Wednesday, January 30, 2013

First ride on the new bike - Yabba Dabba Doo!

After class yesterday, I picked up the bike.  An hour or so of miscellaneous, registration, manuals, etc., and I was on my way home with a sexy new machine.  I am so excited.  I had some things to transfer from the old bike, getting suited up, etc., then I was finally off on the Willier.  Well, the old bike was around 14 years old, with updates around 6 years ago, but they have certainly made some improvements in the meantime.  I was expecting the old titanium frame to perhaps be more comfortable, but no, the new frame and set up - it is made for long rides and some comfort - was just super.  The Shimano Di2 Ultegra was basically flawless.  It is easy to use, just a tap on the lever / switch, and the gear is changed.  The front derailleur automatically trims based on the rear cassette position.  Really, flawless.  I have been on Campy for the last 14 years, both bikes, and having the quiet of the Shimano gruppo is really nice.  I liked the new bars, in particular the position it puts you in when you are in the drops, and the brake lever is right there, no reach needed with the finger.  As you can tell, I am totally stoked.

I rode up Via Bolognese to Pratolino, which has a steep section at 10 to 15% for around 400 vertical, and I do miss my 29, as the highest they had was a 28, and there is a difference.  It still climbed really well, and I will just have to be a little stronger.  From Pratolino, I climbed to the junction for Monte Scenario / Bivigliano / L'Olmo, and turned off toward L'Olmo.  I hooked up with the road to Fiesole, then rode down through Fiesole and took one of the back ways from San Domenico to Piazza della Cure.  The bike handled really well on the descent, and I carried a fair amount of speed without even realizing it.  Enough gushing - It is rainy today, and predicted to be the same for a couple of days, so this may be the only post for a while, we will see what the weather does.  The summary is:  18.8 miles in 1:29 rolling time for an average speed of 12.6 mph, with 2150 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 53.  Nice weather, sweet ride, super fun new bike.  The garmin link is:

In the apartment pre-ride.

View toward L'Olmo from the junction.

The road toward San Jacopino.

Just had to take a shot of the bike by this wall.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Fun Sunday afternoon ride, great weather.

After a nice, slow start to the day, I did a fair amount of paperwork / errands, mostly for the resolution of my Mother's estate.  Small things do take some time from Italy, but, Skype is my savior, as it is basically like having a phone in the US to use.  So, I was off around 12:30 for a ride to the South, which when I am doing shorter rides, I tend to ignore.  So, I had not been over here for a little while, and rode out through Piazzale Michaelangelo on the Viale to the Poggio Imperiale climb.  From Poggio Imperiale, I went up / down to Galluzzo, then over toward the start of the Pozzolatico climb, but turned off on the small road to Cinque Vie before the climb started.  This is a nice road, basically flat, small and not very busy.  At Cinque Vie, I cut under the highway, then started the back road climb to San Gersole, through Vacciano.  I love this climb.  I almost never see any cars, and with a couple of stretches at around 12%, it is hard, but not too hard.

From San Gersole, I went over to the Pozzolatico / Impruneta road, and finished the climb to Impruneta.  Nice, relatively easy climb.  I rode through Impruneta and turned off for Ferrone.  The sign is totally hard to see, but I remembered the piazza where the turn is.  I took this road, and ended up on a different spur than the last time I took this route.  Actually, the road was much more major than the alternate way, but is pretty darn steep, fine for a descent.  I ended up just on the North side of Ferrone and had a couple of kilometers to ride back toward Tavernuzze to get to my next turn.  I turned to climb up past Luiano to the Metcatale / San Casciano road.  I road up and over to San Casciano, then through Spedellatto, Chiesa Nuova, then down the sweet switchbacks to Galluzzo.  On the descent, I had perfect timing, as I caught a car at the end of the last turn when the car speeded up and did not make me slow down.  

