Friday, May 29, 2009

Little Rock Ride-to-Work

And the winners are...........

Top Photo: The winning Team Garver and their well-deserved trophy
Bottom Photo: Yours truly, the REAL winner, with icing on my lips, a delicious cinnamon roll, a good cup of coffee and two very cute rider chicks.

Friday, May 30th, was Bike to Work Day here. I joined Diane for a very pleasant early morning ride downtown to meet the Garver Team. The morning was a cool 65 degrees and the ride through an empty Argenta Main Street and across the Arkansas River was a great way to start the day.

...and things just kept getting better!

On arrival, I grabbed a hot cup of really good coffee from the spread provided by BACA and a cinnamon roll that had to be from Boulevard Bread. I've got a bit of a pastry problem and these flaky, cream-cheese icing covered bombs are among my favorites in town. Being unsure as to whether I'd given the first one a fair evaluation, I had to go back for another.

Drawings were held for door prizes and, since the local bike shops had been very generous, the drawings went a couple of rounds. I scored some Sport Beans and a Camel Bak water bottle. Unfortunately, the water bottle is pink. I'm confident enough to ride in pink, but my chances of keeping the bottle are slim, as I'm sure that Diane has already determined that it is a perfect compliment to her pink-trimmed Madone.

Garver always has a great turnout for these events and rode away, literally, with the team trophy packed in one of Diane's panniers.

Congratulations to Team Garver and thanks to Bike Advocacy of Central Arkansas and the other sponsors of this event.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

And This Brings Us to Bottles

Here at JBarCycling, all readers are appreciated, especially those who make the occasional comment or actually contribute something like the following succinct observation.This from an anonymous reader whom we will call.......hmmmmm......need to make up something far him, "Mike Collier":

"Being an avid reader of your Jbar Cycling blog, I have noticed a developing trend. It seems that you are fixed on subjects that begin with the letter "B". Like Birds. Or Bugs Or Bags. Although I will admit that you have apparently made an effort to resist using "B" words in some cases where they may well have worked. Like "Friends don't let friends show their Butts". Or "Boasting about my 25K!!!" One can only assume that the next post will be about Bottles. Or Bottom Brackets."

This so-called "Mr Collier" seems to have identified a pattern in my subject matter, though I would not be caught boasting about the 25k nor would I waste a perfectly good opportunity to use a powerful euphemistic phrase like "show their ass" in a uniquely apropos and literal sense.

I would, however, shamelessly take the "B" ball and run with it.

During the winter, just about any old water bottles will do. I've got a couple that have a little leaky dribble thing going on, and I avoid them on cold days, but otherwise ambient temperature is fine, the rides are usually shorter and we don't sweat much, so little thought is required.
That changes for the season just about right now. The temperature out on the road will soon be pushing triple digits, I'll be sweating at a rate of about two bottles an hour, electrolyte replacement becomes a concern and that angry heat reaching up from the asphalt seems to own the very air. So, wouldn't a nice, icy cold drink be pleasant?

It's possible with a couple of Polar insulated bottles and a little planning. Polar bottles hold a little less volume than conventional bottles (24 oz vs. 28oz in tall bottles), they are well worth the trade off when the Arkansas summer comes calling. The planning part involves partially filling the bottles and placing them in the freezer. They are best propped at an angle, because if you lay them on their side, the lid freezes in place and if you stand them up, you can't squeeze the solid cylinder of water in the bottom of the bottle. The relatively large solid chunk of ice, when topped with cubes and water, can stay cold for a couple of hours on the hottest day. I usually fill them a third to half full for freezing, though when packing for a long summer ride, I'll freeze one near-full and use it for a third bottle carried in my jersey pocket.
Sports drinks get the same treatment, but because of the salt and other ingredients, they melt faster than plain ice. I still find it works better to mix a half bottle of drink, freeze it, fill the bottle with cubes then top off the liquid.

I also take every opportunity to add ice and, like water stops, have known locations along my road routes where I can score. It can make all the difference in your comfort and performance when the heat is on!

