Curse the wind . . .

My friend J. and I went riding on Saturday afternoon, 4-20-13. I don’t think I have ridden in worse winds in a very long time. There were times in our 17 mile loop that the wind pushed so hard against my handlebars that I was wobbling on the road. Thankfully we were on back roads out around Creagerstown, MD. There was little traffic, and lots of hill work.

It was a pretty ride, with lots of interesting animals and scenery. I am actually looking forward to doing some more of it at another time.

We ended up cutting the ride short due to time and other constraints. But, I do want to do the whole 42 mile loop.


Vulturous Velocity on a Phine and Pheasant evening.

So, last night as I was pedaling around my usual 10-12 mile loop, I scared up a vulture from his “snack, which was located alongside the road in a black plastic bag.  The meal the vulture was consuming was an old, nasty deer carcass in a bag that someone had thrown over the side back in the winter.  The vulture wasn’t the first to gorge from that carcass – I had startled a hawk away from that bag several weeks ago.  By now, however, with the warmer weather, the carcass had really begun to smell disgusting. 

As I road past it, the bird flew up with a great whoosh of wing feathers, coming to roost in  a nearby tree, eyeing me with irritation as I pedaled by the site.  I didn’t bother to look back to see if he came back to eat some more.

I also saw a pheasant last night while out riding.  It was the first one I had seen in several years, since they have become pretty scarce in my area.  It appeared to be a young bird, as the coloring was a bit diluted looking and pale.  No, it was not a hen, since hen pheasants have almost no color to them. I was glad to see him as he strutted across the road. 

The bird life in the area is nice to see, especially after a long and cold winter.

Now go ride your bike!!!

A Word About Fenders

Fenders are an integral part of my own personal riding preference. Of the 10 or so bikes that I own, better than half of them have fenders on board. If they are ones I have built or have had built, I make sure there is room for fenders before I ever build them. The bikes that I own that do not have fenders on them typically do not have room under the brake bridges to include fenders as part of their daily appearance. For those bikes, I keep a set of SKS Race Blades (strap-on fenders) around so that if the weather has been unpleasant or wet, I can still keep the road grime off me and my drive train.

Why the fixation with fenders?

Several reasons.

1. Protection from road grime and objects. I personally hate have road grime, small pebbles, and other garbage sticking to my legs. In the summer, I sweat enough that dirt and small stones stick to my legs and leave me looking as if I have unreasonably dark legs and nothing else. I also just don’t like feeling that sticky, if I can help it. Additionally, I don’t have to worry about the skunk-striped appearance of the back of my jacket or jersey if I have fenders on the bike.

2. Protecting paint and drivetrain. Fenders are good protection against things jumping into the drivetrain of your bike and also from keeping larger objects from impacting your down tube, fork crown, fork legs, and other areas. Fenders also will funnel water away from you and also your drivetrain should you be bicycling in foul weather. Instead of having wet, clammy feet that are uncomfortable and also having a wet and then rusted drivetrain, you will be some drier if you have fenders on the bike.
3. Appearance. Some bikes just beg for fenders. For instance – I have a late 70’s – early 80’s Kabuki Bridgestone HT that just absolutely begged for a set of fenders in chrome. I obliged, since I had an old set, and it really added to the vintage look of the bike, as well as adding the functionality of protection against the elements. I also have three touring bikes that wear fenders constantly (a giant OCR touring, custom-built Nashbar frame, and Salsa Fargo) and, to my eyes, wouldn’t look right without them. I’m also putting fenders on my Surly Troll just as a matter of personal preference.

Types of Fenders

I’ve ridden with many types of fenders. I’ve used everything from SKS Raceblades to Cascadias and multiple narrower styles on various types of bikes. Some were better than others. For instance, the Cascadias I have on the Fargo are some of the best I’ve had as far as coverage and prevention of wearing mud and objects. They were also some of the easier ones to install, even over disc brake mounts. The hammered Velo Oranges I have on the Nashbar touring frame, on the other hand, are quite attractive and get many compliments. Once they were properly fitted, they were fine, but they were hard to put on and required a lot of fiddly work to get them right. There have been several other types and styles, but they were close enough in type and size that those areas were non-issues. For the most part, if you have the proper size fenders for your brake bridge and tire size, the fenders will offer protection from the wet and also from dirt and other objects.

