Category: equipment

What? I Can’t Just Ride My Bike?

I’VE been wrenching on my own bikes for years and am comfortable doing the basic, and some higher-level repairs and maintenance myself. Those more difficult repairs…Different story.

I’M hesitant to mess with the Di2 on the Emonda so I leave that to Wizard Jay at Big Daddy’s. Hydraulic brakes? Haven’t tackled those either but I’ve got the bleed kit now. Sheepish grin. Read on…

New cables and housing on the bikes with internal cable routing? Nope, not yet.

AS Toph would say, though, it’s all on YouTube, Mark, so check for videos before you do anything. He’s gifted, though. Me, I got a “C” in wood shop.

STILL, with patience and deliberation over the years, and lots of practice, I’ve done a lot of things that others might have to pay for. And I know that if I get to the point where I’m stuck, or if I screw anything up, I’ve always got Jay.

RECENTLY, though, I’ve gotten a couple of wake up calls and so I thought I’d share in the hopes that you don’t do what I do (uh, did), and just ride your bike.

Yup, Maintenance is Required

Got some sweet new bottle cages for Blue for Christmas (thanks to my nephew, Bret) and thought one morning before a ride that I’d just switch out those cages really quick so I can flaunt the bling-bling.

WHOA, that bolt came off way to easily. Sure enough, just the bolt-head came off; the rest of the f*$%#n bolt was still in the frame. There was some sticking out, though, so I grabbed some needle-nose pliers. No dice. Not enough gription.

OKAY, you’re up Mr. Dremel. I cut a nice slot in the top of the bolt but no dice with that either. That bolt was just too corroded; it wouldn’t budge. Eventually, the edges of the slot I had cut “stripped away” and there was no more bite to be had by the ‘driver.

GRABBED a different bike for that ride and took Blue into Jay. He drilled it out. Not something I know how to do and not sure I would have done it anyway on that frame. Better left for the pro…

NOTE to self (and good advice for you as well, mayhaps): grease and check those bottle cage bolts regularly, especially if you ride in weather or post-weather, if you will. Spray from snowy, slushy roads was the culprit in my case I theorized since I don’t ride much in the rain or snow itself.

So, I’m Reading the Recent Issue of Bicycling

AND there’s this great side-column, “Maintenance Minute – Presented by ParkTool” and a nice list of basic things to look for when inspecting your bike. Some of the items on this list include:

  • Chains – Check wear with every lubrication. Use a chain-checker regularly, says Jay.
  • Brake Pads – Disc: Replace at <1mm pad thickness. Rim: Replace when worn to wear line.
  • Hydraulic Brake Fluid – Replace every ~5K miles.
  • Cassettes – Typically replace with every third chain.

I do a good job keeping my eye on my chain nowadays. This since Jay gave me ca-ca when I took the bike in for excess chain noise. Have you checked your chain lately? No, Jay, I just ride my bike. It was way past worn, as it turns out. I hung my head in shame.

BRAKE pads? I can honestly say I’m good at that one. Ride discs and have pads handy, and have done quite a few pad swaps over the years. But…I never really did think about a specific thickness at which they should be changed. I just went by feel, you know? Not the best plan though so I took off the wheels and removed the pads and measured them. 2mm all around. Thank you bike gods. That can wait.

BRAKE fluid? Well like I wrote at the beginning of this post – it’s on my list. And honestly I bought the kit before I read the article. Still, Blue has ten-thousand on him so I need to get on that obviously.

CASSETTES – I’ve never really paid attention to those. Mostly, in my defense, because up until the last few years I haven’t ridden enough miles to make it an issue. I eventually got around to it. So, cringe, let me check the cassettes on the KICKR and Blue.

HOLY chain wear Batman! Not good. I’ve never seen such ridges.

THIS pic from Blue’s rear wheel. The cassette on the trainer was a bit worse.

THANKFULLY, I had a cassette handy so I was able to change out the one on the KICKR. It wasn’t the right size for the Emonda. I ordered one of those though, and I will soon change out that cassette (and the chain). I checked, Jay, it’s at about 75% wear.

I’M experiencing better shifting on the trainer. No surprise. And, I’m looking forward to that “new drivetrain experience” on Blue very soon.

HOW about you? Any funny maintenance stories?

ARE you going to check your chain, cassette or brake pads now? No worries, that’s what I did. If it wasn’t for someone at Bicycling having the presence of mind to slap that little sidebar in there I probably would have gone awhile and could possible have experienced some mechanical issues. Likely in the worst possible place, too, like eight (8) miles behind the gate on Monitor Pass or something. Wait…is there a good place for a mechanical?

IN any case, don’t be like me, okay? Ask yourself, “What would Jay do?”

BY the way, we hope to see you at the Ride & Walk 4 Art next weekend!

COME on by & say hi, and if you show me your new cassette, chain or brake pads, I’ll give you a tee!

