Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Christmas Gift: SON20 hub

I got one of those orange slip in the mail yesterday, and in the sender field, the postal worker who dropped it off had written "Great Britain". I immediately knew what it was and picked up the package from the downtown Berkeley postal office this morning.

I opened the package, and surely it is the SON20 hub I ordered 2 weeks ago from St. John Street Cycles--a bike shop in Somerset, England that specializes in bike touring. This was before the US dollars began to weaken and I got the hub shipped for $180--not a bad deal at all!

I mentioned in one of the previous posts that I had been pondering the possibility of getting a dynamo front hub for my Ebisu. I am also thinking to get one (maybe an economic version) for my il Pompino to make my winter commute safer.

There seems to be a consensus that SON-series (Schmidt's Original Nabendynamo) dynamo hubs made by Wilfried Schmidt Maschinenbau of Germany are the best in the business. They are available in the United States mainly through Peter White Cycles and several other touring or randoneering-friendly bike shops. They are not cheap though: a standard SON28 hub designed for 26" to 700c wheels cost $270, and a lighter version (SON20R) that was designed for smaller wheels but can be used with the combo of larger wheels and LED headlamps cost $300. Adding rim, spokes and build fee, one quickly approaches $500 territory.

SON20 Generator Hub

Shimano has lower price offerings. For example, the bike part giant recently released its DH-3N80 dynamo front hub in the United States (although it has been available else where for about 1 year now). The Shimano hub is approximately 1/2 the price of a SON hub, though not as efficient as the SON hubs. Jim G has posted some performance information in this entry of his SF Cyclotouring blog.

I think the DH-3N80 is probably good enough for me on the Ebisu, though I am still hesitating to put it on my commuter. To complicate matter, the two bikes have different wheel size so if I want dynamo lighting on both bikes I will need two such wheels.

Now I think I will take it one part at a time. I will also need to have a bright LED front light to go with the SON hub. For that I am thinking to get the Busch & Müller Lumotec IQ Cyo front light, which is on par with lights such as Schmidt's Edeluxe and Supernova E3 in terms of brightness and half the price. I will hunt around for a good deal.

In the meanwhile, I will probably get the wheels built around the Ultegra rear hub and a phil wood front hub, both with 36 spoke holes.

The delivery of Ebisu is less than 2 months away (I hope).

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Home-made bag-mount for my Ostrich Bag

I bought a Ostrich handlebar bag from an iBOB list member about a year ago. I have used it on my specialized expedition touring bike for months. It has plenty of storage capacity and many convenient pockets and a map case. On my old touring bike it sat on a Nitto M-12 front rack. Initially I used two leather strap to attach the bag to the handlebar and a pedal strap to attach the bag to the rack at the bottom (see left). To gain some hand space on the handlebar, I used the Velo Orange decaleur (quick release bag mount) and did away with the leather straps. The decaleur allows to bag to sit more properly on the rack and hold it there more securely. I really like the set up (see the picture on the right to look at the bag with decaleur).

When I sold the touring bike to pave way for the Ebisu, the Ostrich bag sat in my bike garage for a while not getting used. I had a basket on my commuter at the time and I hadn't set up a front rack for my Romulus yet.

When the rack strut broke on the Mark's rack on my il pompino, I took off the rack and replaced it with the Nitto M-12 rack that was on the touring bike. I thought about putting the basket on, but instead decided to use the Ostrich bag.

In the past few months, I have been using the ostrich bag with two leather straps and a toeclip strap at the bottom to attach it to the rack and handlebar (see picture to the left). It worked OK, though after a while the leather strap will slip and move along the handlebar and the bag will be slanted one way or another. If I carry some weight, the bag will sway a little more. I decided that if I were to use the bag on this bike, I need something similar to the decaleur that's more secure.

I tried to buy an extra steerer mount for 1 1/8" size from Velo Orange, but VO didn't have any, and Chris there told me that VO might not get any for a few months. I wrote a WTB email to the iBOB list to see if anyone has one lying around to sell it to me. From that, Ryan Watson sent me a reply, with a link to his flickr photostream showing his home-made bag mount (here is one of Ryan's picture showing his bag mount using a piece of steel bracket).

