Aside from a couple ride reports, the last real update I posted was back in March, and a lot has happened in the intervening ten weeks.
Instead of going chronologically, I’ll organize this post along four major themes. I’ll start with some major repairs I faced, and the challenges presented by the woefully incompetent local bike shop. Then I’ll talk about a pile of new equipment I’ve purchased and tested. I’ll describe several notable rides; and that will naturally segue into a discussion of the downs and ups of my fitness level and training. Ready?
Originally, my repair situation was a whole long blogpost onto itself, so you should be thankful I’m constrained to posting a short summary now. The short version is that after an April 1 recovery ride, I discovered cracks in the rim of my rear wheel on R2 (my primary bike). On 4/6 I ordered a replacement, and began using my old bike, the Plastic Bullet (PB) while waiting for the new wheel to arrive.
But on 4/14, three days before an early-season 130-mile group ride, the PB’s rear wheel started making a horrible screeching noise when I coasted. The mechanic at my LBS said it was probably rideable, so I took a chance and rode it during the 200k. But the problem prevented me from ever coasting. Much of all that got documented in the 200k ride report which you can read here.
But my issues were far from over. Five days later, I attempted to bike out to a meditation retreat at the local zen center, only to have a spoke break on that same rear wheel. Now both of my bikes were out of commission, and would stay that way until…?
May 4, after waiting four whole weeks, I finally got R2 back with its fancy new wheel (details below). For the Plastic Bullet, it took longer. They were able to replace the broken spoke, but all they could do for the screeching freehub was to give it some lube. And that took them an unbelievable five weeks!
If I were to tell the whole story, I’d go on at length about how the shop couldn’t diagnose the freehub and even told me it couldn’t be the issue; how they said they didn’t need a deposit to order my wheel, only to call me back and demand one the next day; the numerous times they told me they’d call me back same-day, but never called at all, ever.
The topper came when I needed to register the new wheel with Mavic’s warrantee program. The bike shop didn’t know the wheel’s product number nor their own vendor number and refused to get them for me. At their insistence, I had to call Mavic myself and pretend to be a shop employee to get the info I needed! Bullshit of the highest order.
But let’s transition from their shitty service to the interesting new equipment I’ve received in the past couple months. It’s much more positive.
As mentioned, I’ve got a new rear wheel on the R2: a Mavic Ksyrium Pro Exalith. I’ve ridden Mavic Ksyriums forever and love their warrantee replacement program, but Mavic is now offering Ksyriums with a new braking surface coating called “Exalith”, which also requires special brake blocks. Visually, the brake tracks are black, rather than the standard silver of brushed aluminum, giving the wheel an all-black stealth look. The other difference is that the brake surface coating has a pebbly texture, which causes the brakes to produce a loud mechanical whine whose pitch is proportional to the bike’s speed. It’s significant enough that derpy recreational riders sometimes think I have paper or something caught in my brakes or chainstays. So far I’m really pleased with the new hoop.
Along with wheels, I’m also running new rubber. Michelin recently replaced its popular but quickly-wearing Pro4 line of tires, so I ordered a set of the new Power Endurance tires. Although I ordered standard 23mms, the vendor sent larger 25mm tires, but I decided to run them rather than sending them back because the larger size has become much more popular recently. My observations have been consistent with what people have been saying: I can run them at lower pressure (90 pounds rather than 100), which smooths out the ride on Pittsburgh’s horrible roads, without incurring much additional rolling resistance. It’s hard to compare the Powers with the old Pro4s without conflating that with the move from 23mm to 25, but I’m hopeful that the new rubber will have better longevity than the fragile old Pro4s.
During a trip to Boston I stopped by the Oakley store and picked up white ear socks and new red-orange lenses for my Half Jac sunglasses. That was mostly for style reasons, but the lenses are interesting in that they give everything a very strong blue tint.
Revisiting an older purchase, I was able to move the Hydrotac stick-on magnification bifocal lenses from my old sunglass lenses to the new ones. Those have functioned absolutely wonderfully since I picked them up last Xmas. They’re perfectly positioned to enable me to read small map details on my Garmin, while retaining normal distance vision looking up-road. Great purchase and highly recommended over expensive prescription bifocal sunglasses.
I recently took shipment of two Ass Savers (red and white, to match the bike), light little plastic wings that attach to the saddle rails and extend backward to provide a stubby little fender. They’re not big enough to prevent a roostertail in the rain, but they will keep some of it from soaking one’s backside with water and road grime. They’re great for those uncertain days with a threat of light showers, when you don’t want to break out a big, ugly clip-on fender for a mostly sunny ride.
