Tuesday, December 30, 2008

More Humbling

August 2007. I had recently purchased my first bicycle as an adult. I predicated on the decision for weeks, debating between the utility of a road bike vs racing triathlons on a time trial bike. In the end, racing won out as I purchased a Cervelo p2sl.

So I had a new bike. I was the shizznit and was in sensory overload. Crisp shifting from the 10 speed Dura-Ace group, the supple hum of 220 TPI Vittoria rubber on the tarmac and a sleek jet-black paint job edit: anodized finish shredded any sense of buyer's remorse.

Meanwhile, Old Yeller was in shambles. Its STI shifter controlling the rear derailleur had lost its ability to index, effectively reducing it to a triple ring three speed. Yeller's fate was still undecided as it hung on a hook in the garage. Not that it mattered. I really wasn't interested in riding it much since purchasing the p2sl.

So without a road bike, the p2sl was it. I rode it everywhere - on group rides, commuting to work, whatever. I never hoozier-stooped to wearing cutoff jeans while on it, but I did have my share of embarrassing moments in those early days. Still do. Here are a couple that I'm aware of:

1) Lights
If you happen to be a first time owner of a time trial bike, don't make the mistake of visiting your local bike shop and asking what type of light you can affix to an aero seat tube. Geez - what a freaking newb! Perhaps I should have asked for a clip-on generator for the back wheel to complete the set. Anyway, I did this. They made no effort to conceal their laughter from behind the counter.

Is Shim still here? Good riddance. Let's go on to #2

2) Track Stand
When the bike is so new that the tires haven't even worn off their nubs, you think you're invincible. This is especially true on a time trial bike. You're not.

Again -- having only one bike -- I brought the p2sl to work for a group ride drop-fest over the lunch hour. Fortunately, Fred suggested the airport loop, which is perfect for time trials. Thanks Fred. I was licking my chops and ready to feast.

A total hammerfest ensued for the next thirty minutes. To Fred's credit, he not only hung on but even pulled some. Those were the days when he was riding lots, had a high golf handicap and probably didn't mind converting bytes and string vectors very much.

Anyhow, after basking in an elevated state of self-aggrandizement for the better part of an hour, fate had its way of pulling me back down to earth. While waiting for the light to change at the corner of 24th and Cuming, I had the p2sl balanced in a neat track stand with a Munson head-wag or two to underscore the moment. When the light changed, I applied pressure to the crank and slipped the chain right off the big ring. Did I clip out to recover gracefully? On my day of glory? Preposterous! I was intent on riding this thing out. So in a desperate act of futility, I spun the crank up to about 180 RPM as gravity slowly keeled me and my brand-spanking-new TT bike right over. (If this was a scene in a movie, you'd see the Titanic's orchestra playing music while riding unicycles all around me.) What a jerk. As I lay beneath the p2sl, the group I had toasted only minutes before pulled away. I believe I heard Fred call back, "No...this way, Brady".

Ahhh yes. Delicious, sweet humble pie.

Monday, December 29, 2008


During yesterday's warm spell, I got out for a two hour solo ride on Old Yeller. The warm and sunny weather had me giddy. As a result, I spun it out too quickly and was burning through the carbs at a fast rate. Turning back south at Ft Calhoun brought me into a modest headwind through Boyer's Chute. The fuel tank was getting near empty. By the time I crested the Ponca Hills bluffs, I was running on fumes. At that point, the ride time was 75 minutes. From my running days, I would begin to go into glycogen debt right around this time. I was on schedule.

In the biking world, bonking means a total exhaustion caused by lack of sufficient food during a long race or ride. Everyone has different thresholds. I suppose that I have a fast metabolism that is not very efficient on longer rides.

The only way to correct the condition is to restore the blood sugar (glycogen) levels. Eat. I craved a pop tart. Gatorade would have been nice. Visions of a Dagwood Bumstead style sandwich were swimming in my head. But I had only water. As a result, it was up to my liver to reach into the body's fat stores and begin converting the fats into sugar.

