Monday, August 30, 2010

Crater Lake - there and back again

I biked to Crater Lake. From Corvallis. In one day, with some great company: ChrisY, Chris, and Carly.
Due to a series of coincidences, we ended up starting at Mark Newsome's house (he was going to come, and it's a good starting point, but his work schedule got too busy).
The stated start time was 6AM. Actual was more like 7 by the time we were rolling. On the plus side, it was plenty light, but it was fully 4 hours later than I'd typically started this ride, when my legs were 8-10 years younger. And – oh, now I remember – I used to start from Albany, and the ride to Brownsville from Albany is a lot shorter. Crap. Well, hopefully we'll get in by dark....
I'm wearing clothes that are okay for the bulk of the riding: short gloves, shorts, and two layers of wool (3 counting the wool bra). I can peel off a layer when it gets hot. I'm pretty chilly at the start, but Chris takes off at a good clip, so I warm up fast. Chris and Carly are doing a ride-and-tie, so Carly has driven off to Brownsville and started riding from there. When we got to Brownsville, Chris got in the truck, drove past Carly to Marcola, and started riding there. With two people on the course most of the time, they were making great progress – so great that I never saw my warm clothes again. Bad planning, Earl! By the time I realized that we weren't going to catch up to my “warm” layers again, I was also realizing that we weren't going to get to camp any before sundown – i.e. it was going to start getting cold by the time we were heading down 138 – the last few miles of descent into camp. Ohhhh.
We'll do the best we can.
Brisk pace into Brownsville, and then off to Brush Creek – one of my favorite climbs. Fueled by delusions of keeping up with Chris, I kept it in the middle ring. Nice descent to Marcola, where we stopped for sandwiches and to refill Chris' fluids (he had 2 bottles, I had a bottle and a 3-liter bladder).
Lots of construction between Marcola and Springfield. We got stopped by a construction flagger and I swear it was mainly because she needed someone to talk to. For, like, 15 minutes. OK.
I love the section of the ride along the Willamette, between Springfield and Lowell. Very nice. We cross onto 58 at Lowell. There is a lot more traffic on 58 in the early afternoon than the mid-morning. It's not my favorite part of the ride.
Hope (Chris' wife) and kids (Henry, Nash) come by not long before we summit Willamette Pass. Chris gets to punch the button for the tunnel. He likes punching buttons; I'll roll with it.

At the summit, I put on the wool shirt that I'd taken off for the climb; my one and only gear change. It was (just) enough.
By the time we got to Chemult, it was just after 7. Time for a couple of corndogs. I was starting to fall into ultrabrain – a little zoned, a little sleepy, not riding fast because I was forgetting to. A Starbucks doubleshot and some Jolt gum helped quite a bit with that. We called in to Hope and told her that our updated arrival time was 9:30. I was feeling pretty good about having a strong light...I knew it was going to be cold, and I was worried. I picked up a pair of cotton gloves. Best $2 I've ever spent. Having ONE part of my body just a little too warm totally fooled my system into thinking I wasn't actually freezing.
Chris took off out of Chemult at a blistering pace, and by really, really focusing, and drafting as much as possible, I was able to keep up. We made the turn onto 138. It doesn't look SO bad in the dark! I've always said that's the most demoralizing piece of pavement on the planet, but it was kind of cool to watch the headlights come in and out of the false summits. I was making really good time for the first 9 or 10 miles, and then fell off a little bit for the last couple of miles getting toward the summit. By the time we got to the top, Chris was more than happy to wait for me: I had 500 lumens of really good LIGHT, and it was pitch black. He had a cateye and he really couldn't see the fog line.
We missed the turn to the south shore of the lake. Crap. Figured it out at the point where it didn't matter, so we might as well take the north shore and do a lap of the lake. Bonus miles at 9:30 at night. Awesome. It took a while to find our way to the group site. The signage at Broken Arrow isn't 100% clear. We knew that we were heading to “J” loop, for instance – but the right way to go was marked “F,G”. Let's just call that “Not Intuitive”. We roll into camp, triumphant, not quite exhausted, and really cold (me).
Hope offers her down coat, and has a hot dinner ready for us in nothing flat. I am dimly aware that pinot noir is not the rehydration beverage of choice, but the jerked beer can chicken, beans and rice is really, really good! Off to collect my clothes up at the Chris/Carly camp. They've already pitched my tent! Cool! I haul myself in there and try to get warm enough to sleep.
When I wake up, I am warm, so it must've worked. Breakfast time. One of the bennies of being itinerant at the Diamond Lake ride is that EVERYONE brings too much food. I have a great breakfast with Carly and Chris, take some clothes down to the bathroom to change, and swing by Chris and Hope's camp to see how things are going there. The boys are hovering, eating their "just for camping" sugar cereal and dressed like Eskimos. I have breakfast with Chris and Hope: Eggs and miniature andouille sausages. And really good coffee. We sit there, pondering the ride organizers' advice – given last night at the mandatory rider meeting that we missed (but Hope stood in for us): please leave as late as possible due to the possibility of freezing roads overnight. Well, it didn't freeze overnight – but it's getting colder and windier by the minute, now...
I go back to my tent to grab my riding shoes, to discover that I have been pillaged by chipmunks. The only disadvantage to biking up to the lake is that I didn't put all of my stuff in rodent-proof bins (too bulky). My peanuts are just in a bag, and it's just too tempting. I left the door open, and mayhem ensued. As if that wasn't bad enough – I'm a slow learner. I closed up the bag, put it back in the tent, and zipped up the door “so they couldn't get back in”. Hah. Show a squirrel a peanut, and he'll figure out how to get it...
The perp!