And thanks for writing, anonymous "Mike", and I'm sure that I'll be moving on to "C" words soon enough, as the C's are a target rich environment. D's may run a little thin as there is not a lot to say about downtubes since shifters went STI.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

What's In The Bag?

Most of us road bike types ride with a seat bag in which we carry, at a bare minimum, stuff to fix a flat tire. For some folks, that's enough; however, I'm not the type to go bare bones when it comes to roadside repair capability and all it takes are a few hex wrenches. More often than not, my stuff comes out to help other people who are tool-less (sometimes clueless, too, but that's another post), but I'm always glad to have what is needed to get myself or another rider back on the road. Even if you don't know how to perform a repair, you should have the supplies and tools, as somebody will be often be willing to help you.
I decided to inventory the contents of my bag, just as it was on my bike:

Car key, truck key, house key

3 Hex wrenches: 4,5,6 mm; these fit about everything except pedals. I prefer carrying them to a multitool and you can buy a complete set for $3.00. Leave the rest in your tool box.

SRAM Quick-link: I've carried it for 4 years and have never broken a chain. It must be good luck.

Lip Balm -a backup. I hate to get caught without it

2- tire levers

Microflate Inflator

2 CO2 cartridges

1 tube, dusted with talc and wrapped in cling wrap
I usually carry 2 tubes and 3 CO2's on longer rides. In fact, I need to add the spares, now, for the season.
Darwin's query:
Leave town for 100 miler and have a flat 5 miles out. Do you want to ride the 95-miler with no back-up?
Didn't think so.

glueless patches

1- set contact lenses

Personal info; id, insurance and emergency contact

Money: I keep $10-15.00 'emergency money' deep in the bag and a little 'spending cash' close at hand for things like food and drink on the road or a round at the Pub on Wednesday night. The stash in the picture above is a little heavy on dough at almost 80 bucks. I tend to stick in a five or a ten without checking the balance, so I'm returning most of that cash to the safety of my pocket before next Wednesday night!
When it comes to mounting on the bike, it's best to keep your bag affixed snugly to your seat and seatpost. This reduces any rattling of contents and also helps prevent the appearance of the rear-view style-point killer that might be called the "old dog" look.

Friday, May 22, 2009

What's Bugging You?

The flycatchers and buntings are not the only creatures to show up in Arkansas each Spring. Back come mosquitoes,chiggers, ticks and the dirty little bastard known as the buffalo gnat.

"Simuliidae is a small family of blood sucking flies commonly known as black flies or buffalo gnats"

Of course, I'd heard tales of blackflies growing up, with my mental image being one of Boundary Waters fisherman with head nets. That was true until 12-15 years ago when I suffered from a very painful knot of a bug bite on my neck while fishing at our place on the Little Red River. My brother said, "Buffalo gnat." I said.....well, I'm on a self-imposed cuss-quota, so I'll just say that I forcefully expressed my displeasure. Since then, I've been bled by them on the Buffalo, made miserable on the Mulberry, ravaged on Richland seems they've taken over.Needless to say, that includes the River Trail. I think it's kind of like my experience with poison ivy. I had never reacted to it, but then got it a few times and learned to look for it. Once I learned to recognize it, I realized that it's Arkansas's most common groundcover.
I thought buffalo gnats had to have recently migrated, but in researching this post I found this Time article from 1934:

