Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Two flats in two days

Man, I have the worst luck. Apparently.

For some reason I just seem to be picking up a lot of... sharp things. On the other hand, I climbed some stuff today in the wrong gear and didn't even notice the difference. I'm definitely getting stronger, even if my puncture karma is getting worse.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Another weekend, another day of reckoning

ideal 09/20/08 10/04/08 10/18/08
neck 43 39 39.25 39.5
chest 117 102 105.75 108.25
bicep 42 32.6 33.75 33.5
forearm 34 31.4 32.25 32
waist 82 95 95 95
hip 99
98 99
thigh 62 59.6 61.5 60.5
calf 40 40.5 41.13 41

percentages 90.7 91.28 91.86

87.18 90.38 92.52

77.62 80.36 79.76

92.35 94.85 94.12

115.85 115.85 115.85

0 98.99 100

96.13 99.19 97.58

101.25 102.81 102.5

Just from the numbers, it might seem (aside from a nice gain in the chest) that I've been slacking off, possibly even losing muscle. My weight yesterday is just as discouraging: 200.5. Or is it? Shrinking measurements mean a net decrease in volume, which given a fixed weight can only mean an increase in density. Increased density is a Good Thing.

And, of course, the pretty graph:

I still feel like I could be working harder. On that note, it's another perfect fall day, and it's time to go riding.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Junk miles are the best miles

So, today was another of those utterly perfect fall mornings. The early cloud cover burned off around 9am, and the sun warmed things up enough to be comfortable, but still cool enough to make riding hard a pleasant experience. I skipped out of work for an hour, and took the Sekai down my new favorite out and back, Soos Creek.

Soos Creek is a five mile stretch of wetlands that are protected (and in any case, worthless for development) with a creek, of sorts, running along the center of it. A paved trail runs beside the creek, winding past head-high blackberry bushes and stretches of green, still water. There's a nice mix of wide-open blue sky cruising and dark, shaded forest. On a clear day Rainier towers in the distance, wisps of cloud trailing from the snow-covered summit.

It's a nice, easy 16 miles, and I like the diversity of people that I encounter on the trail. Perhaps three quarters of them are walking their dogs, but the rest are there for exercise - or, I suppose, the fresh air. Today there was an interesting assortment of calorie burning activities going on. There was the white-haired guy in a turban doing unrecognizable movements and stretches in different places in the trail each time I whizzed by. There was the usual assortment of non-serious cyclists on various and sundry mountain bikes, all with knobbies. I like these people. They acknowledge my existence, unlike the serious cyclists, who stare intently ahead of them as they spin by, as if simply looking at my unclean presence might somehow taint the purity of their cycling experience. I even got a wave today from another cyclist. Little did he know that by making this gesture he was demonstrating how completely unseriously he was taking his cycling.

It was wonderful.

Then there was the older guy jogging with some younger guy who could clearly stand to lose a few pounds. Like, a hundred pounds or so (I say this with the full realization that I am currently carrying an extra 25 pounds of fat). On the one hand, it's cool to see people taking an interest in not becoming a statistic in the current obesity epidemic. On the other hand, I'm concerned about their choice of activity. Running definitely works as a weight loss strategy for some people, but for many it's an unnatural and painful experience that sours them on exercise in general. Even just looking at people running brings back powerful memories, mostly involving fierce pain, a metallic taste in the back of my mouth, and panted mantras of sometimes profane motivational poetry. Climbing is painful. Descending is painful. Of course, the runners that do well thrive on this eternal wellspring of pain.

I'm not one of those people. For me, cycling is wonderful because it doesn't have to hurt. Thus my motto: All junk miles. All the time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Five reasons why Windsurfing is better than Cycling

Before I say anything let me preface my words with an appropriate disclaimer. I am no elitist. I don't have a house on Cape Cod, a 45 foot yacht or even a single German sports car. This is unfortunate, but the upside of all this deprivation is a clear understanding of the difficulties of the middle class. I understand what it's like to be unable to afford a 36 cm deep tuttle freeride fin, and have to ride overfinned, or to have to choose between a shiny new sail and eating anything other than dried noodles for a month. I understand these things.

