Monday, July 07, 2014
Part 1: A Bicycle is a Unicycle with a Training Wheel
When I was 14 years-old I decided I wanted to work on my balance. I bought a Schwinn unicycle with proceeds from my paper route. I had no idea how to ride a unicycle. I had even less of an idea on how to learn to ride a unicycle.
My older brother taught me how to ride a bike, which in retrospect, would constitute cruel and unusual punishment in any court in the land!
I was on my own trying to learn how to ride a unicycle. I spent many hours pedaling my unicycle back-and-forth across the driveway using the garage door for support. I fell off a lot!
Slowly, very slowly, I started to get the hang of it. At first I could do just a few peddle strokes without leaning against the garage door. Then all of a sudden I felt a surge of confidence and I took off down the driveway. It worked! I could ride a unicycle!
I learned how to pivot the unicycle, balance without moving, backup, hop sideways, and jump over stuff. I could stand up, move the seat out of the way, and pedal just standing on the wheel.
The coolest thing I could do was go up and down stairs! I used my unicycle to collect from my paper route customers. The tips rolled in! I could almost always get to the door on my unicycle, ring the doorbell, take the money, make change and give the customer a receipt, without getting off the unicycle!
In the last 40 years, unicycles have become really cool.
This is an Nimbus Oregon 26" Mountain Unicycle with a Surly Nate "Fat" tire. This bad boy has a hydraulic disk brake and downhill pedals. For the modest price of $830 you get an all-terrain unicycle that can take on any technical terrain.
But wait a minute - I already have seven really cool bikes. How much trail time is this killer unicycle going to see? It already takes me a week to ride all the bikes I have. I decided to pass on the ultimate unicycle.
Part 2: One of The Best Bike I Have Ever Been On
Earlier this year I attended the Bike Junkies Fest hosted by the Golden Bike Shop. Here is link to my blog about the event:
One bike I demoed really stood out. I fell in love with the 26" Pivot Mach 5.7 Carbon XT/XTR PRO.
This bike is a rocket and has 150mm (6") of trail gobbling suspension travel. Although the Mach 5.7 climbed well, the descent was where it shined! When I hit the lower part of Chimney Gulch I just let the bike go!
Here is the lower part of Chimney Gulch. This trail segment consists of anti-erosion timbers, big rocks and steep drops. I hit this nightmare going over 20 mph. I just relaxed and let the bike do the work. The Mach 5.7 floated over the obstacles. Even to glance at the brakes during this rough segment was certain death! At the end of the bumps was a 90 degree corner. I threw the bike into the corner pretty much thinking I was dead meat. The bike tracked through the corner like it was on rails!
I was in love.
But the Pivot Mach 5.7 is really expensive. Even on sale this bike is $6,000. To afford this bike, I would have to part with my Specialized Camber "Little Cam", Specialized Allez road bike, Surly cross bike and my Honda CRF230 dirt motorcycle. I am already selling my Suzuki DL1000 street motorcycle to get a bigger down payment on a new car for my wife.
I already have plenty of great mountain bikes. I had to pass on the Pivot Mach 5.7.
My best bike is a 2012 Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert. This bike is fast! I installed bigger disc brakes to help control speed. "Ultra-Stumpy" is an endurance racing bike. The Pivot is an all mountain bike. However, Ultra-Stumpy has 130mm of travel and can take on bad terrain. I think I am set.
Part 3: Better Ride Mountain Bike Training Camp
I decided to attend a three day mountain bike training camp that will be held in Evergreen, Colorado, on August 15th through August 17th.
I find mountain biking more strenuous than road biking. When I ride my road bike, I pretty much stay in the saddle and pedal. When I ride a mountain bike, I am rarely on the saddle. Mountain biking takes more upper body strength than road riding.
The uneven and loose surface can knock the front wheel all over the place. Even though mountain biking can result in some spectacular crashes.
I consider mountain biking safer than road riding since I regard careless drivers to be a lot greater hazard than a few rocks.
This is a mountain bike trail near Golden called Apex Trail. This trail has a few rocks here and there.
I have a month to get in a lot better shape before the camp. My ankle is healed and I am increasing my running and riding. I have a mountain biking specific strength workout that I have just started.
Even better news I am down 15 pounds!
Thanks for reading my blog.
