The Good Intentions Tour

The Good Intentions Tour

Every year during Memorial Day weekend I have vowed to go ride my bike as far as I can, for as long as I can. This is a tour to push my spring limits, something to gauge what needs to be focused on for summer so that the fall gravel races are a little easier on the body than the early spring excursions.  It could be fully bagged out, it could be a dirt bagging trip, it could be a “credit card” tour with support and hotel rooms.  It could be anything, really, as long as there is a goal of at least 300 miles over the course of the four day weekend.

This is why it has earned the title of “The Good Intentions Tour”

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The fully loaded Ti Vaya, a formidable touring rig but not something to ride 100 miles a day in heavy rain storms. I will not be using this rig for 2017’s GIT

The Good Intentions Tour is just that. It’s a set of intentions (outlined in P1) that are more like a limit than an intention.  Last year I had decided that I was going to take an fifth day and ride a total of 400 miles.  What actually happened was I chose to take my loaded touring bike, I started a day late and rode into intermittent rain storms, at fried chicken, got stuck in a shelter at a city park waiting out a storm, made it to the Night Hawk in Slater, IA drinking with a team of woo girls that were woo-ing their minds out inside a sheet metal shed which houses the back bar at the establishment.  I rode north from Slater to Ames, IA, where I ended up in a hotel room as there were some very serious looking storm systems coming my way, then rode from Ames to middle-of-nowhere Collins, IA where I ran into BikeIowa.com founder Scott Sumpter randomly at a tiny bar, then rode to Cleverley Farms for the last historical Garlicpalooza.  At Larry’s farm we had a blast, but the next morning it was blazingly hot and humid and I made it to a convenience store in Bondurant, IA where I ended up calling a sag for my last 12 miles as I could not get my body to act right.  I don’t blame it, it had a reason to be hostile towards me.  Three Days, 99.4 miles. I couldn’t even bring myself to ride around the steamy block to get to an even 100. I was done.

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The fully loaded Ti Colossal, a killer self contained road-packing rig. I will be losing most of the bags and using this bad boy for GIT. At least I intend to. haha.

That is how it goes every year, first make a long list of good intentions, then say “fuck it” and just do whatever.  This year I will have a partner in Intentions crime, who has vowed to ride one of the four days with me (sounds like a proper good intention), and will then pilot Kira as my support in my quest to ride at least 300 miles.  I haven’t picked the bike yet, but I can tell you that it will not be my Vaya.  Day 1 or 2 will be on the Java, and since there is support involved this year I will probably just pack a very stripped down Colossal for the solo miles.  I can see this turning into a one day loop then a “tailwind tour” to wherever the time limit takes me.

No matter what happens, I am making my list of good intentions for this coming Memorial Day weekend.  I’m looking at routes, plotting miles, and looking at where I can stick a tandem loop in the middle of all of this, in addition to working in some #vanlife with Kira, and also putting together a bail plan for when I give up on my intentions and just want to go home to my lovely vegan kitchen to eat something other than road food.  That’s going to be the biggest challenge this year, spending 3-4 days on the road while still sticking to clean Vegan eating.  We shall see how that goes, or if anything goes at all.

Sam

CNB

Favorites: J-Paks GravelPak

I’ve been a frame bag user for quite some time, using Revelate full frame and Tangle bags on my gravel/fat/mountain rigs, and a sweet Porcelain Rocket custom frame bag (thanks to my deer friend Zen Biking), on my Ti Fargo. I’m a big fan of these convenient packs, but I have one problem. I’m a pack rat and my frame bags end up looking like something out of “Hoarders, Bike Edition.” The “map compartment” side is usually stocked with old cue cards from races past, random keys or mud scraping devices (aka ti tent stakes), licorice ropes, batteries, empty gel packs, and the main compartments are a collection of mini pumps, ancient granola bars, lighters, expired gel packs, gas station trinkets, a goddamn red clown nose (???), crushed beer cans, and it just goes from there.  Basically, my frame bags become a rolling landfill. Pretty rad.

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The J-Paks Gravel Pak on my Salsa Warbird Carbon Gravel Rig Of Doom

Enter my new favorite bike thing: the GravelPak from J-Paks. I picked one of these up a few months back, and it has become my go to for bringing along anything I need on a ride. It’s similar in shape to the ubiquitous seat packs you see on most bikepacking rigs, but it’s smaller and less unwieldy than it’s larger brethren.  There is enough space for a tool kit, phone charger, base layers/jacket, extra gloves/hat (I always carry spares, especially in the cooler months. I like to change out these items about half way through a ride), some food items, maybe even an extra water bottle or can of beer if you feel so inclined without taking up frame space, and you hardly notice the seat pack. Somehow the GravelPak also lends itself to repacking and keeping things organized, and since it is a roll-closure and not something you simply unzip and toss crap in, you are less likely to pack rat away all of those cool (useless) gas station finds.

