Friday, July 11, 2014

20 Mile Ride to ZZ Ward Concert

I'm assuming not everyone really knows who ZZ Ward is at this point because she's not that popular yet, but she's a singer from Oregon who started out singing the blues and fusing the style with hip hop.  That was very apparent in her first mixtape but her album Til the Casket Drops has a more pop-oriented feel.  I actually like that one more, but that's just my opinion.  If you haven't heard her stuff, I suggest that you check it out!

Anyway, my friend Nikolai and I decided to ride our bikes from our homes in Northville to downtown Ann Arbor yesterday to see ZZ's live outdoor performance hosted by Sonic Lunch and Ann Arbor's 107.1.  I lacked a long distance bike of any sort so I borrowed his family's 1990 Fuji Arcadia ten-speed.  When I first lifted it up, I was like "Man, this is light!" and Nik's father said "Uh, that's light?" Nik and I sort of laughed because it didn't occur to us that his father was unaware that I usually ride a heavy, old, English three-speed.

"Metallic Tomatoe" Fuji along with Nikolai's Nashbar AL-1

This was my second time ever biking a distance as long as 20 miles and my first time ever riding a road bike for any appreciable distance. Last summer, Nikolai brought me along for a 20-mile ride and I was going as fast as I could on my mountain bike's trail gearing just to keep up with his road bike.  Since I had no clipless shoes, Nik's father lent me his "new old stock" plastic pedal platforms yesterday to work with my shoes.  I wore a super old pair of skate shoes that had "built in ventilation," or severely torn toes.  It took me a few hundred feet to get used to the drop bars, brakes, and shifters and I soon found the bike to be very stable and comfortable for me to ride.  The crouched-over position, though more aggressive than that of my mountain bike, caused not only less, but actually no back pain throughout the day.  Although it's not the lightest of bikes, it still felt as if it demanded almost no effort for me to get it to move.  I was aware, however, that riding the Fuji long distance would be different from going flat-out for short distances on the 3-speed or the cheap mountain bike.

After a few miles, before we got onto the main country road, the pedal platforms started to come loose.  The metal pedals were biting into the plastic platforms so I put them in my backpack to avoid losing them on the ground.  We cruised along Plymouth/Ann Arbor Road at about 18 mph with me following Nik as he taught me road manners.  An older cyclist pulled up to us at a red light and we exchanged greetings.  Nik and I managed to keep up and draft behind him for a few miles until he had to switch roads.

That hat.  I like it.  

We finally made it into town half an hour after the concert started.  We walked in as ZZ announced that it was guitarist Erick's birthday.  It took a little while to find a suitable place to lock our bikes and then find a good viewing point.  At certain locations, the bass echo from the buildings was overwhelming.  There was a surprisingly large crowd (well, it was a free outdoor event after all) and whether or not they were all fans to begin with did not matter because they were all having a good time.

There were many instrumentation changes - ZZ herself played the guitar and harmonica.  

ZZ Ward's show was great.  Even having missed half the concert, we still managed to catch my two favorite songs by her: Move Like You Stole It and Blue Eyes Blind.  I already loved Erick's powerful guitar sound in some live versions of the songs that I had, and experiencing it in person was even better.

Nikolai and I left after the concert to have lunch where we usually do at our beloved fast food joint.  We visited my green '68 Raleigh three-speed that I left on campus and I moved it to another rack so people wouldn't mistake it for being abandoned.  We went up to North campus for me to turn in some apartment stuff for next year and found some poorly-treated bikes that otherwise would have been pretty nice.  I never understood people who brought good bikes to college and then left them to be destroyed by the weather, possibly for eternity as would have been the case for my three-speeds if I hadn't come to rescue them.

On the way back home on Plymouth/Ann Arbor Road, I did more pulling while Nikolai drafted behind.  The slightly-throbbing ride caused by an improperly seated rear tire was getting to me a little bit, causing a minor headache.  Apparently Nik was impressed at the speed I was holding, roughly 20 mph, and even he had a small difficulty keeping up.  I was surprised, but he pointed out that he'd been sitting around for most of the summer whereas I'd been riding almost daily, "hauling around that huge hunk of metal" which was my three-speed (and riding the mountain bike while working on the three-speed).  When we arrived home 20 miles later, I could feel the truth in his words; I wasn't even exhausted.

Something interesting happened to me yesterday.  Previously, having never experienced one, I didn't have much of a desire for a lightweight road bike.  My speed demon self was perfectly content going flat-out on my heavy bikes for distances less than five miles at a time.  For distances longer than that, I'd be happy driving because, you know, I'm a car guy.  I can't say those parts have changed, but road biking was more different and more fun than I thought it was and it has certainly added something to my hobby.  First of all, I noticed that my "cruising cadence" on the ten-speed was much higher than that on my own bikes.  I also discovered that it was rather uncomfortable to vary my leg rpms by too much on the road bike.  Pushing hard at low rpms meant instability and spinning too fast was obviously awkward.  That was the biggest difference.  On my three-speeds and my mountain bike, my legs are content with going fast and slow, down and up hills.  I skip gears all the time on my 21-speed mountain bike and I stand up to ride when I have to.  However, on the ten-speed, something about the riding position made it so that every gear mattered, that every slight incline or decline would call for a gear change, and I didn't mind it at all.  It even discouraged me from suddenly flying down a hill like I usually do; rather, I would just coast down hill, savoring it while it lasted.  It felt pretty nice maintaining a relatively constant, comfortably fast speed for a long distance.  That probably saved me a ton of energy.  The bike was also far more stable than I had previously expected.

I suppose I have new-found interest in road biking.  This was something that didn't really cross my mind, although I guess it was only a matter of time until this dimension of cycling finally got to me.  My desire for an old ten-speed road bike is now greater than before, although it is unlikely I'll be able to get one within the next few years.  I used to want a mixte frame ten speed because those are so beautiful, but I'm thinking I'd probably be okay with a men's frame bike if I came across one that I liked.  I want to start riding longer distances regularly but my current equipment doesn't allow me to do that. Oh well, I guess I'll have to do what I can with what I have for now and there's nothing wrong with that.

EDIT: The Fuji is a 12-speed, not 10.

EDIT 2: On that thought, maybe I can get a 10-speed mixte for longer commutes and a men's frame road bike for actual road biking.  Uh oh, the gears are turning ...

P.S. I usually write these blog entries after they happen and then post them the following morning after I've had a chance to look at them with a fresh eye.  I hope I haven't let any "today I did..." or that sort of thing escape into any posts so far.  If I have, it's supposed to mean "yesterday."