Monday, March 30, 2009

Good Time

(Long, long before)



The trails were great on Thursday and I heard the frogs chirping, a sure sign I can move from the road to the trails. I took a half day vacation on Friday so I could spend some quality time on the trails. I have had epic rides before but normally I have to go up to Searchmont Ontario or down to Snowshoe West Virginia. The ride Friday was in the Brighton Req. area, 2 miles from my house, but I never had a better ride, not even close.

I bought my house because it was right off the Brighton trail. You think it is hard to convince your wife you need to drop $500 on a wheel set, try getting her to move 40 miles away to a small house on a dirt road with well water just so you can ride. The thing about spending a lot of time on the same trail is it becomes a control for testing new equipment or to test your fitness.

Saturday I got my bikes ready for the season; I swapped forks, changed wheel sets, replaced brake pads, repacked bearings, and cleaned the bikes. I did the Murray Lake loop to test my fitness. I rode hard but not at race pace. I was satisfied with my time of 35:31 at an average of 158 BPM. I looked at other years for times to compare.

4/16/08 (after 2 weeks of quality riding in Florida) my time was 38:54/160 BPM. My last timed loop of the season was on 10/13/08, 36:21/158 BPM, but I think I was on my single speed, I forgot to record that.

3/28/07 my time was 37:57/158 BPM. By 5/23/07 my time improved to 35:20/157 BPM.

2006 was a good year; I did it in 33:41/158 BPM.

2005 36:28/159 BPM

2004 was the first year I did that specific loop and kept track of my split times. On 9/25/04 I did 37:03/141 BPM on my Litespeed, and on 9/27/04 I did 38:24/145 BPM on my full XTR full suspension Blur, as part of a hard tail vs. full suspension experiment.

My time this weekend left me optimistic, but I am still the same person I have always been.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I blew up the R7 fork on my single speed last night. I am a tad bummed. I bought the fork used from someone on the MMBA bulletin board this winter; it is always kind of hit and miss with used parts. 90% of the parts I buy are used.

I like bikes. I really do. I have been accused of being a Ludwig, probably because I was the last racer in Michigan to give up his cantilever brakes. I am not a Ludwig; it just takes a lot to convince me to change. My current geared bike is 17 years old, I just replaced the frame, fork, and components a couple of times. It started out as a 1992 Cannondale and slowly morphed into a Barracuda, then a Kona, then a Litespeed, then finally into my Felt hard tail.

At the same time I owned my Cannondale/Barracuda/Kona/Litespeed/Felt, I have owned sexier bicycles, as the picture of my Yeti will prove, but I am faster on the tame trails of Michigan with my hard tale. I poured over my heart rate data/split times to prove that to myself. At any given heart rate, my time to complete the 7 mile Murray Lake loop is almost 2 minutes faster on my hard tale. Or, comparing the same lap times between the two bikes, my average heart rate is about 4 BPM lower on my hard tale. Right, I spent a summer figuring this out. The disc brakes worked much better on my Yeti than the V-brakes on my hard tale, and full suspension certainly smoothed out the trail, and my Yeti clearly handled better but I am faster on my Felt. The Felt is much lighter and I guess that is the thing. It is hard to build a 21 lb full suspension bike. In a perfect world I would have kept both bikes but I live in an imperfect world full of mortgage payments and dance lessons. Something had to give, and it was my Yeti.

This winter I had the Chris King rear hub serviced and had the SID rebuilt even though I wasn’t having issues with either. I am about to replace the drive line even though it works fine. My bike will not be an excuse this season.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sweet Smell of Manure

I live in a small house on the border between a city and a rural area. In preparation for a collapse of GM as I know it, cin and I met with a realtor to investigate selling our house. I never realized just how small our house was until she started measuring everything. I am not bitter. I am perfectly content in my house that is just one click above a trailer. I don’t even have A/C. All the houses in my neighborhood are similar so I don’t feel out of place. I even have curtains so I secretly think everyone else envies me. My road rides take me out past farms. They stink. Manure doesn’t offend me, it’s not like I would use it for aftershave or anything but still, it doesn’t bother me.

The corner stone of my training plan this year is to fit in a ride every chance I get. I started leaving my bike in the truck. When I drop the kids off at dance practice I take off on a road ride. They dance in the Canton/Northville/Plymouth area, neighborhoods much nicer than mine. I observe the neighborhoods on my ride.

