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Thursday, January 21

The Lonely Street of Dreams

 Fuck it.  Here I go.

Again.

The Winter Shart Tarck Series begins this weekend.   No, it will not be the same as it used to be, but then again, what is the same as it was twelve months ago?  I haven't sat down in a restaurant, had a beer inside a brewery, hung out indoors pretty much at all with what I used to call "people" since... March?  I think?

The race course won't be the same.  I went out to the new venue and rode it (or at least what I'm kinda sure it will be) on Tuesday.  No more giant berms, booter jumps, A-line/B-line climb options...  rocks?  Pretty much a gradual gravel climb to a smooth ribbon of singletrack through the woods.  It is what it is.

The experience won't be the same.  I'll drive down with Dr Mike, we'll race in the single speed class at 12:25, and after that's done... we might just ride the other trails down at Anne Springs just to make a day of it.  I sincerely doubt we'll stay and spectate and drink a beer in the sun.  Even if we did, there's no obvious interesting sections like at the OG course at Renni, so I don't think you're gonna see "a crowd" of spectators anywhere.

Which is the point, emmaright?

The elephant in the room we call COVID.

At this point, I feel like everyone has decided what they think is "smart" and "safe."  From the people that are still letting their Amazon packages sit on their porch for 24 hours before bringing them in and wiping them down with bleach or gasoline (and then lighting them on fire) to the people crowding establishments or visiting extended family or licking doorknobs or sharing memes about how mask wearing will kill you or whatever else...

Whilst the rest of us look down our noses and think "that's crazy but that's also crazy but what I'm doing totally isn't crazy..."

Member leaving the house without considering the risk factors involved in doing whatever activity you're about to pursue beyond your front door?

I think I member.

I'm just hoping to have some kind of positive experience outside on my bike that is different from what I've been doing for the last... ten months?  My life has been a blur of working for a week and then a week of filling my days with bike rides with a limited number of friends or fixing broke shit at my house or hanging with The Pie or a rare moment when I sit outside wearing ten layers so I can drink a few beers with a couple friends sitting at "social distance." 

Staring out the window and watching annual rye grass grow in my shitty backyard while the little birds eat half of my labor and money doesn't really help me mark the passage of time, although it does warm my heart just a bit to see that I made the birds fat and happy.

So, racing and then race "reports" are forthcoming and perhaps the usual self-sabotage associated with Winter Shart Tarck.

I will close with this:

Tuesday, January 19

I meant well...

For some reason, the state of North Carolina thought The Pie needed a new license plate.  It sat on the dining room table until this past Saturday when she dropped the hint that it needed put on her car.  Armed with a screwdriver, I went to task.  On the way out, she said something like "what does the state think about people who don't have tools or have severe arthritis or no arms or... ?"  I said something like "well, if they had the means to buy a car and then drive said car, I think they can figure something out."

First screw turned like... a screw.  Second one, not so much.  The screwdriver slipped as the screw refused to turn.  Dammit.  I know I'll get a couple tries at this and then I'm gonna round out the head and then I'll have to go get the drill and an extension cord and then go at it with a pair of vise grips and then see if I can find the right size replacement in the box of rando screws...

All before she needs to use her car in a half hour.

Doh.

Fortunately, the screw broke loose on the third try.  I went back in the house and greased the screws before putting them back in, just in case the state sends her another plate before she buys a new '27 Corolla.

The Pie is no longer a "Butt Fucking Loser."

Now on to my day's tasks.

I needed to put the mount for a Topeak frame pump on my Vassago Meatplow V.8.  I finally asked for a Race Rocket Mountain because:

1: I was carrying a sponsor incorrect pump that kinda sucked... because it's what I had.
2: I prefer pumps with an extendable hose because it's much more friendlier than yanking on your stem.

Problem is, ti bottle mounts aren't flush with the frame, so the mount as it is kinda sits out there all funny looking.  Tighten the bolt too much, and the plastic mount deforms around the base of the mount.  Then to top it off, my upper mount is a stud (for increased dropper clearance), so if I wanna put the mount behind the cage AND  sitting on the not-flush-to-the-frame mount, I'll run outta threads on the tiny post.

I've been down this road before.  I need to drill out the plastic mount in order for it to sit flush to the frame.  Usually no big deal...

Stick the right size drill bit in the slot, fire up the drill, the bit grabs the mount instead of removing any material, the mount starts slinging around and threading its way up the bit, the rubber strap that I was too lazy to remove from the mount wraps around my thumb, and at whatever billionty RPMs it was turning for that hot second starts pulling flesh off my thumb.

Arggh.

Run the the bathroom, rinse, antibiotic and bandage before I can bother looking at the damage. 

