Martins Mill Metric

Ever since I’ve been riding, I ride fewer miles in the winter. Rather than trying to remain in the very peak of fitness year round, it just makes sense to be cyclical, peaking at some point, getting extra rest and recovery at another. With its shorter days and colder temperatures, winter is a natural time for the extra rest and recovery.

Our body’s immune system seems to be more compromised in the winter, too, and during the four year stretch where I was riding 7,000+ miles a year, I seemed to have more than my share of maladies in the winter, not the least of which was shingles in January of 2010, and pneumonia in December, 2012. After that bout with pneumonia, I made a decision and followup effort to cut my winter miles down even more, do mostly shorter rides, especially on the colder days, and not ride at all when the temperature isn’t over 40 degrees.

But my miles lately haven’t even been as much as I had in mind for winter. I reached 2014′s mileage goal, but two weeks ago, I only rode 30 miles. Last week, I again just rode 30 miles. And until yesterday, I hadn’t ridden at all this week. That’s just 60 miles on the bike in almost three weeks, a lot less than I had in mind for my winter riding. Between the weather and work, I just haven’t been able to ride. But I got home from work yesterday early enough that I did 30 miles in the afternoon. And late this morning, I took off on the F5 and did my Martin Mills Metric route. So I did get 90 miles on the bike this week.

It’s now been a year and a half since I moved to Gun Barrel City. I like it here. It’s more quiet, and the air quality is better than DFW, a nice benefit for a lung cancer survivor. And Cedar Creek, Palestine, and several other great fishing lakes are nearby. But it isn’t the most bicycle friendly place around. The only way I can find enough time to ride the kind of miles I want is to do most of my rides from home. If I have to load the bike, drive somewhere, unload the bike, ride, load the bike, drive home …….. well, you get the picture. But unless I want to just do laps in my own neighborhood, there are only two roads out of town.

One is Main Street. But it’s heavy traffic, with turns into stores and shopping centers all along the way in town. And leaving town, either east or west, it becomes a two lane high speed highway without even a shoulder. The only other road that leads out of town is County Road 4006. It goes east and north to Mabank. But, Kaufman County and Mabank have been engaged in a disagreement about rebuilding and maintaining the road, and the half mile of it nearest me has fallen into an unbelievable state of disrepair. There are large potholes everywhere, and many of them are, no exaggeration, 12 inches or more deep. It’s become very hard to dodge all these holes on a bike, and hitting any one of them on my bike would instantly ruin a wheel.

So this fall, I started cutting through a gated community, that lets me bypass all but a few feet of the bad part of CR 4006. There are some really nice luxury houses here, and even a polo field. But there haven’t been many homes built yet. I wouldn’t usually resort to this kind of trespassing, but I figured I wouldn’t be hurting anything, just riding through. It goes to show how desperate I had become to keep riding from home. I would just lift my bike over the gate at the rear service entrance, step through the gate, then leave through the front entrance.

I hadn’t been doing this bypass much more than a week when I was stopped by a man in a very nice truck. I have since come to think that he runs the community. On this day, he stopped his truck, rolled down his window, and motioned for me to stop. I complied, thinking my route through this place was going to be very short lived. The man asked me how I got my bike into the community. I told him I lifted it over the gate and stepped through, that I was trying to avoid CR 4006. He thought about it for a moment, then said, “If anyone challenges you, just tell them I said it was OK.” So I’ve been riding through ever since.

I’ve been trying to finish my rides early this winter. There are double gates at the front of this gated community. The outside front gate stays open during the day, but sometime between 4:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon, it closes. It’s a taller gate than the others, so tougher to lift a bike over. And that’s the reason I’ve been mainly riding the F5 this winter, rather than my designated winter bike, the faired Xstream. The Xstream is longer, heavier, and bulkier, so is a tough lift over these gates, especially for someone whose shoulders are as bad as mine.

On today’s ride, I had just pulled up to the service gate, and was about to lift my bike over it, when I saw a white SUV approaching from the other side. I recognized the driver as a man who I think is a maintenance supervisor in the community, so I stopped and waited for him to open the gate, then waved and rode through. Just after I passed his vehicle, he honked and started backing up. I stopped and sat up. He stopped beside me, and said, “Hey.” I replied, “Hey.” He reached his arm out of the window, and handed me a remote control. I smiled and thanked him, and without saying another word, he drove on.

These people don’t know me at all, other than as a guy who rides a funny looking bike through their private area, yet here I am, now in possession of a remote that opens all the gates. Sometimes, people do random kind acts that surprise you. I think I was smiling for most of today’s ride, thinking about that.

County Road 4006, in all its splendor.

50 Mile State Highway 19 Loop

I took off on the F5 just before noon today and did my State Highway 19 loop. I ended up with 50 miles on this windy Christmas Day. That’s 190 miles in the last seven days, and puts me just 27 miles short of my 5,500 mile 2014 goal. I may make it after all.

