Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fan Mail Reports I'm Doing Something Right

Team Alameda group portrait, 8/25/12, 5 Canyons Road
photo: Bruce Bothwell
I'm 8th from the left , in the aerodynamic position, because... I'm always READY

This gentleman, a friend of mine, a good rider who throws a kick ass party, wrote me this note the other day.   I thought I would share it, as I find it deeply gratifying that even when I am not out there, things I have done or said before are imprinted in other people's bags of tricks.  What more can I ask for than to know I am influencing people in a positive way?   I like to think that's the whole point of this blog.                      
  Pedal harder,

Dear Flash,

I just like to thank you for showing me some of the routes in Oakland/Berkeley hill to me. This past Saturday, I was not able to ride until 10.30 AM , so I set off then on my own with the goal to make it through Oakland/ Berkeley and over the tunnel road. I decided once under way to try the route you have showed us where we ride up &down in the neighborhood and eventually end up by the park by the freeway before climbing the road to the freeway overpass and tunnel road. I did not remember the route but went on my instinct and I was successful. I had such a nice ride: no traffic to speak of and I did not get lost at all.  I gave you many thankful thoughts and I toasted you in the evening!



Sunday, August 12, 2012

New From Flashblog R&D

Greetings!  Flash here with a question for you... where is my signature helmet mirror in the above photo?  (taken yesterday by Bruce Bothwell, see his link in the right hand column)  Correct!  I'm not using the helm mirror, if you look very closely at the enlargement (click the pic) you will notice a small black something just to the side of my glasses.  That something is a small rearview mirror I created from some simple parts, parts...when combined, create a complex and accurate optical tool I call.... FLASHBACK!  My riding buddy Sri thought that was pretty rich and had a good laugh when I told him what it was called.  Runner up name was Flashbackwards which I like because is sounds a lot like assbackwards, a great descriptive

Please read my previous post all about my philosophy on helmet mirrors so I don't have to repeat myself and I can just move along.  Thank you.

As good as the CycleAware mirror is, over time I've come to find some small drawbacks.

1.  the viewing image, thus the mirror itself, is larger than it needs to be---its like having a car door mirror a foot in diameter
2.  the large size blocks some of my forward view of the world, the 10 o'clock position mostly and I've come to find this distracting and annoying.
3.  removing the helmet and putting it back on would invariably disturb the precise setting of the mirror, resulting in adjustments often.
4. the helmet mirror is dorky looking as it looks like an add-on appendage, which it is

I wondered if a small mirror could do an adequate job and solve these issues, so I set off to the craft store and purchased some half inch round mirrors.  I cut a length of hardware store generic wire off the spool, straightened it, filed the ends smooth and round, hammered flat some attachment points, and epoxied one end to the backside of a mirror.  When that was dry, I started bending the wire into approximate shape before test riding with it.

In this view its apparent the mirror lines up with the glasses eyepiece, but the scant sideways angle of the mirror shows me whats behind when I slightly turn my head to the left.  

Attachment is via 2 rubber bands made from discarded bike tubes, this allows some up and down adjustment of the mirror.  Also, the mirror is easily removed and installed.  The design as-is would only work with wide earpieces.  The large bend up of the forward wire just sort of happened organically.  The Z bend along the side keeps the wire, and thus the mirror, from rotating.

The critical thing is the bend adjustment obliquely to the plane of my forward vision.  It took me several rides with much stopping and bending (with pliers as the wire is stiff) to get just the right angle.  When properly aligned, what I see is the top of my left shoulder in the lower portion of the rearview mirror with the road behind me.  This setting only works with my road bikes with my neck bent back.  So when used while riding my Dutch bike where I sit bolt upright, my neck is relaxed, so what is see is the sky behind me.  Great for plane spotting!

So I would call this mirror a "pro" mirror, not for beginning mirror users.  Its for someone (like...me) already adept at larger mirror use, so can adapt easily to a smaller view where less visual information is coming in.

 Flashback at left, at right is the CycleAware helmet mirror I have been using.  Flashback is the essence of minimalism as well as keeping it simple and ridiculously cheap.

This little mirror passes all my tests, as I've used it both solo and leading group rides.  Another plus is on fast downhills, it holds its position under assault from the windstream, unlike the helm mirror which actually can get blown out of alignment.  I've already gotten one request from a rider in our club to make one for her, and I've gotten lots of curious questions about this gadget, so I think the gestalt of the roadie community is very open to something like this.