Garages, bigger than my house, filled with Toyota Prius hybrids so they can solve global warming, attached to huge houses that take three A/C unites to cool. The names of the neighborhoods crack me up. Where is the ridge in Pheasant Ridge? Probably filled in with the hills they removed from Fox Hills, and the pheasants and foxes were scared away in the process and probably scurried over to Pine Cove, that does have pine trees, but they are planted in perfectly straight rows and that just isn’t natural. North Pointe is just confusing, it is smack dab in the middle of Canton; it is as far south as it is north of anything, and I don’t see the pointe. And their bikes, shiny new bikes…do you really need full suspension for riding on perfectly paved paths? Why are the handle bars up so high? Why is everyone so smug? Then it occurs to me, no manure smell, no smell at all…their shit really doesn’t stink.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Art and Science of Crashing

This picture is the only souvenir I have from my motorcycle racing career, which was no less mediocre than my bicycling career. The orange tee shirt I had on over my leathers was required for beginner racers, to warn everyone to stay out of our way.

This weekend was spent driving the kids back and forth between birthday parties, so many parties that I paused and counted back 9 months to try and figure out why so many kids have birthdays in March. Saturday, after I picked up Allison, and with 2 hrs before I had to get Em, I passed our church and realized I could make the Saturday evening service. I normally go on Sunday mornings but if Allie and I went to church on Saturday, I could sneak in a 4 hr ride Sunday morning before other birthday parties and salvage what has been a lack luster training week.

I was talking to someone about crashing on mountain bikes yesterday and I mentioned I very rarely fall. I went on to explain it was probably because I didn't try hard enough to which the other person was suppose to counter with a suggestion that I don't crash because I am experienced and fully understand my limits. They replied: "yeah, your right, you don't try hard enough".

Actually I just don't like to go down. I haven't always been so conservative, drive like a PTA mom, and brush and floss after every meal; I just got old. When I was young and raced motorcycles I didn't worry about crashing, as long as I didn't crash at the start. Motorcycle races start from a stand still. A person pulls out a start sign and holds it horizontal and we get ready, then he turns it vertical and we take off. You don't want to stall and get plowed into in front of the grand stands. Launching a race bike isn't that easy. I raced a 2 stroke which was hard to launch smoothly. It was jetted and ported to make almost no power until 6,000 RPM, and the Benard competition clutch was very grabby. To prevent glass from falling on the track during an accident, the tachometer was taped off except a little window at red-line. You couldn't use the tach to see if the engine was idling and the other motorcycles made so much noise at the start that you couldn't hear if your bike was running, or even feel the vibration from the engine. Nothing was more embarrassing than getting rear ended in front of a crowd.

Crashing away from the grand stand wasn't so bad. Your adrenalin would be so high when you went down that you wouldn't feel any pain, the whole thing would unfold like a surreal slow motion movie. It is funny the things you think of when sliding across the track. I remember sliding on my back and not realizing the road burnt through my leathers until I could smell my skin, and I thought of that one Warner Brother's cartoon where Bugs Bunny lit this Mohegan Indian on fire and the Indian didn't notice it until he smelled himself burning: "me smell Mohegan burning, me last Mohegan, must be me!" And I laughed to myself. I remember trying to pick between two fairings earlier in the year. One cost a little more than the other but it was designed so the windscreen would break away in the event of an accident. I saw my bike slide past me and sure enough, the windscreen separated from the fairing and I though: "it worked just as it was suppose to, go figure." No pain until the adrenalin wares off.

To be 20 again, or at least have that attitude. Today's lesson to myself is I need to push myself a little harder on the technical single track.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

No More Tears

I wanted to do a long road ride yesterday but I got out of work late, and, like the song of the Siren, the gentle sweet sultry voice of the Murray Lake Trail convinced me to take my SS out again. Damn it, the trail was still muddy and icy, but an excellent ride none the less. Bill was busy so I went out solo again. When I ride by myself, I tend to grab hold of a thought and go over it again and again, like a skipping record.

Yesterday I latched on to a bumper sticker I saw on a truck that passed me while I was riding to the trail. It read: “caution, show dogs”. At first I thought it meant the owner had a high strung over-bred dog that might snip at you so be careful; then I realized she meant for others to drive extra careful because she has a dog created from carefully selected sperm and eggs and, in her mind, is more important than my daughter since I don’t have a bumper sticker telling that lady to drive with caution around me. Oh boy, the thinking continues…

Let me fist state that I love puppies and ponies as much as anyone, so PETA, please don’t firebomb my house.

How has the pengilum swung so far that someone can sincerely think other people should drive extra safe around them because they have a dog in the vehicle?

I thought about the anthrax scare a few years ago where the dogs that sniffed envelopes in mail rooms were carefully monitored in case they came in contact with anthrax, with a response team ready to jump in if they were exposed, but the human workers in the mail room were left on their own.

And my thoughts would go back to that lady sailing along calm in her belief that her dog is somehow more important than my daughter.

