Well, at least now, it’s gone..
(Bom. Bom-bom. Bom-bom…bom. Bom.)
I h’ain’t talking about that seemingly pervasive numbing malady which has never actually afflicted any cyclist I know. (Though, I must admit that in my mumble-mumble number of years cycling, I’ve never actually posed that direct question to any cyclist I’ve known.) Back when Specialized brought out Dr. Minkow’s “Body Geometry” saddle, with the cut-out slot designed to encourage normal blood flow to “sensitive” regions, I was working in bicycle retail environs. Some customers called, came in and bought the thing with the furtive quickness I’d only heretofore seen down at the video store, when certain folks exited a particular back room, heading to the checkout counter with a tape box curiously devoid of cover art.
But many of us pondered it and opined aloud, “Dude. If you’re number’s going numb, you change your saddle, or your tilt or SOMETHING…”
And as long as I’ve drifted this fully off the subject, it always struck me that someone should design the VeeGrah! saddle (note how I cleverly riffed on the name of a popular cardiovascular/blood pressure trial medication which had a side effect of causing erections in male subjects) which used discrete electrical prods to actually stimulate the binary reaction, rather than simply not restricting it. The marketing would be proud to claim “When you always need to be ready for that big move on a bike ride…”
However, again, this is not at all what I’m talking about.
What happened to me occurred about 4 hours into the day. I was rolling lazily homeward Sunday on what would end up being a 72 ish mile ride when I thought maybe I’d been stung by a bee. Picking up my hand from the bars, I realized that my ring finger (especially) and my middle finger were absolutely numb (I’ve now learned that these were the Apollo and Saturn fingers, respectively). They moved but I couldn’t feel a damned thing.
The numbness ran from the middle and proximal phalanges through the bases of the knuckles into the top (most distant) part of the palm. It did freak me out a bit.
The weird thing was I handn’t (heh-heh…) done anything. I was in the classic sense, “Just Riding Along…”
The first thing I did when I realized it was - and I’m not making this up - talk. For some reason, I associate sudden weird numbness to stroke, and figured that if I could form sentences easily, that could at least be taken out of the equation. Luckily, the bike path was fairly devoid of other users, and chattered and emoted for a few moments. Then I thought, “Well, if I’d had a sudden stroke, wouldn’t the words make sense to me and no one else?”
Since I was able to engage in such lucid and free-ranging paranoia and hypochondria, I was probably OK. But, it took a couple changes of the light and a goodly bit of anti-cycling-position bending before the feeling returned. It’s felt a little goofy since then, a bit like after one tweaks their neck nerve where things are slightly specifically sore and wonky.
Last Friday wound down a reasonably hectic week. It was the first week back from a vacation, which tends to lump up all kinds of things that would never have been so important if I hadn’t been unreachable for 6 days. But, things returned to a relatively even keel by Thursday, so I was able to scoot away early and head to the east bay.
Ulterior motives abounded, of course. First and foremost, Beth H was heading through town with her sweetie and had planned to drop by Rivendell for a bit. She’s an avid blogger, was one of the first people to share images of their bikes via the Cyclofiend.com Current Classics Gallery (her Rivendell Longlow being bicycle #11), and someone I’ve nattered on with via email about singlespeeds (y’know, her newest one is still in the queue and that’s entirely my fault!) and cyclocross. So, I finally got a chance to hang out and meet in person someone I’d only known through the interwebs. It was cool to meet in person, grab some food and get to know each other better. Guess I gotta head up to Portland now. I hear they race cross bikes up there in the winter…
Of course, the secondary benefit was bopping around the RBWHQ&L, seeing what prototypes could be spied and enjoyed. Alas, the newest version of the Hunqapiller was wheel-less, but Keven took the time to talk about the special mid-tube lugs they’d had made for the “splayed” (my phrase, not theirs) tube arrangement.
