Road Bikes and Recumbents

Bikes are the big scary question mark right now. Not only do we have bikes in need of repairs (me) and an overhaul (Russ), but we’re also going to need recumbents to ride half time so we can vary our physical positions, body stresses and sit spots to stay healthy and riding. I’m not really sure what we’re going to be able to do about it either. In the comparatively low end bike price range, the repair or replace decision comes at a lower price point simply because it doesn’t take many parts to add up to a purchase price, especially when there are service costs as well. But, the photo above is the stock that was available when I took my bike in for repairs a few months back. It kind of makes the decision for you, as long as there are parts to be had. I haven’t been in super recently, but, I’m still hearing cyclists talk about waiting several months for ordered bikes.

There are certain maintenance activities we’ll need to be doing constantly. For instance, tires will last between 1,500 and 2,500 miles without road damage. That’s 7-10 weeks at the rate we will be riding when we’re up and running in full project mode. I’m keeping my eyes open in the used market. That search will likely be constant so that equipment never causes us down time. Unless we move up in price range, we will likely make several repair or replace decisions over the course of the project. It is harder to find second hand bikes that are compatible for riding together, especially with our above average height requirements.

To back track for a minute, our current bikes are Giant brand. They are good bikes when in repair, well above department store quality, but ours are at the bottom end of what good bike shops offer and serious cyclists expect. Giant is considered a pretty good quality in the lower price ranges, but a lot of brands make good bikes, and fortunately, we’d happy with any of them too.

I have two bikes. One is a hybrid that I was riding the first time I trained for a century. Later, I bought a road bike, to be able to keep up with Russ on his road bike. Speed is increasingly important the more mileage a rider does, not just because we’re riding together and pacing each other. It’s also about number of hours in the saddle.

Recently I was without the road bike for almost a year and I brought the hybrid back from my mother’s where I was using it when visiting. Riding it again felt like an old friend and early photographs of this project might have either bike. I need the faster bike though. So, I sucked it up and made the appointment to fix the road bike. Shop repairs where I bought the bike are by appointment through the pandemic.

I spent about three quarters of the original purchase price on parts and service. It was much closer to the repair or replace mark than I realized. I’ve broken spokes without obvious cause recently and it may need new wheels soon. That could be due to the rough riding surfaces when the trail was full of storm litter though. It could just be that the wear parts have worn. I’m riding it exclusively since the repairs. One thing I noticed when I got the road bike back is that it was quieter. Keeping the adjustments properly made and replacing the cassette as soon as it’s worn will be important to reducing unwanted ambient noise while recording (and it helps to keep the bike faster too :). We’ll need to get better at doing that ourselves.

Russ’ bike, was at the repair or replace point before he crashed it. I really think he would have replaced if they had any stock, or even had any on the way. Then the question is, would he have crashed his new bike, or would the new bike have handled the road trash better and kept him from crashing?

The pandemic rush on bikes could result in a flood of second hand bikes at just the right time. Our second hand search handicap is not knowing enough about bike brands and models to know which bikes/models might be better. Bicycle Blue Book could help to know what the right price should be, but I’ve heard some scepticism on it’s accuracy and we don’t know enough to have our own opinions. My pet peeve is quickly becoming people who sell bikes without listing the size.

Then too, I learned from experience that it’s easy to accidentally get a bike that needs a lot of repairs, and the shops don’t cut you any deals on repairs if you didn’t buy the bike from them. I’m afraid that the combination of Russ’ height needs (he’s 6’6″), current market availabilities, and our need to be on bikes that perform well and similarly enough for us to ride together will push us higher in price ranges.

Recumbents

Choosing a recumbent is daunting, and not just a little. Really. There are good guides, but many recumbents are order online propositions and we’re talking about the difference between book knowledge and experience. When I buy a regular bike, first, I have experience riding one and second, I’m at a shop where I can test ride it in the parking lot. They’re too expensive to experiment. I need to get it right on the first try. I joined some facebook groups to see what I could figure out, but they were different enough in focus as to be unhelpful.

We narrowed it down a little. We thought about tandems from time to time, but finding one of those in the right size is likely to mean custom, and I’ve always been a little afraid I’d be a slacker (without intending to) on a tandem. A tandem could be fun for a lark on some other occasion, but when I consider that one of us might need to go for help or the car, that settles it. Sticking with separate bikes/recumbents also leaves us open to put cameras on each bike, potentially doubling our videos without doubling travel cost or time.

