Monday, January 6, 2014

More on Bikes and Resolutions . . .

Hope you are all doing your burpees out there, fellow bikeists.  No kidding, squeeze 30 burpees into each ride (stop 3 times and knock out 10) and you will become an unstoppable fitness machine!  My buddy (and fitness guru), Marc, ran an entire half-marathon in well under two hours with no actual run training.  He relied, exclusively on burpees and short (but intense) cross-fit workouts.  

Beyond the obvious strength benefits, I have found it to be a great way to loosen up the kinks from all the muscles that are tensed, yet unused, whilst gripping the handlebars for dear life for hours and hours at a time.

Enough about burpees, though.  I'm not the Burpee-ist  -- I'm the Bikeist (and proud of it).  It's especially important to be the Bikeist this time of year because there is a large segment of our population who have resolved to dust off their bikes and start riding them again in a fervor of New Year's excitement and optimism.  Unfortunately, too many of these folks just pull their bikes down from wherever they were left hanging and start pedaling without so much as testing whether the tires were actually properly inflated.  Once their bike fails, they quickly lose their enthusiasm, dejectedly walking their bikes back to the garages from whence they came.  These are the folks the Bikeist invariably encounters during the first days of January as he does his ritual commute around San Diego Bay, back to Coronado. 

Friday afternoon (after I actually left work during daylight for once because things are still slow), I actually came across not only one, but two such lost bikeist souls.  I encountered the first resolutionist just as I made the turn Northward on the Bikeway onto the Strand.  She was straddling her fitness bike, with child seat and whining two-year-old attached, on the side of the trail as an older gentleman was trying to pump up her back tire with his mini-pump.  Having suffered through more than a half-dozen inadequate mini-pumps over the years, I guessed that this gentlemen was not having much luck (the pained, fatigued look on his face was also a hint).  I offered the, obligatory "need anything?" (bikeists always help other bikeists in need) as I approached, and got only the same, pained, look in return.  So, I slowed and asked "how about a pump that actually works?"  He smiled and waved to me to stop.

He told me that he was getting nowhere with the mini-pump he had dropped a good amount of change for, and I told him I was not surprised, as, until I had acquired my current pump, I had never encountered a mini-pump that could put out even half the psi advertised on the packaging.  If there is any bigger source of false advertising in the bike accessory business than the capacity of mini and micro pumps then I would love for someone to bring it to my attention, so I could devote my next blog post to it.  I don't think it's possible, though, because it took me a good twenty years of trial and (almost completely) error to get a portable pump that actually worked.

For years and years, I carried inadequate pumps, expecting only to get my tires up to about half-capacity -- enabling me to get home or to a bike shop with a real pump.  Even more maddening, though, was that these pumps required so much effort and torque that it was almost a miracle for me to inflate a patched tire to half capacity without snapping off the valve.  I am not a profane man, but I'm sure I put the "Old Man" from "A Christmas Story" (the second best movie of all time after "The Bad News Bears") to shame when I once snapped off a valve on the side of the Mount Vernon Trail in the midst of freezing rain one February. 

All of this was solved, though, my Bikeist friends, when I bothered to ask my, genuine bike expert friend, Chris (he owned a high-end shop people!) what pump I should use.  He did not blink or hesitate in telling me to go out and get a Topeak Road-Morph immediately:

This thing is, quite simply, awesome!  By adding a small tube, extending from the frame, they eliminated the torque issue.  You can torque the hell out of the frame without stressing the point of contact between the nozzle and the valve.  Additionally, there is a psi gauge built right into the nozzle!  I can't tell you how frustrated I have been in the past using mini-pumps and having to guess at whether I've reached a useful psi.  This gauge, along with pump itself is a God-send!

Best of all,  I can easily top 100 psi with my road morph and have even reached 120 psi.  That isn't limp-home pressure, that's ride all day psi my friends!

So, back to my story -- the gentlemen I relieved on the Strand was amazed at how easily I pumped the young lady's tires (they had both been at about 20) up to the max 80 psi.  She had set out with her toddler for a New Year's resolution ride without checking the pressure, and had resigned herself to pushing the bike home when she was about two miles from her house in IB.  Both she and the other (attempted) rescuer were so thrilled with the performance of my pump that they insisted I spell out the name so they could text it to themselves.  

Good deed done, I hopped back onto my do-anything, urban assault bike (ironically, my road bike was at home with a flat) and continued my journey Northward.  After about only a mile, I came across Jay, who was pushing his Nashbar mountain bike back towards IB.  Again, I offered the, obligatory, "need anything?"  Jay feigned his commitment to push the bike all the way home, but gave into my insistence that it would be much better to pedal back.  Jay, the owner of no fewer than six bikes (between here and Alaska), and an experienced bike adventurer, had decided to take down his old Nashbar, titanium framed, bike and take it for a spin.  He bought it in the 90's, and that might have been the last time he had changed the tube from how hard it was to separate the tire from the rim!  The culprit of his flat was a, nasty, 3/4 inch long staple, but he had no patch-kit or pump to contend with the situation -- despite multiple treks through Alaskan rain-forests under his belt. 

Jay, too, was amazed at how well my Topeak pump performed after we had patched his tube.  Like my previous beneficiaries, he vowed to pick one up at the first opportunity.

I headed Northward, yet again, wondering if I would make it home before dark with all the wayward souls I might encounter.  I did, but was left wondering about all the poor resolutionists out there who would be giving up new found enthusiasm for biking in the next few weeks out of sheer unpreparedness.  Biking is GREAT for expanding your horizons, but when you get beyond those horizons and experience a flat without the proper means to get back home, the bike quickly becomes more of a hindrance than a source of salvation.  The first step to combat this is to avail yourself of the awesome, almost flat-proof, tires on the market today.  More importantly, though, you need to make sure you have good tire levers, patches, and a kick-ass pump on every ride.  With the recent advances in tire and pump technology, flats aren't nearly the hindrance they used to be, but are still an omni-present challenge that every bikeist must master.  Equip yourself properly, and you will come to relish flat repair as much as the Old Man from "A Christmas Story" did when his beloved Olds suffered an untimely flat (remember, he saved his real swearing for the furnace in the basement . . .). 

Ride on, my friends!  Ride on . . .

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