As far as added weight, most fenders are light enough that unless you are a road racing sort, or doing serious downhill, the weight is really a non-issue. If your bike has appropriate attachment points, you should consider adding fenders to your bike. For a minimum trade-off in weight, you can have reasonable protection from dirt and other elements while you ride.

Craft of Sweden Active Bike Rain Jacket

craft jacket

From Craft of Sweden’s Active collection, the Bike rain jacket is designed to provide ergonomic range of motion and excellent resistance to wind and water.
•Great protection from the elements without hindering mobility
•Wind and water-resistant
•Fleece collar
•Zip side vents for ventilation
•Zip pocket in back
•Stretch hem for stay put fit
•By Craft of Sweden
•Made in China

I got this jacket about 2 months ago to help with the wind. Although it is also water proof (or so the blurb says – no chance to test that part yet), I primarily got it to keep the wind off me while riding. And . . . . it WORKS!!!

I ordered a men’s large in the bright red with black to increase visibility without looking like a neon sign.. It is big enough that I can put layers under it if I choose – several, as a matter of fact. It also keeps the heat in without cooking me. It’s vented in the back and also has zipped vents on the sides and these help enormously. I sweat a lot if I’m too warm, and this venting system works really well.

The style is good – large without being overly bulky. I am wearing the large comfortably. The sleeves are a little long, but that’s okay with me – I am always grateful for the extra movement and girth around the actual arm itself. If overly long arms bother you, size down appropriately.

It does have a mesh style liner, not designed to be warm by any stretch – more to facilitate ease of putting the jacket on and off. No pockets to speak of, except the back one, and that is a little annoying, because I like hand pockets. I normally wear something under it that has pockets. It does have a collar liner and a zipper garage – both nice features for not irritating your neck.

I also like the stretch hem – it stays put and doesn’t ride up my back while I am riding. It covers most of my jerseys and keeps them under cover and out of the weather.

Overall, a good, serviceable jacket that seems to do what I want it to do. More later on the rain resisting qualities of the jacket.

Lesson well learned . . .

Sometimes you have to learn things by doing them or having them happen to you. I had one of these grand lessons happen to me on Saturday.

Friday we had a blood drive at the school where I work. I initially wasn’t going to give, but decided at the last-minute to go ahead and donate blood. I have been donating blood since I was 18, and have been pretty successful and comfortable doing this for a really long time. This time was also okay – no immediate after-effects, no dizziness, light headedness, or anything else. I went home, had a quiet evening, went to sleep.

I got up Saturday, had breakfast, ran a few errands, and then went to meet a friend for a ride. I wasn’t feeling bad when we began the ride, but I got to the 3rd mile and thought I was going to keel over. My heart was racing, the blood was pounding loudly in the veins, and breathing was labored. By mile 5-7 I was not doing well – I was overheated, still breathing hard, starting to feel sick, and still having the pounding. When we got to where the road turned back towards town, my friend and I went back to town.

The lesson here was: Don’t give blood on Friday and then expect to ride much, if at all on Saturday. It’s fundamentally a bad idea. I won’t make this mistake again, that’s for certain. I hadn’t given my body enough time to recover, and boy, did I pay for it!!!!!

Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Softshell Glove

My new favorite cold weather gloves.

The lightweight Pearl Izumi ELITE soft-shell bike gloves deliver excellent warmth and wind protection when cycling on cool days.
•Anatomic fit maximizes finger dexterity for shifting and braking
•ELITE soft-shell fabric on back of hands provides superior wind and water protection; fabric wicks moisture and stretches well
•Warm, light and nonbulky PrimaLoft® synthetic microfiber insulation delivers great warmth while expelling moisture and allowing high dexterity
•Extended gauntlet seals over jacket cuff for superior warmth
•On the palms, strategically placed gel pads absorb shock, relieving pressure on ulnar and median nerves
•Soft synthetic leather palms grip well and stand up to everyday wear
•Silicone screened fingertips add grip
•Soft windproof fabric on the thumb gives you a gentle place to wipe your nose
•Rip-and-stick? pull tabs on wrists close Pearl Izumi ELITE soft-shell bike gloves snugly and ease removal
•Gauntlet length cuffs to ensure good coverage over or under jackets
•Reflective detailing increases your visibility in low light

Have I mentioned how much I like Sierra Trading Post? I really, really like their products and prices.

For instance – the lovely gloves displayed above.