It's a humbling experience and I struggled for the remaining thirty minutes of my ride home. Like, small ring & 23 tooth for a whopping 9 MPH on Cuming Street. And when low on glycogen, the brain's in a fog. In fact, the only time it comes into focus is when something courageously bubbles up into the consciousness, like, "YOU SUCK!!"

There aren't too many things more humbling on bicycle than experiencing exhaustion. I imaging crashing in a time trial would come close; maybe being dropped in the middle of nowhere on a group ride.

What do you think - is there anything more humbling than bonking on a bicycle?

Monday, December 22, 2008

Breaking the Ice

Enough is enough - time to break the ice on this thing.

Although it was -8°F this morning, I read Redd-Shift's blog and became inspired to commute into work by bicycle.

As a new cycling commuter, Scott has fully embraced the commuting by bike lifestyle. Over the past year, he not only purchased his first bicycle as an adult, but has steadily added equipment and clothing as the nights have gotten longer and colder. I got to hand it to him, if he can do it, just about anyone can.

Over the past few years, I've slowly chipped away at my cycling discomfort zone. And so with Redd-shift's inspiration and repeating the mantra, "You can do it!" (think Schwarzenegger), I peddled the Nishiki Project into the snot-freezing cold this morning.

Having never ridden a road bike in the snow, I was surprised how much traction the 27 1/4 slicks mounted to the rail car wheelset got on packed powder streets. I imagine that it also helped having the panniers over the back wheel for extra weight. Perhaps I'll bungee a $3 sandbag back there too next time. Here's what I've learned so far:

How to Survive a Commute by Bike at -8°F
1) Wear layered clothing* & Ski goggles when snowing or < 10°F
2) Avoid riding in snow or slush during rush hour
3) Pick the safest route possible if roads have snow/slush/ice
4) When possible, avoid brown stuff (slush). Use low gear for power
5) Be vigilant about bumps and potholes
6) Allow for extra braking distance; go slow on downhills.
7) Maintain straight lines as much as possible; ease through turns
8) Be extra cautious while sharing the road in snow or slush

*For the record: beneath helmet, I wore a skull cap and PI balaclava, ski goggles, craft thermal top, long sleeve tech shirt, woolie, full shell wind breaker, glove liners and PI Lobsters, Craft thermal leggings, amfib bibs, a pair of smart wool socks, mountain shoes and amfib booties. The toes were the only uncomfortable point.

Thankfully, I managed to make it to work without an incident. Keep on riding - You caan do eeeeet!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


Last week while running home from work I dropped one of my shoes along the way. I discovered the loss about three miles into my five mile commute. As it was late in the evening, I decided to continue home. Fortunately, I found the shoe later on Creighton's campus:

I've lost stuff before: a pair of glasses during a Ponca Hills repeat (found unharmed in the middle of the street upon the next loop); a pair of really nice gloves during a commute by bus (#3: Did you Drop Anything?).

But I've become better about not losing things. I've learned the hard way that if there's a chance something wiggling loose, it probably will. So I've become more careful about closing zippers and such. I also do a backpack check at the first stop light and then at least one more quick check along the 25 minute commute.

Still, I occasionally drop an item. In the case of the shoe, my errors were twofold: 1) I didn't cinch the external mesh drawstring tight enough to hold my shoes securely. I should've known better. 2) I failed hearing the shoe hit the ground because the iPod volume was too loud. Note to self: turn the music down for safety as well as keeping track of possessions.

Of course, there are times when you find something else, some booty, on the street that a clod like me has dropped. By booty I strictly mean as a "thing" (as opposed to person) of value. Anyhow, I once came upon some booty in north Omaha. It was during the Run With A Heart 10K race. The irony was that this was one of the rare times that I was actually winning a race. As I followed the police motorcycle, my eyes were suddenly drawn to a wad of cash along the curb. It was tempting. Like the 70's game show, Let's Make a Deal, it was as if I was being offered cold cash in exchange for the unknown behind the curtain.

A shrewd man would have stepped off the course and collected the cash prize. Me? I passed on the buyout, won the race and collected the gold-painted medal. There's always at least one ass in Let's Make a Deal.

Have you ever lost something of value while out on the road? What have you found?