Sunday, November 14, 2010

Kogswell P/R with Roseland Porteur Rack

I installed a Velo Orange Portuer rack on my Kogswell in the summer, and rode it for about 4 months. The VO rack works very well, and looks excellent. The only complaint I have is that by attaching to the fork drop-out, it stiffens up the lower front end of the bike, and makes handling slightly more awkward, especially on fast winding descents. This is really being nitpicking. I also lament the fact that I can't use the fork crown braze-ons on the Kogswell fork intended for porteur racks.

Miles Whitmore of Roseland Cycles posted on the Kogswell yahoo group that he had enough tubings to make 5 more porteur racks designed to go on P/R's fork, and Roseland might not make these racks in the future. I emailed him to reserve a 650b version right the way. 10 days later, I met Miles in Berkeley not too far from my apartment--it turns out that Miles and his partner is moving Roseland down to Berkeley from Santa Rosa, and current works out of a garage a few blocks away--and grabbed the rack from him.

The installation seemed easy. The rack is designed to connect to the mid-fork braze-ons and the fork crown braze-ons. I threaded in the 5mm bolts to attach the rack at the mid-fork, then realize that the rack struts meant to attach to the fork crown braze-ons were not exactly on the spot. Also, the fork crown braze-ons on the Kogswell weren't tapped, so I spent some effort getting the thread on the 6mm bolt to catch. After some pulling, the rack went on the fork. I then drilled a hole on the fender to attach to the fender tap under the rack, and installed the B&M IQ Cyo on the light holder on the rack. I am also using a porteur rack bag that Swift Industries makes on the rack.

I have ridden around time to buy groceries, etc. on the bike, and it feels not much different than when I was using the VO rack. However, on several hilly workouts in the Berkeley Hills, the restored suppleness in the front end on fast descent is certainly noticeable--the bike feels spriter, more responsive, and I feel more confident taking a turn at high-speed.

It is comparable in weight as the VO rack, and its attachment to the mid-fork braze-ons instead of the fork drop-outs means that I can safely put this bike on buses whose bike rack uses a front-wheel-hook to secure the bikes. The only nitpicking complaint I have is that the light holder is placed too high--my IQ Cyo properly adjusted to illuminate the road barely not stick out beyond the rack platform. When the porteur bag sits on the rack, it places pressure on the top of the light. I might have to use a VO light holder to solve the problem. But otherwise I am really happy with the rack so far.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage 2010--Day 1

Buddhist Bicycle Pilgrimage (BBP) is a supported cycling event in the Bay Area that starts in Woodacre (near Fairfax) and ends in Redwood Valley (near Ukiah). The event takes participants, or pilgrims, to 4 area Buddhist centers--Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Woodacre, Sae Tae Win Center in Graton, City of Ten Thousand Buddhas in Talmage, and Abhayagiri Monastery in Redwood Valley. The pilgrims ride through the back roads of Marin and Sonoma Counties to get to the KOA Campground in Asti on the first day (~ 84 miles) and then from the campground to Abhyagiri Monastery with a lunch stop at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas (~ 56 miles on the second day). Dennis Crean started the event in 2002; living then in Berkeley, Crean, an avid cyclist, wanted to ride to Abhayagiri Monastery where he is a devotee. He announced to his friends and many ended up taking the journey together. He planned the whole event and rode the distance himself. A non-profit organization was later founded to carry on the annual event.

The route has had slight variation through the years. In the first 5 editions, the event traveled to Valley Ford, then follows Bohemian Highway through Freestone and Occidental to Guerneville on the Russian River. Since 2007, BBP added an additional center Sae Tae Win to visit and travels through Graton and Sebastopol before crossing the Russian River and rejoining the previous route on Westside Road. The change of route reduces the total distance on Day 1 from 96 miles to 84 miles.

Another detour took place a couple of times in the earlier editions and then was adopted again in 2010. After lunch on the second day at the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas, the route goes north on Sanford Ranch Road, then goes uphill on Knob Hill Road before going across the ridge on Watson Road to connect to Vichy Springs Road and rejoins the old route. This 2010 route change avoids bridge retrofitting work taking place on Talmage Road.

I have participated in every edition of the pilgrimage--8 times as a rider, and 1 time as a SAG (support and gear) volunteer when I broke my arm on a training ride before the second edition of the event in 2003. This year I thought about doing something a little different. I wanted to help with meal preparation in the kitchen at the campground and possibly with rider check-in, but I still want to ride the route. So I decided to get up early and start my day from Spirit Rock at 5:15am, 2 hours and 45 minutes earlier than the group. This way I can get to the campground by 1pm and lend my hand in the kitchen.

I was planning on taking my Kogswell P/R, which has a generator wheel and an attached high-brightness LED front light. However, the long front VO Zeplin fender on the Kogswell prevents it from sitting on normal car-roof bike rack that requires removal of front wheel. Since my ride, long time BBP supporter and past coordinator Judi Garland, has one of these roof racks, I decided to take my unfendered Rawland Sogn and use Dinotte battery-powered front light instead. The Sogn is equipped with a Nitto M-12 front rack and a VO Campagne boxy bag, which is large enough for my supplies on this solo, unsupported ride.

