Hello St. Louis

St. Louis Arch

As you may or may not have already read, Melissa has accepted a job at Washington University in St. Louis. We will be moving to the St. Louis area in mid-August. I will continue my current job, working from home (much as I did for the year we lived in Nicaragua).

It will be a little sad to leave Champaign-Urbana where I’ve lived for 13 of the last 14 years. However, this job is a really great opportunity for Melissa and we’re both excited to be starting a new adventure. Wish us luck.

Capreo Cassette Modification

Two years ago when I ordered my Bike Friday Pocket Rocket, I opted to go with the Shimano Capreo cassette/rear hub combination. This system is specially designed for small wheeled bikes (the Pocket Rocket has 20″ wheels). Normal cassettes need to have at least 11 teeth. Since the Capreo system has a smaller spindle (at the end) it can go down to 9 teeth. This allows higher gear ratios on small wheeled bikes without using bigger chainrings.

The 9-speed Capreo cassette only comes in one configuration: 9-10-11-13-15-17-20-23-26 teeth. This is a fairly wide range of gears with 119.4″ at the high end and 30.4″ at the low end.

This is a great general purpose range of gears that will work for everything from ascending a mountain to descending a mountain. Unfortunately, I live nowhere near any mountains. Champaign County Illinois is the flattest place on earth. So I don’t need all the low gears, but I would like to have a set of gears which are closer together so there’s not a very big jump when I change gears.

The thing about the Capreo cassette is that the smallest four cogs are a non-standard size and they all fit together in a special way. The hub spindle is too small for cogs from any other cassette to work. So the 9-10-11-13 tooth cogs are essentially fixed. The largest five cogs are all standard sized, so I could replace all those with different sized cogs.

The first challenge is removing the Capreo cassette. Since it is a non-standard size a standard cassette removal tool won’t work. Shimano makes a custom tool, which I purchased a while back (from England, since none were available in the U.S. at the time), though I haven’t used yet. I whipped out the tool, positioned it on the cassette, and the instant I turned (before applying any real force) the brand new metal tool snapped.

Capreo cassette tools

Sigh. So now I have to replace that tool. On the bright side I happen to live four doors down from a friend who also owns a Bike Friday with a Capreo cassette. Gary was nice enough to let me borrow his (also unused) tool despite the very real chance I might break it as well. I eased into it and the tool didn’t break, but it did take quite a lot of force to remove the cassette. The Capreo cassette’s lock ring has large grooves which must be turned against each other to remove the cassette.

Capreo cassette lock ring

With the cassette off I was able to scavenge cogs from two other 9-speed cassettes (now that I’ve upgraded my road & TT bikes to 10-speed drivetrains) to produce a mutant hybrid cassette much better suited to the flat lands of central Illinois. I ended up with 9-10-11-13-14-15-16-17-19 tooth cogs. This cut the percent differences between gears roughly in half. I really wish I could get a 12 tooth cog in there because the 11-13 change is still 18.2% apart! Alas, the 13 is fixed for the Capreo cassette.

Old gears New gears
Standard Capreo cassette
Modified Capreo cassette

53 35.9 % 39
9 119.4 87.9
11.1 %
10 107.5 79.1
10.0 %
11 97.7 71.9
18.2 %
13 82.7 60.8
15.4 %
15 71.7 52.7
13.3 %
17 63.2 46.5
17.6 %
20 53.7 39.5
15.0 %
23 46.7 34.4
13.0 %
26 41.3 30.4

53 35.9 % 39
9 119.4 87.9
11.1 %
10 107.5 79.1
10.0 %
11 97.7 71.9
18.2 %
13 82.7 60.8
7.7 %
14 76.8 56.5
7.1 %
15 71.7 52.7
6.7 %
16 67.2 49.4
6.3 %
17 63.2 46.5
11.8 %
19 56.6 41.6

Gear inch tables generated by the late Sheldon Brown’s gear calculator

I tested out the new gears yesterday pulling Fig in his trailer. Even dragging the trailer/parachute into 25mph gusting headwinds the low gears were perfectly adequate.

Freedom Day

I ran the Freedom 5K this morning at 11am. It was 90˚ and sunny, very undesirable conditions for a short, fast, violent effort. On top of that my legs weren’t moving quite right after 75 miles of cycling yesterday. Yeah, that was a bad idea.

Are we having fun yet?

For some reason this race has way more competition than all the other local 5K races. All the area high school runners show up, which is not typical. This means about 20 runners will finish under 18:00, whereas a typical local race will have 2-5 runners that fast. Of course, the race started super fast. I was well off the leaders’ pace and I still passed the 1-mile mark in 5:32. Ugh, too fast.


It was blazingly hot and I started to fade. My second mile was slower, and my third mile was even slower. I finished around 20th place or so. The clock read 17:55, though my watch read 18:09, a substantially larger discrepancy than usual. Other runners mentioned the same thing. I wonder what the official time will be… The race went okay, considering the horrible weather.

After the race I quickly changed gears and got the family ready to ride Big Red in the parade. Each year the Champaign County Bikes advocacy group invites members to ride in the parade. We’ve done this a few times before. This would be Will‘s first parade.


Ready for the parade


Two sweaty guys

Again, it was blazingly hot. We stood around in the staging area for a little before finding a tree to rest under for a few minutes. Just minutes before we were to start the parade the rain began to pour. Everyone else ran for cover, but I relished the welcome relief from the heat. I was soaking wet and it was the best I had felt all day. The rain slowed to a drizzle as we began on wet streets. A few blocks into the parade it stopped. By the end the roads were dry.

