Sunday, July 26, 2015

#42: Crowded

16th Street Beach, Belmar, NJ

26 July 2015

I'm used to leading half a dozen people.  When the crowd gets up around ten, I start to get nervous. There were eleven of us en route to Belmar yesterday.

Jack H and I left from my house.  He'd biked in from home. This would put him well over a century, considering I had 103 miles planned from my house.

We picked up Tom at Mercer County Park.  It was he who had hatched the idea of going to Belmar today, instead of climbing up to another high point or two.  His wife was already at the beach, so he would meet her there.

I knew that Lynne and Bill would meet us at Etra Lake Park.  I wasn't sure about Cheryl or Ron, but there they were, along with a different Jim (who had contacted me earlier in the week).  Joe made it, but Dave called in sick.

I was surprised to see Al L; I didn't think he was into distance.  Barry was there too.  

Bruce and Herb were in the crowd, which confused me even more, because neither of them is into riding at our pace. They were there for another Belmar ride that would start half an hour after ours. Bruce took a peek at my cue sheet. He didn't want our groups to overlap; that would be a mess.  Our route out would be his route back, so we were safe.

The Hill Slugs haven't gone to Belmar during peak season in a long time.  I'd forgotten how much shore traffic there can be on a perfectly sunny, dry, not-too-hot day in July.

Barry and Al both have a tendency to ride towards the middle of the road.  At an intersection on a busy stretch, I asked them to get in so that I could see the rest of the group in my mirror.  "If you can't do that," I said, "Ride in the front or in the back."  Al got up front.  Barry tucked in behind me, at least for a few miles, before drifting out again.

Tom had helped me work the route so that we'd come in along the shoreline from the south.  To do that, though, we wound up first in traffic, then on a side road that was one third pothole, and then back in traffic through Sea Girt.  It's worth making the trip once in a while, though, if for no other reason than to gawk at the massive mansions in Spring Lake.  Forget about seeing the beach from the road, though.  That's all walled off from anyone lower than two stories up.

I managed to get a picture when the boardwalk wasn't full of people.  

We had a tailwind for the first half of the route home, but people were starting to run out of energy. At each intersection, it was taking longer and longer to bring everyone together again.

We were on Georgia Road, a handful of miles away from our final rest stop, when Bill, who was behind me, called out a hole.  We heard a crash.  We turned around.

Al was on his side, reaching for his glasses.  Not until we got within ten feet of him did we see that Jack was down too.  They were both in the same position, as if on a tandem, lying on their left sides, under their bikes.

My first question is always, "What happened?"  I want to get the story before there's chance for any spin.  Al said, "Barry swerved. I hit him."  Barry was standing a few feet away.  Jack got out from under his bike, and we untangled it from Al's.  Then we got Al's bike off of him and he stood up. Both had road rash on their left elbows and left shins.  Both had jerseys with new vent holes. Both had perfectly functioning bikes.  I doused their wounds from my water bottle while Ron got out some alcohol wipes.  I said to Barry, "You're in the back from now on."  I said it loudly and forcefully so that everyone could hear me.  Then I went back to paying attention to Jack and Al.  It looked like the two of them would be okay, so we started to get ourselves together again.  I heard Barry cursing to Bill:  "Why the fuck does everyone blame me?  I had nothing to do with it!"  Bill masterfully calmed him down.  I told Jack and Al to ride up front where I could keep an eye on them.  "We're injured and she wants us to pull," Jack said with a grin. They didn't ride in front of me, but I kept them in my sight.  Barry didn't ride at the back as I'd told him to.

The rest stop, in Freehold, is only about ten miles from Etra Park, but we took our time there.  We were at a Dunkin Donuts; Cheryl asked the manager for a first aid kit. Al got himself some ice, and Barry showed him how to wrap it in a bandanna.  Al kept it on his arm until the ice was half melted.

The group splintered again before half of us were out of the parking lot.  Barry, Al, Jack, and a handful of others went off the front, while I waited for those who were too pooped to push. When there were no more turns to make, I rode ahead to try to catch up to the lead group, hoping I could get everyone in sight.  That didn't happen, although we all got back to the park within a few minutes of each other.