"Great black clouds of insects hummed softly over eastern Arkansas last week. Above waiting fields the sun rose higher each day but on many a farm spring planting had stopped dead. Some farmers tied smudge-fire buckets to their plows, tried to go ahead. Others gave up, herded their livestock into barns, circled them with smudges. Still others, too late, found their horses and mules choked, sucked, poisoned. By the week's end nearly 1,000 horses & mules lay dead in their tracks, and desperate farmers were crying to Red Cross and Government for relief.
The deadly clouds were buffalo gnats (simuliidae) so called not because they attack buffaloes but because they have humps on their backs. "
I haven't lost any livestock to them, but the bite is very painful to many of us, Diane and I included. While the discomfort of a mosquito bite can typically be alleviated by a long hot shower, the bite of the buffalo gnat lingers. It makes a knot that burns, itches, and hurts for several days and often takes a week or more to totally subside. These are not the soft, slow flying swarms that we regularly eat, breath and collect on our skin for that dirty windshield look. These are stealth fighters. They come in low, launch on their target and are gone before the victims even know they are struck. Favored target areas seem to be the neck and head, particularly the nape of the neck and the area behind the ears, though any bare skin is fair game.
Insect repellents don't help much. DEET is probably your best bet, but don't count on it.
Vanilla is said to help, but my results with it have been questionable. My best advice is just to keep riding!
I'm sharing this because I've spoken to many victims who were unaware of what had bitten them. If you're one of those folks, you now have a target for your vitriole.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Mile Marker 25k

I noticed last week that the odometer on my Litespeed Ghisallo had rolled over 25,000 miles. That's roughly 3 1/2 years of riding. My other bikes have collected a few miles, but the vast majority of my riding has been done on the Litespeed. It has performed as advertised. It is light (frame weight 880g as I recall), very comfortable and its titanium construction means that I can ride it for many more years and not worry about rust (steel), metal fatigue (aluminum) or notch failure (carbon).
This is not to say that I haven't had to do a little work and replace a few consumables along the way. I skimmed back over my bike log, where I keep maintenance notes as well as ride data, and gathered a some numbers on stuff that's gone onto the bike. In 25,000 miles, I've used:

9- DuraAce 7801 chains
11- Conti GP4000 tires
???- tubes
1- DuraAce 12-27 cassette (yeah, I've got a 27, but it's not a compact, girlyman.)
3- sets shifter cables
2- sets brake cables
5-6 sets bar tape
1- DA shifter (collision victim)
1- DA bottom bracket

3- saddles
Replaced Ksyrium SL wheelset due to brake surface wear. Still used as backup.

OK, so it's not free or even real cheap to ride, but it's worth it! I'm sure a lot of people, read that "most people", don't replace their chains regularly and only replace tires when they don't hold air anymore, etc., but I spend a lot of time on the bike and want everything to work perfectly and reliably.

Of course, if you don't ride your bike much, it's very easy to maintain. Just get out your little feather duster......

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Spring Clean and Check

It appears that the monsoons are finally behind us and that we're in for a stellar week of clear, dry weather. Against all instincts, I laid off of the bike today to get some much-needed house and yard work done, drop by a little family function and give my bike a thorough cleaning. Besides, on looking at my log, I see that I've ridden ten out of the last eleven days and racked up over 300 miles in spite of the miserable weather. The only day that I didn't ride, I was in my boat, so I think I was due a rest day.
Now is a good time to check out your rig. In spite of frequent cleanings, I probably could have started in on my bike with the trowel and leaf blower that I used on the gutters. Wet weather riding allows nasty gunk to pile up in more places that you can usually find in one pass. Be sure to clean up your brake pads.
In addition to the bike, now is also a good time to look over your bike clothes, check the contents of your seat bag and assess your stock of gels, bars, sports drink, electrolyte caps and anything else that you go through regularly. I find that it pays to keep a good stash of all of my nutrition staples. I buy bars and gels by the carton. Instead of 1.50-2.00 each, I seldom pay more than a buck apiece and they're always at hand when I head out the door.

Friends don't let friends show their ass....

No, I'm not talking about reeling in your buddy when the tequila shots start rolling around, as there's always the possibility of some entertainment in that. I'm talking about the guy or gal (Well, OK, some things are best left unsaid.) in front of you in the pace line who has a pair of bibs or shorts that have run their useful life. All it takes is a bright, sunny day, a patch of fabric that has devolved into cheesecloth, and a glowing white butt beneath to complete the picture of worn out bibs. Last week, Diane mentioned that it looked like I'd sat in some pollen on the porch. This week, she determined that what appeared as a smudge was, in reality, a little moon glow. No matter how firm the buns, the sight of a butt crack through transparent bike shorts is seldom pleasing. That favored pair of Giordanas has been semi-retired to the winter bin, only to be worn with tights from this day forward.
In kayaking, I've long observed that it is considered perfectly acceptable etiquette to mention to a complete stranger that they have boogers hanging from their nose. I've personally been engaged in conversation with a cute chick boater and felt compelled to interrupt, "Hey, you've got a big greenie hanging. No, you just smeared it. There, you got it.....". "Thanks.." conversation resumes without a second thought.
That's the way it ought to be, so if you see a friend who has let their cover wear too thin, give them a heads-up.
Friends don't let friends show their ass.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

