Tuesday, September 16, 2014

really nice bikes

Let me start by saying I have a nice bike. It's a Trek Madone, and it's probably more than my cycling ability warrants. But when you ride a week-long bike tour, you find yourself among all kinds of riders with all kinds of bikes. And some of them are really nice bikes! There are riders of every size, shape, age and gender.
But the range of bikes is just as broad. There's brands from all over the world: Fuji, Orbea, Specialized, and Trek, Cervelo, Giant and  Scott. If you pay attention you're likely to see frames made of steel, aluminum, titanium and carbon fiber. And then there's different grades of carbon fiber, and different levels of components that one can put on a bike. I've owned bikes with cranksets, derailleurs, and shifters called 105, Deore, Tiagra, and Ultegra. And they are all made by Shimano!

 Now, the Ultegra components are pretty good; they're what I have on my Madone. But the top of the line available from Shimano is the Dura-Ace line. And something that's only been available in the last few years, and seems to be getting better all the time, is the Dura-Ace Di2 (Digital Integrated Intelligence). That's right, electronic shifting.
On this year's CRMBT, I noticed a number of bike with electronic shifting, including Stefan's new Wilier. I told him he didn't need a faster bike, he already flies by my at some point during each day and yells a quick, "Hi Jeff". Stefan pointed out that with a touch of a button the shifter puts you in the next gear. If you're descending and want to go up several gears you just hold the button a little longer. It never needs adjusting, and the chain never rubs against the derailleur.

I also noticed a trend towards road bikes with disc brakes. One rider told me he'd blown several tires by over-heating his rims on descents in the Boulder area, so opted for disc brakes on his new Seven.
As we gathered in South Dakota several years ago for the first bike tour I had ever done, we watched as cars pulled in with bikes on racks. In some cases there was a real question about which was worth more, the car or the bike! Whatever the components or frame material, it's fun to see so many beautiful bikes gathered together to do what they were designed to do, ride!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

crmbt day 1 - colorado springs to canon city

Sunday, 8-3

Woke up to the symphony of zippers; tent flaps, luggage, etc. and prepared for day 1. Sherpa Ville always has coffee and hot water for oatmeal, and I had picked up some bananas and bagels. The school wasn't far away, and the porta-potties were closer. After dressing and packing my bag I left my tent and waited for Peter to give his talk to kick-off the tour.

A large group was winding it's way through the neighborhood and missed the turn for Lake Circle  near The Broadmoor. We climbed by the golf course and when we saw the sign for the zoo, I knew we were not on the right track. Some folks thought turning right was appropriate, but I just turned around, went back down the hill until I saw cyclists heading a direction that would get us to our first highway for the day, CO115.
Pretty views and sunny skies made for a nice morning. The shoulder was plenty wide, but held a lot of debris, and by the time I finished I think I had seen a dozen riders changing flats on the side of the road. Of course, I asked each one if they had what they needed, but they were all well prepared.
As we neared Canon City I saw what I thought might be a high school, but soon realized it was surrounded by a high fence topped with razor wire. We didn't stop there.
After some rollers we ended up 700 feet lower than we started. But we would go a little higher tomorrow. We were mostly in by noon, and the tents were going up in Sherpa Ville. After a nice shower I walked to Subway for a veggie sub, then returned to the school where a lot of us spent the whole afternoon visiting, enjoying the shade, and telling cycling stories.

That evening I walked to a Mexican place with Thom and Glenn for a good meal and a nice visit. I was in my sleeping bag fairly early to be ready for a planned 94 miles tomorrow including our first mountain pass. This was a good first day to warm up the legs and let us flatlanders acclimatize before the serious fun began.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

pragmatic vegan

In the almost two years that I've been a vegan I've read a lot of blogs, posts and feeds about health, the environment, and animal rights. On the whole, the writers and readers are of a like mind. The only problem with preaching to the choir is you have to get someone to join the choir before he can hear you preach.

I believe that all reasonable people would be interested in positive change in those areas, but maybe not ready, willing or able to make the leap to vegan. That's OK. I would like to offer a series of occasional posts taking a look at what we, together, can do to make a difference. For starters, can we all agree that animal abuse and cruelty should not be tolerated?

If people saw what takes place on the farms that supply their food, they would demand a stop to it. The corporations that run the farms know that, and funnel huge amounts of money to politicians who propose "ag-gag" laws, which make it illegal for whistle-blowers to record acts of cruelty and abuse. That's right. Instead of trying to stop the abuse, they want it to be illegal to bring it to light!

Is it too much to ask that the animals raised for food be treated humanely? Please take the time to learn the sources of your food. How does your state stack up when it comes to animal protection?
Whether through donation, signing petitions, or participating in organized activities, can you support those standing up for farm animals? Like Animal Legal Defense Fund?

If we use animals for food, we should at least know how they're raised, how they're treated. Let's take our heads out of the sand and take a look at what's happened to the "family farm". 