Then, Jack and I rode back towards my house.  We took a route that Jack knew, one that avoided the small hills in the park.  The distance ended up being the same. Despite his road rash, Jack chose the longer way back to his house from mine.  He'd finish the day with something in the neighborhood of 115 miles.


Late last night I came to a decision that will become final as soon as I run it by those who get to decide if I'm within my rights to make it.

This morning I emailed Jack and Al.  Jack wrote back that he was fine.  He'd even gone on a 22-mile recovery ride.  Al, still sore, figures he's stuck with a couple of pulled muscles that will take him six weeks to heal.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Hill Slugs Ad Hoc, Saturday, 25 July: Pick Your Distance

23 July 2015

With the Princeton Event a week away, it's time to get some flat distance in. Our destination is Belmar.  This is a repeat of the route we did back in May, which is why this post might look familiar.

If you want to ride 100 miles, meet at my house for a 7:30 a.m. start, and let me know that's what you're doing.

If you want to ride approximately 85 miles, we'll pick you up at the East Picnic Area of Mercer County Park around 8:00 a.m. and leave as soon as everyone is signed in.

If something closer to a metric century is your cuppa, meet us at Etra Park for a 8:45 a.m. start.

This is an endurance ride, so make sure your body and bike are prepared. If in doubt, choose the shorter route.

We'll ride at an honest B pace, aiming to roll at 18-19 mph where the terrain allows, but adjusting our moving speed to fit the crowd.

This will be a social ride. Pace-pushers are not welcome.  Unsafe riders will be asked to leave the group.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Feels Like Summer

This is what summer looks like (Main Street, Kingston)

19 July 2015

Today was the first of what will be many days where the heat sucks away last night's sleep in the first five miles. It was one of those days that doesn't feel so bad while you're moving, but the instant you stop you couldn't be more wet if you'd been in a downpour.

Looking for a no-stress recovery ride, I pedaled the 18.5 miles from home to Six Mile Run State Park on the D&R Canal, where Jim was leading his monthly no-pace New Brunswick Bike Exchange ride. I saw cyclists of every shape, size, and color along Canal Road (take that, Bike Virginia!).  Every rider was coming from the other direction.  Once I got past Coppermine I knew why.

Canal Road is more pothole than pavement on the northbound side between Coppermine and Griggstown.  It was thoroughly unpleasant, and that was on Kermit, a steel frame. The southbound side is much better.  There's a sign up on the southbound side that says road work will begin tomorrow.  One can only hope.

Jim's ride was a mix of bikes and styles.  TEW and I were on our high-end equipment.  Jim had the Krakow Monster out.  Smolenyak* pulled in on a single speed with a massive trailer.  Two others were on mountain bikes.

We headed back to Kingston on the smoother side of Canal Road, then took Kingston-Rocky Hill Road. Jim requested stop at Rockingham for a group picture.

"Having flashbacks?" Smolenyak asked me.  He was referring to my first century, when it was just the two of us at mile 90-something.

"Nope."  I felt the need to explain.  "It was my first century.  My back hurt, my butt hurt, and my stomach hurt.  I learned not to eat a bagel with cream cheese on a ride."

Jim said, "That's my pre-ride breakfast."

"Females," Smolenyak said.

I narrowed my eyes at him.  "I can take you, Smolenyak."

He challenged me to a ride to Binghamton, NY.

I flexed my right arm.  "I can take you."

There's a fair amount of trash talk among us biking buddies, I explained to the new folks.  Being the only woman on the ride most of the time, I'm treated like one of the guys.

We hung out at Main Street for a while.  Main Street is the Sergeantsville of the flatlands: it's a cyclist mecca, and if you stay there long enough you'll probably run into somebody you know. Today it was Eoghan, who came out with the Slugs only rarely when he moved here a couple of years ago. Nowadays he's a full-on randonneur, and we never see him.

It was getting towards noon when I finally left for home. I went through two water bottles in 37.3 miles, and was thoroughly drenched when I walked into the house.

Next Saturday I'm scheduled to lead a ride.  If the weather is favorable, we'll do another metric-to-century in stages.

(*I avoid last names, but in this case, if I use his first name only, nobody will know who I'm talking about, and he wouldn't like that, would he?)

