Category Archives: Cycling

An update for Tuesday July 10, 2012

Riding to work was fine. I am trying to think of something interesting from the commute, but, um, I’m drawing a blank. It’s funny because I remember a few years ago in 2006 when I first started riding my bike to work that I thought it was fast to go 15 – 18 miles per hour on the way there. Today, I was up around 23-24 most of the time. I also used to use the middle front ring but now I use the big ring the whole way. And, I never go lower than 4th gear in the back.

So, it’s just nice to think of the progress I have made. I sometimes wish I had a faster bike to ride to work. But, well, it would still need to be strong. The streets are rough down by the school. Once you get below Foothill Blvd, about halfway, the asphalt is bumpy, rutted, cracked, and crumbling in places. Besides that, there, like, pieces of metal everywhere down there; washers, bolts, wires, nails, staples, screws, and other random things litter the shoulder of the road. Of course, you also have rocks and glass, too. I don’t know that I would like to ride my Allez down there. I feel like a racing bike would get beat to death.

I had wanted to get a nice touring type of bike, or a cyclocross bike. Specialized makes one called the Tricross that I liked. Also, there’s the Trek 520. I seriously considered the Surly Long Haul Trucker as well, and often think this would be the best choice. I have a thing for Specialized bikes. I admit it. I don’t know if it’s just marketing, well, I’m sure that’s some of it, actually. But, I have put a lot of miles on my Stumpjumper and my Allez. They work well and were affordable for the quality. If I could afford to get an Orbea or a Turner, I probably would. Trek is a good company, too. My commuter bike is a Trek. But, that Surly looks good. It looks like I could ride it every day for a month over hundreds or thousands of miles.

My dream touring bike is a Rivendell, or similar, Atlantis. Steel frames, hand-built, and full of awesome details and loving craftsmanship. If I had a bunch of money, that is what I would get. And, my dream racing bike is a high end carbon bike from Orbea, Look, BMC, or Colnago. Those kind of bikes they ride in the Pros. So pretty.

I have never considered a Cannondale. Why? I friend and bike store employee referred to them as Crackandfail back in the day. That stuck with me. Since then, I have never looked seriously at any Cannondale bikes. Totally irrational of me, I know.

My knee hurt less today on the way back. No idea why. I have been thinking about it, though, and back in ’05, when I was riding 3 to 5 days a week, I recall riding up Lytle Creek road and being concerned about knee pain. But, then, I don’t remember it persisting. I felt some tightness in my right hamstring muscle, too. I babied myself a bit on the way home today because of it. I see no point in pushing it and getting a full-blown pulled muscle. It’s weird because sometimes my legs feel like they have their strength back. Then, I get this knee pain or hamstring tightness and I am reminded that I had a lot of time off the bike. It will be interesting to see how long it takes me to get back to where I used to be.

Weight-wise, I am down to about 190 or so. That’s a net loss of at least 7 pounds. It will be deceptive, though because I am adding muscle and that weighs more than fat. I am keeping and eye on the waistline. I was as low as a 32 2006/2007, so, I would like to get back there. I’m getting close to 34 right now. That feels good.

I installed fenders on my wife’s bike tonight. They look okay. I wasn’t happy with it, but that’s another story and I’m getting sleepy. Maybe next time I will talk about it.


Does a knee brace look pro?

Rode in to work today. Yesterday I rested after the 43 mile ride on Saturday. A rest day can make a big difference! I felt very strong and fast coming to work today! According to my cyclometer, I averaged 17.5 mph and hit 31 mph max speed. Not bad. But, my legs felt fresh and strong. I didn’t really push it at all and still made it here in 24 minutes. My wife passed me in the car once, but I caught her at two different lights!

When training, it’s important to rest some days, especially after a big ride. This is what lets the muscles repair themselves and be stronger.

My knee felt better. My right knee has been uncomfortable on the last few rides. I think my saddle was way too low. I got on the bike today and felt very high up! So, I will ride this a while and see how it goes. Oddly, my left knee has been fine. I’m a little concerned I am just getting old and have a bad knee. I used to like hiking and running but my knees didn’t. Cycling never bothered my knees until now. Another possibility is that I just need to keep getting stronger and my knees will be fine. I wore knee warmers today to see if that helped. Joints need protection, even when it’s not that cold out, at least until you get the blood flowing.


