Thursday, December 31, 2009

SNOW!!! Give me more snow!

SNOW = FUN!!! Give me more snow!

I love the white stuff and miss it after growing up with snow every winter in Montana. Where I live now it rarely snows and I have to travel to the mountains to play in it, at least I still have snow available. One thing I don't miss is the below zero temps MT has. Snow brings out the anticipation of fun, smiles, and the kid in me.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Winter Motivations

Where is your cycling motivation at this time of the year? Old-man winter seems to encourage us to do nothing on the couch and chunk on some potato-chip pounds...

Dark, evil excuses are all too easy and come quickly to mind taking away the cycling motivations we had just a short few months ago...

It is dark, the days are short...the weather is cold, rainy, snowy, and windy...the roads are slick, icy, full of yuk, mud, water, and grit that seems to end up in every part of your bike and in your mouth...your chain screams in pure agony on every ride from the nasty, salty, wet grit and mud that is rapidly wearing it down to a quick have a streak of mud up you back side that looks like you just diarrhea'd yourself.

Hmmm...a rather bleak picture if you let the winter blahs get you down. Personally I love winter riding...I love the cooler temps, wearing layers, the challenge of riding in adverse weather, and riding on snow...

This is the time of year to thumb your nose at the negative mind games winter plays on your weak psyche and find the wonderful positive aspects and challenging fun times that are to be had in winter riding...

I love it when people drive by rubber-necking and drop-jawed as I ride by on my bike in the snow, rain, or in cold temps. They just don't understand the party going on inside me while I ride.

This is the time of year that single-speeds rule since there is no drive-train to get gummed up with all the yuk-stuff. While other people are lifting weights and doing spin classes in the gym, I'm getting a full-body workout by power-stroking up steep hills with one gear and spinning my guts out everywhere else while enjoying the outdoors. Any day and any given time, outdoor cycling beats suffering in a stale, sweat smelling, in-door gym with some strange muscle-ego dudes and dudettes...I'm truly a little cycling wimp that feels like a caged lab rat in a gym.

So where does your winter motivation lead you? Are you a couch-turd chunking on fat from all the tasty goodies while complaining about your weight gains or are you smiling while riding your bike, taking on the challenge of winter, and laughing at those rubber-necking-jaw-dropped looks you are getting while riding a bike now?

Monday, November 30, 2009

All Crossed Up

My Gunnar Cyclocross bike has morphed into something else recently...

The drop bar was just giving me too much discomfort, so I put on a set of flat bar and have since I found the love once again. Putting the flat bars on set me up in a whole different position, which my lower back has been demanding. It feels beyond great now and good enough to tackle some hills in single-speed mode.

My most recent venture on this bike was maybe a bit too much since the climb up Rosenkrantz Rd is a tad steep in a few spots - I did trot up short sections on 2 of the steepest parts and rode (grunted) up the rest. Needless to say I was quite exhausted after this ride was done, but as always I was still smiling and happy to be riding.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Granny Spins + Elusive Elk

During the last few weeks I've been popping up all over the place in some of my favorite local riding areas...

I've ridden Pinkham Ridge singletrack amongst hunters dressed in brilliant orange suits in pursuit of the elusive elk...many of the hunters were just sitting, waiting while I ride on by smiling and waving - both of us muttering under our breath, "idiot" I'm sure. There were very few hunters actually out walking, stalking the elk. I even rode within a few feet of one hunter so intent on a book, with gun at his side, that he never noticed me ride by. I'm thinking he would have pissed his pants or shot me (or both) if I would have said something or warned him that I was passing. I looked back a ways down the trail and thought maybe the guy was dead. But I wasn't concerned enough to go back and poke him with a stick just to satify my curious thought.

The most funny thing about both of my recent trips up on the Pinkham is that I found elk...bikes are very stealth you know. The first time I found the elk hanging around a hunter's pickup parked off the road, and the second time I found them laying a few hundred yards from a hunting camp trailer. Neither time did the elk seem to care that I was rolling on by...not a threat I suppose.

Other rides have been up George Creek Grade(Meyer's Ridge Road - one of my favorite climbs, Weissenfels Grade as well as pure agony up a few other lung busting climbs.

