Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Winter Riding in Monterey

M. and I have established a little bit of tradition of going down to the Monterey peninsula in December to spend a weekend chilling out. These tourist hot spots--Monterey, Carmel, Big Sur--in the summer turn into quiet and low-key destinations in the winter time. For one thing, cost to get a hotel room goes way down--we got a room in Carmel proper for less than $70 a night at a clean and cute place--and so does car traffic. And if weather cooperates--which it did this past weekend--then you actually get possibly even nicer weather than the summer time, and this area is prone to heavy fog and overcast sky.

We went down on Saturday and visited a friend in Carmel. We sat on a bench on the water and chatted, walked along Scenic Dr in Carmel, and went down to Rocky Point Restaurant in Big Sur for afternoon snack and enjoy breath-taking views of the coast and the famous Bixby Bridge. We came back to the hotel just after dark. Feeling much relaxed, we actually fell asleep before 9PM.

We got up next morning when it was still dark and got ready to go out for a short ride. This is M.'s second real ride on her way to full recovery from her knee injury. She didn't want tons of mileage, but wanted some more climbing than when we did a ride in Mendocino during Thanksgiving weekend. We got out of the hotel and climbed up to HWY 1. We got on to HWY 1 for a short while and turned off to get on Aquajito Road. The road is lined with trees and goes up for about two miles before descending down to north Monterey near the Naval Post-Graduate Academy. M. did well on the climb up, and enjoyed being able to ride hills again. We got on the Monterey-Seaside trail and went south. We saw a few other cyclists going the other direction.

The next 10-12 miles are pretty flat, as we rolled through the usually-busy areas of fisherman's wharf, Cannery Row, Lovers' Point, various beautiful state beaches, and of course the famous 17-mile drive. Car traffic was pretty minimal and we took in as much as the gorgeous ocean view as we could, and stopped occasionally to look at seals lying on nearby rocks.

We exited 17-mile drive and rode toward the Carmel Mission along Scenic Dr in Carmel. If you haven't ridden/walked on Scenic Dr before, next time when you visit the area it's a must. It's a stretch of ocean front road that connects the beach at the bottom of Ocean Ave and Carmel River State Beach. We turned north again after reaching the Carmel Mission. The way back to the hotel is a steady climb on Lasuen/Junipero Road. This is actually the most hilly part of the ride. The quiet but quaint neighborhoods provide a contrast to the expansive and busier water front scenes, but is quite enjoyable to ride and watch on a sunday morning. We rode past our hotel to climb the hill on Aquajito one more time before heading back to clean up and checked out.

In the afternoon we met up with our friend again and took a walk in Point Lobos, which is a former whaling cove and now a state reserve. And we sat on the beach for a little while longer to soak up more relaxation before heading back to the Bay Area. The riding was easy-going but extremely pleasant, and it was overall a very wonderful weekend.

The rest of the pictures are shown in the slideshow

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Raleigh One Way Build List and Pictures

Build Notes:
Assembling a fixed gear bike is considerably easier than a modern geared bike. You don't have to fiddle with front and rear derailleurs, shifters, and all the cables/housings connecting these drive train components. The building on the One Way was pretty easy. It took me three hours total to build the wheels and less than 2 hours for the rest of the stuff. The part that took the most time is the installation of the SOMA front rack and the Tanaka alloy fenders.

I used a clamp on brake-bridge bracket for the rear fender, which saved me some time to measure and drill two holes to mount the L-bracket that came with the fenders. The fender--45mm wide--was too wide to fit between chainstay. Instead of cutting the fenders, I used a flat bracket to create another mounting point slightly above the chainstay bridge, similar to a mounting point on a kickstand plate. Drilling and putting on the fender stay was not easy, but straightforward enough.

Accessories around the front wheel--fender and rack--were harder to deal with. The Soma Rack is quite nice, feels sturdy enough and still light, but probably wasn't designed for a lower-trail fork. I bent the steel tang that connects the brake hole on the fork crown to the rack so it doesn't dip below the bottom of the fork crown and press down on the fender. I also drilled a hole on the fender and to use one of the two bolts the rack has to secure the tang and bolt the fender to the rack. The process of figuring out the exact position of the hole and keeping the fender line OK was not an easy one. At the end, the front rack still tilts up a little but the resultant set up isn't bad, and look quite nice. And with 3 points of connection, the fender should not rattle.

I recommend the Soma rack. It's light, has decent finish, and the platform is of a good size. The platform is bigger than a regular canti-post--mounted front rack, but smaller than a full out porter rack. A wald basket would sit on top of it nicely. It's fairly easy to set up--with a vice grip or a large crescent wrench you can bend the tang to fit your bike, and they go onto eyelets at the fork drop out. To set up with fenders, especially metal ones take a little more mechanical facility and patience.

The Tanaka fenders are a pretty nice; they are nicely polished, feel solid--definitely feel a little better than the VO fenders. I am not sure if they are as nice as the Honjos but they are definitely cheaper. They are, however, a little short, so for extensive riding in wet conditions mud-flaps might be helpful.

The IRO Cycles hubs, that are reputed to be made by Formula in Taiwan look very nice. They spin smoothly. Formula has good reputation in making track hubs. I like the pink color, wasn't able to get one for the rear at bargain basement price. I built the wheels up with a pair of slightly used Mavic CXP22 rims. These don't have eyelets on the outside. This combination dictates 288mm spokes.

Frameset: 2009 Raleign 1-way frame/fork; 55cm top tube
Handlebar: Soma Oxford Bars 
bar grips: generic cork grip
Headset: Cane Creek 9/8" headset 
Stem: Easton E50 110mm 26.0 clamp 
Front Brake: Avid Shorty 4 cantilever; black;
Rear brakes: Tektro Oryx 
Brake levers: Shimano mountain brake levers (both left) 
seatpost: generic 27.2mm black seatpost 
saddle: specialized old saddle
housings et al: scraps 
cables: Mountain brake cable

Drivetrain bottom bracket: generic 68x107mm JIS bottom bracket 
Crankset: FSA RPM 155mm black 110 BCD cranksets 
Chainring bolts: generic bolts for 1 ring 
Chainring: SR Steel 42T 110bcd ring 
freewheel: ACS 22T singlespeed freewheel 
Track Cog: Soma 18T 3/32" cog 
Lock Ring: Dura Ace track cog lock ring chain 
KMC: 8-speed chain Pedals: MKS Touring pedals
rear hub: IRO high flange fixed/free hub 120mm OLD silver 32h 
front hub: IRO high flange front hub 100mm OLD, pink, 32h 
rear rim: Mavic CXP22 32h black 700c 
front rim: Mavic CXP22 32h black 700c 
Spokes: 64 DT Swiss straight gauge 14g spokes 
Tubes: generic tubes Rim Tape: Come with rims 
Tires: Panaracer Pasela Tourguard 32mm
fenders: Tanaka alloy fenders 700cx45mm 
Front Rack: Soma inexpensive front rack 
Bottle Cages: Generic aluminum bottle cages 

The rest of the pictures are here.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Raleigh One Way and My Fixed Bug

I sold my fixed-gear bike earlier this year to make room for the incoming Kogswell and Ebisu. Soon after I picked up my Ebisu and built it up in March, I also unloaded my Rivendell Romulus because the P/R and the Ebisu cover Romulus's functions well. I had a wonderful riding season and really like both the Ebisu and the Kogswell.

I did really miss riding a fixed gear bike, though, especially as winter approaches and rain started to come down. So when I saw a fellow iBOB list member put a Raleigh One Way up for sale, I contacted him. After some negotiation we reached an agreement on price. I sent the money out and 10 days later I got the frameset and a few other parts.