We rolled out at 9:30 or so, for the long climb to the top. Chris waited for me as long as he could, then took off. It's getting colder. It's getting foggy. I got to the rim road and pulled into the parking lot...made the decision. I didn't know what the weather was going to do, but if it deteriorated the way I thought it could, I'd have to be sagged down. I had good gear on today – but there's no staying warm when it's wet and 36 degrees and you're descending. So I waited for Hope. She was bringing the boys up to see the lake. Considering that I was at the rim, looking down, and couldn't see the lake, I kinda figured it was going to be a disappointment, but I was sure looking forward to seeing them.
Just at the point where I decided there was a reasonable chance that they'd seen the writing on the wall and stayed in camp, they appeared. I got in the truck, and we went off to find Chris. We found him just before the serious rain started, and proceeded on around the rim – there were places where the kids could see the lake, and Crater Lake is kinda cool even in poor weather.
At some point after the snow started, Henry pointed out that “this is the craziest summer vacation EVER”...we were passing some very cold cyclists in shorts and jerseys (as well as some very cold cyclists who were dressed for the weather). We stopped in at the lunch stop, let them know that we could help sag riders down.
We found Chris and Carly not too far from the Visitor's Center, and they were very happy to take on some rain pants for Chris and to wait at the Visitors' Center until we could dump off our bikes, Hope and the kids, and get back to pick them up.
By the time we got there, the Visitor's Center looked like a bike base camp – everyone with sense stopped there. We picked up an extra person, made sure that everyone there had a known ride down, and headed back.
I came back to find a nice, squirrel-sized hole in my tent, and evidence of a HUGE peanut party on the part of an unknown number of chipmunks and ground squirrels. Like I said – slow learner. When you live in the tough section of town, you don't lock your car EVER – if you do, the thieves have to break your window to get your stuff...
note hole (small discolored area of mesh, suspiciously close to peanuts).