I woke up at approximately 3:30AM, packed up 8 energy bars, made a Tofu and an almond-butter-jelly sandwich, filled up my water bottles, and packed them up in the front bag along with a map, a tube of sunscreen, armwarmers, and my camera. I'd dropped my camping gears and change of clothes for the weekend at Judi's the night before. M. woke up and dropped me off at Spirit Rock. She'd have done this with me, except she needed to visit her folks in South Carolina. I checked everything, said goodbye to M., and began rolling at 5:20AM. Volunteers for the event began rolling in just as I was departing. The gear truck for riders' gears was already there. The riders wouldn't begin to arrive for at least another 40 minutes.

The Dinotte light worked exceptionally well--maybe too much so at first. It was mounted on my handlebar, and I am somewhat blinded beyond where the light was illuminating on the ground, even though it was still close to full moon and it was fairly bright outside. After about 30 minutes the battery was slightly weaker and the brightness was less blinding. It was a bit chilly out, especially in the woods in Nicasio. I was wearing two mesh cycling shirt (short sleeves) and a pair of arm-warmers, and had Rivendell's MUSA cycling knickers on. The Sogn ate up the miles effortlessly. I rolled through Nicasio, and turned on Pt-Reyes-Petaluma Road. Marin cheese factory was my first stop after a decent climb. I topped off my bottles, took some pictures, and continued. Hicks Valley Road was the next turn, and leads me to a turn on Wilson Hill Road, the most challenging hill on the route, except for the monster leading to the campground at the end.

I climbed mostly off the saddle to the top. At this point it was getting bright, and I took some time to snap a couple of pictures and made a call to M to tell her I am OK. The downhill on the other side was exhilarating--I put on a pair of worn fatty rumpkins tires (approximately 4000 miles) on the Sogn to replace the new Fatty Rumpkins the day before. (your read that right) These tires are pretty thick and the new ones are pretty loud when they are rolling on pavement. After 4000 miles, they actually become very supple and smoother tires on pavement. On this occasion, they still grip the pavement well on this fast descent. The turn on Chileno Valley Road was next.

Chileno Valley is a 8-9-mile stretch with many cattle ranches along the way. The cows were just waking up at this point and were already foraging. On several occasions young curious calves galloped along the fences, following a biped on a bicycle. I stopped to apply sunscreen lotion, and several young calves across the street inched toward the fence while I wasn't looking--curious probably. But when I stepped closer, they dispersed quickly, not knowing that I just wanted to say hi, and I am a vegan.

I got to Two Rock Church just as Waves to Wine folks began to set up. This year the BBP shared this stop site with Waves to Wine, another supported cycling event that's a lot bigger. I used the porta-john and got on my way.

The route took me on Valley Ford, then moved toward Sebastopol on quiet country roads lined with vineyards, orchards, and quaint country houses. I stopped at a regional park that had many children playing their saturday soccer matches. The weather was still cool, so I pushed on. I followed the route marker Paul Ries put down several days ago through this stretch of many turns. Soon I was in Graton, where all the other pilgrims would later stop to have lunch and listen to a Dharma talk.

I did not stop by Sae Tae Win and rode straight through Graton. I also wanted to check out this bike path that starts in town and connects to another portion of the West County Bike Trails that is on the route. Sonoma County has some amazing bike trails that really take you places. The trail head was clearly marked, and it started out with a wooden bridge, then a hard packed dirt section ensues. With the Sogn, it was fun to ride unpaved for a while. I followed the trails to Forestville, then proceeded to River Road and Wohler Road toward the russian river.

I stopped at the bridge crossing the river because there was a nice shade, and took out the tofu and almond-butter-jelly sandwiches I made this morning. The bridge is narrow and cars waited for each other to cross first. After "lunch" i marched on, and after the bridge I got onto Westside road, which means I was less than 10 miles away from Healdsburg. Westside road is very scenic and is undulating in nature. I stayed on the big chainring (50t) as I have done most of the day, and tried to time my effort correctly as to leverage the downhill as much as possible. Westside road also is shaded in large stretches, so even though it was close to noon I was not exposed too much to the sun and the heat. I passed through vinegard after vinegard, and 9 miles went away quickly.

I thought about stopping in Healdsburg to get find a cool drink and use the facility, as I would have 17 miles to ride from Healdsburg. I instead opted to stay on course (and turned onto west dry creek road) to get my drinks at the Dry Creek General Store 4 miles down the road. West Dry Creek Road is also a scenic country road but has less rolling hills than Westside Road. Quickly I got to Lambert Bridge Road, which took me to Dry Creek Store.

I have been eating energy bars all day, and chowed down two dry sandwiches that I made myself in the morning. I wasn't particularly hungry, but wanted a cold fizzy drink and to sit down and let my legs rest a little. I grabbed a sparkling lemonade, a iced soy chai in a carton, and a bottle of water from the fridge and paid for them. The fizzy lemonade hit a spot. It tasted like bitter lemon that I was very fond of when I visited London 4 years ago but couldn't find here in the States. The soy chai was ok, but served well as quick calories. I sat there for a while and rested a bit, and got on the road to finish the last stretch for the day.

From Dry Creek Store to the campground is 12 miles. It started with a 4 mile stretch on Dry Creek Road, then gentle climb and descend on Canyon Road, and finally an exposed stretch of 5 miles on Geyserville Road. At close to 1PM the air temperature is getting above 85 degrees, but the pavement wasn't that hot yet. I stopped in a rare shady spot on Geyserville Road to take a breather, then marched one. Finally, Washington School Street showed up and I hung a right, and after a fast downhill, followed by some packed dirt road and a bridge to cross a creek, I am on River Road and ready to climb the monster hill to get to the campground.

