Picture of Dave

Looking Good, Midge!

Ladies and gentlemen, please allow me to introduce to you: “The New Midge!”

After years of riding with wide, heavy, tread laden tires, Midge has a new look. It’s been quite the process trying to figure out the right replacement tires. In the end, we decided to go with the Schwalbe Marathon Supreme. A smoother, narrower tire that still has a nice Kevlar strip to avoid those nasty flats that happen to other people. The lack of a knobby tread makes a huge difference. We practically glide down the road. After years of sounding like a lumber truck rolling down the hills, it’s nice to be able to hear the birds.

Three weeks have passed since Spring Break in Miami and the riding has been typical for springtime in Iowa. Mostly windy. Some sun, some rain, some clouds, some cold and some not too cold. Saturday was my first destination ride of the year. Matt (Twitter) and I took a trip down to the Millstream Brewery in Amana. The wind cooperated, but it was a bit colder than usual and it even rained a little bit on the way home. Good news though, the Millstream Pilsner was delicious and sitting outside with a beer in Amana, no matter the temperature, is always fun. We missed Jesse, but we did see him drive by on the way home. He honked, but didn’t stop. Hey, Jesse. The rain was cold. Bet your car was warm. You didn’t stop. I’m just saying.

How about we consider this the kickoff to the real bike riding season here in Iowa. Raise your glass a year of many memorable rides.

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Midge’s Days at the Spa

It’s been an active summer for Midge. Usually, this is the time of year I start to slow down, but with RAGBRAI 5 days away, Midge needs a good cleaning and checkup. I’ll save the big stuff for the local bike shop’s mechanic. This will mostly be a detailed cleaning and a good once over to be sure all her nuts and bolts are secure.

Wheels: Used citrus de-greaser to clean rims, spokes and wheel hub. It was time for the decals to come off, they are looking worn. Got out the toothbrush and de-greaser and scrubbed the rear sprocket. It is looking gooooood now.

Fenders: Cleaned up with soap and water. Lots of dirt. Once clean, I noticed a few scratches and scrapes. The front mud flap is broken. An extra bolt in just the right place will do the trick. I was planning on getting this part done on Sunday, but because of the brakes (see below), the flap is still broke. I plan on fixing it tomorrow.

Brakes: I took a really good look at Midge’s brake pads for the first time in a while and noticed they were completely used up. With all those hills on the first two days, I made the choice to replace them now instead of loosing all my stopping power on a big downhill. Made a Sunday run to the closest open bike shop 30 miles away in Iowa City. Not exactly the same pads that I had before, but they have to be safer than old, worn out pads that were on there before, right?

Well, that’s where things started going bad. Replacing cantilever brake pads is one of the toughest things I’ve done on a bike. You have to get the yoke in the right place, just the right tension on the cable, toe in the shoes just right, align the pads just right along the rim so they are covering the rim without rubbing on the tire, use the adjustment barrels (2mm allen wrench, which I had to get at Lowes) to fine tune the balance of the distance of the pads from both sides of the rim. It was confusing. I was doing it in 95* weather. I was dripping sweat the entire time over the last 2 evenings. When I seemed to have it right, the brake levers wouldn’t pull the pads all the way to the rim. When I tightened them up, they rubbed the rim without touching the brake handles.

After many frustrating hours I seem to have them done. NEXT TIME, I am going to walk into my local bike shop, give them my bike and come back in a week or so with new brakes. I would have done that this time, but RAGBRAI was way too close to chance not getting Midge back on time.

Drive Train: Dirty, dirty, dirty. Removed the chain and used citrus de-greaser to clean up the chain and all the gears. This was also a time consuming event. I wanted to do it right, so I made sure I got all the grime out. Still need to put on chain oil, then we are ready to go with that.

Seat: Care of Brooks Saddles can be a little higher maintenance than a regular seat, but I still think it is worth it. Leather gets dry. I used saddle soap to clean it and keep it from drying out. After, I used a Mink Oil to seal it up from the elements. Don’t want it to rain and ruin such a great place to sit.

Frame: Overall, Midge’s frame got a good scrubbing. Being careful to stay away from any bearings on the headset and bottom bracket, I gave the frame a good washing. Nothing like getting all the road grime off to make her look nice and shinny. When she is clean, she feels better about herself, and isn’t that what we all want?

So, I’ve found out that it is really hard to show “grime” in pictures. Some of that detail will be lost in the before and after shots, but I’ve gave it my best. Actually, the after shots will have to come in the next couple days, since it’s too dark outside to show her off tonight. We will go for a 10 mile test ride on some clean streets to be sure nothing broke and the brakes work good. Nothing like a nice clean bike to start RAGBRAI.

My First Camp Site

Fourth of July, Tour de France and 1000 Miles

Summer is in full swing with temps in the 90’s and the Iowa humidity making your shirt wet as soon as you walk outside. Prime bike riding weather. This weekend marks 3 milestones that tell me we are in the middle of bike riding season:

  1. Fourth of July: My first bike tour with Midge was on a Fourth of July weekend. Although it was three years ago, I still remember it like it was yesterday. I only rode 50 miles a day, but it was grueling.  I pushed the limits of my ability, but wouldn’t have traded it for anything.
  2. Tour de France: The tour starts on July 2nd.  I have no aspirations to be a racer or to even ride fast, but boy watching that race is fun. The personalities, the teams, the drama, the scandals, the fights, the wipe-outs.  I wouldn’t miss watching it for anything.
  3. 1000 Miles: Usually, right around this time of year, I hit 1000 miles on my odometer.  It isn’t uncommon for me to slow down with my riding starting in July. So, I usually end up with only 1300-1500 miles total for the year. This year, it’ll probably be different with RAGBRAI coming up.  I’m hoping to get 2000 miles in by the end of the year.