I came across the Raleigh One Way as I was searching for a suitable but inexpensive fixed-gear frameset. I didn't want a track frames as they really don't provide adequate tire clearance and have no provisions for racks and fenders (and even brakes). Several single-speed specific roadish frames exist on the market--Soma Rush and Delancy, Surly Steamroller, Kona Paddy Wagon, and Gunnar Street Dogs--and they have various accommodations for brakes, fenders and racks. However, even the best of these frames can only accommodate 28mm tires with fenders. After riding my 650b bikes with 40mm tires on them all year, 28mm seems too skinny by comparison.

The only production single-speed specific frames I found that have good amount of braze-ons and good tire clearance are Rivendell Quickbeam, On-one il Pompino (the bike I sold earlier), and Raleigh One Way. Rivendell Quickbeams are really nice, and if I have more disposable cash I would have gone to Walnut Creek and picked up a silver one when Grant and Co. released this last batch. Of the remaining two choices, the Raleigh has a nicer fork, and one that has more off-set leading to a lower-trail geometry suitable for carrying front loads. It is also more roadish than the Pompino, which has 135mm rear drop-out spacing. (after I purchased the One Way I came across the IRO Phoenix, which also satisfy my criteria, and seems like a good production frameset).

My first impression of the One Way when I received the frame is that the deep dark blue color is really nice. As I unpacked the frame of wrapping materials, I began to notice how stout the tubes are--this is definitely an over-built steel frame. After riding mostly standard-size tubings on my geared bikes this year, the One Way will definitely provide a contrast in that department. I cleaned up the frame a little and stashed it away, as I have to wait for a few important parts to arrive to complete the build.

I try to use as many parts as I already have in the parts bin. The frameset package included frame, fork, headset, seatpost, and front brake. I rummage through my parts bin and came up with a rear brake, crank arms, track cog and lock ring, and tires and tubes. The SF Bike Expo Bike Swap took place after I bought the frameset, and I picked up brake levers, bottom bracket, chain ring bolts, and stem at the swap. I also got a 650c Mavic CXP22 rim thinking that it was 700c. I put it on Craigslist right the way and was able to find someone to swap rims with. Metin in Palo Alto had a set of 700c CXP22 rims and wanted a 650c rim for a tri-bike. I gave him $20 for the set in exchange for my lone 650c rim--it worked out well for me.

I shopped around for the remaining parts, and got good deals on many of them. I scored a pair of hubs from IRO Cycles, and found good deals for pedals, chains, freewheel, and fenders at Outside Outfitter (an online retailer). I bought the handlebar, spokes, racks, and water bottle cages at local bike shops.

I assembled the bike sans wheels, chain, rack, and fenders. I received the hubs today and will build the wheels up in the next day or two. Racks and fenders will go up after that.

I will post pictures and report on first impressions in the next post.

The link to Raleigh's website shows a 2009 One Way. The 2010 version is white, and uses a SRAM Torpedo hub--a singlespeed hub that can become a fixed gear with a few turns of a screw. 2009 One Ways, incidentally, are on sale at at the moment for $630. You have to pay tax, but not shipping since you have to pick up at a REI store anyway. I like the frameset option as it gives me more flexibility to configure the bike to the way I want it to be.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

SFR Point Reyes Lighthouse 200k

The small set (of 4) pictures I have on the event on my flickr

I saw a posting on one of the online lists/forums I am on about a fall 200k brevet that the San Francisco Randonneurs are organizing. I have wanted to participate in one of these timed and unsupported cycling event for a while. Since I am familiar with the route--having done something very close to it with my wife on our own--and the forecast was good, I sent it my form and a check to register for the event.

I have to convince M. that I would be OK. She didn't think I was in shape for riding 125 or so miles, and was afraid that I'd injury myself similar to the way she did on our ride in Shasta in August. I assured her that I had kept some semblance of cycling shape after my last long ride--2-day, 140-mile ride in late september--by riding from Menlo Park to Union City across the Dumbarton Bridge time-trial fashion three times a week. She was kind enough to not only let me do the ride, took me to the starting point on saturday morning, and agreed to come pick me up in case I decide to bail out.

The day before the event I checked out my Ebisu to make sure everything works and began to pack. I decided to take two small bags--Rivendell lil' loafer front bag and Acorn small saddle bag--because the weather would be mild and I knew where I could get supplies if I had to. I heeded the advice on SFR's website to bring at least 1000 calories and packed 6 energy bars (3 Clif, 1 Lara, 1 Pro Bar, 1 trail-mix bar from Costco), 2 flasks of expresso-flavored hammer gel, and 2 2-serving packets of Hammer Perpetuem drink powder. I also packed some simple tools, a pump, a spare tube, electrolyte pills, reflective clothing, sunscreen lotion, and a DiNotte battery-powered headlight. I thought about using the SON dyno wheel and the B&M IQ Cyo combo I have sitting in my bike storage, but decided to keep the set up as light and as familiar as possible. Here are the contents of the bags before I started riding:

Front Riv Lil' Loafer:
- 4 energy bars
- 2 flasks of Hammer Gel, expresso flavor
- 20 Hammer electrolyte pills in an old Tylenol bottle
- 2 packs of 2-serving Hammer Perpetuem energy drink mix
- my panasonic lumix DMC-LX1 camera
- cue sheet
- Dinotte battery-powered headlight and battery pack

Rear Acorn small saddle bag
- 2 energy bars
- Quicker Pro mini pump
- tool pouch: park multi-tool, chain tool, spoke wrench, tire levers, patching kit
- spare tube
- Badger sunscreen lotion (the really white stuff)
- reflective vest and anklets
- rear blinker light

I went to bed early on friday night and got up at 5 to get ready. My breakfast consist of 1 and 1/2 cup of oatmeal. After filling up the water and changed into bike clothing I took out last night. I woke M. up and we got on the road. I got to the parking lot on Lincoln at about 6:45am. I grabbed the bike and quickly double checked that I have all the things I need and saw M. off. By the time I got to the Strauss statue, brevet coordinator Rob Hawks has already started the pre-ride talk. I checked in with a volunteer and picked up my brevet card. The volunteers have some small ziplock bags available; i grabbed one to keep brevet card and cash on my body without getting too wet from sweat.

I looked around and there seemed to be quite a bit of folks. I saw a few familiar faces from previous bike parts exchanges or online correspondences. At 7AM we were off. I followed a few riders down toward the underpass to get to the west sidewalk of the bridge. The weather was pretty calm at this point and it was beautiful riding across the bridge.

I felt comfortable in my clothing in the somewhat nippy morning temperature. I had a padded biking shorts on and a Riv MUSA knicker outside. For the top I had a merino wool based layer from that I got on sale, and a yellow Livestrong T-shirt that I got as a gift. I wore a pair of wool socks that I got from Rivendell and a pair of Shimano mountain-biking/touring shoes so I can use the crank brother clipless pedals I have on the bike. Throughout the day, though the temperature noticeably--warm in Pt Reyes during mid-day, and pretty chilly, especially after sun down--I felt pretty comfortable in this outfit, and i never took anything off or put anything on, except for a neck-cozy that I bought in Taiwan in May, which is mainly used for sun protection.

I rode behind several riders who did not appear to be part of a group. Our line of 6-7 riders passed a few folks going at a leisurely pace all the way across the bridge, and down the hill to Sausalito. I stayed with them until the bike lanes began to show up in the Sausalito Lateral. Since I didn't meet up with anyone to do the ride, I decided to settle into a comfortable pace and enjoy the morning. I passed several riders and got passed a few times. We (the randonneurs loosely spaced) rode past the boat houses on the bike paths. I waited with about 10 others at the light at E. Blithedale to make the left turn. Shortly after, Camino Alto awaited and it was the first climb of any sort of the day. I dropped to 36/22T combination and spun comfortable up the gentle grade. Clayton Scott, whom I bought a pair of Grand Bois tires from a few weeks prior and whom I'd see a few more times today, passed me on the climb on his silver Quickbeam. Another rider on a large orange Rambouillet also passed me toward the "summit". I got by a couple of gentlemen, one of whom was riding a Steve Rex steel custom. Going down hill on the other side was fun. Rob Hawks stopped ahead of us to warn us that a big pickup truck was pulling out. The Ebisu with its 40mm Hetres made the not so steep but somewhat winding descent an exhilarating one.