More time wasted looking for clamps... the one I that I found on the side of the road that I keep in one place and another that should be one of two that came with my Dremel tool but I loaned it out years ago and it was only returned with one of them and now it's not with the Dremel tool where it belongs...

Clamps found, confidence renewed, job done... a job that I thought would take ten minutes that took thirty and some blood loss.

My first thought when I injured my thumb was "shit, that's my drooper thumb."  Of my ten digits, I have two braking fingers, one bell dinging thumb, and one drooper thumb.  I can always shift my braking duties over one finger, and I could also shout instead of ringing a bell, but drooping duties rest solely on my right opposable digit.

So after I get the pump all situated, I test my thumb out on my drooper lever.  A quick push and the lever goes back effortlessly... I mean like there's no tension on the cable.  And the seat won't go down...

Obviously, the cable must have slipped at the clamping bolt?

Check it.  Nope.

I pull the housing from the lever and start yanking on the cable and it just starts coming out and I know the cable is busted.

Pourquois?

In my hands, what the cable should look like about to be nestled in its barrel nubbin.  Next to it, the cable snapped at the head.  Yeth, this is that $$$ Jagwire drooper specific cable kit (you can't buy only the replacement inner cables BTW).  Did I just get a bad one?  Did I mebbe kink it during a post rebuild?  Is this because the cable is only .8mm versus a standard shift cable that's 1.2mm?

Sigh.

At least that didn't happen on my last ride... or the very first push of the lever on my next ride.  I'm at home with my tools and plenty of replacement cables on hand.

But of course, nothing is easy.

I tried threading the new cable down the seat pipe and into the housing several inches down in there, but I couldn't hit the tiny hole in the ferrule.  Now I wanna push the housing from the front, but I had wrapped Gorilla tape around it where it enters the frame to cut down on potential wiggle noises.  Unwrap the tape (which sucked), push the housing... it won't budge.  Put the cable into the other end of the housing, shove it all the way through, use it to wiggle and jiggle the housing up to where I can get at it.

The rest of the process goes pretty much like normal... but then again, I was only trying to mount my new pump... or a license plate... I can't remember.

Quel dommage.  I wonder where in my work space that hunk of skin got slung.

Love, love, love the aesthetics of an internal drooper.  Hate the actual routing process tho.

Sometimes I can see why people take their bike to their local shops and pay professionals to do the job.

Wednesday, January 13

Positive Postal

Sorry (but not sorry) for being such a grumpy Gary (Busey, obvs) yesterday. 

For a guy who has been spending as much time doing what I love (riding around aimlessly) on my overly abundant time off, the weeks when I've been heading into work have been a little more mentally taxing lately.  The person who is normally in the "lead position" has been out of the office, and I've somehow found myself filling the seat.  

As we call it, "being the mustache."

Good thing I'm prepared for this task.

At least in the ironic sense.  Everything I know about the job is based on my proximity to it and the things I've accidentally learned out of idle curiosity and a desire to be a little halper.  75% of the work, I know what I'm doing.  The other 25% is a "growth opportunity."

The Pie has has been learning me how to speak "corporate."

What that means is I've been tied to a desk the last three weeks that I've gone into work.  It also means we're short handed.  It's also² been during some of the busiest times of the year.

It also³ meant there were days that I went into the big building at 9:00AM, and I came back outside at 5:00PM, spending all that time in a windowless room.  I mighta snuck out to peep at the outdoors once or twice on a potty break.  I was not the "bike guy," as we get loosely referred to by regular office folk. 

It's difficult for me to sit still, and worse, to sit still indoors.  Perhaps that's why I packed a solo ride beer the other week, because as long as I was outside, nothing else mattered.  I love my job because it grants me the freedom to be outside, even when it's raining and cold or hot and swampy.  Life is better lived in a non-climate controlled environment.  It's what I've been doing since '96 (except that regrettable three months in middle management wearing a tie and slippers and shaving daily), and I miss my regular job.  I've resorted to leaving my "running shoes" at work (are they even running shoes if you don't run?) because it seems pointless to click and clack around in clipless shoes for eight hours and not hopping on a bike occasionally.

It's temporary, but every time I have to call the outside courier, I'm jealous.  One less trip down Third Street to the courthouse.  One less climb up Fourth Street past the bus station and the arena.  One less trip out to the residential area of Dilworth where I look at houses and wonder how many kids I'd have to have in order to justify heating that many square feet and are there rooms that no one goes in for years at a time?

So perhaps that and what's going on out in the real world have been pulling my spirits down at times.  

But... everything is temporary.  The bad as well as the good, but there will always be more of both, and it's probably better to focus on the potential for the latter more than the former.  The days are getting longer, the temperature will get warmer (eventually), the trails will dry out, and my saddle sore will go away.

I hope.

The Pie would like to remind me that I still have a jerhb.  I still have my health.  I still have a tolerant wife.  

