Friday, November 27, 2009

Pokey, my trusty sherman tank, er, bike

Rain was predicted today so I figured it was a good a time as any to pull out Pokey, my very first road bike, and give him a spin.

Pokey is a Rivendell Romulus. Rivendell doesn't make them anymore, alas. It's a great all-around bike. Nowadays he's my funky weather / touring bike, with plenty of room for fenders, wider tires, and all the junk one could ever want to carry.

This picture was taken nearly five years ago, just before Lee & I set out on our first (and so far, only) bike tour. We started out from Port Townsend, WA and went along the Puget Sound, over to Vancouver Island, the San Juan Islands, Whidbey Island and back to PT. Day One of our trip, from PT to Sequim, it was raining like stink (heh, Rain Shadow of the Pacific Northwest, my ass). Pokey performed great that day and he's been a trooper for many years since.

Today I took Pokey (sans front rack, paniers, bags & banana) out to Sunol and back, along Niles Canyon Road. The heavens opened up on me about halfway out to Sunol, but thanks to Pokey's fenders and all the wool I was wearing, I stayed sort of dry and pretty comfy. Retro-grouchitude has it's advantages.

Lee and I are talking about doing that Washington/Vancouver tour again next year. More than likely, I'll bring Pokey again.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Training rides

I've started doing early morning training rides and occasionally I'll be keeping track of my time over a set course to see how I'm improving. The course is a mostly flat loop of the Alameda Creek trail & Coyote Hills park, starting from the bridge at Union City Blvd and first heading out to the bay, turning around and heading back to the trail around Coyote Hills, once around the park then back onto the AC Trail to the bridge, a bit over 11 miles. It's another couple of miles to & from home which works well as a warmup & cooldown.

Today I recorded my best time so far of 43:40, which works out to around 15.3 mph. I hope to improve on that.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Right To Life

Although this blog is primarily about my cycling life, this poem moved me...

A woman is not a pear tree
thrusting her fruit in mindless fecundity
into the world. Even pear trees bear
heavily in one year and rest and grow the next.
An orchid gone wild drops few warm rotting
fruit in the grass but the trees stretch
high and wiry gifting the birds forty
feet up among inch long thorns
broken atavistically from the smooth wood.

A woman is not a basket you place
your buns in to keep them warm. Not a brood
hen you can slip duck eggs under.
Not the purse holding the coins of your
descendants till you spend them in wars.
Not a bank where your genes gather interest
and interesting mutations in the tainted
rain, any more than you are.

You plant corn and you harvest
it to eat or sell. You put the lamb
in the pasture to fatten and haul it in to
butcher for chops. You slice the mountain
in two for a road and gouge the high plains
for coal and the waters run muddy for
miles and years. Fish die but you do not
call them yours unless you wished to eat them.

Now you legislate mineral rights in a woman.
You lay claim to her pastures for grazing,
fields for growing babies like iceberg
lettuce. You value children so dearly
that none ever go hungry, none weep
with no one to tend them when mothers
work, none lack fresh fruit,
none chew lead or cough to death and your
orphanages are empty. Every noon the best
restaurants serve poor children steaks.

At this moment at nine o'clock a partera
is performing a table top abortion on an
unwed mother in Texas who can't get
Medicaid any longer. In five days she will die
of tetanus and her little daughter will cry
and be taken away. Next door a husband
and wife are sticking pins in the son
they did not want. They will explain
for hours how wicked he is,
how he wants discipline.

We are all born of woman, in the rose
of the womb we suckled our mother's blood
and every baby born has a right to love
like a seedling to sun. Every baby born
unloved, unwanted, is a bill that will come
due in twenty years with interest, an anger
that must find a target, a pain that will
beget pain. A decade downstream a child
screams, a woman falls, a synagogue is torched,
a firing squad is summoned, a button
is pushed and the world burns.

I will choose what enters me, what becomes
of my flesh. Without choice, no politics,
no ethics lives. I am not your cornfield,
not your uranium mine, not your calf
for fattening, not your cow for milking.
You may not use me as your factory.
Priests and legislators do not hold shares
in my womb or my mind.
This is my body. If I give it to you
I want it back. My life
is a non-negotiable demand.

From The Moon Is Always Female by Marge Piercy

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A grand weekend in Markleeville

Well, I finally rode my bike up in Markleeville, and it was good.

A bunch of us got together a couple of weekends ago for the BikeJournal "mini-reunion" -- I saw a lot of homies up there (Kim, Glenn, Daniel & Julie), a lot of friends that I haven't seen in quite some time (Twain, SloJoe, Pansy, Randy, Nancy, Edna, Dave) and met people whom I only knew online until now (Jana, Steve, Steve). A really great bunch of people.

Riding up there was pretty challenging, especially the first day. We were over 5000 ft elevation at the base of the climbs, and since I live at about a dozen feet about sea level, I got out of breath pretty quickly at first. It was noticeably better after a day or two.

It was absolutely glorious up there. Twain warned us that this time of year is a real crapshoot in the Sierras, and the weather leading up to that weekend really bore that out. Still, we lucked out in a big way. It was sunny and warm all day Friday and Saturday and most of Sunday. And the landscape was a leaf-peepers dream.

