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.