Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blog About Someone Else

More accurately, it's a blog about someone else's blog.  The most recent entry in the Fat Cyclist's blog is "Cooler Than Yellow Wristbands."  In it, he sums up a lot of the effect that his wife's cancer has had on his family and gives instructions for donating.  The blog is usually a funny one about cycling, especially mountain biking related subjects.  Due to its popularity, Gary Fisher has actually donated a very nice mountain bike that's being raffled to people who donate, and the Fat Cyclist's wife has been making charm bracelets out of links from bicycle chains and assorted beads that are going out as gifts to people donating $100 or more.

My short little paragraph doesn't really do it justice.  I'd encourage my readers to wander over to the Fat Cyclist blog and read some random entries.  A lot of them, in keeping with the blog's mission before it got hijacked (blogjacked?) are very funny.  A lot of them are very poignant.  Ultimately, the blog is very human and the story that I get from it is of a man who is having the thing he loves most wrenched away from him, a little bit at a time, but still manages to think of others.  So read it.  Maybe even park the RSS feed on your homepage or desktop or feed reader or whatever.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Junk miles

One of my favorite cycling phrases of all time.  If I proceed from the assumptions that I'm training for a race and that the time I can spend on the bike is limited, whether by time, training tolerance, or something else, every time I ride my bike has to be a workout and every workout has to have a specific purpose.  That leads to the idea that rides that don't fit into the mold of a specific workout take time away from rides that could be specific workouts and therefore more useful in preparing for a race.

Wow, what a mouthful.  Also, I don't agree.  My experience this Fall was that if I'm racing every week, I can work out once or maybe twice a week in addition to racing.  There are four other days in a week!  My experience is that I only need to take one or sometimes two days off cycling in a week that has racing and working out.  So there are still two or three days of cycling left unaccounted-for.  These days can be recovery rides, or just whatever.  They're still miles, and they're still a higher training load than sitting on my butt, but nowhere close to what I do to myself if it's a specific workout.  I would say that that describes going riding with my friends just as well as it does a recovery ride.

Maybe my friends are just slow.  Or maybe freaking out about junk miles is a little silly.  I guess that ultimately race results are the proof.  My race results improved all last season and I achieved my goal.  Things might change as I keep going racing and work my way up the pack, but I hope that I never have to give up junk miles like rides I enjoy, rides that keep me out of cars and busses and rides that prevent me from riding bikes with friends.  I think that if I ever do "have" to do that, it would tell me that I should reexamine my motivation and what it is that I want out of cycling.  Or maybe I'll keep doing all those, keep doing training rides a few times a week, and beat a few more people every race until someone makes me upgrade and I start from the bottom again.

