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Sunday, November 23, 2008

Darn Cold Fixie Ride!! - 23Nov08


Cleaning the yard of leaves and a final mowing took precedence this weekend (the town compost center closes at the end of November and we're going away for the weekend after Thanksgiving, so...), which means that bike riding time was extra limited. Fortunately, the yard was certified clean by 3:00 PM so after a quick truck run to the compost center there was still enough time to shoe horn in a ride. As usual, I stretched the ride to the longest mileage possible without actually having to arrive back home in the pitch black...just the normal darkness that precedes pitch black! And even then the ride wasn't completely over as I had promised my daughter a short bike ride with her "phonics owl" (Echo) down to see the lake at both ends of our street...okay, now that's the portion of the ride that was darn cold. We were out riding for an additional 10 minutes or so.

Ride Stats

Distance: 14.2 miles
Time: about an hour*
Average Speed: approx. 14.2 mph (sadly)
Next scheduled ride: Thur 11/27 - Thanksgiving morning (got to earn the 2nd helping!)
Temperature at start: 31 deg F
Temperature at end: 28 deg F

*Note: a don't intend on tracking time accurately on my fixie (i.e., no cyclometer wanted!!)

The Bike

Most of my rides during the cold off-season are going to be on my Peugeot fixed gear (fixie). Today's ride was no exception. Truth be told, I'm not even sure I had ever heard of a fixed gear bike before a couple of months ago. In late September I found myself Googling some sort of bike or bike part or something, and as usually is the case, one thing led to another and yet another and then I found myself on the Harris Cyclery web site reading articles written by Sheldon Brown. Sheldon is a guru among bicycle mechanics...sadly, he passed away early in 2008. But his web pages and articles, and quite frankly, an ocean of cycling knowledge live on at the Harris Cyclery web site he developed.

Turns out, Sheldon was a strong advocate, a huge fan one could say, of fixed gear single speed bikes...especially fixed gear conversions. Check out these articles by Sheldon if you have some time to kill. Anyway, a fixie is a bike with a single gear ratio and no free wheel. The chain turns the single cog on the back wheel in both directions -- yup, you can pedal the bike forward or backward. What this REALLY means is that you CAN'T coast on a fixie...okay you can if you want but you'll look kind of funny with your legs and feet up in the air and the pedals still moving. Oh, and if you forget what you're riding and try to coast the normal way, the bike will rudely remind you of the primary rule for riding a fixie -- thou shall not stop pedaling the bike.

Okay, so getting back to "the bike", I thought it would be a cool idea to look into riding a fixie over the off-season. I mean, I know all too well the realities of riding beyond least for me. No after work rides...lots of family obligations...the holidays...the cold..the snow. To me, riding a fixie represented the best way to stay on the road and maximize the fitness benefits of riding. Yup, a fixie would allow me to shoe horn in some shorter rides and still get the benefit of longer rides. Sure a trainer might work too, but I'm certainly no fan of trainers even though I own one. So a fixie it would I just needed to get one.

Of course, me being me (impatient and liking new toys), I headed off to a couple of LBS to check out the Surly Steamroller and the Redline 925, both excellent fixed gear bikes according to many online reviews. 925 in stock at East Providence Cycle and the wrong size Surly at Union Cycle in Attleboro. I've lived in North Attleboro for almost 10 years now and I've never stepped foot in Union Cycle until this visit. Turns out, the Service Manager there (Ron) worked for Sheldon Brown a few years back and is himself a fan of the fixie. After tying Ron up in cycling conversation for the better part of an hour, it dawns on him that perhaps one of my old bikes is a candidate for a fixed gear conversion. In order to be a candidate, the frame must have horizontal dropouts. Most modern bikes have vertical dropouts and his guess is my old Trek is most likely one of these. That's when I mention the Peugeot...that's when his eyes light up. My Peugeot is a sports/recreation model circa 1983 that was my first bike for long bike rides and eventually fitness training. For the last 20 years it has been collecting dust, the last ten of those hanging on the wall of my garage. I knew I kept it for a reason. :) The next day I brought it to the shop, signed up for the conversion and three weeks later I was riding my "new" fixie.

The Strange Thing Mentioned Above

We had a guest this weekend -- an acquaintance of my daughters. His name is Echo. He is a stuffed animal -- an owl. A phonics owl to be exact. This will all make sense. My daughter is 6 and in 1st grade, and she is currently Superstar of the week in her class. One of the duties of the Superstar of the week is to take Echo home over the weekend so he can partake in family activities. One of those activities was a bike ride with daddy. I foolishly thought that the ride would be bagged due to the cold and wind...wrong! In any event, the owl ate with us, attended dance class with my daughter, slept near her, watched a movie with the children, etc. I'm sure you get the picture. The "phonics" part came earlier tonight as my daughter had to write a story about Echo's stay with us in her own words and without any spelling help from mom or dad. She did a great job!!

Finally, a promise to readers and myself. I'll try to keep most posts much shorter than this one.

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