Wednesday, January 28, 2009

2000 Miles of Hell

It's Wednesday morning and I am unfathomably pissed. Quite frankly, I was expecting a day off courtesy those dunderheads down at The Weather Channel. The hysteria of the coming holocaust was such that an automated Frank Devano, Superintendent of Schools, called last night to sound the klaxons and cancel school. Now, I never usually make the mistake of watching meteorologists, which I believe comes from the Latin for "The sky is falling." My past is littered with enough bike outings cancelled on sunny days or staged in freezing rain to have developed a Doppler free attitude. The best philosophy is to simply take what comes. If you are going to ride on March 24th, ride on March 24th. Stop trying to second guess Mother Nature. And, whatever you do, don't trust some pun peddling fat man or short skirt bimbo to guide your activities. Sorry, was that a bit harsh? (If you didn't read sarcasm in that last sentence, go back and try again.) But, God help me, on this day, I wavered.

The weather chick and her partners in misdirection had ratcheted up their rhetoric to a high tenor. The sentences tumbled forth upon one and other in a rush to get out before the zero hour. The men in the field could hardly put together a coherent line under the fist of doom. "Look!" one blathered, "Here is an authentic Weather Channel binder coated with crusty, frozen death. Have you ever seen anything like it, Kristie." Like a shot, the stalwart anchor-chick was running together paragraph after paragraph about a Catastrophic 2000 MILE weather front. Her voice quivered, but did not falter. Comparisons and metaphors were heaped like unused body bags after Katrina to illustrate the magnitude of the system. Not since previous pages of this blog have I witnessed such hyperbole and high drama. I simply couldn't resist. Against my better judgement, I let them set the hook.

"Looks like I'll be stayin home with you tomorrow kids."

"Yes! Will you play with us Daddy?"

"Heck ya! We'll batten down the hatches and play Wii until the power gives out or our retinas burn!"

"Hooray for Daddy!"

So, I wake up this morning to 40 plus degrees and light rains. I could literally chew nails. All I could hope for was a disabling sheet of crusty death on the roads like I saw on TV. Of course, The asphalt was clearer than it has been in weeks. I could have ridden the Cervelo Soloist with 19 inch wheels and a full disk to work. Oh well. All I can do is drain a bottle of Pepto and go about my day, lesson re-learned. Although, I might move my desk away from the window. I think they were predicting an armada of icy comets to rain down from space later in the day. Make sure you wear your booties.
Oh yeah, The Tuesday Grimpeur did make a solo effort yesterday into the mountains. The weather was much worse. Good times, good times. Had I listened to the weather weenies, I might have missed it.
Earnestina loves that stuff.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Beating the Thaw

Here are some pics from Thusday's solo ride. It was the first in 9 days. I wanted to get out in the snow before it melted in the heat wave Friday. More to come when I can get to it. The cross bike didn't like this too much. The tires kept cutting in and shifting about. It's rough under there.
Here is where we sleep on the weekends. Done building for the winter.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009


Thanks for the pic KB. Is that Andy at Gavia?
I guess Aerobinator took umbrage to his being characterized as a bit soft in the last post. At his suggestion the Grimpeurs rode out of the relatively comfortable climes of Cheat Lake and up to Cooper’s Rocks to look for some snow to play in.

The Fat Cat had just come from a physical in which he was deemed to be A OK healthy by his fresh faced examiner at the university. The comically young doctor said that the Fat Cat was the most fit patient he had. (Of course he really wanted to put him on statin drugs, anyway.) That his systolic blood pressure was lower than before and that he didn’t have that sinus bradycardia of last were good signs. However, the young man is used to a patient base from one of the fattest states in the union with one of the highest levels of tobacco use and a suspect educational status—not really used to “athletic” folks. The Fat Cat saw a heart that wasn’t as strong as last time. 67 bpm and 112 systolic means less stroke volume than a nice 59 bpm and 138. Big Daddy is trying to work on The Cat’s negativity.