I'm still doing all this in the super easy, granny spin mode due to my recovery from the back injury from hell. I'm totally lovin the riding though and have finally started commuting to work again almost daily (with a smile on).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Weenie Ring Adventures (aka Hill Climbing)

I use to rarely need my small chainring on any hill in this area with very few exceptions (only 3 that I can think of). Now with such a wimpy left leg I need and use the small ring much more often. For example I use to ride up George Creek (Meyers Ridge Grade) in my middle ring without any issues - there is no way I can do that today, so I happly spin up in the weenie ring.

I am truly amazed at how much I've taken my fitness for granted until now. And I can see this rebuilding process taking the better part of a year or more to regain what I had this past summer.

It's great though, since I have nicely defined goals now, whereas before I was just riding along in a slump it seems.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Finally Back to One Gear

Until today I have not been able to pedal on a single-speed (SS) while standing to pedal (which is a necessity while pedalling hills unless you want to walk, which I don't).

My left leg would just stall at the top of the pedal stroke, which made for a very strange, jerky pedal stroke. Over the past few weeks I've really been working on my getting my left leg built back up and smoothing out the pedal circle. So today I thought I might try my SS again to gage my progress. The result was good enough for a ride, so off I went into some rather nice, cool fall winds on the Think Pink Gunnar.

I rode it set up as a 69er (29er wheel in front and the standard 26" wheel on the back). This bike frame was originally a 69er, I just like it better with a 650b wheel up front. But I loaned my 650b wheel to a curious friend (who reports enjoying it).

My ride was pure painful fun and it was just another continuation to rebuilding my left leg (which is still very much smaller than my right). I'm happy to be seeing some progress (slow, but it's progress).

The wind today was nice for some forced resistance training, I really enjoyed the workout. The trip home was nearly effortless as you can see...

Monday, October 19, 2009

Rebuilding...Weaker, Slower, Happier

The rebuild has begun...of my weak, slow legs after being off the bike for about 2-months due to a rather large extruded disc in my left, lower back. The real damage is in my left leg which lost 3.5cm of muscle mass (circumference) from traumatic cramps and decreased nerve function (that resulted in decreased muscle tone then muscular atrophy).

All the science aside, the bottom line is that my right leg is huge compared to my left and that affects every pedal stroke on a bike not to mention walking and normal posture. I've been cautiously doing short rides on the bike after my doc thought it would be fine as long as I did not experience any pain or increase in other symptoms (like increased numbness in the left lower leg...I still have numbness there that comes and goes).

I do a pile of Egoscue exercise everyday (that my doc has me doing). The exercises have helped put my back into alignment so I can walk straight in the world and of course ride a bike a bit better.

So where am I at now on the bike? Ummm...well I have progressed from 5-miles of pure agony up to very slow 25-30 mile rides of painful smiles. The pain is good pain since it is coming from my ultra weak left leg screaming in agony from having to work so hard and once again pull its share of the load. The right leg is very happy about that too! All I know is that the I'm happy and smiling (inside) with every muscle-burning-painful pedal stroke.

Now's the time for anyone and everyone to come ride with me and ride me into the dirt (just as you've always dreamed of doing). Please, I beg you come ride with me so that you can shamelessly and effortlessly kick my A$$ on the dirt!

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Baloo No. 2

For those that don't know, Baloo was the name of my first blue colored Lenz Sport Leviathan 29er full-suspension bike that I owned about 3-yrs ago (Baloo means bear and is also the name of a bear in Disney's animation, The Jungle Book). I loved that bike in every way except the short top tube of the medium sized frame was a little cramped for my riding style and the short TT made the front end a bit light going up very steep terain. So I reluctantly sold it and have since been on the look-out for a large frame which just so happens to have my preferred top tube lenth of around 23.75 inches.

Lenz Sport bikes are all handmade in Colorado by Devin Lenz who has been way ahead of the bike industry for years with respect to FS 29er design and overall frame design. The larger names in the bike industy have just started making frames with lighter formed tubing - something Lenz has been doing for 10-years now.

So...while doing almost nothing trying to heal a nasty back injury I happened across a lightly used, large sized Lenz frame. To top it off it was the coloring that I wanted if I were to order one (which I have been seriously thinking of doing since it is extremely rare to find a used Lenz frame - which says something about owner satisfaction). I guess that even when you're down the stars can align. So I took a chance that I would actually be able to ride more than a few miles again and bought the frame. I finished building it up to a rideable bike yesterday, then I did what I typically do to - take pictures and go for a ride (short, but still a ride).

