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Category Archives: Life On Two Wheels

Cycling in the Upper Midwest (Illinois and Wisconsin)

ReplaceSR Electrolyte Tablets Winner

lectrichead

The winner is “lectrichead”

We recently held a contest to give away six bottles of Replace Sustained Release Electrolyte Tablets to some lucky reader. The rules for the contest were simple: just pick a number between 500 and 1,000 and leave it in the comment section for the review. The contest ended at midnight on Friday, October 30, 2015. The winning number for this contest was 876 and the entry closest to that number was given by “lectrichead”, or, as he is known to his family, Marc, who guessed 874.

Marc describes himself as a “middle-aged web site designer, who has always had an interest in biking but through years of sitting at my job I gained some weight and got pretty out of shape, and my biking decreased over time. Until one day my wife and I decided to lose weight and get healthy, and now I bike like crazy, as much as as far as I can possibly go and my interest in biking increases exponentially as time goes by, it seems. I also cross-train also. I live in northern New York, nearly as far north as you can go without falling into the St. Lawrence and reaching Canada.” You can follow his articles at the Random Bits & Bytes Blog.

Random Number GeneratorFor your information, we used a random number generator to select a number between 500 and 1,000 and that is how 876 was selected as the winning number. Apparently a few folks did not read the directions since they entered numbers that were outside the range of the contest. In addition, I normally word the rules to state that the winning number has to be the number closest to, but not over, the number selected by the random number generator.

 

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The Trek Frame Warranty—Good As Gold

Trek Domane 6.9 Bike Frame

A Trek Domane 6.9 Bike Frame

Fourteen years ago I wondered into the local bike shop, Zion Cyclery in Zion, Illinois, to purchase my first “shop built” bike. The owner of the shop, Don Daisy, showed me several entry level bikes, but he suggested that I get a Trek bike because it was well built and had a great warranty. Well, I took his advice and bought my first Trek bike, a 4300 Alpha Mountain Bike. A few years later I bought a Trek 1200 Road Bike, then a Gary Fisher Big Sur mountain bike (made by Trek). In 2007 I bought my first Carbon fiber road bike, a Trek Madone 5.2. When my youngest son came back from Iraq I bought him a new road bike to help him adjust to civilian life—a Trek bike, of course. Two years ago this month I dropped a major chunk of change on a Trek Domane 5.9 Carbon Fiber Endurance Race Bike. Due to family medical problems and two brutal winters this bike has only been on the road for a total of eleven months (but I was able to get over 6,800 miles on this bike alone during that time). Unfortunately, last week a faulty component damaged the frame and the local bike shop told me  the frame was going to have to be replaced!

Replacing a bike frame is not something any cyclist looks forward to, but this experience has really caused me to appreciate how Trek takes care of their customers! The local bike shop shipped of my damaged frame to Trek for inspection on a Thursday and by the following Friday I had a new (and improved) bike frame. I’ve had friends who’ve had warranty repairs with other brands of bikes and their experience was not nearly as pleasant as mine (their replacement took several weeks to arrive).

The Trek Care Limited Warranty gives the original retail purchaser of nearly all Trek bikes a lifetime warranty on the frame. This warranty is against factory defects, not accidents or stupidity (misuse, abuse, or neglect). However, if you damage your bike frame by trying to do a somersault off the roof of your house (obviously not a factory defect), Trek has the Trek Care Loyalty Program that will help you replace a non-warranty damaged bike frame at a discount.

The damage to my bike frame was caused by the BB90 bottom bracket—either the ball bearings were faulty or the bottom bracket was incorrectly installed at the factory. Regardless of the original cause, the bottom bracket got chewed up and damaged my Carbon fiber frame. I am convinced that what happened to my bike frame was a fluke—I’ve searched a lot of bike forums trying to find someone else with the same problem and couldn’t find one. Technically, this problem is not covered under the warranty—the bike frame did not have a “factory defect.” Here is where having a good local bike shop pays off! Grant Mullen, mechanic extraordinaire at Zion Cyclery, spent a good deal of time on the phone with Trek pleading my case. While the frame damage was not due to a factory defect, it was caused by a factory installed part. I was on “pins and needles” waiting for Trek’s decision. Thankfully, Trek went above and beyond what most companies would be willing to do and sent me a new bike frame (and fork to match). Since my damaged frame was two years old Trek could not give me an exact replacement, so they graciously offered to send me a much more expensive frame at no charge—a 2015 Trek Domane 6.9 frame (a much more expensive fame).

