The One Thousand Mile Shoe Club welcomes Mizuno Wave Precision! Those last 100 miles or so sure did take a long while but we finally crossed the milestone over this last weekend on a solo run up Brown Mountain. Amazingly, I think I'll keep running in these for a while. Will we make 1200?
I've just worn though another pair of shorts. Pants, shorts, whatever - they're all doomed to a short life on the seat of a bicycle. I'd patch them but somehow walking around with patches on my ass doesn't seem like something that would help me fit in to this world any more than I already don't. So I'm off to get a new pair of pants (winter is coming!) and shorts tomorrow at the hardware store. Isn't that where you buy your pants? Where else is there? Well, maybe Sears but that's too far to ride. At least "hardware store" has Carhart. Hecho en Mexico!
I've been reading and believing Jan Heine's (Editor of Bicycle Quarterly) opinions about tires and tire pressure and rolling resistance and such for some time now. And I've been experimenting with lower and lower air pressure in all my tires - as in, on all my bikes. It takes a lot of time to peel yourself away from what seems to be standard thinking on the topic - essentially, higher air pressure is better and/or faster. I used to always pump up my road bike tires (23 - 25mm wide) to 120psi - the max listed on many tires of this size. And that worked fine and great for me even giving me the sense that I was riding really fast. But part of what Heine has argued is that things are not always as they seem and that just because it feels like you and your bike are hammering along and your bones are chattering over every slight disturbance in the road doesn't actually imply that you're going faster - you really have to time it to know. So he's done a lot of timing and testing. And based on his tests, it turns out that it's only less comfortable to ride high pressure tires and not faster.
He's even got a chart, a rule of thumb to shoot for based on your tire size and weight to help you determine a more appropriate psi for your own needs. I started with that chart and dropped my road bike tire pressure by about 25psi. Then over a few months gradually dropped even further - an additional 15psi - for the current personal preference for road bike tire psi (get ready to gasp) of 80psi!
I ride with a regular group of people that I'm calling my control in this experiment. While I cut my psi by 33% they changed nothing as this was all done in secret - until now. And there was no obvious change in our speeds or finishing order at the top of hills or end of rides. Not much of a scientific method employed here I know but it's good enough for me and mostly, more comfortable.
As for The Mule, well, she runs on fatter tires (50mm wide), but we also enjoyed a similar percentage drop in air pressure and similar "performance" benefits. She's running around 40psi now compared to 65 before.
Again, back to Heine, it's not just the lower pressure that promotes a better ride but the quality of the tire - it's suppleness. Hard, solid tires, even with little air in them are going to bang all over the place and transmit a lot of that up to the rider. Supple, sexy tires will slip smoothly over the road surface - allowing you to feel the road but not FEEL the road.
So I took Heine's advice and even bought some tires from him for "Totally 80's" - he sells them in 26mm width (other widths, too) which is just a hair wider than what's generally available out there and adding just that much more cushion of air - they don't call them pneumatic tires for nothing…
I've been riding the sidewalk a lot more over the past few weeks. I rarely do because I like to keep up the proper bicycle presence in everyones' minds but there are a few roads out there that are "unsafe at any speed." One of these is Los Feliz Blvd in the Los Feliz neighborhood of Los Angeles that follows the southern boundary of Griffith Park (that big park of the west).
Actually, there are two quite different faces to Los Feliz Blvd. One during rush hour, the other not - parking restrictions in the third lane being the key to the difference. When cars are allowed to park on the side of the road they block the third lane but leave a nice make-shift bike lane which can really be great to ride and especially fun when passing auto congestion. But during rush hours there are no parked cars to block that lane from use and that's when it gets really sketchy.
The road surface along the shoulder in either direction is terrible - bumps and holes and wobbles. Actually, there really is no shoulder to speak of. There's space for a car and then there's the gutter. And the cars drive like bats-out-of-hell-fast through there.
