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*this* John W. Hays' take on things and experiences

Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

Nurturing Possibility

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Anything’s possible, so we may as well allow ourselves to be open to it. I do believe that it is possible to cultivate our own luck, but when good fortune and grace flow over me, I find it hard to process the unexpected blessing. I’m the most pessimistic optimist I’ve ever known.

One of the bike shops I visited on Thursday mentioned I could try calling the Trek home office directly to see if they would do a nationwide search for the specific Domane+ I wanted. To prove a point to Cyndie about how dismal things were looking in my bike hunt, I told her about that longshot advice.

She encouraged me to try it. As we were preparing to turn in for the night Thursday, I decided I would confirm there were none available anywhere by calling Trek in the morning, and then I would focus on finding one of the alternative choices in stock somewhere in the Twin Cities.

A little before 11:00 a.m., I pressed the numbers on my phone to reach Trek. It only took two or three easy steps of the decision tree to bring up a human voice eager to assist me. He quickly searched the 2022 bikes and found zero in my size. I could hear him keying away as he described changing the search to 2021 models.

“I found only one in the nation that size. Looks like it is at Freewheel Bikes in Minneapolis.” he happily reported.

What!?

I was just at the Freewheel in Woodbury the day before and they couldn’t find any Domane+’s. With giddy thanks, I logged off that call and entered the number he provided to the Minneapolis shop.

“Let me look it up.” the voice on the other end said. As he clicked keys he cautioned that the shop computer systems don’t necessarily update instantaneously so discrepancies are possible.

“Ope, there it is. Yep, we have that bike. It arrived at the beginning of this month and was assembled on the 10th.”

That is likely the reason the other shop didn’t find it yet. It had just been built and had yet to be accounted for in the system.

Go ahead. Tell me the odds of the timing of my search and the very recent local availability of this single bike in the entire country.

“And there is no claim on this bike yet?” I don’t know if he could sense the state of shock I was entering.

“Nope. There is no name attached to this bike.”

“Put mine on it please and I will be in to pick it up today,” I said, not even thinking about the falling snow and blustery wind creating hazardous winter driving conditions all day long.

Choosing to go get the bike immediately was the easiest decision I’ve made in a long time.

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Bike Ruminations

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You all know how much I like making decisions. I have a touring bike that has served me just fine for the last couple of decades, my trusty Trek 520. One reason I’ve had it this long is that replacing it would require deciding what else to get. Another reason is that I don’t like to spend money if I don’t need to.

My trusty Trek 520 circa 2008.

My 520 still works just fine, seeing as how I’ve upgraded the drivetrain components and replaced wheels through the years. However, my body isn’t working as well as it did when I first purchased that ride oh so long ago and today’s cycles now offer motorized assistance to offset shortcomings in leg strength and stamina.

I am seriously tempted. So tempted, I’ve been doing some shopping this week. It’s been both inspiring and disheartening.

First, let’s get this out of the way. Prices! Oh. My. Gosh. I think they should offer loan programs like auto dealerships do.

That said, I have saved up for this luxury, so I could feasibly buy at almost any price right now if it wasn’t for my being so spending-averse. I refuse to spend five digits for a two-wheeler, even if it includes electronic pedal assist.

Given all that, I was able to narrow my choices to a really snazzy Trek Domane+ that I feel would suit me just fine. The thing is, that model, in my frame size, is non-existent until longer than I want to wait. Factory lead time right now is about 8 and a half months, and given the state of supply chain issues of late, I don’t have any confidence that the length of time won’t almost double.

I wonder how many Shimano components are stuck on ocean liners waiting in lines at ports right now.

There is an alternative to waiting for my preferred choice. I could consider a model that is more readily available. The Allant+ looks less like my road bike and more like my mountain bike. My initial reaction is that I wouldn’t be as comfortable on it riding for hours on end, but then the addition of a motor helping turn the crank makes it hard to judge how I will actually feel by the end of a long day.

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I would add bar ends to provide alternate hand positions. The Allant includes a headlight and taillight. The Allant model I would choose is $250 cheaper than my Domane selection and has more oomph from its battery/motor combination. The power assists are from different manufacturers: Bosch vs. Fazua. However, the Allant’s increased power components contribute to the bike being twenty pounds heavier than the Domane. In addition, I do have a psychological hangup about wanting to ride 700c wheels on the road. I’m guessing I wouldn’t notice the difference of the only slightly smaller wheels on the Allant.

Did you follow all that?

TL;DR is that it is not a straightforward choice of pros and cons between what I want and what is actually available near term.

Decisions, decisions.

I am thoroughly seated on the fence and ruminating, enjoying not spending a penny on a new bike until a decision is finally made.

