Wednesday, July 04, 2012
Part 1: A Short History of My Bikes - Learning to Ride
I learned to ride a bike when I was 6 years-old. I may have been able to balance a bike before then. But back in the day, bikes were big. I had to grow to a sufficient height to reach the pedals on a 24" Schwinn "fat tire". Of course, in 1963 there was no such thing as a "fat tire" or "cruiser". A bike was a bike. We had a beat-up old blue Schwinn of indeterminate age. My two brothers and I used this bike to learn how to ride a "two-wheeler". My brother, Mike, is 6 years older than me and the bike was old when he learned to ride it.
We called the old Schwinn "Blue Bird". This photo is not of Blue Bird. But the color and general condition is pretty darn close. My dad and older brother taught me how to ride the heavy monster on the dirt roads in Golden, Colorado. I peeled off quite a bit of skin before I learned to ride. My general tendency to fall off bikes is a trend that continues to this day.
Part 2: Dangerous Bike
For the first 4 years of my bike riding adventure I rode old hand-me-down bikes. Some were pretty darn ugly and one was down-right dangerous. The dangerous bike was named "Crazy Crate", because you had to be crazy to ride it.
The goose neck snapped on Crazy Crate one summer day when I rode it off a curb. The handel bars came completely loose. I fell head-first off the bike and ripped a huge gash in my chest on the sharp remains of the broken gooseneck. My face smashed into the concrete gutter that was full of gravel. I saw stars. The evil bike then ran over top of me. I was hurt really badly.
Part 3: My First New Bike
I was 10 years-old and in 5th grade in 1967. On December 25th, 1967 I got my first new bike. Santa had left me a 26" gold Schwinn Typhoon! This bike was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.
I didn't even open the rest of my gifts. I put on my coat, stocking hat and mittens. Grabbed my bike and headed out into the freezing Colorado winter weather. I was in heaven! These old Schwinns were well made by American craftspeople in Chicago. The bike was flawless and gleamed in the cold white winter sunlight. I rode Goldie a zillion miles.
In the summer my friends and I would race our bikes 8 miles to a swimming pool. We would swim all day, then race our bikes back home. Goldie was a great bike.
Part 4: My First Road Bike
When I was thirteen I got a paper route. By this time we had moved from small-town Golden to the Denver suburbs. I converted my solid Schwinn Typhoon into a paper bike. I got "long horn" handlebars and a spoke guard. I hung huge canvas paper bags off the handlebars emblazoned with "Rocky Mountain News". The "News" was a morning paper. Before school the district manager would drop bundles of papers on my driveway. I would fold the papers with rubber bands; load the papers into the canvas bags and pedal out in the quiet darkness of a sleeping suburb. I delivered over 100 papers and pedaled for miles. I got one and half cents for each paper I delivered. I made $1.50 a day.
I saved up my money. After three months I had earned enough money to buy my dream bike; a brand new 1971 Schwinn Varsity 10-speed for $90.
I added a "lightweight" hollow chrome moly front fork. I had the bike shop wrap the handlebars with black tape rather than the stock brown tape. I bought toe clips. The bike was metallic brown and it was amazingly fast. More Schwinn Varsity bikes were made than any other derailleur bike. This was my first major purchase. The Varsity is completely obsolete by today's standards. Back in 1971, it was a lot of bike for the money.
Part 5: Selling Bikes
In 1973 I was 16 years old. I worked for a lawn care company in the summer for $2.00 an hour. I saved my money to buy my first car. I wanted a sports car. I found a really pretty baby blue 1960 Austin-Healey Bugeye Sprite.
The Bugeye was perfect and had only 35,000 miles on it. I didn't quite have the $500 asking price. So I sold my bikes. I got $25 for the Typhoon and $50 for the Varsity. (BTW - I kept the Bugeye for 20 years. I sold it to raise part of the down payment for our first house.)
