1st Day Without Bike & MS 150 Donation Update

I had planned on joining up with the Bicycle Sport Shop Sunday morning ride. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend. I had to leave my bike with the service department yesterday. The damage to by rear wheel was significant. I could be without a bike for a week. It almost goes without saying that I feel disappointed.

On the upside, I have received another donation for the MS 150 ride. I currently have $125 of the $500 goal. If you are interested in donating, please follow this link.

Bitten By Parmer

I hate Parmer. There I said it. Not all of it. The stretch North of Bicycle Sport Shop until 29. I even dislike a bit more after that intersection. This section of road is a monster. It attacks my rear tire like no other road in Austin.
My first ride there was terrific. Soon after I purchased my bicycle a friend, who likes to ride, came to town. I searched online for a good place to go ride. I came across Parmer. The map view looked perfect. A straight out-and-back with a few ups and downs. Outside of the Austin city traffic. It all came true that first ride on Parmer’s tarmac. Also, the road shoulder was large. Two bikes fit side by side with room to spare. It was also not windy. I remember thinking this is a great place to come ride.
I joined the Bicycle Sport Shop Road Club. They scheduled weekly rides along this road. I was good with that. On my second date with Parmer, I realized I had been set up. First, the wind. It was there every week. A strong, barreling wind. Somedays it felt like I was being blasted from both directions. Then the road debris. It grew. It was gnarly. It enjoyed chewing up bike tires. I had one flat. Then another. One day I had three flats on Parmer. It was not just me. Flats were a regular occurrence with the group. I even witnessed fellow rider’s tires being shredded. Partly due to training for an event and partly due to fear, I stopped riding on Parmer.
I joined Team Tacodeli last year for the MS 150 ride. Several team training rides were scheduled on Parmer. I cringed on those days. Some rides I made it through unscathed. Others - I got bit. At the opening Tacodeli party this year, the team captain announced Parmer rides were off the list. I did a happy dance. Then came today. A team ride which spent a fraction of the total miles on Parmer. The ride start  and finish was at Red Horn Coffee House and Brewing Company - on Parmer. I felt like Indiana Jones attempting to make it to the statue without making a wrong step and releasing the arrows. I completed 26 and 3/4 miles without a problem. Then Parmer struck. I was 500 feet from turning into the Red Horn parking lot. I was feeling confident I had made it unscathed. The end was in sight. I felt a bounce from the back of the bike. Then the cyclical bumps. Then the rear wheel began to skid out as I came to a stop. Disbelief. No. No. No. I repeated to myself as I was breaking. Off the bike, I spun the back tire. Sometimes it is difficult to find what pierced the tire and tube. There was no humility today. A boastful, large screw was set firm in the rear tire. It was placed in the tire like someone had intentionally picked the spot and twisted it into place. Really?! I was so close to finishing. I walked the bike along the shoulder and through the parking lot. At the car, I pulled back the tire to see if anything happened underneath. The tire’s bead was split. The rim tape had been shredded near the screw.
Defeated I mounted the bike to the car and headed to the Sport Shop for some advice. The tech confirmed I needed a new tire, tube of course, and I could use some tape to cover the damaged rim tape area. I have tire, tube, and tape in the garage. Back at home, I removed the tire and tube from the wheel. The chewed up part of the rim tape was there. Then I spotted the savagery with which Parmer attacked my wheel. The screw had broken in half. Like a shark it left a tooth lodged in the rim of my wheel. There is no way *I can* fix this. Now I have to take the bike back to the shop and be without it for about a week. I hate Parmer.



Roosters and Chickens in the Neighborhood

I thought I could catch a glimpse of the dropped ceiling. My wife had already left to check on the installation. I still had to get ready for my afternoon bike ride. Granted today was much faster than recent days. A sunny 70 degrees waited for me outside; the day before the Winter solstice.