By 4PM the weather was clearing. I'd had a shower, and I was almost warm. The Sunday weather forecast wasn't too bad, so Chris and I decided to go for the planned ride home. Dinner was potluck – an extended hors d'oevres hour, followed by quinoa stew over at Carly and Chris's, and then – chicken, rice, and grilled veggies put out by Hope and Elise. A good fire, at least two dinners, early to bed....
Sunday dawned nice and sunny. I'd been faked out in the middle of the night by the moonlight – it was so intense that I thought it might be pre-dawn. And then I heard Chris go off in the middle of the night- he was doing some photography up on the rim.
I got up, threw on my bike clothes, and packed things up, leaving the tent to attend to last. Then I headed out for breakfasts (yes, plural..) I took some muffins down to Hope and Chris's and had muffins, yogurt, granola, and really good coffee...headed back up to Carly and Chris' and had trail mix and a V8. “Oh – I scared a ground squirrel out of your tent”, Carly put in, helpfully. “I think he was looking for peanuts”. doubt.
And – they're off. Down, down, down....a fast descent to the 1500' level on 138. Then the right turn onto Canton Creek. Chris has ONE annoying habit as a riding partner...not that I'm complaining – one is a very small number, and I'm sure that I have annoying habits. But – I tend to give people the “turn coming up” headsup about 2 miles from the next turn. And – somehow, psychically, he manages to totally take off about 4 miles from the next turn, so I have to chase like crazy to prevent him blowing a turn. I'm PRETTY sure that he knows to turn at Steamboat – I mentioned it often last night – but I'm not certain. So I haul ass and get close enough to let him know.
After the we get onto Canton Creek road, we stopped to peel a layer off. The road is beautiful, almost no traffic, and very scenic. It's also pretty danged steep near the top. I was whining audibly – but I made it. An even steeper descent, and then a long, slow drop down to Sharps' Creek, Row River, Dorena Lake. We're making really good time, rolling along in the sunshine. Great day to be on the bike.
Just about the point where Chris asks whether there might be corn dogs anywhere in Cottage Grove, we came across a local mercantile. They were obviously serving the lake community – locals and campers alike – with the main trade being firewood, cigarettes, and beer. The corn dogs weren't exactly the best I've had, but they were a little bettter than the “chicken cheese rollup thing” that we got as an experiment. Where's Wayne when you need him?
Despite the less that perfect food, I was pretty happy, and thinking that the ONLY thing that might make our day better was if Elise came through just then. She was the camp hostess for the ride, and the last to leave camp. She'd volunteered to sweep our route home, and although I felt perfectly capable of riding the next 65 miles, I really didn't need to.
She actually showed up about a mile later....I loaded up and we did leapfrog support for Chris the rest of the way – which was good, because I was going to make up the rest of the route through Eugene as we went along, which wasn't going to work at Chris speed – and if we were going to get him home by dark, it needed to be at Chris speed. Here's the route coming back. It was amazing, and is highly recommended.
We had one small issue – needed to stop to replace a tire that Chris sliced, but fortunately I had a spare wheelset ready with tires mounted. Other than that, smooth sailing home.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Alpine Century - Your Next "Bucket List" Ride

How would you like to do a fully-supported century ride with:

  • zero stoplights
  • two stop SIGNS (both in the first 20 miles)
  • great scenery
  • little to no traffic
  • all the hazelnuts you can reasonably eat, and 
  • a swimming hole that appears JUST when you think it's getting a bit warm-ish?
Look no further. The Alpine Century is all that. I ran into a bunch of Corvallis friends on the ride (Mark, Tim, Joe, Kate....Joanne from Salem...) .but I mainly rode with Carbent Bro' Chris.

I rode up to Alpine from Eugene. It's about 50k. See? I'm bilingual! I rode 50k to do a 100 mile ride! This is what I get for hanging out with the rando crowd. The plan was to meet Chris at 7, and plan to be riding by 8. I figured that since I'd be all warmed up and ready it was okay to be a few minutes late, so I didn't leave until 5:45...I was only a few minutes out the door when I realized that I'd calculated my time/distance to Monroe, not Alpine - I was 5 miles short, so I'd better haul a$$. Which I did.

I got to Alpine with a full head of steam, rolled in to the parking lot and asked the lady at the registration table if "my riding partner had shown up, yet"...she gave me a blank look. I'll take that as a "no" -  even for a 'bent guy, Chris cuts a distinctive figure; if he were there, she'd know who I was talking about. By the time I'd filled out registration paperwork it was 7:20. A quick tour of the parking lot - nope - but just as I was heading back up to the breakfast table, here he comes....Miyata, top down, bike in the back...Mr. Cool.