Friday, January 23, 2009

More thoughts on training

I just wrote a really long e-mail to a friend about racing cyclocross.  She's just started training to do her first Century, with an eye to doing it toward the end of April and she's also interested in racing cyclocross, although she's expressed some doubts about whether or not she can be ready.  There's some other content in the exchange, but I'm excerpting the part that I think is interesting in the context of this blog, which is to say that it concerns something going on in my head.
Don't count yourself out of this coming race season too early.  If you keep doing long rides, your low speed will drift upwards.  Commuting has done a surprising amount for my high speed, even when I haven't been doing other kinds of riding.  You can start accelerating a little harder out of traffic signals and maintaining higher speeds up Dexter, Bell, 2nd and 3rd if you're worried about it.  One thing I sometimes do is skip the downshift coming into an intersection if it's stopped, and then sprint back up to my original speed in the same gear.  It's inefficient, but so is racing.  Bear in mind also that racing involves a unique skill set.  Unless your level of fitness is significantly higher than everyone who's done a couple of seasons, they will kick your ass.  Even if their levels of fitness are a little lower.  By the end of this season, I was racing strongly enough to hang off the back of the main pack, which felt pretty good.  At my last race, I actually had a group of racers riding my wheel for about a lap and a half, and then dropped them.  That 33rd place finish felt awesome.  Some kid still beat me to 32nd, and battling for that spot is one of the more awesome things I've done.  Next time...  Try to beat him into the esses.  The point is that you shouldn't worry about being too competitive in the first season.  Finishing every race was a pretty big accomplishment for me.
When I started getting ready for the racing season, I started doing speed workouts.  For me, that's interval training on hills, although I also did some rides where I just tried to maintain a high but consistent level of effort for the whole ride.  The Locks to Locks route is one of my favorites because it's pretty and most of it is on low-traffic roads and paths.  My races were on Sunday, so my race week, from Saturday through Friday, might be
  • Saturday: fairly easy ride with a couple of sprints and things, to shake off the cobwebs
  • Sunday: race.  Probably some easy riding around afterwards to facilitate recovery.
  • Monday: recovery ride (optional)
  • Tuesday: "go fast" ride or intervals (optional)
  • Wednesday: "go fast" ride or intervals  If I only had time to do the
  • Tuesday or Wednesday ride, and not both, I typically chose intervals.
  • Thursday: recovery ride (optional, especially if I rode on both Monday and Tuesday, or I'd already hit my mileage for the week)
  • Friday: off
Stretching after riding is very important for me.  Especially after riding hard.
On a non-race week, substitute a fast ride or intervals for the race.  A lot of schedules recommend putting the race at the end of the training week, not near the beginning.  I felt like I was still tired when I started my race even if Saturday was a recovery ride, and I think I got better results when I started leaving the bike at home on Fridays.  I think I get better results if race day is not my first day back on the bike.  You really have to experiment with this stuff -it's not consistent.  I also think it's important that I be in good shape on a day that I do more strenuous workouts.  If I'm feeling sick or beat up, all I'm doing is practicing being sick or beating myself up more.  If I feel like I can conquer the world and then I ride my bike, I'm practicing enjoying riding hard, and I frequently also found it in myself to do my hills workout in a higher gear and dig a little deeper for a sprint at the top.  The "go fast" ride, in the context of cyclocross, is a substitution for a long ride.  Because the race only lasts half an hour for a Cat. 4, I only had to last half an hour.  Assuming that I've been doing distance rides all season and I'm in good aerobic shape, I really don't need to work on my endurance much beyond that distance.  An ideal fast ride would be to take enough time to properly warm up, then ride at the fastest pace I can sustain for 45 minutes, then take enough time to cool down and call it a day.  So the whole thing can be done in an hour and a half.  I didn't really pay a lot of attention to how long my intervals workout took.  It was more that when I got to Roosevelt, if I was feeling really demolished I'd call it done and go home, and if I was feeling good I'd keep going.  Sometimes I also cut the workout short if I was planning to ride with Point83 or something.  On every day except for Friday, and possibly Monday if I felt really beat up, I was also commuting on my bike - six miles each way.  If I was quick about changing and skipping bikes, it meant that I could skip the warmup before working out, although in practice I was usually pretty hungry by the time I got home and wanted a snack.  Still, commuting by bike makes maintaining a good training week easier because it gives you a certain amount of built-in mileage that you don't need to shoehorn into your schedule when you could be home or going out or something, and sometimes you can skip recovery rides if you can get back to where you're feeling good riding the bike before the commute ends.  Otherwise, drop your bag, grab a powerbar or something, and keep going until you loosen up (or find that it's not going to happen.)
I gave myself a much easier week if there wasn't going to be a cyclocross race at the end of the following week.  Then I'd probably just commute, maybe go on some Point83 or Humpday Hustle rides, and try to do a fast ride in the middle of the week as a substitution for intervals.  I thought of the training I was doing in a given week as being for the race at the end of the following week, not that week.  That was good because the race series skipped a couple weeks and by the time I got to a break week, I was generally quite content to have a break.  I've also found that my second day back on a bike is frequently my strongest.  I think taking chill-out weeks from time to time is somewhat underrated, and a lot of training books recommend taking one every month.  I also think that chill-out rides within a week are good, even if I sometimes need to exercise a certain amount of discipline not to start pushing myself on them.
Bear in mind that I screwed up my ankle pretty badly in August, so I left out some things I'd have preferred to include.  A lot of people recommend running once or twice a week in preparation for, and during, a cyclocross season.  It's also really important, especially for new racers, to practice mounts and dismounts.  In retrospect, I think that I would probably have done a little better if I'd continued practicing mounts and dismounts throughout the season, and it certainly wouldn't have hurt to have been running regularly.  As it was, I only practiced my mounts and dismounts a little bit one evening before the series started and I didn't do any running outside of racing.  I think that I would try to run on days that I didn't have plans to ride hard, but not on off days.  Also, if I had time, I would probably have done better if I went to practice sessions on Wednesdays.  If I did, I would drop either intervals or "go fast" rides, depending on what I thought I needed more.
So including the race, this schedule only has two or three hard workouts a week.  The other rides are pretty easy.  I was a little surprised when my schedule ended up looking like that - I thought I'd be doing more training rides - but there are only seven days in a week and this is what happened when I worked backwards from race day.  I'd say that you shouldn't even start thinking about aiming your training at cyclocross yet - the first race is probably going to be on Labor Day, so at the end of June we can look at where you are with your cycling and talk about preparation for those races.  I think that doing a non-stop Century is an excellent goal for now and if you run once or twice a week and keep working out, you'll be in a fine place to start looking at cyclocross when July rolls around and the season is a little closer. (assuming that the races you're interested in taking seriously are the Seattle Cyclocross Series races, and you don't mind if the earlier September races are practice/C races.)  Anyway, at this rate you'll be more than ready to hang up the bike for a while in December and shop for smaller clothes.
When I decided to start working on mileage slowly and safely back at the beginning of last year, it felt really weird to be able to mark mileage goals on my calendar for months in advance.  Two things to bear in mind are that you can't control everything that happens and it's relatively easy for a training schedule, especially a really long-term one, to get derailed, and a lot of rides that you'd do anyway can be part of your training week.  Continuing to raise your mileage is important, but it's not worth stressing out about it and it's very important to be flexible.  It also felt really good for me to see improvement in what I could do on a bike and I credit a lot of that to being pretty good about following my plan and also to paying attention to what my body was telling me and adapting my plan as needed.  I think that you can have both your Century this summer and a productive cyclocross season this Fall if you're smart and disciplined about your training and you make sure to keep having fun with what you do on bikes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Random little story about racing

