Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Most expensive tires ever

Tuesday, 30 October

Earlier this month, I had a string of about 6 flats in 2 weeks. I had a similar experience when I dusted off the rain bike last year too, but a pair of new tires seemed to solve the problem. This year, the cycling products procurement person in my household (and the teammates who stood around and watched me fix all those flats) decided that I needed bigger and better tires to solve the problem. I think they are going to turn out to be the most expensive tires he's ever seen--and I don't mean the purchase price.

Because I moaned when I saw the size and weight of the new super-tough armadillo tires, I currently only have one on my rear wheel. It's 28 mm wide. Yesterday was its maiden voyage. Oh, the difference! It does not accelerate. It provides even greater contact with the bumps on the Burke Gilman Trail to maximize wear and tear on the bike and on my nerves and other body parts. Mostly, though, it just takes its own sweet time. How do I describe the exhilaration of going downhill with a tailwind at 14 mph? What greater fun can there be than going up a 15% hill with heavy headlight battery, backpack, and tires that stick to the pavement?

The cycling coach in my household tells me that this will make my winter training even better. "Think how easy it will be when you get on your race bike!" Here's some advance warning to the peloton: come next March, I probably won't be able to handle my race bike because it will accelerate all over the place and go downhill so fast that I'll finally have an excuse for my poor descending skills.

The hidden costs in these tires are the time my teammates are going to have to wait for me on team rides all winter long (those same male teammates who said I needed a pair of armadillos) and the price of a winter vacation somewhere warm and dry where I can ride a bike without super-wide tires to remember what it's like. I'm thinking I've discovered yet another dimension of the cycling industry where what works for the male of the species is somehow less than ideal for the female. And just you wait until one of these tough, gnarly babies flats and I have to get it off and back on the wheel!

[I think I discovered too why I got to ride tandem both days last weekend: one less weekend for me to whine about going slow on my lethargic tire.]

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Never cross a shoe

Sunday, 28 October

Sometime Friday night, a woman's pump with stylish pointy toes and a 4-inch heel was scorned and rejected along Rainier Avenue. Or perhaps Cinderella dropped it on her way home from a pre-Halloween ball. In either case, it laid patiently in wait for the hordes of cyclists who would pass that way on Saturday morning. As one large group passed, it flew up from the road and into the spokes of an unsuspecting rider, albeit one who appreciates women's legs in 4-inch heels. His bike stopped instantly, throwing him face down onto the road and toppling other riders in the melee. Of the three in that new love-hate triangle--shoe, bike, rider--the shoe suffered only some minor road rash on her stiletto heel. The bike's fork and front fender were dealt a fatal blow, but the heavy old frame will ride again another day and the invincible Rolf wheels don't even need truing. The rider, sadly, had damage to multiple bones: skull, cheekbone, vertebra, and ribs. He will not be back on that bike or any bike any time soon. Perhaps he talked the ER staff into a few extra stitches on his face so he'll have a handy costume for Halloween this Wednesday?

Yes, the scorned shoe has found a new home. The ambulance folks left the rider's shoes with his bike, and we made sure the stiletto was added to complete that threesome. Maybe it won't be bronzed, and it will probably never see another night of dancing, but I suspect it will be the talk of at least one household for a good while to come.

The moral of this tale is not about how you treat your shoes but about wearing your helmet. There are things out there beyond your wildest dreams just waiting to take down a cyclist. You can be the best bike handler and most experienced rider out there, you can be on a road you've ridden a thousand times, and all it takes is one lonesome black shoe and--poof--you could be part of one of those I-don't-believe-this-is-happening-to-me ordeals that we don't wish on anyone!

Heal fast, Alastair!!

Thursday, October 25, 2007


Thursday, 25 October

It's a full moon, so you'll just have to pardon the odd digression here.

Has anybody ever felted anything? (Get your mind out of middle school.) I figured the next step in my hat making is to learn how to felt. Through the felting process, a knitted item completely changes texture (shrinks) so that it no longer looks like a piece of twisted and tortured yarn but a smooth, tight, wooly piece of fabric. Turns out the process is not rocket science, just a bit mysterious and not quite certain, which I guess explains the thrill.

I wonder if I can felt pieces of the antique (ancient, decrepit) Pendleton blanket I have. It has bald spots and holes and really has outlived its life as a blanket (I remember that my grandparents used it in its early old age to protect apples in their shed all winter so it's probably 75 years old). If I can bear to cut it up, can I make felted placemats or bowls (for potpourri, not cornflakes) or maybe scarves or a table runner?

Felting websites cover felting a knitted item and carded wool (lacking sheep in my backyard, I'll have to settle for already crafted items). In a touch of the bizarre, I found one blogger who felted her cat's fur so that she'd have some part of him to treasure always. I understand the sentiment, but somehow the end result seems a little....gross.

