My Progress

Sunday, July 20, 2014

An American Seavo in Paris, Paris Texas that is..

The 2014 Tour de Paris is in the books and done.



This year was their 30th anniversary ride and it seemed that the whole town turned out for it to cheer us on.  This ride has always been a favorite of my wife and I's due to the town participation.  Her comment the first year she rode it was that was the closest she was going to come to riding the Tour de France with all the cheering crowds lining the roads.

This year, rather than our normal of alternating between one of us staying home with the kids and the other riding we decided to cycle different.






You see, last fall we had bought and built up a Rans Seavo and let's just say, the build, assembly, tweaking and tuning has been a challenge. 

Up until this last week, I've been trying to get my seat adjusted to it's comfortable.  I mean really, it's a recumbent, my butt should NOT hurt!  Something about the seat position was either bothering my back or my butt, change the seat pan angle, the tilt of the back, up and down, back and forth, searching for that mythical sweet spot, never quite finding it.  At one point, the seat was so mis-adjusted that after a 35 mile ride, it felt like I had been sitting on the edge of a 2x4.  That made for a very miserable ride.  Finally this week I decided to try and mimic the seat angles I've got on my Giro 700 recumbent.

Let me say, it worked!  The difference was remarkable, no back pain, no butt pain, able to pedal efficiently, it was like a heavenly choir opened up.  Now the question is, how much more can I lay the seat back and keep the comfort while getting even more aerodynamic, (at least as much as I can on a tandem recumbent).

Of course with both Vicky and I escaping the kids and dogs for the wilds of Paris we had to line up a sitter.  Fortunately one of the girls from church is a glutton for punishment and willing to wrangle them for a day or so.  Unfortunately we weren't expecting "lifeus interruptus".  Friday evening as we were getting things ready for an 0530 departure the next morning I noticed the house was "warming up".  Yep, Texas, July, and the AC was dying.  So the kids and sitter got to enjoy a cool July day, (really it was cool, Thank God for the "polar vortex:) with no air conditioning.

Vicky and I were to busy riding and enjoying the day in Paris on Serenity to worry much about the AC however.  I mean really, when do you get temperatures in the low 70's and next to no wind in Texas in July?  The weather could not have been better out there.


 We fumbled the ride start a bit due to grabbing breakfast at the pancake feed benefiting the local cheerleaders and my numerous trips to deal with my hamster bladder.  Really, I swear I did NOT drink 12 gallons of coffee prior to starting the drive!  I had one cup and a couple of sips of water.  Where my bladder finds all that extra water prior to a ride I've no idea.  I just wish it would leave it alone and let my blood and muscles use it.

By the time we hit the starting line, the ride was already rolling so we just slipped in and got to pedaling.

The Seavo, aka Serenity is a very fun bike to ride in events like this.  It's so unusual that it's an attention magnet.  Kids were waving and laughing, people were doing double takes as if to say just what was that?  The locals were all waving and taking pictures as they had never seen a recumbent tandem either.  And since the Seavo is just so rock solid stable, Vicky was able to manage the "social media" contacts from the back, she had a blast talking to everyone and waving to the locals as we went by.


Due to our late start we began at the back of the group, this did make it a bit of a challenge to maneuver the bike through traffic.  Everyone behaved however and we didn't see any wrecks.  There was one bit of excitement early on however.  A rider's seat mount bottle cage was coming loose and she was about to drop her bottle into her rear wheel.  As it was still relatively early everyone was still grouped up pretty tight and there wasn't a lot of maneuver room.  As her bottle dropped onto her wheel, riders were hollering at her to pull over and stop.  The guy behind her didn't hear this though, and as she hit the brakes, he clipped her rear wheel with his front.  I had a great view of this as I was directly to his left and I just knew he was going to dump it right into Vicky and I and it was going to be messy.  He managed an amazing bit of bike handling though and was able to recover without going down, I was very impressed.  Wonder if he could be hired to teach that trick to the Tour de France riders next year?  Maybe we could have a TDF without numerous broken bones and DNF'd riders.



Once the group opened up we were able to let Serenity roll and do what she does best.  The downhill sections were a literal blast.  We were rolling up the other riders and running at a pretty good average.  Halfway through the ride, I checked our average speed and we were rolling around a 16.9 mph average speed.  Unfortunately then the road turned up and we got into the long slow uphills, not steep by any means, just long and slow.  This dropped our average down to 15.0 mph.


