Sunday, December 18, 2011

Good King sauerkraut look out On his feets uneven

There have been many requests for me to get off my duff and publish a new post to Cyclophile. While I do need the money that hard honest work brings in, I will instead bow to peer pressure and put some ruminations into print.

The winter holidays are neer upon us and I am trying hard not to be a scrooge. We are finally getting some much needed rain here in deep south Texas. I should be happy but instead of a quick flash and a loud boom we are getting a whimpering drizzle. I have been spoiled living here so long. I like it when it rains really hard for an hour or two, the sun comes out, everything gets nice and green and my bike stays clean.

What can come of talking about the weather? Not a whole lot we can do about it (aside from vaporizing the ozone layer and melting the ice caps.). So I am going to rave about things that bug me. I have already raged against golf carts. They are back again and just as bad as ever but that is on going and wears thin after awhile. Antagonistic school bus drivers would be a good topic but I think I am going to borrow a term from Yehuda Moon and discuss Bike Ninjas.

Three days a week I get up at 4:30 AM and pour two shots of espresso into my body. By the time 5:30 rolls along I am ready to head out the door to go on a training ride with my good friend Mr. Cheerful. There are several thing wrong with this. I can’t stay up past 9PM and it severely curtails my beer consumption. That and it is really dark out. I have lights. Sponge Bob told me there are three types of headlights. The ones that allow you to see where you are going, the ones the allow you to be seen and the ones that can be seen from space. He made me one of the latter. Most of the riders down here have a blinky, it’s a little red blinking tail light attached to the rear of your body or bike. Most of them are wishful thinking. Mine has been known to induce epilepsy. One rider followed me around like the kid from “Shane” asking me over and over where did I get my blinky.

“Bike Ninjas” is a fanciful term for people who ride at night wearing dark clothing and no lights. We have Yehuda Moon to think for this. Before I heard about Bike Ninjas I just referred to them as morons, organ donors, or stupid m!@#@#@!$%$%ers. You would think this class would be made up entirely of people who ride in shorts and flip flops, typically riding the wrong way down the street with a short case of some wretched lite swill on the handlebars. It isn’t. This group includes many otherwise intelligent people that are either clueless or egotistical enough to think the whole world sees them even in the dark with a little red dot on their ass.

Now if you are dumping opossums at Kmart or tossing roosters over a fence you should really turn all of your lights off. It just makes sense. When you are out in the fog or the dark before dawn and you see a car driving along too fast with no lights, you should stop and think about your own mortality. You only get one shot at living. Riding over to meet the group you need lights. Just because it will be light soon doesn’t mean it is light now. Apparently common sense is not all that common and it is definitely not universal.

So dear reader, as we head into the winter months, put away those black jerseys and break out the reflective tape. Black may be slimming but if you get run over it really doesn’t matter how thin you look. Spend some good money on lights and keep fresh batteries on hand. Be realistic, can your blinky be seen by anyone more than ten feet away? Here is my one little tip for style conscious riders. Get some reflective tape and put a nice strip down your cranks. If you use the silver tape it will be ever so stylish and shows up like a pinwheel in headlights.

Whilst the snoo lay roun' an' 'bout,
All kerchoo achievin'.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Life is Hard

Sometimes writer’s block means a lack of inspiration, nothing to write about. Sometimes it is an abundance of ideas and no where to start. My absence has been due to the latter. There are so many things I would like to address. My mind swirls with eddies and backwaters of trivial humor and strong ardent truths. Yet my pen yields little more than a drip. So before this metaphor heads towards plumbing remedies I am just going to start somewhere.

I told myself not to let this blog turn into a travel diary so you won’t get all of the details of the trips I rode on this year. Suffice to say there were many good ones, some suffering and all ended well. I am blessed with true and loyal friends to ride with. My boating trip this year was thwarted (naughty nautical pun) by a 30 year flood. They changed the name of Town Lake in Austin to Lady Bird Lake and Stevie Ray Vaughn was up to his knees in a

real Texas flood.

