Wednesday, June 26, 2013

The Five Stages of Flat Tire

When coming to grips with the reality of the loss of air pressure, a rider goes through distinct stages.

1. DENIAL: Maybe my tire always pooched out like that. Do things really feel bouncy and squishy or am I just imagining it? I'll hit a little bump and see if tire feels firm.

2.  ANGER: %$#%$#!!! I don't have time for this! What did I do to deserve it?! It's not fair!

3.  BARGAINING: Maybe I can make it the rest of the way to work if I sit forward, avoid major bumps and think pure thoughts.

4.  DEPRESSION: No, it's definitely coming down to the rim. Crap! So much for this ride...Oh maaaann! And I ate a big breakfast, too.

5.  ACCEPTANCE:  I guess I'll pull off here and change the tube...

Today's flat tire, sponsored by the Bottle Breaking Idiots of America, cost me the whole commute. I was too close to home and too low on time to justify continuing on 50 psi with a questionable spare tube and a hole in the tire casing. With proper medical attention I might keep using the tire, but it will require some critical examination and a sturdy patch. So now I'm hoping the afternoon weather lives up to the wet, windy forecast so I don't feel bad for having to drive.

In an additional steaming blob of irony, today's parts shipment included my new Lezyne mini-pump, which I know would get the tire up to at least 85 psi with relative ease. I'm not one to lightly relinquish the old Silca, but the Lezyne I tested impressed me enough that I ordered the high pressure version for road use and the high volume version for the MTB commuter. They also make a mini folding floor pump that sounds like just the thing for loaded touring if you're obsessive about tire pressure.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Owner Modifications

This rider has added a tail light and a clip-on fender.
The fender protects the light from rainfall. Right?
It also protects it from prying eyes.

Without the fender in place, the tail light would barely be above the curve of the rear tire anyway.

People's seatpost fixation makes many tail light placements nearly useless. If you just want to create a personal delusion of safety and use up a lot of batteries, go ahead. If you want to be seen, get those lights up and out.

In the case of this rider, the spray off his rear tire will severely test the water resistance of that light. Also, the flying flap style of fender does nothing to keep the water and grit flowing around the rear tire from spraying forward beneath the fender onto the backs of the rider's feet and all over the mechanism of the bike. All it prevents is the trademark butt-stripe. Meanwhile, with no front fender, the water off the front tire is happily hosing down the rider's face and feet from that end.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Audience appeal

Instead of covering sweaty predators in Lycra, bloodstreams awash in secret substances, sports media should cover bike commuters: somebody regular people might identify with.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Race Day Rules

When the alarm went off at ten minutes to five in the morning I dragged myself upright and trudged to the kitchen to start the coffee brewing. Then, instead of flopping back into bed for a half-dozen swats at the snooze bar I stayed up.

Race day rules: Get up. Keep moving. Get out the door. This isn't just another day at work. Sorry, work. I just don't get a sense of event from you anymore.

The cellist and I were registered for the Seacoast Ride for PKD. It isn't a race, but it's an organized ride with a starting time. Her brother had traveled from Michigan to join us. He split the visit with a friend in Boston who also joined our little team. They would be meeting us at the starting point in Portsmouth, NH.

The weather was beautiful, which it had not been for most of the week. And on the way out the little woodsy road to Route 16 we saw a sleek and furry black bear. On the way down Route 16 we saw several deer. The morning overcast lifted and vanished, leaving bright sun lighting the lush green of fresh leaves, well-watered by the recent rains.

We arrived at the check-in minutes after their posted opening time. Our other riders arrived soon after. David had brought his own seat, so I installed that on the rental bike I had brought for him. I adjusted the two rental bikes as much as one can. David looks a lot like a bear. If we do this again I will build him a bike on a big frame I scavenged years ago. I have enough random parts lying around to build something good enough for a day.

The PKD ride is not long or large. Even though polycystic kidney disease is the most common inherited disease in the world, it lacks the pizzazz and charisma of your cancers, your MS, muscular dystrophy or diabetes. The common form tends to kill its victims somewhat later in life, which might make it seem like no big deal unless you happen to be one or know one. Then the idea that someone who is overall healthy, active and viable is being systematically destroyed by the inexorable failure of one set of organs while everything else might be fine becomes unacceptable.