Tuesday, June 24, 2014
Part 1: A Little History
On January 29th I had reconstructive ankle surgery that took a lot out of me. I was in a cast for 6 weeks, which seemed like an eternity. After the cast came off, I had 8 weeks of physical therapy. I finally got the okay from my doctor to run and ride.
I have always been very active. I found rest and recuperation like being in prison!
Part 2: Riding for Fitness
I have a lot of bikes. Each bike has is different. My all-purpose bike is a Surly Cross-Check. My Surly is decent pavement bike that can handle rough dirt roads and easy trails.
For my mountainous neighborhood, the Surly is a perfect fun and fitness bike.
I made a few changes to the Surly including lower gearing, knobby tires, better brakes and more comfortable saddle.
Part 3: High Meadow
Yesterday, June 22nd, I jumped on my Surly and took off for a long ride. Since it was likely to be dark by the time I got back home, I put my headlight and tail light on the bike. I wanted to ride a few miles on pavement then hit the dirt.
I decided to ride the High Meadow area. Fourteen years ago, on June 12, 2000, a carelessly discarded cigarette started a forest fire on High Meadow that burned 10,800 acres. We had to evacuate. On the ridges above my house was a 170 feet wall of flame.
This is a photo of the High Meadow fire. This condition is known as a "crowned-out" and reaches temperatures of over 2,200 °F.
The fire flared-up so quickly that many residents had to evacuate between walls of flame. We had less than 15 minutes to pack-up and leave. I was sure I had seen the last of my house.
As luck would have it, the fire burned directly away from my house. I was let through the police road blocks to get back to my house during the day. My house would shake when the slurry bombers would fly over. These planes came in very low.
The pilots that fly these planes are brave and skilled.
Part 4: High Meadow is Beautiful and Quiet Now
During the last 14 years the burned trees have fallen down and enriched the soil. The burn area is now a rich grassland that is full of berry bushes and wild flowers. I like riding through High Meadow because it is so beautiful.
As I rode along High Meadow the sun was starting to set.
I stopped to take a drink of water. There are very few houses in the burn area. There was no sound and it was a little spooky. I noticed I was near an overgrown driveway. For no good reason, I walked my bike down the driveway to the houseless foundation.
This house used to belong to a nice young couple that were our friends. Where the far end burnt log now sits, we had many dinners together and shared great conversation.
In the setting sun, I could remember what the house looked like. The house was nearly new and the view was spectacular.
There was a forest here once. The burned trees fell over as the years went by. This area provides great grazing and browsing for deer and elk.
If you have a good eye, you can see the burn area on the other side of the valley, which is slightly to the right of my bike.
Our friends never came back. They lost two dogs and cat in the fire. They were not allowed past the police roadblock to get their animals. My wife talked with them afterward. There was just too much pain and they did not want to rebuild.
I got back on my bike and rode home. I am not going to stop by the sad foundation again. I should not have stopped in the first place. The view is so pretty though.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Saturday, June 14, 2014
Part 1: Fighting to Lose Weight and Get Back in Shape
I know exactly the time and date that I was last in great shape. On August 19th 2011 at 12:00pm I was standing at the starting line of the Leadville 10k. This race is billed as "The Highest 10K Race in America". The starting line was at 10,152 feet of elevation.
Unfortunately, the start was botched. The Starter was supposed to go "1-2-3 Bang". Instead, she went "1-2-3-4 Bang"! Expecting the gun after the count of three, the pack surged ahead. When the racers realized the gun had not gone off, they stopped. I put on the brakes to keep from clobbering the person in front of me. As I slammed my right foot forward to stop, I suffered a grade III muscle strain in my right calf. I had severely tore and ruptured the calf muscle.
It felt like someone took a knife and sliced through my calf muscle. The pain was intense. But I thought I just had a cramp. I ran about a 1/2 mile and managed to get to the side of the road. I stretched the calf and kept running.
I stopped a lot during the race and turned in a terrible 72:12 minute time. My wife was wondering where I was. She knew I could run 10k in at little over 50 minutes even at high altitude. She snapped the above shot as I attempted to sprint toward the finish.
I was on crutches for a long time. I have never raced since. While recuperating I gained 10 pounds. Before the Leadville 10K disaster I had lost over 85 pounds and was pretty fast.
