Sunday, March 29, 2009

Snowtires and daffodils; Criterium International

Former Arkansas Gazette columnist Richard Allin wrote each Spring about the annual Arkansas Daffodil and Snow Tire Festival and I guess Saturday was it!

Diane and I were joined by our friend Robin and headed over to the Ouachitas to paddle the Cossatot River. The water level was pretty high, the temps hovered in the high 30's, with howling winds and occasional flurries of snow. Many local boaters headed for Richland Creek in the Ozarks, but we opted for the 'tot because, among other things, it's usually a bit warmer, being as it's about 150 miles further south. It was still a much better day to be on the river than on the bike and we all need boat time in preparation for a big water trip to the West later this year.

Ride, then sit on your butt and watch TV:

Set your DVR. Versus's Cyclism will feature the Criterium International this afternoon at 4:00. American Danny Pate is well-positioned going into the final TT, so it should be a good program. CI is called the "mini Tour de France" and holds the distinction of having been held each year through WWII.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Good racing and a man after my own heart.

There has been a great week of racing at the Vuelta a Castilla y León. Levi Leipheimer showed he's on good form with a dominating time trial win and the overall win. Alberto Contador supported Levi and finished second, followed by Dave Zabriskie.
Americans are strong in Europe this year and Team Astana appears to be dominant. If all you follow is the Tour de france, then you miss most of the best racing of the year! Paris-Roubaix, for one, is probably the toughest race n the calendar.

As a guy with an ice cream habit and a special appreciation for Italian gelato, here's a retiring bike racer whose career choices I can respect. From Velo News:

"Italian veteran Daniele Nardello will retire at the end of this year’s spring classics.... Nardello said he is looking forward to spending more time with his family as well as opening up ice cream shops in northern Italy. "

The weather looks to be poor for cycling on Saturday, so it's off the bike and on to some yet to be determined creek in the hills.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Sunday Ride

I plan to mix up the content in this space, preferring to bore you with some variety rather than a stream of my ride reports, but this is a story with a lesson.
I rode over and met Chris Irons at the top of River Mountian Road yesterday and then made the mad dash at 30-35 MPH (OK, OK, it's downhill AND we had a tailwind, but homeruns still count when they're wind-assisted, don't they?) out Highway 10 to join the 1:00PM ride from Two Rivers Park. The ride was fun and got fast. From my perspective, it was real fast!!!

mea culpa: Mea culpa is a Latin phrase that translates into English as "my fault"

faux pas :(pronounced /ˌfoʊˈpɑː/, plural: faux pas /ˌfoʊˈpɑː(z)/) is a violation of accepted social rules

This multicultural lesson in language is to warm you up for my admission that I made a faux pas and accept that it was a screw-up.

I was second wheel in a very fast pace line (26-28 MPH) that was furiously chasing down a break. I was barely hanging in there and ready to be out, but didn't want to open a gap. As the mighty JMar pulled off, I wanted to pull through and get off the front as soon as possible, but I slowed down somewhat precipitously to 22-23 MPH. That was the faux pas. The result was that the rider behind me suddenly had a wheel coming back at him and it disrupted the pace line. He rightfully advised me on the error of my ways.
Worst case, I could have caused a hell of a bike wreck. Tactically, it disrupted the chase and broke up the rhythm and structure of the pace line.

mea culpa

I know better than to slow without warning, and this is how crashes occur when riding near your limit in the close quarters of the pace line. A momentary lapse in focus can cause mayhem or at least a missed catch as in this case. This ain't the Tour or even a race, but everybody wants to finish at the front. I don't think I'll be banned, but your friends have got to have confidence when riding around you. I'll do better.

