Archive for September, 2008

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Testing the new light

September 30, 2008

I decided to try the Nite Rider mini-newt USB light for my bike.  With our rides starting less than an our before sunset (and continuing to march earlier), I finally hooked it up to my bike.  The unit is black and blends in with my bike quite well, so Penny didn’t noticed I’d installed it.  I made sure that we took a ride that was about 20 miles long, ensuring we’d return in the dark.

With the twilight still luminating most of the trail, I held off until we finally started riding into a nice dark tree canopy, then pressed the switch.  The amount of light was pretty impressive, and Penny immediately shrieked and exclaimed something to the effect of “you Ba$%$D”.  ROFL!!!!  (or is that “Rolling On TRAIL Laughing”).  It had the intended the effect and was well worth the surprise!

The light immediately paid dividends.  A family was walking toward on on the trail, and at the last minute my light lit up a cat.  It caught me by surprise, but I jinked around it.  Without the light, I would have plowed right over it.

I experimented with aiming the light up a bit higher to give me a bit more lead time.  Penny was even able to ride in front of me to use the light for navigation.

So far, so good.

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A Successful Tire Experiment: Biking on the Wind

September 29, 2008

I’d decided that the 28mm Armadillo tire wasn’t going to work on my bike with the spacing that I had.  The 25mm Armadillo tire was working out splendidly though.  One of the tires I’d been considering originally was a Continental Gatorback, a tire with good wear and puncture resistance similar to the Armadillo.  It’s a much lighter tire though, so I left the 25mm Armadillo on the back, and put the new 25mm Gatorback on the front wheel.

There is no comparison between the clearance between the top of the tire and brake assembly.  With the 28mm tire, I had to have the front brakes all the way open to arch the top of the brake assembly over the top of the tire.  With the 25mm tire, I’m able to properly adjust the brakes now.

While I was at the shop, I sought and received an education on the proper installation/clamping of the tire into the fork drop-outs.  What a difference in wheel spin this makes on the front/rear wheels!

Once out on the trail, I decided to forego my normal warm-up period where I draft behind Penny for the first half of the ride or so.  Instead, the bike felt very light and nimble… no more molasses… and I just kinda took off with Penny tucked into the draft.  Wow…. we were cruising along at 19-20mph on the warmup phase of the ride.  Normally we do good to ride along at 16-17 while getting the blood to our muscles.  I know it doesn’t sound like much (but we’re still relatively new at riding for “speed”), but the effort it normally takes to increase that 3-4 mph seems to really “put it to” my quads.  Also, I usually risk toasting my legs or bonking when I dig too much during warm-up.  Not the case today!  It felt like we had a strong tailwind at our backs and the bike was taking minimal effort to keep going.  Not to be outdone, when Penny took her turn out front to pull, she kept the pace up nicely, except in spots where I asked her to slow so we could get a bit of recovery “spinning” (high cadence pedaling), but even the pace of that was higher than we normally do.  At some point during the “spinning”, I made a comment that I didn’t feel like Penny could “toast” me or “drop” me tonight.  She took that as a personal challenge, I heard her gears changing,  and immediately she dropped the hammer… but it’s always easier to sit in the slipstream of someone’s elses draft, so I just when to higher gears and just cruised along right on her tire. 🙂  She did a whale of a job though and equaled my top pace on the first leg when we were outbound.  Last week, even staying in the draft with Penny when she was pulling hard was very fatiguing for me…. but not tonight!!

It may have just been a nice convergence of tire change, wheel clamp adjustments, and personal energy level, but the ride was a nice change from the lethargy and lead I’d felt in the past week!  Hopefully my bike mechanic skills continue to improve/evolve so that I don’t have to pay the price physically again… LOL!!

I learned another important lesson too…. while my legs are a good bit stronger than Penny’s (and she’s a strong girl), the bike doesn’t have to be too far out of tune for her to get cocky and dust me at will while I slog it out… a bit of resistance is a great equalizer!  Of course… now I know how to adjust her bike too…. bwahahahahahahaha!!!!