A Bike By Any Other Name…

I don’t remember naming my bikes when I was a kid. I remember the bike types, colors, and perhaps even a specific adventure, or jump, or modification, but names, nope. Nada. Zipparoony.

ROSCOE therefore, must be my first. In which case it was only six (6) years ago, then, that I must have begun this “tagging habit.” Funny. Roscoe (the first, I might add) is, and was (keep reading) a Trek Domane. Original frame red and white. Current frame, stealth black. That’s him there on the left, and in that other “snowbank shot” above.

AFTER I moved up here to Markleeville the shop discovered a crack in the frame and Trek being Trek, replaced it. Because it was two (2) years later they no longer had the red and white color scheme and so Roscoe II was born. That’s him there on the right.

ANYWAY, I’m not really sure why then, or for what reason, I gave him a name, but I do remember why I chose the name Roscoe. Roscoe Fanucci, actually. I was in the surgical center (maintenance) and the nurse called out “Roscoe. “Roscoe Fanucci.” And this dapper Italian gent (even in a gown in a surgi-center bed he looked distinguished), I’d say in his 80’s, responded in the affirmative.

I said to my wife. “That’s a cool name.” I’m going to name the Domane that. After all, he (the Domane) thinks he’s italian. Okay, my Mom had this Walter MItty thing with her first VW bug. I can’t explain it but obviously the apple didn’t stray too far from the tree.

ROSCOE does think he’s Italian.

BULLITT was an easier one. In a roundabout way. There I was at our corporate offices in Novato (former job) and I had brought my new Trek Fuel up for a mountain bike ride in China Camp. I’m showing the bike to Matt, our engineer and business analyst, and he says “Wow, cool colors. Those are the same colors (the Gulf Oil/Heritage livery I’ve since learned) that Ford used in some of their racing cars back in the day, including on the same model that Steve McQueen drove in Bullitt.

I had ridden this bike for a couple rides prior and it was cool. It glided over things. It floated. It looked GOOD. It thinks it’s Steve McQueen. Bam, Bullitt it is. Thanks Matt!

Me and Bullitt at Grover Hot Springs State Park on our first ride up there in the Spring of ’17.

BLUE, the Wild Mustang of Markleeville, as you might imagine, thinks he’s a mustang roaming the California Alps. He’s a Trek Project One Emonda and is named after Blue, the leader of the Pine Nut herd of wild mustangs living not too far away from here. Mustangs – resilient, strong, willful, good going uphill or down. Seemed like a good fit. The paint scheme, with the the blue lettering also worked.

LAST but not least, my newest addition to the fleet: a fatbike named Farley Schlanger. It’s a TREK Farley 7 so as you’ve guessed, the Farley part was easy. Although I was thinking about naming it Beast. I had just sold Beast (a Trek Rail 5) to a friend of mine and so I was contemplating Beast II. But then my wife, knowing my weird fascination with cool names, told me about a reference in a book I’m reading (The Athlete’s Gut) and there were two names. One was Schlanger. And Farley Schlanger was so named.

I mean look at him. Is that a Farley Schlanger or what?

And what a fun ride. Ordered him in November of 2020 by the way, and just picked it up last Saturday. Supply chain issues, you know?

CAN’T wait for snow. Before that, some Pine Nut sand should be fun. Can you say “slide over the silica?”

MY wife does the naming thing, too, and so I have to give her her due in this here post. So I’ll close with Daisy and Bessie. No reason for those names she said, other than “they look like that to me.”

SOMETIMES it’s just that simple.

HOW about you? Bike names? Stories? Hit me!

Riding in the Mountains? Can I Give You A Few Unsolicited Bits of Advice?

THESE nuggets of wisdom are of the mechanical kind, as opposed to weather, clothing, climbing and other such tidbits I’ve blogged about in the past. When riding in the mountains or hills, really anywhere for that matter, these are the additional things that I focus on since there is nothing worse than listening to your own, or someone elses, noisy velocipede, especially on long climbs and descents.

THE idea from this post came to me last week when I was riding in South Lake Tahoe with a friend of mine and “that annoying rattle” reared its ugly head again.

Silence Those Rattles

nature animal reptile snake

LOOSE things rattle. Whether they be in your saddle bag, top-tube bag or jersey…Make them stop!

EVEN if you have grown accustomed to them your riding partners may not have.

DO yourself and your fellow riders a favor and quiet that bike where you can.

IN my case, that annoying rattle was my multi-tool in the seat bag. I thought I had fixed it but oh no, on that ride last Friday night it was back, like the Terminator. I had added some padding to the case the tool was in and figured that did it but as it turns out, upon further inspection I found one of the bolts had come loose.

A bit of tightening and ahhh, no more rattle.

CHECK for those unfastened, unattached or unsecured bolts, nuts, etc. and FASTEN, ATTACH and SECURE them.

Rattle and Hum is an astounding album; it’s the hum that should apply to our bikes, though, not the rattle, right?

‘NUF said.

