It's been 3 weeks - almost a month - since my last post, but it seems even longer. For bike racers, July is the height of the season, with the Tour de France and a full calendar of races to choose from. I could have raced both days of every weekend in July, in addition to at least two midweek races every week. Then, it all seems to stop. The TdeF finishes, the racing calendar begins to thin out, and even a race or two gets cancelled. My last big target of the year - the Fall River Crit - was supposed to take place Aug. 28. Now it's not going to happen. Between that and the super hot & humid weather, motivation to get on the bike has been at a low ebb.
I think I must have hit bottom at last Tuesday night's Rent' Race. I didn't get dropped, but I only saw the front a few times. Most of the time, I was near the back, flitting off the end of the pack. The previous week, I'd only ridden my bike twice for a total of 55 miles. 47 were during one great road ride with MSL, the other 8 on a railtrail with a MTB. Hardly "training." And it showed Tuesday.
I certainly don't want to give the impression that there weren't consolations :^) The rail trail ride was with my brother, visiting from overseas, and some of my lack-of-riding was due to spending time with him. A great trade-off, I'd say.
And Mrs. SOC and I got to go to the beach a couple of times too. We have one right in our town, so it's especially inexcusable if we don't get there at least a FEW times during the summer. HOB & Dorothy joined us one Sunday afternoon for a trip to the Book Barn. And I went with friends Randy & Charlie to the Cape to meet with an old friend about railroad stuff. In addition to the regular work schedule and various/sundry things, riding time has been neglected.
I decided to change that last Friday with another ride into work. It's been getting harder to gin myself up for that commute - it's early, long and on very busy roads. But all the planets lined up and it got hard for me to refuse: I'd start with our Friday Morning Throwdown ride, MSL & Shawn would join me for part of the way up, then friend Jeff would join me north of Middletown. With the FMT ride tacked on the beginning, and the return ride home, I was slated to get in over 100 miles Friday.
Well, on the way in - and just after texting Jeff that I was on schedule - I got a flat. MSL had commented on the state of my tire as I was changing the tube, but with his help, I was back up and running quickly. I'd need another tube to have a spare for the ride home that evening though. Unfortunately, I learned too late that the shop I'd planned on visiting on my way home was closed. So I had to take the bus. No ride home (though, in a strange twist of irony, the bus had to take a detour that took the same roads).
I figured that worn rear tire would last at least one more ride, so Saturday morning I and seven other "Saturday Morning Crew" members did a nice 45 mile loop along the shore to East Lyme/Niantic - with a planned stop at Ashlawn Farm for (iced!) coffee and biscotti. That's the obligatory group photo in front of the silo (we're all "fodder" of some sort, right?).
But on either side of this photo, that rear tire was giving me fits. I got the FIRST flat of the ride (second in two days) just north of Niantic...
(pic courtesy TimA)
And after our coffee stop, I got ANOTHER flat on the big descent on Rt. 156. Fortunately (considering the speed we were going) it was that rear tire - again. Unfortunately, I'd already used my spare tube - I had no others - and everybody'd already blown past. Thankfully, KimC circled back and gave me her tube (saving me a patch job - or a long walk!). Gratefully, the rest of the gang was still waiting for me at the bridge so we were able to finish the ride together.
First item on Saturday afternoon's agenda: CHANGE TIRES
And that's what I was in the middle of doing, when our washing machine started banging. LOUDLY.
I figured all the clothes had shifted to one side and unbalanced things, but in less than the time it took me to drop my wheel, jump up and get to the washer, it had stopped spinning, was whining loudly, and I detected a faint smell of something burning.
Suffice it to say, this is what I did for the rest of the afternoon. I'd never fixed a washing machine before - and it remains to be seen whether I'll fix THIS one. But thanks to the internets, I found some instructions on how to take it apart at least. And I discovered that the coupling between the motor and the transmission had sheared off in four(!) places. Soooo.... during lunch today, I hope to find the part I need and tonight I hope to remember how to put everything back together.
If it actually works again, I'll have saved enough money to replenish my stash of tires, tubes, & CO2 cartridges.
But in the midst of these setbacks, I found my motivation to ride & race again. Being out with friends (and very patient and understanding friends at that!) is a big motivator for sure. But what sealed the deal was taking some time to give my bike the TLC it was clearly demanding. Three flats in two days certainly sends a message. And during all those tube changes I saw how much I'd been neglecting my bike - not just the riding of it, but the condition of it. It was pretty filthy (and no fun to work on).
But a thorough cleaning (along with a long-overdue inspection for frame cracks, etc) and new tires makes the bike look brand new.
Sure, Fall River is cancelled, but there's an exciting new race scheduled on Cape Cod in a couple of weeks. As a Pro123 race, I don't have any expectations at all, but it'll be a blast to race around downtown Hyannis. And of course, there are four weeks left of Rent' Races - and I may even do a few Wednesday night races at Ninigret. So there's some racing left this season.
But most of all, my "new" bike - like any (actually) new bike - just makes me want to go out and ride. And that's what I'll be doing, just as soon as I finish fixing the washing machine.