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Rain Delay

Round Valley Reservoir

18 July 2015

At 6:12 a.m., Snakehead Ed emailed us:

Laura, Tom-

I’m looking at the T-storm forecast; the mass of storm cells currently sitting in the middle of Pennsylvania is heading our way..For Lebanon, NJ, the precip. probability is 11-39% during 8 AM - 1 PM.  Any advice?

I didn't see his message until 6:35.  I was on the floor, doing my morning round of back PT.  I wrote,

You're asking us, the two rainiest riders you know?  I'm dressed and ready to go.

Ed replied, 

Just checking.  See you at Harlingen at 08:00.

Tom chimed in:

This is just my opinion but according to the forecast the current storm is going to move through fast and should break up as it gets to where we are riding. Either there will be a brief shower as we start or it will be over before we start. I think we can do the ride and have a good chance of getting back before any major rain. If it is raining when it starts we can just wait it out because after that it should be clear for rest of the day.

By 8:00, four of us were ready to go, the fourth being John T, one of Ed's colleagues.  The only problem was the sky over the Sourland Mountain, a few miles away from where we were, at Montgomery Veteran's Park.

"Yeah, it's raining over there," Ed said.

I heard a rumble, but with my bad hearing I needed confirmation.  "Was that thunder?"


"Check the radar," Tom said.  I passed my phone around so that everyone could see the mass of red and yellow moving toward us.  We decided to bike down to the bathrooms and playground, where we could take shelter and wait out the storm.

We parked our bikes.  Tom wandered over to the playground and I followed.  I watched as he did five very smooth chin-ups.  I had to do five too, because I'm not competitive or anything.  Ed sat at the top of the short sliding board. We watched the sky.

There was lightning, but there was no way I'd catch it with my camera unless by chance.  We watched the sky some more as the storm drew closer.

"Here's the rain," I said. We scuttled back towards our shelter and got there just in time.

There was plenty for us to talk about as we waited out the rain.  Every so often, Tom would stick his head out and we'd tell him it was still raining too much to ride.  I checked the radar a few times. The storm was moving through quickly enough that we could wait a little longer.

When we finally got going, it was 9:30.  Somehow, we'd waited an hour and a half.

As we approached the Sourland Mountain, the sun came out, if only for a minute.

"I wonder," Tom said, "How many rides you and I have done together this year where it hasn't rained."

"Does this morning count?  We didn't actually get rained on. We hadn't started."

"It counts," he said.  "It interfered with our ride."

One, then: our trip to Sergeantsville two weeks ago.  And the two days out of four in Virginia. And the handful of mountain bike rides in the snow, I guess; the precipitation doesn't count if it's already fallen.

Ed led us up Hollow and Long Hill, then down Lindbergh.  At the bottom we stopped to look at what used to be Peacock's General Store.

The only thing to remind us of what was there before the fire is the new porch, in the same spot the old one used to be.

We took a quick bathroom and water break at the Wawa on Route 202. Ahead of us the sky was metallic gray, but there was no rain on the radar.

As we approached Pleasant Run, we passed one of Transco's Leidy Southeast Expansion Project's Pleasant Run Loop construction sites. This beautiful scenery is on Barley Sheaf Road, uphill from Pleasant Run.

This isn't the same gas pipeline I've been going on about on these pages.  This is a different line, one that slid through the FERC application process like a greased pig.  PennEast isn't going to be so easy.

There was more of the same on Stanton Mountain Road between Dreahook and the general store:

Look how far this stretches.

We'd gone somewhere around 30 miles before my favorite puddle came into view:

"I have so many pictures of Round Valley," I said. Yet I take a few more each time I'm there.

Our rest stop was at Jerry's Brooklyn Grill at Whitehouse Station. Today's muffins were big.  Not Stanton General Store legendary big, but big enough that I felt full after taking the top of one. Nobody wanted the bottom; they'd all had too much food as well.

Before we left I checked the radar again.  All clear.

We had a headwind on the way home, because of course we did.  Today was one of those rare days where the wind isn't out of the northwest (which would have pushed us home, of course).