I thought about it and decided to create a similar hack. I took that piece of broken strut from the Mark's rack and sawed it to length. I then drilled a hole on it where it would attach to the bag. I attach one side of this strut to the stem under the face plate. I then drill a hole in the bag and used a 5mm nut and bolt to attach the bag to the bottom end of the strut. I retained the toeclip strap to secure the bottom of the bag to the front rack. Below is a slideshow showing some close-up picture of this hack and my pompino with the bag. It felt pretty secured. Even though it's not a quick release, but it will prevent people from simply grabbing my bag off my bike when I run into store to do errands etc. I will report how well the hack works once I get some real-world test.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A fun ride for a good cause: Supermarket Street Sweep

My friend Steve forwarded me a poster for the 3rd annual Supermarket Street Sweep about 1 month ago. It's an event put together by a few individuals aimed at raising food donation for the San Francisco Food Bank. It consists of two alleycat-style races taking place in San Francisco at the same time. The winner of the speed race would have purchased all the required items at the specified supermarkets and get to the finish point the fastest. The winner of the point race will have the most food items in addition to making all the required purchases at the specified supermarkets. The organizers have gotten lots of sponsors and collected lots of swags as prizes for the participants and all the food will go to the SF food bank.

Il Pompino before the race
(My pompino before the race)

I've always enjoy riding in San Francisco and since this is for a good cause and sounds like fun, I decided to join this year. The starting time was noon next to the Cupid sculpture on Embarcadero. Some folks were there before the start, but most came at or after the start time. The organizers got everyone checked in and handed out Crumpler cell phone hoisters and numbered spoke card for every racer. A wide variety of bicycles--many fixed gear messenger bikes, road bikes, mountain bikes, cargo bikes, bike with trailers--showed up. At about 12:40 we were asked to gather on the grass and each got a manifest. We could choose to participate in the point or the speed race. The speed race required the racer to buy less food, but travel longer distance. The point racer's manifest has more food items on it that he/she needs to buy, but the 5 supermarkets are all relatively central.

Close to Start time
(Almost Start time, racers gathered)

I thought about joining the speed race, but the manifest asked for a can of fish at the Marina Safeway. I am a vegan and couldn't bring myself to buy fish, and thought it would be great to donate more food in the point race. At about 12:40, the race started and streams of cyclists poured into the street.

I looked at the manifest before getting on my bike and knew the location of all 5 stores. However, i was deciding the order by which I will cover the stores. The manifest is shown in the picture below.

Blank Manifest before the race
(my manifesto: pre-race)

I decided that I would go to Mollie Stone in Pacific Height (at California & Fillmore), and then move my way toward the south of the City. I made my first strategic mistake by riding to far north to Broadway before turning west. I should have gone southwest on Market and then head up California or a parallel street. On my il Pompino with 40/17 gearing, I was afraid that I might not have enough gears going through the central part (Nob Hill, etc) of the city. In hindsight, I could probably head up Sacramento or Washington through Chinatown, then cut across on Powell to California. Anyway, I rode on Broadway to circumvent the huge hills, but make an almost mistake by riding in the Broadway Tunnel. The tunnel is long and without good illumination. I couldn't really see the road that well and the lanes are not that wide. I was afraid to ride through a patch of glass or getting hit by a car, luckily, neither took place.

I also quickly realized that i forgot to bring water. So when I got to Mollie Stone I bought a drink as well as the required food donation--two bags of dry beans, 2 lbs or more. I met another racer Brandon, whom I will see at the rest of the stores, and rode to the finish together.

(slideshow of the photos I took)

The next stop is straightforward to get to and very close. I rode down Fillmore past Geary, then hopped through a sidewalk to the Safeway parking lot at Webster and O'Farrell. Many racers were there, but I have the impression that this was their first stop. I ran in and grab what i needed--two cans of vegetable, 15 oz or more and came out. I have on my Pompino an Ostrich front handlebar bag, and also carried a medium-size Timbuk2 messenger bag. I put the cans in the handlebar bag (the beans were in my messenger bag) and went for the third store.

before I left Safeway, I looked at the map and decided that i will go west to the lucky on Fulton and Masonic before heading further south to the two last stores. Here is where I made my second strategic mistake. Instead of heading west first on O'Farrell first, i descended webster and promptly lost a lot of altitude that I had to climb back on Fulton. I realized it as soon as I made a left turn on Fulton and saw the three consecutive climbs beginning at Steiner. Well, at this point, there was I can do but get off my saddle and climb. Even though the hills on Fulton aren't difficult, I could have more strategically get to the same point with less climbing and spent less time.