From Galluzzo I rode back in the main route taking the great, curvy route from Poggio Imperiale to Porta Romano.  You can get it going pretty fast by pedalling hard at the start, then the curves are so well engineered that you don't need to adjust in the curves or touch the brakes, just rocket down the road.  From Porta Romano home through the city center and Piazza de Duomo.  Lots of fun, but surprisingly tiring.  The summary is:  37 miles in 2:54 rolling time for an average speed of 12.7 mph, with 2670 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 49 degrees F.  The garmin link is:

Here are a couple of shots of the tiny town of Vacciano, on one of my climbs today.
I could not decide which was better, so included them both.  

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Beautiful, cold morning ride with the team.

Hooray, the weather has really cleared, and it appears the long range forecast is for mostly clear with a few rainy days here and there.  Lately it has been the opposite, mostly rainy, with some occasional clearing.  Being a Colorado boy really tempers your expectations for sunny skies.  I really "need" them and miss them when it cloudy for a week or so.  Anyway, met the squadra at Illiopesca, only 4 of us there, but enough for a good group ride.  One of the riders, Andrea, was a fair amount slower than I, which helped keep the pace a little slower than normal, which was really nice.  A couple of times on the road out to Montelupo a group of 4 to 12 would pass us, and we would up the pace to hang with them until Andrea could no longer hang, and we would let the group drop us.  

We rode the typical back way to Lastra a Signa, then along the river road to Montelupo.  From Montelupo, we took the road over through Sammonata, Villanuova, and turned on the main road at Pozzole toward Castelfiorentino.  Both of these roads are beautiful, classic Tuscan roads, one contouring with almost no up hills, and the road toward Castelfiorentino in a valley with a very gradual climb.  The climb kicks up to get to Ortimo, where we take the climb to Montespertoli.  This is a great ridge / climb with good views in both directions off the ridge.  The wind did pick up here - just a minor annoyance.  From Montespertoli, we descend to Bacciano, then climb to Montagnana, descend to Cerbia, then climb to Chiesa Nuova.  From Chiesa Nuova, we take the main route to a turn to Scandicci, then in town roads back to the house.  

How nice it was to be riding in the sun again.  The link is below, but the summary is:  50.3 miles in 3:27 rolling time, for an average speed of 14.6 mph, 2250 vertical feet climbed, an average temperature of 45 degrees Fahrenheit.  Sweet to be back riding with the team.  Ciao.

With the pace modified for Andrea, I was able to take a couple of photos on the climb to Montagana.  What a beautiful day, awesome roads, beautiful countryside.   Che Bella.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fitted for the new bike, quick ride in the PM

I had a pretty busy day today, considering I did not have Italian class, and only found time for a short ride.  I did spend an hour at the shop, and got the fit measurements for the new bike, pictured below.  It looks prettier in person.  Another hour and one half grocery shopping (including riding the townie to and fro), and a few hours at the end of the day with Emily babysitting the grandchildren.  

I rode a standard, out Via Faentina, through Piazza della Cure, up the back way to San Domenico, up to the turn off for Maiano, then descending through Maiano to San Martino .  From San Martino, I climbed one of my favorites through Vincigliata to the Fiesole / Compiobbi road.  Over to Fiesole, then turned off to descend to Pian de Mugnone, then returned home on Via Faentina.  It is a really sweet ride, the climbs are quite deserted, and it is full of tiny twisty roads.  Part of the descent to Pian de Mugnone will be climbed on every lap of the World Championships in late September.  

Summary is:  14.2 miles, in a rolling time of 1:14, for an average speed of 11.7 mph, with 1650 vertical of climbing at an average temperature of 45 F.  Click the link for more information if desired.  Ciao.