Quarry Run Road is every bit as tough as any other of the local hills. It’s close to home and avoided by many. The Grimpeurs don’t use it too often just because it is not amenable to loops of less than 4 hours. It’s an out and back kinda thing. Oh yeah, it does turn to gravel for a bit too.

Nobody let The Cat get ahead this time. If they had to adjust a bike or clothing issue, they jumped out front to do it. The normal order was restored for the day. Aerobinator was up front, The Cat was in back, and Birdman oscillated between trying to keep up with the engine and waiting for the caboose.

This same order held once the Grimpeurs left the now snowy road and hit the trails of Coop’s. That was some fun stuff and a tough workout on a cross bike. Roots and rocks hidden under a blanket of fresh snow, easy fodder for fat tires proved just the right challenge for skinny tires and drop bars. The Cat spent most of the time alone in the soft serenity of nature’s cathedral while the other Grimpeurs mixed it up ahead and then waited.

Unless you like white noise at 3 am on your old Sylvania, the scenic overlook of the river gorge wasn’t very scenic at all. Still it had an arctic vibe that made the Grimpeurs feel like hardy souls.

On the way back down the mountain, Aerobinator flexed his muscles. At the end of the roadside trail there was no sign of him other than tracks in the snow. Either he was tired of waiting for shrinking hearts, still trying to prove his status, or just downright sick of being cold. Come to think of it, earlier he did ask why we never thought of turning back when the conditions got bad.

During the descent of the higher altitudes, The Fat Cat found that he did not like high speed drops through packed snow and slush. However, a bike that occasionally slides a foot or so to one side or the other didn’t seem to bother Birdman in the least.

A realization: Bike pumps really aren’t that great at pumping things up. They are really talismans that ward off evil, tire flattening spirits. For months The Fat Cat has been flat free while looking silly ferrying a pump around in a musette bag from The World Championships courtesy of Talks-With-Legs. Knowing his fellow Grimpeurs would have pumps, he left his home. Let the voodoo begin. Following just behind birdman at around 40 mph the gremlins struck— sudden catastrophic failure of the front tire. All the Cat could do was keep it under control and watch Birdman and his talisman quickly fall out of sight. He’d be a couple of miles ahead and a thousand feet below before he even noticed he’d lost his tail. Bye-bye pump.

As luck would have it though, there was one old Co2 cartridge at the bottom of The Cat’s seldom opened seat bag. He had one shot to get it right. Not as easy as it sounds on the windward side of a mountain on a winter’s day. Damn, it was cold. It didn’t take long for the Cat to realize that he was soaking wet from the trail effort. Might as well’ve been naked. He would have taken the burning quads of a 20% grade any day to frozen hands clawing at hard rubber and aluminum hoops.

By the time The Cat got to the BFS station he was as rigid as his bike frame. Aerobinator had already ridden the 3 hilly miles to his car and come back to gather Birdman, whose brakes had given up the ghost. What a hero. Yes, yes, you are the fastest. All pay homage. Blah, blah.

It might not sound like it but, damn, that was a good time. Summer just won’t be the same.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Ice Castles

This is how I recollect my ride.

Pedaling as gingerly as one can up a 20% wall of ice and rock atop 32 inch tires, I wonder, how did I get here? Well, in the short term, it was Birdman’s doing. Despite the Fat Cat having left him waiting out in the cold, miles from home Tuesday, Big Daddy remained magnanimous.

“HO!” There goes the rear wheel again, taking an extra turn or so. Maybe The Bird wasn’t all open arms? A little payback perhaps? He did invite Aerobinator along to turn the screws…

Ever since we started Big Daddy’s mad assault on castle Mayfield, I had been living off the thought that once the smooth pavement gave way to gravel and rocks, I could stop looking for minute points of purchase atop the slick surface and just ride. But, I am where I am. Should I risk the smooth part and make it a bit easier or should I go for the increased resistance but slightly better traction of the soft rime ice. Hmm…slow and steady or fast and loose. There’s gotta be some meta—ARF, ARF! SHIT! SLIP!