We did make it out of the parking lot by 8:00, but barely. No worries...up and over Bellfountain. Chris is SURE there's something wrong with my front wheel; it's making a lot of noise. Now, sports fans, I'm auditioning a new front wheel - a Cosmic Carbone SL, with (yep!) a carbon fairing bonded on to an aluminum rim. Although this wheel has a reputation for being bombproof, my recent history with carbon/aluminum bonding is pathetic, so we stop and check. Everything. Nothing apparently wrong...

Over Bellfountain, made the turn onto Decker. This is a very easy course to navigate, and I've been on all the roads before, so I don't really have to think too much. Down the other side, on to Hwy 34. One guy catches me just before the Marys Peak access road and congratulates me (on being almost as fast as him??? Hmmmm).

Turns out that he and Chris are both waiting at the top, and pull out right behind me as I head down. This is some of the best pavement on the planet. Seriously. On club rides, even on my upright, I've been known to make grown men cry. And today I've got the Raven. I had some initial speed on Chris, so it took him a couple of miles to catch back up to me. We don't see the other guy until the rest stop at Alsea.

Rest stop at the Alsea grange hall. Hazelnuts, M&M's, and Gorge Delights fruit bars. Oh, and Gu and Gatorade and stuff like that. But - Hazelnuts and M&M's. I think I could do a century on just that.
Lobster Valley Road - nice. Quiet. Up. Back to 34. Up a little, then back down to Alsea again. MAN, that was a quick 50 miles! And a good's getting hot, and Chris is almost out of water (we skipped a rest station).

Load up, and on the home stretch. It's pushing 100 degrees in the sun (oof!) but we're going to be in shade for most of the rest of the ride. There's a rest stop right at the trailhead down to the falls. We're on it. We tell the volunteers there that we're going in. They offered to watch our bikes.

COLD THERAPY!!!! OOOOOOOH!!!!! Chris got a young couple to snap a cellphone pic of us in the falls, and he managed to navigate clear across the river and back without dropping the thing. Not bad.

A few more miles of easy climbing, and then DOWN! to Alpine...a nice lunch. I was a little behind on fluids so I refilled water bottles and had a soda. The local businesses put up a lot of raffle prizes; since I'd done day of ride registration I wasn't in the drawing but several friends won bottles of wine, etc. Something to remember for next year!

Chris dropped me off in Corvallis, and I changed into "party" clothes at Peak Sports. I had a few minutes to kill before heading to a party, so I stopped in to a gelato shop (shoppe?). I had a small dish of chocolate-orange and cherry. Could easily have had all chocolate-orange...and an iced espresso. Nice!
Drank probably half a gallon of water at the party, ate everything salty I could find, and stayed WAY too long, but had a very nice time - a good mixture of "bike" and "non-bike" people. (Meaning - mainly bike people, but we were finding other things to talk about.) People were a little surprised that I was heading out at dark to ride the final 40 miles...but hey - I've got a great light. Might as well use it, and it was cooling down nicely.

On the way home I stopped in Monroe for QUITE a while - still feeling a little thirsty, so I sucked down a large iced tea and refilled yet again while I watched the moon set and a little bit of heat lightning dance to the south...the latter brought a bit of headwind; I allowed that to slow me down a bit, and got home around 11:30.

Long, good day. You know you've done a good one when you have to think about whether it's worth it to grab a shower, or just crawl into bed filthy.

Consider the Alpine Century! They do a great job and they deserve more turnout than they get.

Thursday, August 12, 2010


Sometimes you just have to be hit over the head with it.

On my way out of REI today - killing a little time before hitting the gym - I got whacked in the head by a falling catalpa pod. And it hit me (duh...): I want a catalpa tree. It's time. 

Now, as urges go, this is a strange one. A catalpa tree is an extremely impractical tree that only a medium-sized child, or a true sentimental sap, could love. Thing is, it's really not much of a coincidence that I got hit by catalpa tree debris: dropping things is what catalpas do best. Sort of like my dog, Cog, they shed three seasons out of the year. In the spring, they drop giant white flowers which look like a cross between a snapdragon and a rhododendron. The flowers are tough (which means that you can string them into really cool necklaces) and don't degrade readily in spring rain (which means that you have to pick them up). In the summer, the fruit starts coming down: long, bean-like skewers that could put a kid's eye out if you weren't careful. However, they are just long enough for swordplay. Then, like the flowers, they have to be picked up. In the fall, predictably, the leaves: large (huge, really), heart-shaped, and tough. So big that they clog the rake. But they make great piles which can be jumped in, and then (back in the day) the leaves could be burned - a kind of pleasant smell that came with the pumpkins and time to pick out Halloween costumes.

