Monday, March 22, 2010

Ravin' on Rosemary Raven

I got my RAAM bike this week. I've been waiting, thinking, expecting...building my year around this bike. A total leap of faith. And now it's here. I've got to say, I wasn't at all sure what to expect. I figured I was pretty adapted to the Sea Dragon - at least well enough to stay on her for 24 hours without alarming too many people - so either it would be an easy transition, or it wouldn't.

Then Woudenberg got his and had really good things to say. He's ridden a lot more bikes than I have - really FAST bikes like the Lightning (-: - so I started to have these weird fantasies that the new bike might be a lot nicer and faster than the old (really nice, really fast) one.

Robert (TerraCycle) was so excited to show me that he almost left his wife and his mother-in-law alone together Friday night to take me over to TC to show it off...again, raising the bar for my expectations ever so slightly.

Setup of the Raven was straightforward and uneventful. Gotta admit, it looks fast standing still. We routed the cables externally for RAAMing speed - if Brian needs to re-string a cable during the race, it will be faster and easier if the cables are external. Not quite as sleek-looking as internal cable routing - but practical.Nice parts mix. KILLER idler. Pat and Robert were really proud of that little bit - rightly so! Many photos. Trimmed the boom, etc. I've gotta say - Dana  NAILED the cockpit fit and feel. I was pretty nervous about that - he'd asked a couple of questions and jotted a few things down mentally, way back in November during a fairly distracted lunch meeting - and it all translated to danged near perfect. We added a short spacer (7mm?) to guarantee knee clearance after trimming the beam, but otherwise everything was pretty much dialed.

The bike dragged a sprig of rosemary from Robert's parking strip into the house so I figure it named itself...Rosemary Raven. Cable ends, bar wrap, pink tires, and there was nothing left to do but ride it.

So I headed out on Saturday, just after noon - slightly mixed emotions...still only half convinced that I'll be able to notice any difference, and half concerned that any difference I can discern will be in the wrong direction, since I already have such a hot bike, but half hoping that all the hype just might translate to meaningful speed.

Some easy warmup miles - an agility test, dodging pedestrians on the Eastbank Esplanade, and we did surprisingly well for a first ride. Then I got going in earnest. The thing is, I'd had such high expectations. Guess what? The bike smashed them. Blew me out of the water. WOW. WOW. WOW. Power transfer the likes of which I've never experienced. Seriously. Not just noticeable - radical.

It was a nice sunny day, and I really didn't want to do more than a solid shakedown, so I headed out to Sauvies' Island - a local wildlife preserve where the tri-geeks hang out - intending to do a lap around the island and head home. I wasn't killing myself, but I was around the loop so fast and easy that I had to repeat it in the other direction, just to make sure I was right - yep. It's that fast. Really. It wasn't just "Hot Guys on Fast Bikes Have To Ride Slow If They're Going Clockwise Day" on the island. Cool!

Sunday, we took to the hills. A nice sub-6-hour century, again, not killing myself, hanging out and enjoying the sights. Thirty-five miles of flat tailwind, thirty miles of hills, and thirty-five miles of flat headwind. After Saturday's ride I was curious about the climbing and especially the descending. Climbing was solid. I made full use of all  the gears - there are some steep pitches on the road to Alsea Falls. The stiffer beam (and crank?) seemed to give me an extra gear. Low speed stability was excellent. And descending was a dream. Really. The road was twisty and fast and wet in places. I wasn't in a "pushing it" mood, but  I was able to tell that the bike feels like it's totally solid descending, that I'm able to think/lean all the turns and they happen more or less organically, and the handling seems to be more stable than the Sea Dragon. Simply put, it feels like the bike was built for me, right out of the box.

The only negative was that the first few times I tried my "cyclocross" dismount on Rosemary, I hit the tube with my heel. The beam is just a little higher. After a few times, I adjusted and it's just fine. By the way - a lot of people assume that smaller riders can't ride a high-racer at all, much less a dual 700c one - wrong! You've just got to find the right geometry. I'm 5'7 in stocking feet, if I'm wearing really thick socks.

