A Loaf of Bread, a Container of Milk, and a Stick of Butter

Many folks don't realize just how useful a bicycle and bike trail can be. Yesterday I Big Dummy-ed (or Dan Wilson-ed) somewhere around 60lbs of foodstuffs for 17miles (1/2 the trip).

The Butler Freeport Community Trail connects not only the endpoint towns, but makes it convenient to get to communities in the middle as well.

The trail allowed me to not have to deal with auto traffic for half the trip, but also average the climbing out over a longer distance- a welcome respite when I use a 34×30 as my low gear (Who's the Big Dummy?).

The takeaway? Bikes and local rail-trails are useful for MUCH more than pure recreation. You don't always NEED to drive someplace to get some exercise in. And, in my case, if I factor in the time the trip I would have spent driving a car, I saved about an hour of the day.

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3-2-1…

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On March 21, 2016 a Nissan Altima showed me and my Karate Monkey just who’s boss.  We had quite the lesson in physics that evening. F=u+cked. This is a pic I snapped last night from the car’s perspective.

It took a fraction of a second for the whole thing to go down. The inattentiveness of the driver to STOP before left hand turning started me on a journey that has already taken hundreds of hours of my life.

I don’t honestly believe the driver set out to hit a fellow human. There was no cyclist hate. He was simply in a hurry to get his daughter to an activity and wasn’t entirely focused on piloting a 2-ton vehicle for a few moments.

I couldn’t do anything differently. I was wearing hi-vis clothing and there was ample daylight. I had stopped, determined it was safe to proceed, and was starting. I was ½ way through an offset intersection heading eastbound (from the left) as the car was traveling westbound (from the right.) I was hit on the left side from the head-on direction.

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It’s now been a year and a day. I’m not angry at the driver. Truthfully though, I am disappointed. And really confused. The way insurance works, there’s no room to admit fault or offer a true condolence. I should not have been hit by this person (I know more about the situation than I’m willing to disclose on the internet). I don’t know if his life was altered from this experience. I do know mine has.

I get tired of people telling me “Change is good.” whenever a situation doesn’t go as one would like. Change is change. It’s not inherently good or bad. It’s just makes things different. The change in my life as a result of this experience has been mixed. I definitely can’t say it’s all been good.

One of my first rides back was with a friend. He said, “Sometimes we have experiences for no apparent reason other than to test what we’re made of.”

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The above picture was from my ride last night- March 22, 2017. I broke out the ungeared 36″ uni and put in over 30 miles. The shot is blurry as I was running out of daylight and was still several miles out so I snapped it while riding.

As frustrated as I’ve been from being hit, I’m thankful I can still ride.

Cars are dangerous.

 

Unicycle Nerdery: NAUCC 29er Marathon Class?

No joke, I like racing unicycles.  Since 2008 it’s mostly replaced my need to bicycle race.  That’s changed a bit over the last couple of years as I’ve begun to again occasionally toe the line on two wheels, but high speed unicycle racing will always fascinate me as unlike bike racing, the sport is relatively new.  The first Unicon (unicycle world championships) wasn’t until 1984.  Before that, North America had the North American Unicycling Championships and Convention (NAUCC) which dated back to 1973 for the first one.  The 36″ wheel wasn’t available until the late 1990s, and the Marathon didn’t really take hold until at least the mid 2000s.  The 2 speed 1.54 overdrive hub, the Schlumpf, wasn’t available until 2005.  Since then, speeds have increased as well as participation in racing.  Just how fast?  The current world record speed for the Marathon (yes, 42.195km) is 19.9mph.

With all of this significant development in the sport, there is significant development in the sport’s rules.  As with any sport, some of the rules to unicycle racing are going to differ from those in other racing disciplines.  Since many unicycles are direct drive, the size of the wheel matters.  In theory, the bigger wheel goes faster.  This is mostly true in practice- in Road Racing.  Off-Road racing is a whole other discussion.  Things also get a bit messy when considering the 2-speed shiftable overdrive hub as it alters the virtual wheel size with it’s own changes in handling due to the transmission.  While that is part of this discussion, it’s not the focus.