I wrote this on a forum thread about the hardest things people had done on their bikes.  After doing 100 miles yesterday, it's still true.
First cyclocross race, about eight years ago. I was going to college in Santa Cruz, riding my mountain bike, which was my only transportation at the time, a lot, and decided I wanted to race it. Since it was Fall, it was too late for mountain bike racing, but cyclocross is off-road too. Sort of. How different can it be?

I talked my dad into driving down to give me a ride to it and be there to be supportive if I collapsed into a heap at the end. So I'm lined up at the start, on my little red Schwinn Mesa with a rear rack, and they say that the race is probably going to run three laps. OK, I figure, I'll stay at a sustainable pace on the first two and then really drop the hammer on the last one. I did all that, but when I finished the third lap, they were ringing the bell. In cyclocross, that means one more lap to go.

Uh-oh.

That lap has to be about the hardest thing I have ever done on a bicycle. And I've done some difficult and/or stupid things on bikes.

I'd actually been passing people for the first three laps. But I wasn't into the variable lap count thing at that time, the heart of a champion didn't beat in my chest, and more than anything else that stupid bell killed me. I kept going, but I was definitely in my "bonk" zone for the whole lap. I didn't manage to hoist my bike on the run-up and ended up pushing it in front of me, my Shimano casual MTB shoes slipping on every step. I managed to straddle the bike and get to the barriers, and then somehow dismount, get over them, remount, and wobble my way to the finish line.

For some reason, I did another the two the next year and when I finally got to a place in my life (last year) I did a whole season. I haven't done a MTB race yet, but CX races are definitely the hardest things I do on a bike so far.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

100 Miles

I decided I wanted to do the complete Lake Washington loop today.  I think it's about sixty miles.  I talked one of my friends into it too.  The plan was that I'd meet him and his girlfriend near my apartment, ride into downtown with them and have crumpets, and then we'd go do the loop while his girlfriend peeled off and did her own thing.

