Monday, April 9, 2018

Overhaul

I've been nursing along some sub-optimal equipment for several months--gear cables and housing that could really use replacement, but were still functioning well (enough) as long as I tinkered with them constantly. No more! I did a total bike overhaul this weekend; to be honest, it's bleeding over into this week. Here's how the trusty steed looked on the operating table:
Stripped down to his skivvies!
In addition to replacing shift cables and housings, I pulled off the shifters, lubed everything inside, and replaced the brake hoods. I stripped off both derailleurs, examined all the parts for function, cleaned everything really well, and replaced the jockey wheels. I pulled the crankset for a thorough cleaning and replaced my 36-tooth inner chainring with a 34 (I need that compact gearing for the hills/mountains around here). And I figured as long as I had the bar tape stripped, I might as well replace the brake cables and housings, too. I have some fresh Lizard Skins bar tapes on order at my (new!) local shop, Goride Bicycles in Redwood City. The guys there have been very helpful as I've prepared for this process.
Somebody get him some clothes!
Although it hasn't seemed like much of a process--not nearly as bad as I thought it would be! Previous experiences with internal cable routing have led to much sweating, cursing, and banging around with magnets. I guess I've done it enough times to have the hang of it, and all the internal cable routing has gone very smoothly. I treated myself to Park Tool's internal cable routing doohickey, the IR.2, but I haven't really needed it so far. The strong magnet has come in handy, but I have some old magnets from a name badge that would work just as well. I'm not going to say it was a waste of $50, though, because it's never a waste of money to have good tools!

I have a little more deep cleaning I want to do while I have the crankset off. Then I'm going to reinstall everything, adjust the brake hoods and levers to where I want them, and torque everything to spec. Last thing--and best thing--will be wrapping the new bar tape. That's always my favorite part; it feels like a reward for all the dirty work!

Next big project will be bleeding the brake lines on my Crux before CX season!

Friday, March 30, 2018

New Team, New Kit!

Last weekend, I got in some miles and mountains with my new team: the ladies of SunPower Racing/Alto Velo Racing Team!

I'm the only one facing the wrong way. Well at least they know what to expect from me now.
The team met up in Sonoma, which is beautiful but also mountainous. We rode hard together on Saturday and had the chance to practice some group riding skills, then practiced individual skills and drills on Sunday. Staying in the same house with the group gave me a chance to get to know everyone. I really like them! I'm excited to start racing with them at the Turlock Lake Road Race next weekend.

But you'll notice that the kits are white and blue. I've spent the past three years with team kit that matched my bike! Does that mean it's time to buy a new bike? I think it might. One really shouldn't be riding around all mismatched like that.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Finding my way


I think, relatively, that I haven't moved around all that much. But I have had four significant moves in the last 10 years, so I've had a little practice with the process. Mostly, I don't like it. Packing everything up, sorting through the stuff you naturally accumulate from living in a place for a few years, getting frustrated with packing and giving a bunch away or throwing it out or just leaving it behind, then regretting it a few months later when you inevitably need that exact thing . . . finding a new place to live, and setting it up so it feels like home and not some stranger's house . . . making new friends and connections, finding a doctor, a dentist, a piano tuner . . . figuring out which grocery store is going to be your grocery store . . . in general, I do not like moving and would be quite happy never to do it again.

Still, something about moving that I enjoy, something that I've just picked up on this time: finding my way around on a bike. At first, I went on a few group rides and had no clue where I was; I couldn't get dropped because I wouldn't know where I was (there's still plenty of that, actually)! And I've already written about getting turned around on a bike ride. But on a ride last week, I suddenly realized that I knew exactly where I was, and knew what was coming up next. It's strange how quickly, and without really noticing it, these landmarks and . . . how should I say, the feel of a place sticks in your brain. Without trying, I've acquired a certain sense of where I am, and how to get around.

I'm sure there will still be plenty getting lost--after all, the Bay Area is huge, and there are major parts of it I haven't even considered exploring yet! But it's starting to feel like my area, like I belong here and know a little bit about how to get around.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Getting Lost


When I was a little girl, my dad told me a story about how he got to know Wichita when he first moved there. He had grown up near Ohio, but moved to Wichita when he entered the Air Force. During his first week or two there, he drove around in his Le Mans and got himself really lost. Then he found his way home again. And that's how he got to know his way around Wichita.

On Tuesday, I got lost.

I planned a long ride using a combination of Strava heatmaps, local knowledge, and the few rides I've done with Alto Velo Racing Club. I loaded it to my phone, and hoped that would be enough.

First off, I don't know enough about the area to know high-traffic roads. Sometimes Strava heatmaps show a road that's popular for riding, but all of the rides are recorded on Saturdays and Sundays when the traffic's light, or it's all from weekday commuters who ride on the sidewalks. So I ended up on a long, steady uphill that was pretty high-traffic, and included lots of semi-trucks. That was mistake number one.

