LSR Denison 200K brevet

It was a great turnout for the LSR brevets in Denison yesterday. I didn’t get a count of how many riders there were, but it looked like 40 or 50.

I rode the 200k. Steve and Peggy are doing the 1,000k and Greg is doing the 600k, so it may be a while yet before we hear from them. I was feeling strong to start the ride, and ended up not paying enough attention to details, like I should have. I guess it happens to all of us now and then.

All the different distances use the same route for the first 43 miles. We made a couple of wrong turns in town, then were on our way headed east toward the second control at Ivanhoe. As usual on this route, I was dropped by most on the first big hill out of town, but hammered away and caught up with most ahead of me. The next time they put the hammer down, though, there was no way I could stay with them. Doug (Eetmochikn on the Bacchetta forum; nice meeting you, Doug!) fell back from the group after that acceleration too, and I caught up with Steve and him after a few miles, and stayed with them to Ivanhoe.

We stopped for about 15 minutes at the control at Ivanhoe. Peggy, then Greg rolled in, and we took off with them and several upright riders. It was a lot more brisk pace than I should have been riding, and even after the rest of the group split off for their longer routes at mile 43, I was still feelilng great, and kept pushing the pace. I would pay for that later.

At mile 53, I was stung by a yellow jacket. It bounced off my handlebar and arm before hitting my shoulder. I brushed it off my shoulder as soon as it hit, but it had already stung me. At mile 57, just two miles before the next control at Direct, my rear derailler cable broke. I had known it was due for replacement, and suffered the consequences for not replacing it soon enough. It’s a flat area near Direct, and I had no problem making it, but I sure wasn’t looking forward to doing the rest of the ride with three speeds. There are some tough hills near the end.

I was sitting at the control, eating my peanut butter and honey sandwich, grumbling to myself about the cable, and planning on adjusting the derailler stop screw to try to come up with friendlier gears, since I would only have three for the rest of the ride, when Pat and Charlie pulled up at the control in their truck. It occurred to me that, since they own a bicycle shop, they might be carrying parts. Sure enough, they even had the long tandem derailler cable I needed, and though the control stop turned into a 35 minute stop, when I left, I left with 27 speeds. Thanks, Pat and Charlie!

At mile 68, I still had an 18 mph average. That’s too much for me for that many miles, and I was starting to suffer. On top of that, I forgot just how far it is from the third control at Direct to the fourth at Cobert, Oklahoma. I ran out of water at mile 100 and didn’t pass a store until mile 110. That’s still 9 miles short of the Colbert control, but I stopped, cooled off, and downed some water there.

When I stood up to leave, I had serious knee pain, as well as cramping quads. I don’t know what it was about, but the first three miles were very slow, then I started to feel better.

After Colbert at mile 119, the route goes across the Texoma dam before finishing with some tough little hills coming into Denison. I ended up with 134.5 miles at a 16.6 mph on the bike average. That’s a pretty good average for me, but the length of the route along with the fact that I had more time off the bike than I would have liked, meant that my total time wasn’t that fast at 9:27.

I arrived home pretty wiped out. If I had been riding anything longer, I would definitely have had to keep an easier pace. I really do like this route, but the drive to Denison and back on a holiday weekend is a major hassle. Good luck to all those still riding!

LSR Denison 200K brevet route

Work commute

I rode to work all three days this week. Today was my 61st commute by bike this year.

The last two days, I haven’t been able to get my heart rate nearly as high as usual. Even a sprint to make a traffic light, and I only have a 135 heart rate. I’ve ridden 8 of the last 10 days, and I think my body is telling me it’s tired. I’m taking the next two days off the bike before I ride a 200k on Saturday.

Climbing a hill shortly after I left work for home this afternoon, I met a typical Fort Worth urban cyclist, coming from the other direction. He was riding a cheap mountain bike, basket on the front, on the wrong side of the street (he moved over when he saw me), baseball cap, jeans, and cigarette hanging from his mouth. Nothing more fun than meeting another serious cyclist.