We picked up some speed on the flats near Neshanic, and we were booking down Blawenberg-Belle Meade Road when we were stopped because of even more pipeline construction:

By now, the sun was out and the air was thick and gross.  This is summer air.  We'd better get used to it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Missed One, Caught the Other

photo shamelessly swiped from Jim's blog

12 July 2015

With a body full of too many dinners out and a bottle full of coffee, I left home on Kermit shortly after 7:00 this morning fully expecting to get my ass kicked by the Major Taylor Bicycle Club of Central New Jersey.

I rolled into Main Street Cafe in Kingston with about ten minutes to spare.  Nobody from MTBCCNJ was there, but Jim was.  We waited around until about 8:10, and then I texted Vern that we'd somehow missed him and were heading to the Freewheeler ride in Cranbury.

As we left, I said, "I'm kinda relieved."  Jim wasn't surprised.  We had time enough for me to refill my water bottle at Bagel Street.  I went through a lot of water today; I had a lot of Nomad's arugula and pear pizza last night.

I was glad to see Gordon in the parking lot at Cranbury.  It's been a long time since we've ridden together.

As people got ready, I checked my phone for a text from Vern.  He had written back, asking what time the Cranbury ride started and suggesting we swing by the CVS in Plainsboro.  It was too late for us to do that. Maybe it was my fault. We'd had a long email exchange, during which I balked at the speed and Vern encouraged me.  I didn't tell him I'd definitely be there, but I did write "I'm definitely bringing my big ring."  Jim hadn't committed either. Perhaps if we had, we'd have known about the new starting point.

The Cranbury group was small today, which is a refreshing change from the usual midsummer mayhem.

Jeff H is a new leader. He's only been riding with the club since the beginning of the year, so it's brave of him to take on Winter Larry's position for the summer.  Hmm.  Maybe we should call him Summer Jeff.

Summer Jeff was good at keeping the group together, even when we got into Macho Mile territory on the way home.  He and Gordon fixed Gordon's flat in record time.  (Jim: "How many FreeWheelers does it take to change a flat?" Me:  "How many you got?")

Jim's safe route escort back to South Brunswick never turned into the Cranbury parking lot, so I decided that I'd ride back to Main Street with him.  I didn't mind the extra five miles, and I didn't want Jim to get lost. Perhaps the Major Taylor guys would be there.  I was thirsty and hungry as well.

Uncharacteristically, there were no bikes parked in front of the cafe when we arrived.  Two riders were just leaving, but they weren't our erstwhile friends.

I finished the day with 80 miles, which is penance for sitting on my butt at a meeting all day yesterday while Tom's Insane Bike Posse had, by most accounts, a sucky ride.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

OLPH Builds a Wheel, Part One

The build will have to wait until the cat is finished with the workspace.

11 July 2015

This week I finally got around to rebuilding Gonzo's rear wheel.  As per Jim's instructions, I read Roger Musson's wheelbuilding book and watched the accompanying video several times.

My first step was to set up a spot indoors, clamp the new work light to a bookshelf, gather everything I'd need, and put a towel down.

The first step also required feline approval, which is easy to obtain, because cats go into circles. No sooner than I had laid the rim down than Moxie came trotting over to do his job.

The next step is to lightly oil the spoke threads and rim holes.  I used 4-cycle lawnmower oil and cotton swabs.

It should surprise exactly no one that I'm not going for boring old silver spoke nipples.  Nuh uh.  The hub is red, so I went online to find red spoke nipples.  The package arrived with orange ones instead. They were cheap, and returning them would have cost 30% of what I'd paid for them, so when I visited Wheelfine back in May I bought some high-quality red spoke nipples from Michael.
Then my sister sent me purple ones for my birthday.

The drive side spokes would be red.  The non-drive side would alternate between orange and purple. Putting the first spokes in was easy.

Then I broke the cardinal rule of losing my concentration. Somewhere along the way, while lacing the first set of non-drive spokes, I must have flipped the wheel over and laced the spokes backwards.

Of course, I didn't notice...

 ...and kept on going.

I followed the directions for three-cross spokes on the drive side, and then flipped the wheel over to do the non-drive side.  That's when my earlier error made itself apparent. I wasn't sure which direction to cross the non-drive side spokes anyway so so I straight-laced them, knowing I was going to have to start over. I knew something was off, so I emailed Jim, and went upstairs to bed.  