My sidewalk time started on Friday the 13th of last month. I've been riding out that direction several times since then. But that day was particularly bad. And I didn't want to push the buttons of superstition so I steered far clear of that gauntlet and rode the sidewalk.
Unfortunately, that sidewalk is no great ride, either - 2 miles of blind driveways exiting from apartment complexes, cracked pavers, and only about half of the street crossings have ramps to roll smoothly across the transitions.
The nice thing about sidewalk riding, though, and what I've been reminded of because of my recent experiences with it, is that it slows you down again to really see how the bicycle is different from the car - or more importantly, how bicycle-life is different from car-life. It can be nice to go pedestrianly slow and not be concerned with any rush, to take one's time and still enjoy the ride, the travel, the life that we are living here and now, even as we commute…
Well, here they are. They're not quite as blue as they seem in the picture. But they're light and low (heel) and make your feet do a little extra work in the practice of natural human running form. My ankles and calves were sore after our first run - a few miles. I've still not gone beyond that distance in them although I've taken them out on several of those. I think my feet/legs are probably ready for something a little longer in them.
The quest for 1000 miles in the old shoes has slowed considerably as all my short runs have been in the new ones and I've been sick/resting/tired/etc. But there'll be a great before-and-after photo and celebratory post when we reach that milestone…
…one little, two little, three little goatheads, four little, five little, six little goatheads…
Watch out! It's that season again! Those damn pesky little spiky seed pods are ready and waiting to pop your tires. Today was a run day so I had no such troubles but I did notice when I got home that I had six goatheads embedded in my shoes' soles. (I guess this could be a good argument against barefoot running.)
So don't over psi your tires and bring an extra patch/tube… and ride like the wind!
Finally a photo! from last Sunday's ride up the Arroyo. And finally a ride on the fixie! We got a few nice comments from other riders - she's not exactly the most common sight out on the trails. The trail eventually got a little too rough and bumpy for us and we turned around. With a little more time and patience I think we could make it all the way up to the waterfall. Fun ride.
There's these new shoes that I want! Want, want, want! I've never even tried them on - I saw them on ZombieRunner and I've been craving them ever since. For probably a few months now. But I don't have enough miles on my old shoes to justify getting new ones. So I try to make deals with myself. You can order those new shoes as soon as your old shoes get to a certain mileage. Not necessarily your end miles because you'll want some time to break in the new ones. Not that running shoes require a lot of break in time. However these new shoes are slightly flatter - allowing more heel drop than a standard running shoe so it is probably a good idea to start them in on slow, short runs.
I've tried low heeled shoes before and I like them a lot. I didn't do the slow break in because they felt so good. I think I went out on a 17 mile run within like a week of running in them. And it totally [ja]cked up my ankles. But that was years ago. And these shoes are so cool!
My old shoes are dirty and ripping apart. But I really want them to join the 1000-mile Club. They've got about 125 miles to go. I think they're going to make it. But this craving! What is this? Why must I buy these shoes?!
Why must we all buy this stuff? Just because it's new or shiny or a different color scheme or On Sale!
And so I try to convince myself: Well, I Really need new socks, too. And if I order new socks from the same place then I can get free shipping and since I'm eventually going to get those shoes I might as well just get them all at once. Heck, throw in some shorts and a hat and some electrolyte tablets while you're at it… Now can I get them? Is that a good enough argument?
But it's the same thing with bike parts, too. I mean, I really should get new tires - if only for safety's sake. And fresh handlebar tape always looks and feel great, too!
And sunglasses! Mine are scratched!
Patience, grasshopper… Proceed as the way opens… Your shoes are fine. Your tires are fine. You are fine. This is not a race.
