Monday, May 31, 2010

Human Power Challenge - EPIC

Well, once again the Portland Human Power Challenge as hosted by the OHPV was a BLAST! Take a look at some of the pictures here in this slideshow. Many more to come as well as some video here eventually.

Best highlight of the weekend, getting my arse handed to me (FIVE TIMES!) by my own spawn on the slalom/obstacle course on the trikes. A future racer was born this weekend. Very good times!

"Hey Dad, prepare to be trike-smoked. Again."

Friday, May 28, 2010

Inspiration To Ride

Here is a great article! If this does not make you feel inspired to live life, and think twice about continuing to suck the one brown eye of "The Man," in His vicious cycle of Hell, then I don't know what will.

From the article: "More than two years in full body cast in rehabilitation, followed by life confined to wheelchairs and dependency on others if he wanted to travel. Arnott said he remembers nothing of the accident, a common phenomenon called “permanent retrograde amnesia,” the inability to remember a stretch up to and including the moment of impact causing a head injury. It’s a hole in personal history that never gets filled.
About 10 years ago, he said, he started writing books, and now has penned 43, typically on political topics like energy policy or homelessness. In fact, his ride across the country has a purpose – to highlight the need for term limits in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. A sign on the back of the tricycle calls for the reform."
Albert Arnott - Ride Across USA

The last portion of the article says it all and I love it:

“They think I’m a little wacky,” he chuckled. “But I think everyone’s a little crazy.”

As you sit in your office and stare out the window to another perfect day, think of Arnott enjoying the clear blue sky and reveling in his journey, and ask yourself who’s crazier."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Hey Don't Slime Me Bro!!

Unless you are a cyclist from another planetary system, you have undoubtedly heard of "slime" bike tube sealant. The stuff comes in many sizes, including 16 ounce bottles. Keep this in mind as you proceed with this post as the quantity of the packaging will be important. Some cyclists use this stuff - I don't know who or where they are, but since it is still on the shelves I must assume somebody buys it.

What is slime good for, you ask? Fixing flats? Well, in my own humble opinion - not much and really not for fixing flats. Maybe if you ran out of embalming fluid to preserve that cat of yours that just passed away "slime" will do in a pinch. But for tires? At best it is a temp fix for a flat but most of the time it is just a sloshy mess in your tube and adds weight and hassle. It is used in tubes to PREVENT flats as well. It also might be good for filling your buddies tubes with as a (mean) practical joke and then watching as he wonders what the heck happened to his average speeds on the climbs.

In examining my wife's recently (fourth home) acquired Greenspeed GT3 trike (pure awesome) I decided to remove the tires while diagnosing an issue where the trike would wobble fiercely at speed - primarily during braking. Right now the front wheels are getting trued and tested for spoke tension by Epic Wheelworks in Portland, as they really needed it. But it is when I began the process of removing the tires and tubes when I made this garish discovery. When I pushed the valve in to deflate the tire I was sprayed in the face. I felt just like Wikus Van De Merwe in District 9.

When you deflate your tire and it pees green, it's not good.

First, it took me forever to get the tires and tubes off. My first clue was when trying to deflate the tire after busting out the goggles - I could not get it to "go flat" like a normal tire. It had a "kinda solid" feel. Hmm. The material had solidified enough that it would not come out through the stem - even with the core removed. After a lot of prying, broken tire levers, four letter words, and a beer break, I finally got one off. I was stunned at the feel of the tube. I had to compare it to a new one. Lets take a look, shall we?

New out of the box tube: 2.75 ounces

The new tube: light. The tube I took out of the tire and had in hand felt more like a yoke for a small mammal than a bike tube. I decided to plop it onto the same scale. Note that I could not fold up the tube as I could not get all the "air" out of it.


Yes, you are not seeing things, the tube weighs 1 POUND and 2.75 ounces. This is a 16" tube, here. That means just about a full pound of "slime" was sloshing around inside the tube. Yikes. A few sections of the tube felt almost solid. I have to imagine that this is - in part - causing the pulsing feeling of the wheels, as a full pound of slime gets stuck in one particular part of the tube. This trike had not been ridden at higher speeds for a long time, and the slime was not put in by the previous owner, so it has been fermenting in there for a while like a clogged artery from too many ubercheeseburgers.