What a mess.

I woke to an email that I'd botched the second step.  How Jim could tell from the pictures I sent I'll never know, but he was right.

Take two.

The purple spoke nipples turned out to be crap; some had fallen off right away, one or two overnight, and others had been a challenge to screw on in the first place.  So, I unthreaded the purple ones and taped them together (second set, non-drive side), undid the drive-side crossed set (red), and taped them together.

Then I re-routed the non-drive spokes that had been misaligned (orange)... the drive-side three-cross (red)...

...and laced the non-drive side, three-cross (orange).

Now we're getting somewhere!

The loaner truing stand not yet in my possession, I turned Gonzo upside-down so that I could drop the wheel in and check the alignment before driving the spoke nipples all the way in.

The hub rested neatly across the dropouts.  It wasn't going in; it was far too big for that.

"Houston," I emailed Jim, "we have a problem."  I was either going to have to stretch the frame or find a new hub to start over with.  I went upstairs to bed.

I woke the next morning to a request to measure the hub.  It should be 130 mm, Jim instructed me, because that's the standard road hub size.

I measured three times, attempting to take pictures simultaneously.  Each time I measured the hub, it came out to 145 mm. I wrote to the hub supplier and to Jim, and went off to the lab.  When I had a few minutes of downtime, I called the supplier, who had seen my email and was as perplexed as I was.  He asked for pictures and sent me one of how to take a proper hub measurement.

One is not supposed to measure the hub end-to-end:

One leaves off the parts on the end that are destined to fit into the dropouts.

Which mine weren't doing.

I called Michael at Wheelfine and described my problem.  The next day I took a long lunch break to drive my problem to the bike shop.

Michael looked at the wheel first and cast aspersions on the orange nipples.  "They're crap," he said. I told him I'd buy replacements from him. "I don't have that color," he said.  "I do have blue."


Much to my relief, Michael agreed that the hub didn't fit.  But it wasn't the hub that was the problem. With a ruler far more accurate than any I have at home, he measured the distance between the dropouts to be 128 mm.  So, while my previous hub did fit (it was never easy to put the wheel in), this one would not unless we did some bicycle frame chiropractic.

First, though, we needed to remove the paint that was inside the dropouts.  I held the frame steady on the work stand while Michael scraped at it with a blade and sandpaper.  This wasn't enough to make the hub fit.

It was time to bend the frame, or, as Michael insisted I call it, to "cold-work" the chainstay.  To determine which side we would stretch -- er, work, he did the string test.

He tied one end of a ball of twine to the left dropout, passed it around the head tube, and fed it back to the right dropout. Then he measured the distance from the string to the seat tube on each side.  The numbers differed by a few millimeters.  We would pull the side that was closer in.

"How strong are you?" he asked.

"Pretty strong for a girl."

He was fastening two rods, one into each dropout.

"Good. I want you to push the frame towards me."

We shielded the frame with plastic and cloth, and maneuvered it to rest against the work stand. Michael moved the rod one way while I pushed the frame in the opposite direction.  Nothing much happened.

"I'm going to bring something out that would be great in a bar fight," he said.

The tool looked like something out of Star Trek.  "You'll need to speak Klingon," I said.  He laughed. "That's a batleth."

"We need to get the frame to move about an inch to get a few millimeters," he said. "Memory," he said, pointing to the frame.  Move an inch it did.  He stopped measured the gap between the rods, re-positioned them, and we pushed again.  And again.

"I think I heard something," I said.

"Probably my shoulder."


I left the shop an hour and a half after I'd entered, carrying the frame, the wheel, a bag of cobalt blue spokes, a high-end spoke wrench, instructions to tension the drive side spokes first, and a promise that Michael would check my work.  "There's nothing you could do that can't be fixed," he assured me.

Back in the lab, I reported in to Jim.  "The paint, and one good bang, would explain the 2mm difference," he wrote.  I replied, "Lord only knows what Gonzo went through before I got hold of him.  From the looks of the paint [when I got the frame on eBay], there was more than one bang."

Before I went to bed, I swapped spoke nipples.  I'm getting handy with the nipple driver.  It took less than 20 minutes to make the change.

