Internal Detours
Thursday, September 28, 2006
  last wednesday evening ride of the season
But first we talk about Tuesday. I got out to the Rock and found Ainsley and Jim waiting. Right before we took off, Connie arrived and got set up. Jim took off while we gathered equipment and prepared. We lost a little time before we figured out that the guy who pulled up as we were about to head out was waiting for someone else. It was 6:15 by the time we started the climb up the hill.

Ainsley and I rode along at a moderate pace, chatting about bikes and bike parts and the madness that is fixed-gear and single-speed riding.

"You know, we're only about two cog teeth away from being the 'hey y'all, watch this!' school of cycling," I said.

"I think I'm ahead of you on that scale," Ainsley said. "I have ridden fixed on these trails."

Yes. Ainsley had out-hard-cored me. I settled all the way back on my saddle and ground up the hill.

We held up a couple of times to let Connie catch up to us. It wasn't the hills - bless her heart, she's riding with a derailleur in her drivetrain.

Down to Memorial Bridge and beyond we went, taking the next stretch all the way to the road before turning and heading back. We had 11.1 miles at the end of the ride, getting in right before darkness set in.

Wednesday I got off work and raced home, changed, and headed out aboard Belle for the fountain. I cut through the parking lot of what used to be Minton's Pharmacy, weaved around the barricade and cut through Main Street Methodist's parking lot to get over to Main, avoiding the massive construction at the intersection of Cambridge and Grace.

I had been shadowing another rider on my way downtown. It turned out to be Tommy Davis, who had also chosen to ride to the ride. Dewey was waiting for us, and Fred pulled up right as we prepared to leave. We decided to ride the shortened route in the interest of time, and set off down Edgefield, turned onto Mineral and headed for the trail.

The pace got a little brisk for me, but they slowed down a couple of times and I caught back up. It always takes me several miles to warm up, but it finally happened on the long climb up Scotch Cross. We started spreading out, and I leapfrogged around Dewey and caught up to Fred. He was surprised that it was me and not Dewey on his wheel.

We came in via 225, going all the way down to Alexander before coming back in past the hospital. Once more I rode past the door I went through on my way to bypass surgery a couple of years ago, and had time to ponder it. I had 22.25 miles for the the last Wednesday evening ride of the year.
Sunday, September 24, 2006
  announcing a ride; puttering in the garage; hannibal and his wheelbarrow
It still blows my mind that it took me so long to discover mountain bikes. Consider - last Sunday I rode 15 miles or so down to Fell Camp and back. Tuesday we rode 10.8 miles, and I had an average speed of 9.2 mph.

Thursday I met up with Jim, Fred, Campbell and Tommy Davis at the Rock for what turned out to be 11.1 miles. I finished with a 9.8 mph average, which (for me) is not bad at all. The best part - on the way back, I hung onto Fred's back wheel like a hungry leech.

Understand - Fred may be 20 years older than I am, but he's strong. STRONG. Lean, leathery, tough old guy. I don't care who you are, you wanna ride behind him. No, he's not sketchy - you ride behind him to see the lines he picks and to observe his technique.

He may ride gears, but he rides like a single-speeder or a fixed-gear rider. No momentum is wasted or lost. Every movement is geared towards making the bike go forward. He's easy to ride behind on a single-speed, there's none of this, "it's the bottom of the hill and I'm gonna shift all the way down" nonsense.

I was glad I could stay with him at all the way back from Memorial Bridge back to the Rock. I told everyone at the end of the ride that I had hung onto his rear wheel for dear life, but, hey, I spend my life clinging to people's rear wheels. Fred in particular found that amusing.

By pre-arrangement, Saturday Ainsley and I both showed up aboard fixed-gears for the club ride. Jim took a shortcut, but Campbell, Connie, Donnis, Angie, Bradley, Ainsley and I did the Briarwood-Whitehall-Rock House loop.

Afterward, Campbell, Ainsley and I went to T.W. Boon's and ate out at the sidewalk tables. We had an extensive discussion about the dichotomy of technique vs. technology. Ainsley and I, obviously, are in the former camp. Campbell, by comparison, rides carbon fiber on the road and dual suspension on the trail. It was a lively discussion, and we tried, but I doubt we'll see Campbell on a single-speed any time soon.

