Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for May, 2010

New bicycle!

Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

So, after a little teaser, it’s time to reveal the new ride. Barturtle guessed correctly — it’s a Bianchi Imola.

My dad had a Bianchi when I was a kid, and they have always held a certain mystique to me.  This bicycle, while still steel, is a much more modern build.

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Highlights include full Shimano Tiagra drivetrain and brakes, and a Reynolds 631 steel frame. The ride is incredibly smooth, but also very responsive. Exactly what I was hoping for.

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Based on a shakedown ride today, there are some things I don’t like. First of all, the “compact” handlebars, which are narrow and have shallow drops, are just awful. I don’t really mind the shallow drops, but I need a wide handlebar. I tried adjusting the angle, and that helped a little, but these bars will have to go.

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The stock saddle could have been worse, but I didn’t care for it.

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My wife snapped this shot of me riding the bike.

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A few nitpicks aside, I love it so far, but I’m still getting everything dialed in. I made a few adjustments on my ride today, but I will have to make some more later. I already swapped out the saddle for the Selle Italia that was on my mountain bike. We’ll see how this saddle works on the road. I’ll probably eventually get a leather saddle for it.

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More details to follow. We”ll be hitting the road again tomorrow.

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Smitten

Thursday, May 20th, 2010

A new bicycle has joined our family. I will be posting more details later, for now, here’s a teaser, taken in my garage tonight.

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Any guesses as to what it is? I’ll give you a hint: yes, it’s steel.

Bike 101 Lakes

Monday, May 17th, 2010

On Saturday, I rode the 106-mile route in the Bike 101 Lakes ride with Bill Lambert of the Bike Oak Bikes blog. Here is his writeup.

The was the longest ride I’ve ever done, and it also happened to go through parts of Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio.  So, I managed to knock out a couple of my goals for the year in one ride: riding a century, and riding in some new states. Here’s a map of the ride.

The ride started in the small town of Angola, IN, at the Fun Spot Park, a small amusement park, which sadly has been closed last year and this year due to the poor economy. It was an interesting starting location for a ride, with some vacant roller coasters in view. There was a mass start in several groups based on ride distance, and for the first time in any ride I’ve ever done, I was in the first group of riders to start. Not that it matters in any real way, but it was a good feeling to be one of the relatively few crazy guys going for the whole shebang. There were probably a couple hundred riders total, and about 30 doing the full 106 miles, at least at the start. I’m not sure how many of those actually rode the whole distance.

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The ride started promptly at 9:00 am, as scheduled. Policemen had closed part of a state highway so that we could start our ride more safely. There were a couple of hills on curvy roads during the first couple of miles that made things rather exciting. And within minutes, we saw the first of many lakes of the day.

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In fact, the first few miles set the tone for the rest of the ride. Flat-to-rolling fields, barns, lakes, and sandhill cranes were the main features.

Bill and I quickly settled into a comfortable pace: steady, but not pushing it.

Soon, we came to the first rest stop of the day. A few minutes later some other riders rolled in, and one of them informed me that I had dropped my wallet back near the start. He gave it to the event organizers, who would hold onto it for me. I was very lucky that he saw me drop it, and did the right thing! The wallet had fallen out of my saddle bag, which I had forgotten to zip. It looked like everything else was still there.

We headed west for a while, then turned north toward the Indiana/Michigan border. Along the way, Bill pointed out some Big Bud tractors of some significance, I don’t quite recall the story behind them, but he talks about it in his blog post.

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I was hoping for a nice “Welcome to Michigan” sign or something of that nature, but since we were on back roads, the sign that was there wasn’t very impressive. Still, I was glad there was a sign at all, and had to get a shot of it.

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Soon we turned to the east and headed that way for over 20 miles. This was fun, easy riding, though there were a few rough surfaces. The area was characterized by the same kind of gently rolling terrain as before. For me, this kind of terrain made for a very enjoyable ride. The hills were a lot easier than what I’m used to in southern Indiana, but at the same time, hilly enough to keep things interesting. I’ve ridden in some pancake-flat areas before, and it gets a little boring sometimes. This wasn’t like that at all. I saw plenty of interesting-looking gravel roads in the area, which would be interesting to explore if I make a return trip sometime.

We saw some interesting vehicles, including Amish buggies, huge tractors, and a group of four small airplanes.

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The scenery was constantly gorgeous, and I enjoyed having more wide-open views than the heavily wooded/hilly terrain I’m used to in the Bloomington area.

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We continued to see a lot of lakes … many of which Bill knew something about. I was glad I could absorb some knowledge of the area from a local.

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Soon, we reached the second SAG stop. This one was vacant when we arrived, aside from the wonderful volunteers. Food and beverages were provided, and real restrooms! Most rides I’ve done of this type have had port-a-potties, which are all right, but real restrooms feel luxurious by comparison.