It's about time!

All I can say is, "Damn, it's been good to have two solid evenings on the bike without wet roads and/or rain! "

Pardon that strong language, but it seemed necessary to adequately convey my enthusiasm. I feel such exclamations have a unique, very functional place in our language. It is not a cheap attempt to grab your attention through the use of gratuitous foul language. I'll save the gratuitous foul language for a more ambitious post.

I rode about 44 miles on Wednesday night, just cruising around the River Trail and visiting, as it seemed like everybody in town was out. It was warm and humid after many days of frequent rain and cool temperatures.
On Thursday, I met some galpals for the Fast Girl ride and, though I'd always like to ride better, I had a blast. The group was smaller than usual, about twenty riders, and by my standards, pretty fast. It just seemed like everybody was loose and there were a lot of those sly little smiles that show up when you're having so much fun that you must be getting away with something.
Everybody has their strengths, whether it be climbing, pounding it out on the flats, or dropping like a rock on a technical descent, and it's fun to watch your friends jockey for position and make their moves. We mostly know each other's ability fairly well, so you tend to mark your peers for friendly rivalry. It's not a race, but I think almost everybody on a group ride is keeping a little score sheet of their small victories and weighing strategies to avoid the defeats on the next ride. There's always somebody stronger, so everybody's got plenty of room for ambition! I usually come home with visions of weight loss and painful intervals dancing in my head. Of course, then I sleep on it, come to my senses, and decide that a recovery ride is in order.

Fun stuff, and it felt like the summer cycling season had finally arrived. Crank it up!

Monday, May 11, 2009

Wrong Again: Clear Trail

OK, I was wrong in my speculation about the condition of the River Trail following recent flooding. I didn't expect to be able to get very far when I came off the Burns Park Loop Monday night and headed down through the soccer fields to the trail. I headed up toward Cook's landing to the BDB and the trail is dry and clean. Really clean. Then I rode back downtown and almost everything is in really good shape. The trail in front of the dog park is still a mess right now, but it's easily passed on the street. I wasn't sure if I need to thank heaven for rinsing rains or thank Pat Hays and the NLR Parks folks. I'm tired of the rain, so thanks go to the NLR folks! There was a post from the Parks Director on the ABC board stating that if the river went down, they'd have the trail clear by Tuesday and so they did!
The other thing I was wrong about is the purpose of the big pipeline at Cook's. In fact, I've been wrong about it twice, but I finally have my story straight. It is used to carry sand being pumped by a floating dredge working in front of the hydro plant. From the road, you can hear the slurry rattling through the pipe.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some of My Favorite Birds Are Back

You don't have to be a serious birder to notice a wide range of bird species along the River Trail. We've got everything from Road Runners to Bald Eagles, but two of my seasonal favorites are the Indigo Bunting and the Scissor Tailed Flycatcher.
You can see flycatchers almost any time during the summer months along the trail at the deer fields west of the soccer fields. They will be either perched on anything available or cruising for bugs in the airspace over the field.
For the last couple of seasons, I've mostly seen the buntings on the wooded stretch of trail between the BDB and the S-Turn bridge, but they seem to be everywhere this summer. In addition to the upper NLR trail, I've spotten some near the quarry and on the Little Rock side. These birds are brilliant blue (not to be confused with bluebirds, which have a rust colored chest). When seen out of direct light, they can appear near-black, but are luminous in the sun.
Both of these birds are elegant in their own way and spotting them is just one of the many small things that can bring a smile and make for a good day on the bike.

