Sunday, February 22, 2009

The Recyclery.

The Recyclery, as I've written before, is a non-profit bike coop located on the south side of Evanston. Volunteers collect used and trashed bicycles, fix them, and then give them back to the community.

The back of the shop is filled with dusty bikes just waiting for some love.

Since the beginning of the quarter, I've been visiting the Recycling every Sunday afternoon to overhaul my own commuter bike. With the help of two instructors, Sharlyn and John (shown here), I reassembled and adjusted one part of my bike each week - derailleurs, bottom bracket, headset, shifters, wheel hubs, brakes, etc.

There were only four students, so I received a lot of feedback on my progress, and even had my own workstation with a full array of tools.

Here I am at the last class, putting a few final adjustments on my brake tension, accompanied by the shop dog.

There are few things more satisfying to me than getting my hands greasy and understanding the intricate ways in which each part works together. The bicycle is a precision instrument, and that is reflected in the attention to detail required for it to run as it should. There is no way of understanding these details until you take it apart and see it happen.

I rode my bike home today, and I could really feel all the improvements that I had made on it. These are skills I'll keep for a long time.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Bicycle bicycle bicycle.

It's about time I had another endorphin-high-I-love-my-bicycle post.

When the weather climbed to 35 this afternoon, I jumped at the chance to ride with some teammates. It was the first time I had ridden with a group since November, and needless to say, it took me a few miles to adjust to outside conditions and bike handling.

Today was a test run of the results of my winter training. I've spent the last couple of months on the trainer or in the gym four to five times a week, working mainly on muscle strength and core stability. A weekly long run on the treadmill constituted my endurance workout.

The lack of endurance training showed today on the ride. For the first half of our 25 miles, I felt like my heart was going to pop out of my chest, had trouble maintaining the draft of the rider in front, and felt a really strong push to take a spin break despite only a moderate speed.

I could blame this on a strange physiological idiosyncracy of mine. Last fall, I had my max heartrate tested, which involved strapping a heart-rate monitor on me and recording my heartrate as I exercised. For most people, their heartrates will gradually increase and then plateau off as they exercise at increasing intensities. My heartrate spiked up in the first half of the exercise session, then came down, went back up, and then plateaued off.

That directly translates to how I feel on rides. I feel like dying during the first part, but if I can make myself get through that period, the rest is a breeze (relatively speaking).

This heartrate quirk would also explain the successful second half of today's ride. We kept the pace between 20-24mph, and not only was this speed sustainable, I felt incredible. We assumed a paceline position -- one rider directly behind another, locking into each other's drafts and never letting go -- and booked it all the way home.

Moral of the story: provided I can will myself through the first portion of the ride, I feel stronger than I was in the fall, and I think I will be ready to try racing next month. Between now and then, I will need to think about how I can work with my heartrate problem, and align my body so I hit my cruising heartrate right when I need it.

But that is just my heartrate. My legs, though, my legs feel good. Thank you, plyometrics, and stairmaster, and Chris Charmichael's Train Right DVD.

Also, team kits came in, and they look snazzy! Two bib shorts, a short-sleeve and long-sleeve jersey, and a cycling cap. I can't wait to finally don school colors on the next ride.