Sunday, June 29, 2008

Deer Valley Nationals

I had two goals for my first Semi-Pro Race at Deer Valley Nationals last Saturday.  First, to not finish last, and second, to finish in front of Kyle A., the guy from San Francisco who passed me on some narrow single track while I was taking a drink and riding one handed in the first lap of the NOVA Nationals Race in Phoenix earlier this year. 

I owe Joel a big shout out for loaning me his Superfly for this race.  I think the weight savings helped me in the climbing.  Oh yeah, I also owe him a new rear derailleur.  

The race started out with a fast pace, but we got bogged down in traffic as soon as we hit the single track.  I rode in the bushes to get around a few guys to ensure I’d meet my first goal.  Then the course hit the Little Stick Road—a long steep dirt road.  My anger at the race officials for starting our race at eight in the morning—meaning I had to finish breakfast by five—subsided on Little Stick when I realized that it would be in the shade for all three of my laps.  I passed Kyle A. on the first time up and never saw him again. 

I settled in and tried to get comfortable, but before I finished a lap I noticed some slop in my left pedal.  I thought about stopping to tighten my cleats but the problem never got any worse, so I gambled that it would last for the duration of the race.  I got lucky. 

As I started the second lap I was visited again by my regular race companion this year: stomach cramps.  I don’t know what it is; I’ve never had this problem before this year, but I can’t seem to get my digestive system under control during a race.  It might be what I’m eating for breakfast: cold rice with milk and honey, or my homemade energy gel, a blend of honey, molasses and sea salt.  Whatever it is, it makes it hard to push myself in the second half of a race. 

By the third lap I was just holding on, trying not to get passed, but a few people caught me.  One of them was a local kid, racing in the expert class, who wanted to come around me on the downhill.   I pulled to the outside of a switchback to let him by, and he thanked me by running into my rear derailleur.  It bent it enough to cause the gears to shift unpredictably for the rest of the race, but not so much that I had to stop to fix it.  It did make for one more reason I couldn’t really push myself on the final climb up Snow Top. 

I think I was eight minutes behind the winner, but they haven’t posted official results yet.  I finished a respectable 19th out of 43 finishers in spite of my problems with cleats, cramps and crazy-fast kids, but at least I didn’t have to worry about bears.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

A great problem to have

OSI Image
 The front page story in today’s
Ogden Standard Examiner reads:

Too many bikes on commuter rail cars built for two

The article describes what some see as a problem in that bikes are stacked like
dominoes at each end of the train cars. 
I rode FrontRunner on Tuesday and added my bicycle to a pile of six
bicycles, and that was before rush hour. 

You can read the whole article
here, but, following the example of Rush Limbaugh, who pays attention to the
news so you don’t have to; I’ve taken the liberty to highlight some sections
and provided my own comments below.

The train is equipped with enough
straps to secure two bikes per car. That number is far short of the space and
straps needed to accommodate the 30 to 60 bikes brought aboard the train daily
during peak riding hours.  "[That many bikes] is an
unexpected surprise. But it is a good surprise," said Utah Transit
Authority (UTA) spokeswoman Carrie

They’re surprised because the people who make these decisions at UTA don’t ride
bikes.  If they did they wouldn’t have
such restrictive rules on TRAX, and busses would be more accommodating of
bicycles.  And they'd realize that bikes and trains are the perfect combination for getting around the Wasatch Front.

Bohnsack-Ware said one thing UTA is
trying to keep in mind is not making the trains so convenient for those with bikes
that they are inconveniencing other passengers.

Shouldn’t that be the point?  By other
passengers, she means people who drive their cars to the station and catch the
train for the rest of their journey.  Commendable
sure, but still polluting.  Shouldn’t we
be making driving a car more and more inconvenient?  These people are inconveniencing us with
their exhaust, their traffic congestion, and their greenhouse gases.  Shouldn’t we have a right to inconvenience
them back?

Officials with UTA are aware of the
bike overcrowding problem aboard the trains, and they are trying to create the
balance needed between bike riders and non-riders alike.

That's because UTA does not consider cyclists people.  I have the letter to prove it.

The rail car coaches now in use also
are being modified to make room for more bikes by taking out a row of seating
along one of the walls.