Use Loctite

IN preparing the cockpit for filming I picked up a K-EDGE mount for Blue, one of my faithful steeds. It only took a couple rides of the Diamond Valley Loop to get that thing a rattlin’. Loctite to the rescue.

I’VE ridden hundreds of miles since applying the high strength version (and it’s been in my workbench for YEARS) and that mount has not loosened. At all.

THIS stuff, or some threadlocker like it, is gold.

Prepare for Bad Roads

ROADS here in the Sierra Nevada, as well as many, if not all of the coastal hills in which I’ve ridden, are generally crappy. Water, snow, heat, and those pesky vehicles 😉 all take their toll.

THINK about reducing tire pressure, adding dropper seatposts with suspension, or as my friend Mike did on his gravel bike, augment your trusty steed with a suspension stem.

TIRE size is another consideration. I rode 23mm tires for many years but switched to 25mm rubber rings a couple years back. The ride is more plush.

I could even go bigger.

AND as for tire pressure…higher pressure isn’t always better. I ride Continental Grand Prix 5000s and while the max pressure is listed at 120 PSI (8.5 BAR), the recommended pressure is listed as 95 PSI and 6.5 BAR. I pump up the rear tire to 90 PSI and the front to 80 PSI. And I’m a big boy at 230 lbs (104.55 kg for you metric-geeks)!

Keep Things Clean and Lubed

WHEN you can hear the chain, it’s time to lube it. Or perhaps replace it. Use that chain-checker! I use mine all the time but Jay at Big Daddy’s keeps catching me with bad chains nonetheless. I’ll try to do better, Jay.

I don’t do a good job keeping my bikes clean. I have to do better there as well. So, do what I say, not what I do. Keep it clean, like a Virgo would. You didn’t know that about Virgos? Ask my former roomie.

closeup and selective focus photography of toothbrush with toothpaste

GIVE that guy a bathroom and a toothbrush…Sparkling, let me tell ya!

SERIOUSLY, though, over a long ride, especially during a long ride, those squeaks, squeals, screeches and scrapes can be irritating for you, your riding companions and your bike.

TAKE some time (I’m talking to you, Mark) and lube that shit, will ya?

LUBE? you ask. Keith and Jay (and I) recommend Boeshield T-9. It’s not as neat and tidy as a wax job (Scott reminds me of this often) but it’s a helluva lot easier. Again, if you can hear that chain, it’s time to lube it. If you notice sluggish shifting or your trim just doesn’t seem to trim, it could be time to replace it.

Smiling and ready to race on rattle free, lubed, quiet, clean, bikes! Helmet adjustments needed prior to dust-off, though.

Alrighty, then. I hope you, and your friends and family, found these suggestions helpful, thought-provoking and on-point.

GOT some of your own? Share ’em! Please.

Memory Lane?

Click here for a post about cycling in the sierra and here for yet another, this one about climbing mountain passes.

THANKS for reading.

STAY healthy; if it’s smoky outside, ride inside; be safe, and most importantly enjoy the ride (on a quiet bike).

Honey I’ve Sold the Car – And Bought You an eBike

THE look on my wife’s face as she yelled “TURBO” must have been pretty sweet. I can only imagine it, though, since I was her sweep.

SHE has since named her bike “Bessie.” The sister of “Beast,” my eBike. They are both Treks. I’m a loyal “Trek-for-life” fan. There are reasons for that but that’s a story for another time. Or not.

ANYWAY, Bessie and Beast are Class 1 eBikes (thanks REI for the webinar a couple weeks back – I now understand those classes) BUT they are much more than that. A bit of context: I had originally purchased these beefy full-suspension Rail 5 29ers back in November when the bike shop was still a gleam and I had planned on renting them out – alas no more. This too perhaps another story for another time…

BACK to the bikes…Having decided not to rent them but instead keep them for ourselves, we have discovered that

They are MIRTH MACHINES!

I’VE heard what some people say: eBikes are not pure. They’re not “real” bikes. They’re cheating. Okay, on the cheating part. If you’re racing and not telling other racers. Roger that. Oh and there’s the “they tear up the trails” argument. They can, but that’s the rider not the bike doing the tearing. Right?

WHEN I posted that piece last year about the bike shop, I boosted it (i.e. placed an ad) on Facebook and got mostly positive responses. All but one. The detractor wrote something like “any shop that rents eBikes won’t get my business.”

I just don’t understand that.

THE laughter and shrieks of joy that I’ve heard from my spouse has made me laugh and giggle and has been enlightening. I’ve seen other riders, and talked to them too. Riders who either wouldn’t be riding, or if they were riding, they wouldn’t be riding THAT TRAIL, or climb, or…well you get the idea. It would be too hard or too far. But riding eBikes with my wife has really resonated, and it’s what gave me the idea for this post.

WITH eBikes, it’s not too hard or too far, and for older bike riders, or riders who can’t keep up with their riding partners, eBikes are a GAME CHANGER.

