Saturday, November 28, 2015

Thankful for my LBS

If you've been riding for any amount of time you've probably heard the term "LBS".  I had no idea what this meant at first, but soon learned it referred to my Local Bike Shop.  Just like McDonald's, Subway or even gas stations there are bike shops and/or bike departments at larger chain stores all over.  But there is a vast difference in hitting the bike department at Walmart vs. your trusty LBS.

First off - most people working in a department store are hardly qualified to advise on bike parts and these same people are the ones who probably assembled the bikes for sale there.  And then there is just such a limited selection of parts available.  In a pinch you might get a new tube or a bike lock or something else fairly common, but that is about the limit of usefulness a department bike store offers. I've even found that sports and fitness stores have limits when it comes to the cycling departments they contain.

Then there is the LBS.  My LBS is Bike America at 95th and Nall in Overland Park, Kansas.  I bought my Cannondale there and I can't say enough about how awesome these guys are!  They offer great and knowledgeable sales support and as far as bike mechanics go they are tops!  I pop in there frequently and have gotten to know several of the mechanics pretty well.  They are always ready to help me out with any problem.  Often times they teach me how to do something for myself in the future, and they always let me hang out while they work on my bike.

Well the other day was another day for my LBS to shine.  I was planning to ride and went to reach down my 29er and found a totally flat rear tire.  I kinda thought it was going soft on my ride the day before so I wasn't completely surprised, but it changed my plans.  I jumped on the fat bike for a quick 3 mile ride, but it is just not ready for much longer riding yet.

When I got back I thought about tackling the flat so I'd be ready for a longer ride the next day.  I kinda started at it half-assed and then decided to just run it to my LBS.  They would fix it in a quarter of the time so the repair fee was worth it.  Well I got there and sure enough they fixed it lickity split! It turned out that as I had installed flat prevention strips earlier in the year, the repair was free of charge!  My long Thanksgiving Day ride was back on schedule thanks to my LBS!

I've walked in to larger bike shops - like Bike USA and I've found them very impersonal and in fact I recall twice shopping there only to find myself completely ignored.  I since decided to avoid them all together.  (I apologize if anyone reading this is a Bike USA fan - this is just my experience with them).

So here I am the day after, the day after Thanksgiving finally getting around to finishing this post and come to find that this is "Shop Small" day.  So this is a fitting day to say Thanks to my LBS and remind people to shop small and support local shops vs. big chain stores as much as possible.  

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

First thoughts about the Mongoose Dolomite

I recently acquired a Mongoose Dolomite Fat Bike.

This is a cheap way to try out Fat Biking as they are very affordable.  I have found very quickly that in the biking world affordable means HEAVY! This bike weighs in at 50 pounds.

I haven't done much to upgrade it yet.  The previous owner converted the grip shifter to a trigger shifter which was a nice upgrade.  I added a few bags I had laying around, changed out the handlebars to something that helps bring them up higher, added a headlamp and brake lamp, added a bell and of course added a QuadLock mount for my cell phone.  Oh and I changed out the pedals to something bigger for my size 13 feet.  The original seat post is too short and so I opted to get a shim so I could use my nice saddle and Thomson seat post from my Cannondale.  

Up to last night I had not ridden more than a few miles.  I decided to try it out on a 6 mile trip yesterday and I think it did pretty good.  I'll try not to compare it too much to my Cannondale (as that would not be fair).  This bike is super fun to ride!  You definitely get noticed as in my neighborhood I don't think I've ever seen another Fat Bike.  One thing to get used to (until I upgrade it) is that it only has 7 speeds.  This really gives you very little range for steep hills as I found out as I tried to traverse the big hill on the Indian Creek Trail that goes up behind Shawnee Mission South High School.  I struggle up this hill on my Cannondale and knew this would be a tough climb.  I made it up about 80% of the way before I had to hop off and push to the summit.


The downhill side was fun though!  I did notice that the rear brakes need serious attention before I do anything that needs fast stopping power is attempted again.  I also noticed that the seat post kept dropping on me.  I tried to tighten it at the halfway point, but it still needs attention before another ride.  Lastly somehow the chain jumped off the front chain ring mid ride.  It was weird as there are chain stays on both sides of the front chain ring so it only jumped just slightly to the right so I was free wheeling.  I was worried something bigger happened on the rear cassette so was glad it was nothing serious and I could ride vs. walking home once I reset the chain.

First Impressions:

  • This thing is heavy!  I felt like I was dragging a cinder block behind me.  I need to put it on a diet and see if I can lighten it up.  It did come with a set of Rolling Darryl Surly Rims so maybe soon I could get those set up tubeless and see if that helps at all on the weight. 
  • It is fun to ride and I can't wait to try it off road in some dirt or sand.  Or snow would be fun too!  
  • I think a different crank with multiple chain rings is in it's future.  I need more gear options for the hilly trails I tend to ride.  
  • I gotta work out the brakes and the seat post slippage.  
In time though I think this will be a fun ride to have in my stable.  