Part 6: Colorado Rocky Mountain Bikes
Our first house was in Conifer, Colorado. With a growing family, I was buying a lot of bikes; all for the kids. My wife took it upon herself to go to Target and buy bikes for her and me. Unfortunately, she purchased Huffy Granite mountain bikes. I think her idea was we would go on family bike rides. She didn't count on my sons and I racing each other. My wife and daughter would tool along totally disgusted by the juvenile behavior of the "boys". To this day, many years later, my wife and daughter refuse to ride with my sons and me.
This is a Huffy Granite. Rigid fork and 15 speeds. You can buy this bike today for about $100. Even though these are cheap bikes, they were durable and we rode the daylights out of them.
My wife and I moved around for some years. We lived in San Antonio, Texas. We moved from Texas to Maryland. Finally we moved back to Colorado and bought another house in the mountains. By this time the Huffys were long gone.
It was time to buy some good bikes.
In 2006, I bought my first good mountain bike; a Giant Boulder SE I call "Big Red".
In 2007 I bought a Giant Boulder SE for my Daughter Katie, and a Specialized Hardrock Sport for my son Andy.
In 2008 I bought my wife a Specialized Myka Comp (She was riding a horrid Mongoose and I had to force the new bike on her for her birthday - she loves the Myka)
In 2009, I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper HT Pro Comp (Sworks) called "Little Stumpy"
In 2012 I bought a Specialized Stumpjumper FSR Carbon Expert. I call this bike "Ultra Stumpy"
Part 7: Buying a Road Bike
I don't mean to brag, but I know a fair amount about mountain bikes. On the other hand, I had no idea what road bikes were all about. I asked for some advice on the Spark Cycling Team forum. It is tough to ask for advice when you know zip about a subject. I was pretty certain that road bike technology may have moved ahead a smidgen since 1971.
I live in a place with a lot of rough dirt roads. I thought I wanted a road bike that I could ride from my house and over the vast number of rough paved and gravel roads in my area. They make such bikes. Giant sells the Roam and the Escape.
Giant Roam 0 for $820.
Specialized sells a bike called the Cross Trail.
This bike has some great features for $770.
However, the Crosstrail and the Roam look a lot like bikes I already own. So I did an experiment. I took my Boulder Giant SE and converted into a more dual purpose bike. I bought easy rolling semi-slicks and changed the rear cogs to something more road worthy.
The results of the conversion of Big Red is not an unqualified success. The bike is far more roadable. I covered 18 miles on pavement, concrete paths and hardpack paths. The course was rolling hills. My average speed was 9.1 mph with a top end of 32 mph. The gearing was a little too tall for the hills but the bike was smooth. I can keep fiddling with the bike. But I think the concept is sound. The mountain bike geometry made Big Red extremely maneuverable and responsive with the new tires.
I had considered the purchase of the excellent Specialized Tricross. This bike can handle dirt roads and has the gearing for mountain touring.
I test rode this bike and it impressed me to pieces. But would I really use a touring bike? I decided that I ride for fun and thrills.
I like bikes that scare me.
The Tricross was friendly, smooth and well behaved. It had plenty of speed but the speed felt smooth and stable. The Tricross is a multi-use bike that does not compromise. While I was at Wheatridge Cyclery on Saturday, they sold 4 out of 5 Tricross bikes. The only reason they didn't sell all five Tricross bikes is that I was test riding one!
They put a courtesy hold on the Tricross for me when I left on Saturday. I decided that on Sunday I would test ride a few pure road bikes. I already had a good handle on Big Red as a multi-purpose bike. I decided I would ride the Specialized Allez Mid Comp Compact and the Trek 2.1C. Both bikes had the SRAM APEX components that I liked on the Tricross.
I arrived 5 minutes after the store opened at noon and it was already packed. I told the sales guy I wanted to try the 2.1C and the Allez. They didn't have the Trek in my size. So I grabbed a 54cm Allez. The sales guy told me where I could go to get a real feeling for the bike.