I'll post pictures sooner or later. In the meantime, here's a bunch of them.

Monday, September 28, 2009

6 months ago today

Six months ago today, I started the day out on a training ride around Pt. Reyes with the TnT Death Ride Team, and ended the day in intensive care at Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital.

It was a freak accident, I must have hit or run over something that caused me to go over my handlebars while I was descending fast down a short, steep hill. To this day I remember nothing of it, and have only a vague recollection of my four days in the hospital.

I've been incredibly fortunate, and I'm deeply grateful for that good fortune.

I had immediate care from passers-by trained in emergency medicine, and I was helicoptered to the hospital. My helmet did what it's supposed to do. Over the last several months I have come to learn that I have excellent health insurance, and the fact that I wasn't laid off early this spring (like many of my co-workers) meant that I still had that excellent health insurance when I needed it. My wonderful husband waited on me hand & foot during my first few weeks out of the hospital, and ferried me to work and doctors' appointments for a few weeks after that while I still couldn't drive. And he's been here for me and taking great care of me to this day. My dear friends have been here for me too, with lots of encouragement and lots of laughs.

I'm very happy to say I'm pretty much all recovered!

I still have the funny bump on my back from the T7 vertebrae compression fracture, but it's not hindering my activities. My new motto (w. thanx to Tall Sarah) is "What hump?"

Heh, perhaps I should rename my blog Call Me Igor...

The only real difference I notice is that my back & shoulders are stiff and achey in the mornings (they didn't used to be), but stretching and early morning bike rides help that a lot. I've taken up Iyengar yoga which is really great.

And I'm biking again and enjoying it immensely.

So, all is well with my world. :D

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Earning one's keep in the world, part 2: Join the Be The Match Registry

My friend Vernon, who was one of my teammates on the Team in Training cycling team I was on before my untimely bailout this spring, posted this to Facebook the other day:

"12 years ago today I received bone marrow, which saved my life from Leukemia. I encourage you to sign up for the National Bone Marrow Registry. It is painless procedure and you could save a life, like mine."

Veron is one of those studly people who rides double centuries, and this year he completed all five passes of the Markleeville Death Ride while helping other friends accomplish this mighty feat. But my guess is, 12 years ago he was just hoping to survive another year and couldn't dare dream of doing what he's doing today.

Like Vern said, signing up for the National Bone Marrow Registry -- now known as the Be The Match Registry -- is painless and easy. And you could even save a life. It's all spelled out here on their website. Jobob sez check it out.

Come to find out, I might not be able to join the registry right now on account of my vertebrae fracture, but at least I'll be able to register in April of 2011, 2 years after my accident (but I'm checking to see if I might still qualify for certain types of donations -- thanks Jim!). Oh well, in the meantime I can at least spread the word ... :)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Crater Lake was wonderful! (vol. 2)

Lee and I and a bunch of friends rode the Crater Lake Century this past weekend. Unlike the godawful heat last year, the weather this year was fabulous.

I only rode from the start in Fort Klamath up to the Rim Village and back, which worked out to about 48 miles and roughly 3,000 feet of climbing. So you can call my ride the Crater Lake Half Century.

To put it mildly, I'm thrilled to bits with what I accomplished!

This was an absolutely fabulous weekend.

More later -- I have to unpack and do some laundry. :^)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Earning one's keep in the world

Fatty wrote this in his blog:

"Susan’s part in the battle is over, but she didn’t lose. She led the charge. She showed the rest of us how to fight: with determination, focus, creativity, and outrageous endurance.

Now it’s up to the rest of us to Fight Like Susan.

I like to think of it as earning one's keep in the world. Doing things -- little things, big things -- to help carry on Susan's legacy.

What things?

Well, there are the obvious things (obvious because I can think of them off the top of my head, that is):

Donating money to a cause

Donating time to a cause (there are lots of creative ways to do this but I'm still mulling).

Give blood

I gave blood yesterday. It had nothing to do with Susan, it just happened to be yesterday. It was my first blood donation in many months. I'm occasionally turned down on account of low iron levels, and then I let it slide. I'm not the easiest one to draw from either, I like to joke that I have no veins. I gave this time around because I got a couple of phone calls from the blood center. Okay, okay, I'll go, said I.

I made sure to take my vitamins for a few days beforehand and consequently my drop of blood sunk in the copper solution - they didn't even have to do the centrifugation test, yay! And the nurse found the vein after only a minimum of poking -- it sure helped that I drank lots of water for a couple of days beforehand. I had to squeeze the rubber ball constantly, but they got my pint. And I felt very good afterward. And as an added bonus they had Oreo cookies :D

So, for starters, I'm going to be more conscientious about giving blood, in honor of Susan and to help earn my own keep in the world.

So Sad

Susan Nelson, the wife of Elden "Fat Cyclist" Nelson, died yesterday after a long battle with cancer. She put up a good fight.

I'm glad that her ordeal is over, for her at least. I'm sad for Elden and their kids and their family and friends who must go on without her. Wishing them strength to cope and to carry on.

Win Susan.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Back on my bike for real ! :)

Free at last !!

