Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Liz and I did the Frostbike50 on Barcoft back to back a week ago Sunday and, on the whole, had a great time. I've done this ride a time or two in past years, but not recently. There have been a few changes.

Although I never pre-register for charity rides, I chose to do so online this time. A few days later I received an email from the ride folks telling me a route map was attached. It wasn't. This wasn't really a problem because when we picked up our packet on the Saturday before the ride, a map was included. In addition, the route was well marked on the road and we could have done the ride with no map at all.

Liz and I rode the back to back in Fulshear on Saturday before the ride. The temperature at the beginning of that ride was in the mid forties. That wasn't so bad, but the winds were 15-20 and that made for some cold riding. We only managed to squeeze out 30 miles before retreating to the warmth of our Tahoe. The Frostbike ride was on the following Sunday and it was even colder at the ride start at about 38. The was virtually no wind, however, so the cold wasn't a problem.

The ride started at Cy-Fair College just south of 290. Someone working one of the rest stops told me that there were 1100 riders signed up, but there was plenty of room in the parking lots. Parking is a special issue for us since we transport both of our back to backs on our trailer. That means we need two spaces. The college building was open for late registration and warm bathrooms were available.

The ride started promptly at 8am with none of the endless announcements I've come to expect at rides like this. Sometimes people get ahold of the microphone and enjoy their 15 minutes of fame a little too much when all the rest of us want to do is ride. Not so this time. The ride start was staggered to avoid accidents. That was especially appreciated on our long tandem.

There is something about starting with the pack that makes you pedal a little faster than normal and this morning was no exception. In what seemed like no time at all we had racked up the first ten miles. Most rides place the first rest stop at 10 miles out or so, but it was at the 18 mile mark on this one. Here we encountered the first problem with the ride. Although there were 8 porta potties at the stop, the lines were long and interminable. Liz needed a potty break and it took here almost 30 minutes to stand through the line. This was just long enough for us to cool off completely. I don't know if it would have been practical to put more potties at the stop, but there must be some better way to accommodate this issue. Perhaps a rest stop at 10 miles with porta potties would have cut down on the lines at this stop. Anyway, this stop cost us alot of time.

After doing the extension for the 55 mile route we crossed back up over 290 and headed east to Fairfield on Mason Road. This is where our second issue surfaced: traffic. Up to this point the traffic had been light to non-existent. All major intersections were protected by police cars and officers. Nevertheless, once we turned south on Mason Road, the traffic was heavy and continuous. It only got worse once we turned east on the 290 feeder. We were lucky enough to have a SAG wagon pull in behind us and follow us, protecting us from passing traffic. He stuck with us on 290. The turn off of the 290 feeder to go down Barker Cypress for the last leg of the ride is on top of an overpass. An officer had parked his car at the top at the light, right in the middle of one of the two narrow traffic lanes. When we passed he was sitting in his car, backing up traffic all the way up the overpass. Clearance between the backed up cars and the concrete curb was minimal. I heard many riders grumble. Traffic on Barker Cypress was even worse.

We arrived back at the lot in one piece and had a good work out, but the traffic ruined the last third of the ride. I'm not sure I'd do this ride again if the route remains the same.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

My New Bike

Jim and I met Ben for the ride Saturday in Fulshear. We haven't had large groups lately. I guess that's because of the weather.

We found some DF ride was already getting started when we got there at 7:30. The parking lot was full. I mean absolutely full. There were so many wedgies getting ready to push off that I couldn't even get into the lot. We checked the other side of City Hall and there was no parking there either. We finally parked and set up behind the new strip mall opposite the Shell station. Ben found us by cell phone.

After a wonderful high speed run with Liz on the XBike last weekend, I found yesterday that I couldn't cruise the V2 faster than about 12mph. It was hell and I can't blame the bike. I'm simply not used to the relatively low bottom bracket on this bike anymore. Jim pulled way ahead of us for the whole ride. After this last year or two I never thought I would see the back of Jim's bike again. Shame! The whole ride, between gasps for air, I kept bitching to Ben, "I'm never riding this bike again!" "I'm putting this thing on Craigslist this very afternoon!" "If I get $500 for this thing I'll throw a party!"

I thought about turning around and waiting at the truck, but somehow managed to struggle up to Brookshire and back through Polo Fields with Ben and Jim. Conversation was limited as I was mostly too winded to speak and pedal at the same time.

Back at the parking lot after 25 miles, Ben disappeared. Jim spotted him making multiple withdrawals at the ATM across the street. He walked back over and stuck $400 in my hand and said, "Deal?" I told him I wanted to keep my Rans seat bag, but otherwise the bike was his. We dropped it off at his house on the way home. We also got to meet Mrs. Ben.

The V2 has been a good bike for me for the last few years, but that was BB (Before Barcroft)

I've decided I'm tired of changing bikes and having to get used to different pedaling positions. So, I'm ordering a new Barcroft Oregon from Bill Cook. He has one frame in stock so I'm just in time. His back to back tandem has changed my feelings about small wheels and low racers. I'm very comfortable in the cockpit of the tandem and I remembered what Bill told me about it's cockpit basically being that of the Oregon. It is, in most respects, a clone of the Barcroft back to back, except that I can enjoy all the speed and comfort without having to round up a stoker.

So, I had quite a Saturday. I cleared some space in the garage and got a down payment on the Barcroft Oregon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Flevo Accessories

Here's a grab from the net showing what appears to be a factory accessory for the Flevo back to back tandem. It's a storage bag that also doubles to fair the area between the opposing seats for better aerodynamics. It looks handy. The best we can do on our bike is to hang a bag between the seats. If anyone knows about this bag or any other Flevo accessories, I'd appreciate a note from you with details.

I notice a few other differences between this Flevo and mine. First, different handlebars. Second, the rear chain reverses without pulleys. I'll have to study this one as it may be a chance to simply the drive train on my bike.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

First Ride of the Year

I've never been much of a partier on New Year's Eve. I'd rather go to bed at the normal time and do something the next day other than recover from a hang over. I posted the usual email to the group and only got three takers for a ride on New Year's Day: Orin, Ben and David.

The ride was memorable right from the start. About half way out to Fulshear it occurred to me that I hadn't loaded the Flevo seat pads in the truck. On further reflection I remembered that the last time I had seen the seat pads (last night) they were sitting on the seats. Although I've had the seat pads covered, I've never gotten around to getting some velcro and sticking them to the seat. I could see in my rear view mirror that the seat pads were no longer on the bike. I suddenly realized that I had driven off with the seats just sitting on the bike and that they had undoubtedly been blown off the trailered bike and onto the freeway. After calling Z to tell him what happened and that, at best, we'd be late for the ride, we turned the truck around and headed back to the house to retrace our route and look for the seat pads. To my immense relief I found one of them in our neighborhood. The second one was lying on the Southwest Freeway at the Chimney Rock exit. With a little coaxing I got Liz to dash out and grab the seat cushion. It's wasn't as dangerous as it sounds as there was no traffic at all (remember, this is early New years Day).

The ride itself was uneventful compared to our freeway search. There were literally no cars and no bikes anywhere on the roads around Fulshear. I guess their drivers were all in bed with hangovers. All of us had suited up for the cold weather and Liz had a chance to try out her new earmuffs. We rode the "Neighborhood" route. I felt so good after we completed the route that I asked Liz if she felt up to doing Polo Fields as well (another 15 miles or so). She has a sore back from working on the new bathroom, however, and declined. So, we reluctantly ended the first of what I hope will be many fun rides this year.