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Enjoying a Musical for Jess’ Birthday

September 29, 2008

While not an “outdoor activity” per se, this weekend we had been looking forward to celebrating Penny’s daughter’s (Jess’) 18th birthday.  Jess had mentioned many weeks ago that she wanted to go see the musical Emma by Jane Austin at the Cincinnati Playhouse.  She’d warned me that it was a “chick flick”, but I decided to take my chances anyway (knowing I always enjoyed a good musical, no matter the genre).

I’d never been to the Cincinnati Playhouse, nor had I heard anything about the musical Emma…. both were a pleasant surprise.  Not only did we have a great time with Jess, but we enjoyed the musical too.  There was lots of laughter, and as usual, Penny could be heard laughing above the rest of the section we were in.

I’ve always enjoyed the cultural arts, and this weekend reminded me that I haven’t gotten out to enough of these in the past couple of years.

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John Bryan State Park Mountain Bike and Hiking Trails.

September 28, 2008

With a weekend that had family obligations in the evenings, we got in some riding and hiking in the mornings and early afternoon.

John Bryan State Park is a recent find for us.  They have a over 5 miles of hiking trails, and over 8.5 miles of mountain bike trails.

We decided we would try both on Sunday.  First we did a 3 mile hike on the north and south trails that parallel the Little Miami Scenic River.  This was a great warm-up and a nice scenic hike.  The southern trail is reached from a foot bridge and has lots of small babbling brooks that trickle down from the cliffs and run down to the river…. very picturesque!  On the way back, we traveled along the “Pittsburgh-Cincinnati Stagecoach Trail”, not quite as primitive, but a nice wide trail nonetheless.

After our hike we loaded up and headed up to the mountain bike trails.  There are 3 primary mountain bike trail sections called Power Line, Abracadabra, and Great Scot.  These are connected by a multi-purpose trail loop called Arboretum.

For our first visit here, we focused on the Arboretum loop to work out any kinks with our mountain bikes (which have been neglected with all of our road riding this summer).  After we were happy with the bikes, we focused on the easier Abracadabra trail.  What a blast that was!  It has a few cool narrow transits through trees just barely wide enough to fit the handle bars through.  There were also a few ramps, board walks, and long sweeping runs down hill!

Since this isn’t the kind of abuse that our bodies are accustomed to, we decided to not go full out with all the time we could have had on the trails… but we’ll be back for sure!!

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Overclamping the Tires

September 27, 2008

After a few rides feeling like I was burning my quads from the “get go”, a bit of reading and thinking got me wondering if I was installing the wheels incorrectly.  Putting the Armadillo tires on recently was the first times I’ve changed tires on the road bikes (knock on wood).  I kept reading things that said when you clamp the tire on it should leave an impression in your hand.  Well… apparently I was taking that a bit too much to heart.    It came to light when I spun my wheel and Penny’s wheel up on the rack.  I could start my tire spinning after hers, and it would stop spinning long before hers stopped.  I loosened up the clamp a bit (still keeping it snug), and the wheels turn much more freely.

To test this out, we went for a 20 mile ride up to Strout Rd and back.  The bike coasted pretty freely, so when we got up to Morgan’s canoe livery and decided to try Mason-Morrow Rd as an alternative to get back to Morrow.  After a nice little hill climb, it was an awesome ride back down with speeds over 30mph… woohoo!!!!  Can’t get anything like that on the trail!!!

I think I’ve figured out the wheel issue and it’s a whole lot better!  I think I need to sit through a basic maintenance class so I don’t have to figure these things out the hard way!

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Hiking and Biking

September 26, 2008

This week brought a mix of activities as I was heading in and out of town for classes.