So I went to my neurosurgeon yesterday -- Dr. Desmond Erasmus, a really great guy -- and he told me I could finally Lose My Stupid - !@$#^%$! Back Brace and I was free to resume my normal activities!

Yeee - Freakin - Haw !!!!

To commemorate this auspicious occasion, Lee and I went out for a short ride along the Alameda Creek Trail (~ 10 miles, elevation gain about 20 feet ) out to the bay & back. Hey, it's a start. :)

It felt strange being back out on the road on my bike at first, and my coordination felt a bit off, but it felt better as I went along. Where we enter & exit the trail there are very short stretches of gravel path to ride over, which I used to think nothing of, but today I walked those bits. I figure my coordination & confidence will be back soon enough.

It was mighty windy heading out to the bay, naturally, so I took it really easy. Surprisingly enough, despite that I managed a pretty decent clip into the wind. Nice.

Lee told me that all in all I didn't seem to lose too much fitness over my three month-plus layoff (heh, I didn't climb anything though ...).

And the tailwind back was a bonus. Whee!

Well I am jazzed to bits to be back out on my bike.

Not to worry, I'll be building back reeaallly slowly. But at least I'm back!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Back on the bike (um, sort of ...)

Today was my first ride on the trainer, and my first time on a bike of any sort, since my crash at the end of March. Woo-hoo, I rode it for twelve whole minutes!

It was at a very low intensity, and I maintained a cadence ~70 to 80 rpm. I was able to ride OK in the drops, keeping my back very straight (thanks to the brace).

I figure I'll try to ride on the trainer every day and increase the duration by a few minutes each day. Then when I finally get my stoopid back brace off, my muscles will at least be accustomed to riding again.

I'll still be wearing my brace for perhaps another month, and I don't plan to ride out on the road until I get the brace off. So hopefully I'll be riding for real in late June or early July.

In the meantime, small steps, grasshopper.

I guess this means my training for the 2010 Death Ride has officially begun :)

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Back to the rat race :)

I was off work for an entire month after my bike crash, and started up again this week.

Look what was awaiting me on my office door Monday morning!
Do I have great co-workers or what??
Smiley from
And look what was awaiting me inside my office ...
Smiley from

Only kidding, I'll get to it all in due time.

It's good to be back.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

April, my month that wasn't

First of all, I want to thank everyone for their well-wishes after my bike crash. I received lots of cards and some awesome gifts in the mail, and lots of emails and PMs on TE and messages on Facebook. Thank you all so very much. I cannot begin to tell you how moved and grateful I am.

I think I gained a pound or two on Tim-Tams from Australia, courtesy of Leslie. Those things are so good they are evil, and should be categorized as banned substances.

My crash was one month ago Tuesday. I find it hard to believe its been an entire month now, it certainly doesn’t seem that long, April simply flew by.

I think I’m going to call April 2009 "the month that wasn’t". :p

I still don’t remember a thing about the crash, nor about an hour or so beforehand. I don't even remember being taken by ambulance to the clearing at a trailhead in Pt. Reyes National Park, nor being flown from there by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial hospital.

Lee and I actually drove out to the site of my crash (on Sir Francis Drake Blvd near the eastern edge of Pt. Reyes National Park) a week ago Sunday. Nope, nothing, it was like I had never been there. It was a moderately steep downhill section and the road was fairly bumpy there. At the time of day I passed through it last month, it was partly shaded by trees, somewhat speckled, so the irregularities in the road were probably harder to see. But to be honest I’ve ridden over worse pavement! So no great revelations, I’m still assuming I must have hit a pothole badly, or maybe some pavement came loose as I went over it, or I rolled over something that wasn’t pavement. Perhaps I was distracted by something (darn those shiny objects!), but since no-one was riding with me at that moment, it’ll just be one of life’s little mysteries.

I was at a team get-together last Saturday. I was speaking with one of the assistant coaches who told me that day he was riding with me a ways before the accident. We were carrying on a conversation in which I told him about my work. I even met his wife, who is a park ranger in the national park we were riding through and who was on duty at the time and stopped to say hello. It weirds me out a bit that I remember absolutely none of that!

Anyhow, enough of that. Although I naturally wonder how my crash occurred, and what I could have done to avoid it, I’m actually very glad that I don’t remember the crash or the immediate aftermath. One less bit of baggage for me!

I was in the hospital for four days, two days in the ICU and two days in a regular room. I remember very little of those first couple of days, and the next couple of days, well, I guess they weren’t all that memorable.

I only found out a couple of weeks ago that, for the first day or two, there were some real concerns about my recovery! I had hit my head very hard on the pavement (yep, I was wearing a helmet) and, although I was more or less conscious, I wasn’t really “there”, and they had no good way of knowing how much of my mental acuity would return. I’m told the folks in the ICU were relieved when I got on the phone with my boss on Monday morning and described to him, in reasonably good detail, the patent papers that were due that day that he had to file in my absence (I work as a patent agent). I still think that’s pretty funny, actually – that they revised my prognosis on account of my recall of my patent docket.

My husband Lee was great through all this. He admits he was scared sh*tless those first couple of days, but everyone I spoke to afterwards told me that he kept his head and was a real champ. He stayed at home at night while I was in the hospital, and he had a long drive to and from the hospital each day. He said that the drive, and being at home at night, really helped him keep it together. I cannot imagine what I put him through...