I was still obsessing over this when I got home and took a shower. I noticed that our Paul Mitchell Tearless Baby Shampoo stated: “not tested on animals”. How then do they know it doesn’t burn eyes? Was it tested on humans? Was it based on what a geek in a lab coat (much like me) theorized based on the chemicals? Is it because they didn’t think any overprotective father was neurotic enough to test their claim? I poured a big glob of Paul Mitchell Baby Shampoo in my hand and crammed it in my eye and it hurt like a M-F. I hopped around the shower cursing Paul Mitchell, PETA, and that lady with the bumper sticker.

The love you have for your child cannot be compared to the feelings you have for a dog, no matter how the parents were selected.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

First MTB Ride of the Year, Sort of

Yesterday was my first ride of the year on trails that weren't snow covered. I walked from the road to the Murry Lake trail on my way home from work to see if it was rideable. I was talking to Kevin about doing some type of a ride today but neither of us were sure if it would be on a trail or on the road; I wanted to try riding on a trail by myself before we decided. Most of the trail was great but there were still enough soft and ice covered spots that I think I will stick to the road for another week or so.
The ride yesterday was a perfect opportunity to get acquainted with my new(ish) single speed. I have only ridden it in the snow and around my kitchen. The frame is set up for a 100 mm fork so I switched from a ridged to a suspension fork earlier in the winter. Suspension does forgive your bad lines. Between riding with winter clothes, soft tires, and soft ground, and I suppose a loss of fitness, the 34x16 gear was a tad steep. Over all it was a great ride.
It is interesting the relationship you develop with a bike. At first you think about what you want, look at bikes on paper (angles and what not), narrow down the list to one bike and figure it is the one for you. When you see it your mind is made up, beautiful tig welds, sun glistening off it's top just feels right. But the first ride, uh la la, the first becomes somehow more real. I can't just call it my Inglis, or single speed, that somehow sounds disrespectful. I will call her Jill.

Thursday, March 12, 2009


I never learned to cook. I just have no interest in it and am perfectly content with frozen meals or leftovers from restaurants. The thing is, Allie loves to cook. I was hoping it was just a phase but apparently it is here to stay. It started out with her Easy Bake Oven, this little toy thing where you mix a teaspoon of water to a packet of mix then cook it under a 75 watt light bulb for 20 minutes. At least once a week she wanted to spend some of our daddy/daughter time cooking with this silly Easy Bake Oven.

Last year when I came to grips with the fact that we would be cooking every week, I told Allison she was ready for a “real” oven. What I really meant was I was tired of playing with that silly toy and figured if we got a toaster oven we could make slightly more edible food. Allie was very excited. It (accidentally) turned out to be a great idea. It has helped us eat healthier, which was part of my training plan.

Oh man I sound like such a chick, but here is our favorite recipe. It is low in carbs and high in protein and Omega 3 fats:

1/2 lb salmon (we have used other fish and it all turns out well)
2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon saltpinch freshly ground black pepper
2 cloves garlic (daddy learned how to use a garlic press)
2 teaspoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

Mix the ingredients together and brush it on the salmon (cut into 2 pieces). Set toaster oven to "broil", cook for 4 - 6 minutes for every 1/2". It could be cooked in a “grille basket” but I don't know how to use a grille basket or even what a grille basket is.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Harvesting Hay While the Sun Is Shining

My truck wouldn’t start yesterday morning. Cindy reluctantly drove me to work so I could make my 6:45 meeting then I took a half day vacation to fix my truck. When I got home it started. Because every car I ever owed had already reached the end of its life before I bought it, I am an expert with this type of problem. Apparently the bendix gear in the starter is worn. Sometimes it misses the fly wheel, sometimes it catches and will start the car. It will only get worse. I figured I should take care of this problem now since my truck was sitting in my garage and the auto parts stores were open, instead of waiting until it leaves me stranded at, say, the Joe Louis parking lot after a Detroit Redwings hockey game.

But the sun was shining. And I had fresh legs. I told myself if it was above freezing I would ride my bike. It was 31 degrees out. Close enough. I went for a 4 hour ride. Part of my plan every year is to do a long ride once a week. Previously I considered 2 hrs a long ride. This year I will try to ride for 4 hours once a week. My legs are sore today, but a good type of sore. I have a good feeling about this season, assuming my truck makes it to the races.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Bicycles Built For Two

Saturday night cin and I went out with Den and Barb. I discovered there really was a difference between $46 a bottle wine and the kind that comes out of the box, and I always thought people that preferred one over the other were just pretentious. Den and I have been friends since we were five. We rode bicycles together growing up. We still do but recently Den discovered he prefers riding with his wife. I let Den and Barb borrow my tandem for the Iceman in ’07 and they were instantly hooked and bought one right after that.

When I realized this fall that I might not be with GM for the rest of my life, I over reacted a little and sold everything I owned except my geared XC bike and the box of spare parts in my garage. Allie noticed our tandem was gone and cried. Riding the tandem was our special time together and what I really sold was that experience. I told Allie that I will buy a new one this summer but secretly I know my life post-GM will be very different. Tandems are magical. Both my daughters will talk non-stop when we are riding. I learn all sorts of things riding with them that I wouldn’t learn talking over the dinner table. Allie prefers riding on the dirt roads around our house; Em prefers single track, which is cool, but I picture myself in a pediatrician’s office trying to explain how my daughter fell off the back of my bike on a technical downhill section. Riding a tandem together is an act of intimacy where the person in back trusts the person in front to pick the right lines, and the person in front trusts the person in back to trust them. If a couple’s relationship can withstand riding together on a tandem, they have very little to worry about.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Amazing How Fast Things Change

This ends my rest week. I am still not riding as much as I planned; however, I rode hard in the previous three week block and by Monday my legs felt like limp noodles dangling from my hips.

I meant to get in a few easy rides earlier this week but I squandered my time. Friday was a great ride, first time I rode without winter clothing this year. It felt like spring but I have lived in Michigan long enough to know not to be lulled in by one nice day. I didn't hear the frogs chirping, or smell the warm damp earth, or see the drunk Harley riders with a total disregard for personal hygiene stumbling around in the parking lot of the Damn Site Inn, so it really isn't spring. But it is spring-like and it is hard to be pessimistic in weather like that.

Bill and I rode early this morning. It was much less spring-like.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

What the Heck Just Happened?

I saw my age change on my blog profile today. I don’t know what happened; I was 14 the other day, went to sleep, woke up and I had a wife, two kids, and a mortgage. I had higher aspirations than this when I was 14. The plan was to stay 14 forever. The back-up plan was to be a cool dad. I would write letters to my Senators telling them they should legalize cannabis for medicinal purposes and I should know because I was going to be a horticulturist. I would take my kids to see Rush in concert. They would ask me to hang out with them and their friends.

Clearly I need a plan C. I think this is where my neurotic obsession with bicycling comes into play. I am not okay with getting old, not at all, but how can you be old if you ride your bike five days a week? The other day someone at my wife’s work asked Cindy about her son Neil. Cindy said “oh no, Neil is my husband.” The girl paused to think about it and, still confused, asked: “the Neil that is always riding his bicycle?” Maybe this isn’t so bad.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Thin Ice

Bill called me Sunday morning to hammer out the details for our ride later that day. He mentioned that someone on a 4-wheeler had fallen through the ice on my lake earlier that morning. I remember when he told me this I was outside with the dog and I was scraping the frost off the deck with my finger and wondering if the roads would be too icy to ride. I was more concerned about the conditions of the roads than the fact that someone just drown in my lake.

I am not a cold person but I am not an empathetic person either. I was watching TV with my kids Saturday morning and saw a commercial for Save the Children. I remember seeing the same commercial when I was a kid watching TV on a Saturday morning 30 years ago; skinny dirty sad kids looking into the camera. I started thinking if the only thing this organization has have done in the last 30 years is throw rice at the problem, then maybe they are no further ahead. I realize that the kids in the commercial now are the children of the skinny dirty sad kids I saw 30 years ago, maybe they were their grandchildren, I’m not sure when kids from third world countries start breeding. I thought of the episode of South Park where Cartman pledges to support a child so he could get a free Seiko sports watch and they accidentally send the child to Eric instead of the watch. Eric is not empathetic until he is accidently sent back to Ethiopia instead of Starv'n Marvin. I start to laugh.

I hang up the phone with Bill and play a game with Allie. I hear Cindy in the other room on the phone and going hysterical, more hysterical than usual. I get up to see what is wrong. Cin says Joe fell through the ice this morning on his 4-wheeler. Joe was our next door neighbor, a nice kid who always made it a point to come over and talk to me when I was in the yard. We would talk about mountain biking or the auto industry, the only two things I am qualified to talk about. Joe took me for a ride on his jet ski last summer and scared the bejeebies out of me. Joe’s mom, Karen, is a good woman. She watches our kids when we are in a pinch. Joe’s dad, Jeff, is a good man. He helped me cut in a sliding door when I got in a little over my head.

Karen and Jeff pulled up into their driveway right after this, apparently returning from the hospital. Cin goes out and meets Karen in the driveway. Karen drops her purse and hugs Cindy. Karen is crying uncontrollably and just keeps repeating “he is my baby”. I didn’t care about this person falling through the ice 30 minutes ago but I care now; my heart is breaking for his family. The only thing that changed was my perspective.

You don’t have to read many of my entries to see I am big into perspective. This is the Mack-daddy of perspective. I am a cold person but I think this will forever change the way I think about people and events outside of my little world. Rest in Peace Joe.