I'm not beating myself up over this but it served as a reminder that there are accepted social rules to be followed in the pack and they are there for purposes of safety and efficiency. I could just as easily pick on somebody else's faux pas, as we see them on almost any group ride, but I'm unlikely to hurt feelings when I pick on me.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Boring rollercoaster

Well, boring could describe my long-winded post below. The idea was to give the mechanically disinterested a simple perspective on mechanics, but it turned out to be proof-positive that I can't communicate in Tweets.
It also describes the weather over the last few days. Tuesday, I was all atwitter at jumping into a ride with my buds, sweat soaking my bibs, bugs and grime stuck to my legs and salt streaks on my helmet straps. I went to the river for my regular solo ride and it seemed like everybody in town was out. Good stuff. Then winter reappeared. Cold. Rain. Snow. Wind. Riding has been out of the question so I've been stuck here in the bunker toying with the idea of running, but, frankly, I just haven't had the heart to dress and head out the door. After putting on a few pounds over the winter, I went sub-150 on the scales this week, so I substituted cinnamon rolls for base miles and a cherry pie for a couple of climbs. I think it will all even out.

I'm already spoiled to Spring, so I'm going to wait it out.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Along the River Trail

We're blessed with The River Trail here in the Little Rock/North Little Rock area, which extends for about 7 miles on both sides of the Arkansas River, terminating at the Big Dam Bridge on the north end and creating a fairly flat 15 mile loop. This multi-use trail passes through several parks and incorporates access points for many side loops, climbs, commuter routes, and links to flat, Grand Prairie road rides to the East and hilly, climb-filled routes to the West and North. I ride the trail almost daily and without it, it is unlikely that I'd be much of a cyclist (insert smart-ass remarks here). It's a great place to learn to ride and gain fitness without traffic and mandatory climbs, a rarity in the Arkansas nation.
I got out today for a Saturday social ride, something I always thoroughly enjoy. It was 68 and cloudy when I left the house, but the sun soon came out and temperatures rose to a perfect 70-something. Diane rode out with me on her commute to a yoga class. I soon ran into a couple of friends and rode with them for a while. As they were finishing up, I saw my buddy Chris C. heading the opposite direction so I chased him down and joined him for a few miles. Just as he finished at the BDB, Diane called from downtown, so I met her for another loop and the ride home. I got in a nice 45 mile ride over a variety of terrain, saw a bunch of friends and never pulled a car out of the driveway or hit the city limits. This is a great riding town and getting better!
Things are not static on the Trail. My hometown of North Little Rock is committed to the bike community (more on that later) under the leadership of Mayor Pat Hays and Alderman Charlie Hight. Both are active riders and appreciate the quality-of-life value of supporting a vibrant outdoor life-style, so thank them when you see them! It is great for the participants and, as developers and property owners are realizing, access to the Trail enhances property values and urban development. Even as I write this, there are two projects underway on the NLR side of the Trail. The first is a paved link to the North Shore Business Park and the second is a loop at the bottom of the NLR side of the BDB to facilitate a more safe approach and exit for the bridge from the parking lot and Cook's Landing. I'm not always pro-development, but both of these projects are well-conceived and will both improve access to the trail and enhance safety.
Now, if the fine folks within Little Rock city government would embrace the concept with equal enthusiasm, the town would really be rolling! Right now, the riding community would consider it a big step if Little Rock would occasionally sweep the glass, gravel and tree limbs off of the bike lanes along Rebsaman Park Road. At this time, Little Rock is way behind the curve in comparison to NLR and Pulaski County.
There are exciting things ahead for trail development here in Central Arkansas and the more people who use the Trail and express their support, the sooner things can happen.
Get out and ride.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Chainlove: Quirky Internet Retail Outlets

I can't remember how I first ran across Chainlove

Some time later, I ran across Bonktown

Both are outlets for cycling gear and part of Backcountry, for which there is a link on both sites. They have an auction feel, featuring a fixed quantity of a single item (and a few more on the side) and a countdown clock. The discounts can be steep and if you snooze, you lose. When the countdown timer hits zero or the last gizmo is sold, it's game over, and the next item takes center stage.
These are unlikely to take much business from the local bike shop, as you're as likely to see DH body armor and camo MTB stuff followed by a sports bra and a 400.oo integrated carbon road bar and stem. It's mostly just the fun of seeing what pops up that makes it worthwhile to surf on by. I did buy some sunglasses recently.
If they just happen to be selling what you're buying, then the price might be right!

