My, how risk averse we have become

On my bike ride today, I was pondering the changes that have happened over the last 20 something years. When I first got seriously into cycling in my mid 20’s, I thought nothing about climbing on, and doing 30, 40 or even 50 mile loops, barely taking a couple of bottles of water with me. Living in the south SF Bay Area, there were abundant great roads (and trails) to explore and enjoy. And enjoy them I did. One day, I rode over highway 9, through Davenport, out to the coast, up highway 1, and back through Bonny Doon to the bay area again. Probably 65 miles or so. Never thought twice about it.

To be fair, I had some mishaps. One day, I had a major tire failure (sidewall blew out) at the top of Pierce road in Saratoga.  I had to hike about 6 miles back to civilization to make a phone call for a pick up. Or the time that I had a spill in Los Altos.  Ran straight into a block post. Bent my crank arm, and had to ride 12 miles home on a wobbling crank (that really messed up my ankle).

Today, I think twice about going out, particularly when my wife isn’t around to rescue me. Granted, I am approaching 50, and have had some cardiac troubles, but the caution that I think about is really insane. I have my phone, I carry a first aid kit, I carry a lot more water (partly because I live in a desert and it is triple digits in heat), and I carry more emergency repair tools and parts than I ever did.

Back in the late 1980’s, when I rode a heavy, low tech Specialized Allez, did all my own maintenance, I just rode. Suited up and away I went, 6 days a week (I worked the 1-9 shift, so I had ample time in the AM to ride). Now I do a lot more planning, I have my cell phone (which doubles as my heart rate monitor, and my exercise tracking), CO2 cartridges for fixing flats, and a fair assortment of tools to fix what ails me on the ride.

Ah well, progress.

Weight loss update, more on my quest to not be a Person of Walmart

Started the memorial day weekend well, took a couple extra days off, and haven’t wasted them.

I had a serious plateau at 220 and 219 #’s.  I was stuck there for almost week and half.  Nothing is more depressing than counting every calorie you consume, and every erg you expend in exercise to not see any movement of the scale.  Last time I did this, I had several plateaus and I know I was able to work through them, so I stuck with it (to be fair, my birthday was in the middle of this and I had a major splurge day. Gordon Birsch Czech Pilsner. Yummy.

Fortunately, I finally broke through my plateau, and I dropped almost overnight to 216#’s.  Back on the track of 3#’s a week of weight loss (that is fast enough that my diet tracker chastises me for losing too fast).

The real plus is that about a month ago, I got back on the bicycle.  There are some great loops near my house, and I have been exploring.  I have a couple of 25 mile loops, which equates to about 1700 calories burned in an hour and 40 minutes.


My ride – 2002 Lemond Buenos Aires

Since I regaled people with the drama about failing wheels, and buying a new wheelset, I thought I would spend a little time talking about my current road bike.

The Lemond Buenos Aires, a reynolds 853 steel frame that remains a joy to ride
The Lemond Buenos Aires, a reynolds 853 steel frame that remains a joy to ride

It is a 2002 vintage Lemond Buenos Aires. Made by Trek, is is a steel tube framed bike with a carbon fork. I bought it in 2002 for ~ $1200 new (I don’t recall the actual price). It was the most expensive road bike I have ever owned, but I have greatly enjoyed it. The frame has a comfortable geometry well suited for a hobbyist rider. It is neither a twitchy race bike, nor a special purpose bike (read up on what makes a good “triathalon” bike), it has served me well.  It came with a mixed component set (more on that later) that was mostly Shimano Ultegra, and the Trek made Bontrager wheels.

I always figured that the wheels would be the weakest link in the bike, and I was not much wrong. However, while they lasted they stayed remarkably true, and needed very little maintenance. Of course, over 11 years I probably put 6,000 + miles on it (as logged on my cycle computer) including many miles climbing hills and racing down the other side. Add into that fact that I have been north of 200#’s for most of the time I have ridden it, it is not surprising that there were hairline stress fractures on the wheels.

