Thursday, April 30, 2009


Wednesday's forecast called for thunderstorms all day. With that, I planned to take advantage of the pending downtime for some overdue maintenance on Old Yeller.

It had been over a month since 'Yeller's last cleaning. And with likely rain/thunder in the forecast, there wasn't a rush job on the order. So the night before, I had removed the chain (Wipperman Connex link) and dropped it into an old Gatorade bottle filled with Simple Green. After removing the wheels, I washed and shined Old Yeller's frame and crank. Then I went to town on the wheels, scrubbing outside-in to remove all that lovely filth. Then I brought back the factory luster to the cassette. Finally before going to bed, I re-assembled everything on the bike except for the chain. It was going to soak overnight.

Just in case the weatherman was wrong, I got up a early Wednesday to finish cleaning and installing the chain. After its scrubbing, I checked for chain-stretch and found it interesting that it showed little signs of wear. That was odd since I've had it for over a year. But it wasn't until I went to attach the Wipperman Connex piece -- and found the SRAM powerlink instead -- that I realized what had happened. In a pre-coffee stupor, I had inadvertently grabbed the other Gatorade bottle containing my commuter's 8 speed SRAM chain. Crap! Yep. There, still sitting on the shelf was the 9 speed Shimano chain still needing to be scrubbed. And now I was now out of time and had to leave for it for later. Double crap!

Later that morning, I called the LBS to inquire how an 8 speed might fare on a 9 speed cassette. It wasn't advised. Although I could probably ride it once without doing too much damage to chain or cassette, the shifting wouldn't be crisp and there may be jumping issues. I took note and decided that since the ride was likely to be canceled, I'd replace the chain later that evening.

But at 4:00 PM, I looked out the window and saw that the streets were drying. The radar also looked promising. I sent an IM to fellow rider and carpooler, Shim, to see what he thought. He said to make the call.

By "the call" I assumed that he meant to call the weatherman. So I did. I called KETV and asked to speak with weatherman Bill Randby, who was preparing a fresh forecast for the 5:00 PM news. They patched me right through.

Bill: This is Bill Randby
Brady: Hi Bill. Say, I was wondering if you'd give me a personal weather forecast for Omaha and Ft Calhoun between the hours of 6-8 PM this evening.
Bill: Well, that's hard to say. There's a chance that we could have a couple bands of rain coming through yet this evening. I wish I could tell you something more concrete, but that's about the best I can say.

Now I appreciate the fact that Bill Randby took my call <== He really did. But gosh, I mean, was that it? A chance for a few rain bands? Anyway, I thanked Bill for his time and decided that it was time to get busy.

That next moment, I realized that I wasn't mentally or physically prepared for the ride. Mentally, because I had spent the past 24 hrs writing off the ride. Physically, because I hadn't taken care of nutrition: just thirty minutes prior, I polished off a bag of Jimmy John's extra salty potato chips. Delicious. And prior to that, downing my third cup of coffee with practically no water for the day. My kidneys felt like a couple sacks of Morton's.

On top of that, I had to get my driver, Shim, to swing by the house to pick up the bike, assemble a bag with riding kit, shoes, helmet, food, water bottles and saddle pack from my TT bike (just in case I needed to offer Lucas assistance). Oh, and the chain! Couldn't forget the chain.

But there I was at 5:20 PM heading from the house to Shim's car with bike and bag of gear. Then I remember the chain. Crap! Quickly, I fish it out of the Gatorade bottle, wipe it down and stuff in a plastic sack for a last minute installation at the store.

By 5:35, we arrived, got changed, filled water bottles while stuffing nutrition bars in mouth. I then reinstalled the chain, purchased a bottle of Dumond Tech oil and lubed the chain. Meanwhile, Lucas was tapping his foot and saying, "Any time you're ready, Murphy."

Finally! While rolling down the Keystone a few minutes later, I relate to Paul Webb that it was everything I could do to be able to make the ride that evening. The only thing I didn't accomplish was topping off the pressure on the tires.

Paul said, "You really aught to plan ahead."

Well Paul, my long range forecast says that there's a chance that I'll be ready next week at 5:45. I wish I could tell you something more concrete, but that's about the best I can say.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

He Ain't Heavy

Lucas flatted early on yesterday's Trek store ride. It was his fourth flat on the same tire in about as many rides. Something ain't right with your tire there, buddy.