The last hill is not quite 1 mile long, but is a switched-back climb that has steep pitches. It seemed to go on forever! I have climbed it many times, but it never gets easy. I got down to 36x32T and ground my way up the hill. Finally the gradient eased out and I rolled downhill into KOA.

I jumped into the kitchen and chopped fruit for two hours, then helped Judi with checking riders in and a few other loose ends. Riders began to trickle in after 4:20PM, 3 hours after I arrived. By that time I have showered and felt comfortable. The evening festivities ensued.

It was a great day of riding. Even though i had to start early, the morning cool weather really helped me stayed fresh most of the way. It's the longest I have ridden since the SFR 115k Populaire in July, and I felt good--didn't cramp up, which is usually my body's indication that I didn't train enough. I would get up next morning and ride another 56 miles. Which I will leave to describe in another entry

Monday, September 20, 2010

Kogswell P/R Facelift

I originally purchased my Kogswell P/R (59cm) in early 2009 to replace my On One il Pompino as the daily commuter and all-purpose city bike. I haven't experienced several features--650b wheels, low-trail front end geometry, standard-size tubings--prior to owning the P/R, even though I have specified them for my then incoming Ebisu All-Purpose. After the first several rides on the P/R I fell in love with its handling and ride quality. Combined with general lack of affordable porteur rack at the time, the P/R remained more as a randonneur than a porteur, sporting a mini-front rack with a boxy handlebar bag sitting on top of it.

A year and 3000 miles later, I acquired a factory-second Velo Orange porteur rack from the online bike component company for approximately half the price of a new rack. The rack hung in my garage for a few months as I mulled over the option of using it. Obviously I will welcome the additional load-carrying capability that the porteur rack offers, but I was wondering about potential adverse effects on bike handling--stiffening of the fork, additional weight. I also had for a while a fixed-gear town bike (a Raleigh One Way) that was set up with a Soma front rack and a Wald basket to carry groceries, etc. I later sold the fixed-gear bike as it wasn't practical and gentle to my knees, and replaced it with a Rawland cSogn toward the summer.

With Rawland taking on trail-riding duties and Ebisu covering the long-distance rides well, I finally got the impetus to install the porteur rack on the Kogswell. It was relatively easy; these racks now come with pre-drilled tabs. I ended up using the lowest holes on the lower tabs even though they seem to be designed for 700c wheels. I also attached the metal fender to the tap under the rack. Finally, a pre-drilled rack strut connects the rack to the brake hole. The kogswell has two eyelets at the fork dropout. Typically the rear-facing ones are reserved for attaching fender stays. However, the VO porteur rack was designed in a way that it will only be level to the ground if it uses the rear eyelets instead of the front ones, usually reserved for racks. I cobbled together a collection of spacers from my fasteners bin, and install the fenders and the racks to share the same eyelets with minimal-to-none interference.

Several changes ensued. I swapped out the on-one midge handlebar and put a pair of Nitto Randonneur bars (that became available after my wife's Ebisu receives an update to Nitto Soba bars) and put on a pair Tektro brake levers (that are shaped closer to Shimano STIs than Campy Ergos). I also put in the Schmidt SON20/Velocity Synergy dynamo wheel and a Busch and Muller IQ Cyo front light. Most recently, I swapped out the hardy Rivendell fatty rumpkins for the newly available SOMA B-line 650x38b tires, which resemble the venerable Panaracer Pasela tires available in 700c and 26" wheel sizes.

The P/R now is slightly heavier, and I can detect the slight stiffening of the fork. Since I am heavy, the bike still flex plenty in the front and it's hard for me to call the handling "dead" (although on fast sharp turns the bike is very slightly less graceful than before). The tires are quiet and roll better than the fatty rumpkins. I have carried plenty of loads on the front rack and the bike's handling never suffered for them. I have even taken the new-look P/R on several long and hilly rides and felt that it performed well. The P/R is really a versatile bike, too bad Kogswell doesn't make it anymore, and Anthony and Longleaf is considering separating the P and the R functions. Rawland is re-designing the Sogn and it sounds like the new Sogn will be closer to the P/R then the current Sogn. I look forward to the product of that endeavor.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Ebisu in for a fit

About 100 miles into the SFR 300k workers ride (which I abandoned at mile 162 of 187), I began to feel pain in the inside of both of my knees. I was able to continue riding for another 60 miles, but I know the fit needs some adjustment. M. is still coming back from her injury last year after the Shasta Super Century, and the Ebisu Road is new to her. We finally decided to go to a local fitter with good reputation to get ourselves fitted on our bikes.

Rick at Eden Cycles in Castro Valley comes highly recommended, both online as well as by a couple of personal friends. He fitted M. first, moving her seat slight forward and up, and moving her stem higher, brake levers higher on the handlebar, and rotating the handlebar downward slightly. He also spent quite a bit of time adjusting her cleat positions.

When he got to my bike, it was a little embarrassing because I have been building my own bike for 6 years now, and always thought that I do a good job putting the saddles, the stems and the handlebars at the right place, but apparently they weren't super close on the Ebisu. My seat has to go up almost a full centimeter. I also needed to get a shorter stem (the Pearl 10 is really 11cm long) and a seatpost with longer set-back to compensate for the short rail on the Brooks saddle.