As I stood outside with my bike syncing the Garmin Edge 1000 and my phone, a text came through with a picture of the installed piece and the word “Done!” Well, that’s good, but that thwarts my plan to surprise her. She did not note she was heading home. I decided to continue the route. As I descended at 30 plus miles per hour around a curve, I recognized the car driving the opposite direction. There she was. I saw her smiling and waving to me. All I could do was smile. I smiled the biggest and most obvious smile I could. There was no way I could take my hands off the handlebars. When I came out of the curve and started the straight shot, I saw about fifteen roosters and chickens in somebody’s front yard and strung out along a sidewalk. I cruised by and did not detect any of them scattering away. It is not every day I see this. So I turned my bike around and approached the birds with care. I did not want to pull right up. So I slid in between a couple of parked cars to check out the situation along the sidewalk. Those birds scurried. I couldn’t believe it. Then I saw the funniest things. All of them ran behind something. It was like a game of hide-and-seek with kids. I was counting down to from ten to zero and the birds tried to find the closest hiding place as possible. One of the birds chose to hide behind a small tree. It did have some branches, but the young narrow trunk was exposed. It was no bigger around than a table glass for water. The chicken was still. Then it turned its head cool as a cucumber looking for me. When it spotted me watching, it snapped its head back and froze in place. I had never seen anything like this. Well, I wanted to make it back home before nightfall so I left the birds hiding and no one seeking.

Afternoon Ride

Looking out the window, it is hard to tell if it is Fall or Spring. A bright sun shines down on the street. The grass is green and leaves do not turn colors as sharp as happens in the North. I overslept this morning and missed the earlier cold. When I set out today for my steady state interval ride, it was cool. I soon discovered after descending to the Shoal Creek area a strong wind blowing South. I think I’d rather have a cold, dry and no wind day than have to face a strong headwind. I set up my intervals to use the wind at my back for the longer time before having to turn around and fight against it going the other direction. Five minutes with a tailwind. Three minutes in battle mode into the wind. I challenged myself on the return section of the interval to make it back halfway before entering the rest period. I never made it. In fact, I tired so much riding into the wind I had a hard time staying in the zone for those three minutes. By the time I was on the fourth and last interval section, I fell short. I slowed my cadence before hearing the ending the beep. I took the full five minutes of recovery almost at a standstill. I picked up the pace just a tad on the climb back home.

Slow Sunday Group Ride

I prepared for the morning ride somewhat before going to bed the previous night. A habit my wife habitually tells me I need to do. I have this knack, especially on Sunday mornings, of getting to the start of the group ride just in time. Wheels down, which means be at the starting location and prepared to ride, is 7:45 AM. Fifteen minutes prior to the departure. I am typically there with five or less minutes to spare. The reason I prepped this weekend? Cold. The temperature prediction for the morning was a chilly 40 degrees and preparing for the cold always takes longer. It was a good thing that I did too. I over slept and ended up making it to the shop at the same time as always - late.

The group was small. Five total for the effort ride. Three regulars came that counted me, the volunteer ride leader, and one other. The other two were new riders. It proved to be a long ride. The distance was the same as usual but it took us a much longer time to finish. I rode next to the ride leader. There was no jockeying for position to be up front. There was no rotation with the other riders between pulling and drafting. The other regular typically rides at the back of the group. He stayed in that spot except that was just behind myself and the leader. The other two riders fell off the back. Over and over again. We slow rolled and made extra stops waiting for them to catch up. One of the two rode a brand new bike. So I figured he was new at this kind of ride. I was told the other rider was a newbie. He had ridden with the easy group and found that too easy and decided to move up a group. I remember the nervousness and falling off the back myself when I made the jump to the next level. It afforded us the opportunity to see more of the landscape and animals. For awhile, we were followed by a hawk. It descended from the sky onto a branch looking at us. We commented on seeing it, pedaled on, took a turn and saw it flying towards us again. The bird landed on a tree ahead of us. I wondered if it was as amazed by us as we were of it. That idea passed fast.