Few readers will be surprised at this point to learn that I grew up in the shade of a catalpa tree. For several years, my horse lived in the shade of our catalpa tree, too. Yes - I was a one-time horse owner, from the age of six (or so...) to nine (or so...). Timmy was made of wood, probably painfully, by my dad. I don't know if he had a pattern or plans, or if he freehanded the whole thing, though I suspect the latter.

Timmy was amazing and magical, and I knew that this was so because Daddy made him Just For Me. He was white, when he was any color at all, and he was suspended from the biggest branch of the catalpa tree that didn't hang out over the driveway or the street. (Did I mention that catalpas have a spreading habit? - something else to dismay the horticulturists among us...) I spent a lot of time riding Timmy - possibly where I got my first taste for the rhythmic motion of cycling (or more cynically, the origin of my depressingly slow cadence!).

I have no idea how Timmy got his name. At that age, things just get named, and you go with it. But I had a lot of fun out there, riding my horse, playing with swords, peeling the bark off of the catalpa tree (oh, yeah, they've got crumbly bark...) and watching the ants march up and down the trunk (...and the loose bark makes great habitat for carpenter ants.)

Somewhere, in the shady recesses of my brain, that tree took root. It's a metaphor for the quiet, peaceful, happy times that I remember from the last of my "make believe" years - especially the summers. So when that pod fell on me today, it was a wakeup call: It's time. Find your spot. Grow some roots. Twenty years - or twenty-five - or sometime - you'll be wanting to put up a swing in your catalpa tree. You'll want to plant it rather soon. 

Right now I've got...I don't know  - runners? Like a strawberry plant, I'm a bit of a biennial. I've got satellites all over the place - people I know/love/connect with who are widely flung. That's great. None of them are in Eugene. That's not so great. 

Clearly I don't have all the answers yet - but I'm getting closer, and I'm feeling some urgency to make some changes by the time fall rolls around. In the meantime, blueberries and blackberries are coming on hot and heavy, the best of Oregon weather is upon us, and the riding is danged good.

And I'm going to share an unexpected musical treat. This is a portion of my daughter Nancy's (first) trumpet concerto. It's an electronic rendering; the world premiere is as yet unscheduled, but - watch this space. I think it's pretty nice.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Sandy's U Turn 400

I'm NOT doing the Oregon Randonneurs Edens' Gate 400 tomorrow.  Here's the thing: I live just a couple of miles from the southernmost edge of the course - where it turns North onto Coburg Road. Last time I did this ride (in the spring), I drove 85 miles to the start, got in a great ride that started and ended in the urban jungle, and drove home again. I really wanted to ride the couple of miles off-course just to let Cog (my intrepid dog) have an early dinner - but we'd had headwinds and I was running late, and there were people to catch, and.... When I saw the ride come 'round again I really wanted to do it, but thought to myself: "There MUST be a better way!".
And I was right. I'm taking a page from my STP playbook and doing the "U-Turn 400", instead. For those of you who don't know, I "crewed" STP for David Bradley, who was riding to raise funds for sarcoma awareness (and here's a link to his writeup of the event). For that event, the strategy was for me to sag the vehicle forward, ride backwards on the course until I met David, and "escort" him to the van. Since I was totally committed to being the Most Worthless Sag Driver Ever (as in, David was only going to need me if he couldn't do it, so I was damned glad to be not needed), I'd ride ahead with him, making a second "U-turn" after ten miles or so and then heading back to get the van.
So - that's what I'm going to do tomorrow. I'm going to start, from home, at the appointed (ungodly, probably 5AM but I haven't actually dared to look, yet) hour, heading north to Marcola, Sweet Home, and probably somewhere around Larwood, where I should encounter oncoming (southbound) randos.
I'll turn around and ride with them (hey, if I stick with the first group I may score a meatloaf sandwich at the Mohawk store this time 'round!), and probably do my second U-turn in Albany, or maybe go a little further if I'm feeling really energetic.
That plan should give me somewhere close to 400, save me a lot of time, and make Cog a little happier.