We did, however, agree on a ride for a week from today - on Sunday, October 1, we'll gather at the trailhead at 505/506 for the take-no-prisoners, play-the-Deguello, no-quarter-asked-or-given, eat-the-wounded ride. We'll start at 3:00 and ride the length of the trail through the First Aid Tents and Sean's Mile through Blair Woods and the Rock, and from there down to Grattan's Bridge. At that point we'll take the pavement back to the old trail to the Fell Camp trail head, thence back past Memorial Bridge to the Rock and retracing our route back to the start.

So today the weather looked threatening. There were all sorts of weather alerts and warnings of much precipitation and high winds. I spent a couple of hours in the garage, working on the Peugeot PX-10 project. I cleaned the cranks and fitted them, fine tuning the bottom bracket adjustment along the way. The Simplex SLJ rear derailleur went on, along with the appropriate cable guide and shifters. I wound up fitting a Simplex pushrod front, as the parallelogram front unit was broken the way they all break, right where the pivot pin goes in the mounting hinge.

I had Hannibal for company, and later Hector joined us. Hannibal's favorite thing is to sleep in the wheelbarrow. A few days ago, I put an old towel down inside it, which made him a very happy boy. Today, I looked over and saw Hector hopping in. They both settled in for a nap, which worked fine until Hannibal woke up and decided he didn't feel like sharing. He hopped out and napped on the floor while I tweaked and tuned bikes.

At 4:00, I met Jim at the Rock. A few drops of rain fell as we prepared to go, but we set off anyway. We wound up doing Bridge to Bridge to Bridge again - from the Rock to Memorial Bridge to Grattan's Bridge, then back to Memorial Bridge when we were joined by another rider, whose name I have of course not been able to retain. The pace picked up for the last bit of the ride, but I still managed to hang in there, even if I did drop off the back. I took a certain grim pleasure in knowing I had climbed the Roller Coaster twice in one day on the single-speed. I wound up with 15.1 miles, not bad for a day I had all but written off to rain.
Sunday, September 17, 2006
  the fred ride; to fell and back

After the Wednesday night ride got rained out, I had Thursday's Callaham Challenge to look forward to. At the appointed time, I swung a leg over Stripe and got in 25.5 miles or so.

Friday evening I took a little time to set some things up on the bikes. I rolled the Trek out to the front yard and hosed off last year's mud. After wiping it down, I experimented with a half-link I had in my parts bin and determined that if I had one the correct 3/32-in size, I could probably dispense with the chain tensioner. I took a little more time to reset said chain tensioner, to re-adjust the front hub bearings, and to lube the chain. I also set up Belle for Saturday morning.

I meant to get up at 6:30, but the bed pulled me back down. I didn't rise till 7:00, which gave me time to eat my oatmeal and take the assorted pills I take each morning - but no time for coffee. It was almost 8:00 by the time I rolled Belle out and set off for Fred's house on Durst Avenue.

There was a large group of riders gathered on Fred's back porch. I said hello to Fred, his wife Sandra, Milo, John Lake, Jim, and some other folks. I talked at length with Rick Flowe about what rides were like 25 years ago in the Greenwood area.

At length, it was time for us to go. We gathered and sang "Happy Birthday" to Fred and set off. Fred had distributed cue sheets and maps, and he had also marked the 30 and the 65-mile routes. Of course nothing goes quite to plan - some of the riders misinterpreted some of the markers and got in some extra miles.

I was not one of them. I rode fairly close to Fred, who was taking it easy - for Fred. It was a pretty good route, out across a couple of bridges to the Waterloo area, then back around in a loop before coming back in the way we went out. There were some stiff hills coming up off the bridges, but I felt pretty decent even on the long climbs. I may not be fast, but I'm getting to where I can rock on along at my own pace reasonably well.

I wound up riding back in with Dewey Yeargin, husband to Despina, who ran a coffeeshop I played guitar in a lot about 10 years ago. He was in good spirits, and we had a pleasant enough time riding back in. I pulled in to Fred's long enough to sign out and headed home to run errands and do some yard work. I had 33.25 miles for the day.