It turned out to be the most casual Sunday group ride I have ever been a part of to date. There were moments where I felt my legs working and lungs breathing heavy. The cold makes it harder to breath when I am exerting myself. Even so with all of the brakes and easy pedaling I was surprised to see that my Strava suffer score for the day broke 100. It was 102. TOUGH.

We ended back at the shop about an hour later than usual. Oh. And the rider leader had to change a flat tire. Those can happen to anyone and it always slows us down. Nothing you can do about it except fix it and roll on.

Snow Day


I skipped yesterday’s planned ride. The weather was terrible. Cold. Dark. Wet. All day long. Today I opted to ride in the afternoon instead of the morning. I’d give the day a chance to reach warmer temperatures before I heading out. So around 2:30 I started to get ready. One thing about riding during the cold days is it takes longer to get out the door. Besides the normal bike riding attire, there is the base layer, double up the socks, pants, arm sleeves, jackets, ear warmers. I mean you spend a lot more time getting dressed.

My wife and daughter were taking the dog for a walk at the same time. They walked out with me. My wife said, “Is that snow?” I looked out towards the street. “There is no snow.” I stepped on the pedals, said my good-byes and pushed off. The local elementary school was letting out at this time. I saw school children passing me and heard exclamations, “Snow! Snow! It is snowing!” coming from all the kids. I looked at the sky. It was like looking for fireflies on a warm summer night. A flake would appear and disappear. A few feet away another flake could be spotted. For Austin kids, even this few flakes felt miraculous. Then I received some unexpected advice from a child crossing the street in front of me. “You shouldn’t be riding your bike. My mom says this isn’t good weather to be riding bikes.” I just listened.

I cruised down Far West, over MoPac to Shoal Creek. No snow flakes down here. Just cold. Another hour and a half in the cold. This time with twelve minute tempo intervals. On the way back up Far West at the end, the snow flakes picked up and it was official. With joy I exclaimed, “Snow! Snow! It is snowing!”

Starting to Wonder

I am starting to wonder if my decision is the right one. I took my foot of the training pedal after I came back from the Blue Ridge Parkway trip. I was disciplined. Since then not so much. Even though I have been riding consistently, I can feel my fitness slipping away. I opted to begin the Gran Fondo Intermediate eight week training plan from Strava. Access to this plan and others are part of the Strava premium service. The plan begins today and will end on January 28th. The reason for the wonderment now? It’s getting cold out there. Even in Austin. Today was an hour and a half with steady state intervals. The temperature hovered around 50 degrees and my toes were cold. There is talk of snow falling this week so the temperatures will be dropping. I do not have an indoor trainer. So is now the right time to start an eight week plan with Winter approaching?

Fog, Lake & Forever Bicycles

The Bicycle Sport Shop Effort ride did not happen today. I managed to make it to the start with a few minutes to get ready. The ride leader rode over to me as soon as I stepped out of my car. The fog and slick roads led to the group ride being cancelled. All of the riders left . Me. Not a chance. While I listened to Sunday Morning Jazz on KUTX, I thought the conditions called for a trip around Lady Bird Lake, aka Town Lake. The trail and lake shrouded by a fog - beautiful. I think the universe heard my request and granted me this ride.

I pushed off at Barton Springs and Riverside. The trail ground was still firm. The fog formed an opened arch welcoming me to the trail. Before I started around the lake, I rode out to the middle of the footbridge. Crows lined the railing. The fog covered the lake. No hurry today. I enjoyed the moment.

I turned back and hit the trail. The path was not crowded. Not as many walkers and joggers out today. Better for me. I took two laps around the trail. The first was casual and stopping often to take in the views. An unexpected moment came when I caught a glimpse of Ai Weiwei’s Forever Bicycles, an installation piece consisting of 1254 bicycles. I took some pictures close up and far away. The shots from a distance are crazy. The multiplicity of the bikes generate a striking kinetic energy when photographed. I have never seen anything like this.

