Saturday, April 3, 2010

rainy day blogging


Well, that's another 2-ish months without even a half-assed post to show for it. Who cares, right?! Now is the time to begin writing about matters cycling again. Fortunately, February's this:

Has given way to some Spring showers. Blissfully 70s and 80s weather for the last three days. Now it's 50s and showers, but I'm not complaining much as water is MUCH better than snow in this blogger's humble opinion.

I'm sitting, waiting for the rain to stop, or at least simmer down a little. It's pretty much pissing down outside my window right now. Had plans to do a small group ride out to some sort of big northern suburbs loop today, might still happen if this stuff will settle down by around 1pm which it is supposed to according to the dudes with the doppler radar.

Meanwhile, let's look back over what there is to recount in the last couple of months.

When I last left you, faithful reader, I was recounting a fun late-ish January trip to my home away from home (and the true home of my heart), Austin, TX. Upon my return, I began to build up my new Surly Long Haul Trucker touring bike in earnest. Here is how it went:

Frame/fork: Surly LHT 60cm (in the rather boring Tan colourway, and made of the rather boilerplate 4130 cromo)
-This plus a nice Cane Creek 100 headset were had for a fantastic price from my pals over at Smart Bike Parts. I'd like to throw in another plug here for these guys. It is the most non-attitude-y bike shop I've ever had the good fortune of having to ride past almost every day. If you're decent company, they might even offer you a beer.
Wheels: Mavic A119 36h rims laced 3-cross (of course) to Shimano Deore XT hubs
-These came from Rocky Mountain Cyclery via ebay (new) and were a great deal at $150 shipped! Not terribly light, but just good strong touring wheels.
Cranks: 175mm Shimano Deore LX mountain bike triple (48/36/26)
-Got this from Blue Sky Cycling, some mail order place with a good price on it. Had advice from some to not get a MTB triple as the gearing would be too low for descending, but as I'm not planning on taking this thing down Alpe D'Huez yet, I think it's going to be just fine. In town, I have yet to go onto the big ring even with the strongest tailwind.
The rest of the buildout was made from a hodgepodge of internet and locally sourced new and used stuff. Brakes (these nice Shimano BR-550 cantilevers that are made to work right with road levers), Shimano cassette (11-32)/chain and a Cateye computer came from Jenson USA, saddle and fenders from Smart Bike Parts, tires and cables from Boulevard Bikes in Logan Square, misc. used stuff included seatpost, derailleurs (Ultegra triple FD, Tiagra long-cage RD, Dura Ace bar-end shifters from a great little craigslist purchase a while back, like $60!). Thus a bike is born!!

I put this together over a few days and I think I rode it to work once or twice before finally getting a nice enough late-winter, snow-partially-melted day to take it on a bit of a longer ride. On said day, I went on a decent little 15 mile ride down to the lake front and around through downtown and back home. Still lots of cruddy ice around the path, rode into stuff I had to get off and walk out of a couple of times, but it felt good to do something more than commute to work. Here we are thawing out in the Millenium Park parking garage entrance across from the Art Institute Modern Wing (winter cycling tip, this is a pretty nice place to defrost. They have a sort of big baseboard heater thingy in there and you are free to chill (no pun intended).

Did a lot of latex glove under regular ski gloves riding and right at the end of the winter, I wondered if it might be good to ride in those sort of heavier, much more reusable dishwashing gloves. Going to try that out next winter, will report back. Another big end of winter deal for me is that, after riding all winter in my regular Specialized "spinning" shoes with plastic bags over my feet inside them (if you will remember my fancy shoe covers came apart at the end of last winter), I was inquiring into buying a pair of the super heavy duty Lake winter cycling boots from Smart Bike Parts, owner Eric incredibly (at least it was incredible to me!) offered to sell me his that he had ridden that year. I guess if you are a bike shop owner you like to keep rotating your personal stock. I will not divulge the very generous terms this deal went down with, but suffice it to say, I feel VERY lucky that I'm the same shoe size as him! Thanks Eric. So, I'm ready to ride all over next winter, but HEY, no hurry or anything! Seriously...

Things are all good with this ride. I did have one unfortunate experience involving the infrastructure of the City of Chicago and a real hole-in-one. I was riding north on California in a rush to get to my Spanish class. At the light at North Ave. I was sitting there and went to change the display on my computer to see the time. You do this by sort of clicking it down on this pivot point that is part of the mount and it's a little kludge-y, i.e. sometimes it doesn't get seated right and won't click. So in my big heavy gloves, I went to try and reseat it on the mount and it went skittering out of my hand and bounced twice across the pavement right in front of a car as the light was turning green. I was fully prepared to throw down and make that car wait a second when it took one more bounce (this is a total of about 6' of bouncing) and just plopped straight into the one rather tiny hole in a giant non-holy manhole. UNBELIEVABLE!! It's in the hole!! At that point, I just said to myself "unbelievable" and rode onward. Here is the computer eating manhole.

Oh well, it wasn't that great of a computer anyway.

Anyway, I just got back this week from a 2 week mega road trip back down to SXSW and all the way around the horn of Louisiana, Georgia, NC all the way to NYC and then home. 4200 miles were put on the odometer. Need to do lots of bike riding to make up for that!!

And bike riding I must do. I am now officially in training for the MS150 coming up in two weeks in Houston. I've got a lot of work to do. Got back in the swing of things this week with a 25 mile ride Tuesday (came home from out of town Monday night), regular commute Wednesday, 50 miles Thursday and regular commute Friday (yesterday). More on this ride and my working up to it later, as I'm about to take off, the rain seems to have stopped.

I will leave you with a pic from the foot of the Chicago Botanical Gardens taken on my morning ride of 2 days ago. Happiness!

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