Now that the background rambling is over, we can now get to the question:

Should there be a separate 29er class for the NAUCC Marathon?

The short answer: No. 29ers are welcome to race as part of the Unlimited class and placings count in age group placings as well (and also get counted towards the subset of overall Ungeared).  However, there should not be a separate class for the 29in wheel ungeared unicycle.

Reasons:

  1. Speed.  Road Racing is supposed to be fast.  For the most part 36″ riders on ungeared unicycles are much faster than 29″ riders on ungeared unicycles since most riders run out of cadence before strength.  36″ wheels travel 24% further every pedal stroke. Even though the 36er wheel is heavier, it’s incredibly difficult to spin 24% faster on the smaller wheel.  There is not a full Ungeared 36″ class yet as there aren’t enough Schlumpf hubs being raced to warrant splitting the Unlimited class fully into Geared and Ungeared, so why would a slower wheel get preference?
  2. Time.  Very few elite riders at NAUCC choose to road race smaller wheels.  This typically leaves the Ungeared 29er for those who are not comfortable on a 36″ wheel yet.  A 26.2 mi Marathon is a long race.  While the fastest riders are in the 1:30ish range (geared 36″= virtual 54″ wheel), the slowest ungeared 36″ riders sometimes still struggle to make 3:30.  Some riders have finished on ungeared 29″ unis ahead of some ungeared 36″ unis, but they have not broken the top 10 of the ungeared 36″ unis yet.  The Marathon is a long event.  Being part of an approximately 30 event schedule for a week, it needs a cutoff time.  By adding a 29er class (before 36″ ungeared) we would possibly be encouraging a few more riders to attempt the Marathon, but we would also run into more riders hitting the cutoff time and needing to be swept from the course.
  3. Geared (36, 29, 27.5, or 26) vs. Ungeared is a class designation that needs to develop first.  Being that geared hubs have proven to be a definite advantage in Road Racing over the past 10 years, we recently added to the rulebook a clause to recognize the top finishing Ungeared rider as North American Champion.  That clause is in effect when 5 or more Schlumpf riders are entered in an event as the Ungeared rider can get squeezed out of a top 5 finish.  Unfortunately, uni racing hasn’t hit the point where the geared hub is ubiquitous enough yet to separate into Geared and Ungeared categories.  It’s likely when the Geared vs. Ungeared split happens that the 36″ ungeared (the current biggest pneumatic wheel size) will be faster than the 29″ ungeared.  Then again, maybe something bigger than a 36″ wheel will take hold by then.  Giving the smaller wheel the nod now by making a 29er class would not make sense.
  4. For the good of the sport we should encourage racers to race at the highest, fastest level they possibly can.  While geared unicycles can typically be the fastest, geared unicycles are not for all unicyclists.  A single speed direct-drive unicycle is a very simple machine.  It’s pure in a running sort of way.  In a foot-running race, the person who runs the fastest wins.  On an equally wheel sized simple machine, it’s the person who pedals the fastest.  That has strong roots in the sport of unicycle racing and should be honored.  A geared unicycle is comparatively much more complex and expensive- pretty much tripling the cost of the uni.  And there’s a much greater chance of mechanical failure as well.  In the realm of road racing, geared riding is typically the fastest, which is one of the main goals of racing.  But, the addition of a transmission, extra expense and complexity skew the sport away from running races and more towards bicycle racing.  Uni racing occupies that unique space somewhere in the middle and we should continue to respect the past and look forward to the future.

Completing a Marathon- whether by running on foot or balancing on top of a wheel with not much more than a seat and pedals, is indeed a significant accomplishment and should be celebrated.  Anyone who completes the distance on any size wheel should always have their time and placings recorded.  Newer riders should be encouraged to ride the Marathon as it’s the longest distance race offered in many unicycling competitions.  However, until the ridership is large enough to support multiple class splits from what we currently have, we should not have a 29er class offered at NAUCC.