Made my way home. Some parts were great. One stretch isn’t too steep, but it’s still uphill, and I was maintaining 18 mph. Knee hurt later. A bit. Not bad. I have tried raising my saddle, watching the way I pedal, checking my cleat position. I did a little research and chondromalacia of the patella sounds like a possibility. I know I’m not a doctor but it sounds similar. Good news is that strengthening my quad and hamstring muscles is a treatment, as well. I might try a brace and see if that helps. If it does, it would mean that it is likely something happening with my patella.

Weird thing, if I forget to pay attention to the way I pedal, I don’t notice it hurting until I try to make sure I pedal “right” again.

I don’t remember my knee hurting like this, except early in my training last time. So, maybe that’s all it is, is a weakness of the tendons in there or something. I hope so. I hope I’m not getting old and showing signs of arthritis.

Fenders came in for my wife’s bike. Yes! Fenders are the bomb! I would put fenders on my racing bike, too, if I could. I haven’t looked, actually, but I wouldn’t do it because it wouldn’t be “pro” and is against the rules.

I think a knee brace would look pro as long as it matched my saddle color.

The Goal – Going Cycling Again

Back in 2005/2006, I had been cycling quite a bit. I was mountain biking and road biking, both. Probably I was on the dirt a bit more. But, I logged a lot miles, either way. It began when I realized I was over 200 lbs. and I just felt weak. Actually, that’s not true. What happened was I was teaching a Drama class and we were working on Improv. In an improvised scene, anything can happen. And, since the students always wanted me to act with them, I was in the scene. It seemed that every class had one or two kids that lacked a mental filter to keep them from saying something awful. I was on stage with one of those kids. I don’t remember her name, but I remember that she had an awful childhood, full of moving from city to city, mom going to jail, dad not in the picture, low income, that kinda stuff. I don’t think either parent were really there for her. But, she loved Drama, even though she had an attitude and a mouth on her. This day, she and I were arguing in the scene. She let it get personal and said something like, “Are you six months pregnant or something?” to me. I didn’t let it show, but it really bothered me. So, I got my dusty old hard-tail mountain bike out of the garage and started riding. I rode up Beech from Baseline to Summit. That’s 3 miles and uphill. Not terribly steep, but it’s up. I swear, I thought I was gonna die. I was struggling to go 3 miles an hour, as if I was climbing some peak in The Pyrenees. But, I knew this had to be done. I had always enjoyed riding bikes and got into it now and then. I hadn’t really ridden in five years or more at that point. Athletically, I’m not very big, although, compared to Jaquizz Rodgers, Reggie Bush, or Maurice Jones Drew, I’m tall enough to be a running back. In any case, I was never much good at most sports. I tried playing basketball (ha ha!) and soccer in high school, but only was good at Cross Country running. I wasn’t fast, but I always finished. When our team trained by running 10 miles in the Glendora hills, I recall the coaches remarking that, unlike several others, I had finished the run instead of quitting. So, I rode my bike. I made a goal to ride 3 times a week, at least 45 minutes each time. I held to the goal and eventually started losing weight. I bought a real mountain bike, a full-suspension model, and started riding local trails. I hooked up with new friends via They were faster and stronger. So, I trained more. I increased the distance I could ride. I found that dirt miles were harder because of the difficulty of the terrain. It seemed like 5 miles on the dirt felt like 15 on the road.

I started riding my bike to work. This made a huge difference. I was riding further and faster all the time. My friends took me on the trails in the Angeles forest. I got tired of having people wait for me all the time, so, I pushed myself even more. Weekends were long rides, weekdays, training, riding hard to and from work. Where once I was going uphill at 3 miles an hour, now I was going 15 miles an hour, uphill, carrying a change of clothes and my work laptop. I got a bike trailer and towed my kids with it.

At the peak, I was able to ride a full century (100 miles) or 30 miles on the dirt. I rode the Amtrak Century from Irvine to San Diego. That was amazing! I remember finishing the ride with a lap around Sea World and couldn’t believe I did that! I also rode The Cannell Plunge which was about 25 miles of very challenging trail. Heck, I did it twice, and it was much easier the second time around!