I was pretty much by myself at the bottom of the hill, as the Rambouillet rider pulled away from me pretty quickly. I rode through residential streets of Larkspur, Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. In Fairfax I got onto Sir Francis Drake Blvd (SFD) toward Whites Hill. I'd notice that my front fender was a little misaligned--probably got whacked out of alignment when I put the bike in my trunk in the morning--when i was climbing the last bit of Camino Alto. It wasn't serious enough to bother me so I decided not to stop before the climb to fix it. Whites Hill is definitely more difficult than Camino Alto--in fact harder than I remembered. I dropped down to 36/26T during the steeper pitches and pulled myself up to the top. Just before the top I pulled over where there is a pull-out and adjusted my fenders so things wouldn't get caught at high-speed on the descent and cause problem. Several brevet folks passed me at this point, while I was making the adjustment. I smiled and waved them off as they asked if I needed help.

The descent to Woodacre on SFD is fast and short, and I took full advantage of it and tried to leverage as much of it as possible on the flat. I came up to a rider on a Taylor--Bonnie is her name, I later learned--bike on the descent and we traded pulls for a while on SFD Blvd. I asked her if she knew how to get on the partially unpaved cross Marin trail that is a sanctioned alternate route to pot-holy SFD Blvd in Samuel P Taylor Park. We chatted a bit as she led me to the bike path and we rode together until Olema. The bike path was very beautiful, and definitely much more pleasant than SFD without the bad pavement and the cars--though not many cars were on the road this early in the morning. My fendered ebisu handled the unpaved path with ease, and dirt wasn't a problem at all. In fact, the time on the path was one of my favorite part of this ride, even though conceivably I could go a little faster on the main road. Bonnie had to meet up with someone in Olema so we parted ways after descending the hill before HWY1.

The only downside of riding with someone else was that I forgot to eat and drink regularly. After riding for 2 hours, I only ate 2 energy bars and possibly only 1 electrolyte pill. On the leg toward the lighthouse I began to feel more sluggish, and on the hill leaving Inverness toward the Pierce Road intersection on SFD I felt a very subtle sensation of cramping in my calves. I stopped and sucked in a full service and half of the Hammer Gel and swallowed another electrolyte pill before grinding my way up that first hill. I had to go at a reduce pace the rest of the way to the lighthouse to stave off the onset of full-out cramping in my legs. I frequently and regularly ingest liquid and food on this leg, but the body takes time to recharge, and I didn't feel recovered completely even as I got to the lighthouse parking lot. The stretch was extremely beautiful, though, and my less than perfect physical state actually was a blessing as I was able to enjoy the scenery and atmosphere more. The sky was pretty clear, but the wind--and the waves--was raging. Several cars with surf board on them drove past me and were evidently heading for the beach. I haven't been to this part of the park for a while, and forgotten how beautiful it is. Even though I wasn't at full strength, i really enjoyed the ride.

I pulled in the parking lot just around 11AM. I greeted the volunteers and other riders, and got my card signed and signed in. The vista was crazy beautiful at this location, as the landscape is open is almost all 4 directions and you get at least 210 degree of ocean view. Large birds were balancing themselves in the ferocious wind. I smapped a few photos, filled up my water bottle, and ate more food. Lee, one of the volunteers at the control came and chatted with me about my 650b hetre tires. He has a Rivendell Saluki and currently uses Riv Fatty Rumpkins. I told him that I have experience with both types of tires and recommend the hetres highly. I spent about 15 minutes at the control and headed off. As I rolled downhill, I saw 10-15 riders were still coming up.

The return leg toward HWY 1 was only slightly easier, as even though overall there is a decrease in elevation, and one got more tailwind than headwind, I haven't completely recovered from my calorie depletion and still suffered some on the few uphills along the stretch. I dragged and cheered, and lured myself on the prospect of lunch in Pt Reyes Station, and continue to suck on my gel flask. I reached the Pierce Road intersection and welcomed the extended downhill toward Inverness. The trip next to the bay/swamp was pretty fast, and I got into town quickly. At this point I am positively hungry as it was now past 12:30pm.

I pulled into the bike parking spots near the end of the strip. John Potis, who also has a Ebisu came and chatted with me about my Ebisu briefly. My hunger must be very apparent as he quickly urged me to get some food. I grabbed the water bottles and my wallet and walked into the famous Bovine Bakery. I bought 3 vegan veggie rolls, and filled up both of my bottle. I went and sat down near my bike and ate two of them really quickly. I bought the third one knowing that I won't be able to finish, but wanted to keep it just in case. I rested and spent quite a bit of time in town--probably an hour--to make sure the food got digested, as I didn't want to feel weak for the rest of the trip--I was at mile 74, and still had about 50 miles to ride, although the hardest part is behind me. I watched as other randonneurs rode past me, but decided to take it conservatively and rest a full hour.

I finally got up at about 1:40PM and began rolling again. The leg to Marshall is basically flat, with only 2-3 non-trivial rollers. I could feel my body regaining strength as I went. I saw many people on the way back as I rode. I got to Marshall fairly quickly, but missed the store and went past it for a mile (not sure how I did that). I turned around and got to the store. 10-15 randonneurs were there buying food and eating chowder. I saw Ron Lau, who sold me many parts and accessories that are on my Ebisu. He was riding his blue custom Bilenky rando bike. We chatted a bit while we were in line. The woman at the store stamped my card as I paid for my $1 bottle of water.

I used the porta-john outside the store, and mixed a packed of Hammer Perpetuem energy drink in one of my bottles. I got on the bike and felt pretty good--probably aided by the good tail wind. The return leg to Pt Reyes Station took me a little more than 20 minutes. As it was slightly past 3pm. I checked the amount of water, gel, and energy drink I had, and made myself ingest regularly. I rode past the reservoir, and got to Nicasio at a decent pace. I stopped next to the baseball diamond in Nicasio to lie down on the grandstand a bit and called M. to let her know I am ok and should be able to finish without much problem. I checked the time at this point--close to 4--and thought to myself that it'd be good to get as much of the hills behind me as possible. I got on the bike and rode toward the hill on Nicasio Valley road. I turned on my rear light but decided to put on the front light and reflective clothing later. The hill on Nicasio Valley was actually pretty easy. I powered up without much problem, and descended back to SFD. I put on my reflective vest, the front light, and the anklets before Whites Hills even though it was still bright then.

Whites Hill was also easier than I expected. The regular and sufficient calorie intake has paid off, and I felt pretty strong at this point. I rolled through the residential towns of Fairfax, San Anselmo, and Ross. I got to the base of Camino Alto at about 5:30PM, just as it began to get dark. I took my time going up as my battery front light was already crapping out--possibly because I didn't charge the batteries fully. I got to the top and began the descend. At this point the light was pretty dim and the descent turned out to be a bit more hairy than I wanted.

