2017 Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred

Yesterday, I rode in the 2017 Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred at Wichita Falls. For the 11th consecutive year, I completed the 100 mile route. I rode 100.75 miles, to be precise. My official timing chip finish time was 5:21. That was 11th in the 65 to 69 age division, a good time for me. There were a total of 3,358 people who finished the 100 mile route, 81 in my age and gender division.

My “on the bike” time was 5:17. I made two quick stops during the ride. The first was a two minute stop at mile 10 for a train (there’s great traffic control at HHH, but I don’t guess they can do anything about trains). The second stop was another 2 minute stop at mile 90 for my bladder, and to fill a water bottle. It was the nicest weather I’ve ever seen at HHH, cloudy and in the 70′s, with light winds, for the entire ride. I did not get the usual amount of dehydration from the ride, but I pushed the pace enough that my legs were toast at the end, just the same.

Around 10,000 signed up for the ride, but many did not show up. It was easily the smallest number of riders I’ve seen at HHH. It was obviously because of Hurricane Harvey. This, in spite of the fact that the last couple of days of forecasts before the ride were predicting no rain there for Saturday, and sure enough, it didn’t rain. I stayed at the First Christian Church gym again, but didn’t see anyone else I knew there, or even another recumbent bike or trike. I did enjoy a nice dinner Friday evening in Iowa Park, and got to visit with friends there (thanks, Brad!). But, it was still surprising to see so many people back out because of weather, only to then have the best riding weather I’ve ever seen at HHH.

I didn’t take any photos myself this year, so these are borrowed:

Getting ready for the start.

A local radio station announces the start.

There are lots of great signs along the route.

Hell’s Gate at mile 60.

Lots of interesting stuff at Hell’s Gate this year.

Friend Doug in his velomobile.

The route.

My timing chip results.

The medal for finishing.

Athens to Canton 80 Miles

I took off on the F-5 and rode to SH19, turned south to Athens, then rode north all the way to Canton. It’s a new route. Between the county roads getting rougher and rougher, and all the construction and new boulderseal on farm to market roads around here, riding the shoulder of larger highways like State Highway 19 suits me these days. I ended up with 80 miles for the day.

It was a hot one today, and I ended up with quite a bit of heat rash on my legs and back. That’s right; on some really hot days, I manage to get heat rash on my back in the perfect shape of the seat. The older I get, the worse the heat rash seems to get. Ah, the joys of aging.

I’ve been neglecting my blog again. I ended up with 520 miles total for June, not as much as I’d like, but I had 570 miles in July, a nice month. I did 30 mile rides on Monday and Friday of this week, so ended up with 140 miles for the week. I’m finally ahead of the pace I need to be on to make my goal of 5,500 miles for the year. August should be a good mileage month, as I ramp up my Saturday mileage, getting ready for the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred on August 26th. I’ll try to do 80 mile Saturday rides on both Saturdays between now and then.

Today’s route.

State Highway 19 Loop

I took off on the F-5 this morning at 6:30 am. It’s getting to the time of year when I like to start my Saturday rides early. I rode a modified version of my State Highway 19 loop. FM1256 is still torn up with construction, so I rode out FM2709 instead. And I did some extra miles on SH19 to end up with 60 miles for the day. I had ridden 30 miles on Tuesday and 40 miles on Wednesday, so I ended up with 130 miles for the week.

I rode a total of 510 miles in the month of May. That’s not a great mileage total for me, but any monthly total over 500 miles doesn’t sound too bad to me. I took a nap after today’s ride. I can still get up at 5:00 am to ride 60 miles, then go out drinking and dancing into the wee hours and closing down a bar that night, but I need a nap somewhere in between these days, it seems.

Today’s modified SH19 Loop route.

Martin Mills Metric – Sort of

I took off on the F5 this morning and rode a modified version of my Martin Mills Metric route. A half mile or so of Farm to Market 1256 has had the pavement stripped off. They keep spraying water on that section and it seems to stay muddy, slimy, and slick, definitely not suitable for a bicycle. So rather than riding out on FM1256, I rode to Eustace on US175, then rode out on FM2709. It gave me a chance to see the tornado damage on FM2709 for the first time. It was definitely a fierce tornado at that point, just as it was on FM1861, which I ride on my return route.

I ended up with 60.1 miles. Between work and the weather, I only managed one other ride this week, 40 miles on Tuesday, so I ended up with 100 miles for the week. My total mileage for the month of April ended up at 527 miles, a pretty good April for me.