Late in this year I found myself contemplating how sour I seemed to be getting. The lack of compassion and understanding in our community was starting to get to me and I was losing my composure. I raised money for the Bob Woodruff foundation and the lack of support for our injured veterans was appalling. But there was a brighter side. People who really had no money to give came through. I wound up being the top fund raiser for the ride. This gave me little if any special recognition but The Woodruff Foundation took the time to contact me personally. So I did a

little more thinking and it came to me that I am not as kind and giving as I used to be.

I’m going to make an effort to change a little bit. A little old lady ordered a dozen cookies to be baked and shipped to her grandson in Afghanistan. I sent six dozen. Random acts of kindness are good. I doubt that I will every be as genuinely happy as I was at 20 but I am willing to give it a shot. Good things do happen. I’ve been learning to mountain bike. Nothing makes you feel like a kid quite like falling off a bike. My prized racing bike is getting new paint and parts. Best of all, my wife still loves me after 20 years and we have a new kitten. Life is good.

So there, the cork is out and more posts will follow. Here’s to a new year!

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Rollin' Rollin' Rollin'

Sal wanted me to write about being prepared for the Easter Hill Country Tour. Sal wants me to do a lot of things. Sal is a school teacher and a coach. He is idealistic and patient, both laudable traits. This is good because I have not been prepared for the EHCT in years. In fact, I have not been prepared for any ride in recent memory. If you are prepared where is the adventure? What’s the point?

I did do the EHCT. It was harder than I expected and a couple of rookies actually sagged part of the course. Sponge Bob crusted his gloves up with sweat salt, cramped like hell and whined. He finished with dignity. The tour organizers found a double dipper hill with 16 to 18 percent grades just before the finish. Miss Nellie did splendid and will be a real contender when she learns to descend. Myself? I rode all right, I was a little short on gas and felt I could have done better. I made a miscalculation and went to Harper. It was not on the course but I have a friend named Harper so I felt obligated to visit. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

The second weekend back from the Hill Country, the local bike club put on a charity ride. I try to avoid these rides, there is a mixed group of riders and I usually wind up in a “sweeper” position. That is a ride leader who brings home the stragglers. The ride is named “Karie’s Ride” after our friend Darlene’s daughter Karie. Karie died young of colon cancer. I did last year’s ride for Darlene. This year it was in honor of Hudler’s niece Shelby who died of Leukemia as a child. Once again I volunteered. I did lead out a ride and pulled the whole ride with Dr. Martin. I had nearly 100 miles when I got home. That meant two century rides in one month.

Then our renter in Chico went insane, even by California standards. I was planning on going out anyway to fix the fence but replacing a renter turns it into a long ordeal. The Chico Velo Wildflower Century happened to coincide with my visit so I decided to combine business and pleasure. The Wildflower is rated one of the top ten rides in the country and has been on my “to do” list for years. Remember Sal and being prepared? I foolishly thought that having done two centuries I would be ready for a third.

Wildflower sounds so bucolic, as does Honey Run. Paradise, Oroville, lunch stop, they all inspire a warm fuzzy feeling. Inspiration is a tricky thing. The Wildflower has 5000 feet of climbing all in the first 50 miles. Honey Run is a six mile climb the flat spots are 6% grade. That is just so wrong. Paradise is a throw back to the 50’s. The run out of Paradise is fast and steep, the locals buzz by you at 45 mph with no warning. You get a splendid rest stop and great cookies and juices then a pleasant little ride to Table Mountain road. No route with “mountain” in the name bodes well for a flatlander from South Texas. It was actually worse that Honey Run. The flat sections were 8% and the bumps 12 to 16%. If the numbers mean nothing to you, smash your fist into your thigh over and over until your hand hurts. Then there was the descent down Cherokee Road. Winding and tight, in and out of shadow and traffic. Think of the scariest roller-coaster you have ever been on and 23MM tires.

The Wildflower is one of the best Century rides I have every been on. The food was great, it was so well organized and mapped out only an idiot could get lost (several did). So, Mr. Sal, was I prepared for it? Not on your life. If I had known just how hard a ride it would be I might have demurred. I was at times terrified, exhilarated, blissed out and in pain. There was also the transcendental moment coming down Cherokee Road when I was doing 40 mph with my brakes on and starting to really nail the corners (no brakes in the corners of course but they were all blind). Then there was the best part. Going to all of the bike shops the day after wearing my ride T-shirt and getting a knowing smile. I would hear the same question, “Did you do the century?” then the nod and “Pretty cool heh?” Oh yeah, damn cool.