The ride SAGS were plentiful and extremely well stocked with lots of ice, water, gatoraid, the normal SAG food, and the two holy grails of a great SAG.  Pickles and home made treats!  Dill pickles will shut my cramping down hard, just like turning off a light switch.  I've no idea how it works, but it does.  And the home made stuff?  Chocolate chip cookies, brownies and all sorts of other goodies, I'm sure they weren't exactly diabetic friendly however. 

The route was very well controlled with the local police and sheriffs department controlling the major intersections.  The minor intersections were well controlled by volunteers.  We didn't see or hear of any issues with vehicles.

As always for the Tour de Paris, the route was very well marked with signs.  Even if you managed to wander off course, there were signs to get you back on course, most of them had messages like, "You're going the wrong way!  Turn around!"  Vicky's comment about the signage was it was like the old " Burma Shave" signs.

While we didn't have any flats we did see lot's of riders on the side of the road fixing flats.  We stopped to help one couple who was struggling to fix a flat and discovered that his tire was so dry rotted he was blowing the tube through the cords of the tire.  Just the day before, I'd chopped up a tyvek envelope to make some tire boots, needless to say, they came in handy.  I just hope that guy is at a local bike shop today buying some new tires cause he needs them.  I think our choice of Schwalbe Marathon Racers in 26 x 1.5 have been a good choice.  They're comfortable, reasonably fast, and so far have been pretty durable.

While we had initially been planning on 35 mile route due to time constraints and my seat issues we got to the decision point where the routes split and decided to roll down the road a few more miles so we could get our longest ride to date on the bike.  Vicky was feeling good, I was feeling good and decided to go ahead and to run the 57 mile route since we were making such good time.  As an added bonus, Vicky managed to get something she has been chasing since her last birthday...  50 miles ridden.


And here is our Strava data for the day.



Next year we'll be back.  Maybe this time with the kids.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Fenix BT20 My Holy Grail of bike lights.



I’m finally happy with a bike light, (and this from someone who spends way too much time and money chasing the next best thing..)

I’ve been around bicycles and bike lights since the days of the old Wonder Lights. 



I’ve been through them, the old Cateye HL200, homebrewed contraptions, (an old VHS camcorder flood light), Nightrider & Nightsun incandescent lights, a Jet light with NiMH batteries, A Nightrider Pro 600 LED, and the monster flamethrower Dinotte1200L which is a fantastic light by the way.

However they almost all suffered from the same problem, proprietary batteries.  Get a bad cell and the whole battery pack was toast.  You either had to get an expensive, (75% of the cost of the light) new battery, or crack the battery pack and cobble something together and see if it worked.  Even my much loved Dinotte’s suffer this same fate, (which explains the several Dinotte batteries laying around the house with big X’s marked on them).  Oh how I wished for a good solid light that had user replaceable batteries.

Seems the nice folks at Fenix lights heard my wishes.  They’ve made some really solid and killer flashlights for a few years now and have a stellar reputation.  Recently they released a couple of bike lights that caught my eye, the BT10 & the BT20. 

The BT10 uses AA batteries and is on the short list for the kid’s bikes when we gear up for the 2015 Bike Across Kansas.  I like the fact it runs on easily replaceable AA batteries and we won’t have to worry about daily charging or bad cells during the eight days of riding.  The advertised rating on the lights shows 320 lumens or so, this should be more than enough for a daytime “SEE ME” blinky and should also be useful while camping out and navigating in the dark.  Fenix are you listening?  I need a deal on three of the BT10s, just saying...

Since I spend my weekday ride time riding in the early morning, usually well before first light, I wanted a bit of a brighter light to light up the road.  This is where the Fenix BT20 fits my needs.  It uses 2 rechargeable 18650 lithium ion batteries and cranks out an advertised 750 lumens of light.  This light is bright enough it illuminates the suburban roads I ride extremely well.   It’s more than enough light to spot out the pot holes and rough patches at even downhill speeds.  It’s got a bit of side spill to it which works well to spot out the local wildlife getting ready to make that kamikaze dash for under your front wheel, (the local rabbits and squirrels love to do that, even the occasional possum).  The light has four basic modes, low, medium, high, turbo and strobe.  My usual early morning rides are generally just over an hour and I find I have plenty of battery capacity to run it on high, on strobe, I’ve ran it well over three hours without an issue.  I’ve yet to give it a runtime test on turbo or the low and medium settings.  One of these mornings I’ll run it on turbo just to see how it does.  I expect to get flashed by more cars however as I already get drivers flicking their high beams at me on high, (and this is with the light angled down). 