At Lucky, I picked up 2 bags of 2-lb basmati rice. i was looking for brown rice, but the package were all in the wrong weight. after a short decision process, I took the basmati and went for the self-checkout.

Out of the Lucky I made a stupid mistake. I went further west (uphill no less) on Fulton for a block when i realized I had gone in the wrong direction. I turned around and headed back. I am now heading for the Mission District. The two remaining stores are close to the main artery--Mission Boulevard--in the area and I initially planned to go all the way south to the Safeway at 29th and Mission first. I rode on fulton until divisidero, then rode down until Haight. I then turn off Haight on Octavia, which takes me back to Market Street. After a couple more short turns, i was on mission going south.

I was stopped at a light on 14th street, and decided to change my plan to hit Food Co on 14th and folsom first. When I walked into the store after locking my bike and reading my manifest, I thought to myself that maybe I should have stuck to my plans and go to the one further south first. We were required to buy 2 large plastic jars (64 oz or more) of fruit juice, which would be the bulkiest and heaviest items. But I wasn't going to run out of here without the juice. The checkout line also were longer than other stores, without self-checkout counters.

Juice at Checkout at Food Co in the Mission
(At the checkout line in Food Co)

After juice, I had to rearrange my bags and they were pretty bulky now. Luckily the things we need to buy from the last store--mac & cheese--are pretty small. I rode down shotwell, which parallel Mission, but is much quieter all the way to 26th, made a ride turn then turn back onto Mission again. Quickly I got to the Safeway at 29th and Mission. I got some organic mac & cheese and bought two more cans of food for extra point.

At my bike I took out my map and tried to figure out how to get back to the finish point--which is Rickshaw Bagworks on 22nd between Indiana and Tennessee. Brandon, whom I met in Mollie Stone and saw at every subsequent store, told me that he knew the way and can take me there.

We got onto Caesar Chavez from Mission and rode under the highways. Soon i saw the sign for Indiana and made a left turn. We got back to the finish line at about 2:40, 2 hours after i left embarcadero. Here is the map showing the route I took to the 5 stores. The bikely interactive version is here.

Near party time
(scene outside Rickshaw Bagworks after the race)

A couple dozen folks were there already. I checked in, took a photo in the booth and turned in my food and receipts. As time went on, folks started to pile in. One guy--I later found out he goes by Dirty Dave--pulled up with a trailer on his cargo bike. He must have had hundreds of canned food on the trailer. I also found out later that he had won the last two point race.

Just slightly past the cutoff time at 4, I heard a dragging noise on the street, and saw a guy in pink shirt (I later learned that his name is Jeremiah) on a mountain bike pulling 3 sections of trailers behind him with mountains of food. He clearly had Dirty Dave beat in terms of quantity but got disqualified because he missed the cutoff time.

Jeremiah and his haul
(Jeremiah and his haul)

I had another party to attend to so I left before the organizers handed out prizes. But I had tons of fun and plan to do it next year!

Closer-up Pompino at the Bridge
(taken on my way back to Berkeley)

Monday, December 8, 2008

My route on the 3rd Annual Supermarket Street Sweep

This is a map that show my travel during the 3rd annual supermarket street sweep alley cat race to raise food donation for the SF food bank. I started from Embarcadero and traversed in counterclockwise direction. I will have a more complete write-up shortly

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Ukiah-Comptche Ride on Thanksgiving Sunday

M. and I decided that we want to have a quiet Thanksgiving holiday doing some self-reflection. We attended 2 days of a 3-day Chan (the original Chinese word for what later became Zen in Japanese; it came from the Sanskrit word dhyana) meditation retreat at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas--a Buddhist campus in Ukiah, California. During the retreat we participated (separately because of gender separation on campus) in 9 hours of quiet sitting meditation a day (with walking meditation interspersed) and reflected. I went to high school on the campus so the retreat also led me down memory lanes in those long hours of sitting, though I tried not to indulge in reminiscing too much. We have much to thank for--solid spiritual practice, good health, stable jobs, great group of friends and a community, good relations with family, compatible interest with and affection for each other. We both love cycling and are devoted to live progressively. We also bought a rental property this summer together that breaks even on the monthly basis.