Special thanks to Windom Kimsey for letting my tag along while he did his second century, The Wildflower.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Objects in your Mirror are closer than they appear.

I just got home from my annual Tucson trip. It is not a big bike trip but a shopping trip for beads, gems and glass. I do manage to get in a ride if I can and they are always interesting. One thing to keep in mind about Tucson is that is never really flat, at least not South Texas flat. Tucson sits in a bowl of mountains that look really close but are actually just really big. I did a flat ride this year and still got in almost a 1000 feet of climbing. When I lived in Oregon I considered myself a bit of a mountaineer. I moved to South Texas 20 years ago and one morning I woke up a flatlander. This is not a good thing coming from a long line of hillbillies.

I will not refer to the riders in Tucson as hillbillies. It is a term to be used by people who are actually hillbillies. Use by outsiders is usually derogatory. I personally would take offense if a flatlander called me a hillbilly but not if a true kinsman did. It’s a lot like the “N” word. Lawyers have a similar problem with labels. The extent of lawyer jokes should give you a

clue. I have been known to attach various degrading adjectives to the word. This being said, there are a few people I know that are attorneys, fair and noble practitioners of law. They can pretty much be counted on one hand but I can be a harsh judge.

Erik Ryberg ( stands out as a noble practitioner. He is a cycling advocate, a former racer and a commuter. He gets very excited about cargo bikes and was as proud as a new father when he showed me his Dutch commuter bike. Last year he used his lunch break to take me up Sentinel Peak. This year he got going early to meet my wife and I for coffee. This means a lot to me and is one of the reasons I try reach out to cyclists who are visiting.

I rented a bike from Fairwheel bikes again. I was hoping to get a Trek Madone but evidently Trek doesn't like short people so I wound up with a Fisher. Good enough for me and more important, it fit. Bruce set it up for me and by some luck of the gods, eyed my legs and adjusted the seat height by eye. I like Bruce a lot. The first time

I rented from him he told me to

“Ride fast and take chances” Unfortunately he jinxed me this time. He innocently asked me if I knew the lay of the land and I foolishly replied “yep”. After all I had a map, what could go wrong?

I had planned on riding with the Cactus Cycling Club but their plans and my time did not work out right. I am a member of the club but just a $20 member. This entitles me to say I am a member on paper but since I only show up once a year, not much more than that. So, I left the bike shop on my own, headed out into the sunny cool morning, and promptly started getting lost. The first wrong turn was a pretty good stroke of luck. I stumbled onto a bike path (no cars) that took me a long way out of town. The second wrong turn was the result of a momentary lapse of reason, a brain fart, or sudden onset dyslexia. A left turn would have taken me to the right road and given me a small chance of connecting up with the club. The right turn I made took me way out of the way to a place even the locals can’t quite place unless they too have gotten lost. Should you ever find yourself at the intersection of Houghton and Valencia, don’t bother to stop and wonder where you are, don’t waste your time looking around for familiar landmarks, you are lost.

There was an upside to this unplanned excursion. The reason I knew that the way I was going was absolutely the wrong way? Somebody moved the mountains. Yes, the hereditary hillbilly surfaced and for one short moment I was a flatlander no more. I turned around and headed back in the right direction, back up the hill and towards the snow. My head was clear, I was heading the right way, and it was indeed a beautiful day.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Shameless Commerce

The harsh reality of life has burst the Utopian bubble of my blog. Yes indeed loyal readers it has come to my attention that I need to make a living. It’s a cruel world we live in but the alternative is, in my case, less than heavenly.

So just in time for the solstice celebration of your choice, I am offering you the chance to buy an Alley Katz T-shirt. The Alley Katz is my logo and can be found on everything from homebrew to bikes. The T-shirt is 100% heavyweight pre-shrunk cotton and sized from small to xxl. A mere $20 buys you one of these lovelies and keeps me one step farther from the poor house. Shipping is $5 for priority mail or I can deliver in the Mission/McAllen area. You can reach me through this blog by posting a comment or you can email me at curtistex@sbcglobal.netnospam. (You'll have to remove the nospam from the address)

Thanks a million and should you need a million shirts, I can arrange that.

