Permanent Hell

This past Saturday I rode Tour of Happy Valley again – EK, myself, and newly minted randonneur Mike Lewis did the ride.   I should note we were doing it in reverse for the first time.  This way we would avoid the potential of 70 something miles of headwinds that the normal direction can inflict (erm, has inflicted in the past…).

All three of us ‘needed’ this perm to continue our respective R-12 streaks.  This was #8 for me, #4 for Mike, and #30-something for Eric.

The weather forecast was reasonably promising.  It included a somewhat chilly start at 20 degrees, with a warm-up into the low 40’s by mid afternoon (but with some clouds), and with a near-zero chance of precipitation.  For late November, that’s not great, but not too bad either.

We started at 7:30a in order to avoid the very worst of the cold, but as it turned out, it was only 13 degrees then.  But at least it was sunny and there wasn’t much wind.  We pretty much all had cold feet, faces and hands (but not dangerously so) for the first 45 miles.   On my torso I was wearing two long sleeve wool layers, one short sleeve wool layer, and a lightweight sorta-breathable shell.  On my legs I had a pair of thin tights with PI Amfibs over top.  Ski gloves on my hands;  winter cycling boots and expedition weight wool socks on my trotters.   And a wool balaclava, headband, and cotton cap on me noggin.  It was enough.

At 45 miles (after doing the out and back to Warriors Mark), I shed the short sleeve wool layer and the cotton cap, and put on lighter gloves (but stashed the heavy ones in my seat bag).  By this time it had warmed up to about 38 degrees or so.  Quite a rise  (25 degrees in only 4 point something hours…)!

Nothing much eventful happened on the ride out to the Buffalo Valley turnaround at mile 90, however the skies had turned overcast and we were intermittently sprinkled upon.  Not enough rain to get us truly wet or make us cold(er), but just enough to wet the road and make a mess of things.  It would sprinkle lightly for 5 minutes, then stop totally for the next hour or so.  Then the cycle would repeat.  You know, I just can’t seem to entirely avoid rain on permanents lately.  I tolerate riding in the rain, but I don’t like it one bit.  I am not a real randonneur, you see.  A real randonneur relishes in such challenges, right?  The more of a test of your skills, experience, and determination, the better, right??   I see half of you are nodding ‘yes’ and the other half ‘no’.  Huh.  At least I am not alone…

Anyways, we made it back over the Happy side of the mountain just before nightfall and turned onto the very quiet Pine Creek Road.  Shortly after that, Eric had a curious observation:  The road was crunchy.  Come again?  Turns out we were hearing the occasional isolated patch of textured ice as it would pass under our wheels.  So, upon discovering this, we all slowed down a good bit, and debated the origins of this ice while we gingerly rolled along.   You see, at this point, it had cooled down a bit, but we still had an air temperature of 35 degrees or so, and it had been above freezing for about the last 6 hours.   And none of the wet roads we had ridden on all day had given even the tiniest indication that they had ice.  Because they didn’t.  So, several theories regarding the origins of the mystery ice were exchanged between the three of us, and we all chalked it up to being a freak anomaly.  But still, we all got the obvious message that we needed to be careful.  Eric advised to avoid riding on the shiny parts of the road, but it all looked pretty damn shiny to me.  We all kept the speed down, tried to ride smoothly, and stay off the shiny bits.  What a plan!  What could possibly go wrong?

Sooo, we were heading down a gentle grade (right after Eric said that we would be ok if we were careful) and BAM, I hear Eric hit the deck.  I turned my head slightly to look in my mirror and this may have caused the slightest turning of the handlebars in the process and BAM, down I went too.  Eric hit his knee and hip, and I hit my elbow, but neither of us had any significant injury, thank goodness.  And our bikes didn’t seem to be damaged.  We got pretty lucky.  We picked ourselves up and inspected the road, which was a total sheet of very, very shiny ice.