BEAST allows me to cast my mind back, too. It’s so very reminiscent of those feelings from the days of my youth, jumping dirt berms and homemade ramps on my yellow, sissy-bar equipped, Schwinn 5-speed.

IT’S impossible not to smile when riding an eBike. I’m talking bugs-on-your-teeth smiling. I just love zipping around on Beast. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a Moped. There is some work involved. I’ve yet to really run Beast through his paces but that will come. Right now it’s a way for me to enjoy a rest day and ride with “the wifey.” And since she’s a novice, or more appropriately put, out of practice, I can do the sweep thing and be her wingman.

That’s me and Beast on one of our first rides together. Mud splatter on glasses, bugs on teeth and just a whole bunch of fun!

Hey! Just thought of this: as she gets more comfy I’m thinking I’ll grab the road bike every once in awhile and have her motopace me. Yet another plus!

Then There’s That Environmental STUFF

AS I alluded too earlier in this post, REI held a great webinar a couple weeks back. My wingwoman and I attended. We learned a lot. It also got me thinking…I don’t drive that much anymore. Sometimes Clara, my Outback — hey, what can I say, I like to name shit, okay? — sits in the garage for days. In this case she’s named after our realtor. Clara, our realtor, not the car, had our backs – you can read more about her here if you’re so inclined but suffice it to say “Clara” was an obvious name for the car.

MOVING on. My Mom needs a new car. I don’t need a car. I have an eBike that I can use to go to town for the mail and such and I can also ride it on trails. And my wife has a 4WD Colorado so really, we’re good. Oh, and Mom lives on the property so I’ll still be able to visit Clara. She’s a cool car. I’m going to miss those paddle shifters let me tell you. But Mom says she’ll let me drive her if I get to jonesin’ for those paddles.

WHAT we’re doing, though, is reducing our three-car family to a two-car family. And that’s pretty sweet. I know that means they’ll be days when one of us could be left alone at home without a car. Not a big deal necessarily but in the mountains, especially during fire season, something we’ll have to plan for/consider.

AND, we’ll save on various expenses, including fuel, insurance and maintenance. As it turns out, CalBike agrees.

IN a recent post about its E-Bike Affordability Bill, AB117, there’s a good quote: “E-bikes are one of the best ways to replace car trips with clean, green transportation.” I guess I knew that but I’ve been focused on eCars not bikes. Tesla and BMW and Toyota and others have been getting all the press. Especially Tesla.

BUT eBikes…That’s an apple I like. And so I’m all in. Well, mostly in. It’s not like I have a cargo eBike.

Wait…Honey!?

A More Holistic Approach to Fitness? WHOOP May Be Your Answer

AS you know I’m a bit of a data junky and between Trainingpeaks (TP) and Garmin (Fenix watch) I’m getting some pretty good information. But I’ve found that I just don’t have the time to jump into the TP data and with the Fenix, IMHO, the feedback is lacking.

AND so it was that I found myself getting a WHOOP strap earlier this month. I’d heard of, and seen (on Strava), some of my fellow athletes, including pros, using this unobtrusive little band and so when I got the special-offer email I thought I’d give it a try.

Inspector Gadget

YUP, it does feel a little bit like that with the Fenix on the left wrist and the WHOOP on the right but after thirteen (13) days I’ve gotten used to the set up.

THE WHOOP strap is minimalistic – a strap with a clasp.

What It Does (and Doesn’t)

DO, that is.

  • It doesn’t have a watch face.
  • It doesn’t track your steps.
  • It doesn’t track your pulse ox.
  • It does track your sleep (better than the Fenix does) and gives you specific feedback.
  • It does track your recovery and gives you specific feedback there as well.
  • It focuses on what it calls strain and what level of strain (load) you are under currently, and more importantly what kind of strain you can or should undertake that day.

SAYS WHOOP — “By balancing your daily recovery, strain and sleep, you will train optimally and unlock the secrets to your body’s true potential.”

I’M finding that to be true.

The overview panel provides a quick glance at recovery, strain and sleep.

The strain dashboard assesses your current strain and suggests the level of strain needed for optimal training.

The recovery dashboard gives you feedback on your current recovery and readiness for strain.

The sleep dashboard interprets and reports on your sleep performance.

Sleep is Key

AT least I’m learning that it is for me and WHOOP is driving me to focus and prepare for sleep like I do for workouts and training.

MY goal is to be able to sleep like my cat, Ditty. That’s her in the image at the top of this post.

All Together Now

  • The Fenix gives me the ability to capture my workouts and such while at the same time assures me that my resting heart rate and pulse ox are good. I find this especially reassuring when I’m not feeling 100%, especially in light of Covid-19 and the fact that those two data points are often key indicators of something being amiss.
  • Trainingpeaks lets me dive deeply into the specifics of my rides while at the same time mirrors nicely with WHOOP when it comes to things such as Acute Training Load (ATL), Chronic Training Load (CTL) and Form.
  • The WHOOP strap, and associated app fills the what-should-I-do-about-it?-gap and so far this is what I like most about it.