I stopped at the gas station on E. Blithedale to buy a pack of batteries. At this point I was staring at a 6:30pm finish at a easy pace. I called M. again and got some water on the bike path. I'd never ridden through this area at night, and find myself enjoying the relative quiet and less busy streets. Sausalito was still buzzing in the early evenings. Tourists on rented bikes--without lights--were still coming downhill, precariously. I began the final climb of the day. I took my time, and enjoyed the lit skyline of San Francisco with the bay in the foreground as I rode. I had to cross to the east sidewalk as it was totally dark now. With many tourists still on the bridge, and most of them without any illumination, I had to proceed carefully. I pushed--you have to hold it for a short while--the button for the gate leading to the gift shop area a few times before it opened. I rolled into the parking lot and stopped in front of the volunteer table. Jim G., whom I have corresponded a few times on various bike related topics was there checking riders in. We had a brief exchange, as I was getting cold and still needed to get to BART to go home. I turned in my brevet card and signed in. I stopped to call M., and headed toward BART. I got back to Berkeley before 7:30PM, and actually felt pretty good.

I really enjoyed this brevet, my first one. The fall weather condition and temperature is much easier on my easily-heated body. I made the mistake of irregular and insufficient calorie intake in the morning, but recovered after eating lunch and imposing on myself a more regular regiment. Though the morning's lack of discipline weakened me and required me to take a much longer than otherwise necessary lunch break. I feel I can probably improve my time noticeably if I stick to eating and drinking throughout the ride. This was actually the most mileage on one ride I did this season--though my incomplete Shasta Super Century (120 miles and 12000 ft of climbing) and Big Basin training ride (80 miles and 11000 ft of climbing) in the summer were harder--even with what was perceived (by both M. and I) to be completely lack of training immediately before it. My attire was adequate for the weather, though after dark I felt a little cold. I would probably bring another layer for the january ride which goes on the same route.

The Ebisu performed flawlessly. I had no mechanical problem. I actually felt little strain that I sometime experienced on long rides in my neck, shoulder, and wrists. My hand got numb for short stretches toward the end, but minor adjustments to the handlebar and stem could take care of that. I never felt really uncomfortable on the bike the entire ride. The ride quality was great, as the hetre provided a cushy but still fast ride. I rode no-handed to eat or drink a few times and felt fairly confident doing so. I would probably go with a slightly bigger bag next time, either to have the large Inurijushi front bag and no rear bag, or a slightly bigger rear bag--the mid-large acorn bag--to go with the lil' loafer. Overall, it was a great day of riding, and a perfect initiation into the sport of randonneuring.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wife's New-To-Her Ebisu

I received my Ebisu All-Purpose frameset this Spring (some of you have followed the build-up process) and really enjoyed the bike thus far. The All-Purpose is a sprite bike, even with a front rack, fenders, a brook saddle, and a front bag, but my wife still considers it a little heavy (currently it weighs in at 24.5 with the aforementioned add-ons) for her. Her Serotta 650b is a nice bike, but it wasn't built for 650b, and has horrible interfaces for fenders--for when we want to ride in rainy seasons here in the Bay Area.

I was following a thread on an online forum, and saw a member--Frank B.--mentioning his riding preferences--on dirt mostly--and lamenting that some of his nice pavement bikes--including an Ebisu Road model--are not ridden enough--leading him to consider selling the Ebisu. I talked with M. for getting the Ebisu, after some deliberation, she decided to go for it

I contacted Frank and asked about the size and conditions of the frameset. We reached a deal, and even though i was away at the time and couldn't send the payment right the way, Frank graciously sent out the frameset with the headset quickly. When I came back from my trip the box was sitting in my basement. Incidentally, this bike's first owner is Tom T., who lives a few miles away from us, and I have bought several parts from him in the past, and visited him in his house in Oakland.

Part of M.'s decision included selling both of her road bikes and leaving her Trek 620 to continue to serve as a commuter. It was a difficult decision for her, given that her Torelli was her first good road bike and she spent thousand of miles growing as a cyclist on that bike. As for the Serotta, even though she only spent one season on the bike, that's the bike she got married on. But she decided in favor of fiscal prudence and we sold the Torelli and the serotta frameset/650b wheelset fairly quickly.

Most of the parts on the Serotta were transferred to the Ebisu. Here is a parts build-up list:
- Ebisu Road 56cm square frame/fork
- Shimano Ultegra 1-inch; headset
- Velo Orange stem adaptor
- Velo Orange 9/8" theadless stem, 17 degree, pointing down; 80mm
- Nitto Randonneur Bar
- Tektro R100A short reach aero brake levers (from Serotta build)
- Deda Elementi chianti red bar tape (from Serotta build)
- VO brass bell (from Serotta build)
- Tektro R538 standard reach brakes
- Shimano Ultegra 27.2 seatpost (from Serotta build)
- Terry Liberator saddle (wife's favorite; from Serotta build)
- Sugino XD500 "old logo"; triple crankset 46/36/26T, 170mm crank arms
- Tange Levin 68x110mm JIS bottom bracket (from Serotta build)
- performance stainless steel water bottle cages (from Serotta build)
- Shimano SPD pedals (from Serotta build)
- Shimano XT 8-speed cassette 11-30T
- Shimano XT rear derailleur, long cage (from Serotta build)
- Shimano Dura Ace front derailleur
- SRAM 890 8-speed chain
- Shimano 8-speed bar-end shifters (from Serotta build)
- Shimano ultegra FH-6500 rear hub, 32h
- Mavic Open Pro CD rim 32h
- Shimano 600 front hub, 32h
- Mavic MA40 rim, 32h
- VO Croissant bag (from Serotta build)
- Rivendell Brand-V "holier than cow"; seat bag

She is in the process of getting back to riding after recovering from over-use injuries as a result of our ambitious Shasta Super Century ride. The bike is light (21 lbs) and so far she likes the handling and the feel. When she gets in better shape she will get fitted on the bike. I am looking forward to riding with her again.

More photos on my flickr page.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Credit Card Bike Touring in Southern Taiwan--Day 3

Ride: From Si Chong Xi to Fang Liao Train Station
Distance: According to Bikely, 27 miles, The route on bikely is here

More pictures are on my flickr page

Although the neither distance nor the terrain of the first two days of this tour were particularly difficult, the heat, the load we were carrying, and the so-so bikes we had made riding the first 130 or so miles enjoyable, but physically taxing. We were pretty tired on the second day and went to bed early. The next morning, we got up and got ready to go back. We decided not to go all the way to Kaohsiung because we were too fond of the car traffic in the city on the first day, and the route seemed to be a bit complex. The tour operator told us that one option is to stop at Fang Liao train station--some 35 miles from Kaohsiung--or any other train station north of it, and take the train back to Kaohsiung. Taiwan Rail takes bikes as luggage and transports them to any of its stations for a pretty low fee (although the bikes may not arrive at the same time as the passengers).

So after some breakfast at a food stall across from our hotel in Si Chong Xi, we headed back toward Che Cheng, a town on the coast. The 5 or so miles toward the coast is quiet and idyllic. We passed by a group of school children going to school in the morning. In Taiwan almost all school children wear uniform to school. Some of them waved at us. Soon enough, we were back on the coast and now were retracing our route on the first day going north.

The ride was quiet, if not uneventful. The time of the day makes such big difference in terms of temperature. Two days ago, we were coming south along the same stretch just past noon, and were practically being baked. Today, at 7:30 in the morning the temperature is quite pleasant with a breeze blowing in from the sea. We made the 27-mile trip in good time and got back to Fang Liao

We rode through the town toward the train station. It's not quite 10 in the morning. We talked to the administrators at the station about sending the bikes back to Kaohsiung to our tour operator. They handed us a simple form and after paying them $5 and filling out the form, we bid our bikes adieu as they would head back to Kaohsiung on a later train to be picked up by Twins Chuang.

