Strapped the 900 to my helmet and the 1400 to my bars and decided to go for a 5 or 6 mile loop around my house in order to get out away from streetlights.
I love the ease of installation and use, the output is incredible and everything seems great thus far. Once out of the city lights I tested the dimmer settings and realized that the 900 puts out a TON of light on it's lowest setting- more than enough for a headlamp in any non-technical singletrack situation (where in my opinion the more light the better, no matter what). The 1400 puts out enough light for gravel at about "half" (it's infinitely dimmable) output of just the two smaller LEDs. The main light of the 1400 is straight up ridiculous on full power- with that fired up and the 900 on high it's almost like daylight. You have to be careful not to blind yourself with the reflections you get back from street signs.
Time will tell how long the batteries last at different settings- I'm guessing I will have a ton of battery life at gravel road level outputs between the two batteries. Looking forward to not ever having to really find out.
Felt a bit tired early in the week and my only rides were commuting. Early alarms Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday but all three days were ignored, back to sleep... pretty lame. I did stretch my commutes out to around 20 miles for 3 of the days. Most of that was spent just cruising around at night admiring the sites and the calm of the city while everyone else is sleeping. Friday morning I was sitting at about 70 miles and 5.5 hrs.
Friday morning I woke up naturally around 10 and felt great- decided it was time to get back into the swing of the long rides. The wind coerced me into starting in a southerly direction. Decided to get onto the gravel and try to pick my way down to Chatfield. Found an absolutely beautiful section of road down in a deep valley that I will definitely ride again in the future. Rolled into Chatfield, grabbed a horrible sandwich and some g2 then hit the road. Obviously magnum road was going to be the ticket out of town. Hit that hilliest section of the '09 Almanzo and then cut north and northwest up to Stewartville. Coasted home from there with the wind at about 70 miles.
Recently I've been eating a lot of tortelloni- super easy way to get some dense calories and easy to make. My favorite recipe right now is to mix them with campbell's healthy choice "Italian Wedding" soup, or the "chicken tortilla" and a can of low salt black beans. With either option I also season liberally with sriracha. Anyways, I threw together a quick tortelloni soup dinner, showered and got out the door. Rode the 13 miles or so down to "catch 22" and met up with Mike Rust for a beer.
Halfway through the 2nd blue mooon I checked Facebook and saw that some guys from QBP were going to be riding 140-150 miles Saturday morning up in the cities. Not sure how I made up my mind that I should do that... I had ridden too much already to be "my best" Saturday morning and I was relatively sure that they'd be going pretty fast. Still, I had plans to try to ride that far and get a feel for it sometime very soon (very likely today, Sunday) and knew it would be incredibly helpful to do it with a group. I decided to make it happen. We were to leave at 6:30am from the colossal cafe up in Minneapolis near where I grew up. I rode back home on the bike paths through downtown etc. (the shortest route was now quite dark/dangerous with car traffic) By the time I got organized this left me with about 5 hrs of sleep, but I was feeling well as I unpacked the MCS in the dark and loaded my pockets with food.
The group seemed quite surprised that someone "else" was there to ride with them, and perhaps even more so that I was on a mountain bike. Everyone was friendly, there wasn't a lot of time to waste and we got started. The decision was made that we would do the "cannonball run" ride which would take us out to the Afton area, through Hastings, to Red Wing for brunch, past Cannon Falls, Vermillion etc. and then back to Minneapolis.
Things started out fast and stayed that way. I was more tired than I wanted to be from the beginning, but I hoped that as time went on the group might tire a bit and that I might stay more or less the same. I fell off a bit during an "early" climb around mile 45 and knew that I was likely to struggle some. Was smart? enough to admit that right away though and started spending a lot of time at the back of the group. I also told myself that I would climb at a pace which was comfortable for me and that I would watch my heart rate. Basically, I would put a hr "ceiling" on myself around 180 bpm in order to try to maintain any strength or high end power I did have left. If you've ridden with me you know how much I like to climb, so this was probably good for my ego to get my ass kicked up a few of them eh? Anyways, I held on more or less all the way into Red Wing with around 77 miles on the odometer.