When a cyclist flats on a group ride, there's no standard group protocol.

It's been my observation that if the group is less than eight, then everyone stops for a breather. Most mask their gratitude with smart-ass suggestions on how to fix the flat better/faster. Jerks.

But in a larger group, the chances are greater that most (if not all) will continue onward. I don't know why this is, but I have some theories. For one, there's a higher probability that you will not know everyone that you're riding with. As a result, subsets form within the group based on familiarity. If that flatter is not among your subset, then she/he's not your problem. Move along. Yet again, cyclists can be elitist jerks.

Another theory is based on group-think mentality. In a peleton, it's easy to transfer individual identity for that of the larger mass. If the pack is going light and easy, you are too; when you sense the pace picking up, you follow. If someone drops, the herd is being pruned. That sort of stuff. You become a collective hive, a sort of commune. Cyclists can be communist jerks.

So when Lucas called out his flat and slowly descended backwards through the pack, I took note but kept pedaling. I looked over my shoulder and saw him drift onto the side of the road without much more than a passing thought about stopping. In fact, at that very moment, the collective (commie-bastards) was just kicking up the tempo for the first hill climb at N. 108th St.

Just as I was thinking that a hammer and sickle tattoo would like nice on my ankle, Shim drifted back to ask what happened to Lucas. After relaying the details, Shim said not to worry as Lucas would be more than able to catch up later.

Shim was right. Lucas is as strong and quick as a thoroughbred horse. I had no doubt that he could bridge. Yet while I climbed the hill, I kept thinking how sucky it is to have to time-trial on what was supposed to be group ride. So after cresting, I disengaged and let the pack go ahead. I was going to wait.

Fr. Flannagan would have been moved to tears from such fraternity.

Ten minutes pass. Finally, a rider appears on the horizon. As he approaches, I drop into the small chain ring and start spinning to get my heart rate up. But after a quick glance over the shoulder, I realize that it's not Lucas. I let him go.

A few more minutes pass. Along comes another rider. Small chain ring, spinning. Again not Lucas.

Two more riders appear. Repeat above.

Another rider dots the horizon. Not Lucas, but this one mistakes me for CAT 1-2 rider Kent McNeil. Kent must ride a yellow bike, I think to myself.

Just as I was suspecting that Lucas had yet another (5th) flat, here comes the Calvary. Yes, it's Lucas alright, and he's mashing like a madman while motioning to me to get going. Crap!!

Now when two riders need to make up lost time, they typically share leading/drafting to conserve energy. That didn't occur last night. What happened was that I became fatigued and drafted him. For 90 minutes. To be fair, there were a few very short mercy-pulls where Lucas slipped behind my wheel, but by and large, it was a VO2-Max burn just to hang on. In fact, my heart rate monitor registered a BPM max of 188, topping my previous cycling high watermark of 186.

We never did meet up with the group. They turned left at Ft Calhoun while we incorrectly guessed to the right. The truth is that I hoped that we wouldn't catch a glimpse of them a mile or so down the road. Yes, it would have been easier once regrouped, but closing the gap while chasing Lucas' wheel would have been utter hell.

Finally, even more ironic than a failed bridging assistance was the mistaken belief that I could offer mechanical help if needed. Mistaken because my saddle pack was strapped to the TT bike back home. Fortunately, it wasn't needed.

Ha! Glad to be of assistance, Lucas.

Next time, kindly remember: I ain't heavy, I'm your brother.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

On Being a Multi-Modaler

Time Saver
I started running for fitness about five years ago. Sometime later, I entered a 10K foot race. I had an interest to train more, but lacked time due to a busy work week. Looking for efficiencies, it occurred to me that I could reclaim some of my commute to work as active training. So one day after work, I laced up the shoes and simply ran the five miles home. Somewhere during that run home I remember experiencing a liberating moment: I can do this! The next day, I canceled my downtown monthly parking and gym membership and plotted a bus schedule to/from work. I have been commuting to work by bus and my own power ever since.