Today I drove out to the Rock with the Trek and a full CamelBak. Ainsley was waiting for me with his battered Diamondback single-speed conversion. Jim and Campbell were aboard their dual-suspension rigs. Ainsley took time to show me his new On-One Midge bars he'd gotten for his Mercian custom he has coming along - nice bars, though we agreed it would be nice to have a bit more length on the drops.

When you start at the Rock, you immediately get to climb. It's not as bad as I first thought it was, and I felt pretty good. My first moment of really feeling it was when I hit the root farm section, which is thankfully near the top. I relaxed a bit when I passed the "From the Plow to Pines" sign and settled in for the duration. Somewhere in the opening stages of the ride, we ran into Milo and his wife. We managed brief greetings as they headed back and we headed on.

We were going to ride down to the end of the trail down near the Fell Hunt Camp. I rode behind Jim for a bit and got a lesson in why single-speeds and 27-speed dualies are sometimes incompatible on the same rides. He kept dropping down onto his granny and twiddling up hills - which pretty much kills momentum. After a bit, the group opened up a little wider and created more room.

When we were about to start the section that leads to Memorial Bridge, Tommy Davis came racing up the gravel road and joined us. We bounced on. I was glad I could manage the roller-coaster section, even with the gravel the Forest Service added to control the erosion. I felt like I was warming up a little, despite feeling the thumping my lower back was taking as we rocked along.

I could tell I was a little rusty on some of the trails. There were a couple of times I couldn't quite make the turns, and had to bring the bike to a halt as I started leaving the trail. My handling got a tad better later on.

Ainsley and I had dropped off the back of the bunch, but the rest of the guys waited at the end of the trail. After a few minutes of talking about the Fred ride, we turned and headed back. Ainsley and I let them go on up the trail and we settled into the rhythm of riding back. I had been dreading the long climb back, but surprisingly, it was not as bad as I thought it would be. Along the way we ran into Jeff and Sean Ronan, Milo (sans fiance), Grattan and some other members of that crew. They were heading out at a brisk pace.

On the way out I had noticed the yellow balloon at the edge of the trail. We stopped on the way back. I took a couple of pictures while Ainsley put on his best documentary announcer voice and intoned, "When the feral balloon reaches old age, it can no longer fly and is forced to take its chances among the small animals of the forest floor." I posed next to the balloon on one knee with a stick held rifle fashion for Ainsley's pic, which may someday show up, and we headed on, the balloon left for others to enjoy.

We were almost to Memorial Bridge when we encountered two riders we didn't know. They were younger cats, maybe college age. Ainsley gave them some information on where the routes went and we parted company.

At the Bridge, I wanted a breather. While we rested for a moment, the two younger guys came back out and passed us. Moments later, on the approach to the roller coaster, we passed them and scorched on up the hill. Ainsley went ahead, I dug deep - and got up the roller coaster, gravel and all. I couldn't help it, I let out a huge yell I later described as "my very best Incredible Hulk" shout.

Later, Ainsley said, "You wonder if those guys noticed they got passed by two guys on single speeds?"

"Two older guys on single-speeds?"

"Yeah. Don't you think it might be a blow to their confidence or their pride?"

"Don't forget," I said. "They got dropped by two older guys on single-speeds where one of them was a heart patient."

We both liked that one.

We wound up with 14.7 miles at around 8.2 mph average speed - which isn't bad for a couple of guys on single speeds, one of whom has had a quadruple bypass.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
  into the woods; a rainy commute

It was cool Tuesday, with a high somewhere in the mid-70s. Somehow the idea of riding in the woods began calling to me. I wound up fixing the free-standing bike rack and getting the road bikes back in their proper places - and then I opened up the garage closet and pulled out the single-speed.

It's beat. Built in 1989 or 1990 in the U.S., my old Trek 950 is probably the oldest mountain bike being ridden in the woods around here. It's not only Tru-Temper double-butted chro-moly, it's even got lugs. It also has vertical dropouts, alas, which means I'm using a SoulCraft Convert to take up chain slack. I keep thinking I'll get an Eno eccentric hub, or maybe have track ends brazed on. For the most part what I have works, with only the occasional derailment.