After last weekend’s Saturday and Sunday 40 mile rides, I did a 30 mile ride after work Monday, then took a day off on Tuesday when the roads were wet. I did another 30 miles on a really chilly day yesterday, riding the Xstream with its fairing. Today was much warmer, but the wind howled out of the south, gusting to 35 mph. It made today’s ride tough, but I want to go fishing tomorrow, and it’s looking like chilly weather for the rest of the year after tomorrow, so I’m glad I got the miles today.

The 50 mile State Highway 19 route.

80 miles on the bike this past week.

I only ended up with 80 miles on the bike last week. I worked in Odessa most of the week, then came home to rain Friday afternoon, so I didn’t get to ride at all until the weekend. It was chilly both Saturday and Sunday, and I really don’t like doing longer rides when it’s cold, so I settled for a 40 mile ride each day.

I only got 90 miles last week, too. I got in just one 30 mile ride during the week, then a 60 mile ride out to Martins Mill on Saturday. But, as this last Saturday’s cancerversary reminded me, I’m lucky to be riding at all. I am now a seven year lung cancer survivor, and I’ll end up with around 5,500 miles on the bike this year, so no complaints.

It warmed up nicely today, and I got home from work early enough that I did a 30 mile ride out to Purtis Creek this afternoon. And here I was, on December 22nd, wearing shorts for the ride. You have to love that about Texas. But, a cold front arrived just before I finished the ride, and it doesn’t look like I’ll be wearing shorts again on a ride any time soon.

From the Funny Signs Department: So, does this mean the gravel parking lot right behind the sign is off limits?

State Highway 19 Loop

I took off on the F5 this morning and did my 50 mile loop. When I do this distance, I ride the same route as if I’m riding to Martins Mill, but cut off the route when I reach State Highway 19, turn right there, and then right again at FM 1861, and come home the same way as I do when riding to Martins Mill. This shortens the Martins Mill route to 50 miles.

I did this same route Thanksgiving morning. That’s the only other ride I did this week, so I ended up with 100 miles. Between weather and work, I had only ridden 90 miles each of the two preceding weeks. I did get in 120 miles the first week of the month. So, I ended up with 411 miles for the month. That leaves me needing just over 400 miles in December to make my 5,500 mile goal for the year. That may be iffy if the weather turns ugly in December. We’ll see.

I rode the F5 today, and on the other warm days we’ve had lately, but I rode the Xstream on Thanksgiving morning, and the other chilly days this month. Its fairing is nice when it’s cold outside.

The 50 mile State Highway 19 route.

Drivers Wall of Shame

I’m thinking I need to start a Wall of Shame of drivers who drive dangerously around me when I’m on my bike. I was about 11 miles into today’s 30 mile ride out to Purtis Creek when this POS passed me too close on FM 3080, just west of Fortenberry Pipe and Supply. I haven’t had any dealings with the Van Zandt County Sheriff’s office, so I don’t know if they’re bike friendly enough for me to bother with reporting this or not. At any rate, it’s now documented here.

2014 Breathe Deep DFW Walk

For the seventh year in a row, I did the Breathe Deep DFW walk today, put on by LUNGevity, to raise money for lung cancer research. It gets a better turnout these days than it did in the early days, and it was great seeing fellow survivors again.

After I got home from the walk, I took off on the F5 and rode to Purtis Creek State Park, and a bit beyond. I only had 70 miles for the week, and wanted to end up with more than that. Today’s 40 miles gave me 110 miles for the week.

I ended up with 14 rides in October for just over 500 miles. That will work.

At the start of the Breathe Deep DFW walk.

Finishing the walk.

Visiting with friend and fellow survivor, Jerrold Dash.

Martins Mill 70 Miler.

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode out to Martins Mill, and just a bit past. I wanted to ride 70 miles. I’d only managed one 30 mile ride this week, and didn’t want to end up with less than 100 miles for the week. I’d ridden 120 miles each of the first two weeks of October, all short rides. I need a good mileage week next week, if I intend to end up with as many miles for October as I wanted.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been hearing a little click as I pedal on the F5. It would be once per revolution of the pedal, and would come and go. It got a lot worse on today’s ride, with a series of clicks now and then, and a louder clunk thrown in here and there.

I stopped at mile 33 and found the problem. My right pedal had what felt like a bit of looseness in the bearings. I took off, hoping I could finish the ride. At mile 56, in Purtis Creek State Park, when I made a stop, the right pedal came off. The pedal spindle was still on the bike, but the pedal itself was still locked into the cleat of my shoe. I figured my ride was over, but when I slipped the pedal over the spindle, it turned easily enough, so I decided to try and finish the last 14 miles of the ride.