I liked the white and red graphics. I crossed 38th Avenue and hit the gas. The bike surged like it was shot out of a cannon. My goodness that bike was fast! The Allez is a sport/comp bike with a light alloy frame and carbon fork.
I checked the handling. The bike was like a razor! I came up on a sharp corner. I accelerated toward the corner. I waited for the last split second, then counter steered and snapped the bike into a steep lean while shifting my weight to the outside. The bike zipped around the corner like it was on rails.
It scared the bejabbers out of me!
In other words, I was in love. I found my bike! I started cruising back to the shop at an easy pace. On one street was a traffic monitor that would flash your speed. The thing clocked me at 26 mph. I hit the gas and managed to get the sign to say "30". It was effortless.
I was on a 54 cm frame. But it felt a little tight. The sales guy told me to grab the 56 cm frame bike. There was a guy looking at the 56 cm bike when I grabbed it. He then put his hand on the handle bar. It was the last Allez in the store. He gave up his attempt to restrain the bike. The 56 cm frame was right for me. I bought the bike.
I had the shop wrap the bars in black just like I had done with my Schwinn Varsity in 1971. I also bought an upgraded black saddle. I bought black bottle cages, road pedals and road shoes.
This is my bike. The woman's version of this bike has the black saddle, which I thought looked better.
I think the bike looks like it is ready to spring forward.
Here is my new road bike next to Ultra Stumpy. I know Ultra Stumpy looks huge. Ultra Stumpy has huge suspension travel and sits very high for rock clearance.
Part 8: First Ride
My co-worker and good friend, Jason, bought a Specialized Tarmac SL4 over the weekend. After work we hit the road. We covered a little over 14 miles in about an hour. That includes stopping at traffic lights and getting stuck in slow traffic. I cannot believe how much ground those bikes can cover in such a short time.
This is fun.
Sunday, June 17, 2012
Part 1: Serious Chest Congestion
Since March of this year I have had an elephant sitting on my chest. I have been coughing and wheezing a lot. I tired quickly and had no zip. My doctor prescribed antibiotics, steroid inhalers, Musinex and Albuterol. The Albuterol was to be taken 5 times a day via a nebulizer.
All these medications were intended to open up my lungs and get rid of great gobs of mucus. Yeah, I know, not a pretty picture. The story gets better.
Part 2: Tests, Tests and More Tests
By mid-May my condition had only improved slightly. I now had a hippo sitting on my chest. I was also experiencing a lot of pain in my chest. The doctor took an x-ray of my chest to test for pneumonia. I did not have pneumonia.
He then put me through a lung capacity test. This is where not having a baseline is deceiving. My lungs capacity was 115% of normal. Under normal circumstances, my lung capacity test at 140% normal. I have a huge boiler room. The only parameter that was low was the rate I could fill and discharge my lungs, which was only 79% of normal. It just hurt to breathe!
My doctor then brought in a portable Electrocardiogram (EKG) machine. His assistant stuck a bunch of electrodes on me.
The results of my EKG were picture perfect.
I have known my doctor for 18 years. We engage in friendly banter. He says, "Bruce, I am going to order a Stress Echo test." I reply, "Doc, I don't know what the heck that is. But I am pretty sure, that if there is only one thing that I got that is good, it’s my ticker." He smiles, "The three most likely causes of your symptoms are bronchitis, pneumonia or congestive heart failure. I just want to rule out anything that is going to kill you!" It is really hard to argue at this point. I say, "Ok, write me script for two weeks of the big guns antibiotic and I will go get the test." My lung congestion had a bacteria component and I had a sinus infection.
Part 3: Smart Little Cookie
My wife is a smart little cookie. I told her my throat felt constricted and I had trouble swallowing. My sinus were swollen and hurt badly. She said, "You have allergies." That is the reason you cannot kick your bronchitis." I shrugged, "Ok, what can I do about it?" She grabbed a box out of the cupboard and handed it to me. She goes, "Take this Allegra-D. I would die without it." I start taking the Allegra. All of a sudden all the different meds start working. My chest still hurts but the congestion starts to clear up.