So I had breakfast - three scrambled eggs and two slices of toast, with butter.  That's 300 calories for the eggs and another 300ish for the two slices of toast and the butter.  I usually eat more toast in the morning and it usually has jam, but today I was "borrowing" my roommate's bread and I'm out of jam.

Then I met my friends and we road downtown for crumpets.  I had two, with butter and honey.  So that's probably about 500 calories.  Total for the day: 1100, and it's not even noon yet.

My friend's girlfriend hasn't been on a road bike and I have an evil plan to turn her into a roadie.  I took the opportunity to get her on his road bike for a little while - they have almost the same inseam - as a step in that plan.  So we rode from downtown to Ballard, very slowly, before my friend and I started the loop.  I maintained about 18.5 miles per hour for a really, really long time from then forward - basically until the first hill.  He stayed in my slipstream, ostensibly because he's bad at maintaining a consistent pace over distance and wanted to let me do it, since I'm fairly good about that.

I had about three power bars during that leg of the ride, which ended up being just North Lake Washington because my friend was getting pretty beat up by the time we hit the decision point between doing half the loop or the whole thing.  I had about three power bars during that loop.  They're 240 calories a pop, so 720 calories there and I'm up to 1820 for the day.  That's already more than a lot of people eat on any given day.

By the time we crossed the I-90 bridge back into Seattle, my friend was in fairly bad shape and we had to stop and start a lot because he was having trouble riding.  It's small of me, but I enjoyed that a little since whenever we go on shorter rides he pushes me really hard to keep up with the fast paces he sets.  I can tell it costs him more than me, but I don't really like to ride that hard most of the time so it's still irritating.  The pace I was setting today was a lot slower than his usual pace and based on what I thought I could keep up for 60-70 miles.  He especially rides really hard on hills, but the scope of the hills involved in doing a bigger ride were such that he couldn't just charge them the way he usually does.  Anyway, we went to a little coffee shop that's near my house and on the way to his and took a break before parting ways.  I had two cookies.  They were probably about 400 calories each, bringing me to about 2620 for the day.  At that point, I was at around mile 64.

I was feeling really good, and it's always bothered me that I'd never done a full Century.  I decided that I was, at the least, going to set a new personal best for miles in a day but hopefully make it to 100.  The whole thing's a little arbitrary because it would be a different distance if we used a different unit of measurement, but round numbers are kind of fun.  Accomplishing a really long ride described by a fun, round number is something I never accomplished in college and thought I might not get another chance to do because of my knee problems, so it's a pretty big deal for me to be able to do it now.  I think that I'll always have to be a little careful and pay a little more attention, but it's something of a symbol of progress for me to set a new personal best post-injury when I set my previous one before I knew my knees are a problem.

I called another of my friends to see if she was available to do some riding.  She was, and we did 22 miles together.  It was dark at this point, but both of us have powerful headlights.  I think it could have been pretty depressing to do the miles alone, in the dark, so I'm glad she was into it.  During that section, my right shoulder started to really bother me and I switched from mostly riding the brake hoods to mostly riding on the flat part of my handlebar.  When we got back to her place, I took her up on her offer of macaroni and cheese because I was hungry and needed a break.  I also had another power bar during the ride.  So I was at 2860 calories, and then I had another 200ish of Mac and Cheese.  Although there was extra cheese.  So lets call it 240 because round numbers are nice and I'm not being scientific.  3100 calories for the day.

I was at 87.5 miles when I left her house, so I rode another 12.5 to get home.  When I got home, I put away a protein bar almost immediately.  290 calories.  Then I made dinner.  A third of a box of pasta is 540 calories.  Half a jar of sauce is 150.  All that brings the total to 4080.

I expect to eat a lot tomorrow too.  I don't really want to eat more right now.  Or, rather, I do, but I'm pretty full and I plan to spend tomorrow doing some things around the house, grocery shopping, and avoiding any significant exertion.  I'll probably go for a walk or something because not moving at all would be really bad, but I'm sure I'm going to be feeling pretty beat up.