IN the end, what I’m seeing is that the COMBINATION of these three (3) pieces of technology, with their amalgamation of data and interpretations thereof, is giving me that global view, if you will, that I didn’t have before.

WHAT about you? What do you do to keep yourself honest and focused? Please share!

Training & Racing With a Power Meter – Will it Make You a Better Rider?

THE short answer is YES! It certainly has in my case and I’m willing to bet it will help you improve too.

I’VE recently finished reading the 3rd edition of the book “Training + Racing with a Power Meter.” It’s a lengthy and technical tome, and I first mentioned it last October in a post I published about fitness apps.

CLICK here to read that post.

THE book is full of juicy bits (and myriad workouts) and I’ve been practicing what it preaches for several months now, with my most recent efforts focused on pacing. If you’re like I used to be (and most cyclists are I suspect) than you’ve probably been using your heart rate for your focal point, and that’s a decent option, especially since some power meters can be a bit pricey. And if you don’t have one…

Don’t get me wrong. I still pay attention to my heart rate but now it’s in comparison to my power numbers, not vice-versa. Let me explain.

PACING and POWER

Typically, cyclists just ride. We ride hard if we feel good. We ride easy if we don’t. We’ll watch that heart rate and let it settle down if it gets too high and we’ll push harder if we think we’ve got some beats to give. And yes, you can pace yourself using those criteria. I have and sometimes still do.

However, if you take the leap and instead make power the cornerstone of your cycling workouts (after you test yourself and figure out your FTP) then you can instead set your pace based on the watts you’re producing.

FTP, or Functional Threshold Power (no, not File Transfer Protocol you computer nerd) is defined as “the highest power that a rider can maintain in a quasi-steady state without fatiguing for approximately one hour. When power exceeds FTP, fatigue will occur much sooner, whereas power just below FTP can be maintained considerably longer.”

THAT’S pacing in a nutshell: Don’t go all out early. Save some matches (also defined in the book) for later in the race. For most of my cycling-life I’ve been this guy: Go as hard as you can until you get tired and then rest more often, and longer, in order to finish the event or workout. Holding back is hard. Especially on a time-trial and especially when other cyclists are passing you or you’re riding with a stronger rider.

I’ve been working on my pacing, mostly inside on the trainer, by doing a couple rides I’ve done many times before, one on Zwift and one on FulGaz: Alpe du Zwift on the former and the Alpe d’Huez on the latter. The former by the way, is Zwift’s version of the latter. They both have their advantages, or likes as the case may be, but I won’t bore you with those distinctions. Suffice it to say they are difficult climbs, with specific sectors, that easily translate to pacing practice or HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training).

When I’m working on those “two- P’s” I focus on keeping my power number down in Zone 3 for most of the ride and as I get closer to the finish I continue to push harder through the other zones so that I finish in Zone 5 or 6.

THE PROOF IS IN THE PUDDING

Yum! Pudding! It’s been awhile since I’ve had some good pudding. I have to make some and put it on my post-ride list. I’m salivating now but will move on. Apologies…

Last week I was reading one of the last chapters (chapter 13) and came across the section(s) on time trials. Last year, as you may have read in my “Social Distancing Racing” posts (use the search box on my home page to find ’em) I participated in some racing, and due to Covid-19 all the races were essentially time trials but I didn’t know then what I know now. I would have done better had I read the chapter sooner.

THE section(s) to which I refer delve into flat TTs, hilly TTs and more. There is great advice to be gleaned but I’m not going to regurge it all here. Instead let me just say that I took the author’s advice and applied it (last Sunday as it turns out) on an 18-mile TT (with rollers, and coincidentally, a headwind).

Drum roll please…

I paced myself at my FTP (290). I didn’t worry about speed or heart rate.

I kept my power close to my FTP when hitting the rollers. In the past I would instead push well over my FTP, sometimes into Zone 6 on the climb, and then try to rest a little on the downhill.

AS you can imagine, I didn’t fare too well towards the end of the races. I was coming in 10th, 11th, or worse. I was burning WAY too many matches WAY too early.

THIS time though, I didn’t do that and the above screenshot of the segment (the entire TT) from Strava says it all!

AND what you can’t see is the TT within this TT that I had done twelve (12) times before. It’s approximately 9.5 miles long and on this effort I beat that previous time by OVER 3 MINUTES, and my average power was 70 WATTS HIGHER!

Holy frijole Batman! As I told my wife via text when I was done: “I guess that book was right! Check this shit out! 2nd out of 168. All time! It actually works!”

THE moral of the story is that training and racing with a power meter DOES WORK and it can make you, like it has me, a stronger rider and a more formidable racer.

IF you’d like some 411 on power meters and what I’m using, shoot me an email with your contact information and I’ll get in touch. I’m currently running two different power meters (both crank-based) on two different bikes and have experience with a third single-arm meter. Here’s a link to a good article as well.