Bike Fort Worth email

Here is a copy of the email I just sent to Julia McCleeary, who is the senior planner for the City of Fort Worth’s Bike Fort Worth Plan. The Bike Fort Worth Plan actually looks very good, but I’m sure not seeing much progress on it. It’s probably suffering from lack of funding. Anyway, here’s the email:

Julia:

Today is National Bike to Work Day, so it seemed a fitting time to write this. I live in Crowley and commute to my job on McCart Street in Fort Worth. I ride to work more often than I drive. I wanted to comment on what I think is the single biggest problem that commuting cyclists face here. It’s the lack of slow speed routes, especially in suburban Fort Worth. You do give this a mention in your plan, but I think it should be emphasized much more.

You can find a map of my route from work to home on Bikely at: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Crowley-Commute-return2 . The biggest problem with this route is the eastbound stretch on Sycamore School Road. The right lane is full of impatient drivers who are trying to turn into the apartments just before Crowley Road, and many of them become irate with me because of the few seconds I delay their arrival home.

A better route for me would be this: http://www.bikely.com/maps/bike-path/Crowley-Commute-return . It goes through slower speed neighborhood roads, and avoids the higher speed, less bike friendly Sycamore School Road. But, unlike google maps shows, Risinger Road and Carolina Drive don’t actually intersect. They both dead end with barricades, just one city block apart. I’ll repeat that: DEAD END, BARRICADES, ONE CITY BLOCK APART! If you zoom in on this intersection in google maps, then switch to satellite mode, you’ll see what’s really there. If I want to use this route, I have to walk my bike a block, around barricades, over rock piles, through mud and shoulder high weeds. A one block long bike path would fix this, and provide a low speed route to get from Fort Worth to the wide and smooth shoulder of Crowley Road.

You can find neighborhood after neighborhood after neighborhood just like this. The bike friendly, low speed, neighborhood roads dead end just short of connecting to anything, forcing bike riders to use higher speed, higher traffic roads to get anywhere. This is the biggest single obstacle to safe destination based bike riding in Fort Worth that I have found, and should get the highest priority in any bike plan, I believe. Take a look at maps of suburban parts of Fort Worth, and see how many areas don’t quite let you get anywhere on neighborhood roads. Short bike paths connecting these neighborhoods would be less expensive to build than long, elaborate bike paths, and make the most difference in improving bike riding in the city.

I hope you’ll take a close look at this, and give it consideration as you move forward with the Bike Fort Worth Plan. Thanks for your efforts.

Bud Baker
Crowley, TX

Work commute

I had a nice ride to work at dark-thirty this morning. It was 64 degrees with a light northwest wind. Getting back home ended up being a little tougher. Wouldn’t you know it that the day the weatherman forecasts sunny and dry ends up being the commute day I end up getting the wettest?

My ride home Friday had looked a little iffy, too. At 3:00 pm, a half hour before I get off work, it was pouring so hard that Rose sent me a text, asking if I wanted her to pick me up. The weather radar looked like it was going to let up, so I answered no, it wouldn’t be the first time I got wet on the bike.

Sure enough, right on cue, five minutes before I took off for home, the rain let up. I never hit anything more than a light rain on the way home. The roads were wet enough that I was glad I had fenders on the SXP, though.

Today, I got within three miles of home, then the downpour hit. Twice, when wind gusts reached 50 to 60 mph, I stopped and took refuge for a few minutes. A mile from home, I was coming down a hill to a stop sign. I was watching the intersection, rather than the road in front of me, and forgot how deep the water can get at the low spot in the road just before the intersection.

I hit the water too fast, then hit my brakes too hard, and was down on my right side instantly. Thankfully, skidding on concrete that has 11 inches of water on it removes a lot less skin than skidding on dry concrete, and I only suffered a minor scrape on my right arm.

As I stood in the garage, wringing the water from my skullcap, Rose stepped out of the house, took one look at me, and said, “Oh well, it’s not like you haven’t gotten wet before.”

Work commute

It was 75 degrees, cloudy, and humid with a 20 mph south wind as I rode to work this morning. It’s supposed to get up to near 90 degrees again this afternoon.