As noted in the flickr image, there will be bottle braze-ons with the final version, but I think the geometry and most of the hard-wiring is mostly in place now. The Hunqapillar is truly a versatile and sturdy beast. The fork braze-ons alone are, shall we say, extensive. I’m pretty sure that this bicycle could handle anything most folks could throw at it. I think it will also balance better once they set up the left side drive.
The stuff behind the Hunqa-proto (Proto-Hunq?) got me focused a bit on luggage and bags.
Now, in case I’ve never mentioned it before, I’m kind of a bag junkie. Well, maybe “junkie” is a bit strong. I have some pretty firm tastes and requirements, actually, formed through a few years of working as a buyer of such things. For me, a bag has to be well sewn, useful in design without being overly specific, and should work quietly for a long time. If it turns out to do one or two things not originally envisioned, even better.
The work that has gone into the Brand V bags (Vegan, “Holier Than Cow” as the logo says) is pretty considerable. The Brand V BoxyBarBag is a pretty simple, bar-mounted squarish handlebar bag, which mounts without hardware to the bars. With the strap support system, it locks down pretty danged well. I didn’t have the opportunity to bounce it around on the trails, but it certainly survived the bounce ‘n wiggle test on the showroom floor. For the amount and quality of the sewing (in the US!), it could easily cost more than the $75 they charge for it.
Here, you’re looking at it from the front, without it being on a bike. Nice big flecto-patch, too.
There was also a set of the new BrandV Panniers set up on a Sam Hillborne. I played around with these for quite a while, trying to figure out how I could justify buying them. Simple, sturdy construction. Everything you need and nothing you don’t, as the saying goes. They also seemed to invite further modification, with a set of D-rings on the top mounting area.
But, one real beauty of the design is the dust/water flap, which seems to lend itself well to separating the load, or handling over-stuffing.
It’s hard to tell from this image, but that darker olive bit is a goodly sized flap, which can be pulled up and out, like this:
Again, excellent sewing work throughout. I really liked the shape (formway?) of the panniers as well. Heel-strike be damned!
Just to complete the broken record* motif, the sewing was pretty much Filson quality. The folks who are constructing these know how to line up material and throw a line of stitching through it. It’s heavy cotton duck, and it feels like it break in sometime in the distant future. Unlike the old Timbuk2 that it will replace, I won’t lose the clip-on flecto-tabs, as they’ve sewn in a strip to reflect stuff. The wooden buttons (reminded me of an old Navy coat) can be one-handedly thrown through the big D-Rings, but they don’t seem to come out unintentionally. There’s a nice amount of overlap to the top and a good size to hold a book, journal a bit o’ gear and some odds and ends. There’s a single divider against the inside, which can organize things a bit. (Modeled below with my not-new RBW cap.)
The slick trick which Grant shared was to convert it from a shoulder strap to a waist pack setup. The strap can be shortened from both ends, so with a quick slide down and a two-handed cinch, it nestles easily into the small of your back or off one hip if you prefer. I’m not going to make a movie of that move. It’s something you can figure out pretty quickly if you mess around with it.
Anyway, US-constructed. Under $50. It’s kind of a ridiculously good deal.
Especially if you like bags. Which, as I mentioned, I do.
*For you youngsters out there: Broken Record = Repeating CD = Recursive MP3, i.e. something that says the same thing over and over.
There are few things more unsettling than the idea of catastrophic part failure on a bicycle. In that realm, broken cranks, stems, bars and especially forks are the true sweat-inducing considerations. Everything else, you sort of think you could work through - I’ve had rims crack, chainstays break, frames come apart at the bottom bracket, high speed front wheel flats… all reasonably adrenalin-inducing moments.
But, if that fork snaps off, you will be looking up before you know what hit you.
So, it’s with a fair amount of chagrin that I note this article (first cited by j. hirsch on the iBob list):
June 17, 2010
small but concentrated group of mid-Atlantic road racers have recently
broken the carbon steerers on their 2010 Trek Madone 6-Series bikes.
