Saturday, August 13, 2016

It's the Midnight Century!

Well, it was.  Last Saturday 11:59pm.  So here's the basic report, complete with nerdy bike details.

It was my toughest Midnight Century yet, and toughest ever bike ride.  I remembered there were hills on this course, but I forgot about all the hills in between the hills.

The Bike set-up:

After riding the Vaya last year, and enduring all those washboard gravel roads, I said I was going to ride my Fargo next time.  Well, the Vaya has been riding great lately - new chainring, chain, cassette, and front brake caliper, so I just had to take it.  And I hoped maybe the low pressure 42mm tubeless tires that I have on it now would smooth out the washboard a bit.

The Salsa rear rack was moved to the Fargo for my John Wayne Trail ride.  Without racks or fenders, and no more brake drag, the Vaya is downright zippy and the tires roll smoothly. The Velo-Orange front rack didn't fit the Fargo so it went back on the Vaya, but the bike still has zip to it.

This year I packed a Platypus 2-liter collapsible water bottle into the frame bag that I bought for the Fargo, instead of carrying the bladder on the back rack. Small bottle in the Revelate feed bag, larger 21 oz bottle on down tube, and 32 oz bottle below (a 48 oz bottle will fit the Topeak Modula cage, but hits the tires on this bike).  Camelbaks are handy, but I hate sucking out of those tubes and don't like to carry too much on my back.  No-bake cookies and misc bars in the handle bar bag.

One thing I miscalculated on was the hills.  The Fargo has the same 11-36 range in back but smaller rings in front.  There were some hills I was really struggling on where I wondered if the shop accidentally put on a 11-32 cassette in back, or larger small ring in front.  That's when I remembered the other reason to take the Fargo - lower gears.

Preparing for the ride:

The usual no-train-it's-too-hot-just-bike-commute training plan.  Oh, and I stopped taking baby aspirin a couple days before so I wouldn't bleed as quickly in case of a crash.  No Hawaiian shirt this time, but I thought it'd be funny to go ultra romancer and get a long hair and beard costume.  Maybe next year.

The Ride:

I headed out on the Centennial trail portion faster than last year, and started thinking I'd finish better. Ha! I tried the usual strategy - ride fast to Liberty Lake and then slog through the rest.  I was in a fairly fast group that broke up after a while with two ahead and more behind me and then I was on my own.  I seriously gave thought to just riding to the state line and then head back, making for a nice 45 mile late night ride.  But I kept going.

Heading out of Liberty Lake, I played leapfrog with a group of younger bikers.  They'd pass me on the hills, then stop for water or whatnot, then pass me on the hills again.  I started to get a bit of a complex watching them ride by multiple times when I was wondering where my legs were and was I missing a lower gear?  Eventually they stopped for water at the Archery and Feed the Sheep place and I never saw them again until the very end.

I felt proud of my route finding and gave myself a pat on the back as I took the left turn onto Idaho for the 2nd year in a row, instead of going on Mission.   But then I missed the left turn onto Linke.  My garmin started buzzing at me, but I thought I got back on course until I met the young guns going the other way and asking me if I'd seen Linke.  I looked at the garmin map and realized, shoot it was back the other way at that jog in the road.

I rode past Barker before Linke around the 39 mile mark, and wondered if it'd be any quicker home if I bailed there.  I knew it'd be flatter, at least.  But I kept pedaling.  No use turning around now.

Further down Linke I got thrown off when I came to Chapman and my garmin buzzed that I was off course.  I thought what, did I miss Belmont? and turned around.  I met a couple going the other way and they assured me Belmont was 4-5 miles further down Linke.  I made a mental note to mark down Chapman on the cue sheet when I got home.  Oh, look, it's already there - "Stay on Linke as it turns 90 degrees at Chapman Road".

I stuck with the couple for awhile, since we were biking about the same speed.  And because the last time I let a couple that I was biking with go ahead, I got terribly lost in Issaquah - more on that when I get around to my Iron Horse/John Wayne Pioneer story.

The couple took a break, and I arrived at the downhill Bruna Rd section.  It was fairly light out.  I remember the first year I did the MC, it was dark here with a group of riders bunched together at the top.  Ok, I am not going to get this done any faster than last year, and I began to suspect I was going slower.  But somewhere along the line I had decided it doesn't matter when I finish or how fast I was going.  I was just going to finish the darn thing.

Sometime after Bruna, I think.  There was lightning in the distance, and I stayed here for a bit trying to capture it.  Got it on the live photo, but no direct shot.

