Wednesday, October 28, 2015

On RAGBRAI - Better Late Than Never

I'm late getting to this - about 3 months late - but RAGBRAI was pretty awesome. On about day 5 or 6 of RAGBRAI, I was less sure about the awesomeness. Looking back now, without all the aches and fatigue, I see how much fun the whole thing really was.

For starters, our trip across Iowa from Cedar Rapids to get to the starting line at Sioux City was pretty crazy. We were pretty hammered by the time we rolled into town and while we were stuck in traffic, three elderly locals hitched a ride with us for a few blocks. They asked us what our team name was. When we told them it was Team HJ, they asked what it stood for.


They looked at each other, climbed off the bus, and didn't look back.

The next morning, we broke camp and hit the route. We were pretty happy to get out of Sioux City. The RAGBRAI kickoff party was kind of bogus; the lines for beer tickets were half-a-football-field long and the bars were packed. The final letdown in Sioux City was when we were nearly run off the trail getting to the starting line by a couple of event staff duders in an ATV. Things got a lot better once we were on the road eastward.

All the days of RAGBRAI kind of run together at this point. Sixteen hours of beer and whiskey consumption while putting down 60-to-80-plus miles each day will do that. We fell into a solid routine all week, though. We rode as a group as much as we could, but breakaways would stop before each pass-through or lunch/camp town to wait for stragglers (I was always one of the stragglers). The first couple days were a blast; our legs were fresh, we were only a few days into a very long hangover, and there was so much energy that it made every mile vibrant and exciting. The legs started to give out starting sometime on day 3, and it took hard partying, great company, and beautiful scenery to keep the energy up. Days 6 and 7 were surprisingly great, though. We finished hard and killed some pretty bitchin' climbs. Those two days felt almost as good as the first two. We even went off route for a bangin' bridge party that caused us to get into camp super late that night.

It would have been even better if I hadn't been the guy that was constantly stopping to repair flats. I flatted a total of 6 times, and spent a fortune on overpriced tubes. When I got back home, my first order of business was to ditch the Paselas and go back to my tried-and-true Kendas.

We rolled into Davenport on day 7 totally wiped, loaded the bikes on the bus, and headed back to Cedar Rapids to unload, party, and crash.

If I had to guess, I'd say I'll probably ride RAGBRAI again someday. But as much as the event itself, I also enjoyed the training. This was the first year that I've spent a lot of time out riding high-mileage routes and joining group rides. Even if I don't do RAGBRAI next year, I'm going to try to spend more time in the saddle and drink a few beers along the way.

Thursday, July 16, 2015


After years of making excuses, I'm finally heading up to Iowa for this year's RAGBRAI. We leave out tomorrow and I'm pretty stoked - as well as anxious - about it. And it's going to be quite the family affair. I've joined by sister's RAGBRAI team (she and her boyfriend have pedaled RAGBRAI for several years now), and my dad will be driving our team bus. This year's 7-day ride will cover a total distance of over 450 miles, and will take us from Sioux City on the western edge of the state to Davenport on the eastern border. I've spent a fair bit of time training this year - including a 76 mile ride from Cabool to Springfield, MO a couple weeks ago with my sister - and I think I'm mostly prepared to ride the full 7 days. We'll see how that goes.

Old, Beat-up Kenda Tires

New Panaracer Paselas

Along with making sure I was physically prepared to ride RAGBRAI, there was also some mechanical preparation involved in getting ready for the long ride across Iowa. Earlier this year, I did some spring tuning. I followed the tune-up with some modifications to my setup, including taping my bars with a thick, cushy bar wrap from Zevlin, raising my brake levers by a few degrees, adding Cane Creek brake hoods, and bolting on some new pedals. A few days ago, I finished setting up my bike for RAGBRAI by putting on my new Panaracer Pasela tires, cleaning and re-lubing the chain and derailleur idlers, conditioning the saddle, and doing some general cleaning.