I made it home ok, and finished with 70.1 miles. I had just posted last week about how Bebop pedals last forever. I guess that was bad karma.

What is wrong with this picture?

Notice the pedal stuck in the cleat on my shoe.

Today’s route.

RailGun Seat, Part 3

Much like the Republicans after the last presidential election, I did an autopsy after the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred this year, to try and figure out what went wrong. (Let’s hope I learned more than they obviously have.) Leg cramps had me off the bike several times in the last 18 miles. I’ve ridden HHH the last eight years. I always give it a high effort, and considering that and the heat, it’s not surprising that my legs want to cramp at times. Most of the time, though, I’ve been able to just ease up my effort, and finish the ride without an off-the-bike caliber of cramp. On two of those rides, however, cramps have stopped me.

The first obvious observation is that on all six HHH rides where I finished without stopping for cramps, I was riding a Euromesh seat on a Corsa. When I cratered with cramps, I was riding a CCK seat on a Roadster, then a RailGun seat on an F5. What do these seats have in common? If it had only been the RailGun, I would have probably blamed it on the extreme recline. But, with the CCK on the Roadster, there was enough rear wheel interference that I couldn’t recline the seat as much as I wanted, not even as much as the Euromesh was reclined on the Corsa.

Besides being made out of carbon fiber, the other thing these seats have in common is that they don’t have much of a seat pan. That is, they don’t curve up at the front of the seat to give you something for your behind to rest against as you slide forward. The more I thought about it, the more I decided that this is the most likely cause of my lack of comfort, and leg cramps on long, hard efforts, on these seats. Not all seats work for all people, and I’m thinking that Euro style seats which have no seat pan just don’t work as well for me. My first effort to help with this was to put a small piece of wally world camper pad at the front of the CCK seat, under the regular seat pad. I just put velcro on the top and bottom of it, to keep it in place. Here is that pad.

That lessened the feeling that I was about to slide off the front of the seat, but was never enough to get me really comfortable with the CCK seat. I had kept this pad, and used it again on the RailGun seat, but it obviously wasn’t nearly enough to make the seat comfortable for me. On a short ride, it wouldn’t be a problem. And I don’t normally ride more than 10 to 15 miles without stopping, but I had noticed aches and pains if I went longer without a stop on the RailGun.

My first thought was to just go back to the Euromesh seat. But, I like that wide seatback on the RailGun, and the support it gives my cratered shoulders, so much that I decided to try creating a seat pan for it, first. I took the camper pad that I was already using, and glued several more camper pad pieces to it, to make a wedge.

Next, I put masking tape around the wedge and painted it black.

Finally, I wrapped it with the same material I had used to make the seat pad cover, and put velcro on the top.

Here is the RailGun seat with it installed, and the Euromesh seat laying on top, for a rough comparison.

After installing this setup, I raised the seat two notches. It’s still seems a bit more reclined than the Euromesh was, but it’s close to what was comfortable for me all those years on the Euromesh. It’s no doubt a bit less aerodynamic, but improves my view of the road. I rode the F5 for three weeks with this new setup, and it did seem like an improvement. It still didn’t seem like enough, though. Behind the pad, and in front of the lumbar curve on the RailGun, is a valley that my behind and tailbone sat in. I felt like I needed to add one more longer piece of camper pad underneath the wedge, to fill this valley. Here is what I made.

It goes from the front of the wedge, almost to the start of the lumbar curve of the RailGun. Here is the wedge on top of it.

And here is the seat with its new configuration.

It does seem much more comfortable for me. I haven’t done any really long rides on it, though. It will probably be next year’s HHH before I know if it’s as comfortable for me as the Euromesh was. We’ll see.

Martins Mill Metric Century

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode to Martins Mill. I ended up with 62.3 miles. I had 60 miles during the week, so 122 miles total for the week. I had ridden 130 miles in each of the last two weeks before this one, 4 short rides each week. The first week of September, I had 3 rides for 100 miles.

I’ll likely ride 30 miles on Monday morning. That will give me 515 miles for the month, and 4,180 miles for the year. I’ll need to ride 1,320 miles in the remaining three months to reach my 5,500 mile goal for the year. I should be able to do that if the weather doesn’t get too bad near the end of the year.

I’ve been taking a different route to Purtis Creek, and on east lately. It’s a more northerly route that gives me less shoulder riding time on US 175. I really don’t like that shoulder, and last Tuesday’s ride was another reminder of why. I was checking my rear view mirror and looking ahead for my turn. That proved to be exactly the wrong time to look away from the road, as I hit a broken piece of brick that pinch flatted the front tire, and before I could stop, I hit a small piece of 1/4″ steel plate that punched a large hole in the side of the rear tire.