We bought two tickets to the Zuo Yin intermodal station--where the regular rail intersects the high-speed rail. We got on the train and took a nap, after transferring at Zuo Yin, the high-speed rail took us flying back to Taipei, concluding out mini-honeymoon. It was fun and we certainly recommend people taking a bike trip in Taiwan, as the infrastructure supports such trips well, and the scenery very good. The only thing is that you have pick the right season. Spring and late fall are generally better as the weather is cooler and not as much threat of typhoon.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Credit Card Bike Touring in Southern Taiwan--Day 2

Ride: From Kenting to Si Chong Xi via Xu Hai
Distance: According to Bikely, 54 miles, The route on bikely is here.
More pictures of the trip is on my Flickr page.

We borrowed a fan from the innkeeper in Kenting to avoid turning on the AC and closing the windows. With no daylight savings in Taiwan, mid-spring days get bright at 5:30am in the morning. I went downstairs to the convenient store right next door and bought some breakfast food. It was already warm, so after finishing breakfast, I jumped in the shower and got a cold rinse before heading on the road.

We are in the tropics here and even at 6 in the morning it was pretty warm. We pedaled casually along the coast and enjoyed the golden rays on the water. We rode for about 4 miles and stopped at Eh Lwan Bi national park, which is the southern-most point of Taiwan. We walked around for a while and decided not to linger as to take advantage of the morning weather--warm, but not burning.

From the southern-most point, we moved back up north along the eastern coast. Immediately after turning for north, we began a climb that was the hilliest up to that point on our trip--but not too difficult compared to what we are accustomed to in Berkeley. The hill went up gently for about 1.5 miles, and we saw a pack of cyclists coming down, shouting encouragements as they go by. In Taiwan, many cyclists wear face mask on the road, partly to avoid breathing in too much smog if they are in the city, but mostly to protect their face from the burning sun. Both M. and I have such masks on, and do did those cyclists coming down hill. The climb takes us up to ridge and gave us an amazing view--that of eastern coastline reminiscent of Big Sur, except on the opposite side of the Pacific Ocean. It was truly an amazing stretch. Combining with smooth pavement and almost complete lack of car traffic, this stretch from Eh Lwan Bi to Jia Le Shui on Hwy 26 must have been some of the most beautiful cycling road we have been on. The ridge goes on for a few miles before began a relatively gentle descend down into the coastal valley.

As we made our descent with the open ocean view in front of us, we saw a herd of water buffaloes in the middle of the road. These are bulls with large horns. They looked harmless enough and didn't even seem to pay attention to us as we rode past them, but we made sure to have no sudden movements as these are very large animals. From there we rode through the coastal valley, which has a variety of crops--banana, rice, coconuts, and many more. The terrain is quite gentle and a breeze was blowing by. We stopped in the township of Manchou to get water and use the restrooms. From Manchou, the road went north for a while and started to head back out to the coast again. At the town of Gangzai, we were on the coast again, HWY 26 at this point hugs the coast line as it heads north. There was almost no one around. On the east side of the road we saw some military training facilities, some of them have overgrown vegetation from lack of use, but there were no houses. Occasionally a car or a motor scooter would pass us, but we were by ourselves most of the time.

After about 8 miles or so, we came into a small village. We decided to stop and get something to drink at the village store. Most people in this part of the island are aborigines and speak their own languages in addition to speaking Mandarin (the official language of Taiwan) and Taiwanese (a popular southern Chinese dialogue). They tend to be darker and shorter in stature. They were really friendly, and some children came and said hi to M. because they don't see westerners that often. I got a soda in addition to water, as we are getting close to noon at this point, and were about to climb the most difficult hill of the entire tour.

The hill from Xu Hai to Dong Yuan goes up for about 10 km (6 miles); though gentle--nothing more than 6%, mostly at between 4% and 5%)--the combination of the weight we were carrying and the heat made it difficult. Parts of the climb were shaded, but it was probably close to 95 degrees, with over 90% humidity. We were riding entry-level mountain bikes with seatpost racks and some panniers. We stopped once to drink water and eat some food. M. told me she was feeling tired, even though it wasn't very steep. After some food and water, we felt much better and trudged on. As we climb we can see the green and lush valley down below. Cars were far and few in between. Even though it was hot and we were tired, it was quite pleasant nonetheless.

As the grade eased, we rode over a set of gentle rollers and entered the town of Mudan (Chinese for hydrangea). We saw along the street a sign that reads "this is the chief's house, welcome to Mudan". A few images and statues also reminded us that we are among the "mountain people", as they were referred to when I was growing up. We stopped at a liquor store to get something to drink and a little snack. The shopkeepers were friendly, and pointed us to a couple of stools for us to sit and rest while drinking our liquids. We bought and ate some rice crackers and drank a can of coconut juice and asparagus juice (very common, even popular in Taiwan) before taking off.

From the town of Mudan it's basically a set of gentle rollers before a long descend down to our destination of Si Chong Xi. About 30 minutes after we left Mudan and were still rolling, a motor scooter hunk from behind. I thought, "finally, someone is heckling us", as we had absolutely no trouble with anyone on the road thus far. Then I heard, in Mandarin, "those on bikes, I have been chasing you". We pulled over. A lady on the scooter stopped right next to me. She pulled out my wallet, "you left the wallet in the liquor store, the shopkeeper asked me to chase after you and return it to you". I was so surprised and grateful. She even mentioned "check to see if anything is missing". I wanted to give her a small reward but she wouldn't take it. Kindness from a complete stranger always came at most unexpected time. We were really grateful for her gesture.

From where we were, we get a very good view of the valley below, and started to get a glimpse of a dam--Mudan Dam. The descend wasn't tricky, but we kept it easy-going as we were in unfamiliar territory. Along the way we passed by totem gates with aborigine statues. I also read signs along the way, and apparently this area is quite historical for the tribes of people living here.

At about 2:30pm, we go to our hotel in Si Chong Xi--a hot spring town where almost every hotel offers hot spring as an amenity, and a public hot spring bath house stands in the west end of the town. It's a pretty small town with one main street. We got into our room, took a warm shower and rested some. We also walked around for a short while, but there wasn't much to see.

This day was definitely the highlight of our tour. The stretch on the eastern coast, as well as rumble in the inland valleys and the climb up to Mudan were amazing. We would definitely recommend the ride to others!

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Back on track

Whew, that was a busy 9 months--2009 is whizzing by so fast. Weeks of travel for various important things in life--marriage, for example--really put the crunch in time and I have been in catch up mode all year. I think the tide has turned and I might actually get some reprieve for a while. This will give me some time to catch up on my bike-related blog and flickr uploads as well. Posts I am planning to write about:

- Our Taiwan bike trip
- Our training rides for the Shasta Super Century
- Our trip to Shasta for the super century
- M.'s new-to-her Ebisu: build up

It's good to start blogging again

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Credit Card Bike Touring in Southern Taiwan--Day 1

More pictures are on Flickr
Ride: From Kaohsiung to Kenting
Distance: According to Bikely, 72 miles, but it was more like 75, probably because of some of the back roads we took. The route on bikely is here
Note: The tour operator's website is here. Currently they have two routes, we did the southern route, although the eastern route seems to be more popular. Currently there is no English version of the website. If you are really interested in doing such a tour and you don't speak Mandarin, you can contact me and I can try to provide some translation. Mr. Twins Chuang was very helpful and gracious, and we were so happy with the package; $180 per person for three nights of hotel stay, bike and equipment rental, and the service. We highly recommend this operator! Mr. Chuang can be contacted by phone (886-0912186979) or email (

For the immersed recreational cyclists among us, Taiwan is a familiar place, if only in name only. The large majority of bikes circulated by bike shops (not department stores) are made in Taiwan by a handful of large OEMs, ranging from entry-level hybrids to high-end racing bikes. Giant is probably the most famous of the island's bike makers, but Merida (which owns 49% of Specialized) and Pacific (which owns the Schwinn brand) are also headquartered in Taiwan. Other important bike industry players include component makers Tektro, Wellgo, and Sunrace. A handful of frame-making shops, with Maxway the most famous example, also have been supplying good quality frames to familiar companies such as Surly, Soma, Salsa, Rivendell, Bruce Gordon, and Kogswell.

