Tuesday, July 29, 2008

10 Things about the Univega

I just went for a ride around town on the Univega. This time was wearing Converse low-tops, no gloves, and a baseball cap.
- 1. Oh...I remember this. This little ride brought back a lot of memories of when this bike was my only bike.

- 2. Gearing...big spaces between gears. Takes quite a bike of moving the shift lever to change gears. The old Suntour derailleurs work great.

- 3. Slightly flexy bottom bracket. On the slightest incline where I am putting a little more power to the cranks, the chainring starts rubbing on the front derailleur. I think this is due to the derailleur being very narrow.

- 4. When shift gears in the back, it is necessary to adjust and feather the front derailleur to keep it from rubbing.

- 5. The Mafac cantilevers are stylish, but they take a lot of effort to operate. I am so used to XT V-brakes, where you can stop using one finger.

- 6. Toeclip overlap. I forgot about this funky thing about the bike. Got to be careful when making big turns.

- 7. Need to repair on pannier strap. Working on that right now.

- 8. The Avocet saddle and old school pedals will have to go when doing the Katy. I'll opt to put on my Pure V and the SPD pedals off Mr. Litespeed.

- 9. Stationwagon...This bike is like the Vista Cruiser in "That 70's Show". A sled.

- 10. I still love this bike! Its so styly!

The Univega!

Just picked up my old 1981 Univega from the bike shop. Boy howdy, have bikes changed! They had a heck of a time getting parts for it. 5-speed freewheels are nearly impossible to find.

It is sport'n a new wider handle bar, a new rear hub (the old Japanese Suzue hub was cracked), and a new bottom bracket.
I took it for a spin while wearing my sandals. Not the best shoes for riding but...I have forgotten how fine of ride this bike is. It rides like an old Cadillac. Very smooth. It corners like a race bike. Nice geometry.
I love this old bike. It has a lot of sentimental value for me.
I'll be using front and rear panniers for the Katy Trail ride. It'll be like old times. I am really looking forward to it.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Back in the USA

I am back in the USA for a few weeks. Drove to Silver City this afternoon, sitting in my mom's kitchen at the moment. I'll be posting from time to time about this trip.
So far I've spent about 48 hours in Albuquerque. I hung out with my son Kyle. I bought a few things that I hope I can take back to Venezuela...We will see!
More later!

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Antennas

When I first moved to Lecheria, one of my first mtn bike rides was up into the coastal range to set of TV antennas. It is a tough climb with a few pitches steep enough for shift into the small ring. After year one, I lost my riding partner (he was fired from school and is now working in Pakistan) so I hadn't been up there since. Everyone says it is hostile territory with the real potential of getting mugged, robbed, or worse, killed.

Sunday I was invited on a group ride back to this area. I left our condo apartment (sea-level) and met the group at the Mobil gas station at 6:00 AM. We rode through town, through the sketchy barrio of "El Pozo" (The Well). It is a slight climb, but we kept a good pace through there.

At the PDV gas station in El Pozo, we picked up a couple more riders and headed into the hills.

Once we turned off the main road, the country road winds up into the hills. It eventually crosses a small river then we started really climbing. I was the oldest rider, and probably the heaviest, so I am a fairly slow climber (but steady and strong). I was able to keep up, not letting the group get too far ahead. I actually liked being alone when the pack was ahead of me.

Somewhere on the route, we took a turn that I wasn't familiar with. It was a technical Jeep track that was steep. I used my 22:34 to climb, but cleaned the hill no problem. I was unfamiliar with this new route, but the rest of the climbing was a steady grind, with a couple of concrete sections that were very steep.

We made it to the antennas around 9:00 AM. Someone had an altimeter and it read 728 meters (about 2380 feet). So about 18 miles with more than 2400 feet of climbing in 3 hours (including two stops for Edwardo to fix two separate flats). Not too bad.

The best part is when we turned around and blasted back down the hill! The Litespeed handled like it was on rails...very smooth, very precise. I am really liking the Litespeed...it is a better bike than the Merlin! EGADS! I love my Merlin! It makes me sad to say that.