I don't remember seeing this sign clearly before - it's usually darker out.

Sunflower fields.

I saw the couple a few times, and eventually, and I mean way eventually, I made it to the Columbia Plateau Trail/Fish Lake Trail.  It was great to be on flat, smooth pavement.  Loved it.  I usually hate the last 15-20 miles because I just want to get to Spokane, but this time I enjoyed it.  Even thought I might make it in about the same time time last year around the 9:30 mark.

But as I got to the end of the Fish Lake Trail, I found I better high tail it if I was going to make it under 10 hours.  One more curvy, twisty climb up to the Centennial Trail, then a straight shot to Central Food. I figured I'd have to break the 15 mph speed limit to make it in.  My garmin had died a ways back, so I'm not sure but I don't think I was able to go faster than 15.  Just as I reached the walkway it was 10:58am, and when I looked at the time when I got to the sign-in sheet, it was 9:59.  So I used that time. Made it under 10 hours! woo hoo!  The I heard a voice behind me - "How'd you do?".  What? It was one of the lost tribe that I'd last seen by the archery place.  They were right behind me!  He said they took a few wrong turns.  I said yeah me too, and left out the fact I'm slower than mud.

I like riding at night, there's something about it I can't put into words.  So, I'll be back next year even though my legs ached almost the whole ride.  Maybe I'll look into one of those e-assist bikes.  There are no rules on the Midnight Century.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Best Bike Tool Ever!

The AWS-1: 4, 5, & 6mm hex set.  For years, I mean years, I've struggled with hex keys/allen wrenches.  Dropping them, trying to get some leverage with them.  Fiddling with the hex wrenches on multi-tools. Just plain frustration I tell you.  Park Tools came out with the AWS-1 thirty years ago, and I just finally bought me one.  It's the greatest!  Fits in the hand, good leverage. Now that I have one of these, who knows where it might lead - I think next up is a crank puller or cassette tool. Maybe both.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Summer JWP Trail Plan a.1: Columbia River

In my previous post from way back in June, Here's the Summer Bike JWP Trail Plan(s), I didn't mention Plan a.1: Bail-Out at the Columbia River if need be and get a ride home.  Well that was the winning option, or maybe a bit of self-fulfilling prophecy which is why I didn't want to bring it up.

if the rail ties weren't burned from the fire a year or two ago making it difficult or downright impossible and plain unsafe to haul a bike over this section of the Beverly Trestle, I would've been tempted to find a bolt cutter or angle grinder. 

When I was riding up a hill to the Army West Trailhead, my left pedal felt a little wonky.  I didn't notice anything on the long downhill ride through the Yakima Training Center, but it increasingly got worse biking on Huntzinger Road to Vantage.  I stopped and looked at the pedal, and it was all wobbly and barely hanging on to the crank arm.  I made it to Vantage, took the pedal off and found the arm threads were stripped.  I actually got the pedal back on tight, but it still didn't feel quite right and I knew it wouldn't be long before the pedal fell off.  I had just been thinking earlier in the day, you know, I might just make it to Spokane.  Me and the 9 liters of water I was carrying.

Tune in some day for the full Spokane to Seattle to Columbia story, including my tragicomedic epic way-finding from Issaquah to Snoqualmie, and a little thunder storm scaring me into a hotel in Ellensburg.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Here's the summer bike JWP Trail plan(s)

Plan a:

1. Bike down to Spokane train station in late night/early morning
2. box Fargo up
3. bike and I ride train to Seattle. 2:15am departure
4. in Seattle: unbox bike, then bike to John Wayne Pioneer Trail
5. bike to Spokane

Plan b:

1. Bike from Spokane via Fish Lake Trail > Columbia Plateau Trail > Belsby Road > JWPT to Columbia River
2. turn around and make a loop back to Spokane via other roads.

Plan a is winning out, that's why it's plan a.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Stay Cool This Summer for Only $1,594.50!

I get emails from Map My Ride every month or so.  I get a kick out of the articles like 5 Ways to Improve your Average Cycling Speed because they really don't apply to me.  This month's article by Marc Lindsay is 10 Must-Have Cycling Items for Summer.  That's the title in the email, the actual article title is 10 Must-Have Items of Summer Gear for Road Cyclists.

"While extended daylight hours can make the summer a great time to ride, keeping cool will be a challenge. Check out these 10 items that will help you enjoy the miles and beat the heat during the hottest, most humid days of the year."

