Saturday, October 28, 2006

Product Plugs

I like taking a look at the search words that land people here at The Old Bag. In the past couple of months, I've gotten some interesting hits from people who have used the following terms:

Pearl Izumi along with the words screaming yellow and/or rack...not necessarily a flattering post
Bianchi Cross Concept
LDL but I bet their ratios aren’t as good as mine are!
Schwinn Starlet
Self-extracting bolts
Girly Posters bet this guy was disappointed!
Raleigh Grand Prix

Now, none of these searches pop The Old Bag blog to the top of search engine listings, but some people dig deeply enough through search results to get to page 6 and decide to stop by for a visit, hoping to find an Average Joe's or Typical Betty's comment -- someone who has experience with what they’re thinking of buying or who has stuff like theirs. It also made me realize visitors don't always find quite what they're looking for...because when I write about something I tend to not write: I love PRODUCT NAME because it has THIS CHARACTERISTIC and works in THIS APPLICATION.

Instead, I write Betty can get me out when no other ride can. Betty??? She's a 2003 Bianchi San Lorenzo. The team I was on had been outfitted originally with 2000 EV2 frames that eventually developed cracks, and Bianchi sent out the San Lorenzo frame as its replacement. It has a perfect center of balance: lower through the trunk and hips. I did hear from some who changed out the fork to something stiffer, however. The San Lorenzo isn't comfy like an old shoe...that isn't what it was built for. She wants to GO. She's a race frame, she's built to move and she's a ball to ride. She's quick, light (16 lbs complete...I believe that includes the Speedplays), and knows climbs. I recently replaced the way old wheelset with Mavic Ksyrium SLs because I got a screamingly good deal on them through team sponsorship (as has been the case with all of my hardware). Lightweight and true so far.

And, it's not a 2006 Bianchi Cross Concept. It's the pony who goes her own way and surprises on every ride with how smooth, solid, light and versatile she is. I love that bicycle. Love it. Looooove it. There are a couple things missing (like rack eyelets), and a couple things different (the cantilever brakes take some getting used to after road calipers) but given the reason this bicycle was made, it's spot-on for its purpose. I use it for a 24-mile round trip commute, hauling a bit of gear over some rough stuff through the industrial park and down the limestone trail. I use it for some swoopy singletrack. Perfect. The Scandium frame with that bit of carbon in the rear triangle was a mistake made the ride so supple that now visions of a full carbon road frame are dancing through my head don't tell Betty. There's a reason I never test-ride certain materials: I know I'll like them. Two things I'd been able to avoid up to this point because I refuse to go near them: titanium and carbon. The Cross Concept was a bit manipulative in that it underhandedly slid some carbon underneath my bod. And I liked it.

After the headlight fiasco of last winter (and given difficulties I had with the ancient cord that was soldered onto the new battery yes, fire -- NOT the solderer's fault, the cord is from '97), I saved my pennies and recently picked-up a 5-watt DiNotte LED headlamp. This light rocks. Love it. High, low and flash modes. It's bright: the equivalent of a 12+ watt halogen, and the beam is wide without washing-out. The mounting mechanism (mechanism...yeah, can you say o-ring?) is a breeze. When the batteries are running low, it shifts to low power mode but doesn't turn off and leave me in the dark. It's lightweight: 210 grams includes the batteries. And those aren't proprietary batteries: they're rechargeable AAs. Buy one. If you want more info, search Lactic Acid Threshold for DiNotte find a dozen posts or go to Gear Review.

Any mountain bike. Get one. Quit being exclusive and get off-road. It'll give your road skills a huge boost because you'll use your mind and body in ways you don't on a road bike. It'll turn 20 miles into a huge workout that you'll be able to counteract with the greasy burger and cigar you enjoy afterward. Mine's a used '04 Specialized Stumpjumper hardtail -- light, nimble, upgradeable.

S and S Couplers: These babies turn an ordinary bicycle into a travel bicycle, and for the money you'll pay out on the conversion you'll save $$$ in shipping over the years. My old Lemond Zurich became check-through luggage this past spring. No packing up the ride and sending it out a week early. No extra charge for flying. No questions at the ticket counter. I debated for years on this one...if you're in that same boat GET OUT NOW and git 'er done. The one difference I've noticed is that the couplers seem to have made the frame a tad stiffer, which may be due to their relatively close placement near the seat tube, required of early 853 butting. If you're in the Twin Cities, go to Bob Brown for the conversion...beautiful work...but do it before the February rush.

Castelli full Windstopper jacket: Windstopper on the front, back and sleeves. Two zippers in front provide venting without opening my warm insides to 30-degree breezes. Unfortunately, I don't think they make this one anymore. Mine was given to me as a gift in the winter of '99 or '00 thank Dude and if I'm ever without it I'll search high and low for another one like it. It's the one thing that I'd be willing to actually put out full-price for because I have a temperature comfort range this wide | | and it allows me to ride well into the cold season.