On Tues I was able to find some hiking trails at John Bryan State Park between Yellow Springs and Clifton.  This was some nice change of pace after standing in front of a class for 8 hours.  I was surprised how well the park service had cleared the hiking trails after the storm 10 days earlier.  It was obvious by all of the sawdust and drag marks that the trail was very littered with debris.  Hopefully we can get back up there on Sunday and make a day of hiking and mountain bike trails!

Thursday we got out on the Little Miami Trail down to Loveland and back, and on Friday we got in some road work on some moderate hills.  However, even after the short ride I felt like I’d spent a 1/2 hour on a cardio machine with the resistance on 10… ugh!!! I checked… nothing was rubbing on the tired I’d installed… but I did a comparison and spun Penny’s tires, then mine.  Even though I started spinning my tires after Penny’s, they would stop spinning in less than half the time.  It finally dawned on me that I may have clamped the wheels too tightly.  I’m not sure if that’s the exact problem or not, but the wheels spin much longer now.  I was about ready to dismount the front armadillo tire, but I’ll hold off for another ride to see if loosening the clamp a bit worked.

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Journey of a 1000 Miles

September 20, 2008

After riding on steep or moderate hills this week, I was craving something a bit flatter for some easy spinning.  I know that they purportedly started clearing local bike trails on Friday, but I wasn’t sure of their progress.  I’d seen a post on one of the forums that Green County had their trails cleared, so Penny and I headed up to Xenia for the day.

Starting at Xenia Station gave us the option of several different trails. Penny hadn’t been on the section of trail from Xenia to Yellow Springs, so we headed up that way.  Taking an alternate route around downtown Xenia, we headed down the Creekside Trail toward the Fairgrounds Connector.  This gives you an nice scenic tour that only adds about 1.5 miles to the trip to Yellow Springs.

In Yellow Springs we made the mandatory stop at the Main Squeeze smoothie/juice bar.  The proprietor is always friendly, and we’ve just about filled up my “frequent drinker” card from my stops in here this summer… LOL!

While the incline up to Yellow Springs from Xenia isn’t intimidating by any stretch of the imagination, heading back south toward Xenia you can gain some fun speeds, making it very tough to stay within the trail speed limit of 20mph.

My energy level was zonked for some reason… perhaps lack of effective protein and carbs, or not drinking enough water… but Penny was kicking my butt and wanted to go much faster.  My legs were still munched from the hill riding I did without her this week.  Granted, she was also releasing a lot of pent up tension from the last couple of days (dealing with the death of a friend), so she had lots of energy.  When we got back to Xenia Station, I took a few minutes to fuel up, down more electrolytes, and focus on hydration.

Our next leg of the ride took us down the Prairie Grass Trail.  We traveled to Cedarville through farm country, on the trail that will become a section of the much longer Ohio to Erie Trail (running from the Ohio River to Lake Erie).

Arriving in Cedarville, my energy was crashing again despite fueling up at Xenia Station, so we found a cute little Coffee shop called Beans and Cream.  Although feeling a bit out of place in lycra* with the young college crowd, we got a coffee and a sandwich which was delicious.  Our only complaint was that there wasn’t a safe place to put our bikes, except along the building on the sidewalk.  Given this is a small conservate Christian college town, we really didn’t haven anything to worry about though, I guess.

The return leg on this relatively flat trail went much better and I enjoyed the scenery much better.  After a nice stop and sandwich, Penny couldn’t pull away from me on this leg… LOL!  In fact, it almost seemed like we got back too soon.

Our ride of about 40 miles put me over 1000 miles of biking since I started on the beginning of June.  It’s cool looking back at all I’ve gotten to see so far.  More so, I’ve learned more about SW Ohio in the past 4 months than I’ve learned in the past 3 years just from studying bike paths and putting rubber to the road.  The side benefits have been some nice exercise, but what I really like is feeling that breeze in my face!

Here’s to the next 1000 miles!

*”The further you get from your bike, the worse you look in lycra!”