So, bike or trike? I like to maintain core muscles and all things being equal would choose a two wheel recumbent, but I think the three contact points of a medium to long wheelbase trike will offer greater camera stability, and smaller micromovements. What I mean by that is the midpoint between all three wheels. Needing less camera image stabilization is a huge factor in producing good video and that is the point.

Fantasy Island

I don’t even know what Fantasy Island looks like for the bikes. There are so many uncertainties. Fantasy Island doesn’t include automatic shifting (I’ll never learn to do it better myself that way) or electric assist. I”d like for us to ride road bikes in one direction, store them, and ride a recumbents in the other direction. That way, we won’t need automobile back up and will get good temporal spacing on videos. I haven’t decided if I want to try to set up cameras at the same height for both bikes, or if I want to have two different perspectives. I’m leaning toward different perspectives for practicality and variety. Any helmet cams or chest cams will clearly be at different heights. But those things will sort once we see what we have to work with.

The bikes need to be strong, fast, quiet, stable, safe and comfortable. We’ll need panniers for the road bikes I don’t usually care about color unless it’s heinous. I did notice Russ riding in front one day in a lime green Jersey. It looked so much like chromakey green that I thought about coloring everything, kit and equipment in chromakey green so that they could be easily removed at some point if anyone wants. I don’t know that anyone would, but options sometimes turn into actions.

Training Tuesday October 27- November 2

Goal    99 miles

Actual Total  79 miles

1st Ride 34 miles

2nd Ride 17 miles

3rd Ride 28 miles

Week Total  79 miles

1st Ride  I tried out the full gloves that I normally wear only in winter. I didn’t need them from a temperature standpoint, but they have thick dense padding that kept the bite/knot in my palm from hurting. I think there were enough spaces between pads to relieve the pressure. It was nice to move toward a longer ride again, but the ride reminded me that I need to be looking at a recumbent and continuing to lose weight. From reading, those two things seem to be the ones that have the potential to relieve foot problems I’m having.

Hurricane Zeta wasn’t on my list of potential setbacks. I mean, hurricanes come through every decade or so, but we’d had one recently. It came through 36 hours after the first ride and it usually takes at least another day or two to clear the trails. It was the longest I’ve been living in a habitable house without power. While wondering if we were going to lose everything in 2 large freezers would have been a great time for excessive riding if the trails had been in better condition.

2nd Ride   The trails were closed in some places. We rode where we expected to have the best chance of few tree falls. It was about half good (near pastures and roadways), and half thick leaf litter combined with pecans, acorns, green sweet gum balls, walnuts and dead limbs. The nuts were still in husks and large. Nothing to worry about on a MTB, but on my skinny tire road bikes are designed for clean pavement. As we rode, our bikes would frequently shift 4 or so inches without warning as we rode over trail litter. These things are easy to miss when the trails are mostly clean. I’m missing a spoke. At one point I rode over a 4 inch diameter dead limb, I was sure that the bike, or I was about to end the ride abruptly, but I stayed upright.

3rd Ride  It was cool and took me a little while to warm up, but once I did it felt good. I felt a lot stronger than I was at the start and if I had the time, I would have ridden farther. The cold didn’t feel as cold as I expected it to, and that felt like progress in my fitness too. I’m likely to be able to expand my temperature based riding limits (ride comfortably at lower temperatures) and that’s good for the long term outlook of the project. This week I could have made goal and felt good afterward without the hurricane.

The photo is of a dead pine tree. It had beetle damage and was covered in poison ivy. When it rains, the tree becomes waterlogged and the locally 50+ MPH winds of Hurricane Zeta blew it down. These trees seem like they should be lightweight because they are dead, but the holes hold water during the storm and as they fall they are heavy like a live tree, so just as dangerous. The poison ivy is losing its leaves because it’s fall, but the resin in the stems remains potent. Scrubbing skin well after contact with something made for the purpose like Technu (my favorite), or any good soap made to cut grease, sap or resin like this guy. Unlike this guy, I do avoid contact because I’m not confident I’ll get it all of when washing. The sap also remains active on things it touches, so if you’ve made contact, wash your clothes promptly and don’t let them rub on things that anyone will touch.

Training Tuesday October 7-12

Goal    99 miles, or whatever gets me back in the swing.

Actual Total  miles 48

1st Ride 14 miles

2nd Ride 16 miles

3rd Ride 18 miles

The bug I had hung on for a bit. I was tired enough to fall asleep while sitting up a couple of days in a row, so it wasn’t a great week. Back to back health issues wasn’t the most fun either, but, hey, there was no point where I thought “This feels different from anything I’ve had before, I wonder if it’s Covid?” While I stayed home a little more and was a little extra careful just in case it turned for the worse, there was no time when a Dr would have suggested that I be tested.

