Reinventing the Wheel

It’s been said that the only certainty is change. The last couple of weeks have really driven this home for me. It started with a short-notice decision to head to Sedona, AZ, for a weekend of early-season mountain biking. In pulling stuff together I was reminded that I’ve been riding for the last year or so on Jess’s rear wheel due to a mechanical failure in my own wheel that cannot be fixed due to the lack of replacement parts. I’ve been wanting to return Jess’s wheel for several reasons, but after searching around somewhat extensively I’ve discovered that the growing popularity of 29er and 27.5er wheels, 26″ mountain bike wheels are becoming scarce. This is especially true in the middle ground between the ultra-expensive Cadillac parts and the el-cheapo.

Luckily, on this occasion, we’re a family of pack rats and a desperate scavenger hunt through the garage turned up not only a “new” rear hub, but also a matching rim. I had purchased some spares when they were being discontinued, but never used most of them. So, for the cost of 3 dozen spokes and nipples (and a couple of hours of time) I could build a nearly identical replacement and re-live the glory of the early 2000s.

This week Phoebe is a bit hobbled with not 1, but 2 sprained ankles, so I thought I’d offer her the opportunity to help with the wheel build. Now, with a 5-11/12 year old you never know how they’ll respond, but she was super excited to build a wheel. So yesterday after dinner we set to work with the rim, hub, spokes (2-sizes), nipples, and guidebook (The Bicycle Wheel, by Jobst Brandt) spread out before us.

I’ll spare you all of the technical details (a quick search back through old blog posts will turn up an extended description of wheel building) and simply relay that Phoebe had a blast. Her pattern skills were invaluable in aligning the spokes to the holes, and you’d have been amazed to hear her read the instructions as we went. It was chock full of the usual kindergarten sight words like incremental and lateral stress. Jess captured a couple of pictures and this cool interview with Phoebe midway through the assembly. BTW, Phoebe now says that wheel building is easy. Maybe she has another vocation to add to doctor, banker, and delicatessen worker.


Some amazing reading:

After Phoebe went to bed, I finished off the build by tensioning, centering, and truing the wheel. Now all I need to do is find some elusive 26″ tires. . . Bike industry, I’ve a bone to pick with you!

Mapping My Ride

So I stumbled upon a new website while trying to generate some elevation profiles for an upcoming bike ride. Elijah had called with his plans to ride up to Allenspark for a wedding Sunday evening. I’d been planning a big ride anyway, so of course I was game. His plan was to head up through Jamestown and cover the short section of dirt up to CO-72 (the Peak to Peak highway). It sounded like a good idea to me, but I wanted to see how the route compared with going through Ward or Lyons. I was planning to use TOPO to make the profiles, but it’s just too slow. You have to hand draw everything.

Next, I opened up a Google maps page and quickly drew one of the routes. It’s much easier, as you can just list an intersection or address for the start/stop, and the route can be dragged to easily make changes. Unfortunately, Google maps doesn’t support elevation profiles. It did, however, confirm that going through Jamestown would be the shortest route. I even tried a fun alternative that would take us up Sunshine Canyon, through Gold Hill, and onto Ward via the Switzerland Trail. Although much longer, this would have been wicked fun on skinny tires.

While searching (via Google) for a way to get an elevation profile in Google Maps, I found a link for I had to log into the site to do anything, which of course meant I needed to create an account, but at least there is a free account option. The site offers several levels of membership, and offers the ability to map rides (or walks, hikes, etc.) that either follow roads or head directly cross country. So far, I’ve only tried the on-road option. In this function, it’s rather like a combination of TOPO and Google Maps in the user interface. It allows you to add various symbols, like start and end icons, to the maps, and you can even add directions to the resulting maps. Best of all for the elevation-obsessed cyclists, you can generate elevation profiles on the fly as you create the map.

Ultimately we settled on the route through Jamestown. It’s shorter than the alternatives in mileage, but they are surprisingly similar in terms of elevation gain and pitch. Both the upper section of Super Jamestown and the last bit of the climb to Ward reach grades of around 11%. The climb up from Lyons isn’t as steep, but it’s a bit longer at around 15 miles from town to the junction with Colorado-72. The route received a bit of rain while we were riding up the hill. While enjoying a cold soda at the Merc in Jamestown it rained lightly the entire time. It was actually quite refreshing, as we were both a bit overheated.

