Archive for May, 2009

Extreme Riding on Mt. Lemmon

Posted: May 8, 2009 in Bicycling

(For various reasons I have had several unfinished posts sitting in my queue on Blogger. This is the first of three old posts that I am finally finishing.)

Epic is becoming one of the great overused words of our time. With so many extreme approaches to sports, people frequently talk or write about their ‘epic’ adventures. While I am not impervious to hyperbole, I feel that I had a truly epic cycling adventure while we were on vacation in Tucson, AZ. This ride is one that will remained etched in my memory for the rest of my life and it will be difficult for the tale to become embellished because the truth is pretty extreme.

We went to Tucson during Spring Break in mid-April to celebrate my Mother-in-Law’s birthday. Since we drove there I was able to bring my bike and I managed to ride every day that we were there.

While looking on the web and inquiring on cycling web forums, I discovered that THE ride in the area is Mt. Lemmon. After balancing family activities against riding time, I reserved Wednesday for my ride up the mountain. However, I was not going to attempt this roughly 60 mile ride with about 6,000 feet of climbing without at least previewing part of the climb.

On Sunday, our first full day in Tucson, I met up with a club and rode the first 12 miles of the climb which got me to an altitude of 4,800 feet and about 2,300 feet of climbing. As an aside, the members of this club were friendly, generally my age, and some were very fast (faster than me at least). What I learned was the climb was pretty comparable to what I’ve ridden in Southern California. So far, so good.

Monday and Tuesday I got in some good rides in beautiful weather. Little did I know that my luck was not going to last. A weather front was literally blowing through Tucson on Wednesday. The forecast was not promising with high gusty winds. I thought that perhaps I could get up the mountain before the weather got too bad.

As usual (unfortunately), I got a slightly late start. I started rolling about a half hour after I had originally planned. I was glad to have some familiarity with the road from my Sunday ride but as I climbed up past my Sunday turnaround the wind started picking up.

When I left the parking lot at the start the weather was pretty pleasant and I was wearing a short sleeve jersey. As the wind got stronger and the altitude increased, the temperature got colder. Somewhere above 5,000 ft, there was a vista turnout and I took the opportunity to put on arm warmers and take a couple of photos.

As I continued up the wind got worse. The road was twisting around the mountain so that I had the full variety of headwind, tailwind, and cross-wind.

As I climbed I thought that maybe the prudent thing to do would be to turn around. Of course, when it comes to cycling, I’m not good at being prudent. Somewhere around 7,000 ft of altitude I was rounding a sharp corner on a fairly steep grade when the mother of all headwind gusts hit me. It was all I could do to unclip, get my foot down, and brace myself against the wind without falling over. I stood there for what felt like several minutes trying to figure out if I could go forward or if I should just turn around.

Of course, I decided to move forward. The weather really didn’t get any better but it wasn’t getting worse either. I got to a point where the road started to go downhill and in this case it unfortunately had a strong tailwind. I was desperately trying to control my speed going downhill when I saw this sign and stopped for another photo.

I figured that if I died on the mountain someone would find the camera and see that I’d made it that far. It turned out to be several more miles of uphill, downhill, and high winds to reach the small town of Summerhaven. The main street through town was like a wind tunnel as I rode past several closed stores and restaurants. I found a general store that was open and I went in for a bit of respite from the wind and to get some hot tea or cocoa.

The woman behind the counter didn’t even flinch when I entered. I looked around a bit and got some tea. She asked me where I had started and I told her where while expecting some kind of remark like, “You’ve got to be kidding.” Instead she said something like, “Well, it sure is windy,” and went back about her business of re-stocking some shelves.

I also tried calling my wife who was out sightseeing and shopping with my kids and her parents. I got her voice-mail and I made the mistake of leaving a somewhat incoherent message to the effect that the weather was really bad and that I hoped to make back down the mountain safely. Of course riding back down safely was the primary objective, but that wasn’t a good thing to say on the phone.

The ride back was slow but not as excruciating as the ride up. I encountered the situation hated by many cyclists where the wind is strong enough that you have to pedal downhill, but that was far better than the couple of downhill sections where the wind was at my back. Fortunately, my brakes were up to the task. What surprised me most was seeing a couple of other riders heading up the mountain as I was going down. I don’t think that the wind was dying down.

The last couple of miles down to the shopping center where I parked were fine. The sun was out and the wind at the base of the mountain was tolerable. I went to a coffee place in the shopping center and got a fruit smoothie and a pastry. Spent a few minutes refreshing myself, posing, and contemplating why I do things like this.



My Road Bicycle History

Posted: May 7, 2009 in Bicycling

I frequent the web site Yesterday, one of the denizens of the forum asked people to post their history of road bike ownership. After spending a fair amount of time remembering and looking at some old bicycle brochures, here’s my list beginning at the start of my racing “career.” (Note that I bought the bike during the model year listed unless otherwise noted.)