When I got home from the hospital Lee dragged our spare bed downstairs and into the living room, so I could watch TV if I wanted to, and so I wouldn’t need to use the stairs (we have a guest bath downstairs).

Lee took a couple of photos of me a day or two after I got out of the hospital – wow I looked like crap!! The right side of my face was badly scraped up and covered with scabs, yech. I slept a lot for the first couple of weeks, and yeah, surfed the web, but that’s about it.

I’m doing MUCH better now, particularly over the last week or so. I’ve been getting out and seeing friends and basically getting re-acquainted with the world.

My shoulder is almost all healed, it still doesn’t have the complete range of motion back, but it’s close. My face is pretty well healed up and I had the last few stitches removed a couple of days ago. I’ll probably wind up with a bit of scarring on the side of my face near the eye socket, but nothing dramatic – just a small momento.

I still have a bit of double vision, but it’s still going away. I had slightly damaged my fourth cranial nerve, which controls the muscle that points my right eye downward diagonally towards my nose. That particular nerve damages easily, it is a common injury among cyclists, motorcyclists, boxers(!) and others who experience any sort of trauma to the side of the head. When it’s damaged the muscle can’t move the right eye in concert with the left very well, especially if one is looking level or downward (interestingly, I almost never got DV while looking upwards). I saw my opthamologist last week and he says its recovering at a good pace and he thinks it should be pretty well healed within a month. I actually experience DV nowadays mainly in the morning when I wake up, and at night when I’m tired; my vision is generally fine for the rest of the day.

My back – eh, I don’t really know yet. I had a mild compression fracture of the T7 vertebra, and a compression fracture supposedly takes a long time to heal (weeks to months). I’ll be seeing the neuro dr. in a couple of weeks to get some new x-rays taken so he can gauge its recovery. Thankfully, my back has not been painful at all, the worst is that it gets a bit uncomfortable when I’ve been sitting or standing a lot, but that goes away very quickly if I lay down for a few minutes. I last saw the neuro dr a few weeks ago and he said the prognosis for my recovery was very good, and he thought at the time that surgery wasn’t needed. I have no idea yet if I’ll have any sort of chronic back problems coming from this, but time will tell.

I’m wearing that stylin’ brace practically all the time, and I'm relieved to report that no-one has inflicted their Inner Picasso on it yet.

My memory is back to normal, more or less. The doctors had warned Lee that I might be a bit forgetful for the first couple of months, and they were right. I have a bit of trouble remembering names of people I don’t deal with often, names of streets that I don’t frequent, directions to places I don’t go often, that sort of thing –- things that I used to have much less trouble remembering. But that should improve with time. I hope. :D

I’ve been off work ever since the accident and I start back again this coming Monday, although I’ve made a few very brief cameo appearances over the past couple of weeks. Luckily for my boss, I remember my work pretty darn well (although I did have a bit of trouble remembering where on our network I had saved a computer file he was trying to find. Heh heh )

And now, for the really important stuff. I still have no idea when I’ll be biking again, but hopefully it’ll be in a couple of months. And I was getting so strong, darnit!! But I guess I’ll be starting more or less from scratch. Eh, small steps, grasshopper.

And who knows, perhaps I’ll give the Death Ride another try next year.
Smiley from

Monday, April 13, 2009

My bike & I are doing well :)

LeeBob & I took my Lynskey over to wheelgirl in Berkeley yesterday (Sunday) to get it checked out after my crash.

(FWIW, wheelgirl just moved to the corner of San Pablo Ave & Camelia St. in Berkeley, near REI & Gilman St. )

The Lynskey is in remarkably good shape. We were joking over the fact that I took the brunt of the fall to save my bike (heh, yeah, I meant to do that).

The Lynskey R230 frame has replaceable rear derailleur hanger which is a nice feature since mine will need to be replaced - much better than repairing the entire frame, that's for sure! - and a couple of spokes may need to be replaced on the rear wheel, which will need to be re-trued. And the cable cover on the rear der has to be replaced. The Brooks Team Pro saddle is a bit scuffed up on the right back side but that's mainly just cosmetic, and can be fixed w a good leather polish/protectant.

Apart from that though, not much else! The XTR rear derailleur is a bit scuffed up and Kurt (mechanic extraordinaire) will double-check it once the der hanger is replaced, but apart from that everything else (including the frame, the fork and seatpost) have a clean bill of health.

The bike came through this much better than did I. :D

As for me - I'm resting up, not rushing anything. I still have some double vision which is a real PITA, but that is getting better gradually. I'm under an opthamologist's care, no worries. My right shoulder is still a bit achey but it's on the upswing. My back is healing fine, no problems as far as I can tell. I'm off work for another couple of weeks. My return to biking will be sometime after that, I suppose. :p

I'm still wearing my removable vest-like brace most of the time. I hum the "I Am Ironman" tune to myself when I wear it. (If you saw the movie with Robert Downey Jr. you'd know where I'm coming from :D ) I'm halfway tempted to get a plastic facetted bowl to wear on the front to complete the Ironman look, but so far I have resisted the urge...

