Sunday, April 29, 2012

Back in the Saddle Again

I am a fat toad. Sitting around eating bagels and drinking beer for 10 days will do that to anyone.  I came back from Albany with a major sleep deficit to boot.  So I haven't been tripping the light fantastic on my bikes.  I did squeeze in a bike commute in on Thursday on Little Nellie, my Bike Friday New World Tourist. Despite the fact that it is really fun to ride, my back and knees have never much cared for this bike.  It was an achy evening.

Saturday dawmed cool and cloudy.  It was supposed to warm up into the 60s so I headed out in a shirt, bike jacket and shorts. This was not nearly enough and I was uncomfortable for the entire time Big Nellie (my Tour Easy recumbent) and I were out and about.

When I arrived back at Rootchopper Base Camp, I had a phone message from Spokes Etc., my local bike store. I had dropped off my Sequoia touring bike for some major work.  I ordered a new rim and had them build me a new rear wheel.  In the process they overhauled my rear hub.  Basically the old wheel would not turn freely which suggested that the ball bearings inside the hub were toast. As it turns out they were. The cones (which are the parts that contain the ball bearings) were also kaput, so Fred the mechanic replaced them as well.

This little project started because my rear brakes stopped working. They stopped working because the braking surface of the rim had become concave from 30,000 miles of wear (it can happen to anybody, I suppose). The brake pads were all messed up (a technical term) so Fred replaced them as well.  When I picked up the bike, they gave me the old rim.  It had a sharp edge to it caused by the wearing of the brake pads.  I think I got my money's worth out of it.

Fred told me to ride the bike for a couple of weeks and bring the wheel back in for any necessary tensioning adjustments.   I rode the bike to the car and heard a high pitched "ting" from the rear wheel. This is normal as the spokes settle into place under load (and I am a load).  The brakes worked wonderfully and the wheel turned smoothly.  Looks good to me.

Today, I took her out for a spin. I started with a one-mile utilitaire ride to the hardware store for some bird seed.  I buy something called Hot Meats which are shelled seed covered in hot pepper powder.  It's expensive but lasts a long time because the squirrels find them nasty. And the large 20 pound bag fits perfectly in my rear pannier.  The wheel didn't complain a bit.

Having done my birds a good turn. I took off for a longer ride.  I headed north on the Mount Vernon Trail hoping to see a bald eagle. No luck. Where do they go all day?  I'm guessing they are avid golfers. 

I made my way through Old Town Alexandria, then on to Potomac Yards.  This is a new development that is devoid of trees. I was riding on a flat road into a headwind, and cruising along at 16 miles per hour.  I never ride that fast.  It's so nice to have wheels that turn freely.

Through the Pentagon Reservation (I wonder if they consider themselves a sovereign nation) then over the Memorial Bridge to DC. I followed the river into Rock Creek Park, exiting the bike path at P Street.  After riding up a short steep hill, I rode west across Georgetown to MacArthur Boulevard.

Bikes were everywhere.  I cruised along with my compadres until turning onto Persimmon Tree Road.  I rode through the Avenel and Congressional golf courses, hanging a left to head toward Falls Road in Potomac.  I was buzzing along at 18 miles per hour when a cyclist passing in the other direction yelled my name.  What?  I turned out to be Mohammad, by boss.  He is a bike commuter (he drops his daughter off at day care by bike for extra utilitaire points) and was out for a Sunday ride in the burbs.  We had a short chat. He is planning on going to Croatia for a bike tour this summer.

At Falls Road I banged a left toward Great Falls Park where I picked up MacArthur Boulevard again.  The next mile or so is a twisty down hill through the trees.  I absolutely love this stretch of road. I think I can get to 40 miles per hour on Big Nellie, but the Sequoia is not a speedster. We settled in at 30.

I reached the bottom and rode the pool-table flat road east.  Just after crossing the access to the Clara Barton Parkway, I heard my name called again. This time it was Ed and Mary, randonneurs who had completed a 300 kilometer (188 mile) ride yesterday.  They were riding their tandem to Potomac for lunch.  It must be around 35 or 40 miles round trip for them. If I had ridden 188 miles yesterday, the only place I'd be riding today  is to the ER. We had a nice long chat and they took come pictures. I once again forgot that my smart phone was in my handlebar bag so you, dear readers, can only imagine them.

After my second social stop, I headed back at a brisk pace, stopping to have a quick bite to eat at Seven- Eleven, or, as they say, in Bethesda, chez Sept-Onze.

With a tummy full of mediocre grub, I forged ahead. At Sangamore Street I took the access path down to the Capital Crescent Trail.  I had never done this before and was surprised at the steepness and the switchbacks.  Once on the CCT it was gradually downhill to Georgetown.

Over the 14th Street Bridge to the Virginia side of the river Potomac I pedaled.  The Mount Vernon Trail was a zoo.  I felt like I was in rush hour traffic.  Most riders were careful though and we collectively made decent time.  As always, a handful of riders with Lance Armstrong delusions tried to speed past the long lines of riders and walkers. Mostly they don't give any warnings and pass within inches.  Fortunately for them, I left my handlebar mounted death ray back at the Rootchopper Institute.

I was now 50 miles into the ride and my body was feeling achy. Tinging hands. Tight shoulders.  Sore neck.  Pedal on, dude. 

Old Town Alexandria was a circus.  No wonder the APD get mad at cyclists.  Bike after bike rode through the intersection of King and Union which was thick with tourists on foot and in cars.  I was surprised no collisions occurred. 

Once south of the Beltway It was smooth sailing.  A woman rode toward me with a white thing on her shoulder. It was a cockatoo.  I kid you not.  Or maybe, I was hallucinating. I was getting tired, after all.

I arrived home with 64 miles on my odometer and designs on a post-ride nap.  I was snoring on my deck, basking in the springtime sun in no time flat.


  1. It was great to see you today RC. I'll have photos posted tonight for you to download and insert. Also MG posted that Zombie photo for you.

  2. Yesterday did seem like a glorious day to be out and about. Unfortunately, my ride partners punked out and I spent the afternoon ~finally~ bathing and lubing the hybrid.

    Glad to hear that your new wheel is working. Whoo hoo!

  3. Good to have you back in the hood, riding the area trails and roads. :) Glad you ran into some people you know on your ride! :) :) It's nice to be able to stop and chat like that - - can't do it in a car...if you're lucky, you can maybe see a friend go by and honk. Good that Fred got your rear wheel working smoothly again - you definitely got your money's worth out of the other one. Better to replace it before it goes out on you. May your refurbished wheel give you 30,000 miles of smiles. :)

  4. Sounds like a lovely ride. I like Macarthur Blvd (especially because a wondrous brunch can be had at Blacksalt, beats the heck outta 7-11 though admittedly pricier) and the Capital Crescent trail is pleasant. MVT gets pretty crazy though and I prefer shadier routes.

    And where can one get a bike-mountable death ray? I'd use them on those cyclists who don't feel it necessary to ding or call out when they pass on crowded, narrow paths.