I carry two tubes, and some old rim tape for booting a tire, so I was able to fix both tires, but even with the two pieces of rim tape over the hole in the rear tire, it bulged so much I only pumped it up to 60 pounds. It got me home though, a tire ruined after less than 500 miles. There’s just too much debris on the US 175 shoulder. It seems that everyone who hauls a flat be trailer, just tosses all kinds of junk on it, then watches it all fall out on the road. And of course it all ends up on the shoulder with me.

I bought a Continental GatorHardshell tire to replace the ruined one. It does indeed have the toughest sidewall I’ve ever seen on a bicycle tire. We’ll see how well it holds up.

Today’s route.

Tuesday’s ruined tire. My finger will almost fit through that hole.

10 years, 61,506 miles

On September 10th, 2004, 10 years ago today, UPS delivered a box to my front door which contained a China Mascot Tsunami recumbent bicycle. After some assembly (and several wobbly starts), I was pedaling a bicycle for the first time in my adult life. In the 10 years since then, I have ridden 61,506 miles. Here is my mileage by year:

2004 – 930 miles
2005 – 5,013.7 miles
2006 – 5,044.6 miles
2007 – 6,161 miles
2008 – 6,708 miles
2009 – 7,440.9 miles
2010 – 7,555.4 miles
2011 – 7,519 miles
2012 – 7,224.6 miles
2013 – 5,034.4 miles
2014 – 3,804.6 miles

After I started riding, it didn’t take long at all for me to realize that I still loved riding a bicycle just as much as I did when I was nine years old, and I decided I wasn’t going to just get fit, I was going to get very fit. Over the years, my riding style has kept changing. Such is life. I started out very slow and easy. I was 53 years old when I started riding, just one year younger than my father was when he died of a heart attack, already 5 years older than my grandfather was when he died of a heart attack, just a year past quitting a longtime cigar smoking habit, and still 35 pounds or so overweight (down 5 pounds from a year earlier), so I didn’t need a doctor to tell me that I should start slowly. Those first rides were an easy 3 1/2 miles on a bike trail, and I slowly built up from there.

I did lots of rides in 2005, my first full calendar year of riding, but they were all short and easy rides. I was doing more club rides in 2006, but still nothing much over 60 miles. It was 2007 when I did my first 100 mile and first 200k rides. That was also the first year I did the 100 mile route at the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred. Last month, I did that 100 mile route for the 8th year in a row.

I had met Mark Metcalfe in the fall of 2006. He’s a serious long distance cyclist, and got me to try randonneuring and even an ultra distance race in 2007. I was also doing longer club rides and charity rides by then. It was quickly obvious that I would never be fast enough to be much of a racer, but I did enjoy the randonneuring and other longer distance rides. In the fall of 2009, I started commuting to work by bike, and did that until early 2012. Of all the riding I’ve done, the commuting to work by bike has been my favorite. It wasn’t on my favorite bike, and riding a heavier bike with a heavier load than usual won’t do much for your speed, but there’s just something about doing something that useful on a bicycle that really makes it fun.

In 2012, I was off work for an extended time with a cratered left shoulder (40+ years of heavy machine shop work takes a toll), and when I went back to work, I took a new job that has me driving a company vehicle all over the state, so that was the end of my bike commuting to work. Last year, I moved to Gun Barrel City. The air is better here, but it’s 60 miles from the DFW metroplex, and there are no organized rides anywhere near, so my riding since then has been mostly just shorter solo rides close to home. The Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred has been my only organized ride of the year, this year. With fewer hours to ride, my mileage has also decreased. It seems unlikely that I’ll ever get back to the 7,000+ miles a year I was doing for four years, but I’d still like to keep riding 5,000 miles a year or more.

It’s pretty amazing what so many riding miles does to your body. My legs don’t look like those of a 63 year old man, and doctors smile when they look at my blood work. Riding can’t protect you from everything, though. There aren’t many words you can hear from a doctor that are worse than those I heard in November of 2007: “You have lung cancer.” I’d likely had it for years before I started riding, and though riding didn’t cure it for me, I think it certainly helped me recover strong from surgery removing the upper half of my left lung in December of 2007. And I give it a lot of credit for helping me remain cancer free for the almost 7 years since then.

Your body can’t regenerate lost lung tissue. Once it’s gone, it’s gone. But, you can definitely train the lung tissue you have left after surgery. On the only pulmonary function test I’ve had since surgery, I tested in the upper end of the normal range, and my primary care doctor was plainly very surprised. And I seem to be less out of breath after bounding up stairs, or doing a couple of consecutive line dances, than most of those around me, so I give great credit to what riding has done for me. Besides, even after 10 years and all those miles, I still love riding as much as I did when I was nine years old. Some things don’t change. Here’s hoping I can still say that after another 10 years, and that I’m still riding lots of miles.