I put the old Trek up on the rack and checked the chain. The brakes still felt good. I fine tuned the cycle computer and got a proper readout. I left last season's mud still caked where the wheels had thrown it and pumped the tires up to about 35 psi or so.

One last preparation - I broke out the CamelBak I got late last year and set it up, pulling the spare tube, tools and CO2 inflater from various saddle bags and putting them into the appropriate cargo pockets. A quick change into shorts and a jersey, some sunscreen, a quick kiss from Ana, and I was loading up and heading for the Rock.

Campbell, Jim Cox and Tommy Davis were waiting. We talked for a moment about routes - we were going to ride down to Grattan's Bridge - and then I pointed the Trek at the trailhead and went.

I bounced up the long hill, spinning the 34x18 and somehow staying seated for much of it. The first time I went up this hill, on a Rivendell Quickbeam with the same gearing, I was at the very edge of my capabilities and pretty much panicked when my heart rate monitor started pegging. Tuesday it was old hat, and sooner than I expected I was descending to the Forest Service's "From the Plow to Pines" sign.

They caught up to me easily enough. We chatted a little (not too much - I needed my breath) and rolled along. Tommy's bike had a front shock; Jim and Campbell were both aboard double-boingers. For all of that, I tended to descend faster on my fully-rigid bike, only losing ground on climbs or on the flats where they could shift into bigger gears.

When we got to the split, I wound up rolling along alone. I decided to run while I could and settled down in my most rubbery-limbed form while rocking downhill, basically turning my whole body into a human shock absorber. There were a couple of moments where I wondered if I was going to lose it, but the good old bike came through for me and catlike kept me on the trail.

The switchbacks came up, but they were familiar, old friends I hadn't seen in months. There was more gravel than I remembered in some spots; on one climb, the gravel had been ground into the dirt and was on its way to being macadamized mud. I kept rolling, surprising myself as I stayed up on the bike. I stopped a couple of times for logs that I couldn't bunny hop, but other than that the first part of the ride I didn't need to walk. I grunted up the steep little whoop de doos down in the bottom near Long Cane Creek and the skinny metal bridge that Grattan Smith once unsuccessfully tried to ride across.

We rode back up the hill. I was surprised that for the most part I could keep Campbell in sight. When we regrouped at the T intersection, we decided to ride down to Memorial Bridge. More familiar trails, more bouncing, but I had a blast bombing down the roller-coaster section, then negotiating the switchbacks that followed.

When we reached the bridge, we wheeled about and headed back, hoping to beat the darkness. The A-team guys were coming along now, and we pulled off the trail to let them pass. Jim started the "I take my helmet off to you" thing, then I topped it with a salute, and the pattern was set for the rest of the ride. As another group would approach, we would stop, remove helmets and salute - amusing the heck out of Tom, Milo, Mark, Pepe, Sean and the rest of that crew.

I finally lost momentum on the next to last hummock on the climb back to the road - so I walked maybe 12 yards. At the end of the ride, I had 10.8 miles. Not bad for my first time out on the trails in many months.

Today it rained. At times, it was an almost Biblical rain, pounding, pouring, drenching rain. I rode Julius the fixed-gear to work, of course. I dug my Carradice rain cape out for the occasion. Halfway to work, I realized I really needed to re-proof the garment. I hung it up in the store room where I stash my bike and prayed for less rain when I rode home. I got my wish, sort of - the rain slacked off when I rode home for lunch, then back to work, then back home at 5:00.

I look forward to the new rain jacket that's en route from Nashbar. I look forward to getting the rain cape back into proper shape. Even though I've enjoyed the summer and its warm weather, now I'm looking forward to the fall and crisp rambling rides - and the bitter cold, soggy rides of winter under steely grey skies. It's coming, and I'm already thinking about gearing down for cold weather.
Sunday, September 10, 2006
  it gets dark earlier
I rode Tuesday night on Stripe, something like 20.5 miles. I'm embarassed to admit I don't even remember who I was riding with. I do remember that it looked like it might rain, hence the choice of mounts. That will change whenever I finally send Stripe off for repainting.