As I was riding north on a flat stretch of Crowley Road just before Sycamore School Road, a Fort Worth Police cruiser pulled up beside me. The officer rolled down his window and said, “Just so you know, I clocked you doing 25 mph”. We both laughed (I was in a 50 mph zone). He asked if I was always that fast on a flat road. I pointed out that I had a good tailwind this morning. He drove on, and as he pulled up to the red light at Sycamore School Road, I slowed and crossed behind him to get in the left turn lane. Just before I pulled up to the light, it turned green. This is one of those left-turn-on-arrow-only lights. My bike almost never triggers the arrow, so I normally just turn on a regular green light. On this morning though, I stopped and waited for the next light as I watched the police car travel through the light.

It will be a tough ride back against that wind this afternoon, just like yesterday.

The Great Wider Tire Rando Experiment

With boulderseal taking over so many of our Texas roads, I decided to try some wider tires for my randonneuring. Wider tires can improve handling and the ride on rough roads a lot. But, I spend so much randonneuring time trying to ride with riders who are faster than me that I didn’t want to give up much speed with new tires.

I’m always surprised at how many people dispense tire width advice without even thinking about what kind of bike the target of the advice is riding. When it comes to tire width, all bikes are not created equal. Bikes that put the rider’s profile completely above the tires are much more aerodynamically affected by wider tires than bikes that use small front tires and/or put the rider behind the front tire. A wider front tire may not slow down a low racer much, but it can certainly slow down a high racer. And even on my Stratus XP, which has a fairing and has me partially behind the front tire, I could see a noticeable difference in speed when I ran wider tires, although it isn’t nearly as pronounced as it is on the Corsa. Of course, how much difference tire width makes is the subject of unending debate, and a very individual thing that depends on the rider and the roads ridden. You can do coast down comparisons, but rides are much more than just coasting down hills, so that doesn’t really tell you much.

One of the things that finally jogged me into trying wider tires was the thinking held by some that aero wheels, especially wide aero wheels, can help with the aerodynamics of a wider tire, keeping you from losing much speed with them. I already had a set of aero wheels, which I rebuilt for this experiment. I documented rebuilding them in this post. Most riders don’t use their expensive, delicate, low spoke aero wheels for randonneuring, but mine don’t fit that description. They’re old mtb wheels which have 32 spokes, so should be pretty strong, and even after rebuilding them, I don’t have cubic dollars invested in them.

There are people who will tell you that aero wheels actually do better in the wind than regular wheels, but don’t believe that for a minute. They might be faster, but in a 50 mph crosswind, you’ll like regular wheels much better than aero ones. With a 30 or 40 mph wind, aero wheels still aren’t much fun. But with 20 mph or less winds, mine handle well. Since I don’t face winds harder than 20 mph on rides really often, I figured that problem isn’t a deal breaker for me, so I decided to give these wheels a long run as my randonneuring wheels.

I had always run 559×25 Conti GP’s on these wheels. These are fast tires. On my HED wheels, I didn’t notice much difference in speed from my old 650c wheels and 23 tires, other than slightly better speed on fast descents. And even a tire that’s only 2 mm wider than the 23′s makes a difference in ride on rough roads. The GP 25′s never handled any better than my 23′s, though. I expect that’s because a Conti GP just doesn’t handle quite as well as a Michelin Pro Race, which is what I ran when I ran 23′s.

But the experiment wouldn’t be complete until I tried 28 mm tires on the HED wheels. I installed new Conti GP 28′s last week, and Saturday’s Peachy Keene was my first ride with them. I own this route and ride it often, so I figured it would be a good route for comparisons. The 559×28 GP’s do look a bit silly on aero wheels, but I don’t worry too much about making a fashion statement these days, anyway.

How much tire pressure to run is a debate, by itself. The GP 28′s have a max of 116. I wanted to make sure to run enough pressure that I couldn’t blame being slower on tire pressure, so Saturday, I inflated the rear to 108 and the front to 100 pounds. Peachy Keene has some rough county roads, but almost no boulderseal. Tire pressure experimentation will be necessary, and I’ll likely end up running lower pressures than that on routes which are mostly boulderseal.