SmartWool: socks, lightweight zip T baselayer...godsends both. Wool that's soft and comfortable next to your skin. I watch Sierra Trading Post for these.

And a Zefal HPX frame pump. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in a group with a flat and inevitably the frustrated flatter leaves behind their compact mini-pump (even cartridge models): “Does ANYONE have a DECENT pump I can use?!” We all think we’ll be able to get by with a pump that will provide enough air to get us home...what we all really want is a pump that will let us continue the ride. Get one. Parts are fully maintainable and replaceable.

Oh, Speedplay road pedals...if you're hooked on road pedals, I love these: double-sided with lots of float. That cleat finds exactly where it's supposed to be every time -- no using the toe of my shoe to flip it over as I fumble to find the correct side. They're a can't-miss snap-in. Set my foot down and I'm there.

So, there it is. I’m such a product whore...wait a minute, it’s not like they’re paying me anything for writing this. WHY THE HELL AREN’T THEY PAYING ME ANYTHING FOR WRITING THIS?!?

- TOB I sooo want to be a product whore.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Inner Xena

Well, she WAS here somewhere...

searching for strength
steel mind
split-second reaction time

digging deep
disappointment obvious

reluctant being
mush brained
wimpy abilities

where did it go
the arm muscle
sculpted leg
strong resolve
steel mind
massive cleavage er wait, that was someone else

-OB outta shape

Sunday, October 22, 2006

The Ancients

Eric Errson
Jacque Lindskoog
Muffy Ritz
Konrad Hallenbarter
Pal Sjultad
Orjan Bloomquist

Manfred Nagl
Lynne Cecil
Todd Boonstra

It's a yearly pilgrimage. Cable, Wisconsin. Mountain Biking. Fall Colors. Beer and potluck (after all, this IS the Midwest).

It's the last hurrah, the curtain call to the season. We gather, ride hard, and breathe-in the crisp smells of the waning fall days. We tell tales. We cuss. We challenge ourselves physically before the gray season of rest comes to impose upon our psyche.

We'd gotten unseasonably early snow in the Twin Cities earlier that week...a few flurries, some white dust on the grass tips, but it was gone. Early reports had temps at our destination, Cable, WI, listed near 40 for the weekend. And as the days grew closer, 50 was mentioned. Of course, any snow Cable had gotten would be gone with those temps.

We drove-in Friday night and about 10 miles out there was actual accumulation on the ground.


In mid-October.

Spirits plummeted, but gradually resolve gained ground. We'd thrown every possible warmie in the bags as a justincase: balaclava, windstopper, wool socks, winter tights, booties, glove heaters...we were going to have fun dammit.

On Saturday, we stayed away from singletrack and hit the Birkie Trail instead. It's a rolling, hilly, spruce-lined highway through the woods, not the most exciting for off-roading, but great for cross-country skiing: the yearly proving ground of the American Birkebeiner Ski Race. We took it easy and took-in the woods. Without having to navigate slippery-leafed singletrack, we were free to look

to breathe

to meditate

and with snow on the ground, to imagine.

There's an energy to that spot -- all 50 k of it -- and it seeps upward with the will and excitement of Birkie winners and challengers from as far back as 1973. I’ve felt it’s greatness and courage and agony and celebration, barely discernable in October, but with the snow it swelled ever so slightly

Eric Errson
Jacque Lindskoog
Muffy Ritz
Konrad Hallenbarter
Pal Sjultad
Orjan Bloomquist

Manfred Nagl
Lynne Cecil
Todd Boonstra

We were there to bike, intending to pay our last respects to autumn, but the Ancients were whispering. The ending of autumn isn’t the grey season. It’s the start of preparations.

- Baggie already thinking skiing

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Next Year the Knobbies

Dammit I Forgot Them for the Second Year in a Row!

Next year the knobbies
need to come with
to prance up the uphills
to pound through the ditch

Next year the knobbies
will clutch, paw and dig
careen down the downhills
on my mountain rig

This year the knobbies
were up on the hook
high in the rafters
the garage
my house


- The Bag forgot them again and this time there was snow and #@!%!! wet leaves

Monday, October 09, 2006


Salem Trails Utterly Pointless and Insane Day 10-7-06

Goals -- they're dangerous.

I will ride 100 off-road miles at Salem Hills.

Now, think about it. Riding an off-road century is a feat, to be sure, but let's consider this one...reeeaaaally think about it. The Salem Hills trail system consists of a north loop and a south loop...for a total of 4.5 miles. Given what Salem Hills IS, that glorious, challenging statement then translates into:

I will ride 22 laps at Salem Hills.