I think it is very important to point out that your local bike shop does not make any money while they are on the phone talking to the factory rep about your bike. Any extra time on the phone is pulling profit out of their business—they do it to provide customer service, not to fatten their bottom line. This is one of the reasons that when I need a new bike I never shop around for a lower price—I always go directly to Zion Cyclery because I know that they take care of their customers after the sale (and that can’t be said about a lot of bike shops).

In my next article I will tell you more about the 2015 Trek Domane 6.9 and how I had it spec’d out.

 

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Cycling In Israel

Ramah Israel Bike Ride 2015

Ramah Israel Bike Ride 2015

Over the past twenty years I’ve spent a good deal of time photographing archaeological sites in the Levant (the countries of the eastern Mediterranean—Greece, Turkey, Israel, Jordan, Egypt, etc.). Unfortunately, camera equipment leaves little room for cycling gear, so I have rarely had the opportunity to ride a bike in the countries I visit, though I have occasionally been able to rent a cheap bike from a hotel. I just got back from Israel—and while I didn’t see a lot of cyclists there, I did run into some folks associated with the Ramah Israel Bike Ride 2015. This fundraising effort supports special needs programs for individuals with Down Syndrome, Autism, and a variety of other developmental and physical disabilities.

Judging from the bikes I saw these folks riding, most of them were not avid cyclists, but their dedication was remarkable! I met some of the riders at the ancient site of Gamla in the western Golan Heights—it was 104 degrees in the shade! As I was walking toward the archaeological site I saw several young women in cycling jerseys coming towards me—I asked if any of them spoke English and was surprised when they answered “yes.” Two lovely young women told me about their fundraising efforts and I told them I much I envied them for being able to ride in such a remarkable place! Apparently their group had stopped at this site because it was one of the few places in that area that had semi-proper restrooms available. Gamla is now a national park in Israel and a great place watch Griffon vultures as they catch the updrafts from the nearby cliffs where they nest.

A Roman Catapult Overlooking Ancient Gamla

A Roman Catapult (Scorpio) Overlooking Ancient Gamla (the Sea of Galilee is in the background)

By the way, if you have never heard of Gamla before don’t feel bad—unless you are a student of either Roman military history or Jewish history you’re probably not going to read about Gamla in your normal course of events. For the record, Gamla was the site of a month-long Roman siege during the Jewish Revolt of A.D. 67 (or, if you are Jewish, the Great Revolt of 67 C.E.). Over 9,000 Jews died at Gamla—a place where the unstoppable might of Vespasian’s legions met the heroic zeal of the Jews. Rome won that round (but their empire has long since been laid to rest).

In the next article I will get back to publishing product reviews!

 
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Posted by on June 1, 2015 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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Meet The Dog That Saved Our Son’s Life

Hearing Ear Service Dog

Derby the Wonder Dog!

It has been eight months since I last posted anything on this blog. As I explained at the time, our oldest son was seriously ill and could not be left alone, so I did what any parent would do—I gave up cycling, blogging and a lot of other things to make sure that either my wife or I could be with our son at all times.

Though he only looks like a student in junior high school, our son is now 36 years old. He was born with multiple birth defects as a result of German Measles (Rubella). Before he was born someone with German Measles got near my wife during her second trimester and our son was born with all of the normal problems that accompany congenital rubella syndrome (deafness, partial blindness, heart abnormalities, developmental delay and a host of other conditions). Last August his health took a serious turn for the worse and he gave up on living—he got down to 98 pounds and was refusing to eat. By the way, if you are one of those people who think that vaccines were concocted by pharmaceutical companies just to fleece people out of their money, let me say this kindly, you are a profound idiot.