Rick told me to get these parts--long set-back seatpost from Velo Orange, and a true 10cm stem--then come back to him. I want to make sure that the top of the handlebar can stay pretty close to parallel to the ground, so I decided to get a 9cm stem. Because switching in and out of quill stem is so much pain, I decided to go with Velo Orange's stem extender/threadless stem combo. Maybe once I get the fit dialed in I can get a Nitto Technomic Deluxe that's the right size.

We went back two weeks later, as M. needed another look on her cleats, as previous settings cause some slight knee pain. Rick played with her cleat adjustments for a while and actually made a visible improvements. He send M. out for a test ride and began fitting me. He ended up moving the stem/handlebar up 8mm, and rotated the handlebar down ever so slightly. He also adjusted my cleat positions. I went out for a test ride and felt really comfortable. Rick does know what he is doing.

We came home and I stared at the bike for a while, and something isn't quite right. The stem was a little too high. After using a level I found that the stem is actually a hair higher than the saddle. Rick raised it up so high because I told him I spend quite a bit of time in the drops, and he wanted me to be comfortable there. I think that with time my flexibility will come back to early season form, when I did 3 brevets in a 5-week span. I moved the handlebar down for about 5mm so the handlebar is lower than the saddle again. I haven't tested the set-up on a long ride yet. Hope to do it this weekend.

Other changes on the Ebisu include moving to a lower-Q-factor crankset--Sugino AT used as a compact double with 50/34 chainrings and a Shimano R700 compact double front derailleur. I probably will eventually move to a 46T large ring so as to have more ridable gears, but for now the 50T works.

Update (6/6/2010):
The fit has largely worked for both of us. I have no issue so far. After a follow up, M also had no issue for a few weeks. After a longish and hillish ride in Menodocino, and sat in a car for 5 hours coming back to the Bay Area, she woke up next morning with some IT band tightness. To help with that I decided to get a slightly longer BB spindle, since her cleat has maxed out in terms of lateral adjustment.

The recommended BB spindle length for the Sugino XD-600 cranks is  113mm, and at the time her Ebisu had a 107mm. I though getting a 113mm would surely help. After I got a VO 113mm bottom bracket from Box Dog Bikes, I compared it with the 107mm BB, and realized that the large majority of the 6mm difference sit on the non-drive side of the BB. The long BB gains 1.5mm on the drive side and 4.5mm on the non-drive side! To help gaining even more on the none drive side, I put a 1.8mm spacer ring on the drive side cup.

After a longish and hillish ride. She felt fine, but later in the day, the medial side of her left knee (inside) felt some pain. After reading various internet sources on knee pain and adjustment, and knowing that the non-drive side has gain 2.7mm, even though a spacer is put on the drive side, it was pretty clear that the additional external rotation that her left knee experiences is giving her some problem.

I went back to Box Dog Bikes and got a 110mm VO BB this time. The 110mm version has almost the same drive side spindle, but the 110mm one is 3mm shorter on the non-drive side. I placed a 2.5mm spacer ring on the drive side to have all the length on the drive side. After installation, the drive side has the same protrusion as the week before when the bike had 113mm BB, and the non-drive side has the same amount of protrusion as when the bike had 107mm BB. After 3 days of riding in Tahoe during memorial weekend, she is feeling OK. I am keeping my fingers crossed that this will work finally.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Bike Garage has moved

Physically, that is.

My wife and I moved from our old place to another apartment in the same neighborhood a few blocks away in Berkeley. The apartment is one of the units in a triplex we bought a couple of years ago. I have lived at my old house for the last 6 years and ran it as a communal living space. I leased out rooms to other nice folks and share common space with them. It worked out well--I met my wife this way--but once we got married we found that we prefer a little more space. I sold my shares in the old house to my friend and co-owner and moved to this nice 1-bedroom apartment, as coincidentally our tenant in that unit vacated around the same time.

Once we got our things moved, refinanced the mortgage, and filed our taxes, we can get back to more riding and I tinkering with bikes. One great thing about our new place is that it has a proper garage. At our old place I stored my bikes, parts, and tools in a general area that also housed the laundry machines, the water heaters, and the furnace for the central heating. It worked but the space was pretty tight. If others came in to do laundry while I was tinkering with one of my bikes I had to move it aside. The lighting in there was also sub-optimal and I often lose bolts, nuts, and other small but important things in the dark maze that's the laundry room.

Because we have a garage and we don't park a car in it, we got plenty of storage for our stuff and I got to keep sufficient space to store bikes and have a work-bench--I actually have a real bike garage!

Now that summer is coming we will be getting out there more to do some more riding. I am psyched about the night 200k in June to test out my SON20R generator wheel and B&M IQ Cyo light. Overall, I simply look to ride more this summer.