Twenty-two laps. Since each lap takes just under 30 minutes to ride, 22 laps means:

I will be riding the same 4.5 mile loop over and over for 11 hours.

Ummm....So let's take that statement and extrapolate out to the available daylight. Suddenly what's REALLY being said is:

I will get up in time to get to the trail by 6:30 AM
and I will spend 11 hours riding the same 4.5 mile loop
over and over for 22 laps until it's dark.

And, given that Salem Hills is a great little swoopy, loopy, curvy set of trails with a feature that would be one, THE rock feature one could say that Salem isn't overly challenging. Add wind gusts of up to 33 mph on the prairie section and what you're ACTUALLY saying is:

I will get out of bed in time to get to Salem Hills by 6:30 AM
and I will spend 11 hours circling
the same mind-numbing 4.5 mile loop
over and over
for 22 laps
in order to ride 100 off-road miles on the windiest 80-degree day of the year.


One could set different goals. I'm kind of partial to these:

I will ride laps at Salem Hills until I get tired
or until my brain gets tired.

I will arrive sometime in the morning
after my morning coffee and newspaper...priorities!

I will cheat and ride my 'cross bike
instead of my mountain bike
and I will deserve an extra lap just for being smart
come-on, 700 wheels?! nobrainer

I will take breaks when I'm hungry
or when there are other people hanging out on lawn chairs

I will leave to run an errand.

I will return and ride more.

When my body hurts, I will quit
and then I will drink beer with other people hanging out on lawn chairs.

Do I need to ride 100 off-road miles? Heck no.

CAN I ride 100 off-road miles? Heck no! But my helmet's off to those who did!

- OB

Saturday, October 07, 2006

God in Lycra

I had joined The Sweetie for part of his commute the other day. We were taking it easy, heading home on a combo trail/road ride following a passageway through the labyrinth that makes up the Grand Rounds. Work wasn't so bad on a day like that one, regardless of whether one was in a car or on a bicycle. Car windows were down, trail users were out. Everyone was enjoying one of the last days of afternoon sunlight and warmth.

We were on the Minnehaha Trail closing-in on the intersection of the Parkway and Cedar. The light was green for us, and traffic started rolling through. An old VW van in the street next to us was making its way slowly at about the same pace we were going. Sweetie, ahead of me, and I both checked the situation: no blinker, driver looked at us. Sweetie rolled off the trail and into the crosswalk.

At the same time, VW took its right turn into the crosswalk.

I grabbed for my brakes.

Perhaps it was Sweetie's high-vis jersey that caught VW's eye. The driver's face showed its realization at the same time his passenger gasped a breath and grabbed at him. The van braked.

Ohhh Dude. I said it out loud. It wasn't accusatory, wasn't directed to the driver...but I wasn't talking to Sweetie either. The van's windows were open and it was close enough for those inside to hear me. The driver's silent eyes Yeah. Dude. darted from Sweetie to me at the curb.

Ohhh Dude.

Who was I talking to? Was it an expression of relief? a prayer? an "oh man, what coulda been"? I grew up in a home where saying G-O-D wasn't appropriate outside of church and prayers. Who then do I exclaim to during tough situations? Who do I talk to under my breath? Whose name do I take in vein when I cuss?


Is DUDE some supreme cyclist who reigns on high? Is it DUDE who watches over us during those near-misses? Is DUDE really G-O-D but in lycra? is the idea of GOD-in-lycra sacrilege? If so, is s/he a dirt-lover or a roadie?

- The Bag does DUDE look like Sheldon Brown and rule from atop a Fizik saddle wielding a scepter of triple-butted steel with a blue Park Tools handle topped off by a Dinotte?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

So, What DO Women Want???

You're riding down 18th street on a cool fall afternoon. You notice all the women aged 21-35 are standing along the sidewalk, all staring at you. As you stop for a red light, one approaches....

Boys, if you want to know what it is that we women really notice, check out this DC's Craigslist posting....

In case it's gone, here's a pdf.

- OB from BikeHugger by way of 42

Monday, October 02, 2006

Magic, Space, Love, Freedom

surpassing the usual or ordinary, particularly in scope or size

heroic and impressive in quality

We've all had one -- an epic ride -- whether mountain, road or commute.

We know when we're in ITS midst. We know we've been there after IT'S gone. IT leaves faraway wildness or wistfullness on our faces as we struggle to capture the hugeness while we retell the tale...our tale of THAT ride.

Yet, we're content in our inability. IT can't be readily explained. And those listening nod with understanding.

Your epic: what are the components? Juancho explains his over at the Circus "no matter how many miles I ride, my body will never catch up to the distance my mind travels when in the saddle."