Sunday, March 29, 2009

Bonding With The Secret Bike

I've been spending some quality time with my Secret Bike over the last several days.

Just so you don't go down the wrong road here, it's a time trial bike . . . it's for going fast, by yourself, for a short time. Please don't confuse it with a triathlon bike, which looks similar but is for going fast, by yourself, for insanely long periods of time and is used by guys who, ummm, march to a little different drummer. Like Joe and John. You won't catch me on a tri bike.

Anyway, the quality time I'm talking about is not like stroking the downtube or caressing the aerodynamic curves or anything creepy like that. It's just about going through it mechanically and then shaking it down and making sure nothing falls off while you're riding and then setting it up so that your knees don't hit your chin when you are riding in that freaky fetal position.

The art of time trialing is so simple it makes me want to go back to kindergarten. Refer to the picture below:

The device on the right is a tachometer, except your heart is the engine. Just rev it up almost to redline (the point where your engine blows up), and hold it there. The other data on the left is meaningless, but intended to distract you from the fact that your engine is about to blow up.

I'm reminded of a commercial about how "this is your brain" and "this is your brain on [aero bars]". Any questions?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Friday, March 13, 2009

My Secret Bike

Coupla months ago, I ran across a really good deal on Craigslist - on a time trial bike. I need to state for the record that I wasn't actively shopping for a bike. (Please back me up on this if you see my wife.) I didn't want to be hanging out in the bike section of CL. But since I was already there, it wasn't like I could ignore the ad - I've invested a lot of time and energy in my promising racing career over the last two months, and I don't think it's right that one relatively inexpensive piece of used equipment should be holding me back from realizing my full potential.

So anyway, I offered the guy just a little more than he was asking, and the bike was mine. It wasn't until I was just about home that panic struck. I didn't have anywhere to hide it. I tore my garage down last fall, and there was no place in the house that Patty wouldn't see it. Holy krap, I was toast! But then I remembered that I had forgotten that we are renting a storage container . . . that she never opens! Whoa, that was a close call.

For quite a while, I've been visiting my Secret Bike when I can, always in the dark secrecy of the cold winter nights. I've leaned it lovingly against the ladder, just behind the table saw.

With the Frozen Flatlands time trial less than a month away, something had to give. Tonight, after weeks of tormenting guilt, I finally came clean. I explained the many reasons that buying this bike made so much sense. She thought for just a minute and then calmy said, "Well then we'll have to get rid of one of your other bikes. You have too many already." This is not what I wanted to hear - I've assembled this collection with great deliberation.

My plan is to stall as long as possible. If we can just get past this, everything will be okay. Because I am certain that this is the last bike I will ever need.

On the one hand, I feel so relieved. On the other, I can't seem to relax. I need to figure out how to explain my new Secret Helmet before UPS delivers it next week.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Keeping It In Perspective

With a little over 700 measly base miles in, I went racing this weekend on the other side of the state with my buddies Mike and Taylor. The plan was to hit two races - Saturday at Mason Lake (SW of Bremerton), and Sunday at Dungeness (near Sequim), and "race myself into shape". Let me tell you that this phrase was invented by and for much younger men. I knew I wasn't in any kind of shape to go racing and was extremely nervous heading over. In hindsight, the time spent worrying was time well spent.

They call these early-season races "training races". Which would imply that you're supposed to learn something. In my case, it appears I'm learning how to get my ass kicked.

Saturday's race went okay, which means that my heart went over 180 without blowing an artery (I was careful to print the emergency contact information on my registration sheet extra-legibly), and I didn't crash (although I came within milliseconds and/or millimeters on multiple occasions).

Sunday's race never happened. Strange muscles in both legs that I never new existed dropped me to my knees and made me cry like a 2-year-old every time I tried to walk up stairs all night Saturday and into Sunday. (Well, that and the fact that the weather cancelled Sunday's race, which is the story I'm going with officially, to save face.)

On the brighter side, my big brother Dan drove down from Bremerton in his new Prius to hang out and watch the race, which just rocked. I spent the afternoon explaining how things work in bike racing and why we do what we do, and then he got back in his car with a bewildered look on his face and drove back home.

Mike and Taylor tore it up. I, on the other hand, got dropped in my race, which means I fell off the back of the pack. Or in the most simple terms, I couldn't keep up with the other fellas on bikes. I started to get a little discouraged after the race, but I'm not going there. Truth is, I got to do some real racing with some good athletes super early in the season, I had a great visit with my brother who I don't get to see nearly enough of, and I got to hang out with my racer buddies all weekend and enjoy really great cammeraderie and get all immersed in the racing culture. I'll take all the pity I can get, but I know I'm damned lucky. The racing will come together. Either that or I will keel over after suffering immensely out on some frigid, windblown course amidst hailstones the size of baseballs, and people will go to my funeral and talk all about how I died "doing something I love."

More pics and videos here.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

A Ride Worthy Of A Drive

In general, I'm not a big fan of driving someplace to take a ride - it just feels all wrong to me. I like to ride to the ride and it's one of the reasons I live where I do. But there are exceptions, and last Saturday was one of those. I met up with riding buds Mike, Dale, Stu and Brian at the former Tidyman's (now the Trading Post, I think) on Hwy 195 at the Spokane-Cheney Road. From there, we consolidated bikes and gear into two vehicles and headed down to Pullman, where we started and ended this SRV classic spring ride.

This is the right time of year for this ride because Lewiston/Clarkston can be 10 degrees warmer than Spokane on certain days. Compared to 35, 45 can feel like you've died and gone to Acapulco.

From Pullman, the ride starts with about 15 miles of rollers. Then you begin a fast and fun descent of 2000 feet over 5 or so miles to the Snake River. The next 30 miles take you along the scenic river gorge. And then the highlight: The 7-mile, 2000-foot climb up the old Lewiston Grade. This is one of the coolest, most picturesque roads you will find for hundreds of miles around Spokane. When I was a kid, we drove this hill every time we went to see my grandma and the ride up or down in the back of our Dodge station wagon was bigger than Christmas. Epic shit. There are very few guardrails, and as if our kid imaginations weren't bad enough all on their own, my dad would pretend he was losing control of the car on the way down and we'd piss our little pants. You can have 'over the river and through the woods'. I'll take the Lewiston Hill any day of the week.

It used to be the only way up or down the hill. Then they built a "better", faster road down the hill. The old one is well maintained, but there's hardly any traffic. Beautiful. (Click the pics to go big.)

L. As in Lewis-town.

I'd like to ride down it sometime. I think I definitely will. There's some righteous banking on some of those hairpins.

If you like to get out of town on your bike and haven't ridden the Old Lewiston Grade yet, you should put it on your list. I'm not trying to tell you what to do - it's your life. But if someday you're lying on your death bed thinking about all the cool things you should have done when you had the chance and the Lewiston Hill comes to mind, don't blame me for not telling you. I'm just saying.