Holey Roller 2017!

Holey Roller
4 March 2017
A Gravel Grinder. Never done anything like this before. The pre-ride info had me a little more on edge than usual. According to the description a gravel grinder is [“an organized but self-supported ride on a set route on mixed terrain roads.”] So let’s break that down. I have only participated in three organized rides like this before today. All of them were supported. All of them on paved roads. Some of the support I have used like the rest stop. (Granted on one ride I didn’t but the other two yes.) I could pick up some food if I needed it or refill my water bottles if I was running low. A restroom. Yes. A bike mechanic if I need any adjustments or issues on the ride. Marshalls protecting riders from traffic. Signs or even people on the route to direct riders along the correct path. Vehicles as part of the ride to offer assistance to participants that may have issues in between the rest stops. The Holey Roller offered none of this. You were told when and where to start, handed turn-by-turn instructions, provided a list of mandatory items and off you go. And for a special bonus, rattlesnakes could be out there. So I had to make sure I had everything I could possibly need. I researched and came up with a list. Despite my wife’s concern, I did not get snake bite aid. The night before I packed up my bike and bags. I used the [Mountain Feedbag] in the cockpit and the [Tangle frame bag] below the top tube. Each of those are made by [Revelate Designs].

Up early and out the door by 7 am, my wife and I set out for [Rocky Hills Ranch] in Smithville, TX. Just to be clear, my wife does not ride. She thinks looking at a 12% grade hill that goes up and up or riding where there is a rattlesnake advisory is on the crazy side of life. But she gives me her full support. For her driving out of the city and spending a few hours away from it all is refreshing from time to time. It took about an hour to get to the ranch. I checked in and prepared for the ride. Equipment check. Bike shoes on. Garmin charged and ready with the course. Two hundred cyclist lined up to start the ride. It turned out to be a cold and wet fifty mile ride. I thought it might take me about four hour. It turned out I was almost right on with that estimate. I figured with the mixed terrain I would go slower overall than on all paved roads. The various roads of rocks, dirt and gravel did affect my ride. My bike handled unexpectedly well. I was nervous. But as soon as I began the first stretch of gravel I could feel my tires grip the road with a traction I have never felt on a paved surface. It was easy to find the worn parts for safer riding, but every once in a while I traversed a section that my rear wheel would begin to spin out. Those were unsettling moments, especially on turns. The rain and wind began to wear on me towards the end of the ride. There is nothing like a semi-truck hauling down the road carrying the extra wind and dousing one with water to put an unpleaseant chill in you. I also had to take the last seven miles easy. My left leg was hurting. I realized after finishing the ride the conditions affected my body differently than non-gravel grinders. I felt sore in completely different places. My left leg felt discomfort in the ankle, knee, hamstring and hip. I realized my forearms were taxed when I lifted my bike to put it on the car.  But even with all of that, it was a ton of fun. I’d definetly do it again.

April and a low of 37 Degrees in Austin


My plan was set for the weekend. A fifty-mile ride on Saturday followed by a 40-mile ride on Sunday. The weather had other ideas. A cold front made its way to Austin. Temperatures dropped. I mean dropped. From the 70s and 80s to a prediction of mid- 40s on Saturday morning. I did not want to believe it. Winter was over. It is Spring. Spring in ATX! Saturday’s forecast stayed in the same mid-40s zone for the whole day. I skipped the morning ride and waited to see if the forecast would be wrong and the day would get warmer. In the mid-afternoon, it was clear the temperature was not going to increase. So for an April ride, I wore a base layer, jersey, arm sleeve, knee sleeves, jacket, thick socks and yes even a balaclava. It was cold. Cold. I found myself wanting the forecast to be true because they lied. It was not 45; it was 37. I soldiered on but not fast at all. Instead of 50 miles, I made it 24.63. I rode that at a crawl, an average speed of 10.5 mph. I was not having fun. But I got out there and rode. So that was the good part. Now, I am hoping this is the last cold day for a while. 


Going for 28s

It was clear this tire was not going to work. I did not want to buy a new tire, but it was clear I was going too. It was not as easy as a straight swap. When I purchased my bike, it came with 40mm wide tires. The wheels could support a tire width down to 28mm per the specs. After I wore down the 40s, I switched to 32s. That is what I have been using for about a year. And yes, I have been wanting to try 28s. So here was the moment before I was ready. Do I get another 32 because I have a 32 with tread on the front? Do I run with two different size tires? I do not even know if this is a good idea. Or do I just do it now? Get a set of matching 28s? Then there is tube versus tubeless. I have been using a Specialized tubeless on the front (60 psi) and a Bontrager AW 2 with a tube (80 psi) on the back. The nice thing about the timing is Bicycle Sport Shop was having their Spring sale. So I went for the full change and kept the setup the same. Two Bontrager AW 2 tubeless tires. Installed tubeless on the front and with a tube in the back.

Losing Pressure

When my rear wheel needed to be rebuilt, I had the shop mechanic install a used Continental Gatorskin. I experimented using the tire when I was working on my equipment setup to ride Blue Ridge Parkway. It did not work out with the 40 pounds of extra weight. I changed it out and hung it in the garage. So I thought the opportunity had come to give it another go. I am not riding with all the bike camping gear now. But a couple of weeks into using the tire, the frustration with the tire returned. On two occasions, the tire deflated at a snail’s pace. I aired the tire up and set out for an hour and a half. I rode without incident, put the bike in its stand and left it until the next day. In the morning before heading out I pressed the front and wheel tires with my thumb. The rear one was way soft. I attached the bike pump to the tube and yes it did lose half of the pressure overnight. This was not normal. I aired the tire back up to its standard pressure. The next morning the tire was flat again. I changed out the tube. I inspected the rim and tube. No foreign objects and no tears. Then it happened again. This time at the LBJ 100. I inflated the tube pre-ride to 80 psi. I was feeling good. As I approached ten, fifteen and twenty miles I felt the back of the bike go squishy.

Where I am now

I am picking up the training for the MS 150. To be honest, 2018 has been a slow roll for me and cycling. Every time I look at my Strava page, I am reminded I am behind in my yearly mileage goal. This weekend I finally put in two rides. I was more exhausted than the previous week’s Pedal Thru the Pines, a seventy-mile trek in Smithville, TX with 2,188 feet of elevation gain. I amped up the hills this weekend on Saturday. I climbed 3,212 feet over 41 miles.  I averaged 11.3 mph. Last time I did this ride was back in December. I averaged 12.4 mph. A definite slip in form. The season is still early. I will look to improve upon this tempo. Then on Sunday, I rode out to Buda. A 38-mile ride with 1,473 feet of elevation gain. I was dragging. Back in September 2017, I did this ride with the Bicycle Sport Shop Club and averaged 16 mph. Yesterday, a mere 11.9 mph. I know riding with a group will improve speed, but a 4 mph drop? As I said, I am getting back in the groove. My last four-week mileage counts have gone up each week: 26.5, 61.7, 97.1, and 112.5.

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.