Being curious, I decided to do a bit of a "tube autopsy." If you are a lover of bicycle wheels, or currently enjoying your biscuits and gravy at Village Inn, this is not for the faint of heart:

They see me rollin.. (with dumpling soup in my tires) they be hatin...

Thats one 16" tube - full of dirty fluid and whitish remains - of the slime. The other tubes had about the same amount of goo in them. After clearing this out and doing the same for the other two wheels/tires the trike will lose around 3 pounds of weight. That is a lot, even for a trike. So, the next time you have a flat, and you or someone offering to fix it for you pulls out the one pound bottle of slime, just yell, "Don't slime me bro!!"

Monday, May 24, 2010

Enter the NEW Corsa SS

Well, the RANS Force 5 is no more. It has been stripped bare and the frame has gone on to live another day as another bike with another owner. The essentials, however have lived on in a new mango Corsa SS build. The frame was ordered through the recumbent wizards at Coventry Cycles in Portland. Over the past few nights of building she was finally ready and she is a real beauty:

Ultegra cranks, Velocity Fusion rims

TRP 925 brake, Rotor Q-Rings

Swanson Carbon seat, ICE headrest, Chris King hubs

The orange RANS was a sweet bike for sure, but ultimately it was too twitchy for me - the fault being way too much rear weight bias due to a frame that was just a bit too small. When you can pop the front wheel off the ground on a recumbent on flat ground - you have too much weight over the rear wheel! The Corsa SS frame is a large. The build went smooth as silk and turned out better than I had hoped. So how did the maiden voyage go?

The weather was finally nice enough for a shakedown ride. I put it through the paces on the same loop ride that I have been doing all year on both the ICE QNT trike and the RANS Force 5. Previously the performance of the trike and the RANS were very close - sometimes only a MPH difference average speed. The comfort factor on the trike was a 10 out of 10 and on the RANS was a 2 to 3 out of 10. Today that changed a bit. Having not ridden at all for about a week, I came in on my hilly loop ride at the fastest time and speed so far this year at 15.8 MPH average. But ultimately the change is not only about highest average speed, but about feeling comfortable and safe getting from point A to B.

Having ridden the RANS since 2007 and having it as my chariot of choice for two Cycle Oregon week rides, countless other organized rides including an STP in one day, I was very used to it. It had comfortable handling and was stable at speed. It was a bit wild on, hairpin turns, and slow speed handling during climbs was sketchy, but I attributed that to the weight bias given my adjustments coupled with the Force 5's short wheelbase. Taking off on the Corsa SS was, however, like graduating from an old Datsun 280Z to a spanking new Porsche 911 GT3 as far as take off and handling. Simply amazing. 

The long large frame felt incredibly balanced and the longer wheelbase cruised along with straight tracking. The true test of any recumbent - in my opinion - is climbing stability, and this was much improved. No wheel hop. No tricky spastic handlebar action when the going got steep and slow. No feeling of "Oh shit I am about to topple over backwards" (which on the RANS would cause me to sit up in the seat like doing crunches - draining even more energy.) Piloting the SS I was able to pitch my head back onto the headrest and just climb in a smooth straight line. It was dare I say almost as comfortable as climbing on the trike - almost. Maybe peg it as an 8 out of 10. :)

After a few stops for very small seat adjustments, the bike was feeling a bit dialed. It will take more rides to fully get it set, but boy have I been missing out. The steel RANS was always very comfy on the rough bumps and I figured that the aluminum SS would be hardcore on the same jolts, but that proved to be false. The bike is very smooth considering it is noticeably stiffer than the steel RANS. 

I did have a bit of a scare on one downhill stretch where several speed humps dot the road - speaking of the frames stiff nature. Previously on the RANS I could hit those at 35+ MPH and feel like bike was floating over them. Today at that same speed on the SS I felt airborne for a second on the first hump. A bit startling to be sure as I felt my entire line jump a few inches to the side before landing. For the remaining speed humps I scrubbed off a bit of speed. 

If you are looking into high racers the Corsa is a bona fide ticket to ride for sure. 

Monday, May 17, 2010

Cycle Oregon Weekend - Less than 60 days and counting!

Took a glance at my countdown clock. Yikes! Less than 60 days until the Cycle Oregon Weekend ride. Ahhhh.... we are really looking forward to it. Here is a recap of our 2009 experience:

Trike BLING! Rotor Aero Q-Ring

Everyone loves to accessorize their rides. I especially love BLING that is not only very very purdy but very very effective and adds to the efficiency of the ride. Enter my newest bling on the QNT trike - a 54T aero Rotor Q-Ring in sleek black:

Ooooooooo now thats a spinner!