Part 4: Stress Echo Test
On May 30th I am scheduled for the Stress Echo Test at South Denver Cardiology. The place looks like the Taj Mahal.
This is facility has 68,000 square feet. There are factories that are smaller! Heart disease is the number one killer of both men and women. I am sure that most major metro areas have several big heart centers.
I get to the Heart Center early and check-in. I have my running stuff with me. This test requires the victim - er - patient to walk on a treadmill. I couldn't drink any coffee before the test. So I am barely awake. Here is a link that explains the Echo Stress Test.
I noted that the Echo Stress Test is supposed to be "painless and harmless". Yeah, right!
They call me back and show me a locker room where I can change. I change into my running clothes and put on my trusty Nike Zoom Vomeros. A really cute girl technician leads me back to the torture chamber - er - examination room. There is a pretty young woman sitting at the ultra-sound machine. A smiling blond runway model walks over and introduces herself. She is the cardiologist. The cute girl asks me to take off my shirt. She shaves part of my chest and glues a zillion electrode patches on me. She then attaches 700 pounds of wires to the patches. She puts a blood pressure cuff on my right arm and an oxygen saturation sensor on my left finger.
I am convinced this is high school career day and the seasoned staff is going to walk in any second.
This picture shows a fraction of the electrodes. I had electrodes all over me.
The cute girl says, “PB 120 over 80; oxygen saturation 99%." I ask, "Is that good." In a surprised tone she say, "Oh yes, that is very good." The pretty woman at the ultra-sound types this information into her terminal. They tell me to lie down on a small bed by the ultra-sound machine on my side. The pretty woman plugs my wiring harness into the ultra-sound machine, she then grabs the freezing ultra-sound sensor and tries to push the sensor through my chest to my backbone. She says, "Resting heart rate is 54 BPM." I ask, "Is that good." I am pretty sure she thought her machine was broken. She simply says, "Yeah. Please breath normally." When someone stabs you with a metal probe that is one degree above absolute zero it is hard to breath normally!
But I got to see my heart working.
This is not my heart. But it should give you the idea of what the ultra-sound shows.
After getting a lot of images of my ticker, I am unplugged from the ultra-sound terminal and led to the medical treadmill.
They plug my wires and blood pressure cuff into the terminal next to the treadmill. The fun is about to begin. The runway model comes over. She points to a pain chart on the wall in front of me, "The chart is there so you can tell us how you feel. Level 1 is normal. Level 10 is excruciating agony." I ask, "How long is this going to take?" She looks at my size and graying hair and say, "Not long. Maybe 8 to 10 minutes. Just until you hit your exercise heart rate." I ask, "How fast is that?" She answers, "166 beats per minute."
I almost blurt out, "Listen doc, my heart has never gone that fast EVER! My heart just won't go that fast!"
The cute girl starts the treadmill. I can see my heart rate and EKG readout. She sets treadmill at a brisk walk. After 5 minutes, my heart rate hits 80 beats per minute. She asks me how I feel. I tell her I feel fine. She says, "I need to turn up the speed. Is that Ok?" I answer, "Sure". She turns up the speed to a slow jog. She has the incline set at maximum. My heart rate slowly goes to 100 beats per minute. I have already been on the machine 10 minutes. The runway model asks, "Where is your level of pain." I say, "About a 2." She responds with a concerned voice, "Can you keep going?" I nod and say, "Yes". The cute girl turns up the speed. At this point I am running. My heart rate hits 120 and then 130. I have been on the treadmill for 15 minutes. The runway model asks, "Can you keep going?" I say, Yup." She adds, “We need you heart rate at least at 140." The cute girl cranks the treadmill up again. I am pretty sure it is maxed.