A quick note on the strobe pattern for the BT20, it is not just a blinky.  It has a repeated slow blink pattern then a rapid blink pattern.  One of the things I’ve noticed watching local cyclists is how quickly a steady on/off on/off blinky pattern fades into the background and is no longer noticed.  The changing blink rates of the BT20 strobe pattern catch and hold the eyes better in my humble opinion.

The light pattern itself is nice and clean, a clear center light pattern, (no hot spot), well defined beam, and good/useful side spill.  I’ve ran the range from spot light to flood light and next to the Dinotte 1200 this has one of the best useable beam patterns that I’ve came across.  The lens is designed to refract light that would normally be spilled up, (a not useful direction in a bike light) down immediately in front of the bike, (I guess to spot those pot holes you didn’t pay attention to).






The battery box is well thought out and appears to be pretty weather proof, but with the drought here in Texas and my lack of willingness to ride in the rain, I’ve yet to test that out.  The battery compartment opens easily via a thumb screw; pops open and inside are the two batteries.  Since I already own a smart charger for lithium ion batteries all I have to do to charge the light is simply pop the batteries in charger and away I go.  Please do note though, if you use rechargeable lithium ion cells, make sure they are from a quality manufacture and include a protection circuit to prevent them from overheating and suffering as the industry calls it, “spontaneous vent with flame”.   The batteries provided with the light are good quality and have the built in protection.  I’d much rather have my light working properly than go riding down the road and have the front of my bike catch fire.






Current street price for the BT20 is running around $90, shopping around finds some variations and coupons, well worth the price if you’re looking for a really good bike light.

So far, this is rapidly becoming my go to bike like for about 90% of my riding.  If I add in a couple of charged 18650 batteries in my bike bag, this could easily become my do it all bike light.  Three or four sets of charged batteries and I should have enough light for something like 24 hours in the Canyon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

I may not have known you.

I may not have known who you served with.

I may not have known where you served.

However you are by brothers.

Rest in peace brothers.

Semper Fidelis


Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Warning! Stereotypes ahead!

Here is just a random sampling of all the fine folks I share the road with and a special thank you to each and every one of them...

Suzy After School Mom.  You are one of the highlight's of my day.  I so love watching you and your progeny zoom buy in that SUV the size of a bus on your six block trip home from school.  It's so much fun to watch you wrangle handing out happy meals, swap DVD's, update your social status on your phone all while doing 40 mph through that 20 mph school zone.  It's an added treat to see you pulled over for by the police for 40 in a school zone AND an added mobile device in a school zone.  If you're the driver of the black Range Rover, you must learn slow.  Either there is a lot of black Range Rovers out there of your a three time offender, or maybe the police just REALLY like you.

The Diaper Mom.  My diet owes you a debt of gratitude.  It's so nice to see you zooming down the road, driving with a knee while twisted around changing the small pants on your child, and at 40 some odd miles per hour, talk about talent!  The really nice part was when you flung that loaded diaper out onto the road for all to enjoy.  You know, if the smell of what came out of your child's backside annoys you so much maybe you really should have thought it through before the whole, "Insert tab A in slot B" thing.  It was so nice seeing you in the Quicky Mart at the donut counter however.  See I had pulled in right behind you and was debating a donut and my stomach was winning over my will power.  But seeing you reach in with your BARE HANDS and finger half a dozen donuts before you selected your jelly filled, extra sprinkles fat pill, it kind of killed the whole hunger thing, after all was that extra chocolate on that donut, or was it something you smeared on with your poop covered hand?

Joe Bob, rolling on the coal, NASCAR dude.  Really, you are funny and always good for a laugh.  Given the current price of diesel I laugh every time I see you  roar by hammering the crap out of that gas pedal.  Guess you got to get home quick to watch that race on your TV.  Hey look, he's a going fast and turnin' left.  Yep, going fast and still turnin' left, well, will you look at that, they's a sure going fast and turnin' left..  You do know if any crashes happen or something interesting goes on the highlights will be played eleventy billion times between the 346 different ESPN's don't you?

