Kool Stop Bead Jack

Another post-accident first for me today:  I rode Landing Road, which is where I wiped out back in February.  I have a rough idea where I crashed.  I was headed westbound (towards Ilchester Rd) just a bit shy of the entrance to Rockburn Branch Park.  There’s a downhill stretch in the area that curves to the right.  If there was black ice in the area, and I hit it while banking to my right, the front wheel would lose traction and I’d fall on my right side, with the bike falling to my left.  That’s pretty much what happened, though I had a concussion, so everything was a little hazy.  Suffice it to say that come winter, I’ll either be avoiding this area, or riding with studded tires and extreme caution.

So, a couple weeks ago I got a flat on my single-speed bike, which has a new rear rim and new wire-bead Bontrager “Hard Case” 700cx28 tires.  I gave myself a blister trying to get the tire back on the rim.  I tried to use a tire lever to help, and ended up poking a hole in the tube.  The tire lever didn’t help, anyhow: every time I’d pop part of the tire over the rim, an equal amount would come unseated on the opposite side.  It was an exercise in frustration.  So I ordered a couple of Kool Stop “Bead Jack” tools, hoping they’d help.  They arrived yesterday, and they made quick work of the tire.  No blisters, no punctured tubes, no swearing.  I used both tools to keep the bead from unseating itself, but I could probably have done it with one.  In any case, looks like I’ll need to carry one of these with me when I ride this bike.  As for the tool itself, it’s made in Holland, and it’s good quality, sturdy plastic.  The weak link is probably the hinge where the pivoting piece attaches to the shaft, so we’ll see how it holds up.  In any case, I’m hoping I don’t have to use it that often.

Summer’s Back

Yet another year going straight from Winter to Summer in Maryland.  The heat came on briefly in our house yesterday morning, and later today we may need to switch on the air conditioning.

I’m back to the routine today, following a week in Cape Hatteras, which is pretty high up on my list of “places I’d like to live after I retire.”  Didn’t do any biking there, but I did introduce myself to jogging barefoot on the beach, which to my surprise, I really enjoyed.  I used to run a lot in the past, but I haven’t done it regularly in recent years, partly because after awhile of doing it, I realized I just didn’t like it all that much.  I tried running on the beach a few times before, always with shoes, and didn’t like that much either.  To avoid getting the shoes wet, I had to run on drier, looser sand, which is somewhat akin to running through snow, and seemed like more work than fun.  This year it finally dawned on me to try it barefoot, and it was much nicer.  I actually found myself running farther than I had originally planned, because I didn’t want to stop.  I didn’t have to worry about getting my feet wet, and could actually run right through the surf.  The weather was perfect for running, which I’m sure was a contributing factor, but I could definitely get used to running on the beach like this.

Today it was back to biking, and I took my mountain bike, with fenders, because the roads were still wet from last night’s storms.  Today was my 5th or 6th ride with my new SPD pedals, and the first time riding them when it wasn’t raining.  My single speed road bike is still out of commission because I can’t get the rear tire mounted back on the rim.  I have 2 “Kool Stop Bead Jack” tools on order from Amazon, which I’m hoping will help me get the tire mounted without puncturing the tube, and without giving me a blister on my thumb.  I’m itching to get the single speed back into the riding rotation, so I’m hoping Amazon gets them to me soon, and that they work as advertised.

Miserable Ride

Lesson of the day (reiterated):  Just because there’s no green on the NWS radar, doesn’t mean it’s not raining.  This morning, instead of a steady rain, we had a persistent mist with a steady wind.  I’d take a downpour over the mist any day.  The mist is relentless, hits you everywhere (as opposed to just falling on top of you) and gets you 10 times wetter than a steady rain.  I arrived at work completely soaked.