The Fourth of July

Who wouldn’t love to go camping on the Fourth of July?  As the picture shows, I really did have a good time.  Of course the Aurora, Ia Kwicky Mart only sold Busch Lite and it was hard to find just a 12 pack instead of the usual 30 pack, but it was some of the best tasting beer I’ve ever had.  Something about having a few beers after a long ride makes them taste better than anything else in the world.

The trip taught me a few things about all my new camping gear.  First and foremost: most cheaper tents are NOT waterproof out of the box.  Let me repeat that for anyone who might not have heard it the first time. Tents need to be waterproofed after you get them!  There were thunderstorms on my last overnight on the way back from Guttenberg. Rain poured into the tent. I had to scramble to get under the pavilion after spending hours sitting on my feet in the tent, just so I could keep most of me dry.

Second: Water is king. The whole trip I was short of water. It’s never easy to get good, clean water at the campground and you can never count on your local town’s convenience store to carry anything but beer. After this trip, I learned to carry many liters of water and to never count on anyone sharing the water they have.

Third: You can’t just jump on your bike and ride with a bunch of camping gear on it without a little bit of training. I was unfit and it showed. If I did that same trip today, I believe it would be a lot easier. That all said, it will never be the same as the first time.

Tour de France

I only have a few things to say about this year’s TdF. We want Andy Schleck to win. We want Alberto Contador to lose. Preferably, Alberto Contador will lose in a close race to Andy Schleck. We want to see the heartbreak in Contador’s eyes. I’ll also accept a Schleck brother 1-2 finish.

Besides the constant parade of doping scandals from professional bike riders (yes, I’m talking about you Alberto!), watching the tour is a blast. I’ve never seen a group of guys who can withstand so much pain. They give it all in the mountains, they push it on the flats. You also get to see a lot of strategy inside the teams. True team efforts, where some riders will sacrifice a stage win for the good of the team and the good of their strongest rider.

And kudo’s to Versus for their great TV coverage. For a “minor” sport, they put a lot of production effort into the broadcast. Let’s hope that NBC’s buyout of the Versus Network doesn’t degrade their coverage. And remember, smart money is on Andy Schleck to win!

1000 Miles

I get this great feeling when I turn over 1000 for the year. Don’t know how to explain it. Seems to be a milestone most people don’t reach, even people who ride on a regular basis. I know it isn’t all about the numbers, but it is a great visual sign that I’m getting out and riding, not sitting around thinking about it. I can see that I’m serious about some day being able to ride a 300k or a 400k or even a 600k Brevet. It’s a reminder that I will have to get to this mark much faster next year if I want to be a serious Randonneur. I also like seeing 4 digits when I look at the bike computer. Something about that big number makes me feel good. Shouldn’t that be enough?

My goal this year is to finish with over 2000 miles on the odometer. That would mark my best year ever. I think it’ll give me a good base to work with for next year. Next year my main goal it to finish the Super Randonneur Series. I’ll need those miles this year to help me get a jump start next year.

So bring on the rest of the summer. There’s lots of good riding ahead of me. Stay tuned for further developments…

Carrieville

Midge

CarrievilleGot to thinking the other day, most of you probably don’t know Midge. Midge has been with me on every ride for the last three and a half years. Without her, I wouldn’t enjoy riding nearly as much as I do. She has never let me down, not once. She has put up with me giving up on rides when it wasn’t her fault. She’s put up with me not always giving her the attention she deserves. The least I can do is introduce her to you.

Midge came to me from WebCyclery in Bend, Oregon. I talked to Mean Todd for weeks so Midge and I would be a perfect match. Most people would recognize her Long Haul Trucker frame and a lot of the usual stuff that comes with it, but Midge is definitely one of a kind. First of all, she is the tallest of all the Surly’s at 62cm. There isn’t a lot of those out there. Her wheels are built strong, built for heavy riding, heavy loads and a heavy rider. Over 4000 miles and no broken spokes. Her wheels have stayed true without any help. Her Brooks B12 is perfectly formed to fit my rear like a…well…a glove, I guess. Her flared Randonneur style handlebars help her drops match my wide shoulders. She’s proven she can carry over 300 lbs without a complaint. But don’t let that make you think she can’t ride fast. When she isn’t loaded down, she can be quick, as long as I’m in good enough shape to help her out. Most of the time when she’s out of the house, she’s at work with me. It’s just a 16 mile ride there and back, but I look forward to every ride. Day in/day out she doesn’t care about the rain, heat, cold or even snow. She’s a hard worker and doesn’t gripe about it. She is the perfect bike.

The Surly Long Haul Trucker

When the Utility Blue Long Haul Trucker came out in the summer of 2007, they were about impossible to find. Continue reading