Are we really supposed to believe this?  Cyclists have complained about the lack of
bicycle facilities on TRAX—the light rail line—for almost ten years and UTA has
done absolutely nothing about it.

In the "early planning
stages" is a bike service center at the UTA Intermodal Hub in
Salt Lake City
to provide
bike rental to commuters, Bohnsack-Ware said.

What about those riders that aren’t going all the way to Salt Lake City?

One thing they have gleaned from rider
input is the need to offer for a small monthly fee bike lockers at the
different rail stop stations.

This would be OK if UTA also offered parking spaces for automobiles “for a
small monthly fee.”  Currently parking is
free.  Bike lockers should be free too.

The Salt Lake Tribune also gave a very brief mention to the story.  I suggest you read some of the comments to that story.  I also suggest you write UTA and tell them how you think they should go about accommodating bikes on trains. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Sisters protest high gas prices


An article in today’s Salt Lake Tribune caught my eye this morning.  It’s about two sisters, ages 7 and 9, who were protesting high gas prices yesterday in downtown Salt Lake City.  Read the article here

While I think it’s adorable that a couple of kids who aren’t old enough to drive would protest high gas prices, that’s not what caught my eye.

What got me is the girls’ reason for protesting.  It’s not that they’re going hungry because their parents are spending all of their income on gasoline.  No, these girls are upset because their mother had to decide between buying gas and paying the cable bill.  Mom wisely chose to fill the tank—even though I would have advised her to buy a bicycle instead—so she could get to work.  The girls were upset about the prospect of a summer without daily doses of Hannah Montana on cable television. 

These girls learned a valuable lesson, one that goes completely unmentioned in the newspaper article about them.  When you turn off the TV, even for a few minutes, you begin to take notice of the world around you.  And you see opportunities to make a difference in that world. 

Way to go girls! 

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tipping point

Hey guys, Ryan here.  Chad’s out trying to find someone to loan him an extra large Superfly to race at Deer Valley Nationals this Saturday, either that or he’s at the doctor’s, with a lot of explaining to do.  In the meantime I’ve decided to hijack Chad’s blog and tell you one more reason you should be riding your bike to work. Here goes.

I have been commuting by bicycle for about 6 years.  I don’t claim to be as dedicated as Chad.  Yes, we know he goes out in the face of dark, rain, sleet, snow and raging lawn mower drivers, since he tells us every week.  But that’s ok, even if you decide to commute 1 day a week the world is a better place.

Which brings me to the point of this post (are hooptedoodle posts supposed to have a point??)  It seems that $4/gallon gas has started to change many people’s minds on how they get to work everyday, and the bicycle is looking better and better.  I first noticed the increase in commuters this spring.  I wasn’t quite sure if it was just the nice weather and it just seemed like there were more riders, or there actually were more riders.  Then, just a couple of days ago I saw someone (I say saw someone because I said hello to them but he had his ipod in and just looked at me.  Feel free to commute with your ipod, but feel free to take those things out of your ears and say hello at stoplights, as people pass you by, as you pass people by, remember we are all on the same commuting team) that I had not seen before on my commute.  As we sat at the light I noticed he had a brand new helmet, new water bottle, new backpack and best of all, a new bike. 

It wasn’t a new Primus Mootry road or cross bike, or some fancy new Gary Fisher 29er Superfly-full-carbon-super-fast-but-maybe-the-guy-who-rides-it-isn’t-but-who-cares-‘cause-the-bike-just-makes-you-laugh-when-you-ride-it because-it-is-so-much-fun mountain bike. 

Nope, this was a commuter bike, a nice Novara commuter bike.
Novara commuter

It got me thinking. How much did this guy pay for his bike?  I went on the REI website and found out—$449 retail.  Now I don’t know if he paid $449 but for the sake of hooptedoodle, let’s be conservative and assume he paid $300.

    •  Bike $300
    •  Helmet $40
    •  Water Bottle $3
    •  Backpack $30

So conservatively, this guy dropped $373 at REI so he could commute to whatever, or wherever he goes. 