Friday, November 13, 2009

The Huffy

I knew this day would come. The day that someone shows up with a Walmart bike for me to fix. The bike that cost less than what I need to charge for the service. My buddies warned me and said I should just say no but I couldn’t do that. How could I tell someone they should toss their bike in a dumpster and save up for something better?

I got a lot of responses when I mentioned that working on the Huffy made me feel dirty. It seems a lot of people started out on Huffys. The famous 7-Eleven Team road Huffys. They were actually made by Ben Serrotta and

then branded Huffy. There really wasn’t anything terribly wrong with the old Huffys. They were heavy and the components were not top drawer but they worked, they were tough and they would get you from point A to Point B.

The bike that came to me was not your fondly remembered old Huffy. This is a Chinese beast that could scare Godzilla. (Oh no, there goes Tokyo!) It is not a road bike and no self respecting fattie would claim it. I could go on all day as to what is wrong with this bike starting with the color. Instead, I will just give you the highlights.

It has an Ashtabula crank. These are easy to work on, all you need is a large crescent wrench and a screwdriver. Aside from that and the cool name they have little else to offer. They were phased out many many years ago and are only compatible with Granny’s garters.

It weighs 38 pounds. That is more than two of my road bikes. It is hard to lift. I can’t imagine trying to pedal it uphill. The brakes are stamped tin and I would not want to ride this behemoth downhill with out steel toed boots and full body armor.

The components are not Shimano, SRAM, Campy or even Tektro. I’m not sure who exactly makes them. Enzo or something. I’ve never heard of them and have placed several industrial strength hex signs on the shop to keep them from ever haunting me again.

The stem is 7/8”. Okay this a bit of a mystery to non-mechanics. It falls into the Bermuda Triangle of reason. Stems are 1” or 1 1/8” for the most part. They are also threadless these days. This one is under sized and a quill. It is a pencil neck. Nobody uses this one except possibly the North Koreans.

So why didn’t I run and hide? It wasn’t bravery, never been my strong suit. The couple were a wee bit heavy and young enough to do something about it. They were having fun riding in the park and above all they were riding. I told them the down side to their bikes and fixed them up cheap. I also promised to take them shopping when they are ready to trade up. The important thing is here is a couple concerned about their health willing to take the first steps to get better. Who am I to let my pride get in their way?

Ride on.


Sunday, August 02, 2009

Soyez cool; soyez relax

Every once in a while I just want to go off on a rant. I want to rage against injustice and insult both real and perceived. Right now I really would like to rant but I’m going to be nice. I am not going to call the entirety of the Saturday riders blathering idiots. I am not going to even mention that they were riding ditch to ditch across the road or even that they w

ere ditch to the paint line on a busy highway. Nope, not a word. I am going to be positive and talk about something light and mood enhancing, my favorite squirrels.

Jay Ward’ s creation “Rocky the

Flying Squirrel” has to lead the list. while not as accidentally erudite as his pal Bullwinkle, he still manages to save the day. Not like the wannabe flying squirrels who overtook me from both sides with no announcement.

Twiggy the water skiing squirrel is number two on the list. This intrepid rodent not only water-skis, she teaches safety. The invisible ride captains could learn a lot from Twiggy. Safety is not only fun but if you do it right you get your own travel home and some

mighty fine nuts.

There are not a lot of famous squirrels to draw on for information. There was the one who attacked a buddy of mine while he was playing disc golf. That was shameful and I am not talking about the rodent. The Ninja Squirrel on you tube shows just how maniacal a fuzzy friend can be. Squirrels are just plain dangerous. That’s a fact.

Steven Speilberg debuted Slappy and Skippy in 1993 and they have had quite the career even if it is built on gags about blowing things up.

Slappy is the dynamite wielding diva and Skippy is her innocent nephew.

In short, one squirrel wrecking things and the other acting innocent,

nothing at all like weekend cyclists.

Last but not least we should mention the Pink Squirrel, a lovely concoction made by pouring, cream, creme de cacao and Amaretto over ice and then shaking till frothy. I particularly like the part about shaking till frothy.

So you see, it isn’t that hard to be nice, is it?

Squirrel: noun, a cyclist who is all over the road, id est your nuts aren’t safe

<-- End #footer -->