On the road again

It is late November. In these parts, the outdoor recreational riding season is usually over by now. This year is not usual.

With the temperature close to 50 (10 C), the sun shining, and Spain leading Costa Rica 3-0, getting out of town suddenly took precedence over watching the second half of a World Cup match (and the next match as well). It was time to get on the road again.

One of my favorite places to hear live music

With an errand slightly to the northeast from home, that seemed to be the direction to head. It was a Choose Your Own Adventure day, with a route that made itself known at each major intersection.

When I saw the “Bridge Closed Ahead” sign, I figured I’d have the road to myself. They were serious about the bridge being closed. I had to lift the bike over a barricade, then climb over it myself, repeating that on the other side. It was an Interstate Highway overpass, closed after a truck ran into the abutment a month or so ago, and awaiting major repairs. If 150 pounds of me and bike in motion over it were enough to cause it to collapse, my death would be small potatoes compared to the other problems, so I figured it would hold me. Don’t tell anyone.

I met a lot of cars with trees on roofs and rode past a Christmas tree farm doing a land office business and it wasn’t even Thanksgiving yet. I hope those trees don’t go up in flames after a month drying out in various living rooms.

A ride on a beautiful sunny day seems to be an invitation to a post-ride beer, so I had one with dinner. It was billed as a Breakfast Beer. Anyone who can drink an Imperial Stout for breakfast is a much more serious drinker than I.

Thanksgiving was a day for the age-old tradition of watching football (after the pie was done), but this year it was the real thing, played with feet, not the mis-named US game. Cristiano Ronaldo of Portugal became the first man to score in five different World Cup tournaments – not the first person, who was Marta of Brasil. She was followed by Christine Sinclair of Canada in the same 2019 tournament, so Ronaldo’s record may need an asterisk. Then there’s his attempt to claim credit for a teammate’s goal a few days later, when he tried to head in what looked like a crossing pass, but turned into a goal when he missed it by a hair. That said, he’s still one of the greatest of all time.

Black Friday was a day for more football after baking two more pies for another Thanksgiving dinner that couldn’t be beat. The colonies faced the motherland. As the UK is the world home of football, what is otherwise a single nation has four national football teams, two of which (England and Wales) are in the 32 team tournament. While the US may have gained its independence 238 years ago (it “declared” its independence 7 years earlier, but still had to win a war, and the Treaty Of Paris in 1784 made it a sovereign nation), and beat England in two wars, on the football pitch they played to a scoreless tie.

Anything that’s worth doing is worth doing again (or is it?), so on Saturday we assembled the Eastern Division of the half-fast cycling club for another ride. It was still warm. There were calories to burn after two days of eating. The Eastern Division is down to three riders from a dozen or so a few years ago. Bad heart, bad knees, bad back, bad head have limited several friends. The Bad Knees Bears mostly walk these days. We headed out into a brisk headwind with Alfred, Lord Tennyson leading the way. I stayed in the small chain ring all the way to Paoli. We stopped for coffee and grilled cheese sandwiches and returned with the wind, staying in the big ring all the way back. After a shower and laundry the weather app says it’s still 49º (9.5 C). Is it really late November? We saw the last of the area corn being harvested.

Riding home from the library, a red-tailed hawk flew by a few feet off the ground, landing a meter off the bike path to grab a snack. It turned around and took off back along the same path so that I had to brake hard to avoid it as it crossed my path about knee high (or, in my case, mid-wheel). It tried to land atop two different brushed aluminum lampposts, having trouble with its footing while holding a small rodent. It took off again looking for a place to land to eat in peace.

There’s no business like snow business

I woke up to fresh snow – not enough to ski, but enough that the door scraped through it upon opening.

This means it’s time to get the winter bike ready. It needed a new rear sprocket. I have written before of the value of a belt drive bike for winter – lower maintenance being #1 on the list. While there is less maintenance to do, when it comes time, the tasks are a bit different than on a chain-drive bike.