This also marks the time that I started looking for lower impact exercise. I started doing more biking than running. Prior to Leadville I was primarily a runner. I biked for fun and cross-training. After Leadville I became primarily a mountain biker. I ran to get in better shape for biking.
Part 2: Becoming a Roadie - Big Mistake
My torn calf took a long time to heal. There is sill a visible gash in my right calf muscle. In May 2012 I bought a superb full-suspension mountain bike I call "Ultra-Stumpy".
Ultra-Stumpy is a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert model. This bike is made of carbon-fiber and titanium. Ultra-Stumpy is scary fast.
I live in the mountains of Colorado so good mountain biking terrain is at the end of my driveway. However, I work in downtown Denver, which is road bike country. I decided to buy a road bike. At first, I wisely had decided on a dual-purpose cross bike. But when I test rode a sport/racing road bike I changed my mind.
I bought a Specialized Allez. This bike is smooth and handles well. Compared to my mountain bikes, the Allez is wicked easy to pedal. My Allez is a pure road bike that can only be used on hard surfaces. Once the tires heat up, this bike rails through the sharpest corners. With modest pedaling effort, the Allez cruises at 30 mph on a level road.
I even bought a roadie outfit, including roadie shoes, roadie shorts and roadie jersey. I looked like a bona fide roadie. I was even temped to act like a bona fide roadie and sneer at lesser bikes, such as fat-tired cruisers, silly hybrids and, of course, those contemptible mountain bikes.
Then came May 22, 2013. At 6:05pm a woman in a Toyota Forerunner made a turn in front of me as I rode down Cherry Creek bike path. I had the green signal. I had the right-of-way. She saw me coming. She was talking on her cell phone. She had a chance to stop and let me by. She pulled directly in front of me when I was 12 feet away. I had less than 9/10ths of a seconds to react before impact. No human being on earth could have avoided the collision.
Right before the impact. I closed my eyes and relaxed. The noise and pain were amazing.
Besides many cuts and bruises, I suffered torn ligaments and tendons in my right foot, torn ligaments and a torn labrum in my right shoulder rotator cuff, a severe concussion, and compressed discs in my neck.
I thought I was okay. I did not have my cell phone. I really needed an ambulance. But because of the blow to my head, I was not thinking straight. I was in shock.
These injuries eventually put a stop to my exercise routines. My ankle has been rebuilt but my shoulder and neck still cause me some difficulties. I elected not to have neck surgery. I have another round of intensive neck rehab coming. I have put off shoulder surgery. I don't want to go through the 6 months of healing and rehab until the winter.
This is a photo of my ankle a few weeks after surgery. I snapped this shot while getting fitted for a new cast.
This is a shot of my first cast. My leg has lost most of this definition during the healing phase.
Part 3: Weight Gain and Strength Loss
Since the Leadville 10K in August of 2011, I have gained 30 pounds. What is worse than gaining weight is my loss of strength and cardio-vascular conditioning. It is hard to get motivated when normal activity hurts. I am struggling to ride my bikes just half the distance I used to. Running is also challenging.
I have difficulty controlling my appetite if I am not active.
Part 4: My Plan - Rehab, Run, Ride, Lift and Track
I got to get back on track. I have been putting off more rehab on my neck because it really hurts. I got a good recommendation for a rehab specialist from a coworker that had the same neck injury. I work in health care and the coworker is a neural therapist and certified fitness trainer.
I got to bite the bullet and workout frequently. Right now, I can muster about one or two bike rides a week. I have to start running, not just riding.
I need to get more strength. I can start out with light weights. I have also been hit-and-miss on nutrition. I have been drinking too much beer because it makes the pain more bearable.
I guess I am lucky I have only put on 30 pounds.
Thanks for reading my blog.
Sunday, June 01, 2014
Part 1: No Name Trail
Glenwood Canyon was cut by the mighty Colorado River. Years ago there was a town of "No Name", which is now a rest stop.
In Spaghetti Westerns there was a man with no name.
About 2 miles from my house is a beautiful trail that has no trailhead sign, no trail markings and no name. Best of all, the trail has very little foot traffic and no bike traffic. Although a few parts of the trail are overgrown, the majority of the trail is in excellent shape.
The trail is also very pretty.