The absolute highlight of that half of the ride was the "closed" bridges that we had to cross, the ones that happened to be covered in paintball paint and required climbing skills to conquer (well, for those who have such skills and who weren't wearing carbon road shoes- I had to crawl underneath like a wimp).
I was feeling pretty "broken" already and I was in my home town where I knew I had a couch, some NCAA basketball and a beer or two just waiting for me. I was able to convince myself to start back to the cities, but only just barely.
The rest of the ride was a blur and it was where the motorpacing really came in (or at least what passes for "motorpacing" for me on gravel). The pace never significantly dropped off- we kept an average up in the mid 16s and didn't waver much other than when they had to wait for me after every sustained climb. Luckily I was able to continue to spin the pace on the flats and hopefully I didn't slow them down too much. I almost quit the group and rode back to Red Wing around mile 110 (which I convinced myself was an option because I'd still get my miles in, albeit at my own pace), but Joe talked me out of it. Things got rough, the group helped me or the group dropped me, I felt bad, I kept pedaling. There were sections of road completely covered with beach sand. Things were rough. I was pleasantly surprised that nothing really weird happened. My legs were weak, but my aerobic system was still functioning fine and my food/drink situation was fine. I was weaker than the group, but other than on steep grades I felt the same as ever. They continued to help me. The route got longer and longer- seriously, it went from about 140 to being well over 150... I tried not to hold them up. We crossed into Minneapolis, the pace was still high.
In the end we rode about 155-160 miles (depending on which rider's computer you trust) in about 9:45 of riding time. My average heartrate was 145... disturbing.
I know that we went through a lot of beautiful terrain and interesting sites etc., but this ride wasn't about that for me... I was just too close to the edge the whole time to pay attention.
I can't thank the other riders enough for pulling me and just for letting me come along. The next time I will be more prepared (better rested and hopefully on a cross bike), I hope I'm invited!
Met my parents for dinner at Outback, slept about 11 hrs,did some yardwork etc.. Then got to work on my bike. Put on my new truvativ noir crankset (thanks charly tri) and realized the outgoing BB was absolutely, completely destroyed... couldn't even spin the driveside bearing by hand. Grateful it didn't fail to the point of ending my ride yesterday.
If you are interested that gives a good sense of what we did, the conditions and also there are some good pictures. There aren't nearly enough pictures though- but that's for good reason... How do you capture riding in muddy hills in the rain for hrs on end while only being able to see 30' in front of you straight ahead? Or the feeling that no matter what breaks or goes wrong WE knew we were going to finish? This was an experience not easily captured with a camera.
What really sticks out in my mind:
Everyone was incredible- Nice people everywhere we went, awesome hospitality from the Shockey's and comraderie within the riding group. Basically, Decorah is pretty great and Ben made sure we saw the best of everything. He even got us timely service at t-bocks!
The daily routes were well planned out- the roads were beautiful, the right number of hills were epic and the right ones were rolling, the convenience stores were well placed (for our suffering).
All of our discussion about "nutrition" for endurance riding- as if you could call anything most of us were consuming nutritious. It was fun to argue about and seeing what others do/think will definitely help me into the future. Who is going to be the first to try to make organic aerosol pancakes IN THEIR MOUTH? Perhaps washed down with bacon and sour patch kids?
All our ranting and raving about the amount of climbing we were doing- there was just enough doubt as to the sanity of Kent's GPS to sustain this for the entire weekend. We never got anywhere, did we? I'll say it again... the metric seemed roughly comparable to the CIRREM, the century felt roughtly 2x as hilly as the Almanzo... since we can't accurately quantify the actual climbing or the effects of the road surface conditions and the wind vectors vs. the number of PBRs consumed vs. fake bacon and real freaking good sausage we will never really know.
