it really soft and there was no traction on the bike.  I think will made it up 3/4s of the way and I only made it up half way.  First time I have walked a hill!  But the walk was good because it gave me a chance to warm my hands because by this stage of the ride we were soaking wet and keeping warm was starting to be challenge. 

Initially, when it started raining, 15 minutes into the ride, it was still warm, but 30 miles in after constant rain and a 10 degree temperature drop my soaked gloves made it difficult for me to keep my hands warm.  Will was smart, he had rain pants and a jacket which I think I am going to have to consider for the future.  

Photo Credit:  Will Mansfield
One of the tenets of Randonneuring is self-reliance and while I had some of that covered I missed in clothing department and to that end for spring time riding, especially with a wet weather forecast I am going to ensure that I have waterproof gloves on me.  Funny, I have some neoprene fishing gloves that might do the trick.  Keeping the bike running, I have that aspect of self reliance nailed!  In my top tube bag I keep two tubes, a a multi-tool, a small wrench, extra batteries for my blinky, a pump, and an old pair of Crank Brother's egg beaters.  After what happened on the Dirty Martha ride, I never want to be stuck like that again.

This was my first Populaire in which I used the cue sheet because the routing on my Garmin was totally FUBAR.  Apparently, this happens every year, someone takes down some arrows on the route and of course it screws everyone up.  Probably would have been smarter to have created my course using Garmin Connect like I did for D2R2 last year using the queue sheets.  While the Garmin was telling us to turn here and there where there was no signs signalling a turn, using the the queue sheet we never lost the course.  The blue track is what we road and the red was the intended track.

By the time we got to the rest stop it was pouring rain, 39 degrees, and we were 5 hours into the ride and at the pace we were going another 25 miles meant easily another 2+ hours of riding.  That's when Will and I decided to hop into a SAG wagon and drive back to the start point.  While I wanted to push on the drop in temperature, along with the rain, had me fearing hypothermia.  Not to mention I had a cold and who knows where that would have gone if we decided to press on.  So we didn't finish it but we had a great time and who knows, probably do it again next year, and this time we'll finish it!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Dirty Martha Gravel Grinder

In preparation for the Foolish Classic Will and I decided to try a variation of The Westchester Cycling Club's Dirty Apple, which is a Gravel Grinder within Westerchester County.  I found a few routes on this cycling forum called Velocipede Salon.  I never knew there was so many dirt roads in Westchester County!

Coming back down Vail Road after riding into Connecticut we stopped for a few pictures.  We had some trouble with our Garmins because the route comes to a 4 way intersection in which the route crosses over itself and no matter which way we went the Garmin said we were off course.  Since I knew the area I just followed my nose.

We came across quite a few folks on horse back and I paid particular attention to give them a heads up that we were coming through.  Quite a few of them remarked that we were the first cyclists to do so.  Having lived in Newtown, there are a lot of horses and you learn quickly to give them a wide breadth.  

Coming down from here it's a straight shot onto Rt 116 which heads into Ridgefield.  Popping out onto the road is when disaster struck - my right pedal just came off the spindle.  It's an older Crank Brothers Candy Pedal that has seen quite a bit of usage of the years so I wasn't surprised but being 35 miles into 75 mile ride and at least 10 miles away from the cars was a little problematic.  I made a pretty good effort but it sucked because the pedal kept slipping off the spindle if I wasn't paying attention.  We looked up bike shops in the area and it turned out there was one in Katonah so we headed back there.


At Van's Cycle Shop I bought a pair of flats and replaced my right, broken pedal with the flat.  We got some lunch and then headed back out to ride some more.  Instead of back tracking to where we left off, I turned the course back on and we followed the route in the opposite direction.

There were some killer climbs and still plenty of dirt!  The temperature stayed pretty constant, around 35 degrees and I stayed pretty warm the whole time.  Despite the cold, I should have drank more liquids because when I stopped off at the Packy on my way home, getting out the car both legs cramped up seriously and it took me 5 minutes to stretch and relax to calm the muscles down.

