Tuesday, May 29, 2012

*#(*!@&(& headwinds

Sixty miles on Saturday in a big loop. Question is, how did we get 5 miles of tailwinds, 10 miles of choppy crosswinds, and 45 miles of grit-in-your-teeth headwinds?

Now like every cyclist I know I make my own headwinds, but when I'm griding up a hill at 6mph I'm pretty sure very little of that 20mph headwind is of my own creation. That's OK, eating at the Champagne Bakery in Irvine made up for it. I had creme brulee followed by baguette and butter. Notice I had desert first ;-)

Perhaps the headwind was just punishment for my sin of gluttony. But it was so good.

I have a 200k brevet I'm riding/hosting on Saturday. Hope the weather is good.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Bike Share in LA

Los Angeles is getting a bike share program. According to the LA Times, it will be possible to rent a bike for $6 a day (the first 30 minutes is free). You can also get monthly and annual passes at a very reduced rate. We're a little slow here in LA considering we're supposed to be trend setters. New York, Washington DC, even Chicago and Denver all have bike sharing programs in place. And of course the Europeans have had them for ages.

Well better late than never, right? Actually yes - LA seems to have looked at other bike share programs and taken the best of many of them. Particularly impressing is the pricing which is well below the average. For example - New York wants $10 a day compared to $6 for LA.

Now many of you are probably thinking 'what kind of suicidal idiot wants to ride a bicycle in LA?' I used to think the very same thing myself. Now try this...

Browse to the Google.com website and click 'maps'. Search for 'Los Angeles', click [Get Directions] and then click on the little bicycle icon. All the bike paths, lanes, and routes in Los Angeles will show up in green. That's quite a lot of green, especially in nearby Orange County.

And how does this affect sports/recreational riders? The more people that can be persuaded to jump on a bike to get from their Metrolink station to work and back, the more drivers who will understand what it's like for us to share the road with cars. Maybe, just maybe, this will save lives.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Rando loving spiders

Yesterday was ride your bike to work day. I took my bike to work, but I didn't ride it. It was in the back of my truck. That probably doesn't count.

After work I jumped on my bike and rode a 200k permanent from San Bernardino to Huntington Beach and back (route #840). The ride went very well considering I'd only had five hours sleep the night before. I stayed alert and strong for the whole ride and the drive home after. But something interesting captured my imagination.

After about 20 miles I noticed a strand of spider silk across my aerobars. At the turn around point I noticed quite a few more strands. Around mile 100 I noticed I now had a full spider's web across my aerobars. We (the spider and I) had passed through several dense clouds of gnats as we rode alongside the Santa Ana river and that web must have caught more gnats than even the greediest of spiders could possibly have eaten. My mouth caught quite a few and I wasn't even trying.

There's no doubt the spider caught far more gnats by building its web on my aerobars than it could have otherwise. This must have given it an evolutionary advantage. Can we expect to see the emergence of a new species of spider 'Aerobar web builder spider' that prefers to build its webs on bicycle handlebars and aerobars? Perhaps there will be a sub-species that specializes on Randonneurs' bicycles. Perhaps they'll become hardwired to recognize Rivendell frames.

So next time you see a spider web on someone's bicycle, don't assume it's because they don't ride. Spiders can actually build a web while a bike is being ridden.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Brooks Saddles

Like most long distance cyclists I use Brooks saddles which, after the first 200 excruciating miles, are incredibly comfortable. Each month or so I receive an email from Brooks called the Brooks Despatch which is a professionaly produced newsletter. It's always a pleasure to receive and read this email, unlike the self-serving spam I receive from most other companies. Like Brooks' equipment, the email is restrained, dignified, and has an air of quality about it rarely found these days.

Brooks also publishes an annual magazine online, the fourth edition of which is now available. They are also sponsoring an attempt to beat the record for cycling around the world and are involved in many other interesting cycling events. This is a good company.