Today’s modified Martin Mills Metric route.

Ride My Age Time

This coming Wednesday is my birthday. I’ll likely be working on Wednesday, so I decided to do my Ride My Age ride today. I took off on the F-5 around 8:00 am and rode my Martin Mills Metric route. I did enough extra miles in Purtis Creek State to end up with 66 miles for the day. I rode 116 miles this week.

My total riding mileage for the month of March was 430 miles. I ended up with 414 miles in February. Neither of those months’ mileage was especially impressive, but my favorite thing about this winter was that I made it through the entire thing without getting a cold. I’m not sure how that happened, but I need to figure it out and do it again.

Today’s birthday Martin Mills Metric plus route.

100 miles ridden this week

It was a pretty chilly morning this morning, cloudy and low forties. So I took off and rode 40 miles in the WAW. Even when it’s this cold outside, I’m still very warm in the WAW. I’d wear shorts and short sleeves in it, even on a day like today, if it weren’t for the shock I get when I climb out of the WAW for a stop.

Today’s ride gave me 100 miles for the week. I started a ride on Monday morning, but got a call to go work, so turned around and only ended up with 19 miles. But I got a 41 mile ride in on Wednesday. This was the third week in a row that I’ve ridden 100 miles, but my mileage in early January was really bad, and I only ended up with 299.5 miles for the month. I always ride fewer miles in the winter, with winter’s shorter days, colder temps, lower body immunity, etc, but I really don’t like it when I end up with less than 300 miles in a month. I’m not going to fret too much, though. It’s early February, and I do not have a horrible case of bronchitis, or even a cold. I haven’t been able to say that the last couple of years in early February, so I’m just going to celebrate that, and ignore my lack of miles ridden.

I’m hoping these decals help bewildered local drivers identify me on the road.

5,500.7 miles ridden in 2016

As of the first of the month, I only needed 334 miles to reach my 2016 goal of 5,500 miles ridden. That looked like an easy task. It wasn’t. I ended up working a lot more hours than usual in December, and it seemed like every time I wasn’t working, the roads were wet. When I work up on Christmas morning, I still needed 194 miles in the last seven days of the month to reach my goal. I finished the last 30 miles of that today.

It was warm enough that I rode the F5 on Thursday a week ago, then Saturday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. All other rides this month, including Thursday’s and today’s rides, were in the WAW. I still can’t believe how many people take photos of the WAW as I ride. Today’s ride gave me a total of 5,500.7 miles ridden in 2016. Happy New Year, everyone!

Today’s 30 mile route.

100 miles of short rides this week

I took off in the WAW this morning and rode to Mabank. I ended up with 20.7 miles. I had just over 100 miles for the week. With the dire forecast of rain and colder temperatures for the weekend, I decided I’d better get my miles in before the weekend.

I did four rides this week. The last three were in the WAW, as I get the last of the adjustments done on the WAW, getting it to fit me. The last two rides were just 20 mile rides. I don’t usually do rides that short, but it seemed fitting as I work out these final WAW adjustments, plus I’ve been suffering from some kind of cold or sinus/throat event this last week, and thought short rides might be better for me right now.

I ended up with 430 total riding miles in November. That’s a good November. This year’s mild weather certainly helped. It gives me 5,200 miles for the year, so I only need 300 miles in December to reach my mileage goal for the year. Barring blizzards, I should be able to do that.

Here I am at a traffic light in Mabank. Someone took this photo last Saturday, then posted it on facebook and asked what it was. LOL. It’s amazing how many people just can’t seem to figure out what the WAW and I are, and how many photos get taken of it.

First 40 Mile Ride in the WAW

I took off in the WAW this morning and rode my 40 mile route out to Purtis Creek State Park. It was a chilly morning, just perfect for a velomobile ride, and it was a good ride in the WAW. It’s been almost a month since I bought the WAW, and I finally have it rideable. I’ve been very surprised at how much work it’s taken to get it rideable for me. And most surprising to me is the fact that most of the problems I’ve had with it, I haven’t found anything posted about anywhere online. Oh, well. Here is what I had to do to get it working for me.