Taiwan is also where I grew up and where most of my family still resides. It's where I first learned how to ride on my younger cousin's mini-BMX bike in a police family community (my grandfather was a police officer) in Tainan in southern Taiwan. I got my first bike when I was 7. My father took me to a Giant store in Taipei one evening after school. He bargained with the shop owner for a blue BMX bike for children and ended up paying less than $300NT (back then $1 US is worth $40NT). It was a single-speed bike with hand brakes. We carried the bike onto the bus and took it to our neighborhood. I still remember the excitement I experienced when my father let me ride the bike back to our apartment from the bus stop in the dark. That bike was lost a few years later. But I have always had a bike since then. Including a short period when i rode my bike to school during 7th grade. unfortunately the bike (a Giant 10-speed road bike with flat handlebar) was stolen a few weeks into my commute.

I didn't really get into cycling again until about 7 years ago, but since then bicycle has become an increasing important part of my life. Now I ride almost everywhere for recreation, commuting, and general transportation. I even had a bicycle wedding. When my wife and I decided to have a reception in Taipei and maybe have a short vacation afterward, I began to explore the option of doing a short bike tour in Taiwan.

With all the stuff that was going on in my life--getting married, getting promoted and have more responsibility at work, running two rental properties--we didn't really want to deal with the logistics of bringing our own bikes with us. I thought it would be easy to find information for doing short tours on the Internet; after all, cycling has become more fashionable recently as all these bike companies try to expand their domestic penetration, especially in the high-end segments. One can easily find people's blogs or online discussions on their experiences going around the island (which is very doable in around a week's time) on their bicycles. One can even find possible maps and itineraries, but finding a company that provides some sort of package including bike rental proved to be less than trivial. Eventually, searching in Chinese and following some links in a few blogs, I stumbled on a company that provides bike tours in Southern and Eastern Taiwan. After checking out the weather, speaking to the operator on the phone a couple of times, and consulted with my relatives on the locations, we decided to do a 3-day tour in southern Taiwan.

A day after our reception in Taipei, we packed our bags with change of clothes, sunscreen lotions, a camera, and cycling gears and headed toward Kaohsiung, where we planned to start the tour the next day. We took the high-speed rail, which sometimes travel in excess of 200 mph down the west-coast corridor. The 200-mile trip took about 90 minutes, with 3 stops in between. We then hopped on the Kaohsiung metropolitan rapid transit (MRT; basically the city's subway system) to get to downtown Kaohsiung. The tour operator had booked a room in a hotel for us. He had even already dropped off the bike at the hotel lobby. We went to bed soon after checking in so we can get an early start the next day.

The next morning, we meet Twins Chuang, our tour operator in the lobby at 6AM. I paid him the rest of the fees for the tour. He told us that he would take us out of the City of Kaohsiung, which can be confusing and even dangerous for non-residents on bikes. We got some breakfast and departed. Even at 7 in the morning, southern Taiwan is already getting hot. We followed him through the city streets, without a good idea of where we are going. It took us an hour to get out of the city and got on a bike trail on a levee. We moved west toward the coast, as cities became suburbs, then towns. The terrain was very flat. About 20 miles out we began to enter coastal fishing towns. Twins accompanied us for another 10 miles to Linbian. He gave us some instructions, and encouragements and turned around.

At this point, the southern Taiwan sun is in full force, and because of the humidity, staying in shade only helped so much. In fact, we only felt some relief from the heat when we are moving and the air seemed to move around us. We rode another 5 miles to a sizable town of Fangliao. A small vegetarian restaurants beckoned as we were rolling slowly through the streets. We decided to stop and have some lunch before moving on. It was 11:30am or so. The lunch was great and inexpensive, like most meals in Taiwan were. We spent $2.50 each on a well-portioned meal. We took a break and chatted with a few patrons and the restaurant owners. They were amazed that I was wearing short-sleeved shirts in such blazing sun (my wife always wear long-sleeved jerseys). In southern Taiwan, people always wore clothing to cover their bodies when they go outdoor.

It was past 12pm now, and it was really hot. We started to see more of the coast now, and the view is quite nice--blue water and rocky coast. The road we were on is the main highway going down toward the southern tip of the island, and though the traffic was not heavy (on a Tuesday), plenty of cars whizzed by us. Despite of that, we felt quite safe; although there was no bike lane on this road, there was a very wide lane more motor scooters, and a shoulder on the right of the scooter lane. Most of the time we rode in the scooter lane, and the motorcyclists usually just rode past us. Occasionally we even passed a couple of scooters taking their time going somewhere.

As we pedaled down the road in the blazing sun, occasionally we saw a stand on the side of the road selling cold drinks and offered covered space right over the water. The prospect of drinking something cold under the shade was very appealing to us and we stopped when we saw another one.

We both ordered a flavored italian soda and sat under a tent looking out the sea. A cool breeze was blowing and it was so refreshing to sit there staring at the water. A friendly bulldog walked by and wanted to be petted. We spent about 45 minutes there and felt much refreshed, though were hesitant to get back into the sun. But as the beach in Kenting beckons, we hopped on our bikes and trudges on. We would ride stretches on the open road, then through a town. One thing great about Taiwan is the abundance of 7-11-type convenience stores, and the wonderful selection of food and drinks they consistently stock. We are both vegan and found plenty of stuff to keep us energized and hydrated. One of the items we liked the most was a brown rice milk. For $60 you get 700 ml of cold brown rice milk mixed with ground-up peanuts in a paper carton. We would always buy one and get a new drink to try. Every 25 miles or so we would also buy some water to fill up our bottles, as we were sweating like crazy.

The day got cooler and the breeze became stronger as we got closer to our destination for the day--Kenting, a seaside village known for its national parts with diverse flora and beautiful white-sand beaches. I started to cramp up toward the end of 75-mile ride, even though i was taking Hammer Endurolytes pretty regularly--I was simply losing too much sweat in the heat to replenish fast enough. Luckily we were very close. We began to see public beaches as we entered the outskirt of Kenting, and soon we were on the town's main street. Our hotel was not far into it. The innkeeper was expecting us and kindly walked our bikes in. We got into our clean and simple room (unfortunately on the 4th floor) and took a much appreciated cold shower.

We walked around town a bit, toward the direction of a beach. At this point it was near sunset and the weather has become quite pleasant. The sun is setting and we were both feeling quite blissed after a good day of riding and seeing different things. As we got back into the village, night-market vendors began to open their stalls for business. Unfortunately as vegans we didn't find too many things to eat, and surprising for Taiwan there wasn't one vegetarian restaurant in town. We ate some food at a restaurant that had some vegetarian dishes but they weren't so good. We were both pretty tired and went back to our hotel so we can get an early start the next day. It was a wonderful day and we looked forward to the next.

Got Hitched--on bikes!

M. and I decided to get married after three wonderful years together. At first we wanted to keep it real small and simple--the two of us going to city hall and maybe have dinner with a few close friends and family--but we had a hard time shortening the guest list. After thinking about it for a while, we decided to have a simple wedding in Tilden Park here in Berkeley with a twist--we were to ride our bikes to our wedding site and invite people to join us. Several of our friends are also cyclists and they responded positively to the idea. I had to convince my parents but since we planned to have a more formal reception in Taiwan afterward, they were receptive to the idea.

M. and I both bought some cycling garb that fit the theme--she bought a white cannondale jersey with pink and yellow flower patterns on it, and I bought a black Swobo knicker pants. On the day, our friends Wayne and Kristine came and helped us decorate the bikes with flowers from our garden, and Shari and Tom helped us set up the camp site, and off we went, on our bikes!
Ten of our friends joined us on bikes (the rest 40 of them carpooled there). All their bikes were decorated with little plaques saying our names and flowers from our garden.

