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2013 BP MS150 Day One

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BP MS150 2013

The lead up to this year’s BP MS150 ride from Houston to Austin was faultless.  Barbara collected my rider pack and Hess jersey for me.  Malaysian Airlines and KLM got me to George Bush Intercontinental Airport as scheduled.  Tom and Donna were waiting outside Arrivals for me.  The Omni Houston Hotel at Westside had my room ready.  Most importantly Fedex had delivered my Ritchey Break-Away bicycle to the hotel.

The first thing to do was to put the bicycle together.  My bike came with a Ritchey torque key that fits the 4mm bolts on their bars and stems, as well as the bolt on the hinged clamp that anchors the flanged joint on the down tube.  Steve Dodds at Bicycle Doctor USA had told me to pack an 8mm Allen key to install the crank with.  I also packed 6mm and 5mm Allen keys for the seat post and saddle mounting bolts.  Four Allen keys and a pump were all I needed to get the Break-Away ready to ride.

The plan was to do the Thursday evening ride with the West End 6.30 group.  That would have been the perfect shakedown ride for my brand-new bike, if not for the rain that afternoon.  Instead Tom and I made do with a quick 8km / 5mi loop around Memorial Park on Friday.  If that short spin was anything to go by, the Ritchey Break-Away was going to serve me very well.  The ride quality was everything I expected from a titanium frame.  The SRAM Force group set shifted precisely.  The brakes had good modulation and stopping power.  I didn’t expect problems during the ride to Austin but we stopped at West End Bicycles to get the bike inspected anyway.  It is worth getting an official inspection sticker.  If I did have a problem during the ride I would receive free labor for repairs.

The weather when I arrived on Thursday was unusually cool.  When we started the ride from the hotel at 6.30am on Saturday morning it was unseasonably cold.  It was 4°C / 39°F.  That was a record low temperature for April 20th.  The previous low was 6°C /44°F set in 1901.

Needless to say in my group I was probably the least appropriately dressed for the temperature.  I was riding with Barbara, Laura, Dane, Joe, Skip and Tom.  Everyone was cold, but I was chilled.  It had warmed up by the time we got to the lunch stop at Belleville, but not enough for me to take my jacket off.  Barbara and Dane kept their arm warmers on, unlike  Laura and Skip.

BP MS150 2013 Bellville Group

Relatively normal temperatures for the time of year were restored by the time we got to the stop at Industry.  West End Bicycles was operating their customary service stand there.  Complete with yummy snacks.  There was time for a post-cookie fist bump with Tom before we hit the road again.

BP MS150 2013 Industry West End 02

Fayetteville is always a treat to ride through.  The residents come out in force to cheer the riders on.  And ring bells and blow whistles and generally carry on.

BP MS150 2013 Fayetteville Welcome 01

We had an additional treat in store for us at Fayetteville this year.  Skip knows a lady who runs an antique store out of a converted gas station.

BP MS150 2013 Antique Shop

For MS150 day she bakes all sorts of cakes and cookies which she lays out for anyone who wants some.  Not everyone knows about this though.  So hooray for Skip and his insider knowledge!

BP MS150 2013 Fayetteville Munchies

We had about 30 km / 18.5 mi to go to La Grange.  Dane headed out ahead of the rest of us.  His plan was to get to the VFW Hall early enough to reserve prime sleeping spots for us all.  We wanted a row of six camp beds near a wall socket.  We all had electronics that needed recharging.  We didn’t get the row we had hoped for, but we were near a coveted wall socket.  This is Tom watching Dane get sorted out after their turns in the private shower truck that Hess provides for its team.

BP MS150 2013 VFW Hall

This year the Hess bar featured recovery drinks made to order.  Just the ticket after a hot shower and before a massage.

BP MS150 2013 La Grange Recovery Drinks

We are all spoiled by the excellent support that Hess provides to its riders.  Air-conditioning, private showers, indoor toilets, an open bar, ear plugs in case the snoring gets too loud.  I’m not sure how we managed when we rode with other teams and had to endure conditions like this.

BP MS150 2013 Life on the other side of the tracks

Tom, Skip, “Sideshow” Dane and I went for a wander around the Fayette County Fairgrounds to stretch our legs before dinner.

BP MS150 2013 Dane 'Sideshow Bob' Schiller

We had ridden 160 km / 100 mi.  That made it my longest Day One in the three times I have ridden the BP MS150.  I was still a bit jet-lagged and very ready to call it a day as soon as I had finished my dinner.  Day Two wasn’t far away.

The National MS Society is still accepting donations linked to this ride.  The society is depending upon your generosity to raise as much as possible to put toward the search for a cure for multiple sclerosis.  Please click on the link below to make a donation to this worthy cause.

Donate to Multiple Sclerosis Research and Treatment

Now There Are Three

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What is the correct number of bikes to own?

Courtesy of Kickstand Comics by Rick Smith and Brian Griggs

Courtesy of Rick Smith and Brian Griggs at yehudamoon.com

I’ve seen a third variation:  S – 1, where S is the number of bikes owned that would result in separation from your partner.