After making it around once, I had not broken twenty miles. The shop rides are around 40 miles. So I hit the trail and went around a second time at a faster pace.

The Cuernavaca - Lost Creek route today

The Cuernavaca - Lost Creek route today. I enjoy this route. A good mix of roads.

South on 360.

I stayed away from 360 a long time on my bike. Cyclists use it all the time. I was nervous riding next to cars traveling at 60 mph and having to cross the entrance and exit ramps. Now, I ride on it with confidence. The shoulder is ride and only have a few exits/entrances to deal with on this route. Today I ran into something unexpected. On the South side of Penny Backer bridge, cars were lined up in the shoulder waiting to turn right into the church past Nalle Woods. It forced me into the car lane. A place I have never been. Two other things made it a bit nervy. This patch of road is going up. So instead of cruising downhill which gives the advantage of getting through it faster, I had to move at a slower rate. Plus a couple of cyclists caught up with me and decided to draft my back wheel. So knowing they were there plus being uncomfortable with the car situation, I pushed harder ascending than I normally do. I began to huff and puff. As soon as I could I pulled far to the right after passing the line of cars to catch my breath.

West on Bee caves.

Nothing out of the ordinary here today. A clean stretch of road until the turn off.

Right on River Hills for the descent and back up Cuernavaca.

A fun descent. Pick up speed after the turn and fly down the narrow two lane road. I lived off of Cuernavaca in high school. I enjoy the rural feel and winding roads out here. The distance from the city center is peaceful. The area has changed over the years. There are mini mansions and more traffic. But the unkempt eclecticism remains. Thankfully.

East on Bee Caves

Again no problems here.

Right on Barton Creek.

A great descent then a decent climb up. I stopped on the steep climb to move a filled garbage bag out of the road. Seemed the right thing to do. Then I felt a bump in the back wheel after completing the ascent. Flat. Again. And fixing flats are not my area of expertise. About two weeks ago I had a flat. I changed the tube and fought with the tire to get it back on the wheel. I pushed. I pulled. I used the tire levers. I spent ten minutes until I succeeded. Assembled the nozzle on the CO2 cartridge. Inserted the air. Then I heard the pressurized air escaping. I stood staring at a self-inflicted flat. Disgraced with myself. I called my wife to come rescue me.  But today is a different day. I approached the changing with an air of confidence. It took almost eight minutes. I triumphed. Though I did send a text message to my wife at the beginning to be prepared. I only travel with one extra tube. I was close to the rest point. So I ate my snack here next to the Barton Creek golf course.

Into Lost Creek and the three climbs

Three descents. Three climbs. I love this section. There had been several sections I did not love. Road construction had left diamond tread or gravel on the road. It is what I imagine cobbles to feel like. But today it was finally paved. A slick new tarmac. The tires glided across it. A beautiful feeling and a little harrowing on the descents. I climbed out of Lost Creek and back to 360.

From there I wandered East and West of Mopac heading back home. And deep under Mopac I found the following message.

Wandering around the new public library

I check the weather almost every day now. Sure. I would check it from time to time before I started cycling, but it was not an involuntary action after turning off the alarm on my mobile. It is stronger now that the colder weather is coming. Today it was in the mid forties. So I decided to hold off and leave a later.

Next week I will start a new training plan. Today I wandered to downtown and back. Most of the construction around the new public library was finished. So I headed that way and snapped pictures.

It was also one of those days. I ride a stretch of city road between stopping points. Not a car around. Not one coming from behind. Then as I approach a stop sign, stop light, an intersection a horde of vehicles suddenly appeared as if being summoned to prevent me from moving to the left lane to turn. Once through the intersection, silence. No buzzing motors. Next intersection. Boom. A bevy of cars, trucks and busses. It happened all morning long.