Mistake number two was missing my turn and going about 5 miles beyond it, mostly uphill. I figured it out and turned around straight into a headwind. Ergh. I checked my phone at the turn to make sure I knew the next few turns, then did a loooooong descent down a narrow road. I made my next turn, but had to stop and check my phone there.

Which brings me to mistake number three: not bringing a phone charger. My phone got too cold and froze. Have you ever had your iPhone literally freeze? The battery drains to nothing in a second and you can't turn it back on until you plug it in. So now I was about 15 miles from home with no idea where I was or how to get back.

So I tried to use the bread crumbs feature of my Garmin to guide me back. It didn't work. And the satellite dropped out. I was completely without technology, and had to use my wits to get me back home!

I'd just come down from the mountains, and I know those are west of where I live. And I'd seen the south bay from the top of the mountain, so I started heading north and east. I saw a sign for a familiar road, but couldn't remember if I should turn left or right. I guessed left, and followed the road hoping that I wasn't going to end up in San Jose.

After a few miles, I saw a familiar jersey up ahead--a Sunpower racer was within view! I went a little harder to catch up to him, and asked if he could point me in the right direction. He showed me where to turn, and I was back in a familiar area! I was able to get myself home from there.

Tl;dr: I got lost, and now I know my way around my new home a little bit better! But getting lost is worth it when it comes with these views:





Monday, February 12, 2018

Getting stronger

I'm coming back from a true off-season, which coincided with the winter holidays, three subsequent trips (skiing in Pennsylvania, visiting family in Ontario, driving cross-country), and a coast-to-coast move. My training log from that time looks like this:
Those "walks" are actually skiing. So I taught a spin class, did yoga, went skiing . . . that was it for that month! It felt good to take time off; I burned myself out with racing last year. I did 18 road races between April and August and 15 'cross races between September 10 and December 10. The experience of burning out towards the end of the season has given me a better sense of how much I can race, and I'll apply that this year and in future seasons.

Right now, though, I'm having to re-build my fitness from a much lower place. With the beautiful weather and places to cycle here in Northern California, I'm having to hold myself back from doing more volume and intensity than my body can handle right now. It's also harder to make myself stick to any kind of structure, since the outdoor environment isn't chasing me onto the trainer. I finally broke down and bought a power meter--a Saris PowerTap that is attached to some sick carbon wheels. I'm hoping that will help me structure my training outdoors, and will give me a better way to monitor my training stress so I don't overdo.

The bike fitness was a planned loss, though, and relatively short-term; I knew I would need to slow down, let some fitness go, and build back up for the next season. There's something else that I've lost over the past two years that I didn't plan: strength.

My legs are still strong, of course. One of the guys on a group ride I did last weekend said, "I can see by your legs that you don't like climbing, either," and then we suffered at the back of the bunch together on every uphill. My legs are still strong and powerful, like a frog's! But the upper body strength that I built up over years of strength training in the gym has slowly faded away, as I neglected the weights for the bike. Because who wants to be inside lifting weights when you could be outside riding a bike?!
I would still win this cycling competition, boys.
Chris Froome's arms aside, cyclists still need upper-body strength, especially if they're planning to do off-road events like cyclocross or the Dirty Kanza. Shoulder and core stability are especially important for me, because of my bad shoulder. All of that hasn't been enough to motivate me to get into the weight room, or the yoga studio, or even to do a few corrective exercises at home in the evenings. Over the past 6 months, I've started getting incapacitating headaches, usually the day after hard races or long rides; I think I've lost so much strength and flexibility that my spinal erectors are putting pressure on the base of my skull and causing mind-numbing tension headaches. I've had to stay home from work a couple of times, they've been so bad!

Even excruciating pain hasn't been enough to get me to strength train, though. You know what's made me get back to strength training? Dirty Kanza. Because 200 miles of gravel on a bike with no suspension will demand a lot of my arms and core, and I don't think I have that right now. I don't want to pull out of DK200 before the last checkpoint because I have an unmanageable headache, and I don't want to crash because I lack the endurance in my core to handle my bike well after 12 hours in the saddle.

Ultimately, being strong all over will serve me in my whole life. But I can't seem to motivate myself to train for it except as a means to be a better cyclist.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Things that are happening


There's been plenty of action in my neck of the woods this winter!

I live in the Bay Area now. The weather and cycling are awesome, the housing prices not so much. Actively looking for a racing team, and they all seem friendly and terrific!

I'm applying for doctorate of physical therapy programs to begin this fall. Other than that, not working yet. Lots of free time for exploring the local cycling scene.

I won a lottery entry to Dirty Kanza 200! So I guess I need to put some water bottle cages on my 'cross bike.

If I were a better blogger I'd write more about this stuff, but for right now I'm too busy riding outside in the awesome California weather!