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A ride to Leavenworth

Joel’s been re-modeling the Burley for me, and yesterday we went out for a ride to Leavenworth which was the first trip out for me with this bike in its new configuration.

Not so long ago, I was trying to sell this bike. Nobody wanted to buy it, however, and Joel convinced me that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to keep it, and that it could probably be fixed up to be a better bike for my purposes.

The first thing he did was swap out the original Easton Vista wheels for a pair of 32-spoke Mavics. Those Eastons were a pair of rough-riding wheels. It was like riding a jackhammer down the road. I was pretty disappointed because I thought I had an uncharacteristically unforgiving steel-framed road bike, but the fact of the matter is that it just had a really stiff pair of wheels on it. The handling was terrible and it was fatiguing to ride on long distances. A road bike that sucks for distance riding isn’t much of a dang road bike. You’re supposed to be able to ride centuries on one of those things and do it with a smile. Or at least do it willingly and consider doing it again. Last year, after a 90-miler on the old wheels, I was ready to throw that bike off a bridge! Now, the notion of much longer rides is in no way unappealing.

So the original wheels are going up on ebay sometime pretty soon. The other immediate change was a switch over to flat bars and Paul’s “Thumbie” shifters. I just never could get the love for drop bars. I couldn’t brake well (even with the change to the supposed “short-reach” brake levers and bar-end shifters) and I never felt very in-control. I don’t like the hand position “on the tops of the hoods.” I can’t get a good grip and always feel like I’m about to lose the bike. In the drops, I can’t see very well and always end up with a stiff neck. On the flat tops of drop-bars, my hands are too close to the stem and I can’t climb very well. I basically just hate everything about drop bars, but I’m okay to go with flat bars. I’ve got a pair of rather stylish black-and-white pepper-bedecked Salsa grips at the moment.

Yet to do: shorter stem (this one is way too long and pulls my shoulders forward) and a lower-geared chainring set. This one is 41/52, and it’s really far too high-geared for me. I’m a decided spinner. I think it’s going to end up being something like 38/48 or similar, and I think that will be quite sufficient for my purposes.

I think once the shorter stem and smaller chainrings are on there, I’m going to wholeheartedly love this bike. I already heartily endorse the new wheels. Those Eastons are going up on ebay pretty darn toute suite. Fie on stiff wheels, fie, fie!

To test out the new setup, we rode to Leavenworth, KS yesterday. I’m very pleased with how it’s coming along, and the ride was just long enough to really test out the wheels and confirm the other planned changes. That length of ride with the old wheels would have really beat me up and I’d have a sore butt (bike shorts nothwithstanding) and a lousy attitude today. I’m looking forward to taking that bike out again, instead of swearing I will sell the whole contraption at the earliest convenience.

The ride out to Leavenworth was something else! Yesterday was crazy windy and it was a *fight* riding into that wind. I’m not too proud to admit that I drafted Joel whenever I could. The wind was really kicking my butt. Plus it was a really chilly wind which kind of sucked the fun out of riding for that first 35 miles or so. But, if I think I’m going to be doing the Dirty Kanza (more about that later) then getting my butt handed back to me by a few headwinds now is probably a good idea. The route we took to and from Leavenworth was a big loop rather than an out-and-back. The trip to Leavenworth was very flat, but we were bucking a stiff headwind almost the whole way there. On the way back we had a stout tailwind, of course, but much, much hillier terrain. The road back was significantly prettier, thanks to the hills and the winding twistiness of the road itself. There were lots of prosperous-looking small farms and country residences, cows and young calves (when they’re still little and cute) and early-blooming flowers to enliven the landscape.

About the only drawback to the whole ride, aside from the cold headwind on the way out, was what appeared to be an auto club on the way back. It was a group of about half a dozen very new, very expensive sports coupes (different makes and models, all fancy, bright-colored, and theoretically very fast). This group of drivers were really aggressive and tried to squeeze us off the road. After the first four squeaked past us, Joel held down his hand in the “slow down” gesture. Car five slowed down and went wide of us, the passenger gesticulating angrily. Car six also slowed down and went wide, but idled alongside of us, as though the driver and passenger were thinking about fucking with us. It made me pretty nervous, frankly. Moreso than nearly being edged off the road in the first place. After a moment, the driver revved up the engine and squealed away from us. I’m not sure what all that was about, any and all of them had plenty of space to pass us like sane and normal people. I can see the appeal of zipping a sports-car around on those hilly, twisty back-roads, but I can’t see the appeal of intentionally intimidating other road-users who are basically doing the same thing, but on a bicycle, rather than in a car.

The route back in to town included a stretch of Quindaro Blvd, heading toward downtown KCKS. I’m going to have to do a photo ride in that area one of these days. Folks who are scared of inner KC (KS and MO) have no idea about the cool old houses in these semi-abandoned old neighborhoods. I didn’t have my camera with me on yesterday’s ride (I was concerned about rain) but Joel did and he took a few pictures, though none on Quindaro.

Pretty soon here I’ll have to post some pictures of my updated road bike. I think it’s pretty nifty.

4 Responses to “A ride to Leavenworth”

  1. Saxfire says:

    Good to see you have re-found your love for the Burley. Have you ever done the Cottonwood 200? http://www.cottonwood200.org/

    Headwinds and hills galore! 🙂

    That ride is probably the biggest accomplishment of my life. It’s also very fun and rather pretty. I haven’t done it for a couple of years – but looking at the website makes me a little nostalgic.

  2. meetzorp says:

    Thanks for the link. It doesn’t really sound like my usual sort of thing (I’ve become pretty un-fond of large group rides since RAGBRAI) but it might well be something to keep in the files for a someday-thing anyhow.

  3. Saxfire says:

    It’s not a huge group – maybe 2-300 max and when you are spread out among the Flint Hills it’s quite comfortable. They have GREAT SAGs too. There is that whole sleeping in a gym thing, but it’s really not too bad since it’s only 2 overnights and they are in the same gym. Food is decent and the ride is challenging and beautiful. I stilll have “daymares” about a couple of those hills, but also daydreams about flying down the other side of them!

  4. Julie Stark says:

    Hey Michelle –
    I hope the Kwanza is a challenging and rewarding experience for you. Sorry you had to deal with those auto a-holes.

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