Along the Trail: It's Going to Be Nasty

The rain keeps falling and the river is still over much of the trail, though it has receded a couple of feet in the last few days, starting to expose the mud and debris that promise to create hazards and foul drive trains for weeks to come! The fine silt makes for sticky, slimy mud followed by transition to clinging dust that it will be with us for a while if experience holds true.

I went boating Saturday at The Cossatot River, helping with a "First Timers" run. It's an annual event intended to help whitewater paddlers take a step up in difficulty from the likes of the Big Piney and the Mulberry, while being shepherded by a crew of experienced boaters. It's always good to be in my boat, though the planned group trip was cut short by a storm as we reached Cossatot Falls. My partner and I had to seek shelter at a deer camp after we decided at the Falls that our best bet was to press on downstream to the truck. Nothing like a cataclysmic storm to liven up the boating!

Anyway, I was eager to ride on Sunday and jumped at a small window around midday. I rode from the Little Rock side of the BDB as I thought that would be my best bet for dry pavement and it worked out OK, though there were still stretches covered with run-off and some puddles.
Cook's landing remains accessible and I rode a short distance down Isabella Jo Trail before being halted by a stream of water draining from the woods across the trail into Campbell Lake. I stood there for awhile just watching fish moving back and forth across the trail as if they couldn't decide where they wanted to be when the water goes down, leaving them stuck with their choices. More likely, the big fish were thinking about eating the little fish and the little fish were trying to be anywhere besides in a big fish belly!

The trail is going to be a mess as the water recedes, so be on the lookout for slick mud, new potholes, big ol' snakes anything else that can come out of the river!

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Like Fish in a Drought...Only With A Lot More Water

During long dry spells, when the creeks run near-dry and the ponds shrink to puddles, the fish get all bunched up. In the thin fingers of water that connect pools up in the creeks, shiners move up and back and in the more open water, bass and sunfish patrol. It's like that on the River Trail right now, only because of the huge abundance of water in the Arkansas River.

The flooding has limited our ride options and we're all circling around the same open sections of trail. I plotted my route tonight to detour around cut off bridges and flooded sections of trail. After taking my usual route from Park Hill, through Levy and Burns Park, instead of heading to the BDB, I went through downtown and headed up to the Little Rock end of the BDB. On the way up, I passed a huge group of Fast Girls and several smaller pods of riders. When I got to the BDB, I saw friends Bethany and Charles. I stopped to speak to them and then came Robert and Patrick and Heather and Mike and Rick and Logan and....... well, within less than 5 minutes, we had a good size pack of group ride refugees, so, of course, we went on a group ride!
Sometimes it takes a little imagination to get out of your ride ruts. The flooding has forced me to change up all of my routes for the last couple of nights, but I've managed to get some good group rides in and the dynamics are a little different than the usually weeknight rides. We're all pushed together in a smaller pond, so we are crossing paths with friends that we'd otherwise miss due to the nature of our respective habits. It's kind of like a snow day, mildly inconvenient, but somewhat interesting. The rides have been brisk, but mellow and conversational as old friends mix with seldom-seen acquaintances. There is no plan and, unlike most set group rides, nobody really knows what the protocol is on pace, sprints, attacks, etc., so everybody just settles in for the pleasure of the ride.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Short Update on River Trail Flooding

The River Trail in North Little Rock is currently flooded from the pavilion at the NLR foot of the Big Dam Bridge and from the soccer/ deer field gate. The Isabella Jo trail is flooded for about 20 yards from the Cooks Landing road. Even if you got past there to the Campbell Lake Trail, you won't go far.

The road from the Cook's Landing Park to the BDB is open so you can get to the bridge. Riding options from Cook's include the North Shore Business Park, crossing the BDB to LR, or heading out Crystal Hill Road. There is some good climbing to be done by taking a right off of Crystal Hill Rd. at the Summit Church and going up to the SouthWind subdivision.