Of course, I could still choose to ride my 520 for another year and accept the delayed gratification if I order my preferred Domane+…

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More Riding

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When Paul got back from the group’s morning round of golf yesterday, he changed into biking gear first thing. I had enjoyed an incredibly leisurely morning alone in the cabin and was feeling rather ambivalent about going out to exert myself pedaling up and down hills in the bug-infested woods under noticeably smoky skies.

The couch in front of the Olympic competition broadcasts was rather comfy.

I was in the midst of a battle to update the software of my phone, struggling to overcome a loop that seemed to require me to update in order to update, but wouldn’t let me update until I updated. Ahh, technology. I had surveyed multiple online solutions to a problem that appeared to be relatively common but all the solutions involving resets of the router, the phone, the cache, the clock, the shirt I was wearing, where I was sitting, or how things were plugged in, failed to change the dreaded alert message informing me I couldn’t proceed.

The best solution to my frustration turned out to be a bit of pedaling in the woods with Paul. We agreed on a similar start down the pavement at the end of the driveway leading to the gravel road that is the closest gateway toward the CAMBA trails nearby. Yesterday, we opted to follow our whim and explore some unimproved and little-traveled double-track paths to reach the Birkebeiner Trail and ride that roller coaster up to the OO (double-oh) trailhead.

From there, we could roll the pavement of one of our favorite wooded roads back to Highway 77 and ultimately the driveway of Wildwood. The sections of trail and pavement are relatively obvious in the depiction from my ride-tracking app. The cute little heart shape at the top was unplanned.

The up and down of both sections are better revealed in the following view.

Today my lungs feel like I was out exerting myself during an air quality alert, the very thing we are being advised to not do.

I will be doing much less exhausting exercise in the hours ahead, seated comfortably in my car on the drive home. My butt is looking forward to not being on the bike seat for that ride.

Addendum: As I was crashing in my bed after staying up too late last night, my phone software suddenly updated without a hitch. Go figure.

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Written by johnwhays

August 1, 2021 at 7:19 am

Trail Riding

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It has been a very long time since I have ridden my beloved hard-tail mountain bike. So long, in fact, I forgot how much more work it can be compared to my road bike. I bonked yesterday in a 16-plus mile ride with my life-long friend, Paul Keiski, whose biking condition is much stronger than mine.

Luckily, I was still close enough in contact with him to enjoy the spectacle of his slow-motion crash as he let out a little laugh over the predicament of tipping in the direction of the down-slope into the scrappy growth, wheels up, and on his back for a second.

The Makwa singletrack is a hairpin winding hardscrabble trail of big roots and jutting rocks that frequently will bring momentum to an abrupt halt where I would find myself in an unwelcome pedal stand and needing to muster the gumption to somehow kick the bike forward over the obstacle on the incline before me.

Yeah, I got tired. If I was on my road bike, I would coast for a while and catch my breath, but there is little time for relaxed coasting on this kind of trail. Arms constantly flexed, absorbing the concussions with obstacles and desperately working to hold the bike on the trail.

We chose to circle back to our starting point by way of a gravel fire lane road that had been re-graded not too long ago and was softer than preferable. I was already exhausted, but being well aware of the mostly uphill grade we needed to accomplish to get back to the pavement added a psychological burden that caused me to walk up more hills than I care to admit.

I was in the company of a generous friend in Paul, who was very patient and smart enough to have some energy supplements along for the ride which relieved my fatigue for a bit.

The last leg back to our lake place was on the pavement which felt great for the comparative ease but I was acutely aware of the fact this bike lacked the better geometry and larger wheels of my other bike.

Don’t get me wrong. I love my trail bike. It is wonderfully responsive to my moves in the woods and probably saves me from calamity despite my lack of experience on more occasions than not. I only inadvertently wandered off-trail several times when I failed to control my momentum and negotiate a turn, twice successfully carrying on anyway and riding back onto the trail without interruption.

That quick response of the bike made my soft gravel road riding a little squirrelly which only added misery to my fatigue, but overall, I am grateful for the way this old refurbished Trek performs for me.

It deserves to be ridden more often and my skills and conditioning improved enough to do it justice, but I am afraid being on the upper side of 62-years-old has me more inclined to just settle for hopping on the road bike and coasting down paved roads.

Many thanks to Paul for inspiring me to join him in the adventure and adding one more precious trail riding memory to our shared life experiences.

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Horse Approved

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Last evening, I stopped off at a paddock gate after one last attempt to ride my body into preparedness for the adventure that begins on Saturday. I wanted to give the horses an opportunity to understand why I would suddenly disappear from their lives next week.

They took turns inspecting my mechanical steed.

