Wednesday, September 1, 2010


Catching up a bit here. 

July 17th & 18th I rode the STP on my Saluki. The STP covers a bit over 200 miles on mostly beautiful back roads, a few sections of annoyingly high traffic highways, and one Rail-to-Trail path, from Seattle to Portland. It's one of the largest rides in the US, with a limit of 10,000 registered participants. About 20% of the riders do it in one day, the rest in two days. (Two days for me!) Here's a link to the ride page on the Cascade Bicycle Club website

A little back-story.
I rode the STP once before, in 1996 on my Bridgestone RB-T. Although it was a fun ride and a complete success romantically (the start of a wonderful relationship!) it turned out to be a bit of a disaster physically. The ride aggravated an ankle condition that made it difficult to walk for a few days, and ultimately, impossible for me to ride a bicycle without pain for a long time afterwards. After a couple years of failed remedies I ended up giving up and buying a motorcycle, a path I very much enjoyed for the next ten or twelve years. Except, that is, for losing my favorite form of exercise and gaining about 40 lbs over those dozen years, and nagging doubts about a hobby that burned fossil fuels.... 

A couple years ago though I had a heart attack, and decided I needed to get back on my bicycle come hell or high water. Part of the trouble had been the fit of the 59cm RB-T, which was probably a full size too small for me, and, ahem, a complete lack of stretching. An MRI of the ankle revealed the physiological issue--a fused bone, and with new knowledge I fired up the RB-T again, this time with a Technomic stem, Albatross bars and a tall mountain bike seatpost--and a stretching regime I learned from the awesome heart attack rehab folks at Swedish--and began commuting to work several days a week. 

A few of my motorcycling buddies ride bicycles as well, and this spring we decided to tackle the STP. Things conspired, as they sometimes do, to make it time for me to get out of motorcycles (More on that: <>) and I used some cash from the sale of my F800GS to buy the Saluki, with riding the new bike on the STP in mind. 

The Ride
Over all the ride was fantastic. Chilly with a heavy marine layer for much of both days, with sun burning off the clouds by late afternoon, so not too hot. I rode with a new friend, Sarah Bergmann (an artist who is creating Pollinator Pathways), and our paces were perfectly matched. The ride logistics were impressive, with rest stops for food and water about where you'd want them, and well-stocked with decent food and barrels of Nuun and water. 

The first day's ride included what was purported to be the big climb of the ride--"The Hill"--a ~6% climb for a mile and a half outside of Puyallup onto the plateau. It went way easier than I'd expected based on the big deal it was made out to be. On the other hand, the section through the strip-malls of Spanaway was the worst of the whole ride, in terms of comfortable riding. Lots of monster pickups bugged about having to wait for bicyclists to pass so they could pull out of McDonald's. Ugh. Followed though, with a long section of leafy recently repaved Rail-to-Trail (which was fine and safe as long as you obeyed stop signs at the crossings) into Tenino. We camped in Centralia, the half way point, with I'd guess 6,000 other riders. A fun festival atmosphere. 

The second day's ride was even nicer than the first. Until we got to 30 in Portland, there were fewer sections of narrow-shouldered single-file riding along highways. Beautiful country roads. A couple nice 35 mph descents made the second day's climbing worthwhile. 

I got an unbelievable number of compliments on my bike (as people passed me!) including lots of "How old is that bike?" I tried the "I'm pretty sure it's an aught-one..." reply a few times. :) 

Riding into Portland was phenomenal. The finish line felt like the end of a stage of the Tour, with throngs of people cheering and high-fiving us as we rode into Holladay Park. I rode about 95 miles the first day in 11 hours, and a bit over 105 the next in 11.5 hours. I tell you, it feels like a real accomplishment. I am BACK as a bicycle rider! :)

What Worked...
• The Saluki was great. The fit and ride make such a difference. 
• I love the Campagnolo ErgoPower brifters. 
• 26-36-46 chainrings and 12-28 cassette were just fine for this ride. 
• The Berthoud saddle was very comfortable, considering I had about 250 miles on it before I started the ride. 
• The Gran Bois Hetres rolled well, and I had no flats. (Saw a LOT of narrow-tired folk by the wayside. I'm sure I made up the time they raced ahead on their skinny tires by not having flats....) I had another issue with the tire, see below.
• Hammer Nutrition Perpetuum in addition to real food at the rest stops worked really well for me. 
• The Nigel Smythe Lil' Loafer I got from Gino on the Rivendell list served well, along with the Berthoud 786 saddle bag. I'll need something bigger for fall rides where inclement weather is more of an issue.

... and Didn't.
• The Exustar shoes, toe clips and straps caused a fair amount of pain over the 200 miles. Though I spaced the left toe clip out by 3/16" or so to account for foot length difference, the toe clip seriously mashed my big toe. It may be that the shoes are just one size too small. I have a pair of Speedplay Frogs I will try at some point. 

• After I finished, a fellow came up to me and said "Hey, your rear tire is about to blow out!" Check it out: <> Bummer.

• I took the nice-looking Lezeyne pump off before the ride and switched back to my Zefal HP-X. The hose of the Lezeyne inline gauge developed a leak the first time I used it to pump up a flat. Fail. 

• Despite a pre-ride adjustment/tune-up by Bob Freeman at Elliot Bay Bicycles (because I thought it was my lack of experience in tuning that was causing the problems), the Dura Ace front derailleur did not shift the TA rings well at all. It's just the wrong shape. Required a lot of trimming. Getting the chain up into the big ring was nigh impossible. So either the ErgoPower brifters, the DA derailleur or the crankset (or the FD _and_ the crankset) has to go. Bob says a Super Record FD will shift the TA rings a lot better. I'll try that first. I'm not averse to going Sugino XD2 with ramps n' pins though. Not a purist, that's for sure. 

Here are some photos: <> (Clearly there is vast room for improvement in my ride documentation!)

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