I just sold my Raleigh One Way, as it was just a little too small for me and my knee isn't very happy with the fixed-gear thing. Now I am looking to get a geared replacement--will it be a burly mixed-terrain bike? How about a true tourer? We will see.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

SFR Two Rock 200k Brevet

I didn't plan on riding this 200k brevet by San Francisco Randonneurs (SFR), especially since it was scheduled only 2 weeks after the lighthouse 200k. However, several of my Internet bike buddies--Jim, Lee, and Esteban--were planning to do it, and Esteban is coming all the way from San Diego, so I sort of decided that I was going to do it. I waffled all week as the rainy forecast for saturday didn't change. I finally sent in my registration form on friday after sending an email to Rob Hawks, the SFR's brevet coordinator on thursday telling him that I plan on showing up on saturday. Friday night the 4 of us were shooting emails planning on the meet-up at the start, and also stipulated the conditions under which--pouring rain in the morning--we would bail out. I woke up saturday early morning and it wasn't raining, even though the ground was wet. I checked the weather for one last time and it still showed high chance rain all day. I packed up my Kogswell--so I don't have to take off my bottom bracket and seat post to let the water drain on my Ebisu in case it poured all day--and headed for the bus station.

The F bus showed up on time, and took my promptly across the bridge to the transbay bus terminal--I was the only passenger. This brevet starts at Crissy Field near Sports Basement under HWY 101, which is about 1 mile closer to Embarcadero than the usual starting place near the Golden Gate Bridge visitor center. I got off the bus at 6:22 and got to the start (about 4 miles away) at about 6:45. I knew I was at the right place as many cyclists with reflective gears and bright light were standing around. I checked in with Eli and grabbed my brevet card. I also found Jim and Lee there but no Esteban yet. We chatted a little before Rob began the pre-ride meeting. I was putting sunscreen as Rob went through his list of things. Esteban rolled up at this point and checked in. At 7, we pledged not to do stupid things and began rolling. Jim wanted to wait until the people were all gone, so we don't get caught in the initial wave of adrenaline-fueled dash and unnecessarily expand our energy. So after a 3 more minutes we were on the road, too.

Just as we approached the bridge sidewalk, the rain began to come down. Even though we all anticipated the rain and expected to get wet, there were still mutters of "here we go" all around. We crossed the bridge and rolled down hill toward Sausalito. Near the base of the hill, I saw a rider on a Rivendell Romulus. He turned out to be Nathan, to whom I sold my Romulus last year (and he was riding it today). From there we--Jim, Esteban, Lee, Nathan, and Tom on a Atlants--rode together on and off most of the day.

The rain came down at different level of forces as we rolled up Camino Alto and through the Marin towns of Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. Jim stopped to put his rain legs on after Camino Alto to scare the rain away, but that didn't seem to work, as we continue to get soaked. We climbed over White's Hill and turned on Nicasio Valley. After the descent down the other side on Nicasio Valley, it actually began to pour for a while. We stopped in front of the general store in Nicasio because several folks wanted to use the facilities. The rain has stopped at this point, but the sky still looked threatening. We stretched and wrung our wet gloves, ate some food and rolled on. It was drizzling as we made a right turn on Petaluma-Point Reyes Road. The climb before Cheese Factory is always a challenge, as the otherwise flat terrain doesn't give too many clues that such an ascent awaits riders at this point.

(Photo Courtesy of E. del Rio)
We continued on past Hicks Valley Road--usually where I turn go go toward Two Rock, and hints of blue sky began to show. We weren't holding our breaths, but welcome the development. A milder climb began shortly after the intersection with Hicks Valley. It has become quite pleasant at this point, as we got the vista on the climb of the lush-green valley below. I dropped my hammer energy bar as I crested the summit and had to apologize to folks following me up the hill as I was pulling in the front. I stopped and ate the bar before descending a very nice downhill. 3/4 way down I saw Esteban on the side of the road. Apparently he had a leak in his white Hetre tires. He was pumping it up to see if it would hold up to Petaluma, at this point 5 miles away. I continued to go down, and enjoyed the slightly downhill roller toward town. As the road became D Street, signal lights began to show up and I had to stop several times to push a bike button. The run-in to Petaluma is very nice, with stately, well-maintained houses lining the road.

At the intersection of Petaluma Blvd, I caught up with Jim as he waits for a left turn signal. As I turned I spotted a Subway Sandwich store and told Jim to wait for me at Peet's as I wanted to pick up a sandwich for the road. I headed for Peet's Coffee on the next block as it is one of the two designated stores for the first control. I leaned my bike against the glass window among the line of bikes that are already there. Lee had rolled in just ahead of me. I went inside the store and bought a vegan blueberry scone and got a receipt. I noted the time of 11AM on the brevet card and initialed the receipt. I stood outside and ate half of the sandwich and mixed up another serving of Hammer Perpetuem. A few minutes later, Esteban showed up and explained that he got a nail and had to change the tube.

We got on the road at around 11:30 again, and it at this point the sky has cleared up considerably, and the sun is out. My wet clothes were actually drying up somewhat already. We exited town on Washington Street, which soon became Bodega Way. From here we had a slightly uphill roller with several noticeable uphill through Two Rock to Valley Ford. Soon after we left town, we began to encounter a headwind. At first it was manageable, but quickly it became a full-on blast. I held on to my drop pretty much for the next 8-10 miles, rolling up more than down, and dodging flood puddles of different sizes along the way. Esteban pulled ahead of me after we rode together for the first stretch. This stretch was kind of monotonous, but still pleasant, as I cherished the dry weather.