This was my third ride on SPD pedals, and my third time riding them in the rain.  I like them so far, but the shoes I got to go with them are decidedly not waterproof, and unfortunately my existing neoprene shoe covers don’t fit over them.  I’m going to need to pick up a larger pair, because the mist completely soaked my shoes, and by the time I got to work, it was starting to work its way through my wool socks.  Advice of the day:  when your shoes get wet, stuff them with newspaper (or in my case, recycled paper towels) to dry them out faster.  I did this as soon as I arrived at work, and hopefully they’ll be dry in a couple of hours.

In addition to a set of shoe covers, I think I need to pick up a waterproof helmet cover.  Today I rode without a hood, and I kept wishing I had something to keep the rain off my helmet.

It has certainly been a damp April.  Hopefully we’ll start to dry out over the next few weeks

Almost made it

Today’s morning ride was a race against an oncoming mass of rain, and I didn’t quite make it.  I rode around 14 miles, and the first 10 or so were dry, but then the rain caught up with me.  When I set out, it was an exceptionally muggy 65° out, and by the time it started raining, I was starting to get hot.  I had the same problem yesterday afternoon, when it was in the 80s and muggy.  I could feel myself starting to overheat coming up the final hill before home.  The humidity becomes second nature by June or July, but this time of year, my body isn’t acclimated to it yet.  I’m sure hydration is a big part of it; in the summer, I get used to drinking a lot more water, but again, in April I’m not quite in that habit yet.  So to make a long story short, when the rain started during this morning’s ride, it actually felt great.  It probably won’t be quite as refreshing this afternoon when it’s 10° cooler out.

3 days, 3 bikes

I finally feel like I’m starting to get back into biking shape after my accident 8 weeks ago.  Today figures to be rain-free, so I trotted out my road bike.  That makes it the third bike I’ve ridden to work in as many days, which I believe is a first for me.  It won’t happen too often, because switching bikes is a pain, so I like to limit the number of times I do it.  Looks like I’ll be doing it at least one more time this week, as the weather forecast for Friday is looking wet.

Today I hit Oella and Catonsville for the first time since the accident.  I rode out River Rd., went left on Frederick out to Ellicott City, then up Oella Ave and Westchester Ave, and through Catonsville.  The weather was nice for once, and it was a great ride.

I’m trying to think of ways to make it less of a pain to switch bikes.  The big issue is that I only have one set of panniers, and a single rack that I share across all my bikes.  Each bike also uses different sized tire tubes, and I have different frame pumps for each bike, etc.  Some of this could be simplified by getting separate racks and panniers for each bike, but good panniers aren’t exactly cheap.  Another nice thing would be to have somewhere on each bike to store tubes, etc. that are specific to that bike, so I don’t have to remember to pack the correct spare tubes each time I change bikes.  One product that looks like it might work well for this is called the Cage Rocket.  It’s a storage pod that fits in a spare water bottle cage.  An alternative would be to just get a separate seat pack for each bike.  Still trying to sort it all out, but once I find a system that works, I’ll be sure to write about it here.

One of those mornings

Today was one of those mornings when nothing went according to plan.  I was getting ready to ride to work, and I went to check on my bike, and the back tire was flat as a pancake.  The tire is brand spanking new, and I had taken a grand total of 1 ride on it, yesterday.  Turns out the problem wasn’t the tire.  I took it off the rim and found that the tube was punctured on the rim side.  I couldn’t find any sharp spots on the rim in the general area of the puncture, so I’m wondering if a metal shaving got caught between the tube and the rim or something (the rim is also brand new).  I’m going to replace the rim tape, remount the tire, shrug my shoulders, and hope it doesn’t happen again.

The other big story this morning was the weather.  Rain was in the forecast this morning, so I did my customary check of the radar before I set out (on my other bike).  All clear.  But as the saying goes in Maryland, if you don’t like the weather, wait 5 minutes.  After about 10 minutes of riding, it started pouring and the winds kicked up to seemingly near-monsoon speeds.  The rain died down to a light drizzle, but the winds kept up for the duration of my ride.  I’d swear that there were a couple spots where I was pedaling into 50 or 60mph gusts.  Must have been a frontal passage, but it certainly made for an exciting ride.

