Monday, June 3, 2013

May in review

I suppose you could call it the blogger's paradox: When you have time to write, there is little to write about, conversely when their is much to write about, there is little time to write.

In May, spring finally showed up...sorta. The early part of the month gave us below normal temps, and we received nearly ten inches of rain over Memorial Day weekend, which caused some localized flooding and residential damage.

I was happy to work in significant use of bikes for my day job. My work requires taking photos of homes in the towns in this county, and using a bike seemed like a good alternative to a car. The experiment was an unequivocal success. I regret that the project is now done, and I can find no reasonable excuse to get out and ride for my work. 

In spite of the weather I managed just shy of 300 miles of riding. While not amazing mileage, I feel pretty good working in those rides while balancing 1.5 jobs and a young family. Almost all of my training rides happen between 5:30 and 6:30 am, before kids are up and before I need to deliver baked goods at 7.

The cool and wet spring has made a maintaining a consistent riding schedule tough. "No such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing" turns into a lie when lighting gets involved, especially in an exposed landscape like NW Iowa.

A big change in my training this year has been the inclusion of gravel roads. In my area around 80% of the roads are gravel, so adding them has radically increased the potential routes. By their nature, the gravel roads are less traveled, so I get to have the roads almost completely to myself. The catch is the ever changing nature of the roads. Weather, maintenance, and use can alter the road conditions overnight

I've found the increased difficulty of these roads has made me more confident in my bike handling and stronger while climbing. Initially I felt that my 1980's steel lugged bike would be a poor choice for gravel, but it easily fits 32mm tires. Unfortunately the 27" wheels do limit my tire options to sizes 32mm and narrower. I am very interested in trying tires 35mm and larger, and hopefully a 700c size bike is in my not too distant future. When the roads are in poor condition, especially when soft, the narrow tires do make handling difficult. That said, when I can find a good track, my pace approaches that of riding on a tar road. A side note: downtube shifters are not a good idea for a gravel bike, they make downshifting when managing bad road conditions way more trouble than necessary.

The first test is coming up this weekend, a 50 mile loop on paved roads with pretty minor climbing. This spring I have been unable to get in a ride longer than 30 miles, so I'm actually rather nervous. The biggest concern is the weather, I'm not much of a match against some of the headwinds that this region can cook up.

In regards to the bike shop, things could not be going better. Once the weather began to warm up business picked up dramatically. I should clarify, business picked up once people had a chance to take their first ride and realize they wanted something better to ride. I continue to be amazed how easy it is to sell someone a bike. My wife and I operate on a very strict budget, so I'm baffled that customers walk in, take a bike for a ride, and walk out with a new bike in under 15 min. Maybe I over think things, but I could never make a decision on a bike that easy, nor drop that kind of money without seemingly a second thought. I promise I'm not trying to shove them out the door, but people come in with their minds made up, and if they're happy and riding, I'm happy.

Repairs have tapered off a bit, mostly just assembling new bikes and fixing many, many flats. This weekend I passed a wrenching milestone when I tire I was inflating exploded. My boss was standing a few feet away with his back to the tire. I'm quite certain I removed a few years from his life. Sorry boss.


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