Today in Bikes and Booze; 16 March, 2015

We’ve all had days like mine today, where events didn’t unfold as one wanted them too. Looking at the weather forecast for this week, today, Monday, is the warmest of the upcoming week and a brief respite from what seems an endless winter in Chicagoland.

I wanted to take advantage of this open-window weather and go for a good road ride for the first time since fall and not worry about being cold and wearing so many layers I begin to feel claustrophobic. I knew I’d ride a bike today but first I’d go to the gym.

Last week I put up some nice numbers, setting some new personal records with barbell back squats and dead lifts so with a kick in my step after sufficient morning caffeinating I walked to the gym with high hopes of moving around some good amounts of iron.

It was all going swell as there was plenty of mat space to warm up and open squat racks galore – this has to be my day! – and warm up sets were going real well and I just knew that I’d hit … wow these heavy squats just aren’t feeling like I want them to.

Moving onward and upward, right then.

I managed to get a good training session in at the gym. I’m no expert but I have enough exercises in my training bag that I can get a good work out in even when something isn’t going to plan.

On the walk home from the gym the sky is hazy blue, not quite a fully brilliant sunscape but dang, it’s not been this warm in millennia and wow this sweatshirt is warm and no furnace needed until later today when the snow returns but for now, windows open and grab some lunch while getting a bike and myself prepared to ride.

What goes in my saddle bag? Where is that inflator and those tire levers and right, in another bike bag and do I really need that inflator along with my frame pump and why can’t I find my knee warmers and yes, get my lightweight gloves otherwise I’ll be bitching at myself for making myself too dang cold and why can’t I ever find the sunglasses I want but hey, I haven’t seen these Oakley cateye sunglasses in around 25 years and those are cool and do I need a do-rag or head band today and you get the picture; it’s always a treat to get ready to do something you’ve done a million times, for the first time again.

To make this a proper RAGBRAI training ride, proper pre-ride nutrition must be followed. Lagunitas Night Time black ale fit the bill just right.

I’ve become a huge fan of the black style of India Pale Ales that many American breweries are putting forth these days.

Firestone Walker’s Wookey Jack, Greenbush Brewing’s Anger, Stone’s Sublimely Self-Righteous and Chicago’s Begyle Brewing collaboration with Dryhop Brewing’s Johnny Quest Thinks We’re Sellouts are my favorites in the Black IPA category.

Enter Night Time black ale which is now available in bottles in Chicagoland with the opening of Lagunitas Brewing in Chicago.

To me, the Night Time is perfect balance of demure hoppiness followed by roasty cozy carbo-loading maltiness. It doesn’t break any new ground, in fact, it’s almost too unassuming but I like Lagunitas Night Time, a lot. There’s a roundness to it, how the flavors lead into each other that leads me to drink another one over and over.

I chose to ride my Gunnar Crosshairs cyclocross bike that I’ve never used for any type of cyclocross racing/practicing/etc. This is a solid bike that never disappoints me. Someday I’d like to replace the component group but for now, the aging Shimano 105 does the trick. Last spring I built a new wheel set on the original 105 hubs and with over a thousand miles on the wheels, they still don’t need any attention/truing/love.

The route today was going to be on the Chicago lakefront which I’ve been riding for 25 years and never get tired of but like any road/place/destination, there are times when one doesn’t want to be anywhere near this stretch of pavement, unless one’s attitude has had a severe adjustment.

The lake front path gets a bad rap among the Chicago bicycling “community” and I can understand why. The path is of limited width and unlimited popularity, especially on warm weekends. You’ll see tourists, walkers, dog-walkers, sitters, starers/lurkers/gawkers, beach goers, parents with their damnable uncontrolled demon spawn who will get hit by some Lakefront Lance – yes, he’s there too and why can’t we ban him? – who’s out for a 4 mile time trial on the busiest days of the year. You’ll encounter runners and bikers and roller bladers who have no clue that anyone else could possible be out on the gorgeous Chicago lake front path on these beautiful summer days.

It’s crazy dangerous. I don’t go there on weekends and when I am riding the path, I’m of the attitude that it’s all good.

I did ride the lakefront today and it was glorious to not dress in 83 layers, to not worry about my hands and feet becoming numb, to see the pretty women out running, to see the signs of spring all around.  My bike felt great and I felt great riding it.

This past winter weather was so bitter cold and snowy that after a week of melting temps, there are still huge mounds of ice on the beaches which are drawing local “weather tourists.” Rounding the curve headed south from Oak St. Beach about 6.5 miles into today’s ride, the ice is still so thick that there’s a clear shallow path close to the wall that creates Lake Shore Drive and the ice chills the air noticeably and why is this bike riding soft and and and…

Flatting tires show no mercy.

I haven’t had a flat tire in over 4 years.

After staring at the thing and pondering my options – I mean, really, what other option is there but to repair the damn thing right where were I was? I’m an idiot – I unloaded my seat bag full of tube replacement fixit doo-dads and turned the bike upside down and removed the wheel and proceeded with the tube replacement procedure.

Nothing in the tire; I ran my fingers all around the inside of the tire at least 5 times and felt nothing. I saw nothing. Pumped up the tube to see where the leak was but saw nothing and with all the traffic on Lake Shore Drive just a few feet from my ass I couldn’t hear any air leaks. The only thing I could think of is the tube just failed. It is rather old with thousands of miles on it, not that i’ve ever heard of a tube just spontaneously failing but I suppose it could happen.

I am reluctant to report that i didn’t bring it home to perform a forensic test on the thing. Another “I shoulda…” moment.

Not that I enjoyed changing my tube but things could have been much worse; I was sitting lakeside on a gorgeous day and 5 riders stopped and asked if they could help, if I had everything I needed and if I was okay.

I never do this, I never stop to help. Why? There are a ton of silly stupid reasons but we don’t have time for this now.

I always carry a spare tube, a CO2 inflator and tools needed to fix a flat. From now on, it won’t kill me to carry two spare tubs; one for me and one to give away. Now, you weight weenies might holler but I’m sure y’all think I’m riding a monolith anyway, I mean, just how much does my loaded steel-framed bike weigh? Incomprehensible!


With the tire fixed, the bike put back together and all is good as new yet I’m down a spare tube and the confidence that inspires. My tires are older than I’d like (just ordered Conti Gatorskin foldables this morning!) and I do ride in an urban environment so I cut today’s ride in half and headed north towards home while mentally plotting out all the bike shops along the way just in case this second tube failed.

Did I yet mention today’s wind is a swirly southerly/westerly mess moving around 12mph and gusting much higher? Did I mention I could motor home with a strong tail/tail-cross wind with all the fun associated with such winds?

With my bike hoisted upstairs, I changed my clothes and walked over to my favorite local bike shop because I had to purchase some extra CO2 cartridges and this gave me a chance to chat up the folks and look around at new bike stuff. What bike rider does not enjoy this? Some pretty new bikes in that shop, I’d like at least three that I saw.

Today’s post-ride nutrition was a painfully cold can of BLATZ.  The words necessary to describe the experience escape me.

I’ll have another Lagunitas Night Time or I have some Greenbush Distorter porter and their Brother Benjamin imperial IPA waiting for some company.

Today was a day where things went almost nowhere near planned, yet, I was able to ride for a few miles and so some admirable work, I was able to get to my local bike shop, I was able to change my flat and honestly, how can any day with a Blatz be a disappointment?


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