The first thing I did was to remove the 155mm pedal crank arms the first owner had installed, and replace them with the original 170mm cranks. I never got on board with the short crank fad that’s so popular among recumbent riders. It takes more range of motion in your knee to use longer cranks, so my thinking has always been that using them helps me keep a better range of motion in my knees as I age, and the only way I’ll move to shorter cranks is if I lose enough range of motion that the longer cranks don’t work for me. But a velomobile is different. I knew that I might have problems with the longer cranks in the WAW. I am 5′ 9″ tall (I used to be 5′ 11″ tall before 40+ years of heavy machine shop work pretzeled the shape of my spine enough for me to lose 2 inches of height), but I have long arms and legs, and size 12 feet. I knew that might make it tough to use the longer crank arms, but I decided I wasn’t going to switch back to the 155mm cranks unless I had to. The 170mm cranks are still installed in the WAW.

I knew right away the seat in the WAW was too high, and much too far forward, but I had no idea what a project it would become to get a seat position that worked for me. I had moved the seat back a couple of inches and lowered it before my first ride in the WAW, but I barely got over 3 miles in it before I had to turn around. My shoulders were killing me. My shoulders are bad, from that same 40+ years of heavy machine shop work. I’ve had surgery on my left shoulder, and ruptured my bicep in both arms. Saying my shoulders are bad is probably an understatement.

And the seating position in the WAW, and the position of the tank control sticks put me with my elbows so far behind me that it gave me a great deal of pain in my shoulders, especially my left shoulder, just trying to steer and brake the WAW. I knew I had to get the seat back further and the stick controls further forward. I flipped the seat mounting brackets upside down to get the seat to its furthest back and lowest adjustment. I had to move the pedal bottom bracket back over 4 inches from its original position. I had to remove 7 chain links and cut 3 inches off each of the chain tubes. It still wasn’t nearly enough, so I bent the control sticks forward as far as I could without the brake levers hitting the wheel wells, and did a 30 mile ride on November 9th. It still wasn’t nearly enough.

So, I bought some 3/4″ EMT and used it to fabricate new control sticks. Rather than bend them forward, I used threaded rod to extend the steering linkage enough to pivot the control sticks well over the top of the wheel wells, and moved the brake levers to the back of the control sticks. Using the thumb half of my hands to brake rather than my fingers is taking a little getting used to, but not as much getting used to as the tank steering itself, really.

The cut and bent new control sticks. Note that the one that will end up on the right side is shorter, because it will have a bar end shifter sticking up on the top.

The before.

The after.

This is working. I still need to tweak my seat position a little, but my shoulders don’t feel too bad after a 40 mile ride, so I think the control sticks are keepers.

The seat came with a Ventisit pad. Ventisit pads aren’t padded enough for me. With every Ventisit pad I’ve ever ridden on, I’ve literally gotten bruises on my back. This one was no exception. I knew that with the seat in its current lowest position, I could add some padding and still have plenty of clearance for my knees, so I cut a Walmart camper pad to the shape of the seat, punched some holes in it for ventilation, and installed it under the Ventisit pad. I may end up needing to add more padding yet, but this is much better.

The Walmart camping pad, cut to the shape of the seat, and with holes punched.

Installed on the seat and under the Ventisit pad.

The first time I sat in the WAW, I noticed that the foot holes seemed to be too far forward, much further forward than those in Greg’s Quest. After moving the seat back four inches, that problem was much worse. I couldn’t pedal at all without my heels striking the back of the holes. I ended up taking my jigsaw and cutting the back of the holes to open them up a couple of inches more. I have the cover for the foot holes. I doubt that I’ll ever use it, but if I did, it probably wouldn’t quite cover the holes now. I’d have to add something. I would no doubt have to go back to the 155mm crank arms, too.

And finally, I couldn’t get the Garmin mounting arm to stop pivoting while I rode. I first removed the plastic washers under the locknuts. This worked to keep the mount in place side to side, but not up and down. I’ll be re-installing the plastic washer, then adding a second locknut to act as a jamb nut against the first, to see if that will hold it.

The Garmin mounting arm that won’t hold still. You can also see how much I cut out at the back of the foot holes.

I was spotted on the way home this morning.




WAW-hoo!

I had planned to ride Greg’s Quest this winter, all the while watching for a good deal on a used velomobile, so that by next winter, I would have my own. That plan was still in its infancy stage, when it took a sudden turn this week, and I now own a WAW. It’s a WAW@2014, serial number WAW231.