As I mentioned, I am not surprised that I had to change the wheels, but more amazed at how long they lasted. I put a lot of good, hard miles on them, and they were the lowest maintenance road wheels I have ever owned.  But the mixed components of the Shimano group was the first failure.  The outward facing components were all proper Ultegra, shifters, brakes, crankset (the hubs were the Ritchey hubs built into the Bontrager wheels). But the one “hidden” component, the bottom bracket, was the economizing point. It came with the bottom end Tiara bottom bracket that after 3 years or so developed a really annoying “click”, particularly when you were pressing hard on the pedals.  I ended up replacing it with an ultegra bottom bracket, and it has been glass smooth ever since.

I was a bit concerned about whether I spent too much to get it back on the road.  After all, a 11 year old bike that was originally only $1,200 new, adding $500 of wheels to the bike seemed a bit risky. However, a little searching and reading on the web, and apparently that era Lemonds are well regarded, and the Buenos AIres in particular which has the Reynolds 853 stainless tube set are prized for the comfortable, ride, and how well it handles.  Apparently “good to nice” condition versions still fetch up to $500 on the secondary market. Clearly, I have a good frame, and now with the new wheels, I am good to go for another decade.

While I can’t help but drool at the higher end bikes at the shop, all the carbon, and exotics, for my needs and purposes (to ride and stay in shape), I think my Lemond Buenos Aires will keep me riding in style.

An expensive day – Bicycling Woes

Lately, I have been pretty jazzed that my feet have allowed me to begin bicycling again. For the longest time, my plantar fasciitis pretty much put the kabosh on cycling. But about a month ago I gave it another whirl, and it was not painful. Woo hoo, I love to cycle, and it would be great to get back on the saddle regularly again.

Tucson had better riding, lots of hills, and good routes to ride. Moving to Chandler has been a little different. While there aren’t easy access to mountain roads, we do have well groomed and paved trails on the irrigation canals. From my house, it is about 2 miles to where the canal trail crosses Chandler boulevard, and from there you could go 8+ miles to the end of the trail. Good riding, slight uphill all way. 21 to 22 miles out and back.  Good ride, easy, and pretty safe.

This AM, I got my bike down from the hooks, and pumped up the tires. I noticed that the rear wheel was a little out of true. Not a big deal, so I grabbed my spoke wrench and put it to the nipple. “Ting” the nipple broke.  Shoot. No ride today, so I geared up and went walking. After the walk, I pulled the wheel off, removed the tire and headed to the local bike shop.

We moved here last July, so we are still hunting around for all the usual haunts (good chinese, mexican, and american food, bike shops, the Apple store, where to get the best breakfast. Yada yada) so we stumbled into a shop in Gilbert called “Global Bikes”. I took my wheel there to see if they could fix it. Since it was the nipple that disintegrated, it would be an easy fix (they would have had to remove the cassette to replace the spoke). So I rummaged around for 15 minutes.

The tech found me in the mountain bike area, and told me that he had fixed it. But he noticed that the rim had stress fractures near all the spoke holes. Yikes. It was pretty easy to see them, and I was naturally concerned. Global Bikes isn’t a Trek dealer (the bike is a 2001 Lemond Buenos Aires, and it had the trek made Bontrager wheels), but a couple of the guys there thought that Trek might warranty the wheel. I was skeptical that they would consider replacing a wheel from a bike that was 12 years old, but they said that they might.

So, off to A1 Bikes, the nearest Trek Authorized dealer. Fortunately it was only 5 minutes away. So I headed over and walked back to the service desk, and explained that there were lots of stress cracks in the rim, and would it be possible to warranty it. He said that no, as it was 12 years old, and clearly I had ridden it (a lot, I will attest to), and I am not a svelte guy, so I am sure I put a lot of stress on the wheel, so I wasn’t too surprised.

I asked what he recommended, and he said: “Well, you can ride on it, keeping an eye on how true the wheel was. That it would become difficult to keep it trued, and then it would be time to replace it”. I was flabbergasted. He was recommending I continue to use a wheel that is showing extensive stress fatigue, and early failure signs. Sigh.

So, back to Global Bikes (for the record, these guys are awesome), and I picked up a set of wheels, Fulcrum Racing wheels, and lightened my wallet by $500+.

The bike is back together, cleaned up, and ready to ride in the morning.