Sidi Wire AirCarbon Shoes  $499
POC Octal AVIP  Helmet  $319
Castelli Free 9 Socks  $16
Exteondo Feather Bib Shorts  $168
Capo Torino SL Carbon Sleeveless Base Layer $89
Rapha Super Lightweight Jersey $140
Rudy Project Tralyx (sunglasses) $250
Skratch Labs Exercise Hydration Mix $19.50
MiiR Growler $59
Giro Zero II gloves $35

There you go, all for only $1,594.50.  (Feel free to check my math.)  For 3 months, and then you're going to have to get 10 Must Have Cycling Items for Fall.  Shoot, I'm not sure if I've I've spent that much total on racks, bags and helmets over my biking career. Maybe.

I've got a sneaking suspicion that Map My Ride doesn't think you really need all these items but the idea is that some people will click on the links and maybe buy something.  Naahhh...

Thursday, June 9, 2016

City Hills #4 - 6: Houston Rd, Downriver Dr., Cedar/Hgh Drive

We got hills! Lots and lots in Spokane, some short, some long, steep, no-so-steep.  Many days I avoid them, but some days I go looking for them.

One of my favorites is Houston Rd.  It's easy to bike to from home, and it leads to other gravel roads like Euclid Rd (see Version 2: Trail 100/Houston Rd/Old Trails/Euclid/Trail 25 and more), paved roads, Palisades Park, and you can loop back to Riverside State Park (also see Version 1).

It starts out off Government Way at the same intersection for the Centennial Trail parking lot by the Military Cemetery.  Just about a mile long, its a good climb with the grade varying widely, topping out at 14% give or take.  It's a good workout.

Here's the garmin map for Houston Road

1.02 mi
341 ft
Elev Gain

A short but good climb is Downriver Drive, riding up past the golf course to Northwest Blvd.  If I remember right, the grade tops out steeper than Pettet Drive.  It's a good one to to take on the way home from work, maybe riding back down and up for some hillpeats. I've never actually done that, of course.

Here's the garmin for Downriver starting where Downriver Dr splits off with Aubrey White Parkway,   up to H Street just below NW Blvd.
0.52 mi 166 ft
Elev Gain               Distance

Living on the North Side, I don't get to High Drive often but it's like the granddaddy of Spokane Hills. Long and high with good views, more intimidating than it actually is.  Earlier this spring I tackled the whole thing, starting at 5th and Cedar.  Cedar leads to the start of High Drive, which conveniently ends at The Rocket Market on 43rd where you can re-fuel and re-charge.  Overall it's not a real steep climb, but I remember Cedar being a good workout.

Cedar Street/High Drive garmin
3.57 mi
452 ft
Elev Gain

This is What Happens When You're Not Trying to Get a Flat

My tubeless-tired Vaya is in the shop.  You may remember it's the bike I'd been hoping to run over a nail or thorn to test the tubeless tires.  No punctures that I know of yet.  So Tuesday I rode my wife's blue Redline Conquest Sport to work.  It just got a tune-up and I wanted to test the gears and brakes.  It has regular tubed tires.  The result:


This is like the worst flat I've had in a long time.  I'm not sure if even the tubeless tire would've sealed very well. I thought it was an eyelet screw and it was stuck in the tire so good that I couldn't pull it out with my fingers.  Had to use pliers; turns out it's a nail bent in the middle.

I got the flat on Ash Street, between Boone and Broadway where there's a lot of gravel.  I'm not sure if the sweeper missed these few blocks, or if it's just gravel spilling out from the alleys, but it's like this every year.  The rest of Ash/Maple has been sweeped.  Been meaning to call the city.

Looking closer at the Street Sweeping Status Map, Ash Street between Dean and Broadway Avenues isn't green, showing that it hasn't been swept.  This is after the left turns lanes that lead to the Maple Street Bridge.  I've suspected the sweeper's route takes them over the bridge instead of down to Broadway.

One thing good about this flat: it made me look closely at the rear tire while fixing it.  The sidewalls of the Pasela TG's are looking old, and there's not much tread left.  Getting near time to replace.  I searched for some smooth rolling tires and saw Panaracer has an updated version of the Pasela with a new puncture technology they call ProTite.  "ProTite is 25% strong than previous puncture materials and advanced technology for puncture protection . "  

I doubt any puncture protection would've stopped that nail.  I will probably end getting the Pasela ProTite. Or the T-Serv ProTite instead since I don't like the Pasela's tan sidewalls.  The T-serv comes in black, red or blue - maybe I should check and see what Debbie likes since it's her bike now.