I’m going to pretend to know everything and bet that he is going to start out as fair weather commuter.  This means he thinks he is going to recoup these costs and start saving even more money just over the summer by riding only on days when the temperature does not exceed 90 degrees or dip beneath 65 degrees.  Further, he won’t ride in the rain, in the dark or when raging lawn mower drivers threaten to mow him down (if you haven’t read Chad’s raging lawnmower post, which I have now mentioned 3 times, your loss). 

Since this is my pretend fantasy, let’s also say he used to drive a Hummer but sold it to Arnold so he could convert it to biodiesel and store it with the others in the garage at the Governor’s Mansion.   Now our bike commuter is saving more money on unspent registration fees, insurance and maintenance costs. 

Long story short, at $4 per gallon people are finally changing.

And that is not all, at my office there used to only be two bike commuters, one of them left because he got a job where he’s suckled by the Government Sow, errr…uhh….which left just me.  That changed last year when Air Extraordinaire Mark put his bike where his car used to be and started commuting with me.  That made two.  Then this summer, Amit, (who had Chad build his commuter bike two years ago) Dave, Jenny, Nate and Silvana have all commuted into work more than once.  They all used to have the same excuse: they were not sure of a good, safe route, but at $4 a gallon they found one (it may not be the most direct route, which is never the best route anyway, but they are safe road/pathways).  If you are looking for a safe route just drop a comment on hooptedoodle, we’ll find you one.

So jump on the bandwagon.  We don’t care why, and ride your bike, take the bus, train, carpool...The world will be a better place.  It might also make you fast.  Chad swears commuting is the only training he does. 

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Aww, not again!

Remember that Seinfeld episode where Kramer tells the gang that if you ever happen to meet a proctologist at a party, don't walk away?  He says proctologists "usually have a very good sense of humor...See, no one wants to admit to them that they stuck something up there. Never! It's always an accident.  Every proctologist story ends in the same way:  'It was a million to one shot, Doc. Million to one.'"

Remember that?  Well, I may be setting myself up to be the star in one of those stories.  

Last night Mags wanted me to go on a night ride with her and her friends.  I don’t understand the logic behind going for a night ride this close to the summer solstice.  I mean, people in Alaska are starting baseball games at midnight just because they have the daylight to do it.  I could understand a night ride if I lived in Phoenix (does anybody really live in Phoenix, or do they just exist?), but not in Utah.

But I digress.  You want to know how I might find myself saying “It was a million to one shot, Doc”, not why I think summertime rides should be done in the daylight, nor how I think the Phoenix is a colossal suburban mistake.  

So, I rode my mountain bike to work yesterday. That way I could ride from my office to catch the train to Ogden and meet Mags and her friends in the evening.  On my way in to work I started to hear a little creak coming from my seat post.  I didn’t think much of it, only that I should get more of that special carbon fiber grip paste on my fancy new carbon fiber seat post.  I forgot about it as soon as I got to work.  

Later in the afternoon a co-worker was ribbing me about my dirty bike, in light of the recent brouhaha about bikes in cubicles at my office. I looked at my bike, flicked off a piece of mud left over from the race in Deer Valley, nearly two weeks ago, and saw this:

There’s no question as to what I’m going to do about it.  I’ve cracked enough frames to have memorized Gary Fisher’s warranty process.  But I do have a few questions.  Such as, why do I continue to rely on these cheaply made Taiwanese aluminum frames?  

And more importantly, do I dare keep riding my cracked frame in the meantime?  How confident can I be descending on a bike that could, at any moment, lose seat and post completely, leaving me with nothing but a jagged tube upon which to rest my hiney?  

I can hear the JRA story now.  I’d be sitting there in the doctor’s office, pleading with him to believe me.  “It was a million to one shot, Doc.  A million to one.”

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Shoot 'em up short track

It was a high stakes affair.  Whoever finished last was to buy milkshakes.  I thought I had a pretty good chance considering I was racing against Paz, Mags and Aaron.  Then again, there was more to it this time than just suffering on the bike.  There was also humiliation in the rifle range. 

Soldier Hollow was the site of the cross country ski events in the 2002 Winter Olympics, including the biathlon.  Ever since, the folks at Soldier Hollow have been conjuring up ideas to get the public to use the facilities.  One of their best ideas is the mountain bike biathlon. 