My last post was on September 5, 2014—that was the day after we adopted a black Labrador Retriever named Derby. The dog was only nine months old when we adopted him, but this canine has truly saved our son’s life! Derby, like most Labrador Retrievers, was a “high energy” dog when we brought him home and I knew he was going to be a handful. We hired a dog trainer to get him under control, and after a few lessons we decided to pay to have him trained as a Service Dog (a “hearing ear dog” in our case). Last month Derby finished his training and now accompanies our son everywhere. This dog is the reason our son gets out of bed in the morning and is his closest friend.

Derby is such a wonderful companion and faithful friend that we now feel comfortable leaving our son in his care. As a result, the first week of April I was able to ride a bicycle for the first time in over six months! The first few rides were short and slow, but I have worked my way back up to medium-length rides (50 to 60 miles each) a few times a week. Hopefully, I will be able to go on longer rides real soon.

Going back to the bike shop after such a long absence seemed strange, but I felt at home within a few minutes. Hopefully I will be able to resume writing product reviews in June.

Take care and ride safely!

 

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I Shall Return!

It has been a while since I’ve posted any new product reviews on this blog so I thought I’d give you a quick explanation. Our oldest son is 35 years old and was born with multiple birth defects. Our hope and dream has always been that someday he might be able to live on his own (and that’s what he wants as well). Unfortunately, recently he has experienced some serious health issues and we now realize that this particular dream will probably never happen. While he has come a long way from where he started, he still has a lot of physical hurdles in front of him and will have to live with us for the rest of his life.

While I have several reasons for trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle, our son is definitely at the top of the list! The quickest way to bring either my wife or myself to tears is to ask what is going to happen to our son when we are gone. We both try to stay as healthy as possible so that we can put off finding out the answer to that question as long as possible.

As our son is recovering from his most recent setback I am going to stop writing for a little while, but in the words of General Douglas MacArthur, “I shall return!” See you soon!

 
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Posted by on September 5, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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I Am Going To Miss You Anna!

anna Getting Ready For RAGBRAI

Getting Ready For RAGBRAI

For the past five summers I’ve ridden with Anna, a female cyclist who lives near me, as she trained for RAGBRAI (Register’s Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa). Anna is not only a great athlete, but she has also written several product reviews for this blog as well (Lululemon Cycling Clothing, Panoptx 7Eye Briza Women’s Cycling Sunglasses, and Sip, Clip and Go Coffee). Before our first ride this summer Anna informed me that she and her husband will be moving out-of-state before long, so this would be our last year of cycling together. Even though I ride with a lot of different cyclists every year, both male and female, I am really going to miss riding with Anna!

I remember the day I met Anna quite well—I had just returned from several weeks of photographing archaeological sites in the Middle East the day before and was not only tired, but my legs were stiff from being confined to a small vehicle for a few weeks and then cramped into an airplane for the 21-hour trip back home. I was only a few blocks away few my house when I got passed by a young blonde woman who passed me like I was sitting still! No one ever likes getting passed on a bike, but getting passed by a woman was more than I could bear (sorry folks, I’m Old School). It took me a mile to catch up to her and I just said, “You caught me sleeping” as I passed her. Two miles later I stopped for some road construction and Anna pulled up next to me and introduced herself—then asked about what route I was taking and asked if she could join me. Since then we have ridden a lot of miles together between the time in mid-June when she gets out of school (she is a teacher) and the time she leaves for RAGBRAI.

I am not sure where she is moving to yet, but I am certain she will find someone else to ride with her next year as she prepares for RAGBRAI (she goes every year). Therefore, I would like to give that person a warning: Hiding behind that lovely smile Anna has a mean streak. Over the years I have learned that you should never tell her that you don’t feel well or that you are tired. When you say, “Anna, my legs are sore so let’s take it easy today,” she hears, “Anna, drop down into your aerobars and set a pace that will make me puke before we hit 20 miles!” Last year I had to spend a few months off the bike due to a medical problem and then ended up having surgery on my esophagus just a week before I met up with Anna for our first ride of the summer. A few miles into the ride I told her I was having trouble keeping up with her because of the surgery—she just smiled and said, “Just sounds like an excuse to me!” Like a gladiator in the Colosseum—no mercy expected and none given!