All the Eagles- We must have seen 8 different pairs of eagles along the route. One even flew out o a tree and down the road no more than 80' from us- I think it was mad because Ben was threatening to steal the raccoon carcass it was having for lunch.
The Sattre store- The store was cool (full of the same stuff my great grandma's basement was full of), what was even more rememberable was how hard it was to get there. I was feeling pretty whipped at that point after a short break we were about to turn into the wind/rain and ride 50 more miles to the next stop.
Walking hills- Glad we did it! There were definitely times when it was the right way to go. I think deep into the century that Ben and Kent thought I was still feeling strong and could drop them on the hills... the truth was more that if I didn't stay on top of my gear I didn't have the strength to grind up those hills. I guess I'm a crappy SSer in that regard- I've sort of got to run a gear that I can sit and spin or at least turn over pretty well or I just run out of juice. Maybe that grinding strength will come with more time riding SS, I did start with it in November. Around mile 50 I would have been walking them all (they were all HUGE btw at that point) if it wasn't for the group. It got ridiculous out there!
Ben being tough- Ben had a mini-bonk about 8 miles away from the 85 mile stop. He didn't say much for about a mile, recovered, took the lead and hammered the pavement section into town. I was impressed.
Kent's post cramp sprint through town- Not sure who had the idea to do stoplight sprints, but I'm pretty sure Kent won them all? He may have cheated on the 2nd one, but at least on the first one he got off the line a whole lot faster than I did. Also, Kent's ability to finish strong on the last few climbs and windy sections despite those cramps. I'm sure he was feeling pretty crappy, but he was still more than keeping up.
pre-cooked bacon- the favorite use I heard for it was as a lip balm. least favorite was as food... it tastes fine, but I'd need something other than salty water to wash it down. I bet it would be awesome on the type of group ride that stops at a few bars.
The bumpy as hell snice (snow/ice) covered bike trail into town- what other way to end a 105 mile ride than to ride down a slippery, dangerous path as fast as you can? Well, unless you consider the "end" of the ride that last little rise where Ben attacked the group.
inspiration- This ride made me want to ride more. What's better than that? It got me thinking about new and better routes that I can take!
hanging out- Was pretty cool to talk and think about bikes and riding experiences for 3 days.
Way too lazy to do a write-up just yet. The horrible weather turned it into everything I'd hoped it would be, and now I've spent the entire afternoon cleaning the garage, car and bikes... and I'm prety much spent.
Plan to rest a while then install some goodies in the MCS with Eric.
Maybe will be ready to talk more about the 205 or so miles we rode in slop by Monday or Tuesday, I think I need more perspective to do it justice. I will say that I've put 390 miles on the Monocog since CIRREM (with most of them on wet, soft gravels) and 106 on the Mamasita and that I plan to try to hit it just as hard again this week.
Co-workers invited me to the bar tonight after work 'cuz we were getting out early at 12:30. Who am I to say no to hitting the bar with 5 or 6 girls (I don't really have any male co-workers these days... as they seem to go to day shift, or go bonkers and quit which is another story). Of course they were planning to hit up Boomers, which for some idiotic reason is the bar of choice for after work gatherings despite being about as far from work as possible in our city.
The trip there was uneventful. It took about 35 minutes of hard riding. The rain wasn't so bad and the temperature was liveable. We had a couple beers and talked etc., before I knew it 2:10!
The trip home was going to be at least an hr of riding in the pouring rain alone. I felt like the prince of Rochester, as if I owned the surreal roads I cruised. I rode the hills that were the last section of Sunday's group ride, the parking lot where Laura and I meet for Lunch when she is at the NW clinic, the road I take to get to the Douglas Trail, the cut to the mall, the path to the ball field and finally under 52 along the short section of freeway and up the hill to home. Every second hammering, absurdly pushing despite the rain. I felt like I had something to chase...