Another cool gadget that won’t see frequent use is my new Nut-R. Basically, it replaces the nut at the end of an axle’s quick-release skewer, and provides a wheel-level mounting point for a GoPro action cam or anything that uses a GoPro-compatible mount. It’s an awesome idea, and it’ll come in handy for documenting interesting rides. While I haven’t done much with it yet, you can watch my first test video here.
Finally, I also bought a big pack of disposable latex gloves. Those are really useful when cleaning or working on the bike, which I’d formerly always done bare-handed. Dur. Sometimes the simplest little things can go un-thought-of, even for someone who has been riding as long as I have!
All those acquisitions have turned out really good, and as a result I’m pretty delighted.
But now it’s time to turn to my actual rides. If you watch my Strava page you’ll have seen these already, but if not, here’s a brief summary. Follow the links to see my comments, stats, maps, and more photos.
After a really good March, April pretty much sucked. A trip to Maine, an extended period of cold and rainy weather, and a long list of mechanical woes kept me off the bike for nearly the entire month. The only exception was the huge McConnell’s Mills 200k brevet that I somehow managed to get in. But that ride is already described in detail here.
May began with getting R2 back in working order, but still very little riding, as iffy weather continued. On May 12 I had a bit of fun, going down to the local bike track to perform my own individual hour record, which I wrote about here.
On the 18th I participated in the Ride of Silence, a casual ride in remembrance of all the cyclists who have been injured of killed on the road. Strava log.
The next day I had a bit of fun setting a new tag for the Tag-o-Rama game. Believe it or not, there’s a neighborhood south of town where Arctic Way runs parallel to Antarctic Way, with Flight Way connecting the two. My hint read: “Although there are several ways to get from the south pole to the north pole, there’s only one official way. But by thinking a mile and a half outside of the box, I didn’t have to use the airport to find the shortest flight from pole to pole.” Strava log.
The day after that I was up for a long ride, so I set off from Pittsburgh to Bagdad… Bagdad Pennsylvania, that is, on the banks of the Kiskiminetas River. Quite an adventure, having to traverse two stretches of woefully collapsed road, a mile of climbing, and heat. Strava log.
Then there were two rides in Saratoga Springs NY, while visiting Inna’s father. A 72-mile jaunt up to Summit Lake (Strava log) was followed by a damp recovery ride through the Saratoga battlefield park (Strava log). And then no riding for the last week of May, which was spent camping in the Berkshire hills of western Massachusetts.
That brings us up to June, which has been even better. The first highlight was a day that featured two rides, beginning with my first group ride out of the Performance Bike shop in East Liberty (Strava log). Nice, friendly group, but nothing too strenuous. Later in the day I rode 30 miles out to Sarver (Strava log) to meet up with Inna and friends at an enchanting Lantern Fest.
A few days later I also checked out my first group ride by Team Decaf, which was equally friendly and more challenging. Looks like a good group, although their evenings-only rides are pretty short. Strava log.
Then there was last weekend’s very challenging Escape to the Lake MS Ride, which was my second century of the year. That’s got its own recent writeup, which I posted earlier today here.
The final bit of catchup isn’t quite so glamorous: 50 miles into a 60-mile ride through Export PA, on the way to pick up another Tag-o-Rama game tag, I hit a grapefruit-sized stone in the road and endoed. Nothing major, but a surprising amount of road rash along the right side: elbow, back, hip, knee, ankle. I irrigated it with bottled water from the next convenience store, and rode home, but it was sufficient to warrant a quick trip to an urgent care clinic to have it dressed. Strava log.
And that brings us up to now.
The last thing to talk about is the ebb and flow of my training and fitness.
If you’ve read along this far, you can probably guess how it’s gone. At the end of March, my fitness was way ahead of schedule, but the only meaningful ride I did over the next six weeks was that 200k, so I basically atrophied. My fitness on May 9th was no better than where I’d been all the way back on March 8.
The Bagdad and Saratoga rides brought me back a bit, but they were followed by another idle week in the Berkshires. Some progress was made, but the consistency just hasn’t been there.
June has been better, with more frequent riding, some group rides, and the big MS ride. And I earned June’s Strava climbing achievement after whiffing on April and May but completing March’s.
Overall, I’ve successfully completed the March 200k and last week’s MS ride, which were my first two big target rides of the year. Now I’ve got several weeks of training time before my next big rides. The question from here forward is whether the effort from the past four weeks can be sustained for a while leading up to my next two target events: centuries in the third and fourth weeks of July.
I’ll try to keep you posted!