China Sucks

So, I know all of you know better than this, but never, ever buy a bike that proudly displays the "Made in China" sticker on the frame for yourself, your kids or a loved one. And for the love of God, don't even buy one for your closest enemy. I know that some may be produced under "tight control of standards" by well-known US companies, but many of the rest of them are just flat-out junk.

I decided to do a co-worker a favor last night and give a once-over of his Made-in-China-bought-at-Meijer Schwinn Tourer bike. He's really gotten into the sport and loves the exercise, and we chat often about cycling. However it appears he's also one of those guys that has never once oiled the chain or adjusted anything since his purchase last August. But still, good for him for loving every one of the 650+ miles (according to his odometer) he's put on it so far. But now I'm going to have to tell him, it's time for an upgrade.

His wife is going to hate me.

I spent two hours on that bike last night and it's still not dialed in like any decent bike should be. Almost every bolt needed tightening. The stem wasn't even straight and true with the fork. (of course, this could have been built by Mikey, the pre-pubescent zit-faced high-schooler working at his minimum wage job assembling bikes with no cares in the world.) Or he WAS in an accident a few weeks ago and probably never got back to straightening it.

Anyways, I swear every time I squeezed the brake levers, they'd move somewhere else out of line. Every pull resulted in a different reset position. It was driving me crazy. Of course, I don't even want to talk about the insane limitations on being able to adjust the gears.

I know he will appreciate the work put in, but man it was brutal.

Now, I know, even the cheapest of bikes has their place in someone's heart (I've had my share of them as a kid), but for cryin' out loud, if you can't help it, don't ever put one of these things in your garage. I was actually amazed that when I rode it around last night giving it it's last check, I felt like a circus monkey riding in a show. I don't know, it could have been my outfit. I guess I'm just used to bikes that fit much better and have a decent geometry about them and good quality parts.

Of course, that all comes at a cost, but having that experience last night, makes me really appreciate what I have and just reaffirms (for me anyways) that I'm willing to work that extra weekend or graphic design job in order to afford a better ride for my wife or kids.

By the end of this, I was very disappointed in the Schwinn name and what I experienced.
And for that, I say "China...you suck."


2012 Barry-Roubaix

I was super excited going into this race. My first "official" race as being part of the Rapid Wheelmen Team. Also a bit nervous since I had only been back on the bike for a few weeks since being out of commission for awhile, but excited nonetheless. I knew I wouldn't be winning anything, but wanted to ride well enough to be happy about it.

The most riding in one "sitting" I had done was the 28 mile Recon ride of this course just the week before and we took frequent stops. I was pretty blowed up.

So, anyways I ended up pretty happy about my overall performance (never got off the bike except for the last sandy section which is pretty unrideable anyways), and never lost my head. Was good with hydration and nutrition, so I think I am confident in how to prep for races going into the future. Good thing it's very early in the race season so I have some time to get more miles under me.

Not so happy about overall time and place, but I guess it could have been worse. I could have been one of the 24 mile rider chuckle-heads out there walking up the paved hill leading to the finish. At least I wasn't that weak.

Time: 2:45:12
Place: 120 out of 129 in my age group

So, put this in the books as my first (completed) MTB race. Fine.

One row of cars with racers preparing. If you look to the left of the red guy in the road, those are "daa germannzz"... or as Remus put it "dicks". They parked right next to him and wouldn't give him the time of day, nor move out of the way when he needed access to his car. Funny.

Wave 3 view from the cluster. It was a cluster too.

The Three Musketeers.

Here you can see me actually finishing in THIRD place. (the pros finished their 62 miler at the same time I was finishing my 36 miler. FAST! At least I got to see them finish up close and personal.)


Memory Tour, Sturgis edition

It's picture time. (this is the longest blog post to date, sorry...)

I had taken Blue Bomber with me to my parents this weekend. I kind of knew which destination I wanted to reach (out towards Marty's parents house) because there were some good hills to climb there, but then I got sidetracked a bit on my way back through town. There were some areas of Sturgis that I ended up visiting for nostalgia's sake so half the ride was an urban trek into the memory banks. Enjoy...

Funny map. I was all over the place, including rail road tracks.

This is a park entrance (used to be privately owned) right next door to Marty's parent's house. Marty and I used to go sledding down the (then) dirt drive in the winter time. It was fast and the curve at the bottom was a fun challenge.

Lloyd Edward Stemen. Above the mailbox in that field, my brother still has a tooth out there that he lost while we played football in the snow. This happened during the 46-10 routing of the New England Patriots by "Da Bears" in Super Bowl XX.