We enjoyed the quiet time for reflection and as we planned beforehand, headed out for a bike ride on sunday, foregoing the last day of the retreat. We started out on the campus of City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (CTTB) and headed Northwest toward Ukiah on Talmage Road. It was only 40F and our fingers were freezing. Since I went to high school there and still am involved with the community, I am really familiar with the area. We took a back road toward the center of the town, passed quiet residential neighborhood and shopping centers in town. Ukiah is a sizble town with more than 30 000 people. On the way over we passed by Home Depot and Mervyn's California department store, which is closing down. After a few more turns on the residential streets, we got on to State Street, which is the main throughfare in town. We went north on this main road for a mile, passes Hwy 101, rode for another 1/2 mile and made a left turn on Orr Springs Road.

We would not leave Orr Springs Road on this ride. This road used to be one of the stagecoast road between inland and coastal Mendocino county. The road is fairly narrow and has a few houses and ranches along it. One can take ths same road all the way to Comptche--a former logging town--then further to Mendocino on the coast. M. and I did an out-and-back from Ukiah to Mendocino last year when we were training for the 1-day version of STP, and it still is the most challenging ride we did. Today we are not going as far, the plan is to start as early as we did, go all the way to Comptche, then turn around to get back to Talmage a little before 3 so we can enjoy lunch at Jyun Kang Restaurant on the CTTB campus--which is famous for its great Chinese vegetarian food.

Soon after we made the turn onto Orr Springs, we began a very long and steep climb to the summit. According to the elevation profile for our route on Bikely, we started the climb at mile 6.5 or so at about 600 ft above sea level. At mile 10 or so, our elevation reached about 2400 ft (that's almost 10% the entire time!). Then after a drop to about 2000 ft at mile 11, we climbed again to reach close to 2600 ft at mile 13. Even though it's a challenging climb, it was quite pleasant. It was cool in the morning so climbing helped to warm us up. We stopped at a moment to peel off some layers and got to enjoy the view of the Ukiah valley. The traffic level is very low, the scenery is great, and pavement is pretty good. All one needs is some legs (or low gears) and some patience. There is a ranch called "Wonder" at the top. It's a very satisfying climb.

A little on our equipments for the day. I took my Rivendell Romulus with Baggins Little Joe saddle bag. Because there is no services on the road until Comptche (even then, the store there doesn't open everyday), I carried a Nalgene water pouch that can fit 125 ml (4 of our stainless steel water bottles) of water in the saddle bag. The weight of the water (almost 10 lbs) certainly added the difficulty on the first climb. The Romulus performed wonderfully, it didn't tend to tip over, and stayed in a straightline without too much effort. I was able to alternate on and off the saddle going over the top. On descent, it took me a couple of turns to get used to the handling with added weight on the saddle, but it wasn't difficult and compromised the bike's handling only slightly. As we transferred water from the pouch to our bottles, obviously the weight of the bike/bag returned to normal. I really like having the little joe on my bike and will keep it there for a while.

M. took her 650b Serotta CRT with matching Acorn Bags--a small saddle bag as a handlebar bag in the front and a medium/large saddle bag in the back. She didn't carry water (since I was the mule) but carried energy bars, sunscreens, and her fleece jacket. Her bike also performed well for her. The lightweight tubes suited her very well, as she is light. The stiff frame also helped her on climbs as she is more of a masher than spinner on the climbs. And the grand bois cypres tires provided her more comfort on some patches of bad pavement than 25mm Panaracer Pasela TGs on her Torelli. She also felt more confident on descent with those tires. Her speed on flat has not suffer because of the 650b wheel size. We both wore reflective hi-vis vest for safety and both have bells from Jitensha Studio.

