Saturday, September 25, 2010


My friend, Randy, at Natchez Trace Travel asked me to jot down a few tips on what to take when doing the Trace, or any other ride for that matter. He advises these will be on his website next week. While cycling this morning, it occurred to me that I had seen many riders, whom I considered experienced, flumoxed when it came to a simple tire change. In my tips, I assumed good changing abilities, but to cover myself, I'll expand on the tire/tube changing experience.

The three most common causes of flats are: 1) Tube malfunction, e.g. the stem leaks; 2) Pinch flat, caused when you hit a hole or rock and the tire momentarily allows the tube to crash against the rim, resulting in two holes that look like a snake bite; 3) Puncture, as when glass, nail or staple, or sharp rock, penetrates the tire and tube. I shan't mention operator error, when you goof up when installing the tube. We will assume this was done correctly.
If you are going on a long ride, like the 444 miles of the Natchez Trace, put new tubes in before you go, practically eliminating cause #1. Keep your tires properly inflated, thus minimizing cause #2. Use a product like Tire Tuffy, minimizing cause #3.

But, things happen. Let's assume you are cycling along (not racing) and a flat occurs. Here is what you do:
1. Find a safe and comfortable place (as best you can) to work.
2. Remove the wheel (we all hope it is the front but it usually is the rear).
3. Remove and arrange your tire changing tools and the spare tube (I use new tubes on the road, patched at home, as this cuts down on the frustration of a installing a defective tube and having to start over).
4. Before doing anything else, inspect the tire to determine the source of the flat. If found, mark the spot with the chalk you carry in your saddle pack.
5. Release one side of the tire, pull out the tube, again marking the tube at the site of the puncture before completely removing it. (I'm assuming knowledge of tire lever usage)
6. Run your fingers (slowly) around the inside of the tire, with special attention to the chalked area, to find the pin, glass etc. that caused the puncture. You may have to remove the tire completely and turn it inside-out in order to find and remove the offending object. I saw one person go through 3 tubes before an experienced traveler interceded and found the glass. Don't skip this step, even if you removed the nail (for instance) from the outside. It is an opportunity to inspect the whole tire. Once satisfied all is clean, move to the next step.
7. Blow a little air into the tube, enough to give it a round shape (maybe 10 pounds). This makes it easier to move out of the way when re-installing the tire. Be sure one side of the tire is already in place before putting in the tube.
8. Be very careful not to catch a piece of the tube with the tire lever when putting on the tire. This will cause a pinch-flat before you even get started. That is also why you put some air in the tire first.
9. After the tire is re-installed, with hands about 3 inches apart, pinch the tire away from the rim, visually making sure the tube didn't sneak out under the tire bead, all the way round the tire. This only takes about 30 seconds and is very important.
10. Air up the tire half-way. Inspect again for bulges or the tube not being inside the tire.
11. Air it up completely. You are finished, except for cleaning up and putting the wheel back on.

Forcing yourself to take the time to go through all the steps will result in much less frustration and only adds a few minutes to the whole operation.

Occasionally you will receive a gaping hole in the tire, usually a nail or staple. Simply installing a new tube is inadequate, in that when inflated, it will push through the hole in the tire. I carry a 3 inch section of old tire (called a boot) in my saddle pack, and put this over the hole between the tire and tube. This works quite well, especially when the hole is in the sidewall, although each revolution of the tire produces a slight (annoying) bump. I also carry some duct tape and a small section of this over the inside of the tire also works well. In an emergency, paper currency will work, as will a mylar candy wrapper.

Saturday, September 18, 2010


As in dead legs. Yesterday I had my first time trial practice since the State Championships. It went as expected, my times were slow, my intensity zero. Today I intended to get in a 50 mile cruise, just to increase mileage. However, with last night's rain on top of last week's flood, I opted for my safe 31 mile route, the one that didn't include low-water crossings that probably were still under water.
For the first 13 miles I kept looking at my cogs, wondering how I could be so high on the ring. I had no energy, the legs were totally dead. I started out pedaling under 70 rpm and it didn't get much better for the first half hour. Breathing was labored. This was the pits!
I soldiered on and at the 13 mile mark, two miles or so from turn-around, I felt as though a huge weight had been lifted. I checked to be sure the wind hadn't shifted (it hadn't), and saw that I now was effortlessly at 85 rpm in the middle of my cogs.
At the turn-around, the slight wind now came from behind my right shoulder. I hoped for having it flat on my back, but that was not to be. I even managed to move to the big ring for most of the return trip.
In the end, my time was average. That's good, considering the first half. I stretched and relaxed but although everything loosened up nicely, the legs were not happy. Well, tomorrow is Sunday and we shall see if they can get me around the 360 course.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010


