Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Sibley Depot Wheelbuilding Class

Signed up for the wheelbuilding class at Sibley Bike Depot at the last minute. The class started at 6PM, and I signed up at about 4:15. This wasn't entirely my fault - I called the day before, but the guy who answered the phone was busy (he had his hands full with a room full of gradeschool-age kids - I don't know what sort of bike stuff he was teaching them, but I could hear a bunch of 'em in the background.) Then I tried calling multiple times today, and couldn't get through until 4:15. So there. Admittedly, I need to be more on the ball - I don't think I would have got into the class if someone else hadn't cancelled out. I also had to verify that the Depot membership that my sis gave me for my birthday last year was actually in effect (which it was) since I never got anything in the mail.

So anyway. About half the class had actual truing stands to use, the rest used the rear triangle of bikes in workstands. I don't think either way was much better than the other - I think either would work equally well, at least when you're at my novice level.

We were given a hub, a rim, and the correct number of the correct length of spokes. The geometry of calculating the correct spoke length requires, well, geometry (trigonometry to be precise) because you have to take the hub flange diameter, rim diameter, and lacing pattern (3 cross, 4-cross, radial, etc) into consideration. They didn't teach us the formulas - they just set us up with the correct length spokes. Most of us, at least. About 1/2 hour into the class, they discovered that some people had longer spokes - those people had to remove their spokes and start over - thankfully we weren't very far along. Bummer for them. Actually, it wasn't a huge deal because we weren't very far along at that point.

We had 36 hole rims, so each side of the wheel has 18 spokes. Lacing the first 9 spokes (every other hole on that side of the hub to the rim) were easy. Then you put the 10th spoke in the same side in the opposite direction - it'll be the first spoke that crosses the others. That one is also not too complicated. The complicated part is figuring out the correct location for the first spoke on the other side of the rim. If you don't get that one right, you'll be screwed and end up taking out that spoke (and all the others on that side) later and trying again.

Anyway, I won't go into any more detail since the process is tough to explain, and if you ever want to try, you'll buy a book or have someone teach you anyway. The truing process required more patience than anything, since you're trying to make sure that all points of the rim are equidistant from the hub, *and* make sure that the wheel has minimal wobble, *and* make sure that it's dished properly (evenly on both sides). It's a lot of trial and error, but it's not too bad if you periodically take a look at all three things (hop, wobble, and dish) and focus on the thing that needs the most work first. Then things seem to fall into place. Eventually I got to the point where my wheel still wasn't perfect, but it was pretty OK, and whatever I did seemed to make one thing or the other worse instead of better. That's when I said "good enough for now" and called it a night.

I can understand why wheelbuilding is considered both an art and a science. Coming out of the class, I'm pretty sure that if I had a book with instructions, and some practice, I'd have enough skill to make a wheel that would at least be rideable. Pretty cool stuff.

Monday, May 16, 2005

Gear West 20 Miler

While my friend Brian and I both do triathlon, the training that we do together is generally limited to biking - he's a much stronger swimmer than I am, while I'm a stronger runner. Our running paces are different - he's trains at a 9-10 min/mile pace for long runs, while I prefer to be in 8 min/mile territory. The one thing we have in common is that we're both way behind in training for our upcoming events ... he's signed up for Ironman Coeur d'Alene in June, while I'm gearing up for Grandma's marathon.

Gear West was hosting a 20 mile training run Sat morning, complete with stops every few miles with gatorade, so I called Brian on Thursday and convinced him to run with me. This was going to be a stretch for both of us, as both my and his longest runs this year have been in the 15 mile range, and we figured we could both use the company. We agreed that we'd try to run most of it together, as long as we were OK with running at the same pace, and do our own thing as needed.

It's a good thing Brian agreed to the run - the weather was threatening rain when I woke up at 6:30am, and if it had been up to just me, I would have stayed warm in bed. But as it was, I dragged my ass outta bed, debated what clothes would be best suited for a cold, rainy morning, and headed out.

So how was the run? Not bad. It sprinkled lightly at random times throughout, but not enough to really worry about. I'm still not happy about having to wear a stocking cap in the middle of May, but what are you gonna do? The run was mostly an out-and-back along the Luce Line Trail, so it was pretty flat. Ran the first half at probably a 10 min/mile pace (including breaks for gatorade). On the way back, we met up with another group of 3 runners at a gatorade break, and we all ran together for a mile or two and picked up the pace a bit. Around mile 15, I found my body trying to get into it's natural groove and leading away from the group - I told Brian I was going to pick up the pace, but I'd wait for him at the next water stop.

As I was breaking away from the group, I heard a LOUD woodpecker on a telephone pole just up ahead. Now this was interesting, because earlier in the run I was telling Brian about the recent discovery of the (believed to be extinct) Ivory Billed woodpecker a few weeks ago. I slowed down as I approached the pole, and I was amazed when a Pileated woodpecker flew from the pole and disappeared into the woods! This is both crazy cool and crazy coincidental. The Pileated is a close relative of the Ivory and I have vivid memories looking through my birding field guide as a kid wondering if I'd every see one, since the Pileated was on the endangered species list back then. It's no longer on the endangered list, but still pretty rare!

OK, back to the run. I waited for Brian at the water stop, then kicked it up a notch for the last 3 miles. I think I ran the last 3 at a sub-8 min/mile pace, which is what I need to do if I want to have any chance of breaking 3:30 at Grandma's. I'm actually still not certain that I'll do the race - I need to get at least one more 20 miler in, hopefully at race pace, before I decide to do the race for sure.

Saturday afternoon consisted of a big lunch and a much deserved nap.