Friday, March 11, 2011

The Bike of Theseus

Those of you who have been following on Facebook know that my Surly Cross-Check has been giving me some trouble lately. Enough trouble that it's now time to get myself a new Cross-Check.

The trouble started about a month ago when I did some riding down in Page County with a friend. It was supposed to be a Trans-Iowa training weekend so we were looking at 100 miles on Saturday and 62 on Sunday. Saturday started out well enough, but due to a "train the way you fight" ethic we ran into some trouble. Since the Trans-Iowa would include some B (aka. minimum maintenance, aka. dirt) roads we'd be including some in the training ride. I should have known better than to try B roads after rain, in early March, but I went along with the plan. The problem looked like this:

The problem wasn't that guy. He's okay, but you can see the problem. He's not riding that bike, he's carrying it, and look at those feet.

Well, we did a lot of walking and by the time we were 30 miles into our 100 mile ride we'd been out for five hours. I did the math, it didn't look good. Just as we decided to make it a metric rather than a full century my drivetrain decided to give way. The rear derailleur pulled straight out of the dropout and the dropout itself was bent in about 45 degrees. The B road mud was just too much for it. I rigged up this to get home:

But the troubles weren't over. We took a shortcut back to home base and while we were walking yet another B road my shoelace decided to break. Unfortunately my shoes have a BOA system and fixing a broken lace isn't so easy as it ought to be. Luckily I had a spare tube along so I did this:

Pretty clever if you ask me and it worked well too. Twenty miles later we were home.

Part II

At first I thought the frame was toast, but after some judicious bending, a dropout saver insert, a new chain, and a derailleur (upgraded to Ultegra) I thought I had it licked. Fast forward to last weekend.

Same route planner, same plan, lots of B roads. Closer to home though; Story County. On the final B road of the day 30+ miles into the ride my cranks ground to a familiar halt. The derailleur hadn't pulled out this time, but the hanger was bent a good 45 degrees again. Once again B road mud had done me in. I hadn't even gotten the new Ultegra derailleur paid for (it looks like it might be okay). Once again I single-speeded it (it took me much less time, a benefit of practice) and rode the 30+ miles back home.

This time I think the hanger is done. I could probably bend it back, but it wouldn't be the same. The place where I had drilled out the hanger to accept the dropout saver insert is ovalized and won't go back to round. I don't trust it anyway. I could have the dropout replaced, and I might someday, but it would be fairly expensive to have that done and then repaint the frame. The best option is to buy a new frame and swap the parts over. Until then the old Spree Green Surly will be a single-speed. The new one should be here later this week and look like this:

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Fame: CIRREM 2011

I wasn't going to write anything about regarding CIRREM last weekend because it didn't seem to be that big a deal. After thinking about it a bit though it does deserve some attention or at least I can't seem to get parts of it out of my head. Not so much the riding or course, which was fine, but other people's comments surrounding the event.

First off, it had snowed a bit the night before the race and was about ten degrees colder than expected. I was happy because I figured it would scare off the riff-raff. Even so 101 riders toed the line at the Cumming Tap.

I was getting a lot of congratulations on my Arrowhead a Trois achievement from those who knew about it. I'm still a little uncomfortable with that, but I tried to be nice even if it was nine AM and I wasn't quite awake yet. I really didn't want to talk, I just wanted to start the ride.

Apparently though word hadn't gotten through to everyone. As I was filling up my Camelbak in the bathroom with hot tap water I had a guy tell me that cold water was better as it wouldn't freeze as fast. I wanted to tell him that the Mpemba effect was a myth and that this was the exact same way I'd used the Camelbak at Arrowhead, where it was 55 degrees colder, without any problems. Not to mention that the water wouldn't freeze even if I used it wrong, only the hose would. It just wasn't that cold. Instead I said, "Nope." I guess that was a little too terse as he replied with something like, "Okay, tough guy," or something like that. I didn't feel like arguing that early in the morning.

I started out the ride somewhere near the back, I didn't want to fight in the main pack for the first mile or so. The roads had about an inch of snow on them and I didn't want to be part of a pile-up if things were slippery. I'd wait for things to spread out a bit and catch up. That was a poor tactic as it turned out. The roads were good and the front pack charged out fast. In the first few miles I picked off almost everyone between me and that front group, but there was no way I was going to catch them, though I probably could have stuck with them.

As I was passing a group one of them said, "Do you know who that is? That's Matt Maxwell." I didn't stick around to hear the conversation. I mean, who doesn't like compliments, but this is ridiculous.

The roads weren't too bad in spite of appearances. The inch of snow along with some fresh gravel made things a little interesting, but, at least for the first half it was easy going. I used the big ring more than I think I ever have on a gravel ride.

The only problem was my glasses freezing up. I'm not sure if it was mist in the air, snow kicked up by the tires, or breath condensing on them, but after a few miles I was struggling to see out of one eye. Riding without glasses was out of the question. I can't tell a car from a tree without them. I kept scraping at them to keep them clear enough, but it wasn't ideal.

At the halfway checkpoint I put my glasses inside my jacket for a few minutes to thaw and ate a cookie since I hadn't had breakfast. The glasses stayed thawed for all of a mile and ten miles down the road I was feeling a bonk coming on. I took a short break to eat some fig bars I had with me, but unfortunately I lost my riding companions, the Mables on a tandem, and had to start navigating by myself. I tried to follow tire tracks, as I didn't want to dig the cue sheet out of my pocket, and ended up making a wrong turn and climbing two steep hills before figuring out my mistake.

I rode the last few miles with Steve Cannon, organizer of the Winter Race Series. My right toes were numb, but okay, and I really hadn't eaten or drunk enough. My time of 5:08 for the 63 miles wasn't bad, but the detour and icy glasses probably cost me ten minutes or so.

After the ride I got a lot of "dude, awesome beard" comments at the bar. I sat down with a cyclist who I didn't recognize but who said he was also from Ames. We talked about riding around town, working at bike shops, and exchanged first names, but it wasn't until the next day I figured out that I am already Facebook friends with him. I think that says something about Facebook. I wonder if he knew the whole time and was just humoring me.

Another group was talking about how 'epic' the ride was. I don't know if my perceptions have changed, but it doesn't seem like a metric century is epic material anymore. At least not unless the weather is truly horrible. Maybe if it had been windy or we had had more snow I could agree to and epic label.

The Arrowhead congratulations and beard comments were a little too much so I went to talk with some folks I actually knew. Mark Stevenson told me that some of the advice I had given on mental training/tricks worked for him on the ride. I'm glad that not all of my advice has been bad. In talking with Steve Cannon I found out that he's a fairly accomplished ultra-runner which was cool to find out.

Crowded social scenes just aren't me and I hope I wasn't too much of a jerk to anyone and this blog post isn't too humble/pridefull. I do like talking about the Arrowhead and other races I've done and plan to do, but I don't quite feel deserving of the accolades. There are so many other folks out there who are so much better at this than me. Like these guys.