Two mornings in a row. Two very slow runs. Like the slowest ever for their respective distances and routes. I'm not exactly sure why this happened. I felt relatively good through each of them. And they were not slogs. Just slow. I didn't bonk or even have significant stride breakdown. Yesterday was a short run. Today was a long run. It's even been remarkably cool for August. Today, after my long run, I feel fine. I'm not really even tired like I sometimes am after a long run. I guess because I just wasn't trying/pushing very hard. That may be all it is: I just didn't want to run today or yesterday. Or, my body didn't want to run. Can the body get bored? That's what it felt like. I could tell I was going slow right from the start but thought I'd allow myself to warm up a bit before speeding up. And I did try to speed up a few times but it didn't last. I would soon just loose the oomph. In a way it was kind of nice. It was just a stroll through the Arroyo with no place else to be. Totally unhurried. Maybe I am finally turning into a mindful mule...
I finally got a chance to test out my new rearview mirror on The Crest this last Sunday. And while it's not exactly perfect I have to say that it really did make the descent experience a lot more pleasurable and I think safer. In the past I've always felt like I really needed to hug the right side of the lane for too much of the time because I could never tell if a car was behind me (too much wind in the ears) without looking back. This last descent though was fantastic as I could edge out into the center of the lane for much of it and really get a good tuck-and-fly feeling going down. It was also a fairly low traffic day up there which made things nice as well. The mirror has an easy on/off strap so I'll just use it on days when I'm planning to go up the hill. It can attach almost anywhere but it seemed the best and least hand position restricting and line of sight restricting spot was on the left bar end. Not a super easy place to look at when you're free falling at 35 miles an hour but okay enough. I have to recommend it.
I've been carrying around a little patch kit, inner tube repair kit, for a while now, maybe a year or two - I've pretty much always carried a patch kit, actually, but that's how long this particular kit has been in my seat bag. I haven't needed to use it much. I haven't had a flat tire in about a year. I can say that without being superstitious because there actually was a flat incident a couple weeks ago but I'm not counting it as a flat tire because when you're hopping a curb on your road bike to avoid a crash and your rear wheel doesn't quite lift up high enough and so smashes into the curb and snake bites the inner tube along with tweaking and gouging the rim, well, I can't count that as a flat tire, you know, I mean, you've got to have reasonable expectations of what your equipment is capable of withstanding beyond which failing is not really failing but just misuse. So I haven't used that patch kit. But it's been in that seat bag getting smashed and crammed around long enough that the little plastic box it came nicely fitted into has now shattered on one end - right wear the allen wrench set butts up against it. Two slips of duct tape later and it's fine for another years-long ride.
There's this wheeled cart I've been pushing around for about a year, goes by the name B.O.B. I never thought I'd have to fix a flat on a goddamned stroller! but that's just what my life has come to. Somehow we managed to roll home with three holes in one tube! So I've been doing a lot of patchwork in the garage. And yes, I got out that little crushed up patch kit I mentioned earlier. But I didn't want to use up its nice little orange-and-black patches - I wanted to save them so that I could carry them around under my seat for another few years and never end up using them. But I'd heard that you can cut up pieces of old inner tubes and use them as patches. I tried this and it works okay. You have to be a little more careful with the whole process of patching the tube. Some say it's best to cut the old tube patches into circles although I didn't find that to be particularly helpful and have decided that a rectangle works just as well and/or perhaps better. Of course, as always, you'll want to shave off any ridges or irregularities on the tube and the patch. And I do mean shave. Most people say sand using that tiny little piece of sandpaper supplied with the patch kit. But a small knife blade shaves those seems of really well. And wipe off that inner dust from the old inner tube/patch. And for icing you can take a scrap of plastic bag or something to apply on top of the patch and vulcanizing fluid. This will keep your hands a little cleaner/healthier (carcinogenic?) and keep the inner tube from bonding with the tire when you've got it set back inside.
This is a little mantra or reminder I've been using for about a year now when I'm running. It started when I was out running in the mountains with a friend of mine who had a gps watch. Actually I think it was the first time I'd run with him. He was visiting from out of town and had never been up on a trail run before but had done a lot of road running. When we got back down from the trail he was amazed at how fast we had descended. Mentioning something like 6-minute/mile pace or something. Minutes per mile pacing numbers never really make any real sense to me so they become pretty meaningless numbers in my head. But the point is, we were going fast - faster than he would generally go. Which, of course, makes perfect sense because we were running downhill! It's easy to run fast downhill. You just let yourself drop. It's free gravity. The earth does all the work.