By the time you add the options you’d want to a new version of any of the top of the line velomobiles, and pay shipping to get it from Europe, the price is usually $10,000+. I’m semi-retired now, and that kind of price tag is more than my budget will allow. I had set my max price for a velomobile at $5,000. That price will get you the kit version of the FAW+ velomobile that’s being built in Midland, and I’d decided that if I hadn’t found a really nice used one by next fall, that’s exactly what I’d get. The FAW+ isn’t comparable to top of the line velomobiles, but I thought it would be passable for what I wanted in a velomobile.

The first step in my plan was to re-join the bentrider online forum. I’d frequented it years ago, but my login had quit working, and I could never successfully recover my password. I’d quit posting there a long time ago anyway. I found the place to be full of self proclaimed “experts” who knew next to nothing, but were always ready to argue with anyone who did. Those were the ones who’d reply first to any question asked, then argue with anyone who posted otherwise. I got frustrated with all the bad information that was being posted on the largest recumbent forum around, and left. But, I knew that was where most velomobiles for sale would be posted, and you can’t view photos or reply to a poster unless you’re a member and logged in, so it was time to put all that aside, and re-join the forum.

Last month, a member posted his WAW for sale, and by this week, his asking price had been lowered to $5,000. The original owner intended to get into riding when he bought it, but never quite did, and had now moved on to other hobbies. He had paid almost $11,000 for it, but now he just wanted it gone, at the best price he could get. The WAW had body damage, but almost no miles on it, the perfect combination for a bargain, and when the price got down to that magic number, I couldn’t resist pouncing on it. This is a nicer velomobile than I ever thought I’d end up with.

The WAW computer’s odometer shows just 11 total miles, and the original owner said he’d only done two short rides in it, so I suspect that odometer mileage is correct.

I knew that the new version of the WAW, which Katanga has been manufacturing in the Czech Republic for the last couple of years, was among the best of velomobiles, but I did not know many of the nice things about it until I researched more thoroughly after spotting this used one. Unlike the Quest, the WAW’s front wheels are on the outside. This gives the WAW a better turning radius than the Quest, but makes its aerodynamics not quite as good as the Quest. But the carbon fiber version of the WAW which I now own, weighs just 60 pounds, making it 25 pounds lighter than the Quest. So, anything the WAW might lose to aerodynamics on the flats, it should easily make up for on the hills.

The other major thing that caught my eye was how easy the WAW is to work on. You don’t realize how hard a Quest is to work on until you try it. I had to replace a front derailler cable on Greg’s Quest, as well as rotate the derailler a bit, to get it to shift into its smallest chainring. That’s not a tough task on a bicycle at all, but the only way I could do it on the Quest was to roll it onto its side, and work through the foot holes. It gave the feeling of trying to assemble one of those ships in a bottle.

With the WAW, both the nose cone and tail are removeable, and removing just two bolts lets you pull off a cover and open up a large access port up front. It makes everything easy to reach and work on. More velomobiles should be made this way. And the fit and finish on the WAW are really good. It even gives you a small dash panel. The brackets for its aerodynamic mirrors also serve as swivels to let the top pivot up and down. There’s just a lot to like about the WAW. And this one has lots of options, including a SRAM Dual Drive, 90mm drum brakes, and carbon fiber wheel covers.

The rear section of the WAW is removeable, so you can easily access the rear wheel and derailler.

Removing two bolts opens up this large access port in front.

The top flips up, for entry and exit from the WAW. With it held at a 45 degree angle, it will pull right off (like removing a pickup tailgate).

I figured that before I returned Greg’s Quest to him, I’d take some photos of the WAW beside it, for comparison. The Quest is a bit taller and wider than the WAW. The opening for the rider is a couple of inches lower on the WAW, making it easier to step into, but it’s also almost three inches narrower. The WAW is smaller inside, too. It’s big enough for me (I’m 5′ 9″, 185 lbs), but wouldn’t accommodate as large a rider as the Quest would.



It’s time to return Greg’s Quest, I guess. It barely fits in the bed of my truck. With its removable tail section, the WAW is a much easier fit, as I found out when I made the long drive home with it.

I’m still cleaning, lubing, and adjusting on the WAW, and haven’t done my first ride with it yet. It’s still a bit warm in Texas for velomobile riding anyway, but it will soon be time for its maiden voyage. I’ve been debating whether or not I should name it. The Great Pumpkin, maybe? Orange Crush, or perhaps Texas Tangerine?