So now that I've done my 100-mile day, I need a new goal.  I guess a double century is one thing to think about, or maybe doing the Seattle to Portland ride in a day, but I think that would actually be a much more difficult goal than what I did today, and might not be realistic this season.  At a bit over 85 miles I decided I needed to take a real break before continuing.  I did have a couple breaks on my way to 85 miles, but not many and not long, so I think that I can, relatively easily, do 85 miles in one shot.  I may try to do that next weekend and then start working up my mileage from there until I can do 100 miles in one shot.  A Century as a goal has always bothered me a little bit because I think that, given enough time, tons of people can do it.  Today it took me 7:26, not counting stops.  My average was 13.5 mph.  That's not a terrible average given that much of the riding was urban, but it's hardly fast.  Including stops, it took about twelve hours.  I suppose I could argue that I mostly rode with people who were going at a slower pace than I'd have chosen, but I don't know if I'd have been able to complete it if I'd gone at my pace all day, so it's a moot point.  If I start working on it on my own and I do it my way - eating and drinking on the bike, and not stopping until done - I should be able to get my time down to 7:30, stops included.

I'm not going to work too seriously on a 7-hour Century in the near future.  I want to race my mountain bike this summer, so I'm going to be doing a number of things that aren't pure endurance work, and I have some other goals at the moment that aren't cycling, so while I'd like to keep my weekly mileage relatively high, a fast Century isn't a huge thing for me.  I'd like to do one non-stop.  That would be pretty good for me.  If I'm feeling good about my long-distance riding, later in the season I might do one of the organized ones and try to do it in six hours.  That sort of pace is pretty difficult for me to sustain in the context of riding in traffic, since I believe in stopping at lights and not getting myself run over, but I might be able to ride fast enough, even in hills, to achieve that.  But again - it's a secondary goal, and I may find that life takes me in another direction.  The big milestone, for me, was a 100 mile day and I'm pretty happy.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Some Thoughts on Training

I just finished reading Base Building for Cyclists by Thomas Chapple.  The book deals with exactly what it sounds like it deals with - base building for people who want to realize a challenging goal to do with what they can do on a bike.  Other goals are covered to some extent, but Chapple is mainly interested in road racers in this book.

The training system advanced in the book is based on periodization.  The idea behind periodization is that while training is necessary to stress the body and cause it to react in the desired way, it's actually when an athlete is resting that their fitness improves.  In the past, I've just gone riding a lot.  That was the extent of my training, and it worked.  Chapple even mentions that it works.  He believes that periodization works better.  I guess I don't have the experience to say one way or the other, but it seems that a lot of really fast guys have been using periodization to get faster.

I spent a big chunk of time last night sitting with Excel and a calendar template (which I had to modify - they put Sunday at the beginning of the week; since I sometimes race on Sundays it makes more sense for me to consider both weekend days the end of the week, and then I won't accidentally have races fall on the beginning of the wrong week.)  Due to some circumstances, I have thirty hours a week available to train, which is the most that most athletes can train productively.  I didn't really take the time to think about how much riding that is, though, before I started putting together the schedule.  And at first, it looked like just a little more riding every week than I'm used to.  But as it continued to develop, I realized I was going to be scheduling myself to ride more on some single days than I rode in my heaviest weeks last Fall, my heaviest-riding period since college.  Possibly heavier, since during the week in college I only rode to class.  That brought up questions like, "Do I even want to ride this much?" and "Will any of my rides be compatible with riding with my friends?"  Chapple is actually not very bullish on riding with friends because he thinks that people push themselves too hard and get competitive when they do that.  I guess he doesn't know my friends.

So now that I have that out of the way, it's time for me to consider how much I actually want to ride, and how much I think I can ride without hurting myself.  Also, how much I need to ride to complete races that will typically run from forty-five minutes to an hour and a half during the summer, and about thirty-five minutes when cyclocross season starts up again.  I also need to look at how serious I want to be.  There's a stereotype of joyless roadies going on endless training miles and never racing.  That begs questions like, "What are they training for?"  and, "Why are they doing this to themselves?"  While I think the stereotype is exactly that, it has a few points.  I want my training plan to be compatible with riding my mountain bike, riding bikes with friends, enjoying riding my road bike, and enjoying life in general.  I also want it not to hurt me, so while I think that I can withstand a higher training load than my heaviest loads last Fall, I think it's probably not by that much.  I took a whole spring and early summer to work up to where Fall's training loads were okay, so I think that that training load is a good starting point and I should only progress as far as I can get while following the 10%/week guideline that kept me healthy last summer.  The other thing to think about is that I think that the guys who beat me racing cyclocross did it by being able to push a bigger gear on their bikes.  They were faster because they were stronger, and if they had better aerobic capacity than I did, it wasn't necessarily by that much.  In fact, I tended to beat a lot of the guys I did beat by being capable of a few more efforts at the end of the race when they weren't.  If only I had split times for my laps...

