Category Archives: cycling

Broke a spoke

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Green Island bridge and me

Image by carljohnson via Flickr

One minute I’m time-trialling like Fabian Cancellara, head down on long straight roads without stop signs or lights, barreling along a sweet flat stretch of uninterrupted pavement, rare around these parts. True, there was my personal Mur de Huy, a solid wall of up that came as a surprise to legs now acclimated to about 40k of flat, and which I couldn’t get up without a granny gear and a red zone. But up I did go, and from there back into a nice low time trialing position. Even the streets of Lansingburgh and north Troy barely slowed me down (and, to be honest, north Troy is about the only place where I ignore red lights for my own personal safety, ’cause the ‘hood ain’t for the spandexed). Then as I started to bomb across the Green Island Bridge, ready to burn up the last dozen k in high style, I was suddenly transformed from Fabian Cancellara into Andy Schleck, hearing an awful noise and suddenly realizing my tour was over. In Andy’s case, a slipped chain at a bad time; in mine, a broken spoke. But in nearly the best place possible, for as fate would have it I was only short blocks from beloved wife’s place of work. There are few women who will serve sag wagon duty (and I really should say camion balais, because “sag wagon” is just not complimentary to women of a certain age), so I am especially blessed. Just glad it didn’t snap up in Hemstreet Park, because her response to that possibility was, “There’s a Hemstreet Park?” There is, it’s home of the Mur de Hemstreet.

Complications involved dropping her at work, getting back to where my truck was courting a parking ticket (commuters are filling up the Corning Preserve boat launch parking lot, leaving no room for people who are actually using the recreational facilities. This is causing me much anger). Drove home, deposited the broken bike, pulled out the backup to ride back to the car, so I could drive back up to the Collar City and pick up faithful spouse. Turns out riding two bikes with VERY different geometry in the same day: not a good idea. Thighs hurt. But it was mostly downhilll, and solved the logistical problem. I even got across the Dunn without a flat!

Now, a swapping of wheels, driving to the bike shop, and continued disappointment from a shortened ride that was otherwise just bliss.

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Stupid web tricks

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MapMyRide has been a bit of a thorn the last couple of years — I loved being able to map my bike rides, but it was painfully slow, hard to correct, and the interface was sub-great. But they’ve got a much improved site in beta, it works beautifully (and of course now I have a screamingly fast computer that can handle it), and now they have a stupid web trick that I can’t help but love: fly-over video, courtesy of Google Earth, of my bike routes. It’s like having a helicopter flying over my route, and the imagery gives me features of the terrain that I never see from the bike. Stupidly cool.

Check it out here:

Not lacking topics

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Tour de France

Image via Wikipedia

Just lacking time. The Tour de France starts tomorrow, f’cryin’ out loud. That means that all laundry, household maintenance, and general chores have to be done or forgotten about for the next three weeks. Movies we’ve been meaning to watch for months have been mercilessly erased from the DVR in order to make room for the taping of the Tour. Most exercise will be taken on the floor, directly in front of the television, and that’s not a bad thing — July is traditionally my best month for abs.

I had set a goal of biking every day in July, a goal that a very very sore throat already thwarted for the first day of the month, and we’ll see how realistic it is for the rest of the time. The Tour is inspiring, and yet watching it takes up time that could be spent biking — one of life’s little paradoxes.

On with the Tour!

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Sidewall Blowout Spectacular!

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A day so beautiful that even catastrophic, noisy, structural failure of my bicycle tire (at mercifully low speed) couldn’t ruin it. Took the time to smell the roses, or at least the Mohawk River, actually just sitting and watching the scenery at the Niskayuna train station along the bike path. On the way back, even Broadway in Menands was something resembling lovely, and there were people out walking all over the place. Then I stopped to fix one mechanical, after which I was stopped by another – with a big bang, too. It appears that a little slippage of rim tape exposed a spoke socket, which allowed a little balloon in the tube, which popped and tore through the side of my tire like a gunshot. Now, North Albany is neither the best nor the worst place to have a colossal breakdown, but I was grateful that faithful spouse was available for sag wagon duty because it was still a long walk to the truck in bicycle shoes. So I pulled up a bench in the little park in front of Sacred Heart Church and soaked up the sun.

At some point in the adventure it occurred to me that I could actually have just hopped (well, you can’t exactly hop in carbon-soled shoes) onto a bus, as every CDTA bus now has a bike rack on the front.  I’m not sure where I would have taken the bus to, perhaps just closer to where I was parked, but I don’t carry change in the spandex, I actually don’t even know what bus fares are these days, and I’d already called for the camion balais by the time public transportation occurred to me. But, option!

On the upside, that means I get new tires!