We were back into town in less than an hour (including two more stops to let Edwardo continue to deal with flat tires). The most dangerous part of the ride was riding against traffic (I was just following the other guys) on the Intercommunal (main avenue through Barcelona/Puerto la Cruz). I finally hopped onto the sidewalk to give myself some relief.

The final 4 miles home was on the flat bike path with a slight headwind. I had zero water was was fairly tired because I only slept 4 hours Saturday (due to being Internet-Guy). I rode past the condo to the Gorditas for two breakfast empanadas (1 fish, 1 chicken) and two cans of Malta (unfermented beer...a Venezuelan drink).

Anyway, it was a good ride. I was beat afterwards, but feel great now. I am really liking the Litespeed. Its a fun bike!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Racing the Great Divide

Me riding on the spine of North America

I grew up on the continental divide in Silver City, NM. I always thought that was pretty cool as kid...once I figured out what my dad was trying to explain to me. On the highways there are markers that tell you that you are on the great divide, but what really cool is to be out in the woods and figure it out. "Oh...this drainage goes to Bear Creek and Bear Creek flows into the Gila, which flows into the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) therefore its on the Pacific side. This drainage flows over here, which, if its lucky will make it the Rio Grande which flows into the Gulf of Mexico, therefore it is on the Atlantic side." It is a very cool thing that I still get a big kick out of.

Back in the mid 90's was a legendary bike racer named John Stamstad. He was somewhere out in Ohio or the Midwest, and he was a mutant! He set all sorts of long distance records and is in the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame! And he's the one that started this whole racing the Adventure Cycling Great Divide Mountain Bike Route (GDMBR).

I remember when he came through Silver City in the mid-90's. He needed a wheel, so he stopped at my LBS, Gila Hike & Bike. He said the Gila was the toughest part of the ride. He was drinking straight canola oil for energy. He completed his first trip in about 3 weeks, if I remember correctly. He did it again the next year, breaking his own record by several days. John's final record was about 17 days.

About 10 years later, several guys lined up in Roosville, MT to duplicate John's run. About 2300 miles, zig-zagging down the spine of the United States to the small border outpost of Antelope Wells. The trip takes about 15 days for the fast guys and about a month for the stragglers. I did a similar trip in 1981 that parallels the newer GDMBR, following a mostly paved route from Palomas, MX (on the NM border) to Jasper, AB. That trip took me over 75 days to complete. You got to envy these racers...they are going through some of the most beautiful country in North America.

Technology has allowed us, the arm-chair racer, to watch the progress of the riders on a daily basis. This year's new race, the Tour Divide, organized by two time GDR winner, Matthew Lee, used Spot technology...little GPS trackers allowing fans to follow the racers via the Internet. I guess the racers could use this technology too to their advantage to see where their competitors are. Purist might not like it, but its has made the Tour Divide a very entertaining event to keep track of.

Anyway, this year's Tour Divide (Banff, AB to Antelope Wells, NM) winner was Matthew Lee in a little more than 19 days. This year's Great Divide Race (Roosville, MT to Antelope Wells, NM) winner was John Nobile is slightly more than 15 days (setting a new record!...way to go John).

Today I challenge any (former) Tour de France riders to enter either of these races next year. Floyd, Lance, Jan...you guys aren't doing anything next year. Let's ride! I want to do it!

Friday, July 04, 2008

Matthew Lee Wins Tour Divide Race (part II)

Here's a new photo of Matthew's 2008 finish on July 2. Congratulations Matt!

Photo credit goes to Matthew Lee and tourdivide.org

Matthew Lee Wins Tour Divide Race

Matthew Lee is the greatest cyclist you've never heard of, but what he has accomplished ranks him among the best of the best.

Late in the evening on July 2, Matthew rolled into Antelope Wells, NM, a small outpost on the U.S./Mexico border. He started his 2700+ mile journey on June 13 in Banff, Alberta, Canada, following the Adventure Cycling Great Divide route.

Matthew averaged more than 140 miles per day riding unsupported mainly on dirt roads; buying groceries at mom and pop markets in the back country of the West, and sleeping on the ground.