Wishing you a happy and powerful new year. Stay safe and healthy and let’s kick some time trials’ asses!

Ride Inside Without the Tech? How Do I Do That?

Last week we had an internet outage just before I was going to get on FulGaz and ride the Ebbetts Pass North Ascent (which as you may recall I filmed last summer).

Here at Chalet Schwartz, aka California Alps Cycling HQ, we do have a sweet generator (thanks Generac) but alas, it doesn’t do much good when it’s a Frontier outage.

I still had cell service, although as you can imagine, it’s not even close to five bars here, but what the hell I thought, I’ll give it a try. No dice. Not enough bandwidth for those videos. Zwift neither. Alright I said to myself, I’ll just ride and watch something on Apple TV.

Uh, no. No internet you fool!

How about a nice slide show of all of my photos I’ve taken over the years?

No joy there either – I sync my photos via iCloud – who knows, maybe the images were hung up in this cloud?

Okay, so there’s my story of woe, the set-up if you will. There I was, trying to get my swell on, but without the usual distractions I needed to keep my monkey-brain at bay. What to do?

As a former mechanic once wrote on my service slip a long time ago…RIDE YOUR BIKE. This was after I had brought the bike in to get something perfectly dialed-in; for the 3rd time! I was, and still am I confess, a bit OCD.

To my credit, and so you all know that I didn’t get too hung up on these issues, I kept pedaling during my ordeal.

And then it came to me! You can still sprint. You can still work on those circles. You can still get in a good workout. You’ve got music at least, and a smart watch, so get to it!

And so I did. And I had a great workout and learned that yes, Mark-inia, you can get in some good training without all the bells and whistles. And really, like you’re probably saying right now, I still had some of those jinglers and toots (e.g. Apple music and Garmin) so technically I was still techy.

That makes me feel better. And keeps it in perspective.

After all, this was only a bike ride.

Using Satellite in the Sierra Could Save a Life – Perhaps Even Your Own

Yesterday while riding Leviathan Mine Road on my MTB I was out of cell service and needed to contact my wife. In this case it was not an emergency, but what if it was?

Would I have been able to get help?

As you may recall, I published a post earlier in the year, “Climbing Mountain Passes – Five Things You Should Know” and in that post I referenced the Garmin inReach Mini that I’ve used for several years. While that unit is not technically a PLB (read on to learn about that distinction) “you can send and receive messages, navigate your route, track and share your journey and, if necessary, trigger an SOS to get help from a 24/7 global emergency response coordination center via the 100% global Iridium® satellite network.”

So instead of rescue authorities coming to look for me because I haven’t checked in with my person(s) I instead was able to message my wife and mom that I was okay, just taking longer than expected on the ride.

Had I had an emergency I could have triggered that SOS feature and been able to get help. That’s what PLBs (Personal Locator Beacons), and their brethren, do okay? They allow you to get assistance in those areas where you can’t call 911.

As for PLBs…What are those?

Rick Wallace, of Tackle Village, reached out to me last week about a guide Tackle Village had recently produced entitled “How a PLB Can Save Your Life” and we struck up an email convo. about how we can each help other spread the word about these technologies.

As Rick wrote in his email to me: “To promote outdoor safety, we have put together this comprehensive and easy to read guide [that’s the link in the above paragraph]. We wrote this because many people who hike, fish, ski, camp or climb (including some of our friends) don’t realise the need to carry a PLB, and this causes unnecessary deaths every year. Personal Locator Beacons have saved an estimated 35,000 lives.”

I replied “I use a Garmin inReach, which I think is a PLB. Is it? It does have an activate-able SOS feature and allows me to send text messages to family and friends when my cell has no service,” and Rick responded:

“I think the Garmin inReach is a satellite phone as opposed to a PLB – slightly different. The PLB can only send a distress signal encoded with GPS co-ordinates – no text, no voice. Its advantage is in the longevity of the battery and the toughness of it and waterproofing.”

Ah, there’s that distinction. One allows for two-way communication while the other sends only an encoded distress signal.

Now I’m not sure just how long the battery life is on a KTI PLB but I can tell you that the battery life on the inReach is pretty good too.

For cycling, the inReach, or something small and compact like it, makes sense because it fits in a jersey pocket (along with other items). For hiking, backpacking and perhaps even skiing or snowshoeing I can see where a PLB would be a good alternative or compliment, though.

Wait, what about an avalanche beacon?

Good catch! That’s a different animal since it’s not a standalone unit; others with a similar device must be nearby to receive the signal it transmits and then find the location of that transmitting beacon via triangulation.

Fodder for a future post, I’m thinking, as I plan on taking up cross-country skiing this winter and having an avalance beacon could be a key piece of equipment for some of those endeavors.

Whatever you decide, cover your bases!

It’s especially important during these days of Covid-19.

Law enforcement, rescue authorities, you name it, are a bit pre-occupied nowadays so I’m sure that anything we can do to lessen their load would be appreciated.