Let me first say that i am not new tot he Q-Rings. I picked up a set way back in 2007 as an "experiment" after fiddling with a full blown set of Rotor Cranks. I disliked the Rotor Cranks and the Q's seemed to be 95% or more of the benefit with zero of the hassles and weight penalty.

After the proper adjustment - a bit of science and art - it only took me a few rides to become hooked.

The Q's are like having the power going to the road 100% of the stoke. This took a bit of time to get used to and at first my endurance diminished a bit. But after acclimating I would not trade these for anything. Especially when in the bigger Q rings you can really feel the power going to the rear wheel. An added bonus is that since the rings are not circular, but ovalized, the effect of the 54T Q ring during the power stroke is that of a 57 or 58T round ring. Given that the QNT has a 20-inch drive wheel, I need all the top end I can muster for the downhills - especially the slight long ones, like some seen on this years Cycle Oregon. Maintaining 30 MPH downhill at 90 RPM is a lot nicer than having to do it at 120 RPM.

This coupled with a Capreo hub and 9-32 nine speed cassette equipped wheel (coming soon) should allow me to squeeze out a few more MPH before spinning out.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Week Long Cycle Oregon Maps - My New Porn

In anticipation of the 2010 Cycle Oregon, I like to pour over things that really don't need much attention at this point like lists of items to pack, route to camp, scouting Google Earth, etc. But some of the most fun is in looking at the detailed maps. These images you are about to see are like porn for Cycle Oregon attendees. Commence the drooling!

Where is that lunch break? How far up that mountain until a water stop? What type of hell am I in for on what day? Which psychotic climbing days should I have my evening massage sessions scheduled after? All these questions and more can be answered by staring for long hours late at night at the detailed maps of the ride.

The ride is not till September, but the staring at the maps begins tonight. Lets take a look at them together, shall we?

Day 1 - Not too bad here. Get the hard stuff done early in the AM, have a rip roaring time for 4 miles (over in a flash) on a steep downhill and then commence medium spinning grind mode all the way to Enterprise. The reward here: Terminal Gravity Brewery. BEER baby. And GOOD beer with good food to go with. This is the altar where many cyclists will drink to the beer gods on the evening of day 1.

Day 2 starts off great with some nice cruising terrain. Thats good too in order to work off the libations from the previous nights celebration. Follow that with what could likely be the best downhill of the ride into the Columbia River Gorge followed immediately after by the long grind of the Rattlesnake Grade. Ouch - that will be one fast downhill and one loooong uphill. Think I'll be hungry by the lunch stop? Oh man. The rest of the way into Clarkston was made for recumbent bikes and trikes - what goes up must go back down. Oh yes.

Day 3. The perfect example of how hard work in the morning will pay off huge. After mile 21, I will be long gone at high of a speed as I can pedal. Really hope the AM bugs are gone so the recumbent grin is not too full of gnats. See you at lunch. Make that a Brunch for the recumbent folks.

Nice day to get up at the literal crack of dawn and go for a spin to enjoy the countryside and sunrise. Then commence doing nothing the remainder of the day except relaxing and taking in the sights.

Day 6 looks easy, but hmmmm - there be some steep "rollers" mixed in there at various intervals. They lay in wait to suck the life force out of cyclist daring passage. Looking forward to this day even though it will be a long one.

Stay in camp or go out for a loop ride? Will have to decide this later, but the return section along the river  may be too serene to pass up.

Ahhh... the last day. Take some time and cruise on into the fini- holy mother WTF?!?! Yes. A ladder to the sky. This will be an epic day. I am really certain that on this day I will be happy to be on the trike - even if it's a bit slower going up the hills. See those two "viewpoint" icons at the false peaks in the sky high section? I can tell you already what the view is - its me lying on the side of the road in a fetal position. Thank goodness the remainder of the ride is all downhill after mile 62 - the legs will need every mile of the remainder to recoup just to allow standing to change clothes!

When it is all said and done though - the real sadness sets in when the finish line is crossed and the reality hits - its over for 2010. The countdown in the sidebar to your right keeps ticking closer to the ride start, and even after all 7 days, regardless of the difficulty, it is always a bit sad to realize a full year has to again pass until the next Cycle Oregon.