I met Matt in 2005 as he rode down the final stretch to Antelope Wells. At the border, we celebrated with a few beers, then we loaded his bike into the car and tried to get back to Silver City (almost...my car broke down at Gold Gulch...we had to hitch into town).

He won the race again in 2006, but I was still in Venezuela, so I could not help him at the finish line. Same in 2007 where he came in 2nd place finishing about 12 hours behind the winner.

When I met Matthew in 2005, he talked passionately about the GDR, but wanted the start line pushed back to Banff because the scenery and track was so beautiful. The GDR still starts in Rooseville, MT, so a second race was organized, the Tour Divide with the start line in Banff.

Anyway, as someone put on a post of the Tour Divide blogsite, Well done Matt, well done!

note: the photo posted is Matt at the 2005 finish. I took the photo, not sure who's camera, his or mine. Probably his. My photos of Matthew are lost on a crashed hard drive. Anyway, credit Matthew Lee and tourdivide.org

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Strange Day part II

We go shopping for curtains. The lady gives us an estimate of Bs. F. 6500! That's roughly $2200 for 3 windows! Nuts!

So after a nice lunch we go downtown to shop for cloth to make our own curtains.
We eventually got separated and Oscar and I go look for Tania. We walk back to the car, but the car wasn't there!

What happened?

Was it stolen?

Tania didn't have a key.

There are no other cars on the street where we parked it so I figure it must have been towed.

There is a motorcycle police right there, so I use my bad Spanish and ask him if he knows where my car is, a white Kia Rio. He said it is being towed to the commander's impound lot and it will cost me Bs.F. 1500 (about $500) to get it out, but he calls his tow truck buddy on the cell phone, and his buddy still has the car hitched to his truck and can bring it back for less money.

Oscar and I walk in the rain to Paso Colon, meet the motorcycle cop there, and here comes his buddy with my car in tow. They want Bs.F. 400 (about $129) to give me back my car, but Oscar says we are from Anaco and didn't bring that much with us. So the truck driver says, Bs. F. 200 ($64.50). We get away at half price.

We eventually find Tania, pick her up and go home.

Strange Day part I

Got up and did a ride. Here's what happened...

Thinking about the Katy ride, wanted to get some miles. Got a wild hair to do something different. When I woke up, I looked at Google Earth to make sure where to make a critical turn if I was to do this. So left home on the Litespeed and this is what happened...

A - Home

B - Ride to Gorditas' newsstand for a coffee.

C - Weird...Someone throws a 2-Liter bottle of orange soda at me. I heard it skidding on the pavement behind, it hit my rear wheel, jostled the bike, speed and momentum brings the bottle around spinning under my bottom bracket, hitting the front wheel, continues spinning/skidding to the curb.

D - An urban bus nearly sideswipes me, misses me by less than 6 inches, probably doing at least 30 mph.

E - After summiting a steep little climb, that happens to be a detour today (I didn't know this when I headed out this morning) I am riding down a steep hill in bumper to bumper traffic, I get a front puncture and have to pull off to repair my flat. I find two small holes. I patch them, and get back on the road.

F - Traffic is backed up to a dead stop. I ride in the left hand lane to get around the stopped traffic and find protesters have blocked the road. Apparently some angry mothers don't like heavy trucks being diverted onto their road putting their children at risk. A couple of motorcycle police on the scene trying to defuse the situation. I walk my bike through the chaos, trying to be invisible, get back on as soon as possible and sprint away. This is a sketchy barrio I am in.

G - Rode through the industrial park (Polar brewery, Coca Cola bottling, etc.) Cross this major intersection, easily, but have to ride around traffic, fording deep standing water from recent rains. I get muddy.

H - Dodge more heavy traffic by riding on the sidewalk (ala "The Cyclists") hop off the curbs, weave through traffic, cross the Rio Neveri, on this narrow bridge.

I - Nearly get T-boned by a Dodge truck

J - Oops...I don't know my alphabet

K - Go to Gorditas' Annex for a breakfast empanada (cazon...dried fish) and 2 Polar maltas (unfermented beer)

B - Cross the street to Gorditas' newsstand for a newspaper for my wife.

A - Home again according to Google Earth, I rode about 18.7 miles.