29 October 2007

Climbing The Actual Texter Mountain

The mountain I climbed yesterday was definitely Texter Mountain. I don't know what that other one is called. But this one was definitely Texter Mountain, which I confirmed from various signs, as well as from another rider who stopped to chat while I was taking this photo:

The above camera-phone shot was taken at the top of Texter Mountain looking west/southwest.

The route was Sportsman Rd for about 4 miles of climbing. For most of the time, the climb was in the 5% gradient range, but at the top where Sportsman meets Texter Mountain Rd, the grade spikes up into the 18-20% range. I did pretty well and discovered some things about climbing, mainly the rhythm of it. My breathing a pedalling after a mile or so synchronized into an aerobic pattern and when I dropped out of the rhythm, it was difficult to get it back.

I've never endeavored to climb for this distance, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.

I turned onto Texter Mountain Rd (where I snapped the above photo) then onto South Mountain Rd for some of the most breathtaking riding I've ever experience. It was a super-fast series of descents through the ridgeline of this particular range of hills and mountains. Then more steep climbing over what I think is South Mountain before the long descent into Newmanstown. The below Google Map shows Sportsman in blue and South Mountain in red.

Total miles: 30. Outside temp: 50-degrees. Miles of climbing: approximately 8. Route: 422-Sportsman-Texter Mountain-South Mountain-Rt. 419-Womelsdorf-422. Path profile:

26 October 2007

Climbing Texter Mountain

I think it's called Texter Mountain. I'm not sure. Whatever. Yesterday I rode two circuits of climbing near Wernersville. Furnace Rd up to North Galen Hall was probably the steepest longest climb I've ever made -- Gaul Rd seems like an overpass in comparison.

Looking at the Path Profiler in Google Maps, the steepest sections are 10%, 12% and 15% which are definitely the steepest gradients I've been able to manage. In comparison, nearby Huntzinger Rd (slogan: "Insanely steep!") is around 20% and maxing at 25% -- in the bottom-most section. 25% is truly insane. The steepest section of Gaul Rd, meanwhile, is 10% for about a tenth of a mile. And Gaul has a couple of short recovery descents. I'm beginning to feel a little silly for bitching about Gaul so much.

So I rode two circuits of this. 422-Sportsman-Hospital-Furnace-North Galen Hall past the Caron Foundation, then descended North Galen Hall to Hill Rd and back to 422. 20 miles total, which doesn't seem like a lot. But the climbing, of course, made the whole thing seem longer. Here's the Path Profile. I think you can pick out the Texter Mountain section (click to enlarge):

22 October 2007

Lebanon Half-Century II

It was a beautiful day for riding yesterday, so I revisited last Sunday's horribly aborted mission and rode out to Lebanon and back. Compared with my previous 2 half-centuries, I could really feel an improvement in my fitness level. This trip was non-stop (minus a few traffic lights) and in the saddle for the entire 3-hour ride. Speaking of which, 3:06.00 was the exact trip time -- a full hour shorter than my previous two half-centuries.

The one aspect of riding which I absolutely have to improve is my average speed. Now granted, it was a windy day, but my average speed was 15.9 mph. That sucks. It sucks by at least 6-8 mph. I think with my time trial workouts on Thursdays, this will improve. Hopefully.

19 October 2007

Puncture-Free Thursday

At last, a ride without a flat. Most excellent.

And there's more good news. I topped my previous 10 mile time trial record by a full minute. 31:06 (previously, 32:01). Slowly but surely, I'm nearing a respectable speed and endurance level, but I'm still about 6-8 minutes away from achieving where I'd like to be.

After partaking in the open men's room at Shocktoberfest, I rode back down to Wernersville, then around Elm and Ruth to Wooltown, then up to Hospital Rd for some climbing and descending (no cars!). My front wheel was a little off true, so I made a pitstop at Technocycle for a quick tune-up.

Brad at Technocycle (he referred to this month as 'HOT-tober') mentioned that he thought my saddle was too far forward, forcing me to use more of the back of my legs than the front. Maybe so, but I'm hesitant to monkey with my saddle at this point because my knee-cap/petalla issues are gone. Zilch. No post-ride soreness these days. That makes me smile.