I'm getting so envious reading about other peoples' rides though! Especially all of the great rides my TNT Death Ride (ex-)teammates are going on. Oh well, them's the breaks.

And it's still sinking in that my Big Plan for the summer -- riding All Five Passes of the Death Ride -- won't be coming to fruition. I hate to admit that I put so much of my psyche into this one ride!

But hey, there are plenty of other rides. I hope to be ready for the Crater Lake Century in Southern OR in mid-Aug, or at least be able to ride a good part of it. The double century the weekend before my 50th birthday (the Solvang Autumn DC in Oct.) is in the big fat "perhaps" column; I was hoping to shoot for that if I managed the DR. My new motto nowadays is "vee shall see". :^)

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Woo hoo, Brian & Roberta!

Heere's Brian, a Death Ride TNT team member and last years' SF area LLS Man of the Year, chatting it up with Roberta Gonzales of Ch. 5, a candidate for this years' SF area LLS Woman of the Year.

More info about the LLS Man & Woman of the Year is here.

And here's more about the SF Bay Area LLS Man & Woman of the Year campaign.

Cheers, you all!

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Thank you so much Susan & Fatty!!

A couple of months ago Elden Nelson, aka Fat Cyclist, posted on his blog that his fabulous wife Susan was making wonderful bracelets and those who donated X dollars to his Livestrong fundraiser might get in line to get one.

Well being a big fan of Fatty & of Susan I was totally in on that! They are freakin' lovely bracelets, and my cheers and support go to Susan, as well as my good pal Cyndi, who I posted about a couple of weeks back.

Now of course Susan could only make these when she was up to it, so I more-or-less got it out of my head, hoping that maybe I'd receive one by mid-July in time to wear on the Markleeville Death Ride, which I've been training for with TNT.

Well, as Alanis would say, Isn't it ironic? (dontcha think)

Much to my surprise, my own beautiful, wonderful bracelet arrived in the mail for me this week, while I was still in the hospital recuperating from my crash last Saturday. The crash that's gonna keep me from riding the Death Ride after all. Dammit! :p

and Yay!!! The bracelet is beautiful, and means so much to me.


Photobucket (hee hee, ignore the road rash, it'll go away soon enough..)

Waaay cooler than a yellow wristband, indeed! Win Susan! Win Cyndi!

I'm going to wear it all the time (within reason of course).

I'll wear it during my recuperation over the next few weeks, on my first tentative pedals back on the bike (probably on the trainer), and my baby steps back on the Road. And I'll of course wear it on my first big event, possibly the Crater Lake Century in mid-August; hopefully I'll be back up to snuff by then. And Susan and Fatty and Cyndi will be there every step of the way. :)

Thanks for motivating me a little bit more. Susan and Fatty totally rock!! And Cyndi too. :)

Hugs, - Jo

Saturday, April 4, 2009

I'm off the bike for a while :(

Hi all -

I had a crash in the last few miles of my DR Training Ride last Saturday, so I'll be off the bike for at least another few weeks. I'll elaborate a bit more, later. In the meantime, more info is here:

Thread on bikeforums

Thread on Team Estrogen

Thanks so much for all the well-wishes!

- Jo.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

My midlife crisis has arrived!

You hear about people entering their (ahem) middle years and doing crazy things like having liposuction, taking up parachuting, tooling around in fancy sports cars, getting a girlfriend or a boyfriend half their age, that sort of thing.

Well, to commemorate my midlife crisis, I bought a bike.

Not just any bike mind you, a titanium-framed beauty, custom built for meeee by Lynskey Performance Designs in Tennessee.

Shamrock on the brake bridge

Why a Lynskey? I thought for a while that my next bike was going to be a Ti frame, so I researched some of the well-known Ti builders – Seven, Moots, IF, Serotta, Merlin, Spectrum, Litespeed, Lynskey, just to name a few.

I then checked out some local dealers, and I really hit it off with Elizabeth and Kurt at wheelgirl on 4th St. in Berkeley, who are Lynskey dealers.

The Lynskey family originally owned Litespeed, but then sold the business and retired. A few years later they came back and started producing Ti frames under their own name. One of the things that appealed to me about Lynskey was that I was able to get a frame built to my measurements using one of their stock tubesets - what they call a "Houseblend Custom" - for not a whole lot more than the cost of an off the shelf Ti frame (plus, as luck would have it, they had a great sale going at the time on their Houseblend Customs, which sealed the deal for me).

Elizabeth & Kurt at wheelgirl were great to work with. They spent a lot of time talking to me about what I like about my current bikes, and what I would like from this bike. I told them I was looking for a comfortable, moderately lightweight bike for long, hilly rides, especially the Death Ride. I wanted a fairly relaxed position, not too bent over but not too upright either. I wanted lots of gears – definitely a triple, and probably a wide-range cassette as well. And, retrogrouch that I am, I wanted bar-end shifters and a Brooks leather saddle. They didn't bat an eye over my bizzaro bar-end shifter request, they understood my desire for low gears (although hopefully by the time of the Death Ride I won't need them, it's still nice to have a bailout or two), they recognized that I'm not a racer wannabe by any stretch of the imagination but that I still wanted a great ride. They got me. :^)

I told them I really liked the fit of my Rivendell, so they set it up on a trainer and looked at my position on the bike, and they agreed it was a great set-up for me. They measured my frame and my position on it in order to duplicate my position on the Lynskey R230 Houseblend frame. We discussed components at length (Kurt is a walking component encyclopedia!), figuring out what set up would work best for me. Then Elizabeth wrote everything up and sent the information off to Lynskey. After only a couple of weeks Lynskey sent back a detailed plan which Elizabeth & Kurt & I went over. I gave my final approval for the frame specs at the end of January, and Elizabeth placed the orders for the rest of the components.