I tell her I also have five bikes and a dog.

Count your many blessings.

Tuesday, January 12

Leaning into it.

Hard to think about bikes a lot lately.  I'm sure much of our collective brain power is being drained by the world we find ourselves in now.  As apolitical as I try to keep the blerhg, I'll admit there was a moment months ago when The Pie asked me if I was happy that Turmp had lost the election.

"Yes, but I think he's going to spend the next two months trying to burn it all to the ground."

A vague prediction, but I woulda never guessed this would be his "best" work.

You're painting with a very wide brush if you call this a "riot" and those participating "rioters."  Yesterday, as more and more images and video were released, I was about as close to tears as I could be over something "political."  Hate on one particular politician or a whole swath that doesn't hold the same ideals as yourself, but I can't imagine being unable to sympathize with a bunch of people, Republican or Democrat, who were at work just doing their jobs and then finding themselves in the dark hiding from an angry mob with so little to defend them and no idea when or if help was coming?  And to be one of those Capitol Police officers? 

I try to put myself there, and I just can't.  I have trouble finding the words.  I know I'd have some sharp words for my employer at the next performance review.

Of course, all this makes me miss my friend Bill, if only to hear what he thinks about all this... that little ball of white spittle forming on his lower lip as he excitedly shares his view.

I'm very fortunate to have my garvel bike. 

Over my last ten day period of not going to work, despite taking two whole days off the bike, I've easily racked up huge amounts of saddle time.  I can't remember when or if ever spending this much time doing what I love.  With the local trails mostly closed, it's my only escape from the insanity, even if sometimes I end up riding with frands, and we try to verbally process the shit overloading our brains.  Once I get out there, it's kinda hard to want to stop.  If I can keep moving, the world can't catch up to me...

I tell myself.

*heart emoji hug emoji mebbe eggplant emoji*

Thursday, January 7

Well, I had to follow you...

Well, shit.

I came home from being in the woods all afternoon thinking I'd write some kinda reflective post yesterday, and I guess the world done went and blew up, and I got distracted until this morning.

Anyways, I planned on getting away from life and stuff.  The fuck away.  Too much shit lately.  I love riding with other people, and I hate the idea of driving my car by myself to get a ride in, but the trails were closed locally, riding around town every day brings back a lot of the sinking feelings, and I didn't want to be around anyone... if for the only reason that almost every human interaction leads to discussions of the COVID nature.

That was a long sentence.

The virus has found its way into my world recently.  Coworkers, distant relatives, loved ones.  I'm le tired.  Not to mention, I recently painted the dilapidated front porch only to have unforecasted rain fuck it all up.

Time for the woods...

I normally eat a bacon, egg, and cheese burrito before a big ride, but that's when I'm in a hurry.  It was a day for a sit down breakfast.

Ironically (or not), on the drive to Uwharrie, I listened to a Bike Tumor podcast with Tyler "Tool Bag" Benedict and "industry" acquaintance, Trey Richardson about... you guessed it, COVID.  It was mostly about possible long term effects and Trey's experiences as an "athlete" dealing with this shit show.  I was interested enough to take a break from taking a break.

I rarely if ever carry a beer on a solo ride.

I prefer sharing trail beer moments with friends, but this ride was more about hiding in the woods from the rest of the world than it was playing "athlete" or pretending that riding in circles matters.  I'd planned on zoning out to the shitty music on my Shuffle, but it's on its last legs and wouldn't play.  No buenos.  I was left with previously downloaded podcasts on my phone...

I know.  Who needs something in their ears to enjoy being outside?

Me.  I wasn't in the mood to be in my brain.  BTW: Not only does the Shuffle no longer want to talk to iTunes, they're about as rare as unicorns now, and refurbished ones sell for more than their original price.  I don't know what I'm going to do about all that.

The trail conditions weren't ideal, so I ended up cutting my ride a little shorter than planned.  I've been putting in decent mileage this week, and I'm starting to feel it as well.  Physically tired I can deal with.  Mentally tired, not so much.

At least all it takes is some time in the woods to charge my batteries.  I wished that worked for my Shuffle.

Time to watch some paint dry...

Stay safe (whatever that means).

Monday, January 4

Upside down on the zip zip zipper

 Happy fucking New Year!  Here we go!!

I mean, here we go...

What can serve as a better example of getting on a pointless roller coaster that just goes round and round and round and also feels like way more up than down than signing up for another year of the Winter Shart Tarck Series racing?

I was all stoked about a return to something close to a normalcy for five weeks in a row, but of course COVID wasn't done fucking things up.  For the first time ever, the event(s) will not be at the Renaissance Park location.  I think the event has been going on since '03 or '04 mebbe, and while the course has been tweaked a billionty times, it's always been at our beloved Renni.  This will also be one of the very few times where I wasn't able to attend a trail prep day and improve things in an approved...

semi-approved...

and basically unapproved manner.