I have monitored my heart rate during exercise. 131 bpm is all the faster it goes. At 25 minutes my heart rate hits 138. The runway model calls it good. Now I have to hurry over to the ultra-sound. I lay down on my side. Some of the electrodes on my side have slipped off. I am drenched in sweat. My heart is running like a well-oiled machine, but it has already slipped down to under 130 beats per minute. I am feeling dizzy. I needed to cool down. My chest really hurts!
So much for "painless and harmless".
Part 5: Conclusion
I had a very bad case of bacterial and viral bronchitis aggravated by allergies. My heart is in superb shape. The chest pain was caused by pleurisy. Pleurisy is an inflammation of the membrane that surrounds the lungs. This inflammation was caused by the chronic bronchitis. I treated the pleurisy with Aleve. My bronchitis is practically gone.
Part 6: I Can Ride! I Can Run.
I have been working my way back to fitness slowly. I managed to run a 5K in 31:07. That is way off my normal pace but I have not been running in months.
Yesterday, I took Ultra Stumpy up Red Cone Peak. I have been riding a lot of technical trails and wanted to relax.
This bike is amazing. Is shifts quickly and silently even under heavy load.
The way up to Red Cone is rough.
The climb up Red Cone starts at 9,000 feet and tops out at 12,801 feet.
This is the summit of Red Cone. I averaged 10.5 mph on the ascent and 27.3 mph on the descent. Top speed was 44.7 mph. I could have gone faster but the road was too rough. The descent was a rush.
I am back!
Thanks for reading my blog.
Monday, April 23, 2012
Part 1: No Trail Building
I got to the Miller Gulch trailhead just in time to see a group of mountain bikers take off like shot out of cannons. Most were wearing camelbacks, but that was it. These folks had camped at the trailhead and took off early.
I quickly changed my shoes, strapped on my helmet, and slug a backpack with my lunch and work clothes on my back. I grabbed Ultra Stumpy and flew off after the group. They were supposed to be working on Raspberry Ridge or Blackjack. I cut up Homestead and climbed up Raspberry Ridge.
I never found the missing trail builders. I am pretty sure they decided to blow-off trail building and ride! The day was perfect!
Part 2: Me and Ultra Stumpy at Buffalo Creek
Me and Ultra Stumpy were raring to go. Me and Little Stumpy had spent many a joyous hour in Buffalo Creek. But we had not been on the upper trails off Miller Gulch. This was new to me.
Here is a link to the Buffalo Creek Trail map.
The International Mountain Bike Association lists Buffalo Creek, Colorado, as "Epic"! There are good reasons for this Epic classification. Here are some photos showing part of my ride. I was a bit too busy trying not to get seriously killed to take photos. I got these pictures from various sites. None of people are me and none of the Bikes are Ultra Stumpy.
This is a photo of the starting point. Miller Gulch Tail is a nice easy double track. In the morning I flew down this trail. Eight hours and 61.2 miles later, I was biking back up this trail to get to my car - every push of a pedal was agony!
I turned right on Homestead Trail.
Homestead Trail is a nice single track. This leads to Raspberry Ridge trail.
Homestead has some pretty parts. The entire Buffalo Creek area is an exposed granitic pluton.
Raspberry Ridge climbs to 9,750 feet. This trail is steep and rocky.
Here is Raspberry Ridge on the ascent. This is harder than it looks.
Part 3: How Bad Can It Be?
What goes up must come down. Blackjack is in the "Most Difficult" category.
How bad can it be?
There is a trail here. I had to stop a few times to decide where the trail was.
This is easy. Straight off the rock. This is what Ultra Stumpy was made for.
Take a look at this video. This is a guy on a Stumpjumper full suspension bike coming down Blackjack. Does this look hard to you ?
This is a really good time not to screw-up. The video is high-def and loads slowly. To get the full effect, you need to watch the video after it fully loads. This is a very steep trail and things happen in a hurry. At the end of the video the rider goes through a little creek. There is a climb after the little creek that puts you on the top of Sandy Wash Trail. Sandy Wash covered with decomposed granite is slippery and steep.
Part 4: Sandy Wash Trail
Maybe you can see the loose trail surface here.