Monday, March 2, 2009

It’s the little things that make the difference….
This is a trying time of year when it comes to dressing for the ride. In a couple of months, the only apparel decision that we’ll have to make is which jersey to throw on. It will be hot and there are few wardrobe choices that make any difference. Hell, the choice of “nekkid” would bring little relief from the heat and would more likely result in derision and sun burn, neither of which has particular appeal. Those days will be here soon enough, but March means that it might be 36 degrees when you roll out and 70 as you’re pushing up that last hill to the house.
The key is to dress in what I call “bits”, otherwise known as layering.
The criteria for selecting your bits is they appreciably extend your comfort range and, in most cases, can be easily removed and stashed in your pockets. I have known a few thrifty (and the thrifty are few among my gearhead friends) cyclists who resist spending hard earned cash for wispy, seemingly pricey little accessories.

My advice: Spend the money. Now. How much is a missed ride worth to you? How much would you have paid to have had warm feet on your last poorly conceived outing? This stuff lasts forever, so start enjoying it now. Go see the bike shop boys (and girls) and get anything you need. Permission granted.

Basic bits that every cyclist should own:
Arm warmers: I have the basic Pearl Izumi thermafleece models and a nice pair of wool arm warmers. Take your pick of brands. I think the top lines are all comparable and good

Knee warmers: Same drill here on PI. I also have some Giordanas that extend to the bottom of the calf and can be met with crew socks.

Toe covers: I like my PI Calientoes.

Ear Band: I seem to be stuck on PI, but their ear band is just right. Little bulk, easily stashed, and plenty warm when worn with a cap. I have several helmet liners/skull caps,etc., and all are too hot almost always.
I'm not carried away with Pearl Izumi, but I find their accessories are well-designed, priced fairly and hold up well. I’m sure the same can be said of LG and other fine brands.

The cap: Not just ‘A’ cap, ‘THE’ CAP, the cat’s ass of cycling caps. People who know me know might notice that I always wear a cycling cap under my helmet. When I started riding, it seemed that the afternoon sun always just peeked over my sunglasses and below my helmet, so I started wearing caps. Frankly, I’m surprised that everybody doesn’t. Anyway, I had a number of traditional cotton cycling caps. They worked OK, but they were always soaked in sweat and allowed sweat to pour into my eyes in the summer and chill me in winter.
Then I discovered the Headsweats SpinCycle cap. This bad boy soaks up sweat better than any headband I’ve tried and evaporates it to help cool your head in summer and keep you dry in winter. With an ear band, you don’t anything else for all but the coldest days.

SpinCycle (above)
All the nostalgia of a classic cycling cap right out of ‘Breaking Away’ with 2007 high-wicking CoolMax® technology to keep you cool under that aero helmet. Traditional styling of a cycle cap with a soft flexible bill coupled with a fitted cap construction. Spincycle can be worn alone or under a helmet.

Product Details
· CoolMax® fabric shell to keep you dry & comfortable
· CoolMax® terry headband quickly wicks moisture away
· Soft bill flips up or down for that traditional cycling look

Killer socks: I really like socks, and have a lot of them. I have three sock drawers, in fact, sorted by purpose, of course. Cold feet suck and the warmest socks I’ve found are DeFeet Blaze . They’re wool, so they’re dry and comfortable in wide range of temperatures, but the thick, dense knit of the toe box and bottom really make a difference on cool days. The thinner material elsewhere allows an uncrowded fit in cycling shoes. I’m warmer in these and toe covers than I had been with other socks and full shoe covers, yet they are still comfy when things warm up a bit.
Gather your bits and go!
PS: It helps if you can keep your bits organized. They're almost all black and fleecey, so they get lost among themselves.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Notes from Sunday ride...

I just got in from our Sunday group ride. It starts from Two Rivers Park west of Little Rock and covers about 33 moderately hilly miles. I usually ride from home to bump the distance up to about 60 miles, but today I looked outside at the wind-whipped trees and the snow on rooftops and made the decision to drive to my ride. This is billed as a leisurely ride, but as with all good rides,word gets out, more riders show up and the pace leaves leisure behind. I was reminded of two very basic principles today:

1) Training pays off, especially high intensity training like intervals.

2) I should try it.