And then I waited, keeping my fingers & toes crossed that it would be finished by early May to give me a couple of months before the Death Ride.

But much to my delight, Kurt called me in mid-March. My bike was already assembled & ready for pick-up!

And I’m thrilled to say that Lynskey and wheelgirl totally delivered. I love this bike!

Happy Camper in front of wheelgirl

The first thing I noticed was how light it is compared to my Riv, even though I didn’t go weight-weenie with the components. It was built up with a mostly Ultegra groupset, with the exception of an XTR rear derailleur and an IRD wide-range 10 speed 11-32 cassette. It has Dura-Ace 10 sp bar end shifters, and Nitto Noodle handlebars. And of course, a Brooks leather saddle, although it’s Ti-railed so it’s not as much of a brick as it could have been. And Elizabeth & Kurt built up a lovely set of wheels, with pretty White Industries H2 hubs laced with Sapim spokes to Velocity Aerohead rims – reasonably lightweight and very sturdy. The bike weighs in at about 18.5 lbs, despite some of the heavier components, which is a very big difference in comparison to my almost 23 lb Riv. I want to giggle every time I pick it up.

The other thing that really struck me was how effortless it was to get up to and maintain speed on the Lynskey. I’m finding I’m almost always in the big ring on the flats, while on my Riv I’d usually be in my middle ring.

And it’s stunning. I opted to leave the frame unpainted with a brushed finish. Instead of decals, the Lynskey logos are etched into the titanium frame. I love how the etched decals look, they’re very subtle. I'm glad I went with the silver Ultegra components rather than the gray Ultegra SL, the sliver looks nice with the Ti finish. I’ve lowered the stack height by one 10 mm spacer since these pictures were taken, and I might lower it a bit more over time.  Once I have the stack height set, I might liven the palette up a bit and put a purple spacer in amdist the black ones, or wrap the bars with purple tape, in honor of TNT. Or, maybe I’ll leave it as is.

Here are a few photos, and more are here.

Bar end shifters :)

Etched logos

Nitto Noodle bars

Morning by the bay

I took a couple of short test rides on the Alameda Creek Trail and Coyote Hills park, including my nemesis hill which is about 1/2 mile with much of it on the order of a 8-13% grade (many call it Nike Hill because it's the site of a cold war-era Nike missle control center; I call it nemesis because back when I first started riding it took me several tries before I could finally make it all the way). Nowadays I can climb it just fine but it still involves some huffing & puffing. But on the Lynskey it was (almost) easy! Crazy.

And the bike is very comfy. After my first longish ride (over 30 miles) I noticed my arms were a bit achey and I realized they felt a little cramped. No problem, we had set up the bike with the maximum stack height so I simply removed one 10 mm spacer and it feels great now. And I feel very comfortable riding in and braking from the drops. I’ll vary the stack height some more until I hone in on the perfect height.

The big test came when I took it up & over Palomares Road a few times this weekend, a four mile climb averaging around 5% with some fairly steep bits. While I wish I could say the Lynskey magically transformed me into a speedy climber, alas, that’s not the case – I’m still pretty pokey on the hills. But a bit less so!

The rest of course is up to me. Or, as a friend put it, "the most important part of the bike is the nut that holds down the seat". :^)

But at least the Lynskey will help this nut get up the hills a bit easier. And with style.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

LT testing at Endurance PTC

On Saturday some teammates & I went for body composition analysis and lactate threshold testing at Endurance Performance Training Center in San Francisco.

We started out with a body composition analysis, where we stood on a scale-like contraption which used electrical impedance to determine the amounts of lean body mass and body fat we're carrying (or, in my case, lugging) about.

I found out that my body fat percentage is 33.9. Lovely. Now, the good news is, my muscle mass is appropriate for my height, so at least I'm doing something right. I just need to loose the flab ... surprise.

After that exercise in self-loathing, we hooked our bikes onto Computrainers and rode a long steady state interval, where the initial intensity was set at 50 watts and was increased by 30 watts every 4 minutes. Near the end of every four minutes, a vampire disguised as a trainer came to draw a bit of blood from our earlobes to test for the amount of lacate. It was pretty easy going at first but at the intensity approached 200 watts the pedalling got tough! I got 230 watts but I cried uncle soon after and I didn't complete the full four minutes, so my last reading was at 200 watts.

Then one of the trainers took us through a brief on-bike seminar on pedaling technique. He showed us the importance of a smooth, round pedal stroke, and how to isolate and work on the various parts of the stroke. After some one-legged drills he also showed us how to improve our pedalling techinque while standing.

After a brief break to freshen up, we then had a discussion about our test results and how we can use them for our own training.