Just before Valley Ford, I saw Jim pulled up behind me, apparently he and Phil (whom I know from my GPC days and bought a roof bike rack from) traded pulls to save some energy in the vicious headwind. I was quite exhausted as I pulled in front of the general store in Valley Ford. I got in and wanted to see if they had bike energy food--I still have enough but thought I should grab some as an insurance policy, as this last windy section took more out of me than I expected. The store didn't have any energy food so I bought a bottle of water to fill up my bottles. We sat outside the store as Nathan, Tom, and later Lee pulled up. Several randonneurs were already sitting there. We all marveled/lamented the phenomenal headwind. I ate the rest of the sandwich and gulped down some Perpetuem and Hammer Gel.

We have 23 miles to get to Pt Reyes Station at this point, and just about half way through the Brevet. I felt a little weak as we left Valley Ford, but told myself that I would catch some tailwind as we headed south and west. After a couple more mouth of energy gel, I was riding in earnest again on HWY 1 toward Tomales. The climb up was very scenic, and the color of day has completely changed as the sun is out, and nice white clouds dotted the blue sky. The 5 miles between Valley Ford and Tomales disappeared quickly, and soon we were riding along a creek and the marshes west of the town going toward the coast. The water in the creek was quite full and I was enjoying myself at this point. After eating another energy bar--my last. I pulled to the front of the line and pulled for a little stretch just before the coast. I stayed ahead and now have caught the south tailwind. The section all the way down to Pt Reyes Station has only gentle rollers, and with the tailwind aiding my effort, I glided south and the miles seemed to have gone away easily.

Just after Marshall I felt pretty hungry. This is kind of a good sign, as it tells me that I am doing OK with electrolyte (as the lack of usually leads to loss of appetite and desire to drink), but I don't have too much food left. I still had 8 miles to ride before I can get some food at Bovine Bakery in Pt Reyes Station. I remembered that I still have the blueberry scone I got in Petaluma. I ate the scone slowly, not wanting to cause any indigestion as I rode. This is such a nice stretch I coasted a few long stretches to look at the Tomales Bay and  some of the marshes.

Esteban caught up with me about 3 miles away from town and we yo-yo'ed all the way into Pt Reyes Station. This was an open control and I headed for my usual destination--bovine bakery--to get a vegan veggie roll. The shop clerk told me that many cyclists showed up today and asked for receipts, and then promptly gave me one. I took care of control business and began to chow down the roll. Jim rolled up at this point and went and got a Pepsi from the supermarket, and told us he had been hankering for one since Marshall. I got a text message from Lee saying that he decided to stop at Point Reyes Station. Jim, Esteban and I all thought that it was a bit of a shame as we were relatively close to finish, and Jim and I both thought that if Lee had more familiarity with the route he might have opted to finish. I left them for a while to get some energy food at Black Mountain Cycles and get my chain lubed up a little. I have read Mike's blog on and off and it was good that I had a chance to visit today.

(Photo Courtesy of E. del Rio)
Lee showed up shortly before we were heading out and said that He had call his wife to come and pick him up. The three of us headed out of town toward Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road. We rode at a decent pace past the Nicasio Reservois, which was spilling its overflow. We still rode in a group on Nicasio Valley Road when I felt some sign of bonking. I wasn't able to stay with Jim and Esteban as they pulled away. Soon Nathan and Tom rode by behind two others on the brevet. My legs felt heavy and I didn't have any power. Just before entering the woods, I saw Jim at the side of the road eating. He said that he also was fading a bit. He pulled ahead of me again on the climb before Sir Francis Drake. I struggled up the hill and the dragged myself up Whites Hill.

After rolling downhill I stopped in Fairfax to call home and sucked on a couple packs of energy gel. The 5 or so minutes off the bike and the food seemed to have helped. With no one to ride with but feeling of a second wind, I rode at a comfortable but brisk pace through the hamlets. I was even able to maintain a good clip up Camino Alto. At this point I have the cateye small LED front light and the Dinotte 200 LED front light on. Toward the summit I saw Jim and Esteban standing on the shoulder. Jim apparently also bonked a little and had to get some donuts and drink a can of Ensure. I was grateful that they waited for me, as the last miles back to the city in the dark can be a little lonely and discouraging, especially if I had to ride by myself.

We got back to the bridge pretty quickly, and crossed it on the east side sidewalk. Jim had to push a button to open the gate on both side of the bridge. Soon, we were back at the starting point and handed over our brevet card and receipts to the wonderful volunteers and Rob there. After resting some and drank a can of soda. I headed for BART station and got home at around 8:30pm. The total time for my brevet today was 12:15; my total mileage was 134 miles, including riding from and to bus/BART station. Even though on the group list people felt that this route is slightly easier than the lighthouse route, the wind and the wet weather early clearly took their tolls, as I took one more hour than 2 weeks ago to finish, even though strangely I felt fresher at the end than I did two weeks ago.

Reflections on Gear, Bike, and Food
I took the Kogswell today, and it performed well. I think the frameset, tires, and the hubs are slightly heavier than the corresponding parts on the Ebisu. I also took an extra saddlebag as the front boxy bag--VO Campagne--is smaller than the Inujirushi bag on the Ebisu. I put my rain jacket in the saddle bag but actually next took it out. In hindsight I probably could have done without the saddle bag. When I rode out of the saddle and holding onto the drop--an option afforded by the shallow drop of the on-one midge and the tall headtube on the Kogswell--my knees would knock on the handlebar. This doesn't seem to happen on the Ebisu. The Hetres on the ebisu is noticeably better than the Fatty Rumpkins on the Kogswell. The slower tire might have something to do with my longer event time today, but I suspect that was not the main reason.