Which brings me to my training goals for this season.  I need to be able to push a bigger gear.  For mountain bike racing, I need to be more skillful in how I ride my mountain bike.  The corollary to being able to push a bigger gear is that I need to be able to do it for a whole race, which is why I don't just do lunges or join a gym and do squats and leave the bike alone until race day.  If I'm stronger, as I understand it, my muscles will demand more oxygen and nutrients to work and keep working for a whole race.  Which is where time spent on the bike comes in.  But for me, it's not huge and I already get a lot of miles just commuting and running errands and such.

So how does that shake out for me?  Since, like everyone who gets a training book when already planning some races, I don't have the thirty weeks Chapple suggests for a proper training schedule.  Luckily, immediately after the part where he writes, "You really shouldn't abbreviate your plan."  He gets to, "But if you have to, here's how to do it."  It kind of reminds me of the part of the driver's manual that says, "You should never use chains on this car.  If you do use chains on this car, you should install them..."  I will actually never have thirty weeks available to train for racing.  The first one that I want to do is in April, and if I continue to race cyclocross, which I plan to, the last race I'll be doing is in November.  Taking December off training gives me three months a year to devote to training and not racing.  It's not quite as bad as it sounds, since "advanced training," which is part of the thirty weeks, includes racing if you want it to.  I suppose if I start getting really good at either mountain bike or cyclocross racing I'll have to give up one so that I can properly peak for the other, but given my goal in this whole thing, which is to ride bikes a lot, race because I like racing, and race better because I have more fun doing things well, and that I plan to also have a career and other things in my life, I don't expect that to become an issue anytime soon.

Since I didn't entirely quit riding bikes but I did stop training during December and the first part of this month, I get to skip two training phases.  I start in mid-base, which means riding fairly slowly but incorporating some hills and some more mileage, and I have time to do late-base, which is riding pretty hard, and one advanced cycle, meaning riding with an emphasis on the specifics of the races I'm looking at going to, before my first race.  So I may not build to as much mileage as if I devoted more time to having a pre-base and early base phase, and I don't get to cross-train as much, but since I'm a generally active person anyway and the races I'm looking at entering are relatively short, I think that I'll survive.

I suppose my final thoughts on this book are that while it's pretty prescriptive, since I read it and didn't just skip straight to the training schedules at the end, I'm finding a lot of information on how to plan for my needs and goals in my current situation.  Also, he uses too many acronyms.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Hacking the registry to make Chrome and GMail work together

For a long time, I've been copy-pasting e-mail addresses into GMail if I've needed to use them from a link.  While it's not as annoying as you might think, it's still dumb and irritating.  So today I decided to change that.  Some research on the internet found me the registry key that controls the handling of mailto: links.  Note that I'm using Windows Vista; I think that the registry structure in previous Windows versions is enough different for this not to work verbatim.  The pertinent key is HKEY_CLASSES_ROOT\mailto\shell\open\command.  In my registry, there's only one value there.  Change the data in the key to

C:\Users\username\AppData\Local\Google\Chrome\Application\chrome.exe http://mail.google.com/mail/?extsrc=mailto&url=%1

Substitute your Windows username for username in my example line above.  The reason I had to do this is for whatever reason, GMail Notifier was unable to override Outlook when I told it to make GMail and Chrome my default mail handler.  Probably because Windows Vista is a PITA and Chrome's support by other programs, even Google programs, is still a bit funky.