Between mile 10 and 13 when we were at the top, the road winds slightly and rolls a little. Here the vista is pretty open, looking over unincorporated regions of the Ukiah valley, with what must be new-growth forests. At mile 13, the road took a fast and winding dives, with many switchbacks for the next 4 miles. I stopped at a switch back to enjoy the view, give my hands some rest and allow M. to catch up. At mile 17, we got to the edge of the forest. The next 6 miles we will be in Montgomery Woods. We passed by Orr Hot Springs Resort along the way. This stretch of the ride is probably my favorite, as is M.'s. We rode under the tall canopy of several different kinds of trees--redwood, pines, oaks--and there is a creek running next to the road. I tried to take some picture but it was pretty dark in the forest to take good pictures while on a bike. It felt magical! The pavement is decent, but bad at a few spots, and the traffic is very low, with most of the cars going to and from the hot spring resort. We both remarked that this is probably our favorite place to ride.

At mile 23, we began another significant climb. Though not as hard as the first one, this 3.5-mile climb gains close to 800 ft. Throughout the entire time, we were pretty much under the shade of the trees, but gets to peek out to get an expansive view of the valley once in a while. At mile 30, we reached the point where the road began to descend for 4 miles down to the town of Comptche. We decided that we didn't want to climb up this hill on the way back and decided to turn around.

The ride on the way back was slower, but no less enjoyable. After descending the last hill we climbed up, we are riding against a slight gradient back through Montgomery Woods. We took our time and went at about 13-14 miles per hour. At Orr Hot Springs Resort, we bumped into our friend Annie whom we arranged to meet somewhere on the road today. After chatted for a bit, we began to climb back the pass back to Ukiah.

This is the steep descent that we took after the first climb this morning. Although not as steep (7.5% for 4 miles), the weather has warmed up significantly (now at a toasty 70F) and we were getting hungry and tired. It took some significant effort on our part to get back to the top. After a fast and furious descent down the hill we climbed this morning we were back cruising in Ukiah.

Overall, it was a challenging (60 miles and 9400 ft of climbing!) and wonderful ride. The food at the restaurant was excellent as always. I chatted with some people who have been working there since i was a teenager more than 15 year ago. It was a wonderful sunday to conclude a great quiet thanksgiving weekend!

Ebisu Project Parts Run-up Part 4

I got another 2 pieces of the puzzle for my ebisu (which won't come for another 2 and 1/2 months). I went to box dog bikes in San Francisco yesterday after work to pick up one-bike-worth of Velo Orange adjustable brake shoes. According to VO's website, these threadless brake shoes allow "toe-in, and other, adjustments". I have one-bike-worth of Grenouille canti brakes (also from VO) that can use these shoes. I also bought a Shimano XT M737 8-speed cassette from eBay, using's cashback program.

I have also been pondering whether I should get a dynamo hub and light for this build. I am considering Schmidt SON28, SON20R, and Shimano DH-3N80. Does anyone have any experience on the Shimano hub? If I do build a dynamo front wheel, I will still probably build a non-dynamo one for when I don't need lighting.

Here is the updated list:

Still need:

- cables, housings and ferrules
- rims, silver, 650b; Velocity Synergy 650b or Grand Bois rims, 36h
- 72 spokes

- tubes 650b
- Rim Tapes
- Hanjo smooth fender
- Handlebar tape

Already Have:

- Shimano Ultegra 6500 rear derailleur; long cage
- Shimano 105 9-speed front derailleur; triple; 28.6 clamp diameter
- Sugino XD600 crankset 46/36/26 170 crank arm length
- Shimano Ultegra seatpost 27.2
- Selle Anatomica Saddle; clydesdale
- Tektro R200A brake levers; black/silver
- Grenouille cantilever brakes from VO
- Velo Orange adjustable brake shoes
- Nitto Randonneur handlebars; 44cm
- Nitto Pearl quill stem; 10 cm reach
- Crank Brothers Quattro road pedals
- SRAM 890 8-speed chain
- Shimano FR-6600 Ultegra 10-speed rear hub; 36h
- Suntour XC-Comp front hub, 36h
- Riv Silver friction downtube shifters
- Phil Wood stainless steel bottom bracket 68x108mm JIS
- Stronglight A9 1" threaded headset, British thread; black with "paramount" inscribed

- tires; Rivendell Nifty Swifty 650b (2)
- Shimano XT M737 11-30 8-speed cassette

- Jitensha mini-front rack for Ebisu All Purpose
- Inujirushi handlebar bag; medium