Tuesday, January 31, 2012

2011 Route: Day One

I've just been looking at the 2011 route. The first day alone is a ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz! That's 83 miles from the City! An impressive ride, and one I'd like to try to do sometime before the ride. Who wants to pic me up in Santa Cruz?

Click Image for ALC 2011 Day One Page
What seems to be remarkable is that part of the ride is on the freeway: highway 280 from Skyline Boulevard to Hillcrest. I told Davey about that, and he said, sure, I've seen cyclists on that stretch all the time; there's no other way to get around Devil's Slide. But that's not right, because Devil's Slides on the ocean side. So, for now, its a mystery why the ride goes for about a mile on the freeway!

About thereafter, the route moves coastal, and hugs the shore. It passes San Gregorio Beach. I wonder if there will be time to frolic naked on the shore? Because that is one beautiful stretch of coast line there.

Even if not, the ride ends right in the middle of Santa Cruz, so there should be lots of frolicking there! That is, of course, if the route is the same this year! Then the adventure begins, because we'll be leaving my home, the Bay Area!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Miserable Me

Sunday's ride was a bust! I had planned on turning a medium 40 mile ride into a challenging 65 mile ride by arriving at the meet up point on bike. I got to the meet up spot, Nimbus Fish Hatchery — 15 miles — in plenty of time, and was ready for the last 50 miles. The route is a long challenging hill (Iron Point aka Costco hill in Folsom), followed by incredibly fun downhills. It was grey, but not a drop of rain.

Man, can things change.

The smile is fake. In this photo, I'm so cold, I can't feel my fingers and toes!

We left the fish hatchery, and made it to the base of the hill. We were about 10 riders. About half an hour later, everyone made it to the top in a light drizzle. On regroup, we had some granola bars, and everyone was excited to continue...even though the rain went from drizzle to shower. From the top of Iron Point, the ride is a nice steady down hill on Empire Ridge, past a bevy of gated communities. On this road, it is easy to reach 40 mph, but because of the rain, I checked my speed at 25.

At the very bottom of the first part, I notice that the rain's picking up. "Hmm, I feel a bit cold." Then immediately notice my bike feels a bit too bouncy. With trepidation, I dismount and feel my rear tire and learn it is rapidly deflating.

Changing a bike tire on a group ride is annoying at the best of times. When all your mates pass you in the freezing rain, it can be demoralizing. The worst part is that without the physical effort, you get cold fast.

As I get my wheel off the bike and start in on the tire irons, all the bikers passed me (questioning if I needed help, of course). I waved them on, not wanting everyone to suffer the cold. But Katryna, our auto support, stopped as she passed, and thankfully had a real pump.

I changed my tire pretty quickly, and was, even then, under the delusion that I could finish the ride (there were about 40 more miles to go). So I got on my bike in the rain and watched Katryna drive away.

All was well until the first wave of water poured down my Achilles tendon into my shoe. It really felt like a knife blade. Then my fingers went numb. Both red flags! Still I made it the next 5 miles, and pulled into the Taco Bell where, thankfully, all my friends were waiting.

Katryna, Scott, and Susan drove off to get their cars and returned to pick us all up. It was an ordeal, but really served to underscore how much I love bicycling. And I have a new appreciation for Taco Bell.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Last Week's Ride

I forgot to post my pics of last week's ride. Johnny, Trev, and I did the Nicasio route out of Mike's Bikes in Sausalito. Its a 53-mile, challenging route, with lots of hills. A perfect way to start the training year. Here are a few pictures.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Why Bicycle?

Bicycling is an obsession. Just ask my partner, Davey. Nearly every weekend since I started has been dedicated to riding. My diet has changed to make me more efficient, my wardrobe expenditure has shifted to nearly 100% bicycling clothing, the house is often draped in drying (but hopefully not smelly) bike clothes, my legs are usually sore (and when they're not, I am thinking about how to make them sore).

An "easy" ride is one of 30 miles, lasting about 2 hours. A "moderate" ride is at least 60 miles with no fewer than 3 steep climbs, lasting about 4 hours. A "hard" ride is at least 70 miles, lasting 5 hours or more. I have no intention of ever competing, and, though I want to improve, I do not anticipate making money off this. Why put myself through this agony?

There is really only one answer. It is the simplest adventure one can take. Riding out from my garage on a cold morning, every ride is challenging and unique. Even when I restrict myself to known routes and known locales, there is something different to see, some different feeling you can get from the way the bike rides or the way the air smells. Different people on the trail; different obstacles to overcome; different personal demons to battle.

Though this video shows the premier competitive event, it demonstrates how bicyclists feel about their sport. The wonder of the scenery (however mundane), the thrill of meeting your goals, the exertion of running up a steep climb, or the rush of descending in 2 minutes that hill you earlier climbed in 20 minutes. That's really it. The fun and personal challenge. That I burn thousands of calories on a ride is icing on that cake.

I think cycling makes me a better person in a way the other activities I forgo would not. I hope to be riding for many years to come.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Pedal Stroke and Correct Gearing

One of the areas I'm trying to improve is my pedal stroke. The technique is simple: instead of pushing down with the lead foot, you push the top foot forward and the bottom foot back. When the feet reach the 3 and 9 o'clock positions, pushing with the forward foot (which is headed down) and unweighting the back foot (which is headed up). This creates a circular motion instead of a mashing motion with only one foot at a time.

The advantages are that by using muscles in both legs on nearly all of the stroke, you don't tire them out as much...spreading the load, so to speak. Another advantage is that you get more power out of each stroke. Still another is that you avoid wasted effort, if the technique is done correctly.

This video describes it fairly well:

Road Bike Pedaling Technique -- powered by ehow

My main trouble is that my stroke sometimes "bounces" or unweights a pedal mid-stroke. This results in wasted effort.

I think the key to correcting this is (practice and) being in the correct gear for the terrain. Some of my bicycle companions like to "spin," or to propel the bike by having it in a light gear where the pedals spin easily. A more experienced rider explained that this engages your aerobic strength (getting your heart rate up by moving your muscles more rapidly) more than your muscular strength (whereas a heavy gear would require more of a push). But I think the choice of gear depends more on your physical capabilities. When in a lighter gear, I tend to "bounce" or lose pressure on the pedal.

For that reason, I try to select a gear where I am giving sufficient pressure on the fore pedal to avoid bounce. Its a delicate balance, and one that I suspect will take lots of practice to perfect. Looking forward to those miles on the road.