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Bill happened to know a couple of the volunteers, so while he chatted with them, I took the opportunity to eat everything in sight.  10-15 minutes after we arrived at this stop, several guys rolled up on carbon fiber uberbikes … now, I’m not in this to race, and I really don’t care about average speeds or finishing time, but being ahead of them on my heavy, steel, fat-tired Long Haul Trucker complete with fenders, rack, platform pedals, and luggage made me feel pretty good. I should’ve gotten a photo of my bike near theirs; the difference was quite comical.

Soon we rolled out, and shortly thereafter, we turned south, re-entered Indiana, then were back in Michigan, and finally, made our way into Ohio. I didn’t see any state line signs at all, this time.

The next 18 miles or so were the best ones of the entire ride. We rolled effortlessly across probably dozens of small, moderate rolling hills, trending downward, while the wind helped push us along. The scenery was much the same, only we passed through a few small towns and through some more Amish areas.

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Eventually, we turned back to the west, and now we had a bit of a headwind to deal with. But, it wasn’t bad. We hadn’t seen any other riders for some time … I guess when you have 30 riders spread out over a 106-mile course, people get pretty spread out. We started to encounter a few larger hills.

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As we approached Hamilton, we saw yet another lake, and some more hills.

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And then, we came across a rider who was really struggling. At this point, we were about 70 miles into the ride. We saw a rider stopped by the road, and as we pulled up, he said, “Man, am I glad to see you guys!” He seemed unsure if he was on the right track … we were almost to a rest are.  Luke was riding alone and one of his aero bars was coming loose. I loaned him my multi-tool to fix it, and we took a break together. He was running out of steam.

I was doing OK, but starting to feel it. Mostly, my butt was getting sore. Fortunately I had brought an extra pair of shorts, so I changed into them, and for a little while at least, I felt a lot better. I was VERY glad to have the extra shorts.

So, we rode on, now a group of three, instead of two. At this point we started riding in a paceline, and Bill and I took turns pulling Luke along. We slowed down a little bit at this point, but it turned out to be a good thing. I think that dropping the pace at that point helped us later.

We encountered a few bigger hills, and I have to say … from about mile 75 on, I was feeling pretty beat. I was glad that the hills weren’t too big, or I would have really been hurting. From this point on the ride involved more drafting and focused riding to get to the finish, rather than the earlier riding which was more side-by-side, conversational, and conducive to taking photos.

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We stopped at the last SAG stop, got more food and drinks. I was hoping I would feel a burst of energy, knowing we were on the home stretch.

That didn’t happen.

Instead, I started dragging more than before. We all seemed to be going the same slow pace, so at least I wasn’t holding anyone up. Or at least, I hope not.

I checked my GPS periodically to see how far we’d gone. At one point, I felt, “we must be getting close now!”

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“Crap! 10 more miles!”

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A few miles later, it seemed like even the 10ths of a mile were barely ticking by. I switched to a different view, so I wouldn’t watch my GPS screen the whole way.

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Sometime near the end was a bigger hill than most or all we had encountered before it. It took a lot more out of me than it should, simply due to the fact that we’d already ridden around 100 miles.

The last few miles went by very slowly at the time, but now they’re just a blur in my mind. Once we got close, we hit some very smooth new pavement and one of us commented, “It’s like they’ve rolled out the red carpet for us!”

And that is how it felt.

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Eventually, we reached the end. My GPS read 106 miles. Wow!

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The parking lot only had a few cards in it when we got back. There were definitely a few other riders still out there, but most people were already gone.

I retrieved my wallet from the event staff, who were just wonderful, asked us how everything was, and pointed us to more food and water.

Finishing the ride felt great. During the ride, I never doubted I could do it, but I had had some doubts leading up to the ride. I’m glad I was able to ride with Bill, we seem to gravitate toward a similar pace, and it’s great to glean some local knowledge. Luke was a pleasure to ride with as well. I’m glad we were able to help pull him back.

This was probably the best-run organized ride I’ve done (not that I’ve done a lot of them). The course was well-marked, the volunteers were all friendly and incredibly helpful and there were many of them in random places along the course. They did everything they could to make sure everyone made it as safely and comfortably as possible. The one thing I might wish for is a bigger variety of food at the SAG stops. There was no shortage of food, but more options would have been welcome. I did find a new kind of ride food that worked very well: Sweet & Salty Chex Mix. I loved that stuff!

This ride left me wanting to do more organized rides. Riding over 100 miles without having to worry about food, beverages, or restrooms was quite a luxury. I’ll have to find some more rides like this that I can do … I have a few ideas already.

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