For those who are curious about how this works (and don't know immediately by looking at it,) here's what's going on...  The registry key's data is exactly the same as something you'd enter in the command line.  In fact, when I was experimenting with the path and how to include the address I wanted Chrome to open, I used the command line.  Then I copy-pasted the succesful command into the field in regedit where I could change the value of the key.  %1 is a placeholder for the piece of data being passed to the command.  I had to play with that a little to make it work because I wasn't sure if the mailto: part was included automatically or not.  It turns out it is, which is why you don't see it in the registry key above.  Chrome is smart enough to open a tab, not a whole new window, when it gets started this way, which is nice because it saves learning more about how to operate it from a command line.

In the spirit of credit where credit is due, I figured out a lot of this based on someone else's registry key.  Check out Shonzilla's blog.  I think that perhaps his version would work on a previous Windows version?

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Utility Bike

After the failure of my previous attempt at building a commute bike, I found this one on Craig's List.  Back in the mid-80's, this would have been pretty lustworthy.  It was built to go fast, using aluminum tubes glued into steel lugs.  Twenty-year-old glue is not the most confidence-inspiring construction for me to ride, but I figure I'm not leaving city limits on this bike and I can always take the pieces home on the bus if it fails.


I'm into the silver paint.  It reminds me of the silver-on-silver paint scheme on a lot of Mercedes.  Since I have too many bikes, my commute bikes get names.  This one is named "Mercedes."


The cockpit is totally old-school.  I'm really into the downtube shifters - now that I've tried barend shifters, I think this is the only place to put separate shifters on a road bike.  The right shifter is actually indexed, which usually works, and is pretty cool.


The head badge reads "Raleigh Cycle Corporation of America."  I'm not sure what the deal is with the ownership of the company, because Raleigh is based in the UK, but these bikes were made in a factory in Kent, which is several miles south of Seattle.  I actually saw another one locked up outside the grocery store the other day, which I enjoyed.

Mercedes has kind of beat up wheels and the bearings need to be replaced.  They're sealed bearings, which is very unusual for the '80s, so when I'm less broke I can order replacements.  Probably.  On the other hand, if they were the older cup-and-cone style, I could repack them this evening.  Despite the notchiness of the bearings, it's actually a pretty responsive bike and much more fun to ride than my previous attempt or a lot of contemporary non-racing bikes.

I also plan to put better fenders on it and a rack with collapsible wire baskets so that I don't have to carry my groceries in my messenger bag when I use it to go shopping.  I survive those trips, but my bread sometimes ends up a little oddly shaped.  It'll also be cool to be able to throw my stuff in one of the baskets when I commute.


The last picture is the front end from my previous commuter.  That bike was, unfortunately, too old to bring up to a level of reliability that would have been acceptable to me.  Also unfortunately it took until after I'd already replaced the front end, which was quite an adventure, to break the part that made me reach that conclusion.  I've already stripped the frame and dumped it in the recycle can the other day, and I'm probably going to cut the rims off the hubs on the original wheels and send them out soon too.  The hubs I'll hold onto; they're okay hubs and could be rebuilt and used in wheels for another ten-speed.

As built the day that I broke the crank, the bike was actually pretty cool and I was really enjoying it.  The new front end came about because the stem was frozen into the fork in a position that was much too low for me, so I removed it destructively.  That meant I needed a new fork and stem.  When I saw the 700C disc fork above at Recycled Cycles, I had to have it.  I found the front wheel, which is a 26" wheel, there, as well as the tire and the disc caliper.  The disc brake was for a mountain bike, so I needed new brake levers, to pull the appropriate amount of cable.  I also picked up new shifters, to go on the ends of the handlebars, since the previous shifters had been mounted on the stem that I'd cut in half.  The end product of all this work was an odd little grey bike with a 650A rear wheel (590mm for those keeping score at home) a 700C (622mm) disc fork, and a 26" (559mm) front wheel.  Because the front wheel was smaller than the original wheel, it made up for the new fork being taller and the bike handled only a little faster, which was fine with me because it was a bit sluggish before.  The larger front tire gave it a really aggressive look, which was fun, and the whole rig got a lot of compliments for as long as it lasted.

Still, the one I got to replace it is much faster and lighter, and so far it's much more reliable as well.  Score one for bikes that were built to last.