My Progress

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Close but no cigar..

Yesterday  I tried for a imperial century, (100 miles).  I hadn't ridden one since September 2012 and as I am heading for Wichita Falls and the Hotter than Hell 100 next month I wanted one in my legs before the event.

I'd managed 81 miles in the Tour de Cure in June but due to leg cramps and stomach issues I stopped at 81 miles.

Yesterday, I left the house before it was light as the day was promising to be hot, (what a surprise for Texas in July). I was hoping to get my ride in early and beat the temps but it warmed up a lot quicker than expected.

My route took me over familiar terrain and some stuff I'd not ridden before as I was wanting to explore some new roads and do a little bit of reconnaissance for the route for the Red River Rally.  Riding west out of Gunter on 121 was fine, I'd been that way before, turning north on Wall Street put me onto a new road and some new ground to explore.  At Wall Street is going to be part of the Red River Rally I wanted to check it out should I decided at the last minute to give it a try.  Wall Street is a dentists dream, lots of pot holes and rough stuff from 121 all the way up to 902.  Might be interesting trying to ride that in a group.

FM902 west to Collinsville was only something I'd driven before, never ridden.  The road was nice and smooth, no shoulder but all traffic was more than polite.  At Collinsville I was hoping to find a quickie mart to water up but didn't see anything as I went through town, once into Collinsville I picked up HWY 377 south to Tioga.  Tioga gave me a stop at a quicky mart for water, gatoraide and a Marathon protein bar.

From Tioga it was down FM121 back to Gunter and heading south to run toward home.

However the more I pushed into the headwind, the slower I ended up going.  Stopping for water, food, and stretching didn't really help.   Around mile 65 or so my legs started signalling they were going to start cramping, the stomach was shutting down processing whatever I was trying to eat due to the heat and workload. 

By that point I was just working to get from one stopping point to the next.  By the next stop I was done.  I knew that what I had been feeling in my left calf the day before was starting to blow up into possible tendonitis, my right leg was cramping, and my stomach was not processing even water.  I was done and made the call to Vicky to roll out for a pick up.

78 miles, so close but no cigar.

Strava data is here.

We are Keurig, you will be assimilated...

It's been a long fight holding off the Keurig borg.

I first saw one about 8 or 9 years ago and said no, my drip coffee pot was good enough.

Our dog rescue friends at TIRR got one and they liked it. I had to admit it was handy when we were out there.

Our friend Serious Student got one and he sang the praises almost of it almost as loudly as he sung the praises of things from Colt and Bravo Company Machine.

It was working, I was weakening and losing the battle.

After all, I like coffee, and I wanted something simple.

Vicky likes her french press and morning coffee routine.

I like to get up and have immediate coffee, the sooner the better.

Last night I was assimilated into the Keurig collective.. Sigh..

Life is good.

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.