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

Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

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

To Home

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All too soon the trip is over, the time just comes, the dancing’s done

Bittersweet to reach the start again, don’t want to stop, can’t wait to get home

Imagine this: I didn’t take any pictures on our last day of riding from Hibbing back to our cars in Grand Rapids. However, I have scoured my files for some of my favorites from the week, several of which I am unable to credit because I can’t recall who the photographer was. In no particular order…

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Men in black.

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Prop wash!

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Bear butts in Ely on the WOWOWs.

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It wasn’t all trails all the time. That’s Gary approaching in the distance.

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.Geoffrey and Marylin arriving on the Virginia High Bridge.

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View from the bridge down to Roucheleau mine lake, a former iron mine partially filled with groundwater.

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The three amigos.

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Rich snapped a closeup of me as I breezed past.

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Rich captured us in front of a mine lake. There are lots of mine lakes.

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Music in the park. Thank you to Julie for this image!

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Posing in front of an iron man and handing phone to whoever is near to capture.

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Hanging out with the best-dressed guy on the ride. Gary, you do look dashing in that jersey!

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I absolutely love this woman and she has captured our joyful energy in this most beautiful selfie. Juuuuulieeee!

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And so ends another annual ride around. Thank you to all of the staff and volunteers of the Tour of Minnesota who provide these June adventures!

Peace, out.

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Written by johnwhays

June 22, 2019 at 9:56 am

To Hibbing

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It was a beautifully sunny day out of Gilbert. Rich captured this shot of Steve leading Laura and me on a particularly bumpy section of the Mesabi trail.

I took a picture of Steve and Rich later on.

No complaints about the weather yesterday. It was picture perfect. Tents packed dry in the morning, no significant wind, and lots of sunshine.

In Hibbing, we camped at the historic high school. I took a picture of the Steinway piano that Bob was banging on like Little Richard when he was yanked off the stage.

There is also a display case dedicated to the troubadour.

They seem rather fond of Dylan around these parts.

On the walk back to camp after dinner, we came upon a property with a labyrinth.

Today, we ride back to our cars in Grand Rapids. It begins the odd struggle of returning to real life again.

Bittersweet to reach the start again

Don’t want to stop, can’t wait to get home

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Written by johnwhays

June 21, 2019 at 6:00 am

To Gilbert

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The day dawned foggy in Ely, but not nearly as cold as the first few days. We stayed dry all day, which was nice because it was a day of the farthest distance. I clocked in at 68 miles by the time we reached Gilbert.

With dry weather, it was easier for me to get the camera out while rolling down the road.

I had a goal of capturing a shot of Gary at some point, and when the opportunity presented itself…

I happened to come across Angela and Cynthia mid-pause on the shoulder, so I took their picture, too.

I like the totally unposed aspect of that shot.

It was day flat tires for some unknown reason. I was riding beside Steve when he hit a piece of steel that he mistook for wood. It put a slice in the sidewall that required a custom insert to keep the tube from bulging out.

The riding has gone well for me and I feel like I’ve finally got my old skills and form back for long distance cycling.

It’s a lot like riding a bike.

Remembering song chords and lyrics has been more of a challenge than the cycling.

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Written by johnwhays

June 20, 2019 at 6:00 am