At that point riding was out of the question, so we started walking down the road on the verge,  as it was impossible to even walk on that bit of road without tempting fate.  We tested the road intermittently and in places it was merely wet, and in others it was very slick.  We estimated that we were almost exactly in the middle of nowhere, but that in about 4 miles we’d be slightly more somewhere than we were then, which was the tiny town of Coburn.  This was kind of important because it’s easier for someone to come bail your ass out with their car when you can actually be located.  We all pretty much decided that there was no way to finish the ride.  It was regrettable since we were 107 miles into it, with time in the bank, so we were certain to finish the permanent so long as fate didn’t intervene.  But, of course, it very much did.

Eric found that he could ride his bike cyclocross style in the mud and grass on the side of the road, and fairly soon he was out of sight.  Mike and I tried doing that too for a stretch but decided that it was only going to slightly modify the reason why we would crash again, so we just kept walking.

I will finish the story with a set of bullet points:

  • We eventually made it to Coburn and arranged our 4-wheeled motorized vehicular salvation.
  • Mike and I had to stand on the side of the road in Coburn for over 2 hours during the wait.
  • A salt truck went by while I was standing there.
  • Mike and I had plenty of time to talk about the differences between Types I, II, and III fun.
  • We decided that the day had definitely now included all three types.
  • We also decided that we would let our R-12 streaks die.
  • Eric made it another 3 miles down the road to Millheim, where I believe he spent his wait time in a warm bar drinking cold beer.  (Edited to add:  and eating a burger and fries too….)
Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Spectrum Gets a Granny

In this post, I mentioned that my new-to-me Spectrum could use some lower gearing.  Despite getting quite a good arm workout trying to climb at 25 rpm on the local steeps, I have concluded that I would be well served to get moving on that goal.  With a low gear of 42-24, doing certain ridge climbs around here is pretty impractical.   At least for me… now.  I could have lived with that gearing when I weighed 140lbs, but I am 165 these days and in poorer shape, so it’s a no-go.

I decided to leave the freewheel alone (13-24) for the foreseeable future and do something with the crank.  Two options presented themselves:

1 – keep the (lovely nuovo record) crank, put on this triplizer (…triplizer.html), buy a new
BB with a longer spindle, too, of course.  I would be running a 53-42-30, or  32. (I have both a 30 and 32 in the parts bin).

2 – put the crank in the parts bin and buy a new BB to run one of these:

When looking at the two options  from a gear inch point of view,  I  determined that the 50T is going to be annoyingly high still, and the 34T is going to be too small for anything other than climbing or very casual riding.

Really, the 42T is a good size for a lot of riding.  46T is even better, actually.  I was half tempted to go with a 46-30T double, but the 46-13 is not much of a high gear. I am certain I would have cursed it.  Perhaps a 46-12 or 46-11 would be ok, but with only room for 7 speeds in the back, and a desire to go no smaller than 24T as my large cog, I would have to live with big jumps.

Ho hum.   I decided that The 53-42-32/30 would provide me the best overall gearing.   And really, parts-binning a classic Campag crank in favor of a more modern crank (even if it’s retro styled) is some kind of terrible cycling sin. Velocio is rolling in his grave for me just thinking about it.

The install of the Red Clover Triplizer was easy, and I am now running a 53-42-32.  I was worried that the crank  or BB might be hard to remove, as it had been installed on this bike
since literally the early 80’s, but they musta used enough grease at  the time as nothing was frozen.  Fixed cup was a little tight, but I  got it done.

The only trouble has been an unexpected one, which is that the front  changer has to swing out pretty far now, and I get a little slipping  of the left shift lever when I pedal hard in the big ring, whereas I  didn’t used to.  The bike has some Shimano 105 levers on it, and I may
need to put on the set of Simplex retrofriction levers I have in the  parts box.  I have already tried the obvious fixes- tightening the  fixing bolt on the shift lever and making sure the cable doesn’t have  too much friction at the BB cable guide.  They helped but didn’t totally solve the problem either.