Options Galore
In 2008, the city of Omaha's Metro Area Transit Bus system added bike racks to its buses. Now it's easier than ever to be a multi-modal commuter with the option to bus, cycle, run or walk in any number of combinations to/from work. For example, if getting out the door is hectic in the morning, I can load my bicycle onto the bus and commute by bike home in the evening. If the weather turns sour in the afternoon, I can always rely on the bus. And because I'm no longer dependent on my vehicle, I can choose to commute by bus both ways -- or neither -- to get there and back. In doing so, I save time and money, reduce my carbon footprint and gain a tremendous amount of fitness. Win-Win-Win-Win.

I've listed a number of advantages already, but here they are in summary:
* Personal Fitness & well-being. No need for As Seen on TV Gimmicks
* Finances: reduced auto maintenance, no parking or gym fees
* Time Efficiency: two tasks in one
* Empowerment: satisfaction in becoming more independent
* Reduced Carbon Footprint

How Now?
Just try it! - Pick the nicest day of the work week to go for it
1) Plan the route to work: carpool or bus
2) Plan the safest route home by mapping it/driving it ahead of time
3) Pack fitness bag night before
4) Change into fitness gear in work locker room or bathroom stall.
5) Take bus for portion of route home; you do the rest.

Tips: if you live a considerable distance from home, or are new to running or commuting by bike, then take the bus for a greater portion of the commute home. Beginners could walk and jog the final mile or two home. Gradually increase your distance. Who knows, one day you may commute 20 miles by bike to and from work. I've seen it happen.

Just try multi-modaling one time. I'm willing to bet that you'll like it. I did. And I know plenty of others who enjoy multi-modal commuting too. Consider. Now do!

Happy Earth Day 2009!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Ben Hur II

Last night's Omaha Trek Store club ride had many of the characteristics for the remaking of a classic, including a predictable script, familiar protagonists/antagonists, some iconic imagery and mildly entertaining dramatic scenes filled with gratuitous violence. And like any great epic's sequel, the entire story took more than two hours to unfold.

The Script
A classic always has an excellent script from which it's sequel lifts nearly everything. Having participated in two different local clubs' rides, I've learned that there is a certain storyline that is followed. Every time. It's usually a four-part plot: 1) a group warm up, 2) an up-tempo period followed by 3) a sprint to an imaginary finish line, 4) regroup and repeat.

Most of the drama comes during the sprints. In a club ride, the sprint's finish line could be anything, but it's typically a permanent roadside marker, such as a town's welcome sign, a highway mile marker post, or the _______ that's at the top of a hill. What that _______ is one may never know because, as your heart is exploding inside your ribcage, the pack stands up and drops you for the final charge to that _______. One fine day, I hope to discover what that _______ is on 78th St near Ft. Calhoun. But as for now, that _______ remains a mystery. Actually, not knowing what that _______ is is one of the reasons that I return each week.

Protagonists & Antagonists
There were about 15 riders last night. Among those numbers there's bound to be supporters and adversaries. The latter are the ones who attack often, ride out of line and fire snot rockets on you without mercy. I'd like to think that I'm a protagonist, but who knows? Maybe I irritate people because it's difficult to draft behind me, or because I'm too chatty/not chatty enough, or simply that I ride a yellow bike that Lucas called an old clunker last night. Trust me, there are always good and bad riders. If for nothing else, it makes it interesting.

Iconic Scenery
It's exciting enough to be in a group that's riding in an aggressive pace line, but last night's ride also featured two horses galloping in a field alongside us on Hwy 75. What a spectacle! I wish I had a picture to share, but that wasn't possible in the midst of a total hammerfest. The scene was truly iconic and reminiscent of the Ben Hur chariot race. I kept a wary eye for an adversary's cross wheeling during that time.

Gratuitous Violence
Speaking of that, there was a crash earlier in the ride. Right after the first sprint, we regrouped along E Bennington Rd and had just settled into a moderate pace into 20 mph crosswinds with 30 mph gusts. In my peripherals behind me, I saw it all go down. It wasn't pretty. Apparently, a blast of wind pushed a rider into the line of another. There was a metallic clanging sound followed by a loud !Yelp! Then suddenly, as if his bike was violently yanked out beneath him - Whammo! -- the rider hit the deck really hard. Cycling crashes are never fun. As Munson pointed out recently, it's like stripping to your underwear -- skivvies as Mom calls them -- and jumping out of your car. Fortunately, no one was injured last night. Shim didn't need a queue for his line, "no broken bones, we continue to ride."

Like any good epic, there's always a sequel. Unfortunately, the sequel typically sucks as everyone already knows the story and has a predictable outcome. It is no different here at WSCG.

Sorry folks, no refunds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

The Love of Booty

Last night, I completed my Federal and State tax forms and didn't fret too much over what's been doled out. It's in everyone's interest to support the infrastructure and services of this great country. And yet even though I reason, there's always at least a little tug about letting some of that hard earned cash go.

It's interesting to me that the first time I ever earned a paycheck was on our nation's Bicentennial. Back in '76, I was six years old and was making money. It's true, and this is not a story about child labor laws. No, I was old enough to enter our local swimming pool's penny dive contest, held every year as part of games on the Fourth of July.

As if it was yesterday, I can still feel the piercing sun on my tanned shoulders while scanning the hundreds of sparkling pennies scattered on the pool's floor a few feet below the water's shimmering surface. Lust and greed filled my eyes as I plotted my success. The voice of our swim team coach, Jim Wheeler, boomed clearly over the Peavy amplifier that doubled as his rock band's amp during post swim-meet parties, where he covered Clapton, the Stones, Beatles and whatever's best. He raised the starting gun to the sky as I pulled the goggles through my straw hair and over my eyes. "Swimmers take your mark..." -- butterflies filled my stomach -- "Get set" -- a quick gulp of air -- "BANG!"

I plunged in and meticulously began scooping up coins. The weak would dive for a single penny at a time; the strong by the fistfuls before dumping their treasure on the deck above. In the end, I believe that I pulled in 86 cents. Not bad for a little feller!

Last week, I was reminded about the penny dive while running home from work. Scattered across four different locations over my five mile run home, I found a total of $1.05 on the street: a dime by UPC, a quarter at 30th and Burt, followed by another dime and quarter at 35th and Burt and finally another dime and quarter at 45th and Military. What's funny about this was that I almost never find any booty on the street; in the rare case when I score, it's only been once per run. But four times, now that was something! In fact, I was beginning to suspect somebody like EB was flippantly tossing coins from his bike for his own entertainment just ahead of me. I half expected to find a quarter super-glued to the ground. (I'd still be there).

Ah, the constant struggle over giving it away versus the love of money. Since 1976 when I hauled in my first paycheck to last's week's run, I realize that I haven't outgrown that simple pleasure.

Oh well, add it to the list.

Now excuse me while I scuff my knees with sandpaper and kneel in rubbing alcohol.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

There is Nothing to See Here

Let's be frank: there was never very much to see here. But on the nudging of Munson, Redd, BikerBob and others (sorry Mom), I shall post something, anything, to get the monkey off my back.

Last night I joined the Trek Store ride. Present were Shim, Munson, Redemske, Lucas, EB, Webb, Pete, Matt and a few others.

We left the Trek LBS at 6 PM, and due to the lack of sunlight, modified the route by chopping off the run through Boyer's Chute and Ponca Hills. I regretted that. The wide open Boyer's Chute followed by the hills of Ponca are my favorite places to ride in this area. Sigh. Instead, we meandered back to N. Omaha along HWY 75, carefully picking a path through a shoulder smorgasbord of road kill: a wild turkey/buzzard/vulture looking thingy, raccoons, squirrels and squished bunnies. Tell the kids that the Easter Egg hunt is off. Poor little fellers.

Speaking of vultures, thanks to Lucas, Pete and Paul, there were plenty circling above during the sprint to Ft. Calhoun. As for me, I made the move to dig waaaaay down into the hurt locker approximately three miles before the actual finish line. Dang it! By the time came around to really turn it on, my eyeballs were filled with lactic acid. Um, (*snap*snap*) Check, please! Oh no, put your wallets away. I've got it -- it's my treat.

Yes, one fine day I will learn those rolling hills along N.78th ST well enough to know that there are two or three more climbs before the final sprint to 'Hoonerville kicks in. Until then, look for the domestique on the yellow bike to give you a really nice lead out.

The group ride was terrific fun. People were in good spirits and such. We had all kinds of friendlies yell at us, and a UHaul truck layed on the horn for a quarter mile after passing us. Gotta love those fans

There you go, Munson. I've posted something so people don't have to know about you peeing on the side of the trail anymore.

That's all I've got to say about that.