Here is my Canfield Nimble 9 beside a pristine little creek that also has no name. You may also notice that the Aspen trees have started to bud. However, few trees are fully leafed-out.
Here is a shot of Big Nimby further up the trail. The trial winds up a mountain that has no name. The trial drops into a valley that has no name - and climbs up a second peak that has no name.
Here is a "beauty shot" of my Nimble 9. This bike is unique because of a very short wheel base and very slack steering. I haven't learned to ride this bike to it's full potential yet.
Part 2: Endless Trail
I rode for over two hours up the trail at about 9 mph. After riding 20 miles, I still did not find the end of the trail. There are several offshoots from the main trail that are slightly overgrown. This trail is not even on any maps.
I think it may be a fire access trail. I rode this trail on Saturday, May 31st, and the weather was great! We have been getting a lot of rain, which has put a crimp in my outdoor activity. I mentioned previously that I can handle rain - but mountain lightning is really scary!
This is a typical mountain lightning. During a lightning storm you get off peaks and ridges. Unfortunately, lightning in the mountains tends to strike without warning. But so do squirrels!
This is a Abert's Squirrel. This fellow is named Squirrelzilla!
I like where I live. Thanks for reading my blog.
Thursday, May 29, 2014
In 2012, the major bike manufactures stop producing high-end 26" wheeled mountain bikes. Currently, 99% of mountain bikes for sale in 2014 come with 29" or 27.5" wheels.
Bike industry experts predict that even tires for 26" mountain bikes will go out of production in the next decade.
In 2009, I bought a 2007Specialized 26" Stumpjumper Pro Disc as a leftover. In 2013, I bought a 2012 Specialized 26" Camber as a leftover. Both these bikes are really superb machines. I call these bikes "Little Stumpy" and "Little Cam" because both have "little" 26-inch wheels.
Part 1: Little Stumpy - Long in Tooth
After a bazillion hard miles, Little Stumpy was wearing out. A few years back, I could have found a great replacement for ailing Little Stumpy. But the days of good 26" mountain bikes are gone. I had no choice but to rebuild Little Stumpy.
I just didn't rebuild Little Stumpy. I made Little Stumpy new again. Here are the results.
Photos do not do the bike justice. Little Stumpy has a mirror-like finish. I replaced every moving part except the wheels. The front wheel was pretty new. I had to rebuild the rear wheel because the free hub and the bearings were shot.
This is Little Stumpy's new crank and pedals. Little Stumpy tips the scale at a shade over 26 pounds.
I put a larger front brake on Little Stumpy. Originally the bike cam with 160mm front and back. I kept the 160mm on the rear and installed a 180mm on the front. I also replaced the old 2012 Avid Juicy brakes with new 2014 Shimano Deore brakes. Little Stumpy's braking performance is greatly improved.
This is a side shot of Little Stumpy. The sun is reflecting off the top tube. This bike looks new again.
I decided to keep the original Specialized "Flame" handlebar. This handlebar with flames on either side of the stem is super rare and fetches a high price on eBay! Little Stumpy would not be Little Stumpy without flames!
Here is the new Shimano XT derailleur that I installed. I replaced the shifters, cables, cable housings, chain, crank and all derailleurs. Little Stumpy has a completely new drivetrain.
I also put a Specialized S-Works Purgatory tire on the front wheel and a Specialized Ground Control tire on the rear wheel.
After my first ride on the New Little Stumpy, I knew I had nailed the tires! Little Stumpy whipped around tight curves, on loose decomposed granite like he was glued to the ground! Bliss!
Part 2: Memorial Day Inaugural Ride at Elk Meadows in Evergreen, Colorado
The weather finally broke and the sun peeked through. I loaded Little Stumpy and Little Cam on the bike rack and headed for Elk Meadow in Evergreen, CO. This was not a great idea to try to ride the very popular Elk Meadows trail system on Memorial Day.
There were enough people there to eat the place! The parking lot had overflowed and cars were parked all along the access road. I managed to get a spot near the trail head. I should have turned around and gone to Beaver Ranch or Flying J.
Elk Meadows is not too far off I-70 and is easy to get to from Denver. Denver is a pretty healthy city and a trip to Evergreen is a good way to enjoy the great outdoors. Elk Meadows has a great combination of easy novice-friendly trails, up to expert-only rocky nightmares with steep switchbacks and nasty drop-offs.
