Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘road bike

Very Summery

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No complaints from us with the weather pattern we have been enjoying this week. Warm and sunny during the day and cool and comfortable overnight.

Here are some scenes reflecting the bliss:

A butterfly on our lilac bush and the four horses out grazing in the hay field as the sunlight was about to disappear below the horizon.

One summer trait the horses are not enjoying is the harassment by flies. We put out a fan to provide a minor assist in blowing the pests away.

Swings tends to claim that spot as her own and the others need to ingratiate themselves with her to earn an adjacent position that she will tolerate. I saw Light squeezed in there for a little while earlier in the day.

I claimed a few hours of the warm sunshine for a bike ride through our “Driftless” terrain, which means I sped down some fast descents and struggled to climb up the other side.

I made it out to Elmwood and back, but I wasn’t successful in my quest to ride the entire distance unsupported by battery assist. Honestly, I would have needed to call Cyndie to come pick me up if I didn’t have the motor to help me deal with the last ten miles. I’d lost track of how many river valleys remained and faced an unexpected steep climb that almost broke my spirit.

However, I survived and did so under some of the best weather at the best time of year our latitude has to offer. We live in a very beautiful topography that provides wonderful vistas of rolling farm fields peppered with wooded valleys and gorgeous trout streams where whitetail deer romp and fly fishermen cast their lines.

Very summery, indeed.



Written by johnwhays

June 10, 2022 at 6:00 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.



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.



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.



Written by johnwhays

August 4, 2019 at 7:28 am