That damn big dog. I was so focused on staying upright that the white whale could have been squirming out across the frozen fields, mouth agape, towards me and I wouldn’t have noticed. Foot down now, I just give the canine a disgusted look and he goes back to his yard. Dogs are a lot scarier on flat roads in the summer. On a 3 mile, sub-zero climb, you really just don’t care about all those teeth and hackles, signifying nothing.

Back on the bike, I can just see the rougher surface snaking down around the next corner. It’ll be bumpier but if I don’t have to worry about my rear end— slipping that is—I might be able to storm the walls and put some time into these guys.

Oh, you didn’t notice I was out front, all alone. Turns out, Aerobinator does have a weakness. He is not so tough when the temperature drops. Yes, yes, he is still faster than me but not blindingly so. I think his lack of body fat lets his will seep out along with his body heat. To top it off, he has to keep stopping to adjust his clothing. He already looked like some mutant deep sea diver, gripping his handle bars with giant lobster claws. I don’t know what else he’s gonna do; maybe the birdman is back there rubbing him down. Maybe he’s stuffing his face full of oreo cookies. Too late now. Training like that takes months. Gotta keep up your caloric input and forget about your cardiac output if you’re gonna make a go of it on this circuit.

Crimeny! This part is worse than below. The thaw, rain and freeze of the past few days conspired in the perfect storm. What we have here is basically a frozen river. Class III rapids in still life. So much for the carefree grinding I was hoping for. Pedal twice, slip once—pedal twice, slip once, looks like that’s my new mantra.

Usually when we go up here we try and stay out of the gullies, carved free of silt and all sharp with sandstone. Today, I aim straight for them. The little streams of running water offer tortuous little lines of passage. The bike bucks about its loose and watery path. You couldn’t devise a better method to train handling skills. Keep moving and you won’t freeze up.

Well hell, sometimes you just gotta change your plans. I’m not about to try and ride up 50 yards of near vertical slick rock. It’s tough enough when it’s dry. Covered in a glossy clear coat of winter wonderment, better to break out the ice picks: or the ice shoes. Luckily, I still had the teeth screwed into my Lakes from cross season. Score one for procrastination. Actually, what a nice little change of pace, this little piggy back ride for Earnestina. I almost break into a run, almost. Adversity turns to amusement. I’m smiling.

Near the top, I slow up on the one flat section to look around and to let the boys catch me. Wouldn’t want to damage their fragile egos, after all. They pass right by and attack the last wall. They slip on the mountain’s last defense and then scurry on over the turrets and out of sight: funny.

Something to remember: Beware 30 minutes or so of aiming for puddles and streams in sub zero temperatures, all up hill. It doesn’t do much for your brakes. While birdman and I pump our pads and pull our levers back past the bars like the reigns of a wild mustang, Aerobinator rolls down the hill and out of sight. Descending isn’t his strong suit and I suspect he hasn’t thought to chip the ice from his rims. All down the road my bike makes strange clicks and jerks, fighting to free itself from the frozen mud. All the way down I expect to see Aerobinator’s tracks leading straight through a curve and into the woods. No such luck. There he is at the bottom of his bobsled run.

Coming up over a hill on Rohr road, we get a couple of cars behind us. Birdman, ever the gentleman, asks if we should pull over and let them pass. “Let ‘em go.” I say. Next thing you know Big Daddy is rolling head over heels in a snow filled ditch. “I said let ‘em go, not give ‘em a show!” I yell. A little salt in the wounds always helps.

Aerobinator looks bad so we stop at the convenience store to thaw him out. Again we impress upon him the need to go on a diet and gain weight. He puts his gloves in the microwave on the popcorn setting. Forty-five seconds do nothing for the wet bargain bin gloves. “Don’t you know anything?” I say, “Always put gloves on the potato setting.” Four minutes and forty-five seconds later I grimace and say, “Don’t you know anything? Never put gloves on the potato setting.”

Twenty more minutes or so of laying fresh tracks in the snow down the bike trail and we are done. Aerobinator says he won’t be warm for a week. I asked him if he had a good time. He says, “Best time I had all week.”