Before continuing up the hill, we chatted with a couple of ladies who’d clearly come down from Overland Road. They were both covered in mud and pulling on their jackets. They reported that it was pretty wet up there. Undaunted, we continued. It kept sprinkling intermittently, but most of the pavement was dry. I suffered a couple of flat tires, and was never able to get the rear tire sufficiently full of air, so it felt a bit squishy the rest of the day. Just before the dirt, on the road’s steepest pitch, I got passed by an old coworker who was making it look easy. I could blame my gearing, which certainly does me no favors at grades above around 8%, but I’ve also got a good 50 pounds on Shane. He said he was planning to head all the way to the top, but when the next shower started, Shane shot back past us like a bullet. I can’t blame him for wanting to keep his beautiful bike clean. My Fuji is a bit more of a mudder, I guess.

When we reached the dirt, it was indeed wet, but not really muddy. It was more like that moist tacky consistence that makes for good traction. In fact, it gave me a renewed sense of energy, and I was sprinting up all of the little hills with a full-on, out-of-the-saddle effort. I think Elijah was a bit less enthusiastic about the dirt, but I was ear-to-ear grins. A couple of spots were badly washboarded, but still it was quite rideable.

At the junction with highway 72, we regrouped (Elijah was just a few seconds behind) and enjoyed another little snack. We were both low on water, so we rode into the Peaceful Valley campsite and refilled our water bottles. I enjoyed the first big gulp, but it was the most rusty tasting water ever. Still, it blew away no water a thousand times over.

A bit farther up the road, we split ways. I bombed down highway 7 to Lyons, while Elijah continued up the road to Allenspark. There was a horrific headwind, and the squishy rear tire was not confidence-inspiring, but I still got down to Lyons in about 27 minutes (not bad for 15 miles) where I grabbed a slice of pizza before heading back to Boulder via US-36.

The remainder of the ride was uneventful, aside from riding past a horrific accident. As best I can tell, a motorcycle rear-ended an SUV along US-36. The traffic was backed up for a least a mile in either direction, and flight-for-life was on the scene with a shiny green helicopter. I rode along the side, bypassing all of the cars, until I reached the accident scene. I was coasting at a ridiculously slow speed when one of the police officers said it was okay to go around, but in all the confusion, I smacked my hand into the side mirror of a big SUV. Traveling at such a slow speed, it was impossible to avoid going head-over-heels into the ditch along the highway. Aside from pride, I was completely uninjured. The officer inspected the side of the SUV for damage like it was a Monet hanging in the Louvre. It too was fine, and I was able to go around the scene as long as I walked the bike on the opposite side of the ditch.

It’s a good thing, because I made the last 6+ miles back to Boulder faster than most of the traffic in the queue, and I still had to drive back to Lafayette, shower, and get to the airport by 7:00 to meet Jess. As it was, I was about 10 minutes late. Not a bad 1/2 century.

As to Map My Ride, the jury is still out. It seems useful, but really just from a planning perspective. It also offers some interesting journal capabilities that should allow the ardent recreationist to track their training regime, but that doesn’t really appeal to me. For instance, it will allow you to estimate calories burned during the ride, but it won’t allow for stopping and resting. Based on the crude body mass index calculation (oh yeah, being so short, I’m totally considered obese) the ride duration (think speed) has a huge impact. If you use our starting time of 11:00 and our ending time of 5:15, you come out about way under the correct calories burned. If you fake the times, in order to account for stops, you get a very different number. I have no idea what I’d get for a result if I used the accumulated mileage and ride time from the cyclometer on my Fuji; I didn’t keep track. Even this would be inaccurate, because it would assume a constant speed. With such severe elevation change, it’s clear that anyone would be traveling both very quickly (downhill) and somewhat more slowly (uphill). It also doesn’t account for the fact that I had to ride pretty hard down highway 7 to fight the headwind in the flatter stretches. Nevertheless, the mapping features seem decent, so check it out.