But there's also a certain stride that develops going downhill that lends itself to speed. And once you've run that stride a lot on the downhill you can start to replicate it on flat ground and even uphills to some degree. You'll have to just try it for yourself. I don't think I can really explain it outright. But essentially it's about keeping a nice balanced body position and leading with your front foot. See what I mean? Impossible to describe. I mean, is there any other way to run? But it works. Or at least it helps to think that it works. Let your body just drop through every stride. Every step is a free-fall. Drop, drop, drop, drop, drop…
Also, whiskey travels better by bicycle than beer - it's those pesky bubbles...
And, I want to mtb ride to Mt Lowe area up from Millard sometime. It's paved for quite a while but I don't know for how far. It's steep so mtb gearing will be important. And we'll have to bring lots of water (and whiskey!). Some day...
I read recently that storing your mountain bike upside down helps keep the seals on the shocks from drying out and/or cracking and/or malfunctioning. So since I've had so many issues with my shocks in the past couple years I decided to try it. So Humble Horse is upside down. I haven't even ridden her in months but I saw a friend up on the mountain last weekend. I was on foot, he on bike. And I realized that even though I've been rather against all the mtb'ers up there on the mountain recently, I do still miss it. And I'm really only against the mtb'ers that don't understand that it's a place of nature, a place of friendly camaraderie - not a dirt track for bikes - a place to yield passage to pedestrians and horses. It's gotten frustratingly ridiculous up there. But I have noticed a few bikers that still understand - and I appreciate their reserve. So maybe if I can add one more to the number of respectful riders than that could be a good example. So maybe after a few days of soaking upside down H.H. and I will go up on the mountain again…
We all knew it'd come to this. I've been through so many pedals now we might as well stop counting. But here we are, one more pair (for now). And after only about 9 months with the 105's! Which is strange because I really liked those pedals. I liked their wide platform and what felt like solid power transfer. But since they're limited to only 6 degrees of float I found myself (my ankle and knee and hip joints, actually) craving more freedom, float.
The search actually started a couple of months ago. The difficulty is that these pedals are rather expensive and since I'd never actually tried them before it was a tough jump to make. But eventually I found a reasonable price and was glad to see that if I don't like them their used sale value remains quite high.
So now they're on. On Masi (The Purple People Eater). And I don't really care that much that the pedal color is a light blue that clashes with the bike frame color (purple) because that's pretty much what the rest of my "kit" does anyway. Too many shades of blue fading into purple never quite works. Better, though, in my mind, than any kind of "sponsorship" jersey.
I haven't been out on a thorough test ride yet. We went out for 3 miles today. And there is no doubt that the Speedplay pedals have a lot of float. More than enough. I ended up with what they call the Light Action pedals, although, to be honest, I had a really hard time understanding the differences in the various pedal models they offer.
The cleats for these pedals were slightly harder to instal. Still relatively intuitive but just a bit more to deal with. Still, fine - once they're on there. Also, since the cleats are all metal I decided for safety/slippy sake today that I'd get a pair of "leave-on" cleat covers. Again, too pricey, but better than breaking your tail bone at the pub, I guess.
Given all that, I really don't have much to report yet but I just wanted to get the word out there. I think I like them. I hope I'll like them. Because if I don't then I'm going to start wearing Birkenstocks with toe-clips on my road bike and that won't be pretty!