  • 1974 Lambert Pro: One of the finest British racing bikes ever built (not). Started out with plastic Simplex rear derailleur, ended up with a Shimano Crane. Eventually put it out of my misery by cracking the head tube. I weighed about 120 lbs soaking wet at the time.
  • 1975 Bianchi Specialissima: Purchased in June 1976 and I still have the frame and a couple of original parts on it. It was originally all Campy Nuovo Record. This is probably the bike that I rode the most — more than 40K miles.
  • 1980 Medici Pro Strada: Truly the one bike that I wish I never sold. It was essentially a Masi Gran Criterium as it was built by former Masi builder Gian Simonetti. I put a mix of Shimano and Sun Tour parts on it. It did have a Campy seat clamp bolt on it. This was my first racing-only bike.
  • 1984(?) Basso (something-or-other): This was a straight gauge Columbus frame that I built using most of the parts off of the 1975 Bianchi. I built it as a training bike as the Bianchi had seen better days by then.
  • 1985 Vitus 979: Built it with a combination of Sun Tour and Galli parts as a race rig. I got it pretty cheap as I was a bike shop employee at the time (don’t ask). It was a noodle but I weighed less than 130 lbs. back then so it was bearable for racing.
  • 1985 Olmo (I-can’t-remember): Built it with the same combination of parts as the Vitus used it as a training bike. It was a Columbus SL frame and many will argue that it was a better bike than the Vitus. I won’t argue that point. I also got this with a bike shop employee discount. It replaced the Basso.
  • 1986 Shogun Kazé: TT funny bike that I eventually rebuilt using most of the parts off of the Vitus. It was my first TT-specific bike. It’s still sitting in my garage. Did a few sub 1hr 1 min TTs on it but I could never quite get under 1 hr.
  • 1988 Serotta Colorado: This was the best steel frame that I have ever owned. Built it with a combination of Shimano Dura Ace and Shimano Santé components. It was my first bike with index shifting and I used the Santé derailleurs because my local wrench said that they would work well with the plethora of Sun Tour freewheels that I had (and still have) at the time. He was right. I eventually rebuilt the bike with 2005 Campy Record-8 components — my first bike with ergo shifting. This replaced the Vitus.
  • 1990 Stowe Triad: This bike is still sitting in my garage and I haven’t ridden it for ages. For some reason I haven’t had any luck selling it and I tried almost everything except ebay. I built the bike with mostly the same parts that I originally had on the Serotta. It still has most of those parts. I have a funny story about Robert Stowe but I’ll save it for another time. This bike replaced the Olmo as my training bike.
  • 1997 Bianchi Megatube Ti: This was the original Megatube Ti with the large “aero” fabricated and welded downtube. It was my 40th birthday present from my wife. I built it with 1996 Campy Record-8 components. This bike became my “race” bike (I wasn’t racing much at the time) and my Serotta moved to the training bike role. More to follow on this frame.
  • 2000 Bianchi XL EV2 Al: I bought this frame when I cracked the down tube on the Serotta. I put most of the components from the Serotta on this frame and it became my race bike while the 1997 Bianchi migrated to training bike status. This was when I started racing more seriously again as my kids were starting to get older.
  • 2001 Bianchi XL Ti: I got this frame in 2002 as a warranty replacement for the 1997 Bianchi (which developed crack on the seat tube right at the weld for the front derailleur hanger). Put the parts on it from that bike and it was my training bike for a few years. I put Record-10 on it in 2003.
  • 2002 Look KG381i: I got this on clearance in 2003 and built it with 2003 Record-10 (skipped 9-speed). This and the subsequent Look KG481SL had the best stock geometry fit of any bike I’ve owned. It replaced the 2000 Bianchi as my race bike.
  • 2000 Quattro Assi Team 2000: I bought this in 2002 as a cheap TT frame (< $500) to replace the Shogun. Built it piece by piece by looking for sales and on ebay for Chorus parts. This is the worst riding bike that I’ve ever owned, hands down.
  • 2005 Look KG481SL: I did a double swap on components when I built this bike. The low mileage parts on the Look KG381i went on this bike and the higher mileage parts from the Bianchi XL Ti went on the other Look. I really liked this bike.
  • 2006 Look 565: I got this frame in 2007 as a warranty replacement for the KG381i (which developed corrosion issues at the tube to lug interface). I ended up with the wrong size but rode it about 2,500 miles in about six months as my training bike before I sold it. It rode pretty well but it really shined on descents.
  • 2007 Bianchi D2 Crono Carbon: I got a deal on this frame from my LBS that I couldn’t refuse. OK, I could have refused it but I was lusting after this frame from the first time that I saw it and I hated the Quattro Assi. I built it with almost all of the parts from the Quattro Assi. I just put new bars and wheels on it. Who said you can’t buy a sub 1 hr, 40K TT?
  • 2007 Serotta Attack: I got this as my 50th birthday present to myself. Built it with 2006 Record-10. I raced on it at the end of 2007 and for all of 2008. I love how this bike rides. It’s the best bike I’ve ever owned and my first custom geometry frame. Towards the end of 2008 I started getting paranoid about racing on this bike. I have never worried about crashing a bike before and I didn’t like racing with that thought in the back of my head so I sold the KG481SL (which had rotated to training bike status) and…
  • 2009 Cervélo R3: At the end of 2008, I bought my current race rig with 2008 Record-10. I like this thing well enough but the handling doesn’t inspire me (yet) — probably because the Serotta rides so well. Really didn’t do the weight weenie thing when I built it but it comes in at 14.6 lbs with heavy Look delta pedals.

That’s my road bike history. There are a couple of mountain bikes, track bikes, and other miscellaneous bikes mixed in there but I’ll stop here.