Saturday, August 30, 2014

colorado rocky mountain bike tour 2014

 Click on the black bars under "road tunes" in the side bar to hear the music with the video.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

crmbt day 7 - woodland park to colorado springs

Saturday, 8-9

From Woodland Park to Colorado Springs is a quick, 20-mile, mostly downhill ride on the ever busier US Highway 24. Even with the last couple climbs in town to get back to the high school, this ride should take no more than a couple hours. Oh, right, we had a little detour planned for 20-miles up, 20-miles back. Pikes Peak, baby!
 I took these pictures the Saturday before the tour started when I drove out to Woodland Park to recon the route that would get us off US24 a little sooner, save us from one small climb, and deliver us to the mother of all climbs. I wanted some shots of where you pay your fee and enter Pikes Peak Toll Road because I knew that when I went through the gates in one week, it would be much earlier, and much, much darker.

A handful of us, including Steve and Paul, left the high school at 5:00am with all of our front and rear lights blazing and blinking. We got off of US24 onto Green Mountain Falls Road and followed it as it changed names a few time over the next few miles. Then a right onto Chipita Park Road for a mile or so. When we came to where I knew we would have to make a sharp right turn and immediately start climbing toward the toll booth, we came upon the surreal sight of dozens of bikes rolling through the dark, their blinking lights announcing their presence.

Peter greeted us as we went through the entrance; our tolls had been paid by CRMBT as part of our registration. And we continued to climb. Those responsible for Pikes Peak had requested riders be through the gates between 5:30 and 6:00am, to give us a chance to spread out and be a good way up the mountain before cars are allowed through starting at 7:30am. And, as we climbed, spread out we did!
 Looking down on US24 as morning broke.
 So many things to watch for.
 Harold and Vida at the day's first aid station just past Crystal Creek Reservoir.

I don't think that there are a lot of cars waiting to go through the gates right at 7:30am. But there are at least a few. We had the mountain to ourselves for over 2 hours. Then at 7:51 we were over halfway to the top when I realized: "We are not alone".  A minivan with Illinois plates rolled by followed by a few other vehicles. There would be stretches of no cars, followed by a group going by us, but the traffic wasn't bad for a Saturday in August.
After the Crystal Creek Reservoir aid station, 7 miles into the climb, we kept climbing, but with some sections where the grade leveled out, or even dropped a little, giving riders a chance to regain some speed and catch their breath. The next aid station would be 7 miles further up, and the final one at the summit. The last 5 miles to the summit was, at least for me, tough. There were a few steep sections where I looked down to see that my speed was down to 2.5 mph! In a couple stretches I thought that I could walk as fast as I was riding, so I did! Just to get out of the saddle, try to catch my breath, and continue to make some progress gave me a little lift, and let me think that I really was going to make it after all.
As we neared the summit we were treated to views that were nothing short of spectacular! For those of us upward-velocity challenged riders there was plenty of encouragement from other riders passing us on the way to the summit, and descending from it. A few words can really help when you're pushing so hard, bumping up against the limits of your abilities. After what seemed like an endless supply of switchbacks, we made it to the unpaved parking lot at 14,100 feet!
 I went to the gift shop/cafe and had tea (the coffee dispenser was empty) and donuts (no, I didn't ask if they were vegan, I just ate them). It's self serve and when I got to the cashier I told her I was paying for 2 donuts, but I'd already eaten one while in line. Deb (above) and David were at a table and called me over to join them. They told me about signing in at the aid station so CRMBT could put the names of all who made it to the summit on their website. Tourists who had driven up looked at us with what could have been awe, or pity. But they didn't exclaim "I can't believe you rode a bike up here" like I've heard on Independence Pass and other summits. If they had Glenn had supplied the appropriate response: "Yeah, it's faster than walking".
The descent wasn't the kind I love. It was beautiful and awesome, but way too steep and curvy to go fast. I had to keep pumping my brakes to keep the speed under control and stay on the road. Once  back below tree-line there were some nice sections where you could get some good speed, and make great time towards the finish line in Colorado Springs.

I stopped at both aid stations again to refill bottles and let my brakes cool. I also stopped and helped change a flat tire, of which I, fortunately, had none all week. Back on US24 we had much more traffic to contend with, but we were still going downhill at a good rate. Back in town I tried to stay on the cleanest part of the shoulder. It wasn't always easy. I was relieved to see Dale, one of the incredible volunteers, to tell us where we needed to turn. The rest of the way to the high school was on much more low-traffic streets, but they still held a couple of climbs to get there. After 160+ miles and 4 summits the last 2 days, those hills were almost my demise.

I finally did make it to the high school to find the showers were ice cold. I washed my hair and thought the rest of the shower could wait until I got to my motel. I found a Qdoba for lunch, checked in at the Radisson Airport, showered and took a 2 hour nap. I was so tired! When I woke, I watched TV for a while and didn't even have the energy to go looking for dinner. I ordered a pizza, and was back in bed shortly after dinner.

When I woke in the middle of the night I got up, made coffee and headed for home. One nap at a rest area, a few stops to walk around the car and do some stretches, and I made it home to my wife and puppies early Sunday afternoon. It was good to get unpacked and wash some bike clothes. It was great that I also had taken Monday off and had one more day to recover from one of the hardest, and most satisfying, things I'd ever done.