Here are some early photos courtesy of TerraCycle. I'll post some photos of the whole bike as soon as I can. The pink idlers are a RAAM special edition. So far there's only one bike in the world that's got 'em.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Google Bike Maps

Hey - Google Maps now does bike maps. I think that's really, really cool. Good to have it right out there that bikes are...yes! Say it! Transportation. But I've got to admit that my curiosity was piqued. So I put it to the test. My start location? The Strand, Oceanside, CA. And destination? Annapolis City Dock. Try it. I got two slightly different answers, either 3077 or 3081 miles, which seems to be dependent on the address you pick for the City Dock.
I was really, really amused at the estimated time: 11 days, 2 hours. The current recumbent RAAM record is 11 days, 2 hours, and 50 minutes. I guess that means that I'll not be having extra time for hanging around in the McDonalds restrooms.
Here's a link:,+Oceanside+CA&daddr=Cape+St+Claire,+Maryland+21401&hl=en&geocode=&mra=ls&dirflg=b&sll=44.083861,-123.089949&sspn=0.00803,0.016308&ie=UTF8&t=h&z=4&lci=bike

Friday, March 5, 2010

Heat Training

RAAM can be lost in the very early going if you're not prepared for desert heat. Since I'm here in Oregon - not widely known as the land of dry heat despite RAO's best efforts - people often wonder how I'm going to deal with this.

Simple - fake it. Not "fake it" as in "pretend it doesn't matter", but "fake it" as in creating some simulated heat conditions that will hopefully acclimate me enough that I can respond properly when the time comes.


Here's how it goes. I try to "heat train" days twice a week, typically right after work. I start with a two-hour stationary bike workout at the gym, no fan - a really tough one, at threshold with frequent bursts above. During this workout I take in a token amount of food - say, a gel or two - two bottles of water, and an electrolyte tablet every hour.

The underlying principle is that I am trying to teach my body to sweat profusely for as long as possible, because sweating is the best mechanism we have for cooling ourselves. It seems to be working. Long before two hours is up, I'm drenched, the bike is drenched, there's a rapidly growing puddle on the floor, and the other gym rats are giving me a pretty wide berth.

OK, enough of that....refill the water bottle, re-empty it in the next five minutes while I stretch. Now, a very quick shower...and into the sauna for a half hour. The gym I use - CourtSports Fitness in Eugene - has a very nice sauna. That's why I'm there. I toured every gym in town last fall, and the best sauna won.

Mostly, hanging out in the sauna is a relaxing, meditative time, but for a thirty minute stint,  especially after a two hour workout that left me pretty wrung out, the last five minutes are hard. Really, really hard. It took a while to work up to thirty minutes - ten or fifteen was pretty comfortable from the get-go. I know I'm getting close when I'm watching the clock. Toward the end, I'm sweating much faster than the hot, dry atmosphere can evaporate off. It's really important to stop here, while the sweat rate is at its peak - otherwise I'm risking heatstroke.

The last time I did this workout, I ended up leaving a rather distinctive mark on the cedar planks:

I seem to be channeling Our Lady of the Perpetually Flexed Biceps! When I got  up, dried myself off, and saw the results of my hard work, I just had to snap this photo. It's better than finding the Virgin Mary in my grilled cheese sandwich. WAY better. (Come to think of it, when's the last time I had a grilled cheese sandwich? Would that be excellent recovery food, or what?)

Out of the sauna, a few minutes' rest while I put in another bottle of water and electrolytes, shower, and we're done. Home by 8:30 if I'm doing it right, or 9 if I'm stopping off at the Market of Choice for dinner fixin's.

Current music of choice is Japanese Taiko drumming. Soul-stirring stuff. This is one of my favorite cuts, called "Heartbeat". One reviewer referred to it as a "very sweet pounding" and I'm inclined to agree. I can definitely see myself hauling up the Yarnell Grade with this music reverberating off the cliffs.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Alice Telford – An Inspiration to All Women

A Bike Friday customer, Jeff Levenson, sent this link to me. Alice rides her Bike Friday quite a bit, though it's not shown in these pictures.

I hope I'm still enjoying riding when I'm 86!

Alice Telford – An Inspiration to All Women