Here is the route that we did (in blue) and what we missed (red).  In hindsight, when the pedal broke, we should have ridden to Ridgefield and the Ridgefield, Bicycle Company, which would have probably have been a lot quicker and would have enabled us to get back on the course that we had set out to do.  This was a great ride!  We did 72 miles and 7,100 feet of climbing!

This weather is getting old!

Where is spring?  Enough already!

I can ride to the office at this temperature, just not comfortably, so today I broke out the big guns! Overbooties and over mitts!  Well, the overbooties at least.  I can always ride with Lobster Gloves but even at this temperature they are too warm and that is why I like riding with my old, ratty Cannondale winter riding gloves with the over mitts.  Never got cold today! 

The reason for the stop and subsequent photo session was a clicking sound coming from my front tire.  My fear was that I picked up something metal and extraction would surely mean a flat tire but before I inspect my tire closer this kind lady stopped her car wondering if I needed any help thinking that I had a problem with the bike.  She even offered to let me use her phone!  Thanked her for her kindness and told her I was fine.  And the tire was fine, too, just a few small rocks trapped in the treads.  Of course I always carry two spare tubes and these tires are puncture resistant.  You can never be too careful!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Foolish Training

The Foolish Classic is just two weeks away and I am wondering if I am ready. Prior to D2R2 I was doing 100K rides left and right but to be honest I just haven't had the time to ride that far. Later this week I am going to ride Dirt Roads in Westchester County, something akin to the Westchester Cycling Club's Dirty Apple. There is no doubt that I can do it, but it's just a matter of what and how I am going to feel afterwards.

Now that I have the Cross Check set up so that it's the same cockpit as the Cannondale and the Bianchi I went out Sunday afternoon to try it out by going on a 40 mile ride.  Right out of the gate, the riding position was great but the drive train was making some weird noises so I headed back to the barn and lubed up the chain.  Should have done that after Thursday's commute in the rain, now that I think about it.

Originally, I had a route planned that would have taken me around the Saugatuck Reservoir but I nixed that idea and decided to roll down through Poverty Hollow again, only this time I would do somewhat of the reverse of last Sunday's ride by taking Sport Hill and then 136 to the center of Easton.  On the way back, however, I missed the turn for Adam's Road and ended up at the Fire House on Rt 59.  Heading north along Rt 59 I noticed the wind and then it started to cloud up.  It was less windy on North Park Ave but the temperature started to drop, too.  I think next time, rather than taking Maple Ave just continuing all the way up North Park Ave and follow that till it hits Judd.  Or better yet, ride around the reservoir and take Judd all the way back to Hammertown Road.

The Brooks Saddle is starting feel comfortable, at least it felt that way on Sunday but who knows maybe my butt was just cold.  Stopping off at Gurske Pond I warmed up the toes for the last leg of my ride home.  The nice thing about this point in my rides is that I know its 9 miles to home.  I am wondering when the ice will finally melt.  I will be watching it every Sunday.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Surly Cross Check tweaks

After a few rides on the Cannondale I went back to the Cross-Check for a commute last week and found that I was cramped in the cockpit.  In fact, I could just feel the difference and knew exactly what I needed to remedy the situation.  A longer stem obviously but also one with a little angle to, too.  The 35 mm stem I had would make the bars higher but wouldn't move them forward and what I needed was for them to move up a little and about an inch forward.

I ended up with a 17 degree, 130mm stem that I got off Amazon.  I got my money back from the FSA Seatpost debacle and used that to pick up this new stem.  Angle and size were perfect but the only funny thing was that the company logo on the stem was upside down.  Looking back at the order the picture has it right but then again that was the same picture as the 100mm stem which I bought for the Spot a couple of months ago.  Frankly, I don't care because it works for me and that's all that matters.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teaching the Gromms

A good friend from High School asked me to come down to Fairfield and give a little talk on bike safety and some hands on demonstration on tire repair to her son's Cub Scout Pack. Prior to heading down there I swung by The Bicycle Center to see if I could get a little swag for the kids and Shawn did one better and gave me a bunch of tire repair kits. That was perfect for these kids.