We rode from our house in downtown Berkeley, through downtown and north Berkeley neighborhoods, and up Spruce Street to Tilden. Along the way our people looked at our bicycle procession with amusement though I was surprised how little attention people paid us--i guess this is berkeley, and people are used to stranger things. We rode at a leisurely pace uphill and then through the park, and finally arrived at Fern Campground.

Dr. Verhoeven, my high school teacher and esteemed mentor, officiated a wonderful and short ceremony for us, during which we recited our vows to each other, including promises to always try our best, to remember that everything is ok, and to be happy. Our wedding and reception was really a group effort--our friends helped us carry things there, picked up catered food (vegan mexican fairs from Flacos, and vegan cupcakes from Love at First Bite), and even made vegan vietnamese sandwiches for us.

After a joyful afternoon hanging out with friends, we got on our bikes and rolled down hill--now married!

(our big date was in March)

PS. The bikes in the bike procession were: Ebisu All Purpose (groom), Serotta CRT 650b (bride), Rawland cSogn, Guru New Steel compact road, Rocky Mountain steel main triangle compact, Serotta Concous Ti, Trek 2100, Bianchi 928, Specialized Allez Triple Al, Fuji Finest steel 650c, and a Marin Fairfax (and Lauren rode it uphill with flip-flops)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Riding in SLO

My friend Steve organized a weekend stay in San Luis Obispo and invited us to go. Several folks on the trips are also our regular cycling buddies and told us to bring our bikes. On Friday, we met up with two other friends in our house in berkeley, loaded up the car and drove south.

SLO is about 4 hours from Berkeley. The traffic wasn't too horrible, but with a late start and dinner on the road, we didn't get to Cayucos--a sleepy beach town near SLO--until close to midnight. Everyone besides us has already arrived and were playing games and hanging out. Rinaldi told us about some of the possible routes we can ride this weekend.

We woke up next morning, grabbed some breakfast and gather people who were riding together before heading out. Some of the people are beginning riders and Rinaldi planned a flat ride for the day. We headed out from our rental house and headed toward HWY 1. Bicycles are explicitly directed onto HWY CA-1 near Cayucos. The shoulders are wide, clean and have good pavements. The vista of Moro Rock greeted the riders as we rode toward Moro Bay. We enjoyed the tailwind going south on the coast. We got off the highway at the intersection of HWY CA-41 and rode on backcountry roads near coastal wetlands toward Los Oso Baywood Park. We saw many cyclists along the road, although even more were probably slightly inland as saturday was the day of the wildflower century in SLO.

We turned around at the 12-mile mark--not quite to the park. The riding going back was tough, especially for beginning riders on HWY 1 going north. The helping tailwind on our way south is now the punishing head wind. I struggled to maintain 15 mph on this extremely flat stretch. Despite of this all of us made it back--where a nice vegan sushi lunch awaited--and enjoyed the ride.

We relaxed in the afternoon hanging around the house and went out for walks on the beach. After an amazing italian vegan dinner, M. and I decided to go out for a short evening ride as M. didn't get to ride in the morning. Rinaldi gave us some direction to ride on Old Creek Road and we took off. The weather is now windy and a little nippy. Wearing a full-zip cycling jacket I didn't feel too hot, even on the climb. The road goes up to the Whale Rock reservoir, descends, then starts another slow and winding climb to the peak. There are flowers, avocado trees, and eucalyptus trees along the road and a very fragrant but natural scent in the air. We turned around after about 7.5 miles and turned back as it was getting dark. It was a very pleasant ride that requires some effort--perfect as a sunset ride.

We went back to the house, cleaned up a bit and went to bed so we can wake up early morning and do it again.

The next morning, Rinaldi, M., and I went on the same route on Old Creek Road but we want to go further. The climb after descending from the Reservoir turned out to be a fairly difficult one. It winds and has several deep pitches, and it's about 5 miles long. When we get to the top, we had a choice of continue riding on the same road going northwest to eventually join HWY 1 and come back, but since neither of us has done the ride before, we weren't sure how much more climbing was involved. Instead, we turned back and traced our steps back to HWY 1 near Cayucos.

We then rode north on the shoulder of HWY 1 all the way to Cambria, which is about 12 miles away. It was sunny and breezy, and we ate up this flat scenic section along the California coast in a relatively short amount of time. Rinaldi was flying ahead on his steel/carbon guru, while M. and I decided to draft each other. I have the heaviest set-up and combined rider/bike weight--my Kogswell is fendered, front-racked, and carries a Ostrich handlebar bag, I was also riding with platform pedals with no cage. However, I was able to maintain a good pace--16-24 mph, depending on wind and rolling conditions--on it without going to the big chain ring. It was such as pleasant ride, too.

We got back to Cayucos, packed up and came back to the Bay Area, concluding a wonderful, relaxing weekend with some great riding.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Aiming for the Shasta Super Century

M. and I registered for the Mt. Shasta Super Century--one of the options of the Mt. Shasta Summit Century--on August 2nd this year. The super century is the most difficult one--according to the website, this route consists of 135 miles and 16500 feet of elevation gain spanning over 4 passes (and descents). In many ways it's very similar to the Markleeville Death Ride (Tour of the California Alps)--long sustained climbs on multiple passes, long distance. Even though the Death Ride has more notoriety, on paper the Shasta Super Century has more elevation gains over similar distance. The altitude of Death Ride's location could make it more difficult. Living in Berkeley, we embrace steep or long hills--it's hard to do any ride longer than 10 miles without climbing almost 1000 ft near where we live, but climbing 4 long hills with moderate gradients, with part of the ride under high heat will be a difficult challenge.

We already ride quite a bit of hills, but we need to increase the mileage as well as get used to the heat. We will set up a training schedule that will culminate in a training ride from Ukiah to Mendocino and back, which is more than 90 miles with 12000 ft of climbing. We look forward to it with some apprehension--probably just the right attitude for such a difficult ride.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Making Quick Release for my Inujirushi Handlebar Bag

Last year, when I first placed the order for my Ebisu, I went online to collect parts. One of the things I bought used for the build was an Inujirushi handlebar bag that Jitensha Studio imports from Japan. It had since been sitting with the parts that were to go on the Ebisu in a corner of my bike storage. I have since built up the bike and began to use it, but I wasn't able to find a good way to secure the bag on the front rack of the Ebisu. I did have a set of decaleur and bag mount from Velo Orange that can be used for this purpose. But I will probably ride the bike with some other smaller front bags from time to time and don't really care for the look for an unused decaleur sitting in my headset stack.

Then I came across Alex Wetmore's brilliant idea of using rail and hook for an Ortlieb pannier at the bottom of a handlebar bag to secure the bag's front end to the rack, and decided to give it a try. Since the width of the custom front rack on the Ebisu is only 10.5 cm, a top rail for the panniers is too wide. Instead, I bought some previous-generation lower rail and top hooks to create a quick release for my bag. I started by assembing the hooks with the rail, making sure that the combo will fit and clamp onto the rack with no problem. Then I mark the appropriate spots on the bag to drill. I drilled holes in the bag as well as the stiffener. Finally, I used screws that came with the rail to secure the hook/rail to the bag and the stiffener.

Together with the back-end leather sleeve, the home-made quick release keep the base of the bag very secure. I haven't tried riding with a full bag and see how stable the top end of the bag is under those conditions. I will report back after this weekend's rides.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Ebisu first long ride: Michigan, Grizzly Peak, Skyline, Pinehurst

Even though the Ebisu was ridable a week ago, I wasn't completely happy with its set up. After replacing the VO Zeplin fenders on it with Honjo fluted fenders, M. and I took off on a ride in the Berkeley Hills.