Mix wandered over first, approaching from the far paddock. She smelled the handlebars and then the bag on the back. Her curiosity satisfied, she moved aside so Swings could have a turn.

Same drill. Handlebars and then bag, and that was that. All good.

Mia showed up next but she had to wait while Swings stood facing away from my bike and contemplated things.

After Swings yielded her position, Mia resumed her approach.

Lacking the same confidence as the others, Mia got just close enough to decide my contraption was startling and she quickly altered her course toward one of the hay bags hanging near the barn overhang. It was as if she was attempting to pretend that was what she intended to do all along.

I think all of the horses could tell that I would never be able to pedal that cycle as fast as they used to run. It poses no challenge to their stature.

Next week I will be sure to appreciate the fact that I don’t have to feed or clean up after my bike every day.

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Written by johnwhays

June 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

Road Miles

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My objective was to balance distance and time on the bike seat this weekend to condition my body for the week-long bicycle tour that begins in less than a week. I am happy to report progress was made in both regards, despite suffering a minor chafing wound after my first hour of riding on Friday night.

A topical treatment and altered riding wear seemed to protect my skin from added abuse during my time on the saddle yesterday morning.

I’m just a shadow of my former riding self, but a couple of shots from a rescue inhaler, the comfort adjustments where it matters most, and the addition of priceless companionship from lifelong friends provided a memorable glimpse of the true joys of biking I remember from my glory days of cycling.

One particular highlight for me was the moment when I took a big swig of water in my mouth just as Paul said something hilarious and Beth questioned what he’d said. The exchange caused me to choke on the water and I blew the whole mouthful out to protect inhaling it, covering me and my bike.

A few miles on and I noticed a big drop of water riding on the face of my cycle computer display. Oops.

Our first loop brought us back to the driveway a bit before we were ready to quit, so we continued off in the other direction for additional miles that brought my mileage to a respectable total of 24 for the ride.

The big plus for me was to finish without feeling totally exhausted by the effort, which has been the usual case the other times I’ve ridden this season.

I won’t be in my best riding shape by the time the tour starts, but I won’t be in my worst shape, either.

Unfortunately, I won’t have any preparation time for the camping in a tent and sleeping on the ground part of the tour. I’ll have zero preparatory sleeping-bag hours under my belt this year. It’s not a concern though, as my ability to close my eyes and be asleep almost instantly has become more enhanced over the years.

Doing so after a full day of biking makes it all the easier to achieve.

Tour of Minnesota 2021, here I come.

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Written by johnwhays

June 13, 2021 at 7:00 am

Fat Tires

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The weather was nice when we set out on a bike ride yesterday around 12:30. That niceness didn’t last. On the plus side, Cyndie’s brother, Ben, offered me a chance to ride his fat bike, so mine didn’t get all muddy.

It was my first time riding on the gigantic tires. The first thing I noticed was that my legs made contact with the frame around the wide back tire while we were cruising down the asphalt on the way to the gravel road that cuts into the woods.

Before I expand on my experience riding the big beast on the “intermediate” level off-road trails, there is a story about the pedals. I ride clipless pedals (the complicated descriptor for pedals that click onto a cleat in my shoe and keep my feet fixed in place while riding). Ben’s bike had standard flat pedals.

Knowing this in advance, I decided I would take the pedals off my road bike before coming up, so I could swap out the ones on Ben’s bike. The problem with that last-minute plan came about when I couldn’t get the pedal on the right side of the bike to budge. It was frozen solidly in place.

Several times, I took a break from futile attempts to loosen the pedal and let some penetrating oil soak in while I made other preparations for departure. Finally, I went inside, showered, and then drove the packed car out of the garage, ready to head out after making one last try on that stubborn pedal. The wrench slipped and my left hand slammed into the teeth of the big chainring. It cut deepest in two specific places on my thumb, filling the nasty gashes with dirty chain grease.

I rushed back to the house to wash out the cuts as best I could tolerate and then had to go find Cyndie for assistance in bandaging it up. Frustrated and angry with myself, I packed up the pedal wrench and drove off, leaving the road bike behind with one pedal on and one pedal off.

I held my wounded left hand up in the air for most of the two-and-a-half-hour drive north.

Yesterday morning, Paul and I decided to simply try swapping the pedals from my off-road bike for the ones on Ben’s bike. Both sets came off with ease. Problem solved. Oh, how I wish I hadn’t wasted one second struggling to take the pedals off my road bike.

My thumb wishes that even more.

So, now I had my clipless pedals on Ben’s fat bike and I was ready to try it out. The frame is taller than I want, but I can straddle the cross tube because it slants down just enough. It took me two tries to get the seat lowered to the right height, and then I was ready to go.