These things are WARM!!! I’ve had them out in 30 degree weather and below and my fingers stayed toasty. STP was only selling these in a size M mens, which is what I wear.

The fit is wonderful. However, if you have big fingers or larger hands, these may not be for you. I have an average sized hand and fingers, and they are perfect for me.

I really like the dexterity I have with these. Granted, I’m not sure I could text quickly with these on, but I can pick things up, move the fingers independently, and also use the whole hand very well. The silicone on the finger ends really aids with picking small things up off the ground and the Primaloft insulation helps keep you fantastically warm without the bulk of comparable gloves. Even if your hands heat up a little, the moisture is transferred out and you don’t wind up swimming in your own sweat.

The soft-shell fabric really does break the wind without letting it through to my hands. The only other gloves I’ve had that did this well, but were somewhat lighter weight, were my Gore windstopper gloves. The fabric stretches just enough to let the gloves be comfortable.

Another feature I like is the gauntlet-style wrists. They go up under your jacket, fasten nicely with Velcro, and keep the wind out and the warmth in. You can adjust them to whatever you want, comfort-wise, over the jacket cuffs or under them, and they work nicely.

Additionally, the gel inserts in the palm are right where I like them to be. They dampen the road vibe enough to be comfortable without bulk and keep your hand from going numb from sitting on the bars. The synthetic leather palm seems to be wearing okay for now – I haven’t noticed any pilling and scraping at this point. A similar fabric is on the palms of my Gore gloves and it has also stood up well to wear and abuse.

Other things about these gloves that I like:
The soft fabric to wipe the nose with is very nice and soft – haven’t had any stiffness there and still have a soft nose. 🙂
The reflective details are nice. I only wish there were a few more of them – the ones that are there are reflective, but a few more discreet ones could be added if the deisgners so chose. The colors are also quiet – not loud – I like this, but others may feel that bright colors lend some safety value to the gloves.

Overall – excellent gloves for the money. I have been wearing them as everyday gloves too – and they are really showing me that quality products are worth what you pay.

Bottom line – if you want warm hands in really cold weather and you cycle through the winter – buy these. If you are a fair weather cyclist, these are too much glove for the temps you’ll be in; find something lighter and less expensive.

Pearl Izumi Infinity Wind Blocking Jacket

So, once again, my favorite on-line gear provider, Sierra Trading Post, has delivered something I want at an absolutely ridiculous price.

I’d been looking at these nice P.I. windblocking jackets for a bit, but didn’t want to drop the full amount of cash on them. I got on STP the other day, and there they were!!! They actually had two different styles, and a number of colors in each, so I had to do some research to figure out which one was going to work for me.

P I windblocking jacket

Here is STP’s blurb about the product.

Pearl Izumi’s Infinity Wind Blocking jacket helps you stay one step ahead of changing conditions with its wind- and water-resistant soft shell fabric and thermal-regulating fleece lining to lock in the warmth.
•Elite SoftShell Lite fabric achieves wind and water resistant through construction without using a laminate for superior breathability and protection
•ELITE Thermal Fleece Lite fabric in back and sleeves provides superior moisture transfer and insulating warmth
•Reflective details for low-light safety
•Camlock zip front with interior wind flap
•Camlock zip hand pockets
Lower, center-back zip pocket
•Cuff gaiters with thumbholes
•Asymmetrical cuffs
•Droptail hem for added coverage
•Classic Fit
•Made in China

The other style didn’t have the rear pocket and used a laminate fabric. It also had a different style of zipper and different cuff construction. This appears to be more cycling oriented, or so I hope.

While I haven’t yet received it, the reviews look pretty promising and it’s from one of my favorite brands, Pearl Izumi. If it’s anything like their other products, it will be stylish and functional.

I will update the post once I have received the item and worn it a bit.

Trolls in the kitchen

Well, not only is the Troll home, but right now it is sitting in the kitchen. It came home from the shop on a nice wheelset and rubber, and with the headset pressed in and holding a stem and handlebars. It also has a seatpost and seat on as well. It almost looks like a bike!!!

The crankset arrived on Friday – and rats!!! I ordered the wrong size bottom bracket and so will have to get another. Oh well – the crank itself is a nice one, even though it’s from Nashbar, and looks good with quality details.

I ordered grips online – nice white/black Ritchey’s.

Right now I’m enjoying lookng at the bike and imagining all the places we’ll go together once it’s built.

Trolls fly by night – or, It’s HERE!!