Having a portable, satellite-enabled device, such as the inReach, or KTI’s PLB, could save searchers a whole lot of time if they have to come a lookin’, and in the case of an inReach or something similar, could prevent them from even having to be dispatched at all!

I know the volunteer firefighters, search & rescue, and paramedics here in Alpine Co. would be grateful for that!

Yesterday’s Adventure – Big Blue Redux and Filming FUBARs

Fall is giving way to colder temperatures, including some sub-freezing readings here lately, and so I’m working hard to get some of those special rides in, film some fall colors for FulGaz, and knock off some more of those honey-do list items before our epic winter (putting out those Game of Thrones vibes, if you get my drift) sets in.

As you may recall I published a post late last month about riding around Lake Tahoe (aka Big Blue), and one of our loyal readers, Roy Franz, urged me to try the ride again, this time on a weekday and taking the clockwise direction.

And so it was that yesterday I found myself in Stateline, NV, on a fairly brisk morning (about 45 fahrenheit), gearing up to do just that.

Prepping for the Shoot

Yesterday morning I was up at o’dark thirty so that I could prep. my gear and the bike and get the GoPro mounted and ready. There is a little bit of work involved to make sure the camera angle is good, the battery back-up is charged and the top-tube pack that holds the back-up, cable and tool is not flopping around. A bit of “tape-work” is also needed in order to secure the cable to the bike, and to keep the GoPro’s battery and cable connection secure as well.

Before I headed out I used the very cool preview feature to make sure that the horizon was where it should be on the camera and I also double checked the settings too, or so I thought.

The plan was to record the entire ride in three (3) manageable sections, each approximately 1.5 hours long.

  • Stateline to Meek’s Bay
  • Meek’s Bay to Incline Village
  • Incline Village back to Stateline

Rolling…Kinda

All geared up. Settings good. Camera angle good. Power button pushed. Requisite beep heard. Hand waved in front of camera to signal the start for FulGaz’s engineers. Off I went.

Switching tacks for just a moment; let’s talk biology. There are a few times during the year that for whatever reason I seem to lose a lot of water weight. Typically a few days after hard efforts or too much mexican food. That salt, you know? I wasn’t expecting this day to be one of those but that’s the way the water works I guess, especially when you have (as my friend Mike would say) a bladder the size of a peanut.

A bit more context…If you do stop while filming a ride for FulGaz (FG) then you just go back about 20 yards from where you stopped and start again. I make a mental note of those instances so I can pass that info. on to FG. The team then edits that section out and for the most part you don’t even notice.

So, after about five (5) stops in the first 30 minutes, I was getting frustrated. Really bladder? Now? Today? Seriously? I kept doing my thing, and re-starting and apologizing to Klaus (their lead-dawg engineer), by commenting during the video. Finally, Mr. Bladder had gotten rid of the excess fluid and I was able to get to Meek’s Bay without another stop.

Beep. Upon my arrival I pushed the button and heard that comforting sound that acknowedged I had in fact stopped recording. I also stopped the ride on my Wahoo and saved it as well; the .fit file then syncs up nicely with the video. It’s also important to toggle off auto-pause or things get a little screwy, and to my credit I did do that. What I didn’t do, though, was look at the camera before I took off from Stateline.

Had I done that I would have noticed that I was in photo mode instead of video mode!

Yup, that’s what the FUBAR portion of this post’s title is all about. After all of that prepping, nature-breaking and riding from Stateline to Meek’s Bay I had NOTHING! Zippo! Nada! Oh well, I thought, at least it was an amazing day so far and I did have a section of this section recorded (when Chris and I did the counter-clockwise route in late September) so I’ll just use that. Still…shit! Or FUBAR! You pick.

Meek’s Bay to Incline Village

I planned on redeeming myself on this portion of the ride and what a BEAUTIFUL segment it was! Not too much climbing and a lot of the course was really close to the water so it should be a really pretty video. I made it to Incline without another bio-break and had a nice encounter (seriously) on the way with a Placer Co. deputy sheriff who pulled up next to me to remind me that two (2) ear buds is not better than one (1) when on a bicycle.

Frankly I’m a bit anxious to look at the clips for fear of another SNAFU (see “FUBAR-link” above) but based on what I saw on the GoPro’s screen (fingers crossed) I got this one so on to the next.

Incline to Stateline – The Finish

Looking down at the emerald green waters of Lake Tahoe from Highway 89. This photo was taken just south of Incline Village.

There’s a bit of climbing to get up and out of Incline so it was somewhat of a taxing finish but I thought it would be a nice juxtaposition to come from such a beautiful place to Stateline with its casinos and such. However, just after I went throught the tunnel at Cave Rock I heard a telltale series of beeps from the camera that indicated that either the battery had died or the media was full. Shit, again. And again, the oh well…If nothing else the FG ride will be Incline to Cave Rock. We shall see. Still not brave enough to look.

