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A visit from David

Friday, March 25th, 2011

Last weekend, David was on a bike tour. He was headed to Indianapolis, by way of Bloomington. We offered to have him stay at our house overnight.

David had a hugely epic first day planned — Louisville to Bloomington — 110 hilly miles, into a headwind, carrying lots of weight. He made it as far as Bedford, IN, 80 miles into his ride, and called me to let me know he was behind schedule. I offered to come pick him up and he accepted.

It was great to have him stay with us. The evening was spent drinking beer, talking photos and GPSes, and generally goofing around. Good times.

On Sunday, David was rolling out for the second leg of his trip: 80 miles to Indianapolis. I decided to join him for part of the ride.

Read David’s post about Sunday’s ride here.

I ended up riding with David as far as Martinsville, and then turning back toward home. I had 60 miles for the day, on the Trucker, with tough headwinds and more hills on the return trip. But, I was glad to have a headwind, because that meant David would have a strong tailwind most of the day. Here’s a map of my route for the day.

In the morning, it was 40 degrees and raining — nasty. We went out for breakfast and relaxed for a while, and the rain subsided. We headed out.



You can only sort of see them, but there were a few flowers blooming alongside the road.


David was riding well. On the downhills, he flew well ahead of me. I guess the extra weight in his panniers pulled him down the hills at high speeds.


David was using some new Arkel panniers. They are HUGE, and badass.




Morgan-Monroe State Forest had some great riding in store for us.


After riding down a big hill, we found ourselves on flat ground, with a tailwind. We were flying, for a little while.



Before long, we reached Martinsville. We stopped at a gas station to get more water, and whatever else we needed. After this stop, we parted ways, he headed up to Indianapolis, and I was headed back to Bloomington, but I took a different route back.

My route back was hillier, and straight into the wind most of the way. It was quite tiring, and the Trucker felt absolutely dog slow. I’ve been spoiled, riding the Bianchi.











What started out as a nasty, cold, rainy day turned into a beautiful day for riding. It must have been in the 60s later in the day. I ended up shedding layers until I was riding in just shorts and a short-sleeved shirt. Riding relatively unencumbered felt great.

It was a pleasure to have David stay with us, and I’m glad we got to ride together, as well.

Morgan-Monroe forest ride with Dave

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

Saturday it was amazingly warm. I think it topped out around 60 degrees. Dave called me the night before to see if I wanted to ride. I was free, so I said hell yes! However,  20-30 mph winds made riding interesting. Dave and I rode about 30 miles from his house up to Morgan-Monroe State Forest and back.

I rode the Bianchi, which felt incredibly fast and smooth. Dave rode his full-suspension mountain bike, with narrow, slick tires. It’s surprising how well that bike performs on the roads. Still, I had an unfair advantage.

It was just the kind of ride I needed. Nothing epic, but a good solid ride at a fun, mostly conversational pace. And as always, it was a blast riding with Dave.

We didn’t push it most of the time, but there were a couple of good, fast downhills. We even passed a group of cyclists, and stayed ahead of them. We almost never pass people, so this was a bit of a surprise. One of them had a fantasic wool Molteni jersey (like this), and I was wearing my Formaggio jersey. Our jerseys looked nearly identical. We had just enough time to compliment each other on our great taste before bombing down Bean Blossom hill.

Here are a few shots from our ride.










Being a mountain biker, Dave had to tackle this section of extremely rough pavement. Fun!


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!”


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.


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.



The moon was out and quite beautiful.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.



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


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.





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.




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.





And, rode on some cobblestones through part of campus.


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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