Now, the devil’s advocate addendum:

The 29 ungeared (instead of 36) is the Standard Class at Unicon.  I was on the Rulebook Committee when we debated the merits of it.  The reasons presented for the 29 becoming the standard before the 36 in the realm of intercontinental competitions were:

  1. Intercontinental air travel is the norm.  A 29″ wheel is the biggest that fits standard airline baggage restrictions for international travel.  A rider can also easily pack a frame and several wheels (29, 27.5, 26, and/or 24) and be able to compete in many of the events at Unicon.
  2. At the international level there are many 29er riders who are faster than many of the ungeared 36er riders attempting the Marathon for the first time who are not Road Racing Specialists.  Timing is much less of an issue.
  3. It may seem unfair that the Ungeared 36 did not get a class designation yet, but the top 3 Ungeared riders will now be recognized.  This was another rule that was voted into the rulebook the same time the 29 as the Standard size wheel was.

 

Maybe you enjoyed some of this nerdery, or maybe you tuned out.  It’s OK either way.  Unicycle racing is important, but not very profitable.  Being a North American Champion, along with $3, will buy a cup of coffee at a decent coffee shop.  This blog’s about the same as it isn’t about making money, it’s about making sense of the world around me.

 

Upcycling Downhilling

I have a few friends that partake in marginally bad ideas (as evidenced above).  The Power Wheels phase isn’t the first time we’ve upcycled some downhill steeds, padded up, and ignored Consumer Product Safety Commission Stickers.

That would have been the scuttle of scooters from SRU. These scooters were not of the Razor death trap variety (we do have a moderate understanding of physics), rather the 12″ (and maybe one 16″) mag-wheeled, fast rolling, marginally braked flashbacks to probably somewhere in the 90’s or so.  Since they were fairly safe (other than the brakes that were more yields), we usually raced them under the cloak of darkness.  Often for donut runs.

Sadly, as much fun as they were, it became increasingly difficult to find enough people to form a gang and cruise downtown.  People grew up, got jobs, moved away, and got into grown up stuff.

The next phase would be the snowbike/ snow scooter phase.  These are still in the arsenal and poised to make a comeback.  They were built from junk kid’s bikes and dysfunctional scooters from the first wave of shenanigans.  While they’re fun, fun shouldn’t be limited to the snowy season.

Which brings us to the Power Wheels.  When the batteries go bad and the kids grow out of them, we give them a second life.  The first step is to pull the motors.  The second step is to beef up the chassis with metal bits, 2x4s, or whatever else is stiffer than the plastic designed for 60 lbs or less.  Seats often need modified as does the steering.  When it’s all said and done, they’re marginally safe:

Marginally safe is sometimes a fun place to be- as long as you have a good chiropractor.

Who knows what the next phase will be.  I do know I’m glad technology has evolved enough since this first started that we can shoot and edit video easily.  Someday I may be too old for this.  Maybe.

 

In Spite of the Weather

Daywear.  Eveningwear.  Swimwear.  They’re all blurring together at this point.

After yet another edition of The Daily Hydraulic Beatdown– this one well over an hour ahead of schedule I came to a couple of conclusions:

1. We’re out of places to put the rain.  The front yards of the fancy houses on the boulevard now all have in ground swimming pools.  The mall parking lot is looking at installing “No Fishing” signs.  The usual riding shortcuts are suitable for canoeing.

2. The valiant attempts to store water of my shoes, uni saddle, and chamois really didn’t work out so well for the remaining 7 miles to the house.  They’re now spending some quality time in front of the dehumidifier.

With all that being said, there’s no real beef here.  Sure, it’s a bit annoying that offroad trails are unrideable (still- there’s always The Wheel Mill), but it could be far worse.  We could be under drought status as some parts of the country are.