A few pieces of sleep patched together… Then up before the early alarm… For a date with my mountain. Just me and Brown Mountain again today. Rode Mindful Mule to the trailhead, of course, then afoot from there. Forecast was for heat so the early start helped - it also kept a lot of the mountain bikers away - only one all the way up! Nearing the top, a big, dark brown deer jumped in front of me on the trail for several powerful, prancing hops and then bolted right, up and over the near vertical trail cut and into the tall chaparral along the mountain side - off trail at its best - what's up there, out there, beyond that small fraction of land, earth accessible by the trail - where was she going? I bet it's beautiful, her secret little glen hideaway, and cool, with a little creek and shade and green munchies and a soft place to nap…
I had a hard time getting up and out this morning… perhaps this encounter, these thoughts are why I've come… why I'll return…
A counter clockwise circumambulation of the Tungsten Hills outside of Bishop, California, Eastern Sierra Nevada, The Range of Light. Never does one sleep well before an event like this. Not really an event. A pilgrimage. A spiritual return to the land, the sacred. A repetitive perfect foot placement on the earth meditation. A circular prayer. Hands touch together at the heart in awe of mountains. Making up mantras along the way: follow the rabbit, balance and glide, follow the rabbit… Always does one sleep well after an event like this.
Or, stay above your feet. It sounds like obvious knowledge for runners and walkers and ambulators of all kinds but although it's basic it needs repeated practice. And the more I think about foot placement while I'm running the more I come back to this same beginning. Whether it's running in conventional running shoes, fluorescent minimalist trend-setters, barefoot, or dress shoes… it's all the same starting point. Feet under and equal - if they're way out in front then way out in back but better yet just short and quick turn over without over trying - the feet, the legs the body knows what to do if you just get out of its way. The perfect stride lies somewhere between practice and instinct, effort and glide, one foot and the other, one foot and the other… A decade of running practice and I'm still practicing the first lesson… always practicing the first lesson.
I had a chance to get in one last rain ride for the season last night. I passed. I got in the car and rode home with "the ladies." It was a bit of a downpour. Unexpected. I could have just waited about several minutes and it would have mostly passed, leaving me to glide through scattered drops between bisected rosy and turbulent dusk skies. Might have been nice. A memory I'll never have but probably dream about. So today I'll run up and retrieve the Mule from one of its very rare nights away from the shed (she spent the night in luxury - dry and warm and safe) and ride back down the hill.
The Mule is undergoing a transition, a metamorphosis. She hasn't been able to shift gears in the back for a few years now. Finally, now that her rider is getting old, it's time to ease the pain and downshift on those hills and hauls. I don't care much about 9-speed in the rear exactly but I found a good 9-speed shifter and as 7-speed shifters have become increasingly rare I figured it was time to make the jump - not "the leap," though, as I've stuck with Shimano. I've been stockpiling parts for the operation for a few weeks now.
I finally got around to going forward with the project the other day. It included: the newer right-side shifter/brake lever combo; a new brake cable and housing - the old housing was so shot; new 9-speed cassette - the hub was already 9-speed since we got the new rims a couple years ago - been running a spacer behind the 7-speed cassette; newer 9-speed chain - the one off the road bike after it got a new chain.
Everything went on mostly smoothly. On the test ride, though, I realized that the middle chainring was not really grasping the chain as it went around the bottom. After further inspection I noticed that the chainring has become very sharky. Sharp, jagged teeth. So I'm working on getting lined up with a replacement for that too. In the meantime I can ride fairly smoothly on the Granny or Big ring.
I didn't change the rear derailleur. I wasn't sure if it would work with the new setup. It does - almost. It won't shift into the largest/lowest gear so really it's only an 8-speed. Pretty good, though. Maybe I'll replace that someday, too.