Monday, November 23, 2015

So why do I call this blog the Fat Biking Biker?

Well there would be several reasons for this name.  First off I am a big guy.  I currently weigh over 300 pounds (just barely).  I fell in love with cycling as a means to exercise and lose weight, and have done both over the past year.  Being a big guy means I've had to do some upgrades to my bike so it can handle my bulkiness, but it has been worth it.  

My main ride is a Cannondale Trail 7 29er and it feels like a HUGE bike!  

Secondly I recently acquired a Mongoose Dolomite Fat Bike that I plan to modify and just ride the heck out of this winter.  A dream of mine would be to use one or the other of my bikes to bikepack the Katy Trail from one end to the other.  

So I am the Fat Biking Biker no matter what wheels are underneath me!

If for some reason I lose enough weight to no longer be "fat" I will leave this blog's name alone cuz I will always have a fat heart!

The Start Of Something Good

So I decided once and for all to start a ride streak. A ride streak is where you intend to ride your bike every single day. I have set the following rules for my streak:

I intend to do the majority of the riding on a real bike with 2 wheels on an actual road or trail.

I will allow that if for some reason beyond my control (business travel/extreme illness) that I can substitute a real ride for one on a trainer or exercise bike. But this will be the exception - not the rule. I hate trainers and exercise bikes so this rule should be easy to enforce.

My rides must be at least 1 mile each day. Most weekend days this will be easy as I tend to go for longer rides then, but I know workdays will be the challenge. I know though that once I get on my bike I will most likely ride at least a mile.

If I have to use the trainer or exercise bike I must go at least 2 miles to have those rides count.

The streak started on November 21st of 2015.

Thoughts on Control

This could just be a rambling train of thought but when you are riding for 18+ miles your mind tends to wander.  One of the things I really love about riding is that it is great mental therapy as well as getting physical exercise.  

I started off my ride with no expectations of anything good happening other than riding for the sake of riding.  Normally I listen to a book on my iPod, but yesterday I was inspired to listen to some music.  I think this allowed my mind to think about things instead of being forced to focus on the book.  

As I was riding I was reflecting on life and the role "control" plays in it.  We'd had a trying week and I needed some therapy on the bike to sort out things.  One thing that came to mind was some parallels of cycling compared to life.  I try to control so many things in my life.  I have a binge eating disorder so I am constantly trying to control my urges to take my problems to the refrigerator.  My wife has been having some depression and anxiety issues and I've been trying to help her get better.  I need to continue to lose weight and control my diabetes so I am constantly trying to control my eating through using My Fitness Pal to monitor portion sizes and carbs and calories.  

Anyway, as I rode I was comparing riding to life and found some parallels between the two. The trails I ride on are covered in leaves at the moment as well as sticks as it is Fall.  I was using my handlebars to control the bike and using it to avoid the sticks, bumps and the occasional pothole.  It dawned on me that we do have some control over things we see in our paths.  We use our "handlebars" to maneuver carefully around as much as possible to avoid an accident, but even with our best intentions sometime we still crash.  The important thing about a crash (whether it be on our bikes or some event in our non-riding lives) is that we have to get up and get moving again.  

An example of this happened to me a month or two ago.  I was riding on the Lawrence River Trail.  This is a single track dirt/sand trail that is sort of like a mountain bike trail.  I say sort of because it is fairly easy compared to really technical trails.  I was out riding this trail and was having a great time.  It was a perfect day to be riding and like I said - this is a fairly easy trail.  I run the Road ID application on my phone when I am riding somewhere new so my wife has an extra level of security.  The Road ID gives my wife real time info on where I am, and if for some reason I stop moving for 5 minutes, it sends her an alert.  If she can't get a hold of me she most likely will call the police and give them my GPS coordinates so they can rescue me.  Well I had already accidentally put my wife into a panic with the use of this application so I knew not to do so again - not if I valued my life!

Anyway - I was riding along and just as I went over a rise the front wheel hit some deep sand and my handlebars cranked hard to the right and I had no choice but to keep going straight over the handlebars.  I hit pretty hard face down (thank goodness it was sand and not pavement) and the wind was partially knocked out of me.  Well the first thing that ran through my mind was that I needed to get back up and moving pretty quickly.  I knew that my wife would panic as I mentioned above, but also I was on the other side of the rise and there was a good chance someone else would come right over the rise and smash me.  I might add it was very difficult to get up and get moving.  I was stunned and trying to catch my breath.  But again - there was an urgency to get up quickly.  

If you really want to see the wreck and hear my moaning's and wailing's feel free to watch the video:

So I liken the handlebars to my way of controlling things.  Every once in a while "life" happens and we lose control.  But if we don't quickly pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and get moving again we risk being run over by other problems.  

It is time to pick myself up from the wreckage of things that have happened lately and get moving again.  No matter how hard it might be.