That is the new bike, with the person fitting me, Andrea.  
I will pick it up on Tuesday after Italian class ready to go.  Can't wait.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Late afternoon quick ride

After class today, I did some errands, then hooked up with Emily and some friends for a nice lunch at a new place for me that has a rabbit special on Thursdays.  Very good.  After lunch, we returned to the apartment, then I finished my list of things to get done today, and suited up for a ride.  I rode a favorite, which typifies the incredible riding I am lucky enough to access right from home.  I rode up Via Bolognese, turned off at Pian de San Bartolo, contoured up and over to Cercina, then up to the church above Cercina, then descended down to the Carriege area, then took the back way toward Via Bolognese, then home.  13.7 miles in 1:14 rolling time, for an average of 11.1 mph, with 1450 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 45 or so.  Super fun, curvy roads ranging from relatively busy (Via Bolognese) to basically abandoned (after the turn off at San Bartolo).  

Tuesday afternoon, I made a decision on a new ride.  I received advise from a few bike industry friends in the States, and looked a 5 shops here.  After all is said and done, I decided to go with a top model Willier Gran Turismo, with a Shimano Ultegra Di2 gruppo.  I am super excited, but it will be a few days before I am riding it.  I go by the shop tomorrow to get fitted, possibly change cranks and bars with what is currently on my lightspeed.  As soon as I have it, I will post a picture.  Carbon Fibre allows the fabrication of some super sexy frames.  I am totally looking forward to using the new electronic shifters from Shimano, although these are second generation and should have the kinks figured out.  

Yesterday, I spent the day greeting students for a company here called Study Abroad Italy, that sets up programs for students.  I met around 20 different students all over town, riding my townie bike, to give them welcome packets, keys, and basic explanations of Firenze.  This is the 4th time I have done this, and aside from a little welcome cash, it is really fun to meet the young students, and enjoy the enthusiasm of a 20 year old.  Wow!

Here is the garmin link for anyone interested.

I turned the corner, and the color of the sky struck me as worthy of a photo.
Hope you agree.

Basically the same spot, zoomed in and light adjusted.  Che Bello!

Monday, January 21, 2013

Nice ride to Pratolino, L'Olmo, back home.

After class today, I stopped by the shop to inquire into what they have to recommend or sell for bikes, and again, the person I needed to talk with had just left.  Oh well, two for two.  I will try later, and I am in no hurry.  From the shop, I rode back by the apartment, then climbed Via Bolognese all the way up to Pratolino, where I turned off to climb to the junction that goes over to L'Olmo, which I took.  From there, I took the right that takes you down through Caldine and Pian de Mugnone back to Firenze via Piazza della Cure.  The weather was definitely warmer, and I even had a little sun.  The forecast is for better weather, but rain seems to pop up most days.  We shall see.  Good ride today, the summary is:  19 miles, with 1990 vertical feet of climbing, in 1:38 rolling time, for an average speed of 11.5 mph, at an average temperature of 52.  The garmin link is:

This line of trees frames a gate at my resting / changing spot.

Looking East toward Fiesole from my break spot.

Looking North from my break spot, that is Monte Scenario in the distance.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

A long, rainy walk around the city.

Well, the weather predictions came true today, and it has been rainy pretty much the whole day.  My original plan was to ride with the team, but when I got up, I just did not feel like it.  I went with my feelings, and a good thing, by 9:15 it was raining steadily, and I needed to leave around 9.  Emily and I went into town to meet a friend of hers on the Ponte Vecchio.  We were early, she was late, and we had some time to enjoy the ambiance of the old bridge.  After she arrived, we walked to a biological (Organic) fair in Piazza Santo Spirito.  It was nice, and Emily stayed with her friend, and I went for a planned 2 hour walk.  

I started out toward the Viales on the west / south side of town, but the entry to the Boboli gardens beckoned.  We have "friend of the Uffici" cards, which gives us free admission, so I started my walk through the old Medici gardens.  It was really beautiful, wet, not raining much, and foggy.  All the pictures are from the walk in the garden.  I walked to the top of the gardens, then over to the exit by the Forte Belvedere.  From there I walked over to the Viale Michelangelo, then stayed on the beautiful path beside the road all the way around to Piazza Ferrucci.  From there, I walked along the Arno to Ponte alla Grazie, then up to Piazza Sant'Annunciata, then to Piazza San Marco, then home.  Around a 2 1/2 hour walk at a good pace, so I would assume around 7 miles.  Really nice for a change.  Hopefully back on the bike tomorrow, but we shall see what the weather brings.  