People weren’t waiting for me any more. I wasn’t the fastest, but I wasn’t the slowest. I had to wait for other people. It was nice. So, what happened? Well, the short version is I got divorced. For one thing, it took a lot of emotional energy to deal with the divorce. It sucked because cycling is something that helped me a lot during hard times. In fact, the day after my ex-wife told me she hated being married to me and that she was only staying with me because we had kids (that was a pretty big shock to me as I had thought we were in love — oh and that’s an awful reason to stay married, by the way) I had taken a long mountain bike ride by myself into the hills above Lytle Creek. I was devastated, occasionally sobbing aloud, but also soothed by the dirt, the wind, the trees, and the rustle in the bushes. I often had seen red-tailed hawks riding the currents during my rides and today I found one keeping me company. A mile up the trail, a single hawk feather lay in the trail center. I picked it up and kept it. It seemed, at the time, as if even the hawk wanted me to feel better. But, the divorce was nasty and consumed great amounts of time and money, far more than was necessary. I rode less. On the days I had my kids, I didn’t want to ride so I could spend time with them, be there for them. And, on the other days, I felt to tired to put miles in. I would ride now and then, sporadically, but not enough. My job at work made it tough to ride there anymore. I needed a car, also, to pick up the kids from day care or from their mother. So, bicycle commuting made less sense. Recently, I found that my weight was up again. It wasn’t a news flash. But, once I hit 197, I knew something had to be done. I was using the elliptical but it was boring and I wasn’t doing it enough. I was eating too much. And my bikes were gathering dust. I pulled out my old commuting bike, my first mountain bike now outfitted with fenders and a rear rack, and I went riding again.

So, for a month or so now, I’ve been riding again. I have been riding to work and back, hooked up with my old friend Mike to ride some dirt, too.

I made a goal. I’m going to be able to ride a century again by November. I signed up for the Highlander Century as part of the Tour de Foothills. I think I can do it. I am going to be riding as often as possible. I’m planning to ride to work again, and to do longer rides on the weekends. I want to ride the Palm Springs century, and hopefully the Death Valley century, too. Riding has been going okay. I didn’t lose as much as I feared I did. My legs are coming back and I rode with the Cycling Connection on Saturday. I wasn’t terribly fast, but I completed 43 miles and didn’t feel too bad afterwards. I can average 13 miles an hour coming home from work, which is pretty good. If I try, I can make the round trip to and from work in an hour and two minutes. That’s pretty good for now. I really like cycling. I like the feeling of doing something that not everyone can or will do, whether it’s riding 100 miles at once or riding a dirt trail that is too challenging. I like the feeling of the wind in my face, my legs pushing the pedals, and feeling that power translating out the back wheel. I like seeing the city from two wheels. I like the endorphin high you get during and after the ride, when all feels right with the world. I like the simplicity of the bicycle, a machine unrivaled in its efficiency. I like riding a bike around. I have even been teaching myself to work on the bike. So far, I have overhauled hubs, overhauled the rear shock on my mountain bike, trued my wheels, cleaned and lubed my chains, changed tires and tubes, changed seats, adjusted my deraileurs, and so on. It’s not much but I’m getting there. So, this week, I will be riding to work Monday through Thursday. I will probably take Friday off, but I’m planning to ride again on Saturday, hopeful a long ride with the Cycling Connection. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Garage workspace improvement

I cleaned the garage and moved some stuff around so I could make some place to work on my bikes. I want to ride regularly which means I need to work on my bikes regularly. I am realizing that some things, like cleaning and lubricating the chain seem obvious, but that I can save myself some money and heartbreak if I will service my hubs and other drivetrain components.

I installed some work lights. No big deal. I did the poorman’s electrical job and strung some heavy duty extension cord to get power to the lights. A few screws and done. But now I have some light in the garage.

I put some of my tools on the wall. It was just a lark, to begin with. Then, it seemed like a good idea. I don’t waste time fishing around for the right size box wrench any more.

I wish I had clean carpeting in there. But, the dirty carpets will have to do for now. Why carpet? Well, I drop little nuts and bolts all the time. They don’t bounce as far when they hit carpet instead of hard concrete.

Hub overhauls

I thought it would be a good idea to overhaul the hubs on my bikes. To start, I have a Trek 830 from 1994. The front hub is a Joytech with cups and cones. Pretty standard. I have serviced it once before. If you know anything about bikes you know this is a horrible terrible lack of maintenance. What can I say? I’m learning. The rear hub is a Shimano STX FH-MC32. It takes 1/4 inch bearings. The front is a Joytech hub and takes 3/16 inch bearings. These appear to be a kind of standard bearing size.

The rear was a pain in the ass. I think I messed up my dust covers taking them off and putting them on wrong.

Pro Tip! Get a string and tie a big washer or nut to one end. Then, as you take off the nuts, washers, cups and so on, from the axle, you will know how they went on and off. You could probably even degrease them right on the string so you aren’t an idiot like me and spend an hour or two trying to figure out how they go back.

Pro Tip! Take pictures of the stuff on and off the bike so you can see how it was to begin with. Makes it easier than spending an hour or two trying to figure it out like I did.

I’m getting some thin rubber gloves to wear because grease and stuff all over my hands is lame.