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GravelPaks in the not so wild. Image ripped off from jpaks.com

The Gravel Pak is great for switching between bikes, its two clipped straps for the seat rails and one very secure velcro strap around the seat post can be easily popped/undone and moved to whatever steed you are riding today. You can have your “winter kit” on hand and move it between your gravel rig, fat bike, whatever bike, and with so much less hassle than undoing 400 velcro straps you find on frame bags.  You can use a regular seat pack for things like this, but the J-Pak bag is like the “Baby Bear’s Porridge” of short to medium range riding. It’s just the right size.

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Hey! Hooman! Paws off my #$%&ing porridge!

Due to the ever changing Iowa winter weather, I have been using this bag between my road bike, my gravel bike, a single speed, and my trusty Mukluk with no problems at all. It’s a sturdy build that shows no signs of wear after over 500 miles of mixed use and many bike swaps. I’m looking forward to a good spring of many more miles with this bad lad, and to maybe picking up a few of J-Paks other offerings from their J-Paks Shop.

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J-Paks GravelPak on my trusty road bike outside Jamaica, IA

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And here it is on the trusty Mukluk. (Thanks, DMPL, for gently shoveling around my steed)

Yeah, that’s it. No crazy stories, just a solid piece of kit that will keep you organized in your travels, and transfers easily between bikes.  Kudos, J-Paks. Thank you for the righteous gear.

Sam, CNB

Less Breathless

As the tens of you who have been reading along here know, I have recently hit a brick wall with my health.  I had been eating like a huge asshole, and I do mean huge, to the point where not even riding was helping out. I was the heaviest that I’ve even been in my life, a full 70 lbs more than when I was in “racing shape,” and I felt it.  My joints ached, my hips were really unhappy on long rides, I would get out of breath putting on my cycling shoes, and I realized I had been lying to myself about what was going on with my health.  It was time for a change.

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I’ve gone from milkshakes to smoothies.

This week I have hit another milestone. I put my Sidis on without having to gasp for air. This may not seem like something to brag about, but in my 18″ of space it is a reason to celebrate.  When I weighed in yesterday, I had gone from 302.8 to 288.2 lbs in one week. There was a full week prior to my initial weigh in that was undocumented, I would say that based on losing 14+ in the past week, my actual weight at the start was closer to 310-315 lbs. (my poor wheels). I’ve dropped about my first 20, and I am already feeling great. My shirts are fitting better, my mood is better, and I don’t feel as sluggish on the bike. I’m excited, as the weight loss has been from simply changing my diet and getting adjusted to eating Vegan again. I haven’t joined a gym, I have actually been riding less due to being fairly busy, I simply cut out meat, dairy, cheese, etc. This wasn’t an abrupt change, I had been planning this and purging my pantry and fridge for two months, and I have spent a few years eating Vegan in the past, so the groundwork was laid.  I just needed motivation like failing at a bike race that by all means I should have been able to finish.

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Tofu Scramble, Spinach, Tater Crowns, Home Made Vegan Biscuits w/Fig Preserves. Breakfast of Champions.

The Stoker is pleased that I’ve decided to actually look out for my health instead of plowing through life expecting things to just be ok, even though things were most decidedly NOT ok. We are looking forward to a summer of cycling, I’ve decided to cut back my “race” schedule a bit and focus on using 2017 as a recovery year from the past few years of just letting myself go.  It’s time to rebuild, have fun, and get things going the right direction again.

Sam, CNB

Ride Into Grocery Glory

Ride Into Grocery Glory

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THE NEW FOURTH & COURT HY VEE. Photo Courtesy BikeIowa.com

This is where I stop bitching about the new HyVee store at 4th & Court. At least for the moment. It’s not exactly what we were told they would build for us downtown folk. Ok, got it. They built what they wanted, now we move on and either shop there or not.  I’m choosing to shop there as I have really been wanting a full on grocery store that didn’t require travelling 8-10 miles by bike. Not that there is anything wrong with that, but having the ability to hop on a bike or walk to pick up spur-of-the-moment goods is what we were really missing in the area. They do have a few Vegan prepared food options amongst their vast multi-station food court, just in case I get a little hangry while shopping, and there is a little bike parking out front, making it just a few steps from checkout to packing your bike. Very nice. This is so much easier than shopping by car (which also seems pretty convenient  with the parking garage out back).

