Thursday, February 12, 2009

Wind and the death wobble.

Well, I got out for that ride today, instead of being stuck inside on the trainer. It was a bit cold, 37 degrees but feeling about 28 deg with the wind chill. The wind, yeah, that's something you don't get on the trainer, unless you've got the fan blowing on you. There was plenty of wind to go around today, that is for sure. I rode the Giant, first time she's been on the road this year too.

The wind was blowing strong from about due west 17 mph gusting to 20+. That made for a tough ride out about 10 miles; I even had to shift down to the 39t chain ring for some of the hills. On some of the hills, I looked down at my Polar CS200 and saw I was going about 9 mph, that is sad. I made the last climb into the wind on Hwy G and did not spot my nemisis, the little dog (a tale for another day!). After making the turn to head north on 43rd St, the cross winds were bad, but not as bad as the head wind.

I crested the grade on 43rd St and started the descent towards the county line and Root River, which forms a valley in the area. I picked up some speed on the decent and hit about 27 mph, just coasting, when a cross wind almost blew me off my bike. Time to slow down a bit, little too hard to control in that wind. Past the river in the low lying areas, looking at the flooding of the Root, wow, it's bad, all the snow melt off and rain from yesterday did the area in but good. I turn right and head about due east, heading up a steep hill I call "Big Dump Hill" on 8 mile rd. Why Big Dump Hill? 'Cause it's a big hill, next to the dump in Raymond, nothing more elaborate. It's short and steep, and you've got to get out of the saddle to climb it, and you can peg your HR at 168+ easy if you jam all the way up.

A short grade up on 27th St, then east on Oakwood Rd. This is where the tail winds kick in wholesale, and I'm cruising at 22, 23, 25 mph easy. A ways up, looking at the wetlands and flooding along a flat section, I see I'm doing 27 mph and the HR is at 146. Nice. I turn south on Hwy 32, and more wicked crosswind to deal with. More traffic here too, but not that bad. Roads are pretty decent too, not too much road crap today.

So I've talked about the wind, lets talk about the death wobble. I've read about the dreaded death wobble, where your front wheel gets a crazy shimmy, making the front end go all over the place. I've never had it happen before today. I had turned east again on 6 mile rd, and I'm in the home stretch of my ride, only 3 or 4 miles to go. The tail winds are blowing, stronger than before maybe. I crank hard down a grade towards the rail trestle that passes overhead, a route I've ridden many times before. Just as I get under the overpass, I look at my speedo, I'm over 35 mph! Wow, that's fast for this stretch, never done that fast here before. All of a sudden, I hear this hideous squealing noise coming from the front end of my bike; the front wheel starts to wobble, just a little at first, then wildly. Luckily, I've got both hands on the controls, and I remember to get off the saddle and clamp my knees on the top tube. I coast for a few meters, not braking, for fear I'd go down hard. The front end is still shaking but I ease the speed down and can brake back to 17 mph, then it disappears. No more death wobble. I've read that something causes the death wobble, a certain speed, road vibration, wind, a combination of several things, I don't know for certain, but the results are a vibration in the bike that produces the wobbling front end and feeling like you're going to hit the deck. Not fun, I don't want to see it again!

All in all, a great ride, despite the death wobble and killer headwinds for 10+ miles. Here are the totals:

1hr 35m 11s
HR 142/162 avg/max
1100 kcal
26.5 miles
16.7 mph avg
37 mph max
cad 86/118 avg/max

Here is a post ride pic of me, I should title it, "How we roll in Wisconsin winter!"

Ah, it's going to be a great year of riding! And riding my TCR, well, it reminds me of what I love about that bike and just riding in general, despite the less than desirable weather.

It also reminds me that I need a new front tire on this ride, that Michelin Pro Race 2 has 3,500+ miles on it (the rear was worn flat, threads showing, so it was tossed last fall). I think I'm going to order a 6600 cassette for the new Aksiums, and will run the new black wheelset on my Giant. The old Aksiums you see on the Giant now (the silvers) will get the Conti 4 Seasons and will be relegated to the Trek. The Bonty wheels are getting sent down to 3rd string duty, or will serve as back-ups for my wife's bike.

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