While I was out at a meeting this morning, Sean stopped by with a truing stand and a dishing tool. Stay tuned.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Beaker's Day in the Sourlands

Beaker in Sergeantsville

5 July 2015

Miss Piggy has behaved herself for six whole rides now.  That's a record.  Still, I felt the need for steel for today's ride into the Sourlands, and Beaker never gets to see her chain in the small ring.  I unhooked her lights and heart rate monitor and started off from home at 7:25 a.m. to meet Tom's Insane Bike Posse in Rocky Hill.

Jim and I were early.  Then Blake arrived, followed by Tom, Cheryl, and Ed. And Ed's socks, which had featured prominently on Tom's ride on Friday, when a lagging rider was told, "Let my socks be a beacon unto you."

Mine were crazy today too, but I had to go shoeless to show them off:

Beaker is a mushy ride, the perfect antidote to a weekend of carbon harshness.  She climbs well enough, too, well enough that I entertain the notion of putting a triple on her someday, once Miss Piggy's frame cracks, shatters, or gets thrown into the Raritan.  (Jim predicted I'd come around to this someday.)

The view from Grandview:

Cheryl is re-acclimating to hills.  This picture is for her to show her fellow Florida Flatlanders.

We took one of the easier routes into Sergeantsville by approaching from Dunkard Church and Lambert Roads.  Tom remembered that there had been cows in the water the last time he'd looked.

"I only take pictures of cows," I told Jim, "because you say I take pictures of cows."  If this logic sounds less than sound, hang on for a few more paragraphs.  It gets worse.

Cheryl hasn't been to the Sergeantsville General Store since Sun sold it last summer.  The coffee, she agrees, is definitely better.  She bought mine, which was groovy of her. I usually get the squash-cherry-nut bread, but adhering to tradition is more important.  I ate the top of a fresh blueberry muffin and pushed the rest towards Cheryl and Jim.

Because my Sergeantsville rides start from Pennington, we more often than not pass through Mount Airy from the south.  This puts us on the farm side, where we are met by cows when we gather at the top.

Today, though, Tom took us up from the opposite side.

"There are no cows in this direction," I declared.

See? Proof!

On our way down the hill I explained to Jim and Tom my idea for a retroactive drug -- one that works before you take it.  (I came up with this idea in my senior year of high school. Why hasn't this been invented yet?)  I don't think they heard me, which is just as well.

With about five miles to go, Ed and I started to conspire about stopping at Main Street in Kingston after the ride.  We've done this before, at about the same distance from the end, when we start to get hungry.  He was jonesing for gazpacho. Ick. I was thinking about ride pudding.

I arrived after Ed did.  He was surrounded by the Major Taylor fastboys, including Vern and Howard, neither of whom I've seen in a long, long time.

We all used to be in spin class together -- me, Vern, his wife, and Howard -- but when the gym opened a branch in Plainsboro, closer to where they live, they started spinning there instead. Vern can spin so fast that the spin bike's computer can't keep up; it goes blank somewhere above 120 rpm. Envious, I used to try to get my console to go blank.  I did it a couple of times, Vern laughing on the bike next to mine, but I could barely hold that cadence.  On the road, I only see Vern when he's flying past me.  Howard used to come out on some of Michael H's hilly rides, but he's such a strong climber that I rarely had the chance to talk to him.

The guys admired Beaker's steel and her mountain bike gearing.  I trembled at the sight of  their serious-speed equipment (one with a solid rear wheel and no rear brake -- yikes!) and at Vern's single-speed (in the Sourlands!). Vern said I should ride with them sometime.  "Sure," I said.  "I'll last about five minutes before you drop me."

"We wait for everybody," Vern assured me.

"I don't want to piss people off by making them wait for me."  One of the other guys said, "Come out with us."

Yeah, right.

After they left, while I was waiting at an outside table for Ed, I emailed Vern anyway.  "I'll never be able to keep up with you," I wrote, "but it might be fun to try it once." On my way home (two rice puddings in my jersey pocket), I pondered which bike I'd bring, and how far into the route I'd last before sending them all off ahead.

I'm more of an endurance gal.  I finished with 75 miles.