I was thrilled to get an email on Friday from the nice fellas at Mt. Airy bike pointing out, in graphic photogenic color, that my Troll frame was here and sitting on wheels (not sure if they are my wheels or not, but we’ll find out) and mocked up with a handlebar and seat and stuff.

I was really excited – it looked really good and I am seriously going to like it. A friend has some parts that I can buy pretty cheaply, including a nine-speed cassette and a front shifter/derailleur combo and some tires. I have one Avid BB7 mechanical disc brake for it and need to get another. I have a headset waiting for it, and I also ordered a crankset from Nashbar, plus a bottom bracket. I think I may try my hand at putting the BB in mostly by myself. Hope I don’t screw it up 😦

And speaking of screwing things up . . .
You may recall the AD Michelle mixte that I posted about some time ago. I have ordered new handlebars for it, and also decided to apply some fenders and new brake pads to it as well. All of that went reasonably well, but the 30-some-odd-year-old derailleur decided to give it up. So, now I need to fix/replace that with something else a bit better. I may have something I can use laying in the parts pile. We’ll have to see. I plan to use this bike to go riding with my mom. She really seems interested in doing some miles this summer.

I’ve been staying inside to ride lately – I’m still trying to get over the upper respiratory thing I’ve had. I feel like every tinme I go out to ride, I make it worse. so . . . the better part of valor has been to ride the inside trainer. It’s boring – but I’ve been fighting back with movies and music. I really want to go out and ride the green rando bike, since I haven’t ridden it since it came back from being repaired, but I guess I’ll have a to wait until I’m 100% better.

Anyway – go out and ride – it’s sunny here!!

Disappointment – or Trolls live in garages, not just caves.

Well, with the advent of the new furnace that got installed at our house the week after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, my bike plans to adopt a fat bike have changed. I just really couldn’t see dropping the extra hundreds to own the machine. The dollar signs just weren’t there.

So, I had to consider options. What could I do with that nice store credit I had? Use it for parts? Practical, but no romance, none at all. Buy something else? While the store credit is significant, I’d have to do some serious research to see if I could get something in the ballpark of what I want.

Which brought me to the question of – What did I want? I had to think about that one.

I knew what I didn’t want. I didn’t want another roadie. I have my carbon Madone, my funky purple Specialized Allez, the Schwinn Fastback, my rando bike, and my heavy tourer, the Giant OCR Touring. I think I have my on-road options covered.

So what do I want/need? I looked over my off-road options, only to find some gaping holes in that work force. Technically the only “real” offroader I have is the Fargo. I do have my beloved, vintage, late 80’s Bianchi Axis cyclocross bike that I have reconfigured I don’t-know-how-many times and it does do some off-road duty when I need it to – but it isn’t strictly in the off-road category.

Okay – well that narrowed down the search a bit. I definitely want something that is off-road capable. I also like versatility in a bike – like the aforementioned Axis and Fargo. I want something that can be a grocery getter, a campeur, a tourer, and a trail bike as well as being a mountain bike.

Hmmmmm – a bike with all those capabilities. Enter the ….

black troll

I looked around for something like that, and lo and behold, I found it. I ended up purchasing a 16″, black, Surly Troll as a frameset. It can do everything I want and then some. Steel frame? Check. Rack and water braze-ons? Check. Extra braze-ons on the fork? Check. Three water bottle braze-ons? Check. Suspension corrected, just in case? Disk Brakes? Canti bosses? Fenders? Big, wide rubber – both mountain and road? And a slew of ways to configure the rear wheel and use Rohloff hubs? Reconfigure from mountain bike to tourer – yup, in spades!!!

I’m now assembling parts to put with the frame – more on the build when I get it together. It will be a budget build, for certain. I am trying to stay on my budget and the specter of the furnace looms large over the financial things right now. I can’t afford to get truly insane with new parts – I have a feeling that most of the parts will be good used ones from friends and C-list. No shame in that – as time passes, I can always upgrade if I want.

Here are some reviews that helped me to make up my mind about this – check out the links. These people mostly had pretty good things to say about the frame – some were seriously impressed, others were more objective, but all were favorable. The 2013 Troll made some improvements over the initial frame, by offering more braze-ons in more/better places. They also offered it in new colors – purple and black. Last year’s frame was produced in orange.

If you’re considering an all-arounder type build, the Troll may be your friend. Have a look at the reviews and then decide.