The sprocket on top is the old one. Note how the teeth have worn down to sharp edges, unlike the rounded profile of the teeth on the new sprocket below. Changing the sprocket is simple, according to the YouTube tutorial from Gates, maker of the belt drive system. There is an expensive-looking tool – the Gates SureFit Tool – sure enough, I found it on sale for €81.95 or between $133 and $150 US on three sites. It is totally unnecessary. It is for installing the part but not for removing the old one. Installing is the easy part.

While the tool is very impressive-looking, in anodized aluminum with a knurled grip (like the knurled stock on the Official Red Ryder Carbine Action 200 shot Range Model Air Rifle made famous by Ralphie in “A Christmas Story”, or Jean Shepherd in “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” for the literary-minded among you) – it is completely unnecessary and would be a waste of your money. You can watch a second tutorial to see how to do the installation with the tool. (Photo from Rose Bikes)

What the tutorial doesn’t show or tell you is that before you pry loose the “SureFit fingers”, there may be a lock ring to remove. In the second photo, the putty knife is wedged under the lock ring. The “round lobes” on the sprocket and the opening of the lock ring are aligned with the indents on the hub shell referred to in the video. My lock ring pliers would not work on it, but it can be pried off fairly easily with a flathead screwdriver (which is also what you use on the “fingers”). The hub in the photos is the SRAM i-motion 3, which has been discontinued. The sprocket is the same used for Shimano hubs, which is what is shown in the video.

While we’re talking products, I don’t know as I’ve yet sung the praises of the seat pack I bought for the coast-to-coast tour last summer. It was the Evoc 3 liter (the large size) with Boa seatpost attachment as well as Velcro straps to the saddle rails.

Photo from Bike Closet

The bag can be rolled tightly and fastened with a clip to hold a few essential tools and spares, or unrolled to hold a complete rainsuit as well. It keeps things dry and takes just a minute to expand or contract to hold the load tightly without swaying. It is wedge-shaped – narrow at the front end so as not to rub on your inner thighs when you pedal and wider behind to increase capacity. To carry even more I used Velcro straps to attach other items to the outside of the bag. When open, things may slide out the back, so check the ground before closing up any time you move things in or out of the pack.

When the trip ended I thought I would go back to a smaller bag but, three months later, it’s still back there. I guess I like it.

While the winter bike is ready to ride, the snow tires did not go on today. There are two starts to biking winter here – the day I bring out the belt-drive bike, and the day I switch to studded snow tires. The latter usually comes at the end of December.

Ever wonder what a woolly bear caterpillar becomes? I did. It becomes an Isabella Tiger Moth. Photo from the Farmer’s Almanac.

Synthesis

Vitamin D deficiency being the diagnosis du jour (whether that’s an actual thing for most of us is subject to debate1), I spent the morning synthesizing it from sunlight.

You might think that’s no big deal, but November in this neck of the woods is normally dank and dreary. It being 65º (18 C) at 9 AM and severe weather in the PM forecast meant it was time to get to work.

You might think that’s no big deal, but synthesizing vitamin D while simultaneously synthesizing ATP as fast as one can, while also beating one’s heart and breathing, leaves little time or brain power for thinking. That may be a good thing, as what passes for thinking in these parts seems to be what has gotten us into so much trouble. As both a bicyclist and a Krebs cyclist, I had a busy morning. By the end of a 40 mile (64 km) ride the temperature was hitting 70 (21 C).

There was a 15-20 mph (24-32 km/h) wind blowing from the south, so I headed into the wind. If I’m riding for exercise, what better than to ride into a stiff breeze? If I’m riding for fun, what better than to ride home pushed by a stiff breeze? Win/win, in my book. As of last night, the forecast was for high winds and large hail by the afternoon. As of this afternoon, the forecast is for possible showers overnight. The temperature is to drop 40º overnight – freezing tomorrow. We’ll see. Was this the last warm day of the year? I noticed the local bike club just listed another ride for Sunday. I think that might be the third ride I’ve seen that was the last one of the season. The season doesn’t seem to want to end. With an overnight low of 22 (-5.5 C) and a high just above freezing in the Sunday forecast, we’ll see about that, too. Of course, those who have followed this blog for a while know there is no such thing as a “season” for riding.

