Monthly Archives: September 2007

R.I.P. my Schwinn

Just over five years ago, Michele, who was pregnant with Millie, and I took Ellie to Colorado to see her brother Michael and his family in late May. We hiked several times, including in Rocky Mountain National Park, and strolled on Boulder’s Pearl Street. There I walked into University Bicycles, where I saw it. It was a black Schwinn Fastback Pro. The Ultegra-equipped bike retailed for about $1900, but was already a year old, so it was on clearance for $1300. I bought it for myself for my birthday and it literally changed my life.
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I started riding here and there… 10, 15 miles. I even rode all the way to Ocean View and back for a whopping 20 miles. About a month later in Richmond, I ran into Chad Mantz, who ran a now closed bike shop in Port Norfolk. I started riding with him and his then wife. The first time I couldn’t even hold on when the speed got up to 19mph. Each Saturday, I held on longer and longer and eventually I began playing in the sprints. I started racing, bought a mountain bike, then a cyclocross bike and raced those too. I lost weight, inches on my waist and gained a new kind of confidence. It all started with that Scwhinn.

I’ve piled up about 15,000 miles on that bike in the past five years, each year putting more and more miles on it. One day while riding in Norfolk, the rear shifter/brake lever fell apart in my hands. I replaced it with a used Dura-Ace. I crashed it hard in the Norfolk crit two years ago when a rider went down in front of me and I flipped over him. Last year, the handlebars failed and I learned a valuable (and painful) lesson about replacing aluminum bars. Earlier this year, the hubs started to go on the stock Velomax wheels, so I bought new Mavics rather than overhauling the wheelset.

But as an old bike, it’s had its creaks and groans. A new one emerged on an easy ride around Norfolk on Friday morning. I thought it was just the bottom bracket needing a litle TLC. I rode it again hard on Saturday morning, doing three loops on the Conte’s ride for 57 miles. They were her last. The creak drove me crazy, so I dropped her by the shop. They called five minutes after I got home. The frame was cracking around the bottom bracket.
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This isn’t the best photo. (I don’t know how to shoot real close-up.) But you can sort of see the crack in the upper left hand corner. It runs down to and along the weld and around the seat tube on the center right.

I’ve been planning to retire her. I bought a teammate’s Cannondale CAAD9 team frame and planned to build it by next spring for racing season. I’ll be building it a lot sooner. I didn’t want to end it this way. I wanted to put the Schwinn to pasture on my terms. Maybe I’m foolish, getting attached to a piece of welded aluminum, but she’s carried me far and meant a lot to me. She’s made me a healthier person and introduced me to some of my best friends. I’ll miss the old Schwinn.

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No flats on a beautiful day

After months of fetid heat and soppingly sweaty rides, a fall day broke crisp and cool over Hampton Roads on Sunday. And lucky me, I was joining the Tripower women on an easy pre-Ironcross training ride up in New Kent County. It was so cool, most wore arm warmers to start the ride from York River State Park.

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Soon we were rolling out the main trail at the park on our cross bikes.

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Our route wound up hill and down dale, through farm fields and woods on narrow paved roads and gravel lanes. We saw the York River, horseback riders, a clutch of turkey vultures and countless puffy and wispy clouds gracing the bluest sky. We stopped once for one flat (not mine!); bless my new Maxxis Raze tires.

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We stopped again to catch our breath near an oddly located white clapboard church out in the middle of seemingly nowhere on a gravel road.

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Everybody rode strong, especially Carol who rode a mountain bike for the full 60 miles. Liz (thanks for the ride), Laura and Sharon took turns pushing each other, while Dan, Rob and I played a bit off the front on the rough roads and hills. But all-in-all, the pace was easy and the ride just plain fun.

Finally we stopped for refreshments at our new favorite store. Just a little something-something to help us through those last 15 miles.

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More on that at the Tripower blog.

They call him trendy

I call him tough (or is it nuts?) for bringing his old fixed gear on a 50-mile combo road/offroad ride in James City and New Kent counties. Just as Rob finished this skid, Kevin called out out “Trendy!” Thought I got it on the tape, but no such luck.

“I am super trendy,” said Rob.