All in all a fun and worthwhile experience! I'm going to do this again in a few months to see what effect the Death Ride training had on my LT and my body composition.

Monday, March 2, 2009

My friend Cyndi

I whine about how "tough" a bike ride is, but this is tough. Strong work, Cyndi!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Tough ride!

Our 3rd TNT DR training ride was pretty hard. Evidently it was re-routed from the original route on account of some road construction.

We started out from Sonoma and headed up Trinity Grade, then went through Saint Helena and up Spring Mountain Road. Trinity Grade and Spring Mountain are both steep climbs, with sustained grades on the order of 12-15% or more. Many of us (including me!) had to walk a bit up Spring Mtn. But we'll get stronger as the season progresses.

View Larger Map

I hit a very low ebb at around mile 45 as we were riding on Route 12 back to Sonoma in a headwind. I had about had enough by then! One of our coaches, Paul, hung back with a couple of us slowpokes and towed us back through the wind. My hero! Somehow I managed to get past that low point and I felt a lot better once we got out of the brunt of the wind, so I managed to finish fairly strong.

It was about 60 miles and about 4800 ft of climbing, with much of the climbing on grades in the double-digits. Woot!

I'm really pleased with how I did, all in all.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

DR Team buddy ride - Woodside / OLH

Saturday I joined the San Francisco DR team's buddy ride, which started from Cañada Road at Rt. 92 and went through Woodside, Los Altos, Portola Valley, up Old La Honda Rd and down Rt. 84, back through Woodside and Cañada Road.

View Larger Map

I bonked on the climb up OLH. So embarrassing, you'd think by now I'd know when and how much to eat on a ride. Gahhh. I need to start using Spiz again ...

It was about 48 miles and 3700 ft of climbing (with a couple of bonus miles from overshooting a turn mis-marked on the route sheet).

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Better to feel good than to look good

... or, my second TNT Death Ride team ride.

Lee and I drove up to St. Helena very early yesterday morning for my second DR training ride with the Redwood/Wine Country group. Guests were allowed on this ride, but Lee was going to play it by ear. If the weather looked too yuck he was planning to do a short ride on his own, or just hang out in St. Helena until we returned.

Once we arrived at the start area we found the weather forecasts were pretty much accurate. Rainy & cold. Lee decided to not join in on the fun. Instead, he wisely took Ken, our SAG captain, up on his offer offer to join him in the warm & dry SAG truck.

I had layered on the wool and broke out my trusty Castelli rain jacket, which is usually too warm to wear during the day (although it's great on my early morning commute rides). For maximum dork effect I also wore one of those Saran bowl covers (the ones that look like shower caps) over my helmet. I suppose I'm the anti-Fernando, I always think it's better to feel good than to look good (and if you saw my closet you would agree). Ken was taking photos so if I come across a picture of me with the Saran bowl cover on my helmet I'll be sure to post it for everyone's amusement. Even with all that wool I was very cold as we started out. I was hoping I'd warm up once we started climbing.

We HTFU'd and headed out in the rain towards the Silverado Trail. There was one mishap early on when one of the guys rolled over something slippery and went down. He was a bit shaken up but got it back together quickly and soldiered on.

View Larger Map

After a few miles we regrouped at the intersection of the Silverado Trail and Rt. 128 (Sage Canyon Road). We were going to have a time trial to determine how we would be grouped for subsequent rides. I could have told the coaches they could put me in the slow-but-steady group, but, whatever. We all started out together and I fell off the back almost immediately. I stayed fairly close to a couple of guys up ahead of me, they were my rabbits. I would almost catch up to them when the grade kicked up over 10% thanks to my super-low gears, but when the grade was under 8% they were able to pull well ahead of me again. Oh well. At least I was warm by then, almost too warm. We all continued up Rt. 128 for nearly 8 miles, until just before the turnoff to Chiles Valley Road where we all regrouped, and Ken & Lee were taking down our times.

We all set off again and headed along Chiles-Pope Valley Road. The faster folks vanished in no time, and I was in a nice group going at a manageable pace so life was good. The rain backed off some although the roads were wet so it really didn't matter whether it was raining or not (I had thought about bringing my Romulus with fenders but since I assumed on one else would have fenders it seemed sort of pointless). It was relaxing watching the arcs of spray come off of everyone's rear wheels. And the scenery was lovely, green hills with mustard flowers everywhere. I love riding up in Napa, even in the rain.

We soon reached Ink Grade, a four mile climb. I was getting tired so right off the bat I kicked it into my "great-granny" gear and spun on up at a snail's pace. Surprising to me, I wasn't alone on this climb. A guy who was doing his first ride in months(!!) and so wasn't in shape yet had to stop a few times along the way, so I would gradually catch up to him. This was one helluva ride to do after you haven't been riding for a while, Tony, so kudos! Will, one of our mentors, stayed with us to keep us company. I picked on Will mercilessly and bless his masochistic heart I think he enjoyed it. :)

Ink Grade was actually a nice climb and it was almost pleasant in the misty cold and damp. Considering the last time I did that climb it was hideously hot out, this was a nice change. After what felt like hours we finally reached the top where the SAG guys and a surprising number of riders were gathered. Some of the riders looked really cold so I'm glad they headed out shortly after our arrival.