This was actually what kicked off the accidental "Memory Tour". Miller's grocery store, an institution in Sturgis and where we did our weekly grocery shopping is going out of business. Signs in the windows say "20% off everything". That's it. Done. Corporate America ran her under, Kroger, BigK and Walmart taking the business away. Although, it is hard to be sad for them. The store hasn't changed in the least tiny bit since I was 5 years old. Lots of memories in that place for me. Low ceilings, narrow aisles. The best.

$4 gas got me thinking about this place. The old gas station we used to fill up at. It's been closed down for years (maybe 15-20), but I can still remember mom filling up the ol' Bonneville while I stared out the window at the sign advertising the price per gallon: $0.75. Big time back then. We'd fill up on Thursdays because the price would always jump a penny or two for the weekend.

Off to the High School. I was interested in seeing what the ball field looked like. The irony here in that this is where they hide the school's trash cans for the winter. The field was a disgrace, the worst I have ever seen it.

This is the view from my old station, first base. There used to be dirt base paths to/from home plate. I will never gather why they would get rid of those. Look at all the weeds in the dirt. The field is probably only 2-3 weeks from being used for HS baseball. By now, we'd have the field dialed in. Putting in hours of "practice" dedicated to making sure everything was edged just perfect and everything smooth and clean. Our field used to be the most well kept of all the fields in the county, including the Community College. Apparently no one has that kind of time any more for tradition. Sad.

Patti's old house near the tennis courts. Looks almost identical to what it did 20 years ago. Hard to imagine we started dating the fall of 1992.

This was another mind-blower. It has been 11 years since one of my closest childhood friends, Clay, died in a motorcycle wreck on July 4, 2001 racing home from work that day to make it to a family July Fourth party. He never made it there. It was at this point I realized that I had travelled right where he died on my ride earlier today. I still remember the last time I saw him. We were taking family pictures outside the church on our wedding day. I saw him drive by, I presume checking in on me. He wasn't invited as we had drifted apart in our separate ways. He would be in the accident just more than a month later.

R.I.P. buddy. Hopefully things are just as warm, bright and shiny where you are as they were on this March day here on Earth. Too bad we never got to enjoy a burger and beer to talk about man-stuff together. You shaped my life in more ways than you can imagine. We got in just enough trouble together to make being kids fun and memorable.

Right across from the cemetary is Dead Man's Hill. This used to be THE place to go sledding in the winter. I thought many things were bigger in my mind than they really are today because I was such a small kid back then. Nope, not here. Still intimidating. I couldn't ride down the steep sides on my bike. Too scared.

Bob James, a neighbor of ours where I grew up on the lake owned this store. I think it was called Sturgis Meat Market. I still remember going in there and smelling the raw meat in that place. Bob would come out to greet us kids wearing a white apron just covered in bright red blood. Looking inside, the place was a wreck. Some sort of ceiling/water damage, tiles and insulation crap strewn everywhere. This was one of those instances where the place seemed bigger in my mind.

Ahhh...the Strand Theatre. Still operational, I will take my kids here someday. I saw Saturday matinee movies like E.T., Pinocchio, Dumbo and 101 Dalmations here. Also, the first "adult" movie with my Dad, The Naked Gun 2 1/2. Ha ha When Whitney Houston died some memories of days gone by came back. Not that I actually cared that that crackhead died, but she did help me get my first
kiss during the 1992 film The Bodyguard here. I remember it so vividly. So...thanks Whitney.
You're still a crackhead though.

My first school. Park Elementary. Went here for kindergarten and first grade. Peered inside. Doesn't look like they use it any more. Everything inside though looked just like it did 30 years ago though. I still remember those porcelin drinking fountains and fixtures. I'd like to actually get in there one day to poke around.

At this point I decided to ride some railroads. Which was scary. Lots of sharp things to poke out my tires. I ended up safe, but ran across this. WTF!? Never seen something like this before.

Rode maybe a mile or so in the soft railroad bed. Kinda fun. Probably do it again.
Took my time riding...looking for "artifacts". Nothing good enough to keep.

Cool shot of where I had been.

What the H could possibly be kept in the locked "treasure box" at the base of this?



Quick update. Since my trip to the Lithotripter (kidney stone blasta machine), I have felt 100% better. By 9pm that same night I was at home eating a Jimmy John's sammich. So back on the bike I got after resting for the required 24 hours per doctor's orders. I lost 12lbs over the course of this month (much needed), however much of it I suspect was muscle.

Riding the trainer now. It hurts. But this pain is SO much better than the alternative. Planning a MTB ride this weekend near my parents house. Hoping its nice and muddy.

I'm back bitches!

My indoor pain-sweat-and-tears set-up.

Here is the busted up kidney stone I pizzed out. Imagine all those pieces put together
to form essentially one rock. It's still unfathomable to me that something this small
can cause the most unbearable pain I've ever felt in my life. Hoping my urologist can
pinpoint what the make-up of it is so I can change what I'm doing to cause them
so they never, ever come back again.