The 32-24 low gear is still a little high, but I think at some point, when I get a 13-28T freewheel or freehub, I’ll be good for most routes around here. (I am still overgeared a bit but it’s manageable now).

I am in love with a Granny.

I love this bike.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Tour of Happy Valley

Tour of Happy Valley is this months R-12 ride.  I wanted to get this one out of the way early, so I could get ahead of increasingly bad weather that is sure to come as we head deeper in to autumn.  Well, that plan fell a bit short, as weather was the main story of the day.

Before I describe the ride, I thought I should mention that the Tour of HV is one of the only two free route RUSA permanents in PA.  Free route is a fun way to do rando – we need more of them, methinks…  (It’s harder in terms of route design, though…)

Anyways, we knew we would see some moisture, but the forecast looked pretty good, and we didn’t expect that there would be any chance of rain after 9am or so.  That turned out to be pretty far off.  We were rained on fairly steadily till we made it to our first refuel stop out past Hartleton  (at Harvey’s store).

During the last 5 to 10 miles of that segment I noticed our roaring west tailwind.  Crap.  We were as far east as we were going to be, and that meant we were destined to battle a headwind for the next 70 miles or so.  So yeah, that sucked, but at least the rain stopped.  I got pretty chilled riding into that wind, as we were still quite wet from the first 40 miles out to the controle.

We eventually made it down to our westernmost point (controle at Warrior’s Mark), and were fully expecting to enjoy a strong tailwind, but unfortunately, the wind had decided to die down considerably.

So, all in all, what should have been a fairly easy 200K was actually fairly hard.  Not Splendid Isolation or AMCUP hard, but certainly a respectable day’s work.

This is a nice course.  Eric has designs on developing a happier Tour of Happy Valley, where we delete the mountain climb on 45, place the first turnaround in Woodward instead, and take the route further west into Sinking Valley, which has some primo cycling roads.

Morning dreary. Dark and damp, but not raining… I am wearing my winter boots for pete’s sake…

Then it started to sprinkle… Hey at least it’s not cold or windy….

Ok, now were pretty well soaked. Hey, what’s with this huge tailwind we apparently have?

Spooge!, courtesy of the local equestrian residents.

Climbing up to Hairy John’s. No rain, but wind! (oh, and the mountain too..)


The LCWW parked whilst obtaining water at a route-side cache….



Rest of the Photos:

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

SI 200K Part III

It is done.  Now at R-6.  Hey, halfway done.  Cool.  But it was the hardest ride of the year for me.  I had digestive issues all day and a terrible headache for the last 70 miles or so.  Oh well, at least I got it done.

Bill came out to do the ride.  It’s now an official annual ritual for him.

Next month’s 200K will be… something.

A few pics from Saturday:

Nice morning. EK is wearing an Endless Mountain jersey; Bill is in his Pittsburgh Randos jersey. interesting choice of colors for each, methinks.

Woodward Inn. (…in Woodward)

Weikert Run.

Start of the climb up Hoofnagle. I didn’t take any more pics after this because I felt as if I “had been smacked about the head and shoulders with a wet mackerel.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

How Little Can You Ride and Still Do Rando?

So far this year I have 1,107 km in perms and brevets under my belt.  I haven’t been doing much other riding this year.  My annual mileage so far is a meager 1,844 miles.  That makes my RUSA events 37% of my total mileage.  I’d like to ride more, but I simply haven’t been for a number of different personal reasons.

In any event, this situation pretty well cements my previously held positions that:

1 – you don’t have to be in very good shape to be a randonneur, at least not if your goals are as simple as completing 200Ks and 300Ks within the time limits (and having a good time in the process, too).  Only a basic level of fitness is required.

2 – it takes very little riding to maintain that basic level of fitness.  Riding once or twice a week does it for me.

Interesting, isn’t it?