All I have to do to felt a hat is make one that's 25% too big, run it through the hot-water wash cycle in my washing machine a few times, rinse, wring, and shape to dry. The mysterious part is you don't know how any particular yarn will break down in this process, and you don't know how much any given item will shrink. They say that it produces a lot of lint--and it's addictive. What else am I going to do on a rainy weekend when I've had enough of riding my bike through puddles besides pummel a poor hat in the washing machine? Stay tuned....

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My name is Phrehdde

Tuesday, 23 October

I thought about trying to find a ride partner for a little post-work spin this afternoon, but it's a good thing I didn't: everyone I know would've been mortified to ride with me. See, when I left for work this morning, it was dark and cold-ish. You know, time for tights and calf-high fleece socks and all those creature-comfort sorts of things. Who cares that the shorts are 5 years old when you wear tights too? I was pretty proud of myself for remembering a short-sleeved jersey for the balmy afternoon temps that were promised.

The thermometer on my local website said it was 75 degrees when I was packing up to leave work. Nix the tights. Um, are these shorts even decent? (At least I shaved my legs recently!) Can I roll down my socks around my ankles so maybe the wild pattern doesn't show too much? Oh, that short-sleeved jersey is pink (to match my Axley/Gin Optics Stungunners, of course), and the shorts were once red, white, blue, and black. Argh!

I saw lots of folks out there, but thankfully no one felt obliged to ride with me and comment on my wardrobe. It's no wonder the ex-teammates who passed didn't even acknowledge my existence (but most of them don't wave or nod even when you're wearing the same jersey). The Husky cycling team was about as randomly attired as I was. Clint was Mr. Stylish in full team kit from his wrists to his ankles. I passed one TGHer in team colors down to her gloves. I was in the last 5 miles of my ride before I found a worse fred than me; he still had his dress socks on.

But who cares!!! It was a glorious afternoon to ride a bike. It was the kind of day that Argentius claims we didn't have any of all summer long. The kind of day when PruDog could've lost 40 pounds in a 2.5-hour ride. It would've been a gift any time of year; a full month after the autumnal equinox, it was a thrill. I didn't even mind riding the rain bike....too much.

(I have surely jinxed myself and will no doubt be swimming my way to work tomorrow morning.)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Press release

Wednesday, 17 October (updated 22 October)

SEATTLE – The First Rate Mortgage Cycling Team is pleased to announce the expansion and development of its women’s squad for 2008. With returning riders and new recruits, the FRM women’s team now totals 14 female athletes in categories 2-4.

The first contingent of women to be added to the team roster hail from the west side of Puget Sound. Four of them pulled off a recent racing triumph by clinching second place in the masters women B division at the state team time trial championship in Elma in August. Brenda Green, Lisa Lund, Kathi McMahon, and Tonia Schmidt signed up with FRM after the official Meet the Team Ride in mid-September. These cat 3 and 4 women saw lots of racing action in 2007, from Ice Breaker to TST to Methow and Walla Walla. Also coming to FRM from Bainbridge are long-time, part-time racer Julie Houck and experienced triathlete Nora Masters, who has a few bike races on her resume as well.

Perhaps more familiar to Seattle racers are women who made the move from other local teams. Zana Faulkner finished the 2007 season in first place in the WSBA cat 4 women’s rider rankings. Jitka (“I like mud”) Cole is still racing strong, with the cyclocross season in full swing. Sile Kiernan, who whisked herself off to the ER (with a broken collarbone) before the officials knew she had crashed at Redmond Derby, brings the number of Irish nationals on the team to a lucky three. And Joanne Green comes to FRM with a bunch of top-5 finishes in 2007, including a win in the Nooksack criterium.

Just starting out in bike racing (but no stranger to bikes) is the newest racer on the team, Robin Secrist, who is making the transition to bike racing after winning the 2007 Seafair Triathlon (and other events). Donna Peters and Sara Graham will continue to ride for FRM, and Martha Walsh returns to the team after a year in another jersey.

The first order of business in 2008 will be securing some upgrade points for cat 4s ready to transition to cat 3. And the opportunities for cat 3 women in Washington in 2008 are exciting. In addition to a separate BARR ranking, this category should see separate scoring at key women’s races during the season and maybe even separate races (from the women cat 1-2s) by the end of the season. The cat 4 race series will be bigger and better and more publicized in 2008 and will provide excitement and motivation for riders at this level. The team also has an eye on regional stage races and other challenging events to round out the season.

The FRM women are looking forward to camaraderie and competition in 2008. It’s a great group where everyone has valuable experience and insights to share, and everyone can learn from everyone else. Watch for the FRM team colors at every event on the 2008 race calendar, from Mason Lake to masters nationals!

Monday, October 15, 2007

Good luck, Dwan

Monday, 15 October

The designer of my favorite bike starts a regimen of chemotherapy tomorrow, soon to be augmented with radiation. This follows a summer of equally harsh treatment for the person who "sold" the bike to us. Sometimes bad things strike in nice places, and sometimes lightning strikes twice. I'm sending my love to a couple of special guys in Eugene....I wish I could send hugs as easily as text messages. No doubt in my mind which are more important.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Reading material

Friday, 12 October

Thanks to my teammate Keith, who is picking up the old kitchen cabinet today.

Thanks to folks in Florida, California, Massachusetts, and Illinois who paid enough for my orange jerseys, etc., to keep me in generous coffee money through the winter.

Now I just need warm dry weather and lots of time to finish painting the new fence, and some magic way to get the red stain off the concrete floor in my laundry room without inducing a crippling wrist injury that would force me to retire from hat-making. (A girl can wish, can't she??)

There are a couple new cycling blogs/websites to keep your eye on for entertainment through the winter months:



Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Free to a good home

Tuesday, 9 October

I'm trying to clean house. I can't do it in the spring because I'm too busy racing, so what better time than the autumn when suddenly I'm spending a whole lot more time here and discovering what a cluttered place I live in. I managed to find happy homes (well, at least paying homes) for almost all my orange team clothing (thanks, Argentius!). And I found something that I think you really need for storing your helmets or racing shoes or rolls of bar tape or glasses or water bottles or whatever.

This is a great kitchen cabinet, built by a real cabinet maker in Woodinville. It's made out of vintage plywood (real wood, not sawdust and glue). It's 36 inches wide x 12.5 inches deep x 14 inches high. The hinges and latches work great, and the doors hang and swing straight.

I've tried putting it out by the street with a "free" sign, but the weather has been so marginal the last couple of weeks that I haven't been able to leave it out there long enough to find a new home for it. So I think you really need this cabinet in your garage or basement. I'll even deliver it in NE Seattle, or you can come by and pick it up.

The next option is to let my 13-year-old niece go at it with a sledge hammer, and that seems like a waste. It's calling your name.....

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Sweet repeat, sweet victory

Sunday, 7 October

Way to go, Michael! Mr. Alpine Ibex Emde won the Furnace Creek 508 for the second year in a row with a time of 27 hours 32 minutes. He averaged 18.46 mph. The guy in second place was about 1.5 hours behind him. Truly incredible.

Not all the results are in yet (meaning, not all the riders are in yet), but you can find 'em here.

Late addition: Karen Armstrong, also of Spokane, was the first woman to finish the 508. Her time was 36:58, and she was THREE HOURS ahead of second place. What's in the water over there in Spokane??? Way to go Karen!

Even later addition: I just realized the key to success must be that awesome Emde Sports coaching!!

Friday, October 05, 2007

Crazier than me

Friday, 5 October

Tomorrow morning, some 201 hardy souls will set out on the Furnace Creek 508. That's 508 miles of bike racing...without stopping much. Some folks do it in 4-person teams (or 8-person, I guess, if you count the 4-tandem team), some in 2-person teams, and some do it solo. Like last year's winner, Michael Emde.

The Ring of Fire TT I've done twice now is sort of like barely getting your toe wet in this sport of ultra cycling. When you do OK at 12 hours, though, they think you'd be great at 48 hours or whatever it takes to ride 508 miles in the California desert. I'm not (yet?) convinced of that, so I'll be riding my rain bike on a sociable and short ride with my new team tomorrow but thinking especially of these 508 competitors that I've raced with this year in Washington and Oregon:

Michael Emde
Karen Armstrong
George Thomas
Hugh Gapay
Michael Wolfe
Greg Geser

If you don't know any of these names after Emde, you should; they are all truly incredible and inspirational athletes. Michael Wolfe has probably raced his HPV more miles than I've ridden my road bike this year. Try googling "George Thomas RAAM."

You can find your favorite rider (they've all got numbers and "totems") and then follow their progress on the 508 website:


Send positive thoughts their way when you take a shower or go to bed or get up in the morning and realize that they are all still out there on their bikes. It's kind of amazing how this is part of the same sport that's holding national championships at the LA track right now!

Thursday, October 04, 2007

More physics...and haiku

Thursday, 4 October


That much high school physics I do remember. Thanks, Mr. Folsom, for helping me always remember the colors of the rainbow: RedOrangeYellowGreenBlueIndigoViolet.

The rainbow on my afternoon commute was beautiful. For a while, there were two, and then one doubled. But like most rainbows, this one came at a price: I got drenched. Is it April already?

Ominous clouds loom
Rain tumbles down and soaks me
Sunshine warms my soul

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Physics and floor pumps

Tuesday, 2 October

I admit I didn't do so well at high school physics--and that class was a long time ago. I'm not sure this subject was covered, though.

When I use a floor pump, it seems that I cannot inflate my tires to more pounds per square inch than pounds of my body weight. Even if I put all my weight on my hands and take my feet off the ground, I still cannot put enough air in the tires for a TT (and barely enough for commuting). Does this reflect how much I weigh, or how little upper-body strength I have?

I know all you 160-pound guys have never encountered this problem, so I'm sure you'll have lots of speculation to offer. Just don't blame me when I can't be a self-sufficient cyclist.