While the regional nature of the reports is probably a coincidence,
there does appear to be a pattern indicating that incorrect stem
installation — and even stem choice — could lead to catastrophic
failure. And at least one racer whose fork broke mid-race is convinced
that the 6-Series Madone steerers are prone to breakage even when all
of Trek’s instructions are followed.
Trek says installation and compatibility problems are at fault and
notes that the same concerns apply to carbon steerers from other
manufacturers. The company is working with the Consumer Product Safety
Commission on a consumer alert, and has made a running change to add
material to 6-Series Madone steerers.
In recent years, the CPSC has announced recalls of carbon road or
‘cross forks from Giant, Salsa, Felt, Novara, Raleigh, Redline, Cervelo
and Reynolds, although it’s not clear if any of these recalls involved
steerers breaking at or below the stem, as with the recent 6-Series
All owners of forks with carbon steerers should pay attention to the
concerns raised and installation instructions when installing or buying
The cracks begin to appear
Saturday, May 15, began like any other race weekend for Washington,
D.C.,-area Category 2 road racer Bryan Vaughan. He suited up and spun
to the start line of the Poolesville Road Race on his 2010 6-Series
Madone. The race traverses a rolling 10-mile road circuit with a
1.5-mile stretch of gravel and dirt road. The Pro/1/2 field was slated
to do seven laps.
On lap 4, shortly after entering the dirt,Vaughan pulled up on the
bars to accelerate. He felt the handlebars come off in his hands and
crashed hard into the gravel.
(article continues - please click through here)
Another moment of bike-geekery took place while over at the place more relatives were staying. The SO of the daughter on the other side of the family dragged me down to the garage to check out his new bicycle. He is a serious triathelete. Not one of the middle-o-the-pack enthusiasts down at the local 1/4 mile swim/20 bike/ 10K run circuit. Nope. He’s trying to qualify for The Ironman in Hawaii. It would seem there’s a good chance he will, if his feet keep intact (coming back from a broken foot) and everything goes as planned.
He’d just finished a five hour ride that day, a little sheepish because he had climbed for 3 minutes more than planned in his workout (he’d wanted to take a photo of his bike against the Mt. Ashland Ski Area sign, which was another 1/2 mile up the road.) The day before he’d ridden six (that’s hours, not miles). So, the guy can put in distances, in case that isn’t obvious.
Anyway, he figured quite correctly that I’d appreciate his setup. And it was hard not to. Leaning against the wall was a Cannondale Slice Hi Mod with an SRM unit he’d scored on a used deal. Just so you understand the neighborhood we were in, the NIB version with fully aero wheels sells in the $12K range. His had a more standard wheelset - a set of Ksyriums which had the bladed spokes, but no aero shape to the rim profile. It sounded like some of his training buddies had given him a certain amount of crap for not running the fully aero and lower spoke count wheels (such as shown here). But, he said he preferred the reliability of the higher spoke count wheels. They were 20 and 24. Bobbishness is relative.
Goddess help me, when I looked at the setup, the first thought in my head was, “well, you ain’t rigging fenders on that bike…” In my defense, it had been raining that day, and I’d been congratulating myself for bringing up the fender-rigged Quickbeam rather than the open-wheeled Hilsen.
But, I am enough of a bike geek to appreciate what lay before me, and I poked at it, observed a few things and asked some questions. You don’t argue that a thoroughbred can’t pull a plow - you point it at the finish and let it fly. This bike looked fast just sitting there.
It was pretty interesting to speak with him. Several times on the ride, he’d nearly been blown off the roadway by crosswinds, and I shared with him some tricks for staying on track. But, if you want to talk about running a wind sail from the side, this bike was it. Aero frames have to make up for narrow bits with the perehelion of the elipse.
From the front, it presents about as much surface area as a thread. Everything curves and tapers. It is a testament to computer aided design of laminar flow. You can almost see how happily the wind would politely curve around this bicycle.