If you are one of the thousands of cyclists heading out to Iowa next week for RAGBRAI you can look for Anna in her “Team Big” jersey. If you see her, please tell her “Hello” for me!

Anna, I wish you well wherever you and Nate end up moving to. May the wind always be at your back!

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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3,000 Miles Down

A rare photo of the All Seasons Cyclist without snow on the ground!

A rare photo of the All Seasons Cyclist without snow on the ground!

A few months ago I mentioned that the first 1,000 miles of the year are the hardest—at the time I didn’t know how difficult the second 1,000 miles was going to be! My first 1,000 miles for this year were all in the snow, while the second 1,000 miles seemed to be all going into a strong headwind (I live in the Chicago area). Fortunately, the third 1,000 miles proved to be a lot easier and this morning I passed the 3,000 mile mark for the year. For the past several years I have averaged a little over 6,000 miles of cycling per year. Last year I was just one short bike ride away from 5,000 miles because I had to take some time off the bike due to surgery (and then I was rather slow for a while during recovery). The brutal winter we had this year has put me seriously behind my normal schedule and it is rather doubtful that I will hit 6,000 miles this year.

A visit from the Puncture Fairy

A visit from the Puncture Fairy

This morning I rode with a friend of mine, Anna, and she had a visit from the Puncture Fairy about 50 miles into our ride. I am not sure what Anna did to tick off the Puncture Fairy, but she double-flatted today!

 
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Posted by on July 7, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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I’m Not Dead Yet

Surly Necromancer Pugsley Fat Bike

My Surly Necromancer basking in the sun along the Des Plaines River in Illinois

It has been nearly a month since my last post and in the past few days I’ve received a few letters from fellow bloggers who were wondering if I was OK. Well, in the words of the poor guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, “I’m not dead.” In fact, I feel better than I have in many years.

Everyone in the Midwest knows how brutal this past winter was (second highest snowfall in Chicago history along with the coldest four-month period in Chicago history). About a month ago a really strange thing happened—I got up one morning and there was a really bright light up in the sky and it was giving off heat! It was such a strange sight that I almost called the police department, but a friend told me that it was something called “the sun.” It was such a pleasant thing that I got on my road bike and haven’t done much else since then (which explains why I haven’t been writing articles for this blog).

My first 1,500 miles for the year were all done on the snow and ice—which means that I rarely saw any other cyclists. However, now that the sun is out all of those wimps who spent the winter inside riding their bikes in the basement are now back on the roads (heaven help us all).

In a few days I will be publishing a review of the Tribesports Cycling Jersey—it is an extremely high-quality jersey that sells for an unbelievably low price.

 
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Posted by on June 8, 2014 in Life On Two Wheels

 

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A Visit From The Puncture Fairy

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

My inner tube with a vertical split along the seam

Last week a friend of mine told me that he had two flats on his bike within the past few weeks—and like a total idiot I told him that I hadn’t had a flat in over nearly 6,000 miles. Experienced cyclists already know what happened next—my careless words summoned the Puncture Fairy and I got a flat on my next ride! For the uninformed, the Puncture Fairy is an evil little creature that shows up when you least expect it and wreaks havoc in your life (I know, she has the same job description as a mother-in-law). The quickest way to summon the Puncture Fairy is to mention that you’ve not had a flat in a while.