For an example of the kind of material the Brooks Despatch provides access to, checkout this writeup of L'Eroica ride in Tuscany.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Kudos to Riverside Parks and Recreation and Mike Hall

Thirty-seven miles on the SART after work. What a fantastic way to wind down after a bad day!

Let's start by giving a vote of thanks to Riverside County Parks and Recreation. They've been doing a lot of work on the Santa Ana River Trail lately to extend roads and install some pipeline. Every time they've had to dig up a section of the bike trail, they've laid a detour section down first so there was no disruption to the riders. In addition, even though they had to close a section completely while they were working on it, they took the trouble to open it back up on the weekends. It's much easier for cyclists to forgive disruption when it's handled this well. It looks like Parks and Recreation is done now because the bike trail was open all the way through yesterday evening (a weekday) for the first time in over a year.

Compare this with San Bernardino County who closed the trail for six months just because a section of the pavement had some cracks. Don't they know they are immune from lawsuits from trail users?

Congratulations also to Mike Hall who is more than halfway through his attempt to break the world record for cycling around the world. This morning he hit the 20,000km mark somewhere in the middle of Texas. She's a big state, ain't she?

Be safe, Mike, and tailwinds the rest of the way :-)

Monday, May 7, 2012

Getting back on the bike

I finally managed to complete a bike ride without crashing - first time in five weeks! I rode a super-flat 60 miles on the San Gabriel, Rio Hondo, and Los Angeles River bike trails. There was a slight headwind on the way inland and a brutal full-on headwind on the way back to the coast. We got screwed.

It's scary how much form you can lose in just three weeks. I remember 20 years ago I was forced to take a month off the bike and then rode the Death Valley Double in record time. Those were the days. Now I'm off for a few weeks and I get wiped out on an easy 60 miler. It sucks to get old but it beats the alternative.

I need to ride a 200k next weekend to keep up my R12 but I wonder if I have it in me.

Later dudes.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Hosting a long brevet

Last weekend I hosted a 400k/600k brevet called the Orange Triple Loop. That's 250 miles/375 miles for those of us not raised in Europe. I've never hosted a ride that long before and it introduced some unexpected challanges. Most ride organizers run rides over roads they are very familiar with -- makes sense. The problem is that their riders are probably less familiar with those roads so a routesheet that seems clear to the organizer may be confusing for the riders. This is especially true when the route contains a lot of bike paths, as mine do. For some reason Parks and Recreation rarely put signposts on bike trails. I remember cycling around Lake Zugersee in Switzerland and being impressed with all the signposts on the bike trails. I wish we did the same thing in SoCal.

In addition, a routesheet entry that is crystal clear after 100km of riding may be incomprehensible to a rider who has ridden 500km and is quite possibly bonking.

As a result, quite a few of my riders got lost at various points and at least two failed to complete the ride as a result -- although that mistake was made on regular, well-marked roads. So I need to really concentrate on simplifying the route and clarifying the routesheet whereever there is the slightest room for confusion. I also learned that I need to put the exit directions for each control on a seperate line after the control instructions instead of comingled with the control description.

In the end I had twenty-three 600k riders and seven 400k riders start the event. Out of that total I had eleven DNFs. The weather was close to perfect (hot, but little wind). Most riders had more tail-wind than head-wind. Quite a few of the riders rode personal best distances. No-one crashed to my knowledge. I only had to rescue one rider who melted down about 40 miles from the ride HQ.

I had some very useful feedback from several of the riders, especially those who got lost. Riders were very positive about the overall structure of the ride including the triple loop format and the extensive use of bike trails in Orange and LA counties.

I already have tentative route changes for the 2013 version of this ride. It will be very similar but with fewer turns, no info controls, and at least one less receipt control. I will be working extensively on the routesheet as soon as I've had a chance to pre-ride the modified routes.

I need to thank my wife who helped enormously throughout the event, and my daughter who helped me design the route and helped on Saturday. Hosting a ride like this is very hard work, I don't think I got more than an hour of sleep at a time on Saturday night.