Thanks for reading, ride safe, and CHECK YOUR SIX!


Monday, August 6, 2012

Brian's Piedmont Pyrenees 8/4/12

You wish you had "Got Gears?" at the 4000' of climbing point! Brian either laughing or crying, I think the former.  Top of Campus Drive. (click pics for bigger views)

Hey there!  In today's Flashblog I'll describe a very tasty group ride created by Brian "Got Gears?" Aldrich, multi-club rider and Triple Crown award winner ( 3x200 mile rides in one season).  Brian and I, back in The Day, which was only 3 years ago, took part in an "arms race" buildup of challenging steep local hills, trying to one up the last effort, which resulted in some very interesting, difficult, and little known off the beaten path routes up into the hills.  Another steep hill climbing afficianado that emerged during this time was Melne Murphy of Team Alameda, who created butt kicking routes she called the "Hella Hills" series.  It all got to be  too much for this reporter, who bailed out when he read the description for the "Nifty Ten Fifty" ride endorsed by Brian--- 50 miles with 10,000' of climbing!

So time goes by.  I lead my own brand of rides that usually incorporate an element of these steep routes, the spirit is still there, if not the high totals of climbing, although my latest group rides have been in the 3000-4000' range over 40-50 miles. Not shabby.  Brian's ride sounded challenging and a fun throwback to those golden days of yesteryear.

Only six of us accepted the challenge, the others being myself,  a new version/ lighter David Long, long time TA member Patricia L., a relatively new guy, and a freshly minted first timer new guy.  (Sorry, I don't have the sign in sheet so your names are anonymous until I'm filled in otherwise).  A hearty group that suddenly cast me in the role of the old timer, literally.  So be it!

L to R:  Brian, first timer guy, new guy, Dave, Patricia, Flash behind camera.  This is the top of Leimert Hill.

The course was to climb a steep 17% grade to 750', then descend to 400', and climb another 16% grade to 700', then descend to 400' and climb some grades over 20% to 1200' (one street, Glen Oaks, hit 31% on Brian's Garmin!!).  From there we skirted the Skyline to 1400', then descended to around 400', and climbed once again up the west face of Redwood Road, which is a steady 14% or so to 900'.  A right turn had us climb Skyline again to 1200' or so, then a fast downhill to the bottom of Campus Drive, which is a 17% grade of about a mile.  At the top of Campus we had accumulated 4,200' of climbing in 25 miles or so.  (I'm guessing on these grades but you get the idea)

Dave and the new guys were ahead, with Patricia close behind, Brian and I securing the rear.  Pretty much the order of the day.  At the top of Redwood I was feeling depleted, so I popped a Clif 2X Turbo gel, and man, after a few minutes I was rolling on rocket fuel, I had new legs and was gaining on the front pair along Skyline.  I highly recommend this product!  In fact, it worked TOO well, as at the end of the advertised ride, I kept on hill riding over to Montclair and areas and gained another 1000'!  I gave it all to the bike, hear me now and believe me later.

Brian and Patricia gut out the 20%+ grade that is Sobrante Ave in Montclair.  IMO, one of the most fearsome hills in the Eastbay due to grade and length.  Years ago I pulled my back straining up it in gears too high.  This is how I Learned the Truth of low gears.

Along Skyline just after climbing Sobrante and Wild Current...no, its not blurry, its a special effect to simulate the fog of endorphins

Everyone rode magnificently this day, even those of us watching those of us ahead, especially impressive was Patricia, who, training for the 100 mile Grand Fondo, was riding at the Next Level than what we usually expect from her.  Gold Medal in the Women's Division!

Eyes on the Prize!  Patricia shows a new fire

Truth be told, I was pretty beat Sunday.  I had to work unexpectedly and it was a relief that I did not have to ride.  How often do I say that?  A route like this is hard and takes its toll, and adding another 25% chunk to it didn't help matters any, but that is the nature of the ride when I am in it.  I don't want it to stop, I am flying high, feeling fit as a fiddle, living fully in the moment, ignoring that I will have to pay the Piper in the coming days.  Having said that, I took a flat 10 mile ride this afternoon with Flashette and enjoyed it, so I am clawing my way out of the bottom of the recovery pit already, and looking forward to my ride lead into the Marin Headland on Saturday.

Stats:  2000' in 12 miles, 4000' in 22 miles, 5,344' in 38 miles (my total)  That's a one-third Death Ride without the thin air or special training...I'd say a good day on the bike!

Keep on Pedaling,