This weekend is the Great Midwest Crane Fest hosted by the International Crane Foundation and the Aldo Leopold Center. That sounded like a great way to spend my Friday until I saw that the $30 registration would not get me into the “Guided Sunrise Crane Viewing Tour” (an additional $50 and sold out), the “Guided Sunset Crane Viewing Tour” (same), “Evening Crane Congregation Tour” (an additional $100 and sold out), or the “Wildlife Photography” workshop (an additional $25). It would let me walk through the prairie of the International Crane Foundation and see Aldo Leopold’s shack.

Photo by Monica Hall, from Madison Audubon Society

I suspect I’ll walk through a prairie on my own and see the Sandhill cranes that wander around freely. (As a retired person not yet on Social Security, I am pinching my pennies. This is not to dissuade others from giving some money to the Crane Foundation and going to the festival. Since registration is required, it doesn’t look like I can change my mind and just head out there tomorrow.)

Sandhills were once hunted nearly to extinction. (In 1936 there were a dozen breeding pairs left in Wisconsin.) That we see them wandering around town seems weird to us only because they were so close to extinction that we never saw them when I was younger. I’m hoping that seeing Whoopers in the wild will come in my lifetime.

1 The link is to the abstract. I can’t grant you access to the full text. The article is by US Preventive Services Task Force and published in JAMA. While vitamin D deficiency is a global public health issue, whether it is actually an issue for the average adult in the US and whether screening is worthwhile is the topic of debate. Vitamin D deficiency is known to cause rickets (a pediatric bone disease). It is a suspected player in multiple other conditions but evidence to support those hypotheses and whether supplementation is beneficial is lacking. I know several people who take vitamin D supplements in hopes of preventing or treating other conditions and have read lay articles recommending supplementation for almost everyone, hence the “diagnosis du jour” notation in the opening sentence. I am not a doctor and nothing in this post should be construed as medical advice. If in doubt about your own circumstances, contact your primary provider. Should you use sunscreen all the time? Expose yourself to sunlight in a controlled fashion to synthesize vitamin D from sunlight (the main natural source), drink milk (which is supplemented with vitamin D), take a supplement? That’s not for me to answer for you.

Decisions, decisions

Life is hard when you’re retired. Today’s forecast was for a high of 67 (19.5 C) with ample sunshine and little to no wind. The next few days are to be even warmer. This is not normal for the end of October/beginning of November around here. What to do?

Those of us of a certain age remember cigarette commercials that seem to apply everywhere 😉

I planned on a bike ride for the afternoon. Two friends/neighbors were busy. I raked leaves this morning as it warmed up. Getting the rake out of the garage, the kayak called my name. I can ride my bike tomorrow and/or Wednesday when friends are available. The water won for Monday.

At a paddling workshop I learned you should dress for the water temperature, not the air temperature. That advice is so you are always prepared for a dunking. On a calm day on known waters, the chances of that were pretty slim. I was overdressed. The local paddling shop is having a moving sale. I bought a waterproof phone case with a lanyard, which gave me the confidence to take pictures as I paddled. If I were to drop the phone it wouldn’t sink and it would stay dry. You can take pictures through the case (more of a heavy-duty plastic bag), as you can see above.

I turned downstream to the lake. Hugging the shore I came into a nasty algae bloom, rendering the water opaque and pea soup green. I moved farther out into the lake and made my way across to Olbrich Park. As I neared the beach there, the water got thick again so I turned back to the middle. My paddling route was pretty close to my skiing route from last January’s post.