Before I get into the comparisons, let me remind once more that everyone is different. How valid my comparisons would be for anyone else is questionable. Also, I’m only an average speed rider. Since aerodynamics becomes a much bigger factor with speed, my findings especially wouldn’t apply to a really fast rider. And Peachy Keene isn’t the fastest of 200k routes. It is lots of very small county roads, with blind curves and stop signs, and lots of turns. My personal best time on this route is a 9:30, which I did two months ago. For comparison, My personal best time on any 200k is an 8:06 on Rio Vista Rumble. My best time on a 200k since losing half a lung to a surgeon is an 8:40, also on Rio Vista Rumble. It’s plainly a faster route than Peachy Keene. Anyway, the bottom line is that if you’re capable of a 7 hour 200k, my ramblings here certainly don’t apply to you.

I rode with Steve and Peggy Saturday. One of the first things to do was compare coast downs with them. They are both light, strong riders who can drop me like a bad habit whenever they want. But, with my aerodynamic bike setup (I have a lot of seat recline, and with my long arms, have the handlebar low, out in front of my upper shins, much lower than where my knees are at their highest point), and gravity assist (I weigh 186 right now), on downhills, I out-coast almost everyone I ride with. With the 28′s on Saturday, I still out-coasted Steve and Peggy. In the 20 to 25 mph range, my coasting advantage seemed pretty much the same as usual. At above 25 mph, I still out-coasted them, but not as much as usual. Not too much of a penalty, I figured, since I don’t spend too many miles above 25 mph on these long rides.

A comparison between Saturday’s ride and my ride on Peachy Keene two months ago seems like a natural. Conditions were very similar. On both rides, things started with a tailwind, but quickly changed. Two months ago, it was a hard southeast wind that showed up after a couple of hours. Saturday, it was a straight east wind. Temperatures were almost the same for both rides. I would normally expect to be a bit stronger for a May ride than a March one, but I hadn’t ridden 200k or more in a month, because of the shingles I’ve had for the last three weeks. My strength for the two rides is probably very similar. My effort for both rides was, too. On both rides, I rode a brisk (for me) pace.

I did the March ride mostly by myself. As often happens when I do that, my stops were very short. Saturday, chatting non-stop with Steve and Peggy, my stops were a bit longer. Here are the stats:

Overall time On the bike time Heart rate average
March 14th 9:30 8:33 139
May 8th 9:52 8:21 142

On March 14th, I spent less than an hour off the bike, pretty good for me for a 200k. The bottom line is that I put out a slightly harder effort Saturday, and had a slightly better time. I’m thinking that, just as it felt, the speed of these 28′s is really close to that of the 25′s, and to that of the 650C x 23′s before them. And the ride of the 28′s is pretty unbelieveable, comparison-wise. I quickly got very confident on the roughest parts of the road, and handling was easily the best I’ve ever seen on the Corsa.

I bought these 559×28 Conti GP’s knowing that if I didn’t like them for randonneuring on the Corsa, they’d work well as commuting tires on the Stratus XP. As well as they performed on Saturday, there’s going to be a lot more randonneuring miles on them before I try anything else.

Update: I eventually ended up going back to my 650C wheels with 23mm wide tires on my Corsa. As much as I liked this wider tire setup, I’ve decided that deep aero wheels like the HED’s are just too tough to handle in big windy day crosswinds, like we have all too often in Texas, to make good every day wheels. Continue reading

Peachy Keene 200K permanent

Steve, Peggy, and I rolled out of southwest Arlington at 7:00 am this morning to ride the Peachy Keene 200k permanent. It was in chilly, in the upper 50′s when we started out, with a stiff northeast wind just kept blowing harder, and became a straight east wind before long, and blew all day.

We made pretty decent time to Cleburne, but when we turned east at mile 52, the wind was pretty tough all the way to Itasca, then to Maypearl. It was then mostly a tailwind to Alvarado, and more a crosswind than anything else for most of the remaining miles.

I love the small Johnson County county roads on this route. There are lots of trees overhanging these roads, and today, the smell of honeysuckles was everywhere. It was a great ride with great company, I really enjoyed it. For the first time, I ran 28mm wide tires on my Corsa today. I really like them; I’ll do a separate review on them.

I ended up with 124.6 miles, and finished the ride in 9:52. Thanks for inviting me along, Steve and Peggy!

Peachy Keene route