After the opportunity of riding my bike on similar trails the day before, I had a good reference for comparison between the two. The fat bike felt like a truck compared to the nimbleness of my old-style bike.

The shifters are different enough that I needed to think much more consciously about gear changes, rarely with the precise timing preferred. That wasn’t as much a problem as the basic difference of frame geometry and tire size. It felt like the bike took longer to make it around corners. Sure, the big front tire rolled over hazards easier, but it never felt like the back tire did.

Final verdict: I’m not sold. I think it would make a nice bike for riding on packed snow, but for the rough trails through the woods in summer, I prefer the much skinnier tires on my mountain bike.

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Written by johnwhays

August 4, 2019 at 7:28 am

Makwa Trail

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I’m up at the lake again this weekend, but this time it is for the big golf weekend that Cyndie’s brothers host annually for a collection of close friends who happen to golf. I don’t golf. So, why am I here?

The annual weekend has morphed over the years and began to include some other activities, one of which was biking the Chequamegon Area Mountain Bike Association (CAMBA) trails through the woods. That suited me well and earned me an invite both this year and last.

Last year was so wet that we chose to stay on the gravel fire lane roads rather than risk the challenging single-track trails, but this year conditions were perfect for hitting the Makwa trail with my birthday and biking buddy, Paul.

Riding this trail involves a mostly non-stop series of split-second decisions about where to point the front tire to traverse or avoid the consistently changing hazards of roots, rocks, and turns. The deciding is only part of it. There is also an unending strain of frequent gear selection, balance control, and a clenched power grip on the handlebars.

It’s a LOT more work than my road bike. I was reminded why I have migrated back toward primarily riding my touring bike on pavement as I have aged. There are a lot more opportunities to relax and coast pleasantly along on smooth asphalt.

Yesterday’s exercise was a nod to my good ol’ days. It made me feel young again, …while simultaneously aging me.

I’m grateful to the universe for the blessing of not being slammed to the ground in the hazardous terrain of the backcountry woods of northwest Wisconsin. I must admit, that result is more a product of luck than ability at this point.

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Written by johnwhays

August 3, 2019 at 7:37 am

Posted in bicycling, Chronicle

Epic Ride

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It started out nice enough at six in the morning yesterday. Five riders rolling through Paul’s Linden Hills neighborhood, fresh and ready for the symbolic 60-mile bike ride from Paul’s house to mine. None of us had asked for a day with a heat index at or above 100°F.

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But that’s what we got. I’ll just say this: it was the kind of heat that saps your energy while you are just sitting there, let alone intensely exercising. I’m not going to mention the error in judgment I made in the last miles near home when I said to go right when we were supposed to turn left.

I blame it on oxygen deprivation. I plead insanity.

On the good side, it was brand new pavement that rolled smooth as silk.

We paused in Prescott, WI for refreshments and the ice cooler turned out to be a treasured perch.

At one point, Paul stepped out of the Holiday Station store and gushed, “Have you been in the beer cave?”

Three of us hustled in to check it out. Oh. My. Gosh. There was a temperature drop of about sixty degrees. I thought, “This can’t be good for me,” but it sure was refreshing. We walked around the stacks of bottles and cans for a while and dropped our body temperature a shocking amount.

As I stepped out of the cooler, I asked the attendant, “What do we owe you for ten minutes in the cooler?” She just gave us an odd look and shrugged us off.

We finally arrived at Wintervale in the waning moments before almost 100 guests were expected to start arriving. I’d share pictures with you here, but I didn’t take any. In fact, even though I don’t drink any alcohol, most of the afternoon and evening is pretty much a blur. Hours passed like minutes, I barely had a chance to complete a thought in conversation, and I had a wonderful time basking in the glow of love bestowed upon me as one of the birthday boys.

Thank you to all who showered us with love yesterday. I’m feeling particularly blessed and looking forward to laying low today in recovery from riding for hours in humid heat and finishing the day with a massive dose of social interaction.

I’m almost feeling my age this morning.

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Written by johnwhays

June 30, 2019 at 9:37 am

Party Day

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It’s the big day! I’m gone biking by the time you read this, with Paul and three friends, Dan, Bill, and Brad, on our way from Minneapolis to Wintervale for the gala celebration of Paul’s and my 60th birthdays.

We’ll have 60 miles under our belts and be ready to party before guests start to arrive, if all goes as planned. The only thing I forgot to bring with me to Paul’s house yesterday was my water bottles. Luckily, they had a couple I could borrow.

We are hoping to ride early to beat the expected heat. Happy 60th to us!

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Written by johnwhays

June 29, 2019 at 6:00 am