One of the beautiful paths through the trees in the Boboli gardens.

Around the corner, an opening and a modern sculpture.

Another winding path through the trees.

A side path with the trees connected to provide an enclosed walk.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Recovery ride on a cold, kinda rainy day.

I was a little tired and sore after yesterday's ride, so I opted to not join the team this morning and do a mellow ride to recover.  I also visited 3 shops to start the process of looking for a new bike.  Both were pretty fun.  I started out going by the shop that sponsors the team I ride with, but the person who knows the bikes I wanted to look at was out.  I will try later.  That got me started on the Viales going around the west side of town, where I hooked up with the beautiful curvy road from Porta Romana to Poggio Imperiale.  I rode over to Galluzzo, and took the road up through Pozzolatico, turning off for San Gersole just before Mezzomonte.  I rode up, over and through San Gersole, then started the descent and turned off to descend through Vacciano, which has become a favorite up hill for me lately.  Nice descent, which brought me to Cinque Vie, where I headed back to the Viale on the east side of town.  I took a right at the road to Pontesieve, and rode out to the roundabout that brought me by ProBike.  

I check out the Specialized Robaix there, which would seem to be a perfect bike for what I want, but at least in Italy, it does not come with the electronic Ultegra Di2, which I believe I definitely want.  They said they could switch it, but I would have to buy the package, then buy the new Di2, which would make it too expensive.  I then rode toward the house, and stopped at another shop, Le Due Ruote.  Here I did my best to communicate in Italian my desires, and a Bianchi Infinito was recommended.  With the Di2, it was 4750 euro, so a little too much.  The person suggested that a discount would be available, but he could not drop it to the 4000 euro I said I wanted to spend.  I told him I was just starting the search, and I would get back in touch with him.  From there, a quick 3 kilometers and I am home.  Considering the weather, it was a pretty fun excursion.  

The summary is:  21 miles, 1250 vertical, 1:41 rolling time, 12.1 mph average speed, at an average temperature of 39 Fahrenheit.  The garmin link is:

I love this bell tower and the stone work on this church in San Gersole.  

Friday, January 18, 2013

Today, I got a relatively early start and had a great 3-1/2 hour ride in the countryside relatively close to home.  I left town via Piazza della Cure, then took the back road to San Domenico, the climbed the Fiesole road to the turn off for Maiano, where I went right and descended through Maiano to the Chiesa San Martino, where I pick up the road that climbs through Vincigliata to a road that goes either to Compiobbi or to the road above Fiesole.  I rode over to the Fiesole road, then climbed almost to L'Olmo, and turned off to the right on the Monteloro road.  Toward the top of this part of the ride, yesterday's snow asserted itself, and in the shady pieces, the road was even icy.  After cresting the hill, I descended through the woods on a south facing side, and after leaving the woods, the road was basically dry.  Nice.  

The Monteloro road descends to just west of Sieve.  I took the left there and rode through Sieve, turning off at the roundabout for the climb to the windmill (Molino de Vento).  This is a great climb with truly wonderful views.  The vineyards which abound here were bare and showing their winter persona.  Not a single car on the 1/2 hour climb of around 1400 vertical feet.  It is only really steep in a couple of short stretches, which is nice.  At the windmill, I changed plan, as I told Emily I would return in time for us to renew our "Friends of the Uffici" cards, which gets us into most of the museums in Firenze and the Boboli gardens.  So, I took the descent through Grignano to Pontesieve.  I have only ridden this once or twice since the permanent move, and it is just a perfect descent.  A back road, but in pretty darn good shape, lots of switchbacks, views, and around 1300 feet of descending.  At Pontesieve, I joined the road returning to Firenze, which parallels the Arno, which is roaring these days.  A slight tailwind made the return of around 18k relatively painless and quite fun.  