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That one perfect spring day

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Yesterday was that day, that one perfect spring day when everyone comes outside. I rode through Washington Park, and it was full of people. Crossings in Colonie, full of people. Corning Preserve, full of people. Westland Hills Park – well, to be fair, I didn’t even know it existed, but even there there were at least a few people. Bright, sunny, warm, wonderful day. People were friendly. I had a long chat with some folks at the boat launch, which almost never happens, while watching the rowers come in off the river. A guy who almost hit me actually (and sincerely) apologized, and I was in such a good mood I brushed it off like nothing had happened. (And in fact the sun was definitely in his eyes). It was that kind of day.

Craziest ride route ever, covering some of the most dangerous streets in Albany, hills just for the hell of it, back streets I’d never been on before, all because I had to run to the Down Tube to get a patch and tube, having forgotten my saddlebag when I changed bikes. The Roubaix now has a new chain, two rings, cassette and brake pads (odo 8374.6k) – you’re supposed to replace them every thousand miles or two, and they had five on them, so it was definitely time.

“Let me just fuel up my headlamp”

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Troy and Albany Automatic Lighting 1895

1895 – a simpler time, when cars did not yet rule the roads, bicycling was all the rage, and all you needed to do to extend your riding pleasure into the evening hours was to bolt a kerosene lantern to your frame, light the wick, and off you went . . . .

Oh, wait. Maybe the lighting and the bicycle have nothing to do with each other. Never mind.

On the other hand, Fixie Pr0n for you flatland elitists. The Helical seems to have been the work of the Premiere Cycle Co. of New York, N.Y., and the tubes were made in a helical twist. The Zimmy was by the A.A. Zimmerman Manufacturing Co. of Freehold, N.J. When this ad appeared in a Troy directory in 1895, Arthur Augustus “Zimmy” Zimmerman had recently (1893) become the first amateur World Champion road cyclist. He was one of the greatest names in American sport a mere 120 years ago.

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Ghost bike, José Perez

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Ghost bike, José Perez, originally uploaded by carljohnson.

A ghost bike in memory of José Perez, at the connection of Broadway to Quay Street, Albany.

“José Perez, Bicyclist, killed by car 08-03-06 Albany, NY”

Located here.

Hopefully a reminder to everyone. Bicyclists need to ride safely – drivers need to give us a little room and courtesy. Also? Hang up and drive!

More on ghost bikes here:

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To the cycling samaritan . . . .

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To the cycling samaritan who stopped on the sidewalk of the Dunn Memorial Bridge yesterday, got off his bike, and used a piece of index card to diligently brush broken glass off the sidewalk: Thank you. What an amazing thing to do. Now I think I’m going to stick a piece of index card in my jersey pocket when I’m traveling across the river for exactly that purpose. (For some reason, and I’m not sure if it’s drivers or pedestrians, smashing bottles on the Dunn seems to be something of a sport. There is always glass on the walkway, and I’ve picked up a large number of flats there over the years.)

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The importance of being limber

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It’s March, which means the start of the cycling season I’ve been waiting for since the Last Best Ride back in November. A few jaunts out on the warmer days and even fewer miles logged on the rollers have done nothing to preserve my base, and my muscles are tighter than they’ve ever been, which is saying something. Every day, Facebook reminds me that my high school classmates are all hitting the half-century mark, and even my own body has to admit that flexibility is a privilege, not a right. I’ve already learned that nothing heals anymore so I’d better not tear or break anything.

So to get ready I’ve got a crack squadron of trained ballerinas (made them myself: sugar, spice, Chemical X, spandex) improving my floor exercises, giving me points on form, and telling me what Miss Madeline would say if she could see me. (It wouldn’t be anything good.)  I’ve had the Olympics to train to for two weeks (watching elite athletes always inspires me to new heights of stretching), and I’ve even been getting the rollers out. Rollers are vastly superior to trainers in that you’re actually riding a bike, rather than being bolted to a flywheel. Your pedal stroke becomes smooth as glass, or else you meet the floor (clipping in: not recommended). However there is no classic rock album, no podcast, not even an extended Groucho Marx impression by Gilbert Gottfried that can overcome the simple fact that on rollers, you’re not going anywhere, and you can’t coast. So ultimately, I’ve just gotta get out there.

The last two days the temps haven’t been bad, a couple of degrees above freezing but with no wind, but the wetness is at flood stages and the spring ritual of our roads crumbling into nothingness is well underway. Where I live, that means that the shoulders that don’t exist, already littered with winter’s pointy debris, are slick and lined with chunks of asphalt. When you’re cruising along at 20 mph with about 3 square inches of contact with the ground, all of this matters. But I will get out there this week, and find out what parts work and what parts don’t. On me, not the bike.

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