Riding from Downtown will allow you to cross to LR or get your kicks on Fort Roots and the Burns Park Loop.

Based on the flow from all of the normally small creeks in the Ozarks and throughout the Arkansas watershed, the high water will be with us for awhile.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Astana Out/Livestrong In?

In this insightful article, Bicycling rolls out a very plausible scenario in which Lance Armstrong could end up with an ownership position of the team that is now Astana.

Now, THAT could be the the key to a massive surge in the popularity of cycling in the USA! Imagine the exposure that would come about if Lance owned and raced with a team carrying his brand and had the backing of a company like Nike, which is capable of placing the name and image in virtually every even close-to-sports-related market segment in the world.

Bring on the Juggernaut!

Saturday, May 2, 2009

The JBar Publicity Machine and More Good Government in North Little Rock

One day last summer, I saw a request for a few folks to come out to Scott for a photo shoot for Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism. Diane and I ended up doing it, along with Craig Zediker, Tim Hittler and Lauren Johnson. It was more of a production than I expected, as they had multiple still photographers and videographers, along with a whole lot of gear. They shot hours of video and thousands of photos as we rode up and down the pecan grove, sometimes riding past the the stationary cameras and sometimes following along behind a convertible or a truck with photographers on board.

I got a DVD from one of the photographers and, since I never saw or heard any more from it, was glad to have some nice pictures and figured we were filed away somewhere. Then, a couple of weeks ago, I saw an ad in Bicycling Magazine and in a Parks and Tourism insert in the DemocratGazette that used one of the pictures. Bicycling only showed my shoulder, but I knew it was me! I understand that they've seen the error of their ways and included the rest of me in the latest issue, along with Diane's hip. A friend mentioned that he'd seen the ad at Bicycling Magazine's online mag.

The ad with us in it rotates with some others, but of all the Arkansas ads link to :

...where there is a very well done video promoting cycling in Arkansas. Look fast and you'll see people that you know if you are local. My sister lives in Connecticut and her response to the video was, "Now, instead of trying to tell people how beautiful Arkansas is, I'll just show them this."
It conveys a very positive image of bicycling in our State.

I must admit, I think it's kind of cool to show up in Bicycling, especially since it's not as the "before" boy in one of those "Lose 15 Pounds Fast" articles. I'm pleased that we can have a very small part in promoting cycling in Arkansas.

I'm sure that they pulled out those file photos to get onto the coattails of the overwhelming popularity of JBar Cycling!

Call Out to Mayor Pat Hays and the NLR City Government:

I was at a meeting the other day that included NLR Mayor Pat Hays and I praised the new piece of bike lane near the Burns Park Funland mentioned here a few days ago. He said, "That was my idea. I thought it would give riders the ability to make the Funland loop without getting into the traffic and allow riders crossing the freeway to gather some speed while giving drivers a chance to see them before they enter the lane."

Good thinking, Mayor, and thanks! A small project with a very positive payoff!

The mayor is a rider and, in fact, came into the meeting on his bike and in kit saying, "I can't stay long. I have to get my ride in."

Work continues in North Little Rock to improve bike infrastructure and public awareness of cycling. At a recent City Council meeting, Alderman Sam Baggett expressed concern that the City was too focused on bicycles and suggested that perhaps something like a city shooting range would serve his constituents more. If you live in NLR Ward 3 (which includes Levy, Scenic Hill, Amboy, and Crystal Hill) and ride, please drop Mr. Baggett a note just to let him know you're out there and that you support the City's progressive stance on cycling. He was not "antibike" at all, but I got the impression that he didn't think there were many riders in his ward, though I can think of 4-5 off hand. Cycling can use his support.

Regardless of your ward, if you're a NLR resident, drop your alderman a note just to let them know that we are a city with a lot of cyclists and we appreciate their support.

For the most part, the cycling improvements being considered in NLR do not cost a great deal, but a few signs, some marker paint and public education can go a long way when it comes to enhancing the cycling experience and getting people involved in commuting and recreational riding. The more "mainstream" cycling becomes, the better off we are.