Most PKD benefit events so far have been walking or running. The organizers of this ride started four years ago with only 13 riders. They do a great job. I don't know how they feel about the ride getting bigger, but the amount of organization they put together for perhaps three dozen riders could easily support more. We had police traffic control at the two points it mattered most, a traffic circle and a major intersection. The organizers had a couple of support vehicles and posted cell phone numbers for them so riders could call for services if needed.

The route is only 33 miles. Your hard-core event riders might snort at that, but it's actually a good feature. Everyone completed the route. It's long enough to feel like you did something, but short enough for recreational cyclists to consider giving it a shot. No one has to feel like less of a person for doing "the shorter distance," as offered at big events. The handful of racer types took off in a first wave and did it as a sprint. The next wave consisted of sporty types out for a mild speed run. Then the modest folk rolled out.

View Seacoast Ride for PKD 2013 in a larger map

The course, along New Hampshire's seacoast, is basically flat. A lot of it is totally flat. There's one metal-grating bridge, where they ask you to dismount and walk on the sidewalk. That sidewalk is only on one side of the road, so you have to cross the road to it on the return leg. That's the fault of the DOT, not the ride organizers. A minor problem.

The route is well known to cyclists in the region and immensely popular. As the morning advanced we must have seen hundreds of riders enjoying the day. The cellist even met one woman out for a sporty cruise who asked what we were riding for, who said, "PKD? I have that. Half of my siblings have it, too." Now she knows about the ride.

Promotion does not seem to be the organizers' strongest area. But I talked up the idea of getting brochures out to more bike shops in a wider area.
The pack, chasing
Wentworth by the Sea Resort
Walking across the buzz bridge
The roads are nice and drivers are very accustomed to dealing with cyclists. No one did anything remotely ugly. If they thought anything ugly they had the decency to keep it to themselves.
Salt marsh
On Route 1A. That tower on the skyline looks like old coastal fortifications from the World War II era.
Bikes' day out
Riders at the turnaround
Our companions
The ocean.
The beach. No baby seals.
After a leisurely snack break at the turnaround point, we headed back north with the wind mostly behind us. The cellist wanted to push it a little, so we started overtaking riders. Then I got that telltale springy-squishy feeling from the rear tire. Puncture. We pulled off at an ocean-view pullout for a scenic repair.
When you don't get many flat tires on the road you may find that your spare tube has worn through or rotted out. Fortunately, we had more than one spare between us. With the frame pump I got it reasonably firm. but a quick call to the support car brought a shiny new floor pump to get it to the full 95+ psi. Good as new!
Meanwhile, the view wasn't too hard to take.

The cellist took off like the team leader chasing the peloton. Seriously, I was the domestique on this ride, and I'd had the flat. The pace was hers to set. She even chewed up and spit out a racy-looking couple that wedged in between us in the final four miles. They weren't with the PKD ride. They were unsuspecting bystanders. Grrr. You go, girl.
They were a bit spendy, but we bought the ride jersies. It's for a good cause. The cellist is pretending to be shorter than I am.

Sunday, June 02, 2013

March into Summer

A week ago the Memorial Day holiday weekend was blighted with temperatures in the 40s and rain.
By Wednesday the temperature jumped straight to the 80s. It reached the 90s on Friday. A cold front is on its way to bring things back into a reasonable range for the time of year.

I don't mind the heat except when I'm trying to sleep. And 90 degrees with high humidity puts extra strain on a bicyclist. It's easy to choose clothing, though. Shorts and a jersey. They will be sopping wet by the time you arrive. Yesterday I actually washed my jersey in the sink at work and hung it to dry for the ride home.

Today's cold front may bring strong to severe thunderstorms. The forecast shows it rolling in just after I arrive home from work. I hope that's true. My route offers no place to take shelter from lightning. But if the 60 mile-per-hour wind gusts are a tailwind I might set a new record on the ride home.

It's all sunny and summery out there now. Time to get ready and go.