I still can not ride much with a healing extruded disc in my back (15-mile rides on easy terrain is about it at this time), but it helps that I have the Lenz set up more upright and the full-suspension is rather helpful also. As much as I like my Ellsworth I just can not ride it at this time because it puts too much strain/stress on my lower back due to it's racey geometry - something that is hard to change. So for now the Ells is collecting dust while the Lenz takes the lead as my go to mtb along with my trustly old 2002 Fisher SuperCal 29er.

For those interested I will be having a RIDE ERIC INTO THE DIRT mtb ride sometime in the not too distant future...this is everyone's chance to come out and ride me into the it while I'm weak and still have a huge muscle loss in my left leg. And yes it will be a dirt ride (yet to be determined when and where)...and yes I am weak at this time (can barely ride 15-miles) so a 30-mile ride should be pure agony for me...and yes I will be happy about having everyone kick my butt (I'm just happy to be riding at this time). I'm sure the ride will be ultra fun and not too techincal considering my situation.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Gunnar Cyclocross SS...

The Forward Components EEB installed quite easily on the Gunnar cyclocross bike and chain tension adjustment was stupidly simple. The end result is a more efficient SS - previously I was running a chain tensioner so I could run the Gunnar as a SS, but like a derailleur it was a thief robbing me of pedally effiency and the smoothness a real SS offers.

Let's just say that I'm happier now...even though I can not ride much (extruded disc in the back continues to plague me), but I did take it for a short spin and had a smile on the whole time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Hmmm...that's what I said when I saw this eccentric bottom bracket made by Forward Components.

It set in motion a rapid chain of events in my brain...this bottom bracket turns any geared frame instantly into a single-speed frame since it allows a means to tension the chain. It will be installed soon enough on my Gunnar Cross bike for some simple future thrash testing.

I'm still not doing any significant riding due to my back situation (extruded discs take patience to heal). I am getting some short, flat, spins in but it truly is a struggle still and I am not pushing it for fear of re-injury. A ride of 5-miles is a real accomplishment at this time.

Fishing has been plenty of fun and I have had some fun working at the bike shop (B&L Bicycles of course) where I have gingerly pedaled both a Fisher SuperFly and a SuperFly-100 at the shop - impressive to say the least and lots of bling.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Down Time Update...

Thanks for all the comments, emails, and recommendations. Many people have recommended Peter Egoscue's Pain Free book...the good thing is that I have been using Egoscue's methods for many years now for relief from minor back issues.

However, with my current issues the pain has been so bad that I have not been able to perform any of Egoscue's exercises until just a few days ago and even then performing the exercises were rather painful to do.

Today is better though and I can get through all the exercises without any "real" pain and the results are already clearly felt...last night was the first night I spent the entire night in my own bed all night in the past 2-wks (previously I was up every hour or more and spent much time just trying to find some position or pillow wedge that would decrease the pain that the narcotics were not even touching). Typically I have been getting 3-4 hours of sleep a night, but last night I slept at least 6 or 7 hours (whoohoo!)without any pain. And today I have only a very mild ache in my back and left leg plus the numbness in my lower leg feels different for some reason (more tingly than completely numb), which could be a good sign.

I also saw the slicer/dicer today who of course offered surgery and presented with much less enthusiasm when I was questioning him asking about alternative treatments and his opinion on such treatments and comparisons of recovery times. The bad news is that I either way, with surgery or conservative treatments, the recovery time is at least 6-8 week (or more) until I will be able to ride or lift anything significant.

The really bad news is that my employer (TriState Memorial Hospital - ER) will not allow me to return to work without a sign-off from a practitioner that I am able to lift at least 50 lbs. So essentially I am out of a job...hmmm

Anyone know where I can get some light duty work?

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Down Time...

I've been literally down for the past 3-weeks due to a pinched nerve causing huge issues in my left leg - like continuous numbness and very painful burning sensations from my knee cap to my foot, uncontrollable and very severe muscle cramps above the knee in my quads, groin area, and outer hip areas, plus massive pressure sensations in my knee when I walk (when I can walk that is). I've found that sometimes there is nothing to relieve these symptoms (medication, topically, or re-positioning) and reality is that I just have to live through the pain.