Here is another great video of Sandy Wash Trail. This is considered an "Intermediate" level trail. Yes, it is intermediate trail for gonzo nut-job mountain bilkers.
This trail is smooth, steep and twisty. This is the domain of my hardtail - Little Stumpy. Ultra Stumpy can handle this trail, but I had to lock-out the rear suspension, drop the seat and stand on he pedals almost whole time to get the big 29er carving a low line on the turns. What happens if you get too high on a sharp turn? You hit deep loose gravel and wash-out and crash.
I got too high on just one curve. I tried to clip-out of my pedals before Stumpy and I hit the ground. But at that instant there was too much down force on the pedals. My feet were glued in! Stumpy flew off the trail. I finally came out of the pedals in mid-air. Stumpy and I parted ways and I landed chest first in the trail.
My landing hurt quite a bit. I also got a world-class raspberry out of the deal.
I took this photo today (Sunday). This will heal quickly . Yesterday when this happened my leg was a bloody and dirty mess.
Part 5: Easy Miles
When I got to the bottom of Sandy Wash I had done 16 miles. There is a nice dirt fire road that runs through Buffalo Creek. I cranked-up Stumps and flew along the road to Tramway Trail.
543 is closed to traffic. It has a few steeper parts and a few ruts but is classified as an easy beginner trail.
Tramway is a nice connecting trail to the 3rd segment of the Colorado Trail.
The Colorado Trail is a nice easy ride.
I hit the Buffalo Burn Trail just for fun. I did 25.4 miles round-trip on the Colorado Trail.
On the way back I hit Redskin Creek Trail (1.5 miles).
I hit lower Gashouse Gulch Trail. Gashouse starts off as an easy single track.
Gashouse his a really pretty trail and runs only about 2.5 miles.
Part 6: Just Not Thinking Straight.
I then lost my mind. I decided to ascend Sandy Wash Trail. I should have climbed Baldy Trail instead. As I made my ascent on Sandy Wash, my legs just gave up! I ended up walking my bike about 2 out of the 3 miles. I had put in 53.9 miles as I started to climb Sandy Wash. I had run out of water and food about 2 hours before. I was worn-out, hungry and thirsty. Walking actually felt good! At least Ultra Stumpy is easy to push.
I actually took off my 20 pound backpack and hung it on Stumpy's seat. I still had my trail building clothes with me! I had to keep pulling Stumpy off the trail due to all the riders bombing down Sandy Wash.
Part 7: Somebody Worse Off Than Me
I rounded a turn during one of my rare pedaling moments and found a guy sitting off the trail. His Trek Rumblefish was in a heap above him. I asked him is his bike was OK. I know it sounds stupid. But if the bike is OK, you get home. I could see what happened immediately. He got off he center of the trail in steep downhill section. I could see a big gouge in the decomposed granite where his front wheel had hit an launched him into space.
I dismounted to see if he was alright. He had a chemical cold compress on his knee. I was really impressed by his first-aid kit. Unfortunately, his right knee was laid open to the bone! His leg was bloody mess. There didn't appear to be any ligament damage. I helped him put on a compression bandage and saw him on his way.
As I slowly pedaled back up Miller Gulch, my muscles almost refused to work. It seemed an impossibility that I had been able to fly along trails effortlessly for hours and hours.
The car looked like a shining oasis when I finally made it back. The SparkPeople calorie estimator indicated I had use 8,006 calories in 61 miles of biking. I think that is low.
Part 8: Really Scary
I found a cute video about mountain biking called " Mel's 1st time Mountain Biking". This video scared the hell out of me. I would guess this video was filmed in the South Eastern United States. I noticed that everything was green and the forest had not burned.
What scared me was the front wheel wobble! Evidently, Mel had a helmet camera. She couldn't track the front wheel in straight line! Mel is a gutsy lady. I was expecting her to hit a tree or go off a bridge.
This is the scariest mountain bike video I have seen!
Thanks for reading my blog.
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