All this talk of weather brings to mind one of my favorite bands, songs,videos, and well timed rain storms from back in early 90’s:

A Tale of Two Bikes and More Friends

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Thanks to Chas at SAYLÉ, two of my bikes ready for action again.  It’s good to have friends.  It’s better to have friends with bearing pullers and bearing presses.  Some may not have bearing issues with their bikes much, but I seem to ride a whole lot and tend to be too stupid to shift.  Going up a hill on a singlespeed (or fixed gear) transmits a lot of force through the drivetrain- rear hub and bottom bracket included.  Those bearings bear the brunt of my poor decisions and stubborn refusal to walk up hills, but fortunately aren’t too difficult to replace (with the proper tools.)

When we were pressing new bearings into the wheel pictured above, I realized that the friends of these parts extended a lot further back.  The wheel was hand-built by Jarrod, now of City Cycle Supply, somewhere around 11 years ago.  It’s been on the Cross Check- the chosen bike for misadventures for well over a decade (and almost always run as a fixed gear.)  That bike came from Speedgoat, founded by Chris, now of Asylum.  Actually Asylum was a house brand of Speedgoat, but when things went unfortunate the brand went into hibernation.  Then, like a good Phoenix, it came back with the Meuse.

Which leads us to the red rings on the eccentric bottom bracket cups in the picture.  I picked up a Meuse when they first became available on Crowd Supply.  It’s made me rethink my aversion to carbon.  Of course, I wouldn’t have tried it unless I knew I could trust it.  When a friend who is more obsessive than yourself signs off on it (thanks Chris), you’re in good hands.  What drew me to the Meuse as well as the design was the fact that it could be run as a bike without shifty bits. My Meuse is sometimes a fixed gear and sometimes a singlespeed because singlespeed cross bikes are a ton of fun and really !@#@!! fast.

This whole obsession with riding bikes could all just be a bunch of crazy talk.  That’s why I’m glad I have a bunch of friends who support pedal powered crazy.  And have the tools to keep me from walking.

Thanks guys.

What’s on My Mind

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It’s not a #throwbackthursday, but this was a post I started some time ago from the mobile.  I had it mostly written and then a bug in the app smashed the bytes into tiny bits and it never saw the light of day.

August 10th, 2014 I got sick.  I had not been feeling 100% when the day started, and as the race progressed I could sense something wasn’t right.  No big deal, some rest and things would be fine.  But they weren’t.  I was really run down and had some sinus weirdness kick in.  It’ll get better soon, I thought.  In the grand scheme of the age of the universe, it would.  In the measurement of days, weeks, and even up to months it didn’t.

By mid-September I thought it would be good to seek some medical attention.  I went to a non-critical emergency care place and was given a round of antibiotics.  Still nothing.  Crazy phlegm and exhaustion still prevailed.  I saw my doctor in October.  He scheduled a Pulmonary Function Test and said he suspected Asthma.  Being that I could still ride a bike or unicycle for dozens of miles at a time I had my suspicions, but I’m not a doctor.  So I waited 3 weeks for the Pulmonary Function Test appointment.  During the test I hit the wheezing point with the phlegm fun, but the magic spray that was supposed to help if I had Asthma didn’t.

So I called the doctor again, and this time it was recommended I see a specialist.  It took them a month and a half to just get me on the schedule to schedule an appointment.  By this time I was stable.  I had settled in to that my nose was just going to perpetually run and I was going to get comfortable feeling as though I had been thrown under the bus.

I finally got in to see the specialist and he (surprise) couldn’t find anything wrong.  He did prescribe a nasal spray and said I’d get a card in the mail to schedule a follow up appointment.  It never came.  Nevermind.

Sometime in late January/ early February I was using the neti-pot (a daily ritual to keep my sinuses clear and keep me off of allergy meds) when the bizarre happened.  As the saline solution ran out of my nose I saw a yellow blob fall.  Hmm, that looks odd.  So I poked it.  And then I took a closer look.  And then I pulled it.  And then I took a picture.  It’s at the top of the post.  I have no idea how yellow elastic ended up in my sinuses (the dime didn’t fall out of my nose, it’s for referencing size).  I don’t know of anything that exists in my world that matches it.  Right around that time, my phlegm problem subsided and I started to feel less run down as well.

It could be just coincidence, but even at that it’s still a fun story.