Experimental music, photography, and adventures

Archive for February, 2011

Teaser

Monday, February 21st, 2011

I had a fantastic weekend.

Saturday: 47 miles of mixed terrain with RCCS.

Sunday: Photography.

Sunday evening: Birthday dinner, cake, presents (my birthday is, in reality, today).

More coming later, once I have a chance to work with the photos. I plan on experimenting with some Photoshop techniques. I think I’ll get good results (see first photo above) but it may take a while.

Warm

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

It’s quite been quite warm the past couple of days. It even got up into the 60s today, and tomorrow is supposed to get above 60, also. I swapped out my studded tires for slicks Monday night, and it’s been absolute bliss commuting on normal, slick road tires. I had forgotten what a smooth ride the Trucker has, when not shod with studded tires.

Even though the forecast for theĀ foreseeableĀ future looks warm, I’m sort of expecting it to get colder; maybe we’ll even get more snow. It seems too much to hope that spring is here already. But I’ll enjoy the warmer weather, as long as it’s here.

This weekend a good ride is planned in southern Indiana with RCCS. I’m very much looking forward to doing a longer ride.

Shilo on a singlespeed

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

On Sunday, I got out for my longest ride in weeks, and also my longest ride on the Little 500 bike to date. I had ridden it around my neighborhood and an adjacent area a couple of times, but my main intention is to use it is a singlespeed “country bike.” Since I had never ridden a singlespeed a significant distance, or in the hills, I wasn’t sure if I would find it (a) doable or (b) fun. I am happy to report that the answer to both questions is a resounding “yes!”

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Here is the route I rode.

I had varied terrain immediately and so I was able to get a good sense of how the singlespeed handles various situations. My first impression was that I was surprised just how doable most things were with just one gear. But, I had a strong tailwind, which made me wonder if I was feeling a little too confident.

The beginning of the ride involved a decent downhill, a climb, some flat riding, and a bunch of rollers. It was a bit of a grind up the first largish hill, but the bike handled the rollers impressively well. In fact, in some ways I felt it was easier to push over each hill. Rather than shifting extensively, I spun on the downhill until I couldn’t spin any faster, then hammered up the other side. This involved a lot of out-of-the-saddle climbing, more than I’m used to, but it was absolutely a blast.

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After a while I reached the first truly large hill, on Mount Gilead Road. The road dropped sharply some 200 feet. I went very slowly on the downhill; the rear brake felt a bit soft, and there was a lot of sand on the road.

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The moon was out and quite beautiful.

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Once at the bottom of the hill, it was flat for a bit. I found limits to how fast I could go on flat ground, but nothing that really bothered me. I’m no racer anyway.

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It was interesting to see how much snow the valley still had. It was around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, the warmest it has been here in quite some time. Most of the snow was gone, except in shady valleys like this one.

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Now I had a long climb. My first major climb on the singlespeed. I had to do most of the climb standing — which I don’t do often normally, but on the singlespeed there’s no other choice. I was pedaling really hard — feeling the pedal digging into my shoe, in fact — and it was more tiring than usual, but I did make it up the hill — possibly faster than usual. Since I didn’t have the option to put the bike in a super low gear and spin, I just had to grind it out in a much higher gear than I would normally use.

Frankly, I was a little astonished at how doable it was. I was surprised to realize just how little I actually need all those gears I normally use. There are bigger, steeper hills in the area, the steepest of which I might have to walk, but this hill was a good benchmark. Yes, I can ride in hills with just one gear.

Soon, I was on Tunnel Road, with some more flats and rolling hills. Once again there was a noticeable upper limit to my speed, but I got in a great rhythm with my pedaling, and I really enjoyed not having to think about shifting.

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I reached Shilo Road, which would give me two miles or so of twists and turns, mostly downhill, but with a couple of brief, sharp climbs.

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Occassionally I’d spin out or struggle up a steep climb, but mostly I didn’t think about gearing at all during this time. I just rode, and it was wonderful. With the sun on my face, the pavement faded away beneath me.

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I did have to watch out for sand. It was quite deep in spots.

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At one point along here, I reached the steepest climb of the ride. It wasn’t overly long but the grade reached into the upper teens. It took some extra huffing and puffing, but I made it, and cracked a smile as I did.

I stopped by a creek for a rest.

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Soon I turned into the wind. This part I was a little nervous about. The second half of my ride would be into the wind, and again I was nervous about lacking gears. I needn’t have worried. Apparently one gear is all I really need.

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I reached another long climb — long, but not too steep. I was getting pretty tired by this point, so I didn’t climb as vigorously as before, but I still managed to work my way up the hill. From there it wasn’t far back to town. I passed through a couple of parks along the way.

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And, rode on some cobblestones through part of campus.

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I followed one of my commute routes home. I felt great, but sore, when I got home. When you only have one gear, your body has to pick up the slack. It uses your muscles differently.

Bicycle thoughts

So far, I really enjoy my Little 500 bicycle. It’s fun to ride, and singlespeed simplicity is all it’s cracked up to be.

However, I do have some issues with it:

  • Only has one water bottle cage (and only one set of braze-ons).
  • Rear brake is not as effective as I’d like; front still shudders sometimes, though not as badly as before.
  • Stem is too long.
  • Brooks B17 saddle is not good for this semi-aggressive posture, with frequent high-cadence spinning. Need something else.
  • Platform pedals are OK, but I may go clipless on this bicycle for stiffer shoes and more pedaling power.
  • Rear wheel appears to be a bit out of true.
  • A few odd noises now and then.

Singlespeed experience

I keep hearing things about how wonderful the simplicity of a singlespeed bicycle is, and my first significant experience riding a singlespeed a longer distance seems to confirm those claims.

One thing I love about riding is that it makes me more in touch with the contours of the land. You get to know every hill and valley, every creek bottom. This is even more true on a singlespeed, where rather than shifting to make things easier, or help you go faster, you just have to pedal harder, or faster.

There are some areas (mainly west of town) where I’m not sure if a singlespeed would be doable, or enjoyable. But then again, I had the same concerns about this ride, and they proved not to be warranted. I guess I’ll have to try more of this singlespeed stuff and see what I learn.

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