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

My Precious

I have been wanting a handmade lugged steel road bike from an American master builder for many years now. You know a Bruce Gordon, Goodrich, Tesch, Sachs, Bohm, Belinky, Oulette, Rodriguez, Weigle, whatever.. I am not picky.

Well, recently I scored a Tom Kellogg Spectrum. Used, but gently.  And, most importantly, in my size!   I feel lucky to have picked it up. I got it for a very reasonable price. I had to drive 2.5 hours just to see it, but obviously that all worked out.

Rides like a dream. I am STOKED!

The frame is believed to be mid 80’s. Seller had trouble putting a specific year on it.  At some point, I will email T. Kellogg with the S/N and find out how old it is and what tubing it uses, as there is no sticker.

My first ride on the bike was to do the 1250 foot climb behind my neighborhood.  It involves a section of sustained 16-20% grade for about 500 feet.  I had to zig zag on the road in order to not walk.  Was a bit rough.  Low gear is 42-24.  Prolly going to have to arrange a 39-28, which should help.

I was asked if I was going to do a brevet on this bike.  Well, while I like my uprights, after about 3 hours, truth is that I am happier on one of my recumbents so why bother?  I’ll save the Spectrum for more routine, everyday rides which rarely go past 2.5 hours or so.

Some pics:

Prolly can’t see this in these pictures, but the lugs are very thin. It’s one of the first things I noticed. The lugs don’t stand out in the pictures very well, but they are nice. They are also pretty compact. I guess they could be called ‘short point’ lugs?

The stem and bars are from my parts bin.  As is the saddle.  The stem is a Nitto Technomic, which has an unusually long quill. I am very nearly at the limit line, but not above.  My back is not as flexible as it used to be, so the position I have set up on this bike is quite comfy.

The bike came with a pair of 20mm wide Michelins and I don’t like tires that skinny. I had a 25mm Durano available that I stuck on there as a temporary measure. I am probably going to get a set of either 26mm or 28mm wide Compass or Grand Bois tires. In tan-wall, of course!

FWIW, the components run down as follows:

Dura Ace front changer
Shimano 600 Ult. rear changer
Shimano 105 indexing shifters
Dura Ace 7 spd freewheel (13-24T)
Campag Nuovo Record crank 53-42T, 170mm arms
Campag Record Brakes and Aero Brake Levers. Levers are mid-80’s Calipers might be older. Levers are the convertible type, I think.
Campag headset and BB (not sure of model)
Specialized hubs
Mavic Open 4 CD rims
Dura Ace seatpost
SA Titanio X saddle
Nitto Technomic stem, 110 mm
Nitto Handlebars (forget the number…), 46cm wide.
Bennotto Ribbon

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

SI 200K Part II

Completed SI for the second official time. Good, hard ride. I’m up to R-5, now.

Nothing remarkable to report. We started a half hour late, and between that and our mediocre fitness levels we found ourselves teetering on the edge of disaster (well, no, not really) the whole ride. We did finish with plenty of time to spare, partly by eschewing the most pleasant route between Spruce Creek and B-Burg for a straight shot up Rt. 45. That turned out to be perfectly pleasant, however.

The only other navigational variation was taking Hoofnagle Road climb up to the Hunter Road summit instead of our semi-usual way. We found this to be more scenic and not quite as steep as going up Hunter the whole way. Very nice. I think it’s our new recommended route, in fact.

I took lots of pictures:

Some favs:

My steed at the start.

Eric is smiling because… I forget now. Might have been something I said about Garmin that was unkind. And accurate.

Foggy Morning. Nice socks, eh?

Eric is smiling because… I forget why. But it might have been because I almost crashed trying to take this picture.

Only you can forget forest fires. Urr, I mean “prevent”.

Outta da woods and on Treaster Valley (paved portion).. on the way to Milroy.

Our favorite trail sign. Eric is smiling because he’s having a pleasant day.

Dear Lord, this climb is long and steep and chunky. When you reach this point on Colerain, you know 80% of the climb is behind you.

This needs a caption…..

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments