Saturday, June 30, 2012

55nine Performance

Eddie's been trying to get me to drop by 55nine to get fit for years now. Years. Plural. I've always been a little conflicted because the shops I've ridden for do bike fits too and on top of that, there's always been some other, more pressing concern, but with back and neck pain still lingering from ORAMM (two years ago), and with my right knee trying to tear itself apart for the past few months, I figured now might finally be a good time.

I brought the Iz along, she took a bunch of photos and I kept the ones that had the greatest potential for personal embarrassment, and thus humor. She has a good eye for that, so I didn't have to delete too many.

I can't remember the details of what we were doing in every photo, nor am I sure whether what I do remember is proprietary intellectual property or not, so I'll relate what is probably OK to relate and make jokes about the rest.

Getting started...

I changed into my kit, Eddie felt all over me and drew a bunch of dots and lines with a permanent marker, then measured the distances between them.

 Preliminary Measurements

I saw this movie once called "What Would You Say To a Naked Lady" by Alan Funt. Hilarious - basically an adultish version of Candid Camera. They had this whole bit about what tailors can get away with. People want their clothes to fit well. If their tailor doesn't feel them up pretty well, then they don't feel like he's doing a good job.

It was kind of like that. Not quite as awkward, but it reminded me of it and of course, Iz thought it was all very funny.

Next, I did some ballet. I think this is position 11: camionneur.


I made that up. What are there, 10 positions? 5 arm and 5 foot? Sophie would know. I'm actually not sure what we were doing there.

I like this shot because it's nothing but knees. Knees, knees, knees.

 All Knees



"Only if she's five-three."

Next, I got into the birthing position...

 Caption Contest...

I put that one on facebook. Oh man, the captions people came up with.

It was actually a pretty good back stretch though, I might start doing it at home sometimes.

Later Eddie took some measurements and traced my feet.

 Foot Turkey

I figured he'd make a turkey out of it or something but he did something scientific on the computer instead.

Then there was a relaxing foot massage...

 Foot Massage

Followed by calculations...

 Number Crunching

And number crunching...


And measurements of my bike...

 Bike Measurements

And Lasers!

 Laser Beams

Then we did a couple of the weirdest high-fives ever.

 High Five, Or Something

And then we got serious for a while.

The premise, as I remember it, is... If you angle everything right, you get the best power transfer possible, while simultaneously minimizing forces on the soft tissues of the joints and allowing each muscle to both work hard and rest well. If any of these angles are sufficiently off, you can get cascading, sometimes unintuitive problems that can lead to fatigue, pain and eventually injury, if you push it long enough, which I definitely have, from time-to-time. There's sort of a safe range of angles for everything to operate in, and there are formulas for optimizing power, aerodynamics, maneuverability, etc. within those ranges. So, you take bike and body measurements, plug them in to the formulas and out come seat height, bar reach, cleat position and so on, for whatever type of bike you're riding; road, mountain, tri, time-trial, etc.

It makes even more sense if you see examples of what's happening on skeletal models.

 Contact Point Demo

The measurement and calculation part really starts to make sense when you bend your foot or knee a certain way and he's like: "Do you feel that hamstring load up?" and I'm like "No, not really" but then he pushes on it and then you totally do feel it. My nerves aren't sensitive enough to notice it on their own though. So, there could be all kinds of subtle problems that I don't feel until the cumulative effects add up to fatigue, some time later and I have to back-derive what might have caused it. Normally though, I wouldn't even do that, I'd just figure I needed to get trained up a little more.

The whole process reminded me of being in a band in college. My brother John ran sound for us and when we'd set up the PA system in a bar for a show, he'd "tune the room" by running pink noise (all frequencies, rotating quickly and randomly, at the same volume) through the speakers and adjust the input to the amp with a third-octave equalizer until a real-time analyzer with a calibrated microphone attached to it said that all frequencies were at the exact same volume. Effectively, exactly what went into the mixing board went into the ears of the crowd and any "coloration" from the amps, speakers and room was cancelled out.

Most people didn't do this, they just fiddled with the EQ when they'd get feedback and relied on their ears to do the rest until they got a "warm" sound.

We didn't want a warm sound though, we wanted accurate sound, and we got it. On top of that, we got beautiful imaging and excellent separation between the instruments. We used less power to play louder without sounding "harsh" and you could point the mic directly at a cranked monitor, anywhere on stage and there was no chance of feedback. For that matter, the monitors didn't even need to be cranked. And it took far less time to do a sound check than "ringing out" the room by ear.

Most human ears aren't sensitive enough to achieve all that, but the RTA is and the results were impressive. John then went on to apply the same ideas to car audio and won competitions consistently, for years.

The bike-fit process reminded me of that room-tuning process. Both replace human senses with far more sensitive measuring devices, and the more Eddie explained about it, the better it sounded.

Science concluded, we got back to doing funny-looking things again.

Uh... What'cha got going on back there Ed?

 Whatcha got going on back there?

"The angle of the dangle..." or something.

 The Angle of... Uh... Yeah...

Since I was involved in this process, all things that could be difficult, were. Especially one of my cleat bolts.

 Difficult Cleat Bolts

While waiting for the drill to charge, we worked on the road bike.

I got some pointers on my stroke, from behind.

 Uhhh... Hmmm...

It was actually a little weird being on a trainer that long. I don't own one and the longest I've ever spent on one was warming up before each lap at the 24 Hours of Adrenaline way back.

Apparently, after a while, I started checking over my shoulder, maybe for cars, or for the attack...

 Checking For The Attack

The most immediately noticeable thing, and it was so noticeable that it made me really, really happy, was how different I felt "spinning up".

 Oh man! This is great.

If I'm planning an attack or if a hill is coming then I "spin up" into it, shifting power, mainly to my hamstrings, but then shifting ASAP to my quads because my hamstrings would get weak, very quickly under load. Post-fit, that weakness doesn't come. My hamstrings just don't get weak. What the heck?! I can't wait to get out on the road for real with that.

The other immediately noticeable thing was that my knees didn't orbit. I've always had to think about keeping my knees from moving left and right as they rise through the pedal stroke, but now they don't appear to even want to. Nice.

When the drill was charged, Eddie drilled out that stuck bolt, adjusted my shoes, and fit the mountain bike too.


The road bike immediately felt great. The mountain bike immediately felt strange. I'm going to have to ride it for real though and see what's what. It's hard to tell on a trainer. Everybody else that I know that's ever been fit has had good results though, so I'm optimistic, if only I could get a ride in.

It's getting up to 104 in Atlanta these days, but I don't care about the heat, 104 is actually cooler than it's been in Texas. All the adjustments left me with short brake cables though, so the road bike's in the shop right now for that and I can't easily ride the mountain bike until Kathryn gets back from Baton Rouge.

Oh, normal life, when will you return?

When will you return!?

Baton Rouge and Bonita Lakes

All's well that ends well, and though I had a great time in Dallas, I couldn't stay forever. Iz has gym, I've got work. While I can mostly work from anywhere with a good internet connection, I can't do everything. Time to go.

We bailed back to Baton Rouge last Tuesday and dropped off Kathryn and Sophie. Wednesday, Iz and I aimed ourselves in the general direction of home. I say the general direction because we took a little side trip through downtown Baton Rouge first.

In the late 80's and early 90's, when I skated 6 hours a day, along with my brother and Sager, one of my perpetual partners in crime was Clark Derbes. During the summer of '91, in particular, I'd skate with him in the morning, work until 9PM then skate with J 'til midnignt or 1, most days.

Clark's an artist now, living in Vermont, but he recently came back to Baton Rouge to paint a mural on the corner of Florida and Third, downtown.

 Clark's Mural

The mural itself is beautiful, and standing in front of it made me far more homesick than I imagined it might. I could see the wall...

 The Wall

St. James Church...

 St. James

Capital Bank, the Centroplex, that ollie bump across from the old house, and a half dozen more skate spots. The flood of memories was almost tangible. And with this massive expression consuming my field of vision... It wasn't exactly like standing there again with my friend, but it was pretty close. Man.

I got a shot of Iz in front.

 Iz at Clark's Mural

And that made me reflect on how much my life has changed in the last 20 years. How much more might it change in the next?

We grabbed some lunch nearby and hit the road.

Passing through Honey Island Swamp on the LA/MS border, I first saw some wild hog roadkill, then a small herd of hogs themselves. Iz missed them both, but as fate would have it, there was an exit right there and we were able to spin back for a better look.

Only one remained when we returned.

 Honey Island Swamp Pig

It soon trotted off but Iz got to see a real, live, wild hog. Waaa!

We needed gas in Meridian. We often stop in Meridian. So much so that I've been able to explore and map the entire mountain bike trial system at Bonita Lakes, nearby. There's a walking trail around the lower lake too, but I've always been too tired/lazy to walk it after riding. This time, I had plenty of energy and nothing better to do, so me and Iz took a walk around the lake.

There were a lot of rules.

 Lots of Rules

It was like 100 degrees and sunny, and the reflections off the lake were blinding at first but partway around it was beautiful.

 Bonita Lake

The perimeter was dotted with swamp cypress (I think) and most of it had some weird growth going on.

 Weird Cypress Disease

What the heck is that?


About halfway around, a massive conglomeration of geese blocked the trail.


They were entirely unafraid of us.

 Geese (Unafraid)

One hissed, but other than that, they were very friendly too. We didn't have any bread though. Sorry, geese.

And then our walk was over.

I'm fairly certain that I have some odd form of hoarding re. trails and map data.

"No, I'm just being thorough."

"No, admit it, you have a problem."

"Yeah, but it's useful and interesting and I've learned so much and Adventure so often follows!"

"True, but, still, it's weird."

"Yeah. It's weird."

It's definitely weird. Is it wrong? I might need to think about that.

Wrong or right, It was a nice walk and, of course, I collected data. Precious, precious data.

Monday, June 25, 2012


Most nights this week, my dad and I have been up late trying to get an old computer running again. A Cromemco Z-2D to be precise, the first computer I ever used in my life, in like 1978 or '79, when I was either 4 or 5. Everything appears to be in working order but we can't get it to boot. Could be anything. Fortunately, computers from that era are easy to work on. They're slow and simple and the documentation includes full schematics. Stunningly, the chips and electronics are still available too, and cheap. The struggle has led to way too many late nights though, including Saturday night.

Sunday morning we'd planned on riding Grapevine early, but as we had, again, been up till 2, we rolled out of bed after 10 and it ended up being a little after noon before we actually got going, right as it really started to get warm.

The Northshore Trail is a loop along the north shore of Grapevine Lake. There are 3 or 4 places you can park. The internet suggested Murrell Park because it was free and shouldn't be too crowded. We found this to be true.

I'm not sure whether it was pure coincidence, or if grapes and grape vines are common in the area (thus the name), but we parked right in front of a massive tangle of them.


They looked and tasted a lot like muscadines but they had much smaller seeds.

It was already over 100 degrees but there were plenty of folks out enjoying the trail. Several mountain bikers came through the lot while we were getting ready and a half dozen or more trail runners passed by as well. I guess if you live here, 100 degrees is no big deal.

Not 3 miles in, my dad flatted.


There are some fairly gnarly rocks here and there at Grapevine, and they kind of sneak up on you.

Earlier, at the car, we'd both noticed that we hadn't any spare mountain bike tubes. I had a road tube and between us we had patches and boots, Co2 and a pump, so we figured we'd be OK.

We were OK all right, but it took tremendous effort to get the tire off, much more effort to clean the old Stans off from when he last ran it tubeless and only slightly less to get the patches to stick. The patches didn't work though and we eventually just threw the road tube in there and headed back to the car. I dug and dug and did eventually find a mountain bike tube.

The road tube was holding up though, and rode well, so we didn't swap it right away, but I brought a second road tube just in case and we hit the reset button on the ride.


The last time we'd been to Grapevine had to have been 10 years ago, or maybe even more and the trail sure has changed since then. We only vaguely remembered it, but we both remembered old, rutted roadbeds and acres of sand. Since then, it's been rerouted and mostly now consists largely of rolling, flowing singletrack, punctuated with stream crossings, bridges, and the most interesting bits of the old trail.

The surrounding woods has a lot of different flavors too, so the trail isn't just the anonymous singletrack that so many massively rerouted trails often become.

There was scrubby woods...

 Scrubby Woods

Grassy woods...

 Grassy Woods

Woodsy grass...

 Woodsy Grass

And several runs along the edge of the lake...

 Northshore Trail - By The Lake

At the extreme east end we discovered the Rockledge Park, teeming with people swimming, boating and sunbathing.


They had the right idea. The temperature was climbing and we were just making it worse by exercising. In the woods it was like an oven and out in the open we were exposed to the full, direct fury of the sun.

 O Meu Padre

Neither of us got sunburned, but standing out in it made my skin hurt. "Ha, ha. White people."

We shredded back west, which for some reason seemed slightly easier. It might have been net downhill, or we might just have gotten a good feel for the trail.


Either way, we made it back to our lot quickly and tanked up at the local drinking fountain.

It's hard to see in this photo, but a wasp was hanging around, drinking from the pools of water that the overspray caused.

 Wasp Drinking

It would buzz around if you used the fountain but then as soon as you left, it went right back to drinking.


