February 4th snowfall

Looking out the window at the deep blanket of white over this last weekend  you would think that biking would be the last thing on my mind.  Quite the contrary.  I’ve been off the bike for nearly five months, skipped out on my last two multi-day state rides (Yes, including RAGBRAI!) and for months have been trying to figure out what the heck happened.  I went from riding a couple hundred miles a week to absolutely no riding at all (and gained 15 pounds in the process).

My guess is it was two things.  One, the gear skipping problem on my bike was never resolved even after replacing the entire shifting system (crankset, shifters, derailleur, cables, chain, etc).  Made my rides very frustrating.  The other is the 50-60  hours a week I’ve been working since September.  There just has been no time or energy for biking or fitness.  It’s unhealthy and I know I have to get back in the saddle.

So, overweight, out of shape and with limited free time, I’ve signed up for BRAN and RAGBRAI.  Yeah!  Crazy!!  The only way I seem to able to get fit is to have an incentive and what better incentive than to look forward to and plan for my week long trips across Nebraska and Iowa.  Those rides are the most grueling things I have ever done in my life but the rewards are worth it.  I look forward to the miles and miles of peaceful open roads, the endless horizon and the absolutely beautiful vistas these two states have to offer.  Evenings with old and new friends, the energy and friendliness of everyone, food that never tasted so good and, yes, even being so exhausted you can barely crawl into your sleeping bag at night.  It is all so stimulating.

Last Tuesday our high was zero degrees and today I think it hit 62 degrees.  We are going to need a good drying out and a lot of gravel off the roads and sidewalks before I venture out, but the sunshine and warmth does excite me and has me more than eager to take the bike outside.

Once a month the local recumbent bike club, the County Cruisers, does a group ride.  During the winter months they opt for breakfast instead and I was finally able to join them on Saturday.  Eleven of us total, it was great to hear the stories of past rides and aspirations of future ones.

February breakfast meeting of the County Cruisers (I'm front right)

Negative seven degrees this morning, windchill I don’t even want to talk about.  Will this winter ever end??? I am getting increasingly fat and lazy!

All I can think about is getting on the bike, and NOT on the trainer.  I want fresh air, sunshine, warmth and yes, I even want a headwind on the uphill!  (Did I really say that?)

So, what does one do when they are impatiently waiting for that first warm day outside on the bike?  For me, I’m getting the bike ready for summer (and occasionally doing the trainer). This is especially hard as my recumbent bike maker, Burley, no longer makes recumbents and sold off their inventory of parts.  But I am a resourceful little bugger and with the help of my good friend Google, I not only am finding the parts I need I even found the company that bought the rights to make the Burley designed recumbents and has parts.  Actually, I need to back track.  Google helped, but some friendly fellow recumbent rider, back in June during an agonizing climb up some hill on BRAN, told me about this company in Tennessee who bought the rights.

So far I have replaced the seat back on my bike, which ripped out during the Fall rides.  Not the best design if you ask me, so I reinforced the top and bottom of the seat with strapping to give extra support.  You see, the problem is on the uphill climbs most regular bike riders can stand up and put the force of their whole body weight in to each pedal force.  With a recumbent rider, your pedals are about 90 degrees in front of you and you have neither weight or gravity to provide any assistance.  My solution is to push back into the seat, which gives me a greater force on the pedals.  It also tore out the top of the seat.  We will see if my solution works or not at the end of my anticipated 3000 mile summer.

During RAGBRAI last July I noticed I was getting some slippage off of a middle gear on the rear cassette.  Examination shows a lot of wear there so it’s time to replace that.  Not taking any chances that my chain may be the cause, I am replacing it as well at the front crankset.  Got real lucky on the front crankset on ebay, finding two of the original brand used for less than the price of a new one, so I bought both.  That way I will have a replacement set for the future.  Reason it was such a great deal is it was missing the left pedal assembly.  Heck, I have that, I just need the sprocket sets, so I really got lucky.

As we have no knowledgeable recumbent shops here in Omaha, I’ve contacted my favorite shop, Calhoun Cycle in Minneapolis, MN, seeing if they can come up with the proper chain and cassette.  Great shop, great staff, can’t say enough about them!