Wednesday I led the club ride from downtown at the fountain aboard Belle. We got off to a late start, something like 6:15 instead of the usual 6:00. As a result, we took the Pembroke Road shortcut in the middle of the ride and the straight-shot-down-Alexander-Road near the end. We wound up splitting into several different groups. For a change, I rode with the lead group of Bradley and Fred. I ended up with 24.9 miles, which would have to do.

Thursday I rode the short version of the Callaham Challenge. It was Belle again, as I wanted a slightly more laid-back experience. It was a pleasant, if not memorable ride for me. We took the shortcut up the length of Old Abbeville-Hodges Road, and somewhere in there I remember riding behind Connie, who was drafting off of Campbell. About 9/10s of the way down Dixie Drive, Campbell pulled off and announced he wasn't pulling anymore. Dang. So Connie pulled, then I pulled for a bit, then we got to the top of the rise where Dixie and Deadfall converge.

Friday we had a Greenwood Cycling Club meeting. Normally a Monday night affair, having Labor Day and September 11 as the two likely Mondays naturally pushed it to another time slot. We heard a presentation on the Five Points of Life Ride that will be coming our way next month, then had a loose-jointed, sociable meeting. One topic of discussion was Jim Cox's fondness for really ratty cycle shorts.

I told the story about a Friday night ride out of Abbeville five years earlier. Jim was wearing threadbare shorts that evening, as he had on numerous occasions. He denied it, of course, and said we were making it up. At any rate, as we climbed up a hill, my sitting on his rear wheel, he started whistling, almost but not quite getting the tune right. It took me a moment to realize he was whistling "Moon River."

On the way out the door afterwards, Ainsley and I decided to ride fixed the next day.

Ah, Saturday. Of course I was late getting out the door and on the road, complicated by a conversation with a neighbor about her cats (the cats are frequent, but welcome, visitors). I got Julius up to flank speed, and managed to get to the fountain by 9:03 - in time to be greeted by the duct tape on the back of Jim's cycle shorts.

There was a large turnout, including Jim and Bradley, Fred, Campbell, Tommy Davis, Drew, Connie, Vonona, Donnis and Ainsley. Of course the group splintered dramatically as we headed out along the rail-trail conversion. I dropped back with Ainsley towards the rear, and as we watched the lead elements hit Florida Avenue and streak off down the road, we agreed that the pack had decided to dispense with all that "regroup and ride together" foolishness. Hmmph.

So we rolled along on what was apparently an out-and-back to Cedar Springs ride. By the time we crossed Mt. Moriah Church Road, we had sorted out our group - me, Ainsley, Vonona, Connie and Donnis. We bumped along over the rougher stretches of Briarwood, across Whitehall and down to where the road ends in Verdery, where we stopped and talked about the rest of the route.

It was an uneventful ride out to Cedar Springs Church; no dogs, no bad drivers, just a bumpy bounce along the macadam to where the road splits at the stage coach station. Connie expressed confusion about where we were, so I dug my map out of the Banana bag (I had switched out the Carradice Pendle the night before) and showed her.

Back out along Cedar Springs Road, picking up Donnis and Vonona and going back via Promised Land. Whitehall has a nice new surface now, not quite buttery asphalt, but much better than the crumbling chipseal it used to be. When we hit Briarwood and the way I home, I stopped the group.

"We can go back on in and have about 30 miles," I said. "Or we can go straight here, hit Rock House, and come on in with about 40 or so."

It was a beautiful day, and the temperature was moderate. Ainsley and Vonona opted for the long ride, while Connie and Donnis headed on in.

We rolled along at a social pace, Ainsley and I both pushing 70-in gears while Vonona settled into a rhythm on her bike. After crossing 221, we went down the long slow hill to the bridge, then climbed up towards Rock House. I looked down at my cyclocomputer, saw the speed and the time, and managed to get a quick photo. Someone told me once that one can make a wish when it is 11:11. I don't know if that's any weirder than yelling "Popeye!" and kissing one's palm and smacking it to the ceiling of the car when an oncoming car has a dead headlight. It's still a neat idea.