This past Saturday I went out for a 70-mile ride and about halfway through I heard a small explosion and then the front tire popped off the rim of my bike. Fortunately, I was climbing a step hill and was not going very fast at the time. If the problem had occurred just a few minutes before it could have been fatal since I had been riding on a busy highway at just under 40 MPH (yes, I was going downhill and had a strong tailwind). While the Puncture Fairy decided to pay me a visit, at least she showed me a bit of mercy concerning the timing. I’ve repaired a lot of flat tires over the years and can easily swap out an inner tube and be on my way in under five minutes. However, this was the very first time I’ve had a flat as a result of inner tube failure instead of a puncture. This time my inner tube split vertically along the seam (about 1.5″ long), and when the seam burst it knocked my tire off of the rim (which made it even faster to change the tire since I didn’t have to use a lever to get it off the rim).

The reason I told you this story is because it is finally spring and many folks are just getting their bikes out of the garage for the first time since last fall (which also means they missed a lot of good winter biking weather). Before you take your bike out for a ride you really need to make sure that you have a patch kit, spare inner tube, and a tire lever or two with you. If you don’t know how to change a tire I strongly suggest that you practice in your garage using the same tire levers that you carry with you when you ride.

Road debris sliced right through this tire

Road debris sliced right through this tire

You also need to have a back-up plan for when the Puncture Fairy really decides to ruin your day by slicing your tire in addition to puncturing your inner tube. Last summer I went out for a long ride with a young woman and on our way home she hit a piece of road debris and it sliced through her front tire like a hot knife going through warm butter. I took her tire off the rim, but it was a lost cause—not even a Park Tool Emergency Tire Boot could cover the damage.

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

Here is the piece of road debris that the young woman hit

The woman told me to just ride back to my house and she’d walk back (her car was at my house). However, this was not going to work for two reasons. First, I am a gentleman and the thought of leaving a lady by the side of the ride with a flat tire just wasn’t an option. Second, my wife would have shot me when I got home if she found out I left a woman by the side of the road home with a broken bike. So, I called my dear wife and she picked up the woman and her bike and then I rode home (and as slow as my wife drives I nearly beat them there).

When was the last time the Puncture Fairy paid you a visit?

 

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The First 1,000 Miles Are Always The Hardest

Eagle Lake, Wisconsin Still Had A Lot Of Ice This Week

Eagle Lake In Wisconsin Still Had A Lot Of Ice This Week

Yesterday I finally passed the 1,000 mile (1,600 km) mark of cycling for this year. The first 1,000 miles of the year are always the hardest—and even though I love winter cycling, I have to tell you that this past winter was simply brutal! Chicago officially experienced the coldest four-month period in recorded history, and I live north of Chicago where the temps were even colder. We also had over 80″ (203 cm) of snow, which makes it either the second or third snowiest winter in Chicago history. And even though I have not been able to verify it, it seems to me that this also was windiest winter I’ve ever experienced.

I normally have around 1,500 miles on my bike by this time of the year, but the brutal weather make winter cycling even more difficult than usual. If you are not familiar with winter cycling you need to understand that your average speed on the bike is going to be a lot slower than normal—not just because you are pushing through fresh snow, but also because the air is thicker and you are carrying a lot more gear than you would in the summer. In addition, you have to stop every time you try to get a drink so you can lower your face mask and unscrew the thermos bottle. The coldest ride I went out on this year was at -11 degrees Fahrenheit (-24 Celsius). We had a few days where the temperature was a bit colder, but on those days the wind was howling at over 40 MPH so I decided to stay home and sit near the fireplace.

Though the amount of time riding this winter was less than normal, I didn’t have a lot of free time either. There were days when I had to shovel my driveway three times in the same day! So, as much as I love winter, I am glad this winter is over. There is still some snow on the ground if you look hard enough, and as of three days ago some of our lakes were still closed due to the ice. The photo above was take this past Saturday at Eagle Lake in Racine County, Wisconsin—the lake was still about 90% covered by ice.

I am not sure how many miles I will ride this year, but I should comfortably be able to get at least 5,000 miles, providing I stay in good health. However, I might have to miss a few days this fall—a few weeks ago our daughter-in-law announced that she is expecting a child in August. Though I am still way too young for the job, I guess this means I am going to be a grandfather! It also means I am going to have to start looking for a suitable bike for my grandson (haven’t decided yet between a fat bike or a cyclocross bike).

 

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