Not taking shovel to dirt in the upcoming weeks will not make me feel better about my attendance, although there's a lot less of a chance that I'll smash my finger moving rocks or overdo it shoveling crush 'n run in an effort to winterize the course.

I'm super bummed about the concept of not being able to ride my bike to the race this year.  Twenty four to twenty six miles round trip on some roads in Charlotte I'd rather not ride a bike on as well as some busier two lane roads in South Carolina. 

It was a mental hurdle to jump getting over the idea of driving my car five weeks in a row down to Anne Springs Close Greenway, but honestly, what do I have better to do?  It's pretty predictable to determine that I'll still be working every other week through February, so my time is there to waste.  I'm pretty sure I've roped in Dr Mike to carpool with me, so at least I'll have buenos company.

Enough with the semi-negative aspects.  There are certainly some positives.  Yeth, COVID has made racing somewhat "less" than what we used to have, but I'm a firm believer that it can be done safely.  Each category is limited to twenty five riders (I assume for a masked/spaced grid start).  Even if there's some spectating to do, it's not too hard to find a place to keep some distance from each other and the riders.

Another tick in the "pros column" is that the course will be all new to me... I should say "courses."  They have two routes that will swap week to week, so this year should at least feel a little less "time to make the donuts" when I wake up five Sundays in a row for race day.

And as always, nothing replicates the kind of fitness you can get from doing intense intervals once a week for forty minutes.  I don't "exercise."  I ride or I race (or I sit on the couch and watch others ride and race).  There's not a lot of in between... although I've been known to just "ride" during a "race."

photo cred: Devon Balet
So, another year of riding in circles but not the same circles as usual and not the same circles week after week and still getting outside with friends... regardless of the weather.

Tuesday, December 29

Weird scenes inside the gold mine

Gads.  This is it. The end is Nigh(y).

Sorry.  Too macabre?  Mebbe this Nigh(y) then?
                                          
I mean, the end of the year.  Not the end of anything that really matters tho.  The end of a calendar year, and we all know that time is just a construct, and calendars only exist so we can know when to go to work, look forward to weekends, and share "ggggggrrrrrr Monday" memes.

So whatever.

We made it.  I assume if you're reading this, you did indeed "make it..."

At least to this arbitrary point in time that we now find ourselves in which is is now.

High fives?

I got what I wanted for Christmas.  Clean gutters and a leaf-free'esque yard.  I made it all by myself, so mebbe that doesn't count.  All work and no play makes Dick a dull boy, so I've been riding the Rodeo Adventure Labs Flaanimal 5.0 way more than I thought I would... or as much as I thought I would.  Dunno.  I knew it would come in handy when the trails got messy and my boredom reached critical levels, but it makes me wonder what I did before I got this bike in my grubby little hands.

Huh.  How was that my longest ride ever on STRAVA?  I have no idea how long I've been on STRAVA, I can't remember how many rides I've done without my Wahoo (a lot), but I know I've haven't finished a hundie since buying a bike cycle computation device.   Still, hard to believe my longest ride never left the city limits.

This is how a Jerry road ride goes.  Very random cut-throughs and a Jerry-atric pace, which is to say, it's just fast enough to put the guy on the single speed garvel bike into the red zone quite often as I yo-yo off the back anytime the pace gets higher than 20MPH.  It was a most excellent way to spend the day, and with the brain trust of Jerry, Chris and Togie, I didn't need to know where we were going, how we were getting there, and how many miles it would take to get back to where we started.  It didn't matter... you know... time, construct, etc.  As long as I had plenty of sour gummy bears in my pocket, I could probably ride all day... if I had to... but I didn't.

Thank dawg.

I guess I've now got the flat-barred aberration that I call a "garvel bike" finally fitting comfortably enough to pound out some miles without my left shoulder crying for help.

Here I am taking my collective breath with you knowing full well that on January 1st, we'll just be starting 2020 2.0.  I'll still be going to work every other week for the foreseeable future.  I'll be unable to plan anything too far ahead, and I'll be riding my bike as much as I can get my sometimes unmotivated ass outside.  When I start binge watching sitcoms from the comfort of my own couch, feel free to come over and kick my ass.  Please text me first so I can leave the front door unlocked.  I don't want you kicking in the door and injuring your dick-kicking foot... although having to fix a busted-in front door would give me something to do.

Since I'd like to be able to commiserate with all the victims of the recent shortage of bike parts due to the "industry" wide COVID-related boon, I went ahead and back ordered a larger ticket item in hopes that it will provide enough anticipation and angst to keep me from losing my ability to feel anticipation and angst... for something. 

Here's to staring out the window longingly for a bike part and mebbe vampires...