We rolled on down Rock House Road. By this point, I know roughly where to look for the house behind its screen of young trees. Julius was a positive symphony of rattles on the tarmac, between the frame pump's parts clattering and the cracked Nitto bottle cage's damaged ends grating. I love bumpy back roads, but I was happy to hit the smooth asphalt that starts near the intersection with Stillwell Road.

The German Shepherds were out at the intersection of West Scotch Cross and 225. I was in the lead, and had gotten to the intersection before the dogs woke up. Vonona and Ainsley described it as, "The older dog there, the one with the hip dysplasia? He saw us, went back and got the younger dog, and then they came towards the road." They stayed in their yards and watched our backs as we headed back to town.

I had 43.4 miles when I got home. I think it was my longest ride, and certainly my longest fixed-gear ride, since June.
Sunday, September 03, 2006
  a club ride, at last!

Getting in a ride lately has been challenging. Tuesday night I showed up at the Y. There were two other riders there, both much faster than I am, and predictably enough I got dropped within the first 15 minutes. So I rode the loop that comes back in via Flatwood - no sign of the demon dog or its owner - and wound up with 20.5 miles. Wednesday I didn't even bother - it was raining, and nobody showed up, including me. Thursday I was the first person to arrive for the Callaham Challenge. It was 5:50, and only two other riders showed up. The speedy young triathlete took off on his own, while we seasoned old guys looked at the sky and the wind and decided to go home.

Ainsley and I had made arrangements to ride fixed Saturday, so I pumped Julius' tires up to full pressure and made it to the fountain in time. Our group this time was Bill Evans, Jim and Bradley, Drew and Campbell. Jim and Bradley were planning on turning back early so they could get to Greenville, so the rest of us sorted out a route. It was a well-worn favorite, out via Briarwood to Whitehall to Rock House Road and back.

I felt old and slow and I could tell I was paying the price for not getting in the miles while eating foods that were somewhat off my diet. Ahem. Still, I rode decently enough for a long fixed-gear ride that picked up the pace towards the end.

Bradley was seriously digging his new bike, a Gerolsteiner team painted Specialized with carbon fiber forks and seat stays. He had made the jump to 10 speeds, with full 105 that shifted more smoothly than the 9-speed Ultegra his old bike had. I wondered idly what it would be like to send him out on a bike with a Cambio Corsa or a Vittoria Margherita gearing system. Still, his new bike is very nice, very light, and very fast, which is exactly what he wants and needs. There will be time to corrupt him to lugged steel later.

Jim and Bradley turned off when we hit Mt. Moriah Church Road, and the rest of us pressed on, first down the buttery asphalt near the nice homes, then over the bumpy, teeth-rattling macadam that is most of Briarwood.

Bill was riding his Quickbeam in freewheel mode - but he's broken down and fitted a fixed cog to the other side of his rear hub. So close, so close to coming to the dark side he is, mmm hmmm. We talked about brevets and PBP dreams for a while, and it all left me thinking about trying to do a 200km next spring. We'll see.

When we hit Rock House Road, Campbell asked about alternate routes. They were amused when I opened my saddlebag (today, a Carradice Pendle) and pulled out my photocopied map. We talked about a longer ride down the road. We stood around in the sun, chatting away for several minutes before we finally got rolling again - something I can attribute to Jim's absence.

Coming back, the thick summer vegetation meant we missed seeing the Rock House. The last time Ainsley and I rode past it, we had a discussion about how it seems to appear and then disappear, like some sci-fi castle that carries unsuspecting folks who enter it off to another dimension. Saturday we just passed it by, knowing it's somewhere out there.

When we arrived back at the fountain, Bill sold me a set of black-anodized Lyotard 45-D pedals with French threading - the very thing for the Peugeot project. Soon after, he headed for home, with the agreement that we do a longer ride in a few weeks. Drew, Campbell, Ainsley and I crossed the street to T.W. Boone's, where we ate under the sidewalk umbrellas and discussed biodiesel and its limitations, hybrid cars, radical Islam and other matters.

I got home with about 32 miles for the day, and had enough time to putter about in the garage and work some more on the Peugeot. I had to do some creative things with the threads in the Stronglight cranks to get the right pedal seated, but it all looks okay now.

Note: the long ride on the 16th is Fred's B-day ride!
cycling through life is more than the cycling life

Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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