Therefore it's important to me to point out that windsurfing is almost as accessible as cycling, and I don't want to hear any complaining about how it's not affordable and possibly even difficult to learn. That's why god invented credit cards.

I do have to point out that someone asked me as I was rigging how much my gear cost. 'What, the entire setup?'
'Oh, about two thousand dollars.'

This casually interested bystander reeled backward as if I had doused them with cold water. I shrugged and continued rigging. You can't even get a nice sportbike for two grand. It was a glorious fall day, and the wind was gusting (violently) out of the southwest. I had neither time nor interest in foolish trivialities involving human currency and it's exchange.

I slogged out to the wind line. There's usually clear air somewhere in Lake Washington, and it took about 15 minutes to find it. Then it was an hour of over-powered blasting over sharp, bluish chop. The water was cold, but not cold enough to numb bare feet, and the sun made a 3mm wetsuit almost uncomfortably warm. It was then that I realized that there are at least five reasons why windsurfing will always be better than cycling.

1) No cars. Well, obviously. Yes, there are jetskis and the occasional barge or ocean liner, but it's generally easy enough to move out of their way. They don't mow you down at high speed as their pilots yap on a bluetooth headset while trying to fit their venti frappuccino into the far right cupholder.

2) You're flying. Yes, you are still in contact with a liquid surface. However, anyone who's experienced hydroplaning in a car understands exactly how frictionless planing on a sheet of water can feel. Except in this case it's exhilarating instead of terrifying, and doesn't generally lead to injury, death or huge insurance settlements. The other part of the equation is the sail. A modern sail is an airfoil, capable of fantastic amounts of lift. The majority of your weight hangs from the sail through a seat harness. Yes, technically, bikes are capable of flight. However, this usually has dire consequences. See hydroplaning, car.

3) You don't have to wear a helmet. Ok, yes, I know some people who sail in horrendous spine-snapping bump and jump conditions wear helmets, but they aren't cool, so ignore them. You don't have to wear a life jacket, in fact, it's dangerous to do so. Much like helmets.

4) Crashes don't hurt/Speed without terror. Yes, you can catapult into the sail and bruise your ribs. This generally happens only a couple of times, and doesn't even come close to the damage you'll incur as you turf it descending that really slippery bit of singletrack out by the Towers of Power. Or, god forbid, at speed on a road bike. Slamming into the surface of the water at 20 knots as your sail overpowers in a gust is terrifying, and you're certain you've broken a $500 mast, but after you swim out from under the sail and shake the water from your ears you realize that the only thing broken is your sucky sail handling skills. You can indeed go very fast on a bike, and I have. Tempering the adrenaline rush from watching the scenery whiz past you is the understanding of what would happen when you get doored or the front tire flats and parts company with your rim. When I'm locked in the straps and the waves are flitting beneath my feet in a blur of foam, there's no fear - just a clean, unblemished rush. I'm more at home on the water than I could ever be on pavement.

5) You get to use your upper body. I've seen the uber-developed Serious Cyclists as they spin a fantastic cadence through the Seattle suburbs, passing traffic as if it's standing still, their massive quads intimidating even from a distance. You can tell how serious a cyclist is by how underdeveloped their upper body is. If all they appear to have is a massive rib cage to house their oversized lungs, and their upper limbs are wasted to vestigial brake-operating and steering appendages, watch out. Windsurfing, on the other hand, is the best full body workout ever. No exceptions. Ever.

Coming up soon: why biking rules, and windsurfing sucks. Stay tuned.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Numbers for this weekend

ideal 09/20/08 10/04/08
neck 43 39 39.25
chest 117 102 105.75
bicep 42 32.6 33.75
forearm 34 31.4 32.25
waist 82 95 95
hip 99
thigh 62 59.6 61.5
calf 40 40.5 41.13

percentages 90.7 91.28

87.18 90.38

77.62 80.36

92.35 94.85

115.85 115.85

0 98.99

96.13 99.19

101.25 102.81

I started a spreadsheet in OpenOffice, and it exports fairly well-formed HTML. Not bad for some free software written by a bunch of amateurs.

