Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for May, 2010

Popcorn + Water Works

Monday, May 31st, 2010

On Saturday, David from http://fatguy.org came up from the Louisville area to ride with me. We rode 63 mile, in two separate rides: one out in the Popcorn Road area, and the other the Water Works route that I do fairly frequently. It was a hot day, with high temps around 90 degrees F, and as one of the first hot rides of the year, the heat was getting to us a bit. But we drank lots of water, and took our time, and didn’t really have problems. David is a strong rider and rode very well, even though he was riding his Long Haul Trucker with front and rear racks and fenders, and two panniers, and 700x40mm tires … while I was on my more svelte Bianchi Imola. I could have ridden my LHT to be fairer to him, but I wanted to get some more miles in on the Bianchi.

A few noteworthy moments stand out:

  • David emerging from a convenience store holding a whole gallon of water, all of which disappeared into our water bottles or was immediately consumed.
  • At another gas station, speaking with a couple, he on a motorcycle and she on motor-tricycle, about our respective rides.
  • Finding a new viewpoint overlooking the Victor-Oolitic Stone Company limestone quarry
  • Watching turkey vultures soar overhead
  • A couple of deer sightings
  • Going what I described as “off-course a little, just about three miles” to a water stop. Along the way, we realized the entire three-mile section was downhill. This meant of course that we’d have a three-mile climb on the way back. Thankfully, it wasn’t as bad as we’d imagined.
  • Riding on roads flanked by tall grasses on both sides

Here are some photos for our ride. David also has some good shots in his writeup.

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Another ride on the Bianchi

Wednesday, May 26th, 2010

Last night after work I headed out for another ride on my new Bianchi Imola. The route was rather routine, but this ride blew me away. I’m getting more comfortable on the bike and this time I rode hard — harder than I have in some time.

I’m still not going to be setting any speed records, but at least this bike responds to hammering. On the Long Haul Trucker, hammering feels like a waste. Even standing to climb seems futile, the extra energy expenditure doesn’t seem to result in much. It’s best to sit and spin in a low gear. But on the Bianchi, when I stand on the pedals, it takes off like a shot. ¬†On some minor hills where I would just spin slowly up on the Trucker, with this bike, I pedal a little harder and roll right over them.

Bigger hills are still a challenge, of course, especially since the gearing is higher than I’m used to. But I find I’m quickly adjusting to that as well.

Last night’s ride was revelatory. Because the Bianchi is so responsive, mild-to-moderate hills don’t slow me down as much. Turns are taken in one smooth motion. Rather than plodding along on each section of the route, I feel like I’m flowing through the entire ride. And since the bike feels so magically smooth, a few times, I felt like I was floating.

I feel like I’ve been reintroduced to a whole different kind of riding that I had forgotten about since I sold my old road bike: the pure, intense road ride. I feel much more focused on the riding component of the ride than I do on my touring-minded Trucker rides … and I love it. I’ll never be a full-time hammerhead, but it’s nice to have the option. Even just cruising along on the Bianchi is easier, so it’s not just an advantage for those hardcore rides.

I still took the time to take a few photos.

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Bottom Road + Morgan-Monroe State Forest … on a hot day

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

On Sunday, I did a road ride with one of my coworkers, who also happens to be named Michael. This is the first time we’ve ridden together, and I have to say, it was a lot of fun. We did a variation on one of his favorite routes. I had ridden on most of the roads before, but not all of them, and there were several areas I’m not familiar with. It was enlightening to see a different take on some route options. Here’s the interesting part of the route (I cut out some parts in town). All told, I rode 52.6 miles, with nearly 3700 feet of climbing. I rode my new Bianchi Imola.

The temperature  approached 90 degrees, with one web site reporting a heat index of 96. This came as a bit of a shock, as this was the first truly hot ride of the year.

We rode away from town on some unfamiliar roads, and then turned onto one road I’ve ridden part of before, Maple Grove Road. This road offered some great rolling hills and nice views of fields and stone walls.

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After a bit, we ended up on Bottom Road, a pleasantly flat road flanked with fields, with golden wildflowers all around.

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I’m not sure of all the roads we covered, but the scenery was great, and the terrain was flat to rolling, for a while.

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Eventually we crossed State Road 37, and I loved the descent down Sample Road. My new bicycle handles descents well, including rough patches of pavement and sand. Actually I’m a little surprised just how well it handles these things, given that I currently have 25mm tires installed. Here’s Michael after the Sample Road descent.

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We made our way to Morgan-Monroe State Forest, and climbed up Bean Blossom Road. I usually wimp out and climb up Old 37, which is significantly easier, but instead we took Bean Blossom Road this time. It’s a long, tough climb; the road mostly climbs for two miles. By the time we reached the top, my eyes were burning from sweat getting in them. Ouch. One thing I’ve noticed about my new bike is that the lowest gears really aren’t low enough. I am going to have to get some smaller chainrings at some point, or something.

Once in the forest, we stopped at the office to fill our water bottles and take a break. This was our first real break, 27 miles into the ride, for me.

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Michael has very cool handlebar tape. At first glance, I thought he had bought some two-colored tape, but I asked him about it, and he actually took two rolls of tape and wrapped the bars with both at the same time. I think it looks great.

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I’ve been meaning to get a shot of the headbadge on my new bicycle. I finally remembered … it’s pretty snazzy.

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I’m really impressed with the brakes on the Bianchi. The first time I used them, I almost skidded to a stop. They’re a lot more responsive than the cantilevers on my Long Haul Trucker. Even the stock brake pads seem pretty good, so far.

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We headed back, on the main forest road, and then Old 37. A fantastic descent followed by a climb, and then we took a great road that was new to me: Chambers Pike. It had some nice rolling hills, but also let us avoid climbing up Sample Road, which I’ve done before. It’s no fun at all.

We took a few other roads …

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… and eventually ended up back on Bottom Road, for a while.

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We made our way over to Bloomington High School North (where I attended high school) and at this point, I was out of water. Luckily, they were holding a bicycle ride based at BHSN, so they had some water, and let me take some. The ride was the Greg Mongold Memorial Bike Ride. Apparently Mr. Mongold was a math teacher who loved riding a tandem with his wife. They have set up a memorial scholarship fund in his name, so the ride was being held to raise money for that. I donated a couple bucks, thanked them for the water, and we headed back out. We returned to town via some of the same roads we rode earlier … only this time, we were moving a lot slower, due to the heat.

This was a great ride; it was fun to see some new areas, and see some old areas in new ways, thanks to following Michael’s route. It also felt great to do a longer ride on my new bicycle.

I had been having some back pain, and tried moving my saddle forward and back. It didn’t help. But then I remembered that when we did my fitting at the bike shop, the guy there suggested I try lowering the saddle. I lowered it 1/4 inch or less and suddenly my back felt much better.

It was also good to ride with Michael; we have been talking about it at work for some time, so I’m glad we finally got out. We seemed to want to ride at a similar pace, and we both seemed more interested in taking in the scenery than hammering all the time.

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