Monday, August 2, 2010, Bonding issues, and a Great Product Review

I've been busy. Not SUPER busy, but busy enough. High summer is here in Oregon – gotta admit my favorite time of the year. The weather is predictable, warm and sunny. What's NOT to like?

I've been fortunate to be able to get out and crew a couple of really cool events. First, I crewed David Bradley of Team Raven Lunatics to an STP finish. This doesn't sound so impressive until you remember that David has been pretty danged sick (it's not some grand coincidence that we're raising funds for the Liddy Shriver Sarcoma Initiative) and that he'd not had a ride over 50 miles or so since February 2008.

Weekend before last I crewed Joan Grant to her RAO finish. Great race, great folks, great crew, amazing racer. Hats off to Joan! This was my 11th successful RAO campaign. I've crew chiefed 6 times and raced 5, with no DNFs. Given that course that's a pretty amazing record to be putting on the line – but I never felt like the streak was in jeopardy. I don't crew for junk!

And I'm making a couple of moves personally. The big one is that I am launching into self-employment again. I'll be providing coaching services and training and nutrition plans for distance cyclists. I'm also going to be putting on some very cool camps, rides, and events. Watch for content showing up at very soon (as of now, it's a parked domain). My first “practice” event is coming up soon: a double century on September 18. As David says, every state should have AT LEAST as many DC's as it does congressional districts. Oregon is seriously behind, especially since STP only gets half credit, at most. The Tillamook DC is a free event in 2010 – I'm looking at is as being 'in beta' so I'll be looking for feedback – but we'll be accepting donations for the Sarcoma Initiative.

I've been training – not super hard, just enough to keep my fitness. The real push starts now. I'm getting ready for a fall 24 hour race. I love 24's – probably my best “distance” event if I'm being totally honest with myself – and so I've vowed to solve a few of the logistics issues that always bug me. Like – lights. I've always made do with lights, because I've not wanted to invest in something that's pretty unimportant for my crewed races. I've seen people show up at 24's with a blaze of light and wondered if it might help. I'm going to find out. More on that later....

Great weekend of riding. Sort of. I had a weird equipment failure 30 miles into my Saturday (daytime) ride. I was riding a trispoke wheel – one that I had (loosely) borrowed but did not have a history on. It was looking great – shiny and black, with a brand-new pink tire. I even switched the pink cassette over for it, just because...

Oh, we were having fun, that wheel and I. I was going to ride up to Corvallis, hang out and visit a friend. And I was flying. What headwind? I could hear the wheel 'whush-whush-whush' as I rode, and I've got to admit I liked that...

I got to Peoria and made a pee stop (new motto: “Cyclists Put the 'P' in Peoria” - since we always stop at the boat ramp vault toilet...). When I got back on the bike, the first power stroke felt kinda funny – like an automotive belt slipping. And – I didn't go anywhere. Weird...Tried again. Same slipping sensation. I looked the bike over and couldn't see back on, rode GENTLY – a little slipping, but rideable.

By now I was a lot closer to Corvallis than Eugene, so I decided to get to a bike shop there. I figured, maybe the freehub had given up? Acceleration was impossible, as was climbing. For those of you who know Peoria Road, you'll appreciate the irony of the girl on the recumbent having to walk a couple of the steeper 'hills'. (For those of you who don't, it's the flattest piece of pavement in the western half of the state.....)

Imagine my surprise when I discovered that the reason the wheel was slipping was that the hub shell had come unglued from the carbon part of the wheel! Another 'bonding issue'! Why can't carbon and aluminum just learn to get along? Of course the kid in the shop advised me that it was not safe to ride, and of course I did, anyway. The option was to buy a new wheel – and they didn't have anything I'd want. I figured if I got at least halfway and bailed out with cab fare I'd be ahead.

So – a forty mile “slow race” with myself to get home. I could spin, but not accelerate. I could only start in places where I could get a gravity assist - and I was not going to be doing any hard cornering given the fact that my wheel might end up someplace unpleasant. And, again, I had to walk the 'hills'. But I made it, and since there was a tailwind it only took an extra hour.