The fit on my Ebisu is just about perfect. I did not feel any noticeable physical discomfort on the 200k 2 weeks ago, even though I didn't wear padded shorts. I have a different handlebar--on-one midge--from the Jitensha Randonneur bar on the Ebisu. Overall I felt OK, with only light amount shoulder numbness toward the end of the ride. I actually like the MKS touring pedals with my addidas running shoes. I think the combo of crank brothers clipless pedals and shimano mountain bike shoes work fine on my Ebisu, too, but MKS half-clip with touring pedals are hard to beat.

The Dinotte LED headlight worked really well this time. Maybe the last two times when I used them, the batteries weren't charged fully, so the light crapped out quickly. I will give it another chance to prove itself. But I am thinking about putting on my SON wheel and B&M Cyo anyway.

I brought 3 energy bar, 3 packs of energy gel, and 5 more in a flask. I also brought perpetuem energy drink powers. In total, I brought almost 2000 calories of energy food, and I bought 450 calories more worth of gel in Pt Reyes Station on the way back, and consumed 2 out of 5 packs. At the end, I still have one serving of perpetuem powder that I didn't use. I should probably have been better to eat more frequently, as I always began to feel the effect of low calories (I usually feel some slight cramping in my legs when that's the case) before frantically trying to take in more. I bought a 12" veggie subway sandwich in Petaluma, and I should probably have bought an additional 6" sandwich as I knew no good option exists in Valley Ford.

My clothing worked well, mostly. I had a merino base layer and merino long tights. I then wore a Fox thin fleece jacket on top of the base layer. I had some wool socks from Rivendell and used a pair of neoprene toe covers from Performance Bikes. The only mistake is the pair of casual knickers I had on. They got wet and stayed wet for a while, and became heavy when soaked. They kept wanting to slide off my body. I would wear something different next time.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tinkering for the Near Future

In past years, even if I ride through the rainy winters, my mileage significantly decreased during the early part of the year; as the weather gets better and days longer, mileage also showed corresponding increases. I decided to ride a few brevets this year and will likely see a large majority of my recreational miles in the first 7 months. The tinkering that goes with regular riding also rears its head early.

I completed two 200k event with battery-power Dinotte LED front light. This light is bright enough for short uses, and somehow my rechargable batteries drain way too fast (possibly because of the cold temperature I have exposed them to during the rides). I have a built up SON 20 wheel and a B&M IQ Cyo light waiting in the wing. It's just the matter of installing the wheel and light, and figuring out a semi-graceful way to route the wire--I can only see Hiroshi cringe at the thought of one of his beautiful Ebisu's having light wire exposed, instead of going through some sort of internal routing. That was a glaring oversight on my part when I placed the order, but life has to go on and I need a reliable light source for anything beyond 200k. Status: undone

The fender clearance on the Ebisu is a little tight. Hiroshi said I can only use 35mm tires with fenders to achieve good fender line. He is almost 100% right--while I have successfully completed 3 120-mile+ rides with no issue with 40mm Hetre tires and 49mm Honjo fenders, the last two times the front fender got nudged just enough in the car transport to the start to make ever-so-slight rubbing when I climbed off saddle. Not a big deal, and some minor adjustment will probably take care of it. But Hetres--my favorite tires--might not be the best permanent solution. I am waiting for the arrival of a pair of Pacenti Pari-Motos (38mm) in March, but Kirk Pacenti won't make them in red unless a strong demand for red emerges. Grand Bois is holding off its 38mm tire project since the niche might have been filled by the Pari Moto. Either way, I might have to live with black tires for a while, or red Hetres with tight clearance. Status: fender adjusted; no Pari-Moto until march.

Lighting for M.'s 700c Ebisu
M. has expressed interest in doing the night brevet (200k) in June, and her bike will need reliable lighting as well. I scored a SON 20R/B&M IQ Cyo combo over christmas at a very low price and just need to get rims to build it up. This seems straightforward enough, right? I am a little bothered (abstractly) by the narrow width (19mm) of the rims on her bike right now--they are Mavic MA40 (front) and Open Pro CD (rear). I also have a pair of silver Chris King hubs waiting in the wing. The idea solution, if I have extra cash and time, is to build a pair of wheels using Velocity Synergy rims and SON 20R and Chris King rear hubs (I can then sell her current wheelset), but most likely I will just find a Synergy rim to build up the SON 20R hub right now and use it with her current rear wheel. The silver Synergy rim won't match the pewter rear rim, but I guess it will be used at a night brevet, and hopefully the mismatch will be less pronounced in the dark. Status: needs to build up the SON 20R wheel.

 I have a Cateye Vectra wireless cyclometer on my Ebisu. It provides simple information such as clock, current speed, trip distance, odometer, and maximum speed. It however, does not provide elapsed time (to measure riding time), nor does it have a scan function so I can read through the set of information without clicking through them. Also, I am not sure if the dynamo lighting will cause interference with the cyclometer. I have been eyeing a Knog 12-function cyclometer for a while. These elegant looking accessory performs all the functions I need, can be installed without tool, has a backlight so it's viewable at night, and is light-interference-proof. I am just a little hand-tight at the moment to spend that extra $60. If I do get a new cyclometer, I will move the Vectra to my Kogswell, so the unsightly wires--no good option exists to route cyclometer wires along cantilever brake cables--will be gone. I also need a cyclometer for my fixed gear Raleigh One Way. Status: need Knog cyclometer.