The Moral of the Story

Roy was oh so right. What a day of riding in one of the most beautiful places on earth! Clockwise, on a weekday that isn’t a Friday is definitely the ticket. There was much less traffic, the view from the lake side of the road is much better (there are some drop-offs but nothing too scary) and there were fewer tourists. Don’t get me wrong, I like tourists. I realize some don’t right now and I get that, too. IMHO they infuse the area with much needed ducats, yet it seems that sometimes they leave their brain at home, especially when confronted with such amazing scenery.

As for the FulGaz Faux Pas’, what can I say? Apparently I left my brain at home too. I’ve never (add saracastic tone here) done that when I’m doing the tourist thing.

The beauty of it, though, is that I can head back anytime before winter rears its oh so wonderful head and take another whack (or two or three) at it. Looking forward to that!

Aches and Pains When Riding? Consider a Bike Fit!

If you’re like me, and most of the riders I know, you have some sort of issue with some part (of your anatomy) when riding. Sometimes it’s numbness in the nether-regions, sometimes it’s numbness in the hands, sometimes it’s burning in the feet and sometimes it’s some other nit somewhere else.

In the past I’ve dealt with several of these problems. Thanks to finding the right equipment and most importantly finding the right fit, though, that hasn’t been the case. Until recently…

Last year I ordered my first (and only) Project One bike from Trek: my boy Blue. Yup, that’s him below.

Blue, the wild mustang of Markleeville, named after Blue, one of leaders of a band of wild horses in the Pine Nuts.

It was an awesome experience, made even better thanks to the collaboration I had with Big Daddy’s Bike, Ski & Board (aka Big Daddy’s Bike & Brew I believe) in Gardnerville, NV.

Keith and crew did an awesome job helping me pick certain parts and speccing the bike and of course they assembled it as well. We pretty much nailed it! We did the basic bike fit — you know, elbows bent, not too extended in the cockpit, knees over the spindles using a plumb line — all that stuff, and the bike felt really good. I then double checked some measurements on my Domane and tried to replicate those as best I could on the Emonda.

After several thousand miles, however, I was still getting too much numbness in the hands and so I decided to quit putting off that professional bike fit.

I had one many years ago when I lived in the Bay Area and it was during those sessions that the bike fit technician suggested (among other tweaks) that I should invest in Speedplay pedals. Those pedals allowed for more set back than most (there’s a special plate that helps).

I have really long (14.5) feet and was getting too much hot foot because, as it turns out, the spindle was in front of the ball of my foot, thereby putting too much pressure on the toes and the nerves therein. I’m still riding Speedplays today and have been able to find some Euro size 15s that are Speedplay (aka 4-hole) specific, so no more need for that extender base plate and therefore the stack height that goes along with it.

Fast forward to today; last week to be more precise. After doing a bit of research I decided to go to Barton Ortho and Wellness in South Lake Tahoe, and I wasn’t disappointed.

Blue and I met with Harrison, a physical therapist and professional bike fitter. After a short interview it was on the bike for a look-see.

Harrison set up lasers to check knee alignment first and noticed my knees were coming in towards the top tube on the upstroke. We then checked my feet – yup, I’m a pronator – happens when we get older. Those arches go away. Some shims inside of the shoes and a re-check and it was much better.

We then took a look at my knee extension and seat position. Guess what? My seat was just a bit too high (we dropped it about 1/4 inch) and the nose was down 3 degrees. Both of those things made me put more pressure on the hands. And, as it turns out, that seat position was also putting a bit too much stress on the hips and lower back. Ah, that’s why the sore lower back maybe? Notwithstanding the knee issues it could cause… Seat down, nose up. Good to go.

A Bit of “Table-work”

Off the bike I got and on the table I went for a leg length and flexibility check. Both legs measured the same length so that was good. Flexibility was pretty good too but Harrison did notice some tightness in the left hip as well as the right ankle. A couple things to work on, certainly.

Next…I have a follow up appt. in the coming week and among other things I’m going to get fitted for some orthotics and report back on how things are going so far. Unfortunately, due to the smoke, I’ve not been able to ride outside but thanks to FulGaz (see last week’s post) I’ve managed to test out the new fit every day.

Here’s What I’ve Experienced so Far

While hand numbness is still there it’s MUCH LESS than it was. With my upper body size I put more weight on the bars than those of you who are much lighter and that’s not going to change. What could change, though, is my abdominal strength. Another reason it’s good to talk with a professional: I’ve been working on the lower back thinking that pain was due to lack of strength there. On the contrary, and somewhat counterintuitively, it’s my abs that need the work.

In other news…Back pain? Gone! Power? Up! Left/right balance? Better! Connection to the bike over all? Much improved! Oh, and the price? $250.00. For both sessions.

A bargain IMHO.

So if you are having some of these same botherations than you too are a candidate for a professional bike fit.

Get one and there’s no doubt you’ll be more blissful on the bike!

Let me know how it goes.