I even generated a nifty graph to visually illustrate my progress. Lame, eh?

I also managed to get an accurate measurement of my body fat percentage: 25.6. While this is distressingly high, the encouraging part is that I should be able to meet my weight goals without too much trouble. That works out to 51.6 pounds of glorious flab. If I set a target of 12.5%, I should end up anywhere between 175 and, uh, 200 pounds, depending on how much muscle I add. Which brings me to my next metric: body weight.

Today: 201. I gained weight. I realize this is desirable for some people, but I have to admit I find it somewhat discouraging. On the other hand, all the other numbers (save the waist measurement, which is as static as my weight) are encouraging. Decent gains on the chest and quad measurements, which brings me to my final metric. Miles in September: 300.66. It seems like a trivial number, but I saw measurable (hah!) gains.

I don't plan on tracking miles this month, as I just want to maintain lower body fitness, not add a bunch more muscle.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Technium CityLite dumpster rescue (III)

It's definitely not finished. I need to decide what to do with the front chainrings, or put on a derailer. It also needs a rear brake. Still, it's complete enough to ride, and the ride could be charitably described as 'unresponsive' or perhaps 'squishy', which is definitely a shame.

It definitely looks pretty cool, though. It'll make a good bike-path cruiser, which is a really uninspiring category of bike for me right now, which probably explains why I'm not tinkering with it until the spring. It definitely needs a single chainring up front, though.
Anyone care to comment on the Technium in general? I know there are higher end versions of this frame out there (pretty much any version of this frame, actually). How do they ride?

It's definitely shiny.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Long-term product review: Michelin XC Road 26 x 1.4 slick

It's been a great summer. I've spent a lot of time on this somewhat unimpressive Peugeot, but since I'm not a serious cyclist I don't know anything about serious mountain bikes, so minor things like lack of suspension don't bother me. Really.

Actually, a rigid mountain bike has a certain purity about it, a stark simplicity that appeals to me. Sure, traction is definitely limited at speed over rough terrain, and it takes some effort to avoid destroying wheels and tubes over really gnarly stuff. However, like most mountain bikes, this bike will never see really gnarly stuff. It sees a wide range of surfaces: packed dirt, gravel, grass, sand, and of course pavement - and it turns out the XC Road is almost perfect for almost all of those surfaces.

This is a light tire, both in terms of total weight and in terms of the thickness of the rubber at the contact patch. Rotational inertia is very low for a 26 inch tire, as is the rolling resistance. In fact, it doesn't feel like you're riding a mountain bike at all. Low inertia and rolling resistance are only part of the story, though. The compound of the tire surface is soft and very sticky. This means excellent traction on all but very soft and wet surfaces, and amazing road feel. Yes, this tire has good grip on gravel, on packed dirt and dry grass. This may seem incredible, but the soft compound conforms perfectly to rough surfaces, and the rubber is wonderfully sticky. When things get wet, on soft surfaces, the lack of tread becomes apparent. On hard surfaces wet conditions make no difference. Hard rubber compounds may offer greater flat resistance, but you will pay a penalty in grip, and a larger penalty still in road feel.

Of course, flat resistance may be the key issue (or indeed, the only issue) for some. In this case, much as I love these tires, I can't recommend them. The sticky compound that grips the pavement so well also grips glass quite well. I encounter a fair amount of glass, and I've punctured twice with it in some 750 miles of riding. I don't think that's a lot, actually. On the other hand, if you're commuting, any puncture at all is one puncture too many.

I should also note that these steel-beaded tires fit rather snugly on the Sun CR-18 rims I have. Yes, you can and should change them without tools, but it may take some time and require some cursing. Putting a tiny amount of dish soap on the bead definitely helps. Of course, if you're on a ride, you probably don't have dish soap handy, but the first time you mount these, it's a good idea.

Since it's now fall in lovely Seattle, these tires will be coming off in favor of something with slightly more tread. It's a shame, really.