We pushed further west, passing ruins of the old route to either side with increasing frequency. Up around that end, the trail runs almost through people's backyards too. It actually lies on Army Corps land but somebody must have gone out there and surveyed to be sure where the borders were because it sure feels like it's in their yard.

Eventually the trail looped back and followed the shore in the other direction.

Shortly before making it to Rockledge earlier, we'd run into a guy who'd flatted his back tire and had been walking for half an hour. We didn't want to part with our only spare mountain bike tube but we stopped to patch it for him. His tire came off easily and the patch looked like it would be sufficient but right then another guy rode up with a spare that we could just throw in. Turned out that guy was largely responsible for the transformation of the trail from the one-way, rutted, degrading mess it had become into its current incarnation. For this, we thanked him. He also kept mentioning "the mad house" at the other end, and giving us mileages in reference to it.

We had no idea what he was talking about, but in due time...

 MADD House

Ahh, MADD (not "mad"):

 MADD House Dedication


Now it made sense.

Not a half mile from there, my dad flatted again, while riding through sand, of all things. I guess that road tube just couldn't hack it. We swapped it quickly that time. I can't remember ever having dealt with so many flats in one ride.

The rest of the trail went quickly and easily.

There was some other 4 mile loop nearby but we declined. The heat was getting to my dad, more than it usually does for some reason. Could be all those late nights. It was definitely hot. The thermometer in my car said 101 but a bank on the way back showed 105.

Hey, it's summer in Texas. It's hot. What are you gonna do?


I'm still in Dallas, hanging out with my parents. We get up, work all day and do stuff together in the evenings. It's not a typical vacation, but it's still pretty good.

A couple of days back I had a couple of hours to kill and though it's 100+ outside, there are miles and miles of road in every direction that I've never seen before and the urge to explore was irresistible.

I pulled up a couple of maps, roughed out a loop that I figured would take a couple of hours and hit the road.

Though I guess it wasn't exactly the road that I first hit, but rather the little trail through the neighborhood.

 Chestnut Meadows Trail

Road bike singletrack again, woohoo!

My "plan", such as it was, was thwarted relatively early. I needed to cross the Trinity River but there are only a few ways to do that: north around Lake Ray Hubbard, south through Seagoville, or go directly across on Highway 80, which I've done in my car dozens of times. I guess I didn't pay enough attention to the service roads though, because it always appeared that they paralleled the highway all the way across the river. Indeed, they do not. They're blocked off, flooded, and there's a gap in the road, right at the river. 80 itself (the non-service-road part) is not unlike 400 in Atlanta, and presumably not open to bikes.

I discovered all of this about 20 minutes into the ride and my loop turned into an out-and-back.

Still though, there's nothing wrong with an out-and-back, and I got the full East Texas experience.

Sophie asked me the other day how I'd describe Texas if I had to use one word. I said "expansive". This didn't please her. I think she was thinking along totally different lines, but that was the word that came to mind, and you really feel it out on the bike.

You can usually see a long way.


In every direction.



 Also Expansive

I headed south toward Seagoville.

Bois D'Arc Street leading out of Forney has some really nice houses, but the road surface would shake the teeth out of the average Atlanta roadie. FM-740 was a lot smoother but featured dozens of 30 foot long, 8 inch deep ruts in the asphalt. The average gravel Forest Service Road is maintained to a higher standard. I bet I could bottom out my wife's Fit on any one of them.

Live in Texas, drive a truck.

There was no shortage of desolate expanse though and the views in every direction failed to disappoint. The heat failed to disappoint as well. Around every corner, the road ahead disappeared into wavy mirage.

Ahh. Texas.

Eventually I reached the bustling metropolis of Seagoville. Near I-20 it was built-out. There were hotels and a McDonalds and "The Villas of Seagoville", but the old downtown was quiet as the grave.

 Seagoville 1  Seagoville 2

Two thrift stores, a cafe and a car wash were open. Nothing else.

I might have found Vonnie's ancestral home though.

 McClung Street

Perhaps the McClung family migrated east to Albany when Seagoville went bust.

Or, maybe not.

I spun a lap through the elementary school, home of the Wee Dragons, and another loop around downtown before heading back north.

Apparently the road can be flooded sometimes.

 No High Water Today

There was little chance of that though. In fact, the drought meters all over Forney seemed to indicate little chance of flood, or rain for that matter, for the forseeable future.

In the other direction it was even more vast and expansive.

Even more!

 Even More Expansive

I had a magnanimous tailwind on the way back too, and probably averaged 20 miles an hour or more.

The loop was a bust, but I think I still got the full experience and that was what I was after. Can't ask for much more than that.