Opening day at lunch time was a shit show, to say the least.  It was simply a mission to scope out the selection and strategize my future trips.  I ended up buying a few things for dinner that night, running into a cousin of mine a few times, and being jammed up by customers of the store and every company food/product rep that ever walked the face of the earth seemed to have shown up.  It was jam packed, as expected on the opening day, but it really wasn’t too bad to do a little shopping. I suppose now I know what the aisles will be like when another snowpocalypse hits the city. This first trip softened my opinion of the spot.

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Parked out front, loaded up and ready for the mile-ish trip home.

My second trip was pretty casual.  It was early in the morning, and the place was near deserted save for the seemingly massive morning staff and a few other fellow scruffy, unkempt customers. This trip was my first time shopping Vegan at this location, and I was prepared for disappointment.  I was sorely disappointed to that end, as my shopping was easy, the selection of pre-made Vegan items was very good for the size of their grocery section, and the produce section carries everything I was looking for. Not bad, Hy Vee. Not bad at all. The gentleman cashing me out was super rad, the cheese department guy standing close was getting in on the positive vibes, and all was good.

This last trip, my third, was right before lunch.  It was a snowy, cold morning and the place was fairly quiet. I encountered no problems, aside from learning they do not have the Vegan “lunchmeat” I like (probably just need to request it), and they were out of LAVENDAR OIL (working on making my own beard oil), but these are definitely not complaints.  I picked up a bunch of produce, some canned goods for the pantry, and went on my merry snowy way.

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The Grocery Getter for Trip 3: The Mukluk w/Chrome XXL Messenger Bag for the groceries

Downtown residents finally have that grocery store we’ve all been wanting.  It’s walkable, bike able, and they have a B-Cycle kiosk out front for when you buy some things that you might want to throw in the basket of a bike and haul somewhere, or even an impromptu bike picnic. It’s a really nice touch. Overall, I feel that the place suits my grocery needs and I will continue shopping there in addition to Gateway Market, New Oriental Market, Jung’s, and La Tapatia. I’m really stoked to have such a solid produce section so close to home, and hell yeah, they have a great liquor and beer selection for when I’m feeling like it’s bag beer time. That still happens from time to time.

Sam, CNB

Stoker Stoke II: The Stokening

After writing about the mothballed Co-Motion Cycles Java tandem the other day, the thought of it just sitting there waiting for a good cleaning, tune up, and parts swap out was burning a hole in the pocket of my mind.  I decided to eschew my planned dealings of the day and delve into putting this beauty back on the road.

The Obligatory Before Picture shows that we are missing a stoker seat (the captain saddle was also poached for my road bike, this Selle Anatomica was put on a few days before the picture was taken), the bike is dirty, the  bar tape on the captain’s bars has started unraveling from the bottom (?) of the bars, there are also some Crank Brothers Mallet pedals on the stoke spot that were meant to replace the Mallets on the touring bike, as I had broken one of the retaining springs on the pedal but HEY IF YOU FLIP IT OVER, IT RIDES JUST FINE. Lazy ass.  There is an unnecessary stem extension that needs to be removed, it was installed while I was searching for some hand numbness solutions.  During the test ride it felt like the bars were in my beard. Too High. A problem I know all too well.

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Co-Motion Cycles Java Adventure Tandem: a beauty, even in such a sad state of repair. 

The Nano 2.1 Tires are a little overkill for the planned pavement trial runs (stoker isn’t very experienced in off-road or gravel cycling, we are going to keep on the hard surfaces until we get more comfortable, also the tires are practically brand new, I would hate to wear them down on pavement), so they need to be swapped for high volume road tires.  The front shifting is a little wonky, I remember it was prior to being put in storage. The front Surly Nice Rack is total overkill, so that’s going to probably go away until we decide to do some actual touring/camping. My camping setup is small enough to fit in a Revelate Viscacha, I have joked about just bungee cording that to the top of the rear rack, eliminating the need for front panniers for S240 trips (which will most likely be the extent of our adventures for now).

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JAVA on the road, looking healthier for sure. 

The Necessary After Picture looks a little cleaner, and the bike is rideable now.  The Stoker position has been adjusted, the Terry Butterfly saddle and Crank Brothers Stomp flat pedals have been installed, Schwalbe Big Apple tires have been installed, bar wrap has been redone, tune up has been performed, and I did a good wipe down. The stem extension still needs to be removed, and the front rack either leveled or removed.  I will  be digging through my water bottle cage collection, and the Edelux dyno light/USB charger needs to be moved back over from the Cargo Bike.  BUT SHE RIDES!  It’s so great to have this thing back on the road.  Here’s to hoping that the Stoker enjoys stoking, and we can get stoked on some tandem adventures in the future.  Up next: The Test Ride Report, coming to you after the snow melts and we can get this baby on the road.