The garmin link is below, but the summary is:  41 miles, with 4460 vertical feet of climbing in 3:19 Rolling time for an average speed of 12.3 mph, with an average temperature of 41.  Almost perfect.  Loved it.  Ciao!

This is from the climb to Vincigliata, one of my favorites.

Pretty villa with slightly snowy vineyards on the way to Monteloro.

The view across the valley to Santa Brigida and the mountains beyond.

I love these views on the way up to the Molino de Vento. (Windmill)

Same location, slightly different view, winter time for the vineyards.

The road is staying clear, but the snow is starting to show itself as I climb to the Monteloro turn-off.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Back in Italy and finally on the bike

Hi blog readers - I know from the stats that there are some out there - I am back from a difficult 2 plus weeks in the US.  My Mother died on 12-30, a couple of hours before I arrived.  I had seen her around Thanksgiving, and we talked most nights (for me), and the night before I left, I had a good talk with her and basically told her if it was time to go, she did not have to wait for me.  It is very sad, and a weird new reality to not have any living elders in the family.  I guess we are them now.  I hope this does not mean I have hit old age, but I know I am not in the middle anymore, needing to take care of both parents and children, which is how I defined middle age.  Anyway, I am sad to have lost her, but the quality of life for her the last couple of months was pretty bad, and it is really merciful for her that she has passed to whatever adventure awaits her next.  By Mom, I loved you with all my heart and am blessed to have had you as a mother.  

OK, enough with the personal note, back to riding, which is mostly what the blog is all about.  After returning, I had a couple of days of rain and relative cold.  I started a level 3 Italian language class on Tuesday, and will be doing that for a month in the mornings.  After class today, a perfect, sunny, but cold (around 35 to 40, cold for riding) day, I got all my gear back together, on and set off for a ride.  I rode pretty much what I planned, and I stayed pretty close to home, as I did not know how comfortable the temperatures would be.  

I climbed up Via Bolognese to Pian de San Bartolo, and turned off to Cercina.  I have ridden this climb many, many times, and I could really tell I had been off the bike for almost 3 weeks - it hurt a little on the way up and this is not a steep climb.  It was a beautiful contour / descent / climb over to Cercina, then up to the church above the town.  I took the right, a new favorite, and the right branch from that road to descend back toward Carriege.  I returned back up on the nice, but in places super steep road that hooked back up to where I branched off on the descent.  This was my first attempt at climbing this road, and a portion was very steep.  I did not check the percent on the Garmin, but I bet that a 200 meter stretch averaged 25%.  The climbing actually felt better than on the much easier climb up Via Bolognese, so my body must have remembered what it was doing.  I returned to the church above Cercina, then took the right and descended back toward Carriege.  A sweet descent, although with wet roads, I took it easy.  I branched off above the main road, and took the back way into the Carriege area, then turned off on the back way over toward Via Bolognese, turning off to return home via Piazza Giorgini.  How wonderful to be back on the bike.

If any readers out there have any advice, I am planning on a new bike, as a present to myself using some funds from my Mother's small estate.  I am thinking 5 to 6000 dollars max, and definitely want the new Ultegra electronic shifters.  My bike guru Don Cook is advising, and I will check with the team members here, but all input is welcomed.  I am hoping to find something very responsive, but with enough forgiveness to make the sometimes bumpy back roads and cobbles as comfortable as possible for an almost 60 year old rider.  The garmin link is below, but the summary is:  20 miles in 1:50 rolling time for an average speed of 11 mph, with 2460 vertical feet climbed at an average temperature of 41 degrees Fahrenheit.  It is good to be back, Ciao.

The road toward Cercina on a cold, sunny January afternoon.

Cercina with a church / monastery above.  You can see the snow line from
the last few stormy days on Monte Morello in the background.

A stunning view to the east from the second real climb.

Through the olive grove with Monte Morello in the background, from the second real climb.