After 3-weeks of pain I'm very humbled and beyond ready to be done with it. The real kicker is that I have received ever differing opinions after consulting with chiropractors, physical therapists, and several doctors - Why is it that no one is on the same page with this kind of issue? We all suspect the same cause - either a bulging or herniated disc in the lower back pinching a nerve (I think it's that Saphenous nerve personally). After much research I have determined that surgery is only helpful in 10% of the cases and that these things typically heal themselves on their own in 3-6 weeks, which is defined as 3-6 weeks of essentially no activity (including no work).

I'm sick of sitting (laying) around doing nothing and feeling helpless...Donna (the love of my life) has really done a super job of keeping me contained and well cared for. In the mean time I am dreaming of riding my bike(s) again while at the same time contemplating selling most of my bikes just to pay the bills while I'm not working. Hmmm...reality...

Just to make myself feel good I have gotten on a bike mounted in a trainer for 3-5 minutes at a time when I can (which is typically 1-2 times a day if at all depending on the pain). In the mean time I will continue to dream of riding again and drool over new bikes.

Update: An MRI done today reveals I do have something that is actually causing all this pain. The report states, "At L3-4, there is a massive far left lateral disc extrusion...(that) markedly impinges the exiting left L3 root..." Now that we know the cause, the next step is the treatment options - conservative or surgical? Will know more on Monday after I get a chance to talk out both options with prospective practioners. In the mean time - ouch!

Sunday, August 02, 2009

Hot Huckleberry Times

Yep it's stupidly hot out (106-degrees yesterday, near the same today)...the time of year when I need 4-liters of water per hour, but can only absorb 3-liters, I'm always thirsty, my tongue is constantly swollen, my jersey has white salt stains...I'm flat-out baked well-done on any ride!

So the only recourse is to give up the bike (yes, I actually said that), head to the mountains (in the fuel-guzzling-noisy-diesel-monster-Bubba-truck) and pick those delicious little purple berries that have a cool, refreshing taste...better known as huckleberries!

Can you say yum!!! Bikes can rule another day, today is Huckleberry Day!

Friday, July 31, 2009

The Century Mark

Once again down here in the Valley of Hell we're hitting the century mark on the daily temperature scale...

Every year I'm reminded that on the bike 2-3 liters fluid per hour is not enough and that more than that my body simply can not absorb fast enough to stay hydrated. I'm also reminded that riding early in the morning is a good idea as is night riding...I'm not sure why we reserve most of our night riding around here to the late fall and winter months.

The final option is to escape into the baby mountains we have here. At 6000-ft the temps are at least 15-20 degrees cooler, but riding up to that elevation from the valley floor (780-ft) takes a serious toll on the hydration status. The flora is always worth the ride though...

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pinkham Ridge Trail

The Pinkham Ridge Trail is one of my favorite single-track trails in this area. It is short (by my standards), but fun and it provides some nice vistas.

Getting there requires some grunt effort since every possible route to the trail head is uphill which is at a wee 5000-ft elevation (for reference the starting elevation of Asotin is 780-ft and the starting elevation of Headgate County Park (up Asotin Cr. Rd.) is about 1500-ft. There are other starting places that are closer if you're truly that lazy. From Headgate Park it is about 18-miles via the easiest route (all uphill) to the trailhead. The trailhead is not labeled or easy to find and maps (including GPS) are not accurate - truly you just have to know where to go or be willing to do some bushwhacking and hike-a-bike exploring, which is how I found it several years ago. Now I have 3-rideable routes in from the top - no more bushwacking for me.

I've found 5-rideable routes to this trail and 8 different ways down (some of which could also be routes up, but I highly recommend against all but 3 due to the shear pain you would endure climbing them). You can loop this trail down into the Asotin Cr. Trail on 2-different trails down, but the down hills are very steep and technical until you reach the creek far below, so beware and make sure your brakes are in good condition if you ever decided to take this route (I do this route a few times a year just for fun and a good adrenalin rush).

The remaining routes (loops) down are not too technical, but do require some braking if you're fearful of too much speed. There is also the occasional log-hop (or stop, get off, and walk bike over the log) on the way down on 2 of the best single-track routes.

You do have to be aware that the the neighborhood bear may be on the trail (yep, I've met the bear family more than once) so making noise with a bell, talking loudly to yourself, or whistling (which is what I typically do) on the fast down hill is a good idea I've learned. I'm sure the bears do not appreciate the sudden surprise any more than we do, so unless you really get a thrill from running into bears make some noise.