Sam, CNB

Fat Guy On Bike Video (1914)

I am feeling considerable fatness today, and when this happens I tend to dwell on/obsess about/freak out on the fatness. I decided to look up some videos of fat people riding bikes (instead of actually riding) and came across this gem from 1914, a film called “W-H-O-R-K a la Pimple” in which a man named “Pimple” is teaching another much larger man to ride a bike.  Hilarity ensues. I have actually re-enacted this film in the past without even knowing of its existence.  I would call it “Sam Rides Home From A Bar.”  Here is the video, enjoy!

It’s a pretty sweet bike also.

CNB

Lords Of Chaos: CIRREM Ride Report.

Saturday, February 25 marked the 4th running of the gravel bulls known as CIRREM.  All weather leading up to the race (CIRREM is a 100k gravel race held in South Central Iowa, if  you didn’t know) was optimal.  The winter had been mild, the roads were a dry hardpack, almost like riding on pavement.  By all accounts it was going to be a super fast race to the finish line.  All of that changed on the Thursday prior.  Momma Nature decided to treat CIRREM like she treats most yearly sporting events in Iowa..by showing her best at being worst.  Wet snow fell, followed by a very sunny and mild Friday…a Friday which had participants frantically seeking out advice as to what tire would be proper for the unknown race conditions.  Amid all of the Facebook speculating I decided to talk a bunch of trash then follow up the trash talk with taking a ride out to the country on the Vaya for a first hand look at the course.  Wow.  Incredibly bad conditions ranging from ice-filled ruts to snow drifts over the road to pure peanut butter mud and more could be found all within one mile.  I turned back after a few short miles. Saturday was going to be rough.

I awoke early Saturday morning to finish race prep and found the Vaya with a flat rear tire.  DAMMIT.  This is a bad sign, but I got things changed out, finished cleaning and lubing the bike, packed my gear and headed towards the Cumming Tap.   I drove part of the course, just to check the conditions…they were even worse.  During the course of Friday it looked as thought the county had decided to plow the wet snow into large sheets of ice.  Sweet.  The Tap was alive with racers picking up packets, chatting, and grabbing a bite from Bob’s breakfast spread (btw, those mini bagels saved my butt out there).  One of the things I really love about racing, and cycling in general, is the friendships forged with people of the same mind.  It’s a great community and I am very happy/proud to be a part of the whole thing.

Nine am rolled around and I decided it was time to get geared up and check out the bike.  Suited up, Camelback on, hopped on the Vaya and checked the shifting, made some small adjustments then waited for the start…or for the urge to drink some of that Four Loko I had stashed in the van…mmmm.   9:55 and everyone was in formation ready for our LEAD OUT?  New for this year was a lead out start around the initial 1.5 miles.  What?  No holeshot?  Okay, we wound our way south then up to cross G14 (where an SUV almost took out a few cyclists.  I can understand how hard it was to see 100 people on bikes crossing the road.  thanks for honking) and we were released to go north on 30th.  Things were a little sketch on the north side of the hills, and when we came to the “wheel eating bridge” (come on, they are 10″ planks…just pick a line and ride it) many of the front of the pack stopped and walked, effectively inch worming the entire field and almost causing a few accidents in the middle of the pack.  The turn to go west on Adams was icy, and I saw the first of many wrecks at the intersection.  People were sliding out and crashing each other.  Awesome.  I rode on trying to get further up front to find a fast group to ride with.  Mile 6…I went down pretty hard.  FUCK!  This is where the real cursing began as I realized my rear tire was a little to “used” for the conditions (and I had a brand new set sitting at the shop waiting for me).  I was riding in BarMitts, which kept me from freeing myself from the bike.  I went down elbow, shoulder, head.  I got back up, dusted off and continued on with some sharp pains in my left elbow and knee.  It’s okay, still in the “warm up” section of the race, everything will loosen up in a while.  The ice was making it difficult to climb hills, I had to get all the way down in “easy peasy” to get any traction to spin up.  Then, thanks to my gift of economical downhill gravity use I was in danger of smashing through other racers whom were insistent on braking all the way down the descents.  This is a hard reality for me, I am just okay at climbing, good enough to get up the hills…but downhill I have a distinct advantage.  If the road is clogged shoulder to shoulder with people braking I cannot take advantage of the momentum while going up the next hill.  This is also a symptom of riding alone almost all the time.  If I rode/trained with other people, I would have known what group to get in with at the starting line instead of searching out from the back of the pack.  I will work on this racing error in the future.