When I reached my driveway there was a rabbit. He was dead centered and staring right at me. In my light he looked white. I considered following, but realized I'd been following him all along.
Got out both days with groups of 6-8 on the now almost completely dry, but very sandy roads.
Saturday was a 30 minute "warmup" followed by about a 2 hr ride with the group at 17.5 or so with pretty high winds on the outward leg. I rode the Mamasita with the 34mm Pirhanas on the new Stan's wheelset. The 28/38 front double means that I get spun out at times on downhills, but otherwise the bike works surprisingly well. It was nice to see a group out so early in the year and also fun to "check up" a bit with the improvements I've made since last year (when I was almost dropped on a similar ride). After the ride I decided I would go grab some lunch and continue riding- sadly Chipotle was too busy to even think about waiting at... I wound up going to Panera where there were no extra tables either. I ended up having to ask a couple of college girls if I could join them at their table. Made me think about how old I'm getting, but at least they didn't say no right? They were sort of confused about why I had a bike helmet and pockets full of slimfasts, but otherwise nice enough. After lunch I rode another 90 minutes or so to bring the total to just over 60 miles.
Today was more of the same with the group ride, but the pace was a bit hotter and the group was more varied. By the end the group got whittled down pretty small. I rode the Mamasita again, but this time with the Tubular wheelset. I was feeling a bit crappy this AM and at the beginning of the ride as we celebrated Eric's birthday last night, so I was worried that I wouldn't be able to give these a good test yet today. However, they were just FAST virtually every second of the ride. I felt like I could fly anytime I wanted to. Thanks Steve for talking me into 'em. Today wound up at 47 miles in 2.:45 or so including warmup/cooldowns. I think we averaged over 18 for the 2 hrs of group riding.
Other news is that I added some really dorky looking reflective tape all over the Redline. Not sure anything can make it look more utilitarian anyways, but it sure looks something now.
I guess I'm bringing the Redline to STD with the Pirhanas on it and the fixed/free setup and the mamasita with the tubular wheelset on it. I will also bring almost all of my other cycling possessions including the stan's wheelset and all my spare parts/tools. It sounds like it might get ugly weather wise- if it's anything less than dry I'll be trying to ride the Redline for the entire weekend so as to avoid undue wear on the Salsa. I will likely stretch my commute out a little bit tomorrow (2 hrs?) and then just do the strict commute Tuesday and Wednesday as I rest up for STD.
A few parts should be here Wednesday for the MCS- hoping to install early next week. I'm anticipating 205-210 crank hp after these changes.
Hope you got out and rode this weekend, it probably won't be this nice all the time here yet for another 5 or 6 weeks.
Well, it's March! To me that means it is time to shave the beard, suck it up and start commuting every day by bike.
So far so good, as I made the trip all 5 days this week on the monocog (fixocog?) with no issues. I was quite tempted Wednesday evening to drive the Mini Cooper S in to work because I didn't have to go in until Laura had already come home... but I decided that 30+ mpg is not justification to drive. $ isn't my motivation anyways. It has been inconvenient to have to change clothes at work, but I'm actually sort of kicking myself for not starting earlier. The temperatures have been such that just my fox dh pants over boxers and a rain jacket over a t-shirt has been plenty... probably could have easily been comfortable weeks ago.
I stretched my commute out a little extra every day but Thursday. Total was 130 miles thus far this week... vs. the 13 miles by 5 days that was really necessary. Total as 2.25 hrs monday, 1.5 Tuesday, 4 Wednesday, 1 Thursday and 2 Friday. If you were to bother to do the math the average pace wasn't all that fast.
People in town have started talking about the start of the "bike season" and it sounds like there may be a couple of good group ride options (on road) tomorrow. I will likely try to get out at about 10:30 or 11 and ride until close to dark. Not sure which bike yet.
Some crazy stuff has been happening with the Almanzo (and gravel races in general)! Can't believe all the interest. Some think it will die off, but I think it's a real niche that no one had realized or filled.