In other words, perfect terrain to really give Little Stumpy a baptism. Here is a GPS map of Elk Meadows.
I am happy to report that Little Stumpy clobbered everything Elk Meadows had to offer! The bike shot up Bergen Peak and flew along winding single-track. There were a lot of hikers and, being a courteous bike, Little Stumpy was polite and asked permission to pass.
He even got a compliment. He overheard a hiker say to his companion, "Wow - That is a nice bike!"
Part 3: Do You Eat with that Mouth?
Little Stumpy and I climbed Bergen Peak. My ankle held up, but I am woefully out of shape. I had to rest a few times. Bergen Peak climbs 2,000 feet in three miles. If I keep riding and running, I will get in better shape.
While I was descending, I saw a young woman coming up the trail. She was on a 29er that looked a bit too big for her. She was dressed in a very fancy kit. She was approaching a steep, but very short rock garden. Her eyes were fixed directly on her front wheel.
This is bad little chunk of real estate. The rocks are rough, sharp, big and close together. I stopped right above the rock garden and tried to move aside. But the trail is narrow and there is not a lot of extra room.
She did not see me. She struggled up the rock garden and grazed my shoulder. She then screamed, "Jesu* Fuc**ng Chr**t slow down"! But I wasn't moving. I calmly replied, "You need to look where you are going... I really tried to say "ma'am"... but it came out "Honey".
I think she flipped me off. I just shook my head but Little Stumpy was upset!
Unfortunately, the foul-mouthed woman was not the only rude mountain biker I encountered. When I come up to hikers, I slow way down and say, "Please, excuse me" or "May I pass?" I then give them as much room as possible and thank them.
I saw one mountain biker yell, "BIKER COMING" and zoom past a group of hikers at warp speed! The problem is that every mountain biker gets tarred with the same brush. I can fly down a trail with the best of them. Little Stumps and I hit 24 mph on one treacherous stretch that was a series of two foot drop-offs. We were literally flying! However, we had a clear trail ahead.
Part 4: Good Bikes
After riding Little Stumpy at Elk Meadows, I drove over to “my” side of the mountain. I decided to ride Little Cam at Beaver Ranch. I have completely rebuilt Little Cam with high-end Shimano XT components and Fox Racing suspension. Here is a shot of Little Cam in his element:
I have to admit there is a noticeable difference between the smoothness and quickness of the more expensive Shimano XT components on Little Cam and the “budget” Shimano Deore components on Little Stumpy. Little Cam’s XT upgrade cost $1,032. Little Stumpy’s Deore upgrade cost $558. I know that seems like a lot but both bikes are bargains! A full-suspension bike equipped with Shimano XT components like Little Cam is about $5,000. A hardtail equipped with Shimano Deore components like Little Stumpy costs $1,800.
Brand new bikes have either 29” or 27.5” wheels. Little Cam and Little Stumpy have 26” wheels. Besides being a bargain, these 26” bikes really rip!
Part 5: I Have Tools
One of the reasons I can build bikes is that I have some great specialty tools.
I have a set of Spin Doctor bike tools. I got these tools for nearly half price on sale. I have a Nashbar headset tool.
Here is a shot of Little Stumpy getting a new Cane Creek headset. The Cane Creek Headset has sealed bearings and rotates very smoothly. Little Stumpy uses a 1 1/8" external cup headset, which is a little dated. However, the headset took the play out of the front fork.
The best investment was a bike work stand.
There is no way to do complex bike repairs without a stand. I have built three bikes and have developed some good skills. I worked as an auto mechanic before I decided to go to college so working with my hands feels normal.
Part 6: A Whole Lot of Speed
Neither Little Cam or Little Stumpy are fast bikes. According to my Garmin, Little Stumpy hit 27 mph at Elk Meadows; Little Cam topped 35 mph on the easier terrain at Beaver Ranch. I hit these speeds for only short intervals. Mostly, I traveled at 7 to 10 mph, which are more typical speeds when riding on dirt.
I am very happy. Both "Little" bikes are a tremendous amount of fun.
Here are the bikes loaded and ready to go home after a long hard day of fun.
Thanks for reading my blog.
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