Man! That's the most work Mindful Mule has ever had done on her. She sure is getting expensive in her old age. But worth every penny. My Kingdom for a Mule…
I'm one of those cyclist that has chronically frozen feet at pretty much any temperature below 64 degrees and sunny. So I'm basically [doomed]. Because I'm going to Solvang for a cold all day ride this weekend (why is it so cold up there?). Now, to be honest, it's just the low that's forecast at 34 but we are planning a very early start and the first 30 miles or so appear to be mostly downhill. So my idea is to dress warmly (good thinking!). And just suck up carrying the extra layers all day as it warms up to low sixties. Does humidity help or hurt me in a situation like this? It's going to be pretty wet/coastal and windy most of the day. So like I said… Here's my secret voodoo. Let me know if you approve. A liner sock with an inside out wool sock over it. Why inside out? Hmm, well, because I figure all those nice little nooks and crannies for air pockets will be better as insulation just off the skin. And I figure inside-out-ed-ness must attract some sympathy from the gods. My backup plan is a few shots of something warm in my jersey pocket…
Mindful Mule has a new saddle. "It's a small world" or more specifically it's a "Mundialita." Just like the old one but blue which means Mindful is now officially the bluest mule around - exhibiting just about every blue shade in the spectrum. Kinda like Paul Bunion's Ox, I suppose...
I rode about five miles the other night with no seat or seat post… and it was rather enlightening. Most notable was that without a seat a bicycle, or my bicycle, anyway, feels extremely unbalanced. This is primarily due to the method that I use to carry my stuff - all in a right side basket. And on that night I was heavily loaded. But that's not unusual. I regularly ride around for dozens of miles with heavy right-sided loads. But I've rarely noticed this sensation… Now, though, the cat is out of the bag, so to speak, and, even though "a" seat is back on, I can't help but notice this imbalance almost constantly, even when unloaded. It took me a while to figure out what my original seat height was, though, and I, at first, installed it too low, but as it got higher and higher the perception of balance slowly returned. So, I guess, the seat really does a lot more than just providing a place to set your butt - it also seems to act as a, what would you call it? a rudder, I suppose. Soon we'll be hammering away again as usual and this whole "incident" will be forgotten…
Although I don't do a lot of bike path riding I spent most of the day yesterday on a path following two rivers through the area. It was particularly nice to just spin and spin and spin for long periods of time without having to stop for cross traffic or deal with cars in any way. It really allows you to cover a lot of ground with significantly less effort than riding on the street. And even though these rivers have long ago been cemented into their chutes it was great to follow their waters all the way to the sea and then look back and see the distant snow capped peaks providing the flow from far off in the hazy sky.
I live just outside Los Angeles. But I'm tired of riding around LA. The other night I figured out a way to remedy the situation. I imagine that I'm riding around Paris. Suddenly everything I see, the streets, lights, cars, people, buildings - all are new to me. And my mind opens up at bit, releases from its rut. Ceci n'est pas Les Anges...
I spiked my water bottle with salt on Saturday's run through the Arroyo. Just a couple dashes worth in a 20oz-ish bottle. The fist sip is expectedly salty. The rest are fine. I think it helped with overall fluid balance throughout the run. I'm going to keep experimenting with this. Maybe I'll use it on rides, too.
I'm just back from a short run up and down the street. My Easy-3, as I like to call it. A good rejuvenator at the end of the day. For the second half of the run, all the way back down the hill, I kept my breaths matched to my steps. 4 steps to breathe in. 4 steps to breathe out. 4 in, 4 out. 1-2-3-4, 1-2-3-4…. The last couple of Easy-3s I've run have been pretty slow. I'm still trying to recover from the holidays, I guess. Today's run started out a little lighter and freer in step but by no means fast. I wasn't intending to push it at all. Just get the legs going for a bit. I actually fall into that 1-2-3-4 counting at the beginning of many of my runs and today was no different. Usually I get distracted from it pretty quickly and move on to more great philosophizing. But I learned today that, if you stick with it, it really helps you to stay focused on pace, which becomes speed. I didn't end up with my fastest Easy-3 or even come close but I think the counting, the matching of breaths to steps, took a couple minutes off my time.
I rode a short distance up this dirt road on the road bike this morning. It's a place I've been a lot on the mtb and on foot. But never on the roadie. It was a lot of fun to stretch the limits of the 23mm tires. Nice and slow. But oh so fun. A winter morning ride along a forest road - wool sweaters and cold toes. I'll remember this short section of the ride more than most. One of those moments, you know…