Will, Tony & I headed off again soon after, at which point the heavens poured down upon us. On a downhill. Lovely. By then it was getting seriously cold and I was ever so grateful for all the wool and the excellent rain jacket I was wearing. One of the coaches, Theresa, waited up for us at a confusing point on the route sheet to make sure we were headed in the right direction down Howell Mtn Road. She's my hero. So the four of us continued down Howell Mtn, usually a pretty good descent (albeit bumpy) but with all the rain it was a bit dicey. But we made it fine and before long we were back to the start in St. Helena, where the rest of the team was packing up, trying to dry off, and giving us high fives. Go team.

All in all, it was a good ride and an epic Personal Growth Experience. :D My Garmin (uploaded to Sportracks) showed we rode a bit under 40 miles with about 2800 ft of climbing.

Mel, Amy, Lee and I then headed off to Tra Vigne Pizzeria for warm minestrone soup (ahhhh) and great pizza, washed down with some well-earned beers.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The first TNT ride

The first TNT Death Ride team ride was short & fun. We met up at the Mill Valley community center where we first had some brief talks and demos on riding in groups, and on braking & descending skills, and they checked to make sure our bikes were in decent working order.

Then we headed out on the Paradise Loop which took us around Tiburon & Corte Madera back to Mill Valley. I hooked up with some women from the SF group (Gabrielle, Lori & Elizabeth) and we had a really pleasant ride. From Mill Valley to Tiburon we followed much of the multi-use trail and there was a TNT group of runners heading in the opposite direction. Lots of "go teams" were exchanged, and big cheers as we passed their rest stops. That was fun! Past Corte Madera, Gabrielle took us on a bit of a shortcut which took us up to Camino Alto via some quiet back roads. We had a deer cross the road and jump a fence (more like scramble over it) maybe a dozen feet ahead of us, quite the sight!

The ride was only about 22 miles but it was nice to get out & meet the group. As coach Sarah put it later, "This was sort of a lull you into a false sense of security ride." She's a riot sometimes, that one.

Afterwards many of us met up at Maria Maria for eats & conversation (a few of us partook of their excellent margaritas as well).

Sunday, February 1, 2009

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."

This is a quote from Eleanor Roosevelt which kind of sums up how I feel about the Death Ride. I might need to tattoo it on my wrist or something. :)

Today I rode up Mt. Hamilton with Mel & Amy. I was surprised to find I was feeling pretty good for the most part, and I kept it in the middle ring for longer than I think I ever had before (granted, I have a touring triple so my middle ring is only a 36, but still). Not that I was going any faster than normal -- Mel and Amy left me in a cloud of dust, as usual -- but I didn't seem to tire out as quickly as I normally would. Nice!

Ah, and then I reached the "5 miles to the observatory" sign. That's where the road kicks up a little bit more and there are a lot of switchbacks. And the observatory looks so close it seems you can reach out & touch it. Especially today, it was gloriously clear out. And that's where I always seem to peter out. I'm sure a big part of it is psychological, but even if so, my body wastes no time in joining in. Today was no exception, it didn't take long at all for my legs & back to start complaining loudly, and switching down to my small ring didn't really help. But I managed to slog it out the remaining few miles, although I did need to stop & rest a lot.

I eventually made it, but I couldn't help but think when I reached the observatory that I'd have to complete a climb sort of like this one four more times to finish the Death Ride. And in considerably less time. Ack.

Hopefully I'll look back at this five months from now and marvel at how far I progressed over that time. Still, Sarah & Michael (my Death Ride coaches) have their work cut out for them. :D

Saturday, January 31, 2009

TNT kickoff - 160 days to the Death Ride

We had our TNT kickoff meeting this morning at the UC Berkeley campus. I hadn't been on campus for over a dozen years so I got a bit nostalgic as I hunted down a parking place.

The kickoff meeting was interesting and fun, and I got to meet many of the people on our Death Ride team. I've already forgotten most of their names but I'm sure over the ensuing weeks they will be my New Best Friends. Particularly the SAG drivers.

I received some Special Recognition in our DR team break-out meeting for being the second leading fundraiser so far. That annoyingly overachieving sandbagger Laurie was in first place. Grrr. But I got the cool TNT blinkie light while she picked out a mousepad. What a loser, chosing a mousepad over a blinkie light. I mean, really.

Our first team ride is next Saturday in Novato Mill Valley. Until then I'll be practicing my loud & perky "Go Team!"s.

Heh. TNT should take slogan and sekret handshake hints from Amici Veloci.
Smiley from

Thursday, January 15, 2009

A lot to learn

No, not me, the president-elect!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The best laid plans (and all that rot)

The New Year started off with Big Plans for me to get in the base miles before TnT training started up in early Feb. I was going to ride at least - at least, mind you! - two mornings a week my usual 10-15 mile loop before work, with commutes to work (30 miles RT) as circumstances allowed, and longer rides on the weekend, building back up to 50 miles or so by the end of the month.

So naturally, on Jan 2nd I came down with the Head Cold from Hell. Smiley from
And I haven't done squat for the last week.

I'm finally over it, sort of. We'll see how decrepit(er) I've become on my ride tomorrow.