But, from the side, it just sits up and asks for the slappy hand of the wind. Add to that the position of the rider - saddle fully forward, weight rooted on the aerobars - and you realize how much of a bronco ride that bicycle would be to handle
in any kind of weather.
When I’m pushed from the side, I kick my butt back and relax my lee side arm. This lets the countersteering force me back against the wind. With the saddle setup kicked so far forward on his rig, it would be significantly twitchier to do so, but I tried to explain the idea of using the countersteering, rather than his method of turning into the wind. I think he had that good moment of insight - when you understand that bicycles only steer by countersteering. I hope it helps him a bit. He’s got a motor I’d seriously enjoy. To put it bluntly, on good years, I’m a fast mule. This guy is a thoroughbred. You’ve got to admit that when you see it.
He admits easily that his bike handling is not good. He runs like a wild horse and swims as though dolphins carry him along. The cycling, he came to much later. He’s a bit spooked by the handling of the bike (and I would be, too), and has had three tumbles from it since getting it (one was an over the bars “Oh. My. Those brakes work well!” panic-stop endo when it was brand new, so that doesn’t really count. I mean, the longest nose wheelie I ever rode was in the large parking lot at a shop when I tried the new Schwinn Homegrown with a disc front brake which had been set up for hair-trigger response. A car started at me from the side, I grabbed a whole handful of brake, popped the bike onto its front wheel, popped my eyes out of their sockets and somehow managed to lean back and ever-so-slowly get the back wheel on the ground again. And that was on a mountain bike. If my center of gravity had been a millimeter further forward, it would not have been pretty.) We talked a little more about handing, though it’s a whole different equation on a bike like that. I found that his rear brake was about to detach from the frame, talked a bit about the “bounce test” to find things like that.
It was a helluva fast looking bike, though.
Later, during dinner, we got back on the bike topic, and people asked about the rides I do. It made me realize that brevets and cyclocross are equally hard to explain in any rational manner to most normal folks. But, I spoke about the challenges of riding a 200K, and sense of pleasure you get at times when you are just rolling along, things are working well and strangely, you feel really good.
He commented that he’d found himself smiling on his ride today, which is something he almost never does.
For me, though I didn’t say it outright, I cannot recall a ride on which I didn’t spend most of the time smiling.
Took last week off and headed north. Got up to Ashland, OR for some high quality theater and general amusement, meeting family members from further up in the PNW who had headed south. After skipping a couple of years for dog-related issues, it was nice to enjoy some time with relatives, and the pace and setting of this little burg.
The location comes with some excellent areas to ride. Although most of the rides start with a steady climb, the trails are robust, the roads enjoyable and there is even a lengthening pathway/greenway by the river, if you just want to enjoy some car-free time.
I ended up with a number of matinee tickets this year (and you don‘t try to show up late at the door of an Ashland theatre…), and what with social get-togethers in the evening, it was not a week of epic rides. Snuck out once (starting a bit later than planned), climbed until I got cold and figured that making a loop that I’d envisioned would have to wait for another trip.
But, it’s one of those vacations where you get to walk everywhere, and my wife and I got some nice hikes up through the gardens and parks. The week ended with glorious weather (after sitting through one of the colder evenings ever spent in the outdoor theater earlier.)
There were a few bike-sightings of note - a fellow walking a classic orange Bridgestone XO-1, a quiet-looking Davidson which someone had converted into a townie with Albatross-style bars - but one thing which kept cropping up was the uniformity of mountain bikes. The watershed to the west of town has an excellent network of trails which seem to be less of a secret than in years past. Over a few years, I’ve watched these evolve from penciled-in notes on a sketchy trail map to become formal, maintained trails with a fairly high level of technical challenge in places.
When the weather turned nice late in the week, a steady stream of mountain bikers rolled down into town via the roadway next to Lithia Park. Or maybe, the same mountain biker rolled down quite a few times. The similarity of hardware was quite striking.
Now, it may be that I just don’t notice things back in my home town. I rarely go on a “mountain bike” ride in which I select a multi-geared, smaller-wheeled, knobby-tired, suspension-assisted bicycle. It’s more likely that I’ll go on a ride, rolling out on my fat-tired bike (700C/622 x 33 1/3), which happens to be the bike I usually ride (Quickbeam or Hilsen) and then veer onto trails or paths or fire roads as my whim guides me. If someone asks if I have a “road bike”, it’s not a simple question to answer.
So, it’s quite possible that everyone on the trails back in the SF Bay Area is riding exactly the same bicycle which came buzzing into town up in Ashland, but I don’t really think so.
Full-suspension, long travel forks with the front wheel kicked waaay out in front. Short stems and the rider back and upright. To my eye, they looked choppered, with the dimensions striking me as oddly as I can remember. The gap between the front wheel and the downtube of the frame was particularly roomy. Large hub-mounted discs abounded, as did a plethora linkages and swingarms and all the connections which make up the modern mountain bike. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many Ibises in such a short period of
time, and the Ellsworths and similar brands were well represented as well. Hardtails were not in evidence.
But, it was the consistency of padding and protective gear which really made the image. Rarely did a rider go by without knee and shin guards, and most had arm protection of some sort or another.
And I do understand that bicycle set ups are hugely driven by their environment. The trails up above Ashland are pretty amazingly steep in places, where you descend with the constant threat of full-on, over-the-bars, endo. If that happens, it isn’t just going to be a nose-wheelie flip and flop: you are going to be rag-dolling your way downhill for a long time.
But, I have been up in those hills, and while not professing to have the greatest chops on the trail, the terrain had always suggested climbing with the dessert of descent. Here, the drop back into town seemed to be the only thing on the menu. In fact, parked and waiting back in town were a variety of high capacity carrying racks and trailers, occasionally tended to by a bikey-looking-but-not-on-a-bike guy. The scent of shuttle services was hanging in the air.
Now, I did see folks climbing up from town as well. Not the hordes which came down the mountain, but that could simply have been a quirk of timing. And, unless something has changed dramatically, you still have to climb up from the gates which bar further passage on the fire (access) roads.
Still, it was interesting to muse that my geared mountain bike with its 80 mm of front fork travel - the bicycle I seem to ride the least these days - would be as technologically off the back among this clan as could be imagined. It’s tempting to scrub it up and tune it, so as to make it ready for a return to those trails in the future.
Even with a fairly meh amount of miles this month, I feel pretty good about it. Had some good, steady rides despite the fact that the spring weather has been stuck in it’s end-of-winter gear (yeah, yeah… it’s a “California” Winter…). Commuted regularly. Lost two weekends of decent riding conditions to engineering at some voiceover workshops, then a full week when my wife and I got suddenly pounded by a nasty little cold. (She got the worst of it - I just had a few days of bongo and cellophane ears, with the accompanying lack-of-wanting-to-do-anything energy malaise.)
It was also kind of a crappy month, as we started it by saying goodbye to our dog Hula, who moved on back on the 3rd. I have a rough outline of her story, but haven’t managed to make it readable yet. More tough news from a couple of friends are dealing with some reasonably heavy stuff, and that always is tough to watch happen. They are good, strong people. But, that doesn’t make it easier for them while it unfolds. Makes you pause. Well, it makes me pause. Look around. Try to lose the unnecessary stuff. Hone what you can, and let those whom you hold dear know why they are important.
Y’know, y’never know…
This was supposed to be about riding, right?
Riding. Life. All intermingled and important. Riding the momentum of actions which we set in motion. A curiously simple and complex mechanism.
Managed 15 days riding this month, with a couple “Rides of Accomplishment” (i.e. those which left me happily drowsy on the couch afterwards. So, May ended up with 354 miles ridden, and I snuck into 8 yoga sessions. No one thanked me for riding with fenders for the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, which thereby guaranteed a gloriously sunny and wonderfully weathered day. Things finished off with a good momentum.
Here’s to momentum.