I got in with the Mables for a few miles, they were riding a conservative pace in a group of about 5 or 6.  I sat back and rode off the back of their group, not to draft, but for pacing.  Dave went down, then a we saw a few more crashes.  My knee and elbow were feeling sore, and my goddamn camelback feed tube was a little iced up (whoops, my bad again) so I decided to stop and have a little snackiepoo.  Goodbye Mable group, but I figured I would catch up with them somewhere on Old Portland road and this hydration issue would become a real problem in the next 10 miles if not attended to.  Hopping back on the bike, I felt refreshed and totally jacked up on the Caff thanks to a power gel.  THEN GUESS WHAT HAPPENED?

I had been having trouble with the icy road conditions all day, but was holding a 14mpg avg with stopping, etc.  I felt that it was a good start and could be improved upon in the time when the sun softened up the top layer of permafrost and the roads became peanut butter.  Then it happened…Mile 17 I went down like a _______(enter your own joke there).  Hands caught in my Mitts, I took the spill at about 21 mph on my left side, landing “chicken wing” style with my arm tucked into my ribs.  I bounced on the ice and felt a snap in my rib cage.  NOT GOOD.  I got up, “focused” my bike, aka threw it into the snowy ditch, and checked myself over.  Yep, all there…and the rib thing didn’t seem to hurt, not any more than my knee.  I pulled the Vaya out of the ditch, straightened out the stem, apologized for the abuse, and took of again.  I felt like I was getting so far behind, and also thanks to the gel, that my adrenaline was rushing and I felt little pain.  It was a pretty easy 5 or 6 miles to the first really bad hills, and I was hell bent on making some time before the climbs.  I made the right onto OPR, blazed down Cemetary Hill aka “The Wall” (thanks for not making us ride up that this year) and hit my top speed of 41.3 mph.  I passed a few folks and headed towards the first of many bullshit climbs…then it happened.  at mile 21.85 I got out of the saddle to climb and almost fell off my bike.  Ribs decided to let themselves be known, and I stopped.  If I couldn’t climb out of the saddle then the race was over for me.  I stopped, took stock of the situation, almost cried (the thought of breaking ribs just two months away from TIV8 was a bit too much to think of) and decided since I didn’t know the extent of the damage that I would drop out, get a sag, then go get examined to make sure I wasn’t putting myself in danger of collapsing a lung or further injuring myself.  The rest of the field that was left passed me by as I made the call back the the Tap.  Nick Larson stopped and gave me some ibuprofen.  This race was over.

Mile 22, the end of my CIRREM.

Hector from the Tap found me perched atop Cemetary Hill (I got bored and walked a little), scooped me up and drove backwards looking for anyone else in trouble.  Not one rider was left behind me.  Nice job.  We got back to the bar and found the others who had gotten injured and were forced to drop.  That ice was a real MF out there.  Took down a good amount of racers.

I ate some BBQ, then decided to just hang out with some friends from out of town that I never get to see.  These ribs would make it a few more hours on their own, and every beer helped nurse the pain.  Actually, seeing good friends is what really nursed the pain.

Things loosened up out on the road and everyone from first place on down was covered in mud.  Awesome.

I think I made it home eventually?  Sunday I took a trip to the hospital where I was diagnosed as having bruised ribs.  BEST NEWS EVER as I was waiting to make the call on the next two upcoming races.  I am still able to ride and still in the game.

What did I learn from this year’s CIRREM?

  • Do a better job at choosing tires, in fact I am ordering some 38c studs for next winter… just in case

  • If it is anywhere near 32 degrees, put the feed tube warmer on the GD Camelback.  Duh.

  • Even if I can’t hang with the lead group, at least start with them so I am not stuck behind people.

  • Bar Mitts probably saved me from a broken wrist or collar bone.  If I had been able to get my hands of the bars faster it could have been a disaster.

  • Never forget your flask.  I forgot mine, it’s always good to have on hand in case you have to wait for a sag.

Other than the wrecking and positioning I had the proper nutrition before and during, and was dressed perfectly for the temperature.  I wasn’t riding a borrowed bike this year, which was a big plus, and had no major mechanical problems aside from a little shifting issue here and there.

Overall I would say it was a good run, and I wish that I had been able to finish the ride.  It was great to have the opportunity to see some good friends, I can’t wait until next year.

Until We Meet Again, CIRREM…

CNB

if you made it this far, go grab a brewski…you deserve it.