Monday, May 18, 2009

DK 200: Training Ride

<===The Salsa/Twin Six Fargo for the Dirty Kanza 200.

Coming in to the weekend I was e-mailing back and forth with d.p. about a possible night time training run. I thought it would be a great time to make a full run of the set up, fully loaded as it will go for the event. Well, I almost have everything ready. Two things I needed at that point: Lights and a bigger seat bag. I got the light thing figured out on Saturday. The bag thing? Not yet. I just need something to stuff my soft shell jacket into, and I should be good. Anyway, the light thing was pretty interesting, since I basically had no idea what I was going to do when I put my two children in the car and headed out to the retail black hole of death that is out near an area we call "Crossroads" here in Waterloo.

<===Post modification. The light set up will make the grade for the event.

So I decided to go to Target to see what I could find. Some pre-Trans Iowa banter had mentioned that Target had a pretty cool little LED head lamp that was being modded into a decent light for night riding. So I go in, take a look around, and I found a suitable subject for modification. An Eveready product rated at 100 lumens and that was rated to run on high power for 11 hours. More than enough time to get me through any night time riding on Dirty Kanza's flinty gravel. The light was in a head lamp format with an external battery pack that holds three AA batteries. The unit comes with three lithium AA batteries too. (I used standard AA's for my test, saving the lithiums for DK. ) The unit has an aluminum housing, a red "night vision" mode, a Cree LED with three modes and flash, and a short, heavy duty lead to a plastic box that contains the batteries. Cost was $40.00

Once at the Lab, I busted out the tools and went to work on modding the light to mount on the handlebars. I used an old CatEye computer mount and modded the back plate of the light to slide into the CatEye mount. I cut the strapping off the light and battery pack but left about two inches on either side of the battery pack for a future install of Velcro and a buckle. For now, the battery pack went into my top tube bag.

The mod worked great and I had a light. Now all there was left to do was to meet d.p. and try it in real conditions.

<=== The sunset from Ridge Road going northwest.

I met d.p. at 8:00pm at "Checkpoint #3" (Traer) and we got suited up for a bit of a night ride. We decided to ride out northwest of town to Ridge Road. Going this way meant a big, long climb. I was huffing and puffing right off the bat as I hadn't warmed up or anything, just took off. Once up on the ridge, we were treated to a small herd of deer that popped out of the grass in the ditches in front of us and bounded away down the valley. Then the sunset was awesome. I got a few shots while riding, "Kerkove style" and that thanks to the new Endura Stealth soft shell jacket I got at Sea Otter from the kind folks at Niner. Having well designed pockets made getting the shots really easy.

It was cold when we started- 55 degrees- and the temperatures dumped after sunset and that even faster when the wind, which had been right in our faces before the sun went down, totally disappeared. I'm betting some of the valleys we rode through were into the upper 30's. Mostly the temps were hovering in the low 40's as we rode silently through the Iowa countryside.

To stay warm I used a wool base layer long sleeved shirt, my new Twin Six team "Metal" jersey, and the aforementioned Endura jacket. On the bottom I wore my matching Team Twin Six Metal bibs with a pair of the Endura Humvee 3/4's length pants over the top (Sans liner). Throw in a pair of Swiftwick socks in black and my Bontrager Race shoes and I was warm enough the whole ride. My Snappy Caps lid and Bell helmet were the "crowning" accoutrement's.

<=== The sunset just got better as we went along.

Well, that's enough pimping to last a lifetime, eh? So about that ride, yeah.......we had fun! Other than one jerk in a pick up truck that dusted us unnecessarily, we had no issues. Halfway out we stopped for a "nature break" and a "nite-cap". Then it was back at it for the dark portion of the ride. The stars came out and we were cocooned in a halo of LED light. My mod was good. I'll need to supplement with a head lamp to really be good with signs and course markings, but here's the lowdown on the Eveready lamp.

The lamp has a focus-able beam. I started out at the widest setting, thinking that the dispersal pattern for LED lamps isn't usually all that great. Well, I was surprised to see that I had ditch to ditch coverage and even could see in the ditches! I turned the lens ring to tighten up the beam, and actually ended up the ride tightening the focus all the way and still had total road coverage.

The beam is very even with no discernible hot spot. The beam doesn't throw up the road far enough for anything over 20 mph, but for cruising it is more than enough light to see with. The beam also has a lot of height, which isn't useful until signs come into play. Even the "street" signs at corners were easily read without aiming the light up to see them.

d.p. was using an LED that he mounted to his helmet. His light threw a beam further up the road and had an intense "hot spot". The combination of his head lamp and my bar light was primo! I just need a head lamp that does what d.p.'s light does and I will be set.

Well, we road chunky, fresh gravel, powdery smooth gravel, three miles of B roads, and a tiny bit of pavement. All in all, we saw every condition in the short 23 mile ride you can see on gravel. The light mount stayed put, and everything went smoothly. I was stoked at the end of the training ride. d.p. and I hung out for a bit, then we went our separate ways, agreeing that this night time riding needed to happen more often. Look for some night time gravel grinding news in the future!

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