They call me Five Flats

As part of the training for Ironcross, a group of my teammates have been running up to James City County to ride gravel roads into New Kent County for 50-60 miles. I joined them on Sunday, but made a fatal error. I failed to finally dump the cross tires I raced last year from the bike. The rear was particularly bad, having been ground bald.

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Before the ride even started, I had an inauspicious sign. The front tube was slowly leaking air, so I swapped it out. About 5 miles into the ride, we hit the first gravel road and I was pushing it with Todd XXX, Kevin and Jimmy when I felt the rear go squishy. Miles later BillG flatted on a rock. By this time I was hanging back with Liz, Danbo and Rob, riding cautiously because of the tire and because I was exhausted from Saturday’s hard ride. Still I flatted the rear again on the roughest trail we would hit. The Trippster, who was flying on his old celeste Bianchi fixed gear (!), also flatted as we come off the last gravel section. Even though I only accounted for three flats, the Dawg now calls me Five Flats. I guess it’s my bad Karma.

The old tire hit the trash replaced by Michelin Muds for now. Lesson learned.

Crossing blogs

Cyclocross season is coming. Can you feel it?

The buzz is building across the ‘Net from diehards like Molly Cameron to potential newbies like Mike at GamJams plus locals like the K-Dawg and the Trippler.

Here’s my quickie guide to some cool cyclocross blogs I’ve stumbled across.

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Mud and Cowbells is written out of Colorado and includes a mix of frank and funny observations on the Euro scene, good cross tips, soft bike porn and local news.

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CrossNut is written out of Wolfeboro, NH, where my Dad lives, by Steve Frothingham, who writes for PezCyclingNews, among others. (I’ve got to meet him next time I’m up there. Maybe he’ll want to join me on my Sandwich Notch epic cross ride.) It’s a look at the New England scene and other cool cross news.

I just love the name of Beer, Frites & Waffles (The Belgian Trinity). Looks like he’s out of Baltimore and just had another son. (Congrats!)

The Laaste Ronde (or last lap) comes out of Portland and features some yummy Vanilla bike porn right now plus cyclocross philosophy and the observation that 1.279 of every five racers has a blog.

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Plus One Lap is an old standby, but features the salacious under-18 bike porn gallery — sub-18 pounds that is.

Race Cyclocross! has been infreqently updated but appears to be picking up as the season draws near. It features some cool videos and other tidbits from cross racing plus photos and Q&As with some pros. Molly Cameron is a contributor.

These last two aren’t cross blogs, but are two of my favorite blogs reads.

Bike Snob NYC is a hilarious read. He’s the Jonathan Swift of the trendy urban cycling set, skewering Craigslist bike ads and FixedGearGallery posts. His satire reaches from our gear fetishes to the hazards we face on the road from drivers and each other.

And last, but certainly not least, I really enjoy Belgian Knee Warmers, which appears to be written by Freddy, a former PRO wrench, who honors cycling’s hard men and features great old-school racing video, keen observations on what it means to be PRO, a mechanic’s insights and a little high-end bike porn to keep you happy.

Enjoy (but not to the exclusion of training)!

Carol rides the teeter

This is for Liz.

As we rode through Ipswitch this AM, we kept our eyes peeled for the teeter-totter. We spied it on a parallel trail and looped back. I rolled right up and over it on my cross bike, though the sudden pitch did require a little bike handling. Then Marco, Carol and Susan all eyed it for a while before giving it a go. We all cleaned it. Carol wanted Liz to know.

Back in the saddle

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I rode the bike seriously maybe three times in August. My back hurt, so I listened to the doctor and physical therapist. Slowly but surely I got better. I wanted to start riding last weekend, but the therapist made me wait. I did the exercises. Last week she let me start commuting to work. Baby steps. Then she let me ride 45 minutes Thursday morning. No pain, so I went an hour Saturday. No pain again.

While my therapist wouldn’t have approved, I pushed this morning and went a little over two hours, riding with Carol, Susan and Marco from Conte’s on 21st down to Ipswitch for a couple loops through the maze. We didn’t ride too hard and I had a blast. I didn’t feel real strong, but it was great to have fun on the bike again.