The Setup

For the most part, the old PH-10 is dialed in and working smoothly. Barring any unforeseen issues, I think she's ready for some heavy usage next week. The current setup feels comfortable. The machine is rolling smoothly. In general, I'm looking forward to spending 50-60+ hours of quality time in the saddle with my bike next week.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Spring Tuning Continues

Over the winter, the cage on one of the Peugeot's stock pedals cracked. On top of that, I lost the dust cap at some point, and the grease was beginning to leak out. So I figured it was time to replace them. The original pedals were French-threaded, though, so I had the good folks at Queen City Cycles re-tap the cranks for me. Then I added some All-City Track pedals in a pretty sweet gold color that closely matches the gold lettering on the PH-10's frame. A bit flashier than I normally prefer, but I must say they look pretty slick.

Next, I ran new cables and housing and re-wrapped the bars. In the process I decided to go ahead and move the brake levers up slightly on the handlebars to give me a somewhat more upright, less stretched-out riding position when resting my hands on the hoods. I also tried a new bar tape that the guys at QCC recommended - a thick-ass 2.5mm tape from Zevlin with an RBICI design. While the bar tape looks and feels great and the pedals are totally rad, I decided to try running the brake cables over the bars rather than under them, and I'm not happy with the way it turned out. So I'll be re-routing the cables as soon as I get a chance.

I still need to replace the bottom bracket cartridge and I recently noticed a pretty decent bend in the outer chainring that needs to be addressed, so I've got more work to do. But in the meantime, the old girl's riding pretty well.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Tour de Crawdad Test Run

I ran across information on the Tour de Crawdad on Facebook and was on the fence about riding it. In the end, a professional colleague personally invited me and I made a game-time call - the night before the event - to try it out. The itinerary was simple. There were three ride distances: 20, 44, and 62 miles. The rides distances were staggered, with the 62-miler kicking off at 7AM and the 20-miler kicking off at 9AM, with the 44-miler on the hour in between. The ride ended where it began, at a fence company west of Springfield, at which point there was a crawfish boil and beer on tap from Springfield Brew Co.

Since it was a last minute decision, I didn't have much time to prepare and I didn't really have time to invite a riding companion or two. I pared down the gear on the Peugeot so that all I was carrying was my leather tool roll, which I stowed under the saddle, a mini-pump, and my bluetooth speaker. I arrived at Carnahan White's parking lot just in time to unload, pick up my swag and wristband, and hop on my bike for the start of the ride. The route was really great; unusually flat for the Ozarks, although we fought a treacherous headwind for much of the ride. Without companions to keep me occupied, I ended up putting my head down and cranking out the ride at a decent clip. A little over an hour later, I was one of the first riders to arrive at the finish.

Filling up on beautifully cooked mudbugs and washing it down with beer on tap was most definitely the best part of the event. Kudos to the chef, because the crawfish were fantastic. We emptied all the kegs before noon, which was a bit of a bummer, but I had to duck out early anyways to take over child care duty so that Ginger could work Rock n' Ribs. I heard rumor that the organizers were on top of the situation and that more beer was on the way. In the end, I had a great time despite the fact that I was flying solo. Next year I'll be bringing some friends along so that we can turn Tour de Crawdad into a real party.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Bikes We Meet

We see cool bikes around town every once in a while. I had the presence of mind to snap a quick picture of this Panasonic Touring Deluxe that I spotted chained up to the racks at Walnut and Jefferson. Later in the afternoon, I happened to walk past this bike again with my son. Even from across the street, he noticed this machine (he asked if it was mine; I told him "I wish."). I've developed a fondness for these old touring rigs, and the Panasonics are among my favorites. I have no particular reason for this affinity...they're just so cool. These bikes can still be sold for decent prices if they're in good shape. This particular specimen is probably an early-to-mid 80s model, and I'd guess it could fetch $300 or more on the open market. I also wanted to check out what other restorers were doing with these bikes and came across this very fine resto-mod at N+1 Cycle. And while it's not the same model, this Pro Touring resto-mod is also very handsome.

In other cool-bikes-around-town news, props to my employer, Mercy, for these badass emergency services bikes that Ginger spotted at Rock n' Ribs on Friday. It's hard to tell in the picture above, but these rigs have front-facing emergency lights. If I had to guess, I'd say they may also have rear-facing lights as well. The Star of Life on the forks is also a nice touch.