Parade start

Parade start


Champaign County Bikes in the parade

On the back of the tandem

Melissa’s view never changes

Gary rides the “Jazz-cycle”

Parade Ragfields

Team Ragfield in parade mode

Finally, after the parade Will took his first swim in his new pool.


Good times were had by all. We’re not watching fireworks right now. The boy’s asleep and we’re exhausted, so that’s probably a good thing.

June 2010 Stats

Photo of the Day

June 2010



Hmm. I must have done something wrong here. First it was a week in California with no running. Then I sort of injured my foot slightly and it took about two more weeks before I could run again. The good news is I’m running again. The less good news is that this is the worst time of year to be running. I’ll probably stick to running once or twice per week to maintain my fitness until it cools down in the fall. It’s cycling season anyway.

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 109.05 Mile 10 10.905 Mile
February 76.18 Mile 8 9.5225 Mile
March 84.86 Mile 10 8.486 Mile
April 83.15 Mile 9 9.23889 Mile
May 57.95 Mile 7 8.27857 Mile
June 17.98 Mile 3 5.99333 Mile
Total 429.17 Mile 47 9.13128 Mile



I did a fair amount of cycling in California, which was great. I also did the Illinois State championship road race (O’Fallon) and criterium (Peoria). I had not results worth mentioning, but I was happy with my performance in both races.

June 2010 Cycling by bike

Bike Distance # Rides Avg per Ride
Bianchi 31.6 Mile 7 4.51429 Mile
Big Red 12. Mile 3 4. Mile
Lynskey 15.95 Mile 1 15.95 Mile
Pocket Rocket 113.62 Mile 5 22.724 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird 274.8 Mile 6 45.8 Mile
Total 447.97 Mile 22 20.3623 Mile

January-June 2010 Cycling by bike

Bike Distance # Rides Avg per Ride
Bianchi 260.6 Mile 38 6.85789 Mile
Big Red 49.4 Mile 8 6.175 Mile
El Fuego 40.9 Mile 11 3.71818 Mile
Lynskey 31.8 Mile 2 15.9 Mile
Pocket Rocket 214.74 Mile 9 23.86 Mile
Thundercougarfalconbird 1439.97 Mile 42 34.285 Mile
Total 2037.41 Mile 110 18.5219 Mile

2010 Cycling by month

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 166.25 Mile 20 8.3125 Mile
February 140.67 Mile 12 11.7225 Mile
March 508.83 Mile 18 28.2683 Mile
April 318.98 Mile 13 24.5369 Mile
May 365.89 Mile 20 18.2945 Mile
June 447.97 Mile 22 20.3623 Mile
Total 1948.59 Mile 105 18.558 Mile


We did a lot of walking in San Francisco, which helped bring my Moon Walk total up to 500 “miles” (also includes miles converted from running & cycling). Hey, the Buffalo finished first again this year, and I didn’t have the lowest total on the team :)

Two sweaty guys hiking the Coastal Trail

Month Distance # Workouts Avg per Workout
January 28.66 Mile 9 3.18444 Mile
February 51.45 Mile 16 3.21563 Mile
March 34.7 Mile 10 3.47 Mile
April 44.35 Mile 11 4.03182 Mile
May 48.75 Mile 14 3.48214 Mile
June 64.2 Mile 16 4.0125 Mile
Total 272.11 Mile 76 3.58039 Mile

Peoria Classic

We traveled to Peoria on Sunday for the Peoria Classic (formerly Proctor Classic) bike races. I did the cat 5 crit in Peoria in 2006 and 2008. Both times I was separated from the main field by a crash directly in front of me and I finished off the back all by myself. I didn’t have high expectations.

Four other Wild Card riders were in the cat 4 race this year, Luke, Jason, Nick, and Mike. At the start of the race they announced the names of the top five riders in the Illinois Cup series. Jason was 5th and Mike was 2nd. None of the other three riders were there so two guys from our team made their way to the starting line before everyone else. This meant everyone else in the race would be keeping an eye on us. I would have preferred to fly under the radar.

The race started and I somehow ended up leading the pack into the first turn, so I figured I’d get things started. I lead for most of the first lap before moving aside for the next guys in the line. I dropped back into the pack nearly at the back, where I stayed for most of the race.

The race was fast (26 mph average speed for 40 minutes) and there were eight turns per lap. Turning at high speed in tight packs is not my favorite thing, but I handled it much better in this race than in any previous crit… which is good. The first five turns were straightforward. After the sixth turn (into the headwind) of every lap I had to sprint to catch back up to the group, just in time for everyone to slow down before turn seven. On the finishing straightaway I had the opportunity to move up a few places and start the whole thing over again. My average heart rate was 171, right at my aerobic threshold. So I was definitely working hard.

With four laps to go I moved up a few too many places on the finishing straight and somehow went off the front. So, like the first lap, I lead the group for most of a lap, then pulled off and dropped back again. The race was super hot and by the end it was really taking a toll on me. I stayed with the pack the final few laps and into the finish. I had nothing left on the last lap to move up much. I finished near the back of the lead pack in 26th place out of 42 riders. Mike was 4th, Luke was 12th, Jason was 17th, Nick stopped just before the end after trying to help set Mike up for a strong finish.

I’m fairly happy with how the race went for me. I wasn’t expecting spectacular results, and I didn’t achieve spectacular results, but my steadily improving fitness gives me greater confidence for the next race (whatever that may be). I think a couple guys on the team were hoping for better results, but we did okay regardless. There will other races.