While I do not intend to discover the value of S where my biker chick is concerned, I can report that in her case S > 3.  I took delivery of bicycle number 3 last month. And my biker chick and I are still a happy unit.

Thoughts of a new bike started percolating in my mind as I planned a trip to the USA to ride in the BP MS150 from Houston to Austin, and the TD 5 Boro Bike Tour in New York City.  My friend Keat and I had discussed the travails of flying with a bicycle.  Airlines charge between USD 100 and USD 150 to transport bicycles.  Despite the additional fee, there is the ever-present danger of damage in transit – see United Breaks Guitars.

One way to avoid the additional fee and to mitigate the risk of damage in transit is to have a bike that can be disassembled and packed securely in a case which meets airline size restrictions.  Keat owns such a bike.  A Ritchey Break-Away travel bike.  He showed me the bike in its case, then assembled the bike and let me try it out.

I now own a Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti / Carbon travel bike.

Ritchey Breakaway Ti

Ritchey has designed an elegant coupling system for their travel bikes.  The two halves of the frame are held together by three bolts and a hinged clamp.  Two bolts secure the top tube and the seat tube to the seat post.  The seam between the top tube and the seat tube is visible below.  Also visible below the top tube is a cable splitter.  In this case for the rear brake cable.  The two halves of the splitter screw together to join the cable.

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at www.gearreview.com

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at http://www.gearreview.com

A flanged interface between the bottom bracket and the down tube is secured by a hinged clamp.  One bolt holds the clamp in place.

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at www.gearreview.com

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at http://www.gearreview.com

Also visible in the photograph above are the two other cable splitters.  The frame can be broken down into two halves in a matter of a minute.  Admittedly it does take more than loosening three bolts and three cable splitters to get the bike into its case.  I opted for an S&S Butterfly Latch hard case rather than the Ritchey soft case.  The dimensions of the case are 66cm x 66cm x 25cm / 26″ x 26″ x 10″.  The total length plus width plus height equals the airline standard maximum size for checked luggage.

In practical terms the case is just large enough to fit a 700c wheel.  It doesn’t look possible in this photograph, but with no air in the tire the wheel squeezes in.

S&S Hard Case

The first time I tried to get all the bike parts into the case it took me about forty five minutes.  With the help of ‘how-to’ videos and PDFs.  I have packed the bike three times now.  The third time was no faster, but I don’t need the visual aids anymore.

The easy step is separating the bars from the stem, removing the front brake from the fork, releasing the wheels, taking off the pedals and cranks, and unbolting the rear derailleur from the derailleur hanger.

The next step is to prepare everything for packing.  All the tubes and the fork go into the supplied wraparound covers.  There is an elastic strap that goes over the large chainring teeth, and a cover  for the chainrings.  Hub axle caps for the wheels and dropout spacers are also included.  The rear derailleur gets bubble wrapped.  I bought velcro cable ties to secure cables to the bars and the chain to the chain stay.

The final step is to fit everything into the case.  I prefer the S&S method to the Ritchey method.  The front triangle and fork go in to the case first.  The rear wheel is next.  Then comes the rear triangle.  The saddle, bars and crankset slide through and between the triangles and wheels.  Finally the front wheel goes on top.  There is enough space around and between the parts of the bike for shoes, tools, bottles and clothes.  It took a few attempts to position everything so that the case would close.  Here I am tightening everything down, ready for my first trip with the bike, from Houston to Denver.

The white disks and upright pipes are compression members.  Pressure is kept away from the packed bicycle by transferring loads from one side of the case to the other side through the plastic pipes which are held in place by plastic disks on either end.  The compression members work so well that I can stand on the case without deforming the sides of the case.

Photo courtesy of Azie Azizuddin

Photo courtesy of Azie Azizuddin

I ordered my Ritchey frame online from Bicycle Doctor USA.  This shop came up on Google as one of the larger Ritchey dealers around.  I emailed an enquiry about the availability of a Break-Away to Bicycle Doctor USA and two other shops.  Steve Dodds of Bicycle Doctor responded within three hours.  I didn’t hear from the other two places.

Steve and his son Eric have received many positive reviews and comments.  Those allayed some of my concerns about conducting what to me was a large transaction over the internet.  A telephone conversation with Steve put any other worries I had to rest.  Steve is easy to work with.  I get the feeling that Eric and he run a busy shop.  Despite that I always received prompt replies to my queries.  So it didn’t take long to decide to on the build kit for my chosen frame.  Steve kept me updated on the progress of the build, and sent me some photos as well.

As planned the built-up bike was delivered to my hotel in Houston a few days before I arrived there for the BP MS150.  Everything was as discussed and ordered.  Steve even emailed some hints and tips for assembling and packing the bike.  The first thing I did after checking in to the hotel was to put the bike together.  While taking photos of each step of the unpacking process (one of Steve’s great tips).

I couldn’t wait to go on a test ride.  Which is the subject of a post to come.