Nearing the end of the training week, I was feeling well enough to ride in the rain, but Russ was dragging too. Before we got too far we cut it short. The last wave of Hurricane Delta’s was due to bring in the deluge before long, but I stopped to take a picture. The skeleton on the white bike changes props a bit from time to time, but, it’s always there. I think it’s gallows humor intended to call attention to the a sheer drop behind it. No one wants to be the reason a ghost bike memorial was placed. The skeleton on the stump is a little Halloween extra.

While I was taking the photo I called out to Russ that I was stopping. That set off the resident dog, who barked up a little phone tree like reaction among dogs all around us and stirred the Great Pyrenees that was out previously ignoring us. He moved in hot pursuit of me, but didn’t quite catch me. It was the biggest thing that’s ever chased me, but I was more wary years back when a German Shepard came after me. I read a Silver Comet review recently complaining about dogs and thought that dog issues are actually rare. Since then, I’ve had as many dogs chase me as I’ve had in the previous 2 decades of riding on the trail. We made it back to the car wet and had a lot of trail grit slung on every part of us, but no canine wounds.

It was a sluggish week, but I’m feeling optimistic for 99 miles next week

Training Tuesday August 25-31

Training Tuesday     August 25-31

Goal    67 miles, still shifting toward 2 longer rides

Actual Total 67.5 miles

Wednesday 26th, 24 miles

Thursday 27nd  14.5 miles

Saturday 29th 29 miles

I planned to go out on Tuesday the 25th, but there were heavy thundershowers all day. I was restless and ready to go. By the time Wednesday got here, I was dragging. Sometimes it’s difficult to sleep the night before a ride. I don’t know if it’s related, or just more irritating because I’m sensitive about being rested. I didn’t sleep much and was already dragging when I went out with little rest and a deadline for when I had to be home. I had hoped to stretch the longest rides longer in keeping with my goal to reduce the number of days I drive 97 miles, but on this first ride it became obvious that wasn’t happening this week.

The middle ride is where I put my added 10% of miles this week. I did that on the Greenway. More about that later.

The 29 mile trip this week was from Rockmart to Cedartown and back again, just like last week, except that we stuck an extra mile in there. Pirkle’s Deli saved my helmet for us and we came back with it hanging on handlebar. I think we handled the hills a little better this time, but we started late and I got overheated.

I’m looking at where I am in training and where Russ is. He’s building some of his cardio fitness running, and I think that will be ok in the end. I made goal, but mostly because I had a 3rd day riding in a location that makes me uncomfortable. I like riding 3 days for the distribution of heartbeats. It’s just the fossil fuels I’m burning and the pain in my pocketbook. I like riding in what used to be my go-to location. It’s a pretty winding streambed with good wildlife viewing. But, there’s always a bottle neck or 3 where people who are walking 2 or 3 abreast (or in even bigger family groups) meet other people walking 2 or 3 abreast in the other direction while cyclists allergic to braking enter the mess, as though they could just change states of matter and slide right on through. None of the people who fail to yield or walk single file are ever in the 1 or 2% who wear masks. Covid transmission is a lot less likely outdoors, but, if someone who’s sloughing contagion breathes on you in one of these bottlenecks, well, the damp humid Georgia air is going to transmit it better than any other kind of air, and there’s no way to plan for the traffic jam on a curvy, unevenly crowded path.

I’m looking for a better riding mask solution (sewing project on the way), but that’s still something that protects other people from anything I might have much better than it protects me from them. It’s the people who don’t think about others who have the habits that make them more likely to be contagious and transmitting. Every time I ride that path, I think I won’t do it again until I’ve had a vaccine that I’m confident about.

I’m also trying to figure out how I’m going to shift to accommodate both reality and goals. I don’t want a start date that could actually be anything I choose to push me into riding where there are frequent bottlenecks. I’m looking at some potential shifts, thinking of making 60 a significant number. I may start my recorded full trail rides on or near my birthday at the end of January, when I’ll be 60, and then do it for 60 weeks. That would give me 3 or more extra weeks to be ready. We’ll see. The weather in January could make for delays even if I’m trained and ready on the first. And, at the end of 52 weeks, who knows how I’ll feel. I won’t be able to quit cold turkey, but an extra 8 weeks of full time could feel like an eternity by then.