So...I re-mounted my (suddenly plain and uninspiring) original rear wheel, had some dinner, did some quick cleanup around the house, and set off for my night ride. I had been looking forward to this. I just got a new light. It's purpose-built for 24-hour racing – designed to give over 12 hours of great light without a battery change. A double-win over my usual setup: MUCH more usable light, and time saved in battery swaps.

If you've not been keeping track, LED technology is moving by leaps and bounds. That's one of the reasons I went with Trail LED lights ( Grady – the man behind the brand – is a perfect example of PWMTOS. He looked at the available options for lights and knew that there was a lot more emerging technology that could be used to make them better. He got so good at it that he became a PWSSTM (Person Who Sells Stuff They Make...). The system is scalable, customizable, and upgradable. He spent quite a bit of time understanding my needs and getting his head wrapped around exactly how I'd want to mount things on a recumbent bike.

Unfortunately, the day “my” light was supposed to ship (oooh - did I forget to mention that they come in pink?) I got a frantic email from Grady. My light failed QC – something was wrong with the electronics package, and he needed to replace a part. So he did what any outstanding customer service department would do – he sent me his demo unit via overnight express so that I'd have something for the overnight training ride I had planned.

Wow. Someone who actually pays attention to QC, doesn't let defective stuff out the door, and takes care of my main need – having a light and getting experience with it – even when things go wrong. I'm bummed about the main issue, but pretty stoked overall.

The demo light arrived Friday. It was nicely packaged and well protected, fully charged and ready to ride. It looks cool...the light is small, the switches are very businesslike and weatherproof...and – holy conformal coatings, Batman! Check out the battery pack. A really nice piece of work there. I've heard about other manufacturers' lights crapping out the first time they get rained on – it doesn't look like that's a possibility.

The instructions were very easy to follow. The light and battery pack attach with simple velcro straps. The setup I had didn't have a remote, which is how I'm ordering mine – clean and simple – though a remote option exists for people who want to entertain themselves by micromanaging their lumens. Setup was very straightforward; the lighthead attached securely to the TerraCycle Accessory Mount using one of the supplied pump straps (I'll have to cut it down a little when “mine” arrives) and the battery pack attaches to the main spar, between the headmast and the crank. The supplied pump straps were barely too short for the oversized carbon tubes, so I used a Jogalite reflective leg band – perfect!

And off we go, into the dark. The demo unit is capable of 700 lumens of output, but Grady has reprogrammed it to emulate my setup – 500/250 high/low settings – so that I can practice with the light I'll be racing with. The low setting is a lot of light. I had to re-adjust the light a few times to get the beam out far enough, but it's really easy to adjust. I really hadn't trusted how far out the thing would project so I'd undershot.

Unfortunately, I got to discover that since the light mounts and dismounts in seconds, it is very feasible to use it as a 'work light' for flat repair. I'd considered a helmet-mounted light just for that reason but I think I made the right choice; I really prefer a bike-mounted light.

I got 5 laps in on the Coburg TT course before I concluded that I was not going to outlast the battery, so I decided to switch to high beams for the last lap. One of the things that I knew I wanted for this light was the ability to amp up the light output if I start to get sleepy – often just having more light out there will improve my alertness. The high setting was amazing. I was seeing a lot more 'stuff' – by which I mean that the level of detail I could see and process about the road surface and the surroundings was a lot greater. There were suddenly a lot more animals by the side of the road – and no, it wasn't because I was starting to hallucinate. I may have even saved myself a 'skunking'! Riding beady eyes in the road, directly in my path. A few seconds later – NO green beady eyes. And then – the striped flag, flying proudly....WHOA, NELLY! I don't know if the low light setting would've been enough to illuminate that skunk's backside, but I'm sure that my MiNewt wouldn't have picked it up before I was in range.

After a good night's riding I loaded the bike up into Eggplant and drove home. After riding with the TrailLed light, I felt pretty naked with “just” the car headlights – I had to switch to high beams for the drive home! So far I'm pretty impressed.