15 October 2007

Updates and Flat Tires

Now it's getting ridiculous. Every time I ride, I puncture. And I'm pissed off about it. For instance, yesterday afternoon I set out to ride to Lebanon and back for a scenic autumn half-century, as well as to test my endurance compared to half-centuries earlier in the season.

Everything was going well. The ride out was slow due to a killer headwind, but I was enjoying myself and at the 20-mile mark, I really felt strong. Looped through Lebanon and headed towards home, savoring the tailwind and resulting speed.

Risser's Diner Sunday Special: "Beef Heart on Filling."

The most un-creative name for a taco stand EVER: "Taco Maker." Lebanon, PA.

On the ride back, I hit Stouchsburg and BLAM. Flatted. Without panicking, I pulled onto a grassy knoll, popped the rear wheel off, removed the tire and tube. Found the puncture. Patched it. Re-assembled everything.

Missed a puncture. Took everything off and started over.

This time, I punctured the tube while putting everything back together (there's no elegant way to put that last 8 inches of tire back on the rim -- you have to force it with all your might). Meanwhile, the sun was going down and the temperature was dropping. Went through this procedure again. No punctures, but the Presta valve must've been damaged along the way and the tube wouldn't inflate. No matter how hard I pumped, no air.

So I had to call for a ride. Nothing can be more humiliating than standing along the road waiting for your wife to drive out and rescue you -- whilst dressed in lycra and standing next to a disabled bike, rednecks and hillbillies slowing to gawk as if you're a crash-landed gay alien.

Anyway, I've been puncturing on almost every ride for the last few weeks. Most of the time, it happens at the very end of the ride. Two rides ago, I only noticed the flat an hour after I was done.

What the hell is happening?

I think they're mostly pinch flats caused by dime-sized jagged pebbles -- the gravel pebbles used in road macadam. And they're invisible/camoflaged against the road so I don't see them until it's too late.

Most of the time, they ricochet away from the bike at an alarming speed. The sound is usually a POP! or PING! then the sound of a tree leaves snapping as they're pegged by the flying projectile.

But lately, I think these pebbles pinch the tube just enough to cause a pin-prick sized hole. But what the hell kind of tubes are these? I think I need something heartier. So my mission this week is to find GOOD TUBES and to take one along with me from now on.

Meanwhile, I've been feeling really great riding. The computer is helping me to improve my overall speed and endurance, simply by giving me instant status reports. It's a real motivator and worth the $60 price tag.

And I've found an amazing new area to ride. The Texter Mountain roads beyond the Wernersville State mental hospital. Rolling climbs and fast descents -- NO CARS. And challenging enough without breaking my legs. However, Huntzinger Road... This will be another long term mission. I don't know the grade, but it's the steepest hill I can find around here and I can only get three or four pedal strokes up the bottom section of it before I have to stop. Put it this way, it makes Gaul Rd seem like a speed bump.

But I thought of a great riding slogan for Huntzinger.

"Insanely steep."

Get it? Mental hospital? Ah nevermind.

07 October 2007

Setting Some Goals

I've set another training goal for myself and that is to eventually accomplish a 10-mile time trial within the realm of the Berks County Bicycling Club racing division TT results.

In other words, I want to be able to ride 10 miles in 24-26 minutes. The club record is 23:28, set by Mike Kuhn.

Friday night, I made my first attempt and I'm not ashamed of the result. 10 miles in exactly 32 minutes (three climbs, 422 from the DQ in Sinking Spring to Big Spring Rd and back). I think by next year at this time, I can reach that 24 minute "podium" level.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Friday ride was awesome. Just took it easy for another 15 miles. Rode out to The Crank, turned onto Elm then descended the (nearly abandoned) Ruth Avenue down to Wooltown, then on back to 422.

Then, I still felt strong enough to try to make it up Huntzinger Rd -- the insanely steep mountain climb just beyond Wernersville State Hospital. I don't know for sure, but that climb has to be in the range of a 20% grade. I was able to eek out three pedal strokes then almost fell over due to lack of forward motion. But oh yes -- I will make it up that mountain one of these days soon.

I backtracked back down the hill and turned onto Hospital Rd and had an awesome ride around the side of the mountain. No cars, beautiful scenery, easy riding.

Overall, I'm trying again on all fronts today.