It works like this.  You ride a short lap—approximately one mile—at sprint pace.  Then you park your bike, pick up a cartridge and run to an air rifle.  There are five targets and five pellets.  For every target you miss, you do short penalty loop before heading out for another lap.  Olympic skiers rarely miss.  They can slow their heart rate down so slow that they can squeeze the trigger between beats.  I’m not so steady.  I get up there breathing and shaking so hard that I’m seeing double.  Paz says he holds his breath, which improves his aim but I think one of these times he’s going to pass out.  

Last night, Mags, who had never fired a gun before, finished first [in our milkshake group, second place in her category].  She only did three laps, but that, in addition to the shooting, is another way of leveling the playing field.  She did a total of five penalty loops.  Paz was next, he passed me on our fifth lap while I was doing my three penalty loops and he was doing zero.  Overall, I did eleven penalty loops; Paz only did six or seven. 

I was on the hook, but Aaron, who repeatedly pointed out before the race that he earned the rifle shooting merit badge as a Boy Scout (I did too, for the record) started a minute after we did and finished just over a minute behind me.    Shakes were on him. 

Who knew interval training could be so fun. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Nothing but excuses

 Deer valley
Deer Valley Pedalfest, 2008. Some of these are better than others, but they're all excuses. 

  • Three weeks off the bike

  • One week riding too hard trying to recover lost fitness

  • A bad case of food poisoning, possibly salmonella

  • Four weeks since last race

  • Snowfall the night before,

  • But not enough to necessitate my mud tires, which I mounted up anyway

  • Downhill chock full of 180 degree switchbacks that I’m too big to flow through

  • Shortened race course

  • Temperatures in the 30's

I felt flat from the start, like I was going backwards on the descents.  I found myself wishing it was over before finishing the first lap.  Just look at the desperation in my eyes…


I did hold off a surging Brandon Firth in a sprint to the line to hold onto a whopping 13th place.  Hey, 13th out of 20 isn’t too bad.  Last year I was 22nd out of 27.  After the race Ryan and I burned a lap on the Glenwild loop, which was a lot more fun than the race.  Drier too.  Almost as much fun as my ride to the park for a Sunday barbecue...


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thanks Doc

I’m feeling a whole lot better lately.  I’ve regained most of the weight I lost and can eat normal foods again.  I wish I could thank my doctor for helping me through this, but when I went to see him on Monday he surprised me by not prescribing me a general antibiotic.  Rather than follow the usual trend of giving a pill for every symptom, and a diagnosing a symptom for every pill, the doc told me to buck up and take it like a man, and that it would pass in a couple of days. 

That won him some credibility in my book, but I wonder if he saw this headline in yesterday’s Salt Lake Tribune:

CDC looks at salmonella cases in Utah, eight other states, with possible tie to tomatoes

Hmmm, there were tomatoes with my salad last Thursday, and while Wyoming isn't one of the eight other states, Colorado is.  Cheyenne is only a hundred miles from Denver.  Lets have a look at that list of symptoms. 

  • Fever—check

  • Diarrhea—check

  • Abdominal cramps—check

  • Tends to last 4-7 days—check, mine lasted 5 days. 

So that’s what you get for eating your vegetables. 

Monday, June 2, 2008

I can't spell relief

Tummy ache
The last three days have been a swarm of contrasts.  I sat out yet another race on Saturday, this time because of the food poisoning.  I really enjoy sitting races out, handing out water bottles and watching everyone else suffer, but Saturday I wished I was suffering with them.  

The contrasts continue. I’m hungry—no, starving, but don’t want to eat.  I’m restless, but haven’t the energy to do more than sleep.  I ignore the churning in my stomach but the scabs on my face require an explanation to everyone who stares (or pretends not to stare) at them.  I want help but can’t bring myself to spend the hours searching for a doctor that can see me today.  

There is some good news.  My neck is feeling somewhat better, although it still hurts to sneeze.  And I’ve lost eight pounds.  Some guys spend thousands to shave a single pound off their bike.  Doing it this way has saved me money that I would normally be spending on burritos.  If that doesn’t make me light and fast at Deer Valley on Saturday I’ll have to get a better paying job.