Rather, farewell to arm holders, aka aerobars. Following today's ride (which was windy and I was grateful for the use of them), the aerobars on my road bike will be retired for the rest of the season.
In a frivolous moment, I signed up for the State Road Race Championships to be held next month. Aerobars are not allowed, thus I need to have my body ready to race 33 miles without them. Last October I did the Senior Games 40k race, so I know what to expect. Which is why I need to get a few long rides in without my resting place.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


Pook! Ding-fu!! I knew I was fast Sunday. For the first hour. Then it was average, then labored. The more I contemplated the ride, the more I questioned how good it was. My Garmin threw me a curve. On the downhill leading to 360, it turned itself off. While I immediately turned it back on and made sure it was recording, because it wasn't showing time and mileage, I didn't know if it reset at zero. When I checked all the data, the mileage was correct, thus I accepted the other data.
But, as the old saw goes: if it sounds too good to be true, it isn't. I double-checked the graphs, and there was an absence of the first two climbs, and the downhill. Apparently, some of the data continued, but the time reset itself.
It was a hard workout, discounting the data. We just have to erase the PB designation for the first half.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Saturday I finally got on the bike and did my 31 mile ride, with a few detours due to flooding in the neighborhood. The intent was an easy, get-acquainted-with-the bike-again type ride. However, I kept the cadence as high as I could and the body responded exactly how I expected it to given the length of time sans exercise. The surprise was my neck and triceps were the most sore.
Sunday is the 360 ride and with a looming 33 mile State Championships, I wanted to give myself a good workout. Thus, rather than meandering along for the first eight minutes, I cranked up the revolutions and attacked. Perhaps attack is too strong, but it was quick. The computer read-out just gave speed, cadence, and heart-rate, not minutes and miles, and in the past I didn't look at the speed going up hills (it's so depressing to see single digits).
Realizing I didn't have complete real-time info, I hit the "lap" button so that the first half info wouldn't be swallowed up by the second half morass. My body was rebelling at current energy levels and even only half-way, the quads had lost their punch, and in another 15 minutes, I would face the tri-level dam-Steiner Ranch climb.
Well, I kept a decent cadence, having to resort to the small chain-ring, and made all three climbs and kept a fair speed on my way to Anderson Mill Rd. Turning onto Anderson Mill proved the last straw for my left hamstring. I tried letting it hang and just use my right leg, but the right quad then cramped. Ok, I gave up and stopped, propped the bike against a telephone pole and sat down, gingerly, to let the protesting parts rest and recover.
It only took five minutes, maybe less, before I mounted up to ride the last couple of miles. The short rest did the trick, and I soft-pedaled to the car without incident.
Nice story, you might say, but what's the point? Ah! The first half of the ride turned out to be 13 minutes faster than my previous best. This included nine tough hills, so, cramps in the second half notwithstanding, I'm pretty pleased at the result.
PS, I have changed the computer read-out to show time and mileage also (I really like my Garmin 305). Immediate feedback on training rides is important.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


Just returned from a 10 day tour touching Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. No cycling involved. I planned to take two weeks off following the time-trial, and planned to do stretches and possibly work-out in the hotels we would be staying in.
My plans did not include staying an extra day. Who knew, six months ago when we booked the trip, that Hurricane Earl would arrive in Halifax early in the morning of our departure date? Well, Earl had lost a lot of punch by the time he got there. Lots of folks were walking around outside and none were hunched over against the wind.
We got out Sunday, arrived in Round Rock late night and awoke Monday to the news that a tropical storm had developed in the Gulf and would hit Mexico. The rain showers started, but between the sprinkles I managed to cut the yard, and at bedtime Tuesday several inches of rain showed in our rain gauge. Nice, good for the grass.
At 1:30am our neighbor woke me out of a sound sleep to advise that the water was rising fast and if we wanted to leave, they would be closing the bridge (over low-water crossing) shortly. We didn't leave, but watched the water come up the back yard, quickly passing the previous high mark. By 2:30am or so, within several feet of our patio, it stopped and started to recede. By 4am we went back to bed, and when I got up at 7am, it was almost back in the creek bed. Hermine dumped 7+ inches in my gauge, neighbors recorded more.
Other circumstances have delayed my return to cycling. I'm now thinking Saturday.