Ricky Racer to fast for stop signs/lights cyclist dude.  You've got a special place in my heart.  Your the asshat out there giving every other cyclist a bad name and generally irritating the living snot out of every driver you come across.  While you do irritate me to no end, I do know that one day Karma and the laws of physics is going to catch up to you and your going to end up on the losing end of an argument with a 3000 pound vehicle doing 40+ mph.  My thanks to you is your stupidity is going to provide me one more place to take a leak, you see, I'll be the guy watering the flowers on your grave by peeing on them.

And to the other 99.98% of the drivers I see out there?  Truly THANK YOU!  Thank you for behaving and driving in a safe and sane manner.  Thank you for extending common courtesy and mutual respect to the other folks out there on the road.  Thank you for being a responsible driver and to be willing to share your road.  Y'all ROCK!





Saturday, April 26, 2014

You can't take the road from me.. Apologies to Mal and crew..

Take my love, take my land
Take me where I cannot stand
I don't care, I'm still free
You can't take the road from me.

Take me out to the black

Well that's kind of where I've been.  No not wandering around out in space literally, but blacking out, as in passing out and taking unplanned naps.  Kind of made life hard, work was difficult, the kids and my wife were more than a bit worried.  Really made it hard to ride a bike.  Let's see, riding in traffic + unplanned nap = speed bump for local traffic.

Leave the man where he lay
He'll never see another day

Fortunately after consulting, (read paying) more doctors than I ever want to think of, it was decided that whatever it wasn't that bad, so they said.  Word of advice, choose wisely on doctors, misadventures can occur.  Surprisingly, the neurologist diagnosed me as just what his specialty, (also known as his bread and butter/profit maker) happened to be that day.  Yep, the neurologist/sleep specialist said I had, (and this is my surprised face) sleep apnea!  Happy pay day for him.

They said it was just a mild case, if mine was mild, please shoot me before it gets to severe.  Just a "mild" case had my life so screwed up that I was barely functional at work, prone to falling over and passing out any time of the day, and shall we say, difficult to live with.

Welcome to a CPAP and a Darth Vader mask.  Here put this mask on that leaks when you roll over, makes your nose itch and wrapping the hose around your neck when you roll over at night makes you think of THIS!

All of that is SUPPOSED to make you sleep better.  Well actually it does.  I am sleeping better surprisingly.

I feel the black reaching out
I hear its song without a doubt
I still hear and I still see
That you can't take the road from me.


Since I am sleeping better and all "medical professionals" have pronounced me "cured", I'm back at work and back on the bike out on the road.


Today was my wife and I's first ride of the year on Serenity, our Rans Seavo tandem.




Today, she lived up to her name and ran without a problem.

There's no place I can be
Since I've found Serenity



And you can't take the road from me.



Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Ah Serenity, you are anything but so far...



Ah Serenity…  Reality was anything but serene however.  As a bike she has yet to live up to her name.  Maybe P.I.T.A. would be a better name for her.

My wife, Vicky and I were in the market for the ultimate bike geek couples bike, a tandem.  We’ve had upright tandems before and knew we were compatible on tandems.  I call out the pot holes and surprises; she doesn’t smack me in the back of the head!  However since we have to be different, we were looking for the oddball of oddballs, a recumbent tandem.  Talk about a truly niche market, we were looking for something that was a niche within a niche within a niche.  Truly we were looking in a very limited market.  Let’s just say that the pickings on the used market were a little slim.

We ended up doing a lot of reading, research, and picking of other tandem rider’s minds to see what was going to suit us best.  Since what we were looking for just was not going to found at just about any local bike shop there wasn’t going to be a whole lot of test riding to do.  Fortunately when it comes to recumbent tandems there aren’t that many manufactures or models in current production out there to choose from, Rans has two models, Volae has one, and every now and then John Morcigliio does a custom one off.
A Morciglio classic

We settled fairly quickly on the idea of a Rans Seavo  for two main reasons, both wheels are the same size and there was one local to us to test ride.  The wheel size issue was a big deciding point for me, I like not having to stock and carry multiple tires and tubes for one bike.
A Rans Seavo in green


We missed two bikes that were in the used market by a day each.  One was in St Joseph Missouri and the other was in Wichita Kansas, both of those within driving distance to pick one up.  But due to funding issues, (scraping up the cash) and actually making the decision to purchase we missed both bikes by less than 24 hours.  One of the two bikes had been on the market for 2 ½ years and it sold hours before we decided to commit to it. 
 
Our next option was to buy a new bike.  The penny pinching part of me rebelled at this as I like getting a deal and saving money as much if not more so than the next person.

