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The last rides of the Kermit Niner

May 26, 2010

Way back in April, a week before the Fleche, when I was riding a measly 13-15 hours a week, upon ordinary disassembly and cleaning of my green Niner’s bottom bracket, I discovered a crack in the drive-side chainstay.  Instantaneously that frame ceased to be my Tour Divide race machine.  I’ve been accumulating new parts, spare parts, and extra parts in great piles on the floor of “daddy’s office”, a place where work does indeed occasionally get accomplished.  However, I had been reluctant to install any of those shiny bits too early, lest they be subjected to any wear or abuse prior to the Tour Divide start.  So, for weeks now I’ve been doing high mileage on a drivetrain that has been getting crankier and crankier.  The smallest two gears in my cassette skip under load and there is all manner of general creaking.

I persist and put up with the orneriness in the last few days of the Kermit Niner.  On the 23rd I rode a standard local road loop: Rt 2 east, Rt 14 north to Hardwick, Rt 15 west to Morrisville, and Rt 12 south back to Montpelier.  65 miles and a couple of moderate climbs.  A couple of years ago I’d consider it a significant weekend expedition, but now its just a refreshing jaunt.  The only notable experience on the ride was while I was patiently waiting at the intersection in Hardwick to take the left turn.  The driver of an oncoming pickup yelled at me, “bike path!”, which was rather confusing, since Hardwick is hardly a mid-sized progressive city with a helpful network of bike paths.  As far as I know, Hardwick has zero bike paths.   Its amazing that so few drivers understand that bikes have a right to use roads.

Round barn in Elmore

On the 26th the Kermit Niner took its final voyage, a familiar 45 mile dirt road meandering loop through East Montpelier, Woodbury, and Calais. As my training has progressed over this spring, its been interesting to notice the changes in how my body feels. The first has been nutritional. My previous weekend warrior endurance efforts generally felt limited by my outrageous metabolism, and my need to eat and drink huge amounts just to keep going. These days I always bring peach newtons and whatever flavor of fruit leather Linnaea grabbed at the coop, but as long as I’m regularly sucking my homebrewed electrolyte drink from my Camelbak, I just don’t need those solid snacks on rides of 3 or 4 hours or more.

The second is fitness. In the last five or six months my resting heart rate has dropped 10 beats per minute, from the low 60s to the low 50s. I don’t really care how long climbs are, since I’m generally looking for lots of climbing, and I’m increasingly comfortable shifting into a low gear and just spinning up whatever is in the way. My fitness gains may or may not be related to another improvement: my increased heat tolerance. Yeah, yeah, in north central Vermont, it doesn’t get that hot. However, I’m used to being completely wilted by the first hot (90F+) days of the season. In recent warm days I drank plenty and generally felt fine. Hooray for whatever made that happen.

On this particularly warm day I arrived at the Maple Corner Store looking for a cold something: a chocolate chip ice cream sandwich. Mmmm. A local fellow came out with a 12 pack of cheap cold beer, and tied it on to his 50s vintage motor scooter. He seemed quite intent on riding home to sit back, and not mow his lawn.  I rode home to dismantle the Kermit Niner.

Maple Corner Store, Calais

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