Last weekend I put SPD pedals on my mountain bike, to replace the “Power Grips” I had on it over the winter.  I was planning on giving this bike a break this week, but the flat tire on my other bike pressed it back into service.  So today was also my first ride on the SPDs, and given the weather, it was a “trial by fire” of sorts.  The pedals worked great, with no problems at all.  We’ll see how they do over the long hall.  These are Shimano’s lower-end SPD pedals, model PD-M520.  Having no experience at all with mountain bike pedals, I went with these over similarly-priced pedals from Crank Bros. based on the online reviews.  No one really had anything bad to say about the PD-M520s.  They seem to be solid and well-made, and I’m willing to bet that other than the weight, there’s likely not much difference between these and the pricier models.  These aren’t the lightest pedals in the world, and you won’t see many racers using them, but I think they’ll be perfect for commuting.

Still Alive

Today was a landmark in my post-bike-accident recovery.  For the first time since my accident, I rode the bike I wrecked.  It’s sporting a new rear wheel and new slightly-beefier tires (28 vs 23), but it’s the same bike, and it still rides largely the same as it used to before I fell off it 2 months ago.  Over the weekend, I re-mounted fenders on it and got it ready to ride.  Happily, I didn’t have much trouble re-adjusting to fixed gear after a 2-month lapse.  It probably helped that I waited a couple of weeks to regain some of my pre-crash conditioning before I hopped on it.  We’ll see how the ride home goes.  I was cautious to a fault riding the bike for the first time.  I’m 90% sure it was ice that caused my crash, but there’s still that little part of me paranoid that I’m going to get thrown off the bike without warning.  It’ll probably take several rides on the bike before I fully trust it again.

I’m happy to have this bike back in the rotation though, because it gives me a second bike with fenders that I can ride in bad weather.  I ended up taking the fenders off my other road bike because that bike just doesn’t work well with fenders (I’m thinking about keeping a set of clip-on fenders in my office for days when we have afternoon storms).  That left me with only 1 fender-equipped bike, my mountain bike, for the past month.  Not that I don’t enjoy riding the mountain bike after painstakingly rebuilding it last fall, but sometimes it is nice to have some options.


So, It’s been almost 8 weeks since I took a spill off my bike on black ice and broke 4 ribs.  I’d say I’m almost back to normal.  Ribs take a long time to fully heal up, and I still have a tiny bit of discomfort on occasion (mainly in bed and getting up out of bed).  All in all though, it’s not too bad, and it’s probably been a month since I took any kind of painkiller.

I first got back on a bike exactly 3 weeks after the accident, and the first couple of weeks on the bike were a mixed bag.  On one hand, it was great to be riding again.  On the other hand, riding was not always comfortable.  My typical bike commute involves a roughly 1-hour ride to work in the morning, followed by a standard 8-hour work day, and then a ½-hour ride home.  During those first couple of weeks, there was a distinct pattern: I’d be fine on my morning ride, but on the ride home, I would have pain when I tried to breathe in deeply.  The pain was worse on my road bike, which has drop bars.  I have to climb a steep hill at the end of my commute home, and on my second day of riding, I couldn’t make it up the hill without stopping a few times, because it hurt too much to breathe in and I couldn’t get enough Oxygen.  While still uncomfortable, the pain was a lot more manageable on my mountain bike, which is set up for a more relaxed, upright riding position.  After that revelation, I rode the mountain bike pretty much exclusively over the next few weeks.

Thankfully, I’ve healed up now to the point where riding is no longer uncomfortable.  I can ride my road bike again with only minor discomfort in the “dropped” position, and no breathing issues.  Now I just need to avoid falling down again.  At least the weather is getting warmer now, so I shouldn’ t have to worry about ice for awhile.