Somewhere in the back of my mind was also the thought of keeping the whole deal simple.  Show up, give someone money, ride off on bike, see?  Nice and simple!  Unfortunately nothing I seem to do is simple.  There is an easy way to do things, a hard way to do them, and then the Dave way, (which is usually harder and more expensive).

Soon a Rans dealer was located, a paint color chosen, a parts list written up and a deal negotiated.

A quick note on the dealer we used.  He is a good guy, he runs a good shop.  He was just way out of his comfort zone on a tandem build.  I should have asked more questions, I should have done more research and found a shop with a lot more tandem building experience.  I don't lay any blame with the dealer.  Hind sight being 20/20, it was an almost comical cascade of problems.

September 21st Vicky and I attended a recumbent event hosted by the dealer who ordered our bike and was to have done the build.  We were bringing the wheels and the plan had been to pop the wheels onto the bike, adjust the brakes, adjust the derailleurs and go ride.  Yea, plans, so much for the best laid plans.  What we ended up bring home was the Rans Seavo frame with some parts mounted to it, a box  of some of the other parts and a wrong seat.

The build for the bike involved the following:

  •   Three different bike mechanics, (not counting myself)
    • Their bribes of:
      • Jack Daniels Green Label
      • a six pack of beer
      • two dozen bagels
      • a gallon of coffee
      • a $20 bill
  •  Trips to five different local shops for unexpected and unplanned for needs
  • Four fingers and a big water glass of Knob Creek Rye whiskey and doing something I have not done in 25+ years
  • More swearing than you would hear in a Marine Infantry Brigade.

The laundry list of "challenges" in the build is long but here are the highlights.

  •  The bottom brackets were missing spacer rings.  No really that isn't a new self adjusting chainline, it's just someone forgot to space the bottom bracket cups properly.
  • A missing headset, Rans said the bike came with one, it didn't.
  • The new short reach riser for the captain's handlebars.  Opps, someone put the riser on backwards.
  • The auto eject feature for the captains seat complete with auto eject screws holding the brackets on that hold the seat to the bike.
  • Rans forgot to ship seat mesh for both seats, (let's hope that they pay a little more attention to their airplanes)
  • The random chain, really a nine speed chain spliced in with a ten speed chain, spliced into an unknown chain really doesn't work well.
  • Shifters and derailleurs really work better if the shifter cable isn't shattered, (housing strands broken and poking out of the ferrules.
  • Brakes stop better when the correct adapters are ordered, especially when you ask the dealer three different times if they ordered the correct adapters.
  • A rear derailleur that when the lower limit screw is adjusted to stop the chain from being thrown into the spokes on the lowest gear, won't let the bike shift into the highest gear.  (That one issue caused all sorts of headaches).  Thankfully Dreadlock Mike at Richardson Bike Mart is the Albert Einstein of derailleurs.
  • And finally a really nice wheelset  that was sourced off Ebay.  All the specifications indicated it was a 145 mm rear hub, the auction listed it as a 145, the bike it was built for uses a 145 rear hub, the hub manufacture builds 145 mm rear hubs.  Nope not mine however.   It's some sort of mutant space alien 155 mm rear hub.  Yay!  That meant a new rear wheel overnighted from the land of cheese and beer, and a new axle kit for the original rear wheel as well as a future date with a shop to get the axle installed and the wheel re-dished.

Finally though the build is done, it's finally a bike!  Monday evening was our maiden voyage, 10.5 miles of seat slipping, gears crunching, stopping and adjusting joy.  Let's just say I am hoping she will settle down and live up to her name after all, she had better, we're stuck with her.
Serenity...


Sunday, July 28, 2013

&$#@!! Strava!

Well doesn't that just bite!

Last week I had a couple of great rides in the early morning.  I hit a couple parts of the routes at flat out, full gas, balls to the walls speed chasing a couple of segments on Strava.

And it seems Strava "lost" my data.  Two different segments didn't register for whatever reason, just poof, gone!  Seems Strava has no issue showing the world my dog slow segments, (trust me, I'd be happy if they would "lose" those).  But no, they've got to go and lose my fast ones that bring me up to a competitive level with some of the fast folks in the area.

I've submitted support requests and they assure me that they strive to handle them in 48 hours...  Yea about that, it's been four days and I'm still waiting.

Glad I've not shelled out the cash for a premium membership.