We left our house and criss-cross through downtown Berkeley toward the hills. Oxford Ave has recently become our favorite access to tilden. It has short pitches of steep climbs accompanied by undulating rollers. From Oxford we turned onto Indian Rock, San Diego, South Hampton, Santa Barbara, Florida, Colorado, and Michigan. These streets are buried deep in the clean and quiet residential areas in Berkeley Hills with one nice house after another and on-and-off vista of the San Francisco Bay. South Hampton consists of two steep, but relatively short hills that get your legs warmed up for Michigan, which is not only steep (just about 15% grade) and not short (about 1/4 of a mile). It connects at the top to Spruce Ave, which is a popular street to get into Tilden. I have done this hill many times, mostly with my Kogswell P/R and also a couple of times with the Romulus. Throughout the climb from the flats, I began to become familiar with how the Ebisu respond to my pedal strokes--it's not as flexible as the Kogswell, but with the 165mm Sugino cranks one can easily find a sweet spot where the bike seems to harmonize with one's strokes--dare I say "planing"? The bike is light, even with front rack, front back and fenders, and climbing up these steep hills certainly felt easier on this bike than on the P/R. While the P/R seems to favor sustained off-the-saddle pedaling, I felt comfortable spinning through these steep hills on my seat.

At the top of Spruce, we entered Tilden Park through Wildcat Canyon Road. It's a fairly scenic, two lane road that's popular with local cyclists as it connects Berkeley to the more rural regions to its east. The hetre tires performed splendidly over somewhat rough pavement on this road, allowing me to maintain a good speed. We were heading toward the top of Grizzly Peak, which means climbing three sequential hills--golf course dr to golf course, then from the golf course to Grizzly Peak, then Grizzly Peak to the steam train at the top. The lower 2/3 of this climb to the top are at around 10% gradient. Similar to experience with earlier climb, I was able to find a rhythm spinning fairly easily as the bike seemed to plane for me, even though the downtube has a diameter of 1 1/4" (the top tube has 1" diameter and the seat tube has 1 1/8" diameter). Maybe my heft (195lbs) allow me to flex the slightly thicker downtube (than Kogswell's 1 1/8") just enough to produce the effect.

On flat, Ebisu is very responsive. It seems to take the full force from my wind-up and accelerates with ease. Once at the desired speed, I can easily maintain my speed (much like I can on my Kogswell). The slightly thicker downtube act to stablize the bike--the Ebisu feels more stable laterally than the Kogswell. On the flat portion of Grizzly Peak, I rode no-handed for extended period of time at various speed and there was no sign of shimmy

We descended on Skyline through the shades of redwood trees. It was a beautiful afternoon with sunshine and cool breeze--typical nice northern californian weather. On descent the low-trail geometry lets me turn without excessive input. The hetre tires chirped slightly on sharp turn but stuck to the ground with confidence. The whole bike was smooth, quiet and glides downhill gracefully.

The road continue its descent for a little longer on Redwood Road. Then we began to climb on South Pinehurst. It felt easy to get up this 5-7% grade climb and also easy to stay with M., who usually leaves me in the dust. In fact, for the first time in a long time, I felt like I could probably climb as fast as she can for the entire climb. We descended once more on the other side of the hill, then entered north pinehurst in Canyon, one of our favorite stretches to ride anywhere.

North Pinehurst is a slight incline for about 3 miles, then goes up more steeply for another 1.5 miles. The two of us maintained a good pace (around 14-16 mph) through the flatter part with ok pavement. Throughout the steeper section, the Ebisu went up more easily than any other bike I have ridden before.

Unfortunately, a absolutely beautiful ride didn't finish quite well, as M. got a tree branch stuck in her wheel when a SUV got too close. The derailleur was toast, so was the cassette. The rear wheel needs some repair and truing, and the derailleur hanger needs alignment. I rode downhill to drive the car back to pick up M. and the bike. It was a pretty tough ride--35 miles, 5000 ft of climbing. Here is the bikely route map

Overall, the ride on the Ebisu was exceptional. The bike seemed to plane and harmonize with my strokes. It climbed well and descended even better. On flat I was able to sustain cadence and speed fairly easily--about as easy as the Kogswell, and easier than the Romulus. The bike is super stable, and I can ride with no hand at various speed ranges. The Kogswell is definitely more flexible, and I can feel it plane more easily, though the thinner downtube makes for less lateral stability--not to say that it's unstable, just less stable than the Ebisu. I haven't carried any heavy load on the Ebisu to compare the handling characteristics under those conditions. The Hetre tires make noticeable performance improvements from the Riv. Fatty Rumpkin--they are cushy yet fast. However, for urban riding and trails, the F/R give me more confidence in puncture resistence.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Ebisu: Build Complete!

I took delivery of the Ebisu All Purpose a little more than 2 weeks ago. It took me a week to put it together. Here is its current configuration:

- Ebisu All-Purpose frameset; 650b wheel-size, 45mm trail with 40mm tires, braze-ons for fenders, racks; greyish blue; the diameters are: seat tube 1 1/8", top tub 1", down tube 1 1/4"
- Custom front rack/handlebar bag support
- Stronglight A9 headset; 1" threaded
- Ritchey front cable hanger
- Nitto Pearl stem 10cm
- Nitto Randonneur bar by Jitensha Studio; 45cm wide
- Soma thick n zesty tan bar tape
- Tektro R200 brake levers
- Shimano XT high-profile cantilever brakes with salmon cartrige shoes
- Silver downtube friction shifters
- Sugino XD500 "old logo" triple crankset; 165mm; 48/36/26
- MKS touring pedals with half clips
- SRAM 890 8-speed chain with powerlink
- Shimano 105 triple front derailleur; 28.6 clamp
- Shimano Ultegra long cage rear derailleur (RD-6500)
- Shimano XT 11-30 8-speed cassette
- Velocity Synergy 650b 36h laced to Ultegra RD-6600 rear hub and Suntour XC Comp front hub
- Grand Bois Hetre tires; current measured at 39.5mm after close to 100 miles
- Shimano Ultegra seatpost
- Brooks B17 honey saddle; broken in
- Honjo fluted fenders for 650b "50mm"; measured at 48.5mm
- Brass bell
- Rivendell Nigel Smyth little loafer

I have done two short and hilly rides, one short and flat ride, and one ride that's hilly and of moderate distance. The ride report is next. I started out with Grenouille cantilever brakes that I got from Velo Orange. The combination somehow didn't produce enough braking power for me. I swapped them out for the XT high profile brakes and now the bike has good stopping performance. I also swapped out the VO Zeplin fenders on it for the Honjo fenders. Don't get me wrong, I like the Zeplins, and will probably use them for my Kogswell. However, since they come pre-drilled and with fork crown L-bracket pre-installed, they are actually not as suitable for the Ebisu with all the integrated braze-ons for fenders. The Honjos lead to very tight (but I think sufficient) clearance on this bike. They look fabulous and are slightly lighter than the zeplins. I am currently using MKS touring pedals with MKS half clips. They work well mostly, except when I am using my stiff-sole shimano mountain bike shoes and riding off the saddle, my shoes tend to slip off the saddle on the side. I am considering getting full toe clips or go to clipless (crank brothers).

I am trying to create a hack a la Alex Wetmore for the Inujirushi bag. Basically it involved using off-the-shelf Ortlieb bag rail-and-hook system at the bottom of the bag. In conjunction with the back sleeve, the boxy bag should sit on top of the front rack without too much movement. Since the days are longer now, I am not in a hurry to swap out the front wheel for the SON20 wheel I have sitting around, although it's awfully tempting since the B&M IQ Cyo I ordered from Peter White Cycles arrived already. I may install the light and the wheel for when I do my next brevet.

Other pictures of the Ebisu.