I brought my mountain bike and I told them how I built it myself and went over it talking about all the parts and what they do.  Then I went over the kids bikes.  Pumped up some tires, tightened some cables but overall the bikes were in pretty good shape.  It was a lot of fun.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Cannondale Performance Softshell

One of my biggest challenges for me road riding is knowing how to dress for varying conditions.  Mountain biking is pretty much a no brainer because no matter what you put on you are going to sweating like pig at the end of the ride anyway.  Bike commuting is just as easy, just dress like a Fred!  However, with road riding, I don't want to look like a Fred, I don't want to under dress and freeze on the downhills, or over dress and sweat on the climbs and freeze on the downhills because I am so sweaty.

When I picked up the Synapse last month I asked Shawn (The Bicycle Center) what would he recommend as a winter cycling jacket and he sold me this Cannondale Performance Softshell Jacket that I wore for Sunday's ride and O-M-G!  This jacket is awesome!  I never got too hot, nor too cold.  I am not sure I would call this a drawback but it only has two rear pockets but it makes up with a small breast pocket, perfect for a cell phone, iPhone, or digital media player.  There are two zippered hand warming pockets that can also be used for snacks and then there are two internal pockets as well.

Monday, March 10, 2014

My first, real road ride

Today was the first morning with temperatures above 25 degrees
so I finally got the opportunity to put the Synapse on the road!

Since I won't ride this bike on dirt roads the best way out of the Housatonic River Valley is up and I might as well just keep going up, all the way to the top of Castle Hill.  What a glorious morning, not a cloud in the sky!

I had planned on a much bigger ride but as the saying goes the Road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Fast forward 36 miles and a couple of glasses of water and cup of coffee, Having been off the bike for two weeks I realize that I am really out of shape.  I have 20 days to get ready for the Foolish Classic.   

Now this is a bike!  Shifting is awesome although  I had some problems thinking that I was still using the SRAM double taps that I had on the Cannondale XS-800. I had a few miss shifts here and there but eventually I got the hang of it. It also has a trim feature on the front derailleur that I also got used to after awhile, too.  Not only did I fly in the flats but climbing was much more efficient.  

I love riding by Gurske Pond.
Today, I saw a cat walk out on the ice and lap the water where it wasn't frozen.

Saturday, March 08, 2014

Bike Commuting Season Begins

I wanted to try and get two rides to work this week but had to settle for one because Friday was the first day morning temperatures were above 15 degrees.  It's been single digits for the past week so Friday it seemed like a heat wave.

I rode the Bianchi with the new Stem, bars, and tape and it felt great.  Originally, I was going to ride in fixed gear but after Thursday's seat post fiasco I went back to the freewheel.  The hardest climb with 44x17 gearing was the hill on Poor House.

I thought I was going to burn up on the ride home because the temperature when I left the office was 35 degrees.  I wore the bare minimum but I still had to wear the lobsters.

Got some slack chain when I got home.

And surprise delivery!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Beware of Knock Off Bike Parts

I picked up this FSA K-Force Carbon Fiber seatpost for a mere $38, saving around $100, on Amazon. I have gotten lucky in the past on deals that crop up so I didn't think much of it.

The surprise came when I tried to install it.  I got it, maybe 1/4 of the way into the seat tube on the Bianchi San Jose and it wouldn't go any further.  Getting it out was a little easier but not by much.

Whipping out the trusty micrometer I measure the post at 27.7 mm.  So that marker there that says 27.2 mm is complete bunk!

I went to my Amazon ordering page and immediately filed a claim.  Really can't tell if this is a knock off or it failed QC and wound up in the hands of some reseller.  Looks like I am back to my aluminum seat post for a little while longer.