Monday, March 31, 2014

The Wrong Tool for the Job

Hammer, proper!
So, as I mentioned in my last post,last Saturday, some friends invited me to join them on a bike ride (that will teach them).  The ride was the Gravel Rouser Classic, put on by Athens Bicycle.  The ride was described to me as 40 miles of gravel roads with a 10 mile mountain bike race sandwiched in the middle.  Awesome.

But as I surveyed my stable of 73 bicycles (it's more of a hoard, but "stable" sounds nicer), I realized that I did not own a single gravel-specific bike.  How could I possibly complete a ride that included some gravel without a gravel bike?  Upon realizing this, I cried despondently in my garage for a couple of hours, underneath the tennis ball that tells me when to stop driving forward.  (On a side note, I can't tell you how many garages I ruined before installing that ball).

After I was all cried out, I returned to my bicycle hoard in hopes of finding a suitable bike for this ride.  But which bike?  My commuter with the cyclocross tires?
Yeah, it's pink.
No, that woudn't work.  It has downtube shifters and no disc brakes.  I would wreck and die.  So what about the steel 29er with the lockout front fork? 

Lockout action?
No, that wouldn't work either.  It would be too much work to haul those big tires around.  And even with lockout, it would be too squishy . . .  So I would overheat and have a stroke and die.
So what about the rigid 29er?

No, that bike wouldn't work because (insert some reason here) and I would die.  Clearly it's also not the right bike.

Now to the uninitiated, the above may seem like they are all bikes and one might be as good as the other.  But you guys get me, right?  

Ultimately, my eyes settled on my "son's" bike.  It's a cyclocross bike, set up for road riding.  I mean, clearly the bottom bracket is too high, and the brakes aren't discs, but I was willing to stomach the embarrassment.  With a few tweaks, I might be able to ride on gravel without dissolving into dust.  And really, what's better than a long ride on a bike with recently swapped mechanics?  What could go wrong?

So, I pulled the bike off the hook and started changing stuff.  I swapped the wheelset to fit bigger tires and put a 42 on the front.

Mmmm, meaty
Plenty of clearance left there, but the back was more of an issue.  Because the bike has a mountain front derailer (top pull), clearance was tight.  I considered swapping the derailler for a bottom pull, because at this point, I had rounded the curve to full-blown OCD on this "project".  But, in the end, I settled on a 35 in the back that barely cleared the rear derailler.

The only thing I can see in this picture is the rusty cable retaining bolt.  Excuse me while I go out to the garage for a minute.
Swapped on a bigger cassette, and I was all ready to go, certain now that I had the right tool for the job.  Meanwhile various donor bikes lay miserably around the garage as if in some sort of amputee tent during the civil war. 

Of course, after this photo, I retaped the bars and swapped the saddle for good measure.
So, off to the ride. We got there a little early, weather couldn't have been better. Everyone was in good spirits. We gathered in front of Kiser's at Eclipse BBQ, where ride organizers and all around good folks Peter Kotses, Joey Boyle, and Meredith Erlewine welcomed us. They are my kind of people.

Peter, proving that he's my kind of people.  Photos courtesy of Athens Bicycle here.
Peter demonstrates the use of jersey pockets while Joey surveys the crowd
Joey demonstrating the proper way to lift a cat.
There were a lot of riders, over 100 in all.
That's me in the blue

Can you spot all the COMBO members in these pictures?

And then we were off. I was out front early, feeling cheerful that I was so easily climbing the first hill, unlike the poor, misguided masses who were riding mountain bikes (really, everyone else - why am I the only one who gets it?).

And, of course, within the first half mile, I flatted.  The back tire got a "snakebite" flat, which isn't really due to snakes. Fortunately, Peter and Joey were sweeping from behind, and my friends circled back for me, so pretty soon, there were like 10 guys circling my bike, mini pumps in hand (whatever image that conjures up for you is your own issue).

On a side note, have you ever had too many bike mechanics on hand?  I have repaired many, many flats in my life, but in this case, I just stood by and watched (same).

But when we got the wheel back on, the tire had a small runout, where it didn't seat properly in the rim.  And remember, I had zero clearance left.
Zero clearance, Clarence.
The result was that the tire rubbed the derailleur a little on every revolution.  Because of the knobby tires, it sounded like I was being chased by a pack of angry bees.  In a higher gear, the rub increased to a steady whine.  So, I separated myself from the herd, like an elderly Eskimo on an ice flow, so as to bear the shame of my noisy bicycle alone.

Later, I let some air out of the tire and rode that way for a little while.  Seemed to seat the tire better, and the buzz was reduced to a low intermittent hum.  I rejoined my group, like an old Eskimo that the village had hoped never to see again.

We rode on for a ways, chatting and generally enjoying the hills and sunshine until we reached the start of the mountain bike race.

I showed up, eventually
The mountain bike race was through the Copperhead trail at Lake Hope, one of the flattest and least technical portions of the trail system.  I adore the Lake Hope trails, they are among the best in Ohio.

The race was a Le Mans start (it's French for "the mens"), meaning that you left your bike on the ground and ran for it at the whistle.  Given my overall lack of fitness and fortitude, I decided (along with a few others) to wait by the downhill end of the "the mans" start, to see whether there woule be any good NASCAR style crashes.  (If you ain't rubbin', you ain't racin'!)  There weren't.

So, I mounted my now-inappropriate cyclocross bike and joined the mountian bike race already in progress.  I only crashed once!
The bruise on my knee proves I'm a badass.
I dropped a chain, and had to stop twice to clear a jam between my rear tire and derailleur.  Overall, a high class finish for me.

Dan?  Dan!
Some of my homies finished late too, mostly because they were trying to make sure I didn't die.  Note that I came in behind ??, Doug? and Doug??.  Incidentally, I think I will register for every race as Dan? from now on.  It's like Ronaldino or Cher, but more awesomer because of the ?. 

When we reached the end of the mountain bike race, there was an assortment of awesomeness awaiting us, including sandwich fixings, chips and salsa, cookies and candy, and most importantly:
Beer?  Beer!
We rode another 20 miles back to the ride start, and we enjoyed some supreme grub from Kiser's BBQ.  We ate 5 whole pork butts (pork butts - heh) and I don't know what kind of sorcery went into Kiser's baked beans, but I could live off them.

All in all, an amazing ride with good company, good food, and good beer.  What else can a man ask for?

Your beer pairing for this ride:

Jackie O's Hop Ryot

Jackie O's Hop Ryot.  This is a rye malt IPA.  The rye malt makes it smooter, almost creamier than most IPAs, despite the hops load.  Smooth, not bitter.  Floral finish.  Just the perfect thing for those early Spring sunshiney days!

Also, I love Jackie O's.  This is a older brewery that has survived and is now riding the wave of craft beers to new levels of success.  We can finally get Jackie O's in Columbus!  Good on ya!

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