SFR Lighthouse 200k: First Brevet of 2010

After completing a 200k on the same route in November, I looked forward to this first event of the year. The lighthouse 200k that San Francisco Randonneurs put together in January kicks off the brevet season with a nice roll from San Francisco through south and west Marin County, passing through redwood forests, quiet coast lines, quiet lagoons and estuaries, and charming towns and neighborhoods. It isn't too hilly, but the timing--early in the year--and the weather can all make it less than trivial. As my experience proves, it is as much as preparation for the weather as fitness for a event in rainy bay area weather.

I consciously try to keep my fitness level up after the November event so I won't suffer too much in January. I have kept my weekly mileage at about 80-90 miles; I spent much of the holidays staying active biking and hiking; and my wife and I joined a climbing gym where I not only climb to build up other parts of my body, but also do some yoga and spinning.

I also learned from my experience of doing the same event in November in my preparation. I took the Inujurishi handlebar bag in favor of the combination of the lil' loafer front rack bag and the Acorn small saddle bag that I have. The Inujurishi bag is large, and has a 2-layer map case. It is also very water resistant. I was able to loosely pack my cargo--3 energy bars, 5 servings of Hammer Expresso Gel in a small flask, a wide-mouth drink bottle filled with Hammer Perpetuem drink, 4 servings of Perpetuem powder in a ziplock bag, a small bottle for electrolyte, Dinotte battery-powered front light and extra batteries, Quicker Pro mini pump, tool pouch including spoke wrench, multi-tool, tire levers, patching kit, and a chain tool, spare tube, sunscreen lotion, a handkerchief, and my rain jacket.

I also carried two large stainless steel water bottles on the bike and the simplified cue sheet and my brevet card in my map case.

To get ready for the weather, I wore a merino base layer, and then put on a medium-weight fleece exercise shirt (quarter zip) from REI. Outside the REI shirt I have a reflective vest, which doesn't provide any warm by itself but acts as a slight wind-shield for my core. I also have a rain jacket in my bag. I wore a merino long tight, and a pair of shorts outside of it--I didn't wear any padding. I wore two layers of socks--a pair of regular pearl izumi cycling socks and a pair of thick wool socks that I got from Rivendell. I brought a pair of full-fingered glove-liners but opted to start with my half-fingered cycling gloves instead of the wool gloves that I usually wear--trading warmth for added dexterity.

I have a couple of cycling caps, but wore a Shimano-branded thick baseball cap for extra warmth.

I caught a cold riding in the storm just 3 days before the event--and thought seriously of not showing up on saturday morning. I try to cure myself with tons of everything--hot water, vitamin C, hot soup, whatever stuff I can ingest without serious side effects--and it seemed to work. By thursday evening i was beginning to dry up and not have any significant symptoms. My plan was that if it wasn't pouring when I wake up on saturday, I will head to the start at the bridge.

I went to bed early on friday, and woke up on time at 4:15AM. Darn it, it's pouring out. I turned on the computer and checked weather along the route. forecasted dry weather after 7AM. I woke up my wife after getting ready and ate breakfast and she kindly took me to the start. The weather eased up as we crossed the Bay Bridge into the City, and I took the bike out the car and headed to the Strauss Statue.

I had 5 minutes to spare as road constructions near Crissy Field delayed us on the road. I quickly signed in and grabbed my brevet card. We swore not to do stupid things and headed off.

I didn't plan on riding with anyone, so I kept a pace I find comfortable. Even though the rain did stop, it was wet everywhere. I had my rain jacket on at this point and find it very useful. It kept me warm from the cold damp air and wind. People proceeded cautiously but briskly through sausalito toward mill valley. The path next to mike's bike was completely flooded with about 5" of water. We rode through the patch slowly. I got sprayed by a few participants without fenders and decided to pull back and ride by myself or only behind folks with fenders.

I felt stronger than I did in November, and was going at a good pace--all the activities seemed to have helped. At the top of Camino Alto, I made a mental note to descend with caution, as I haven't really tested Hetres on winding descents in wet weather. I braked a little more than usual, but the tires seem to be doing just fine. At the bottom of the hill, a rider came by and asked if I were Franklyn, as he recognized my bike from flickr land. I have seen One Happy Cog's pictures online a few times and it was good to meet him. He has a Merckx bike that has a wicked green paint. We chatted for a while, but parted ways as I was still coughing and spitting from my cold and not able to talk too much and keeping a faster pace.

The rainy weather also kept folks in bed, it seems as us randonneurs seem to be the only people on the road as we rolled through Ross, San Anselmo, and Fairfax. Sir Francis Drake Blvd was also fairly devoid of cars. I begin the climb on Whites Hills and heard my fender rubbing the tire slightly. The bike was sitting in my back seat without a front tire, and the fender must have been pushed slightly out of position. Since my Ebisu has a tight clearance with Hetres, a slightest movement makes for some rubbing of tires on off-the-saddle climbs. Nothing serious, and I made a mental note to adjust it somewhat when I stop next.

I had an easier time getting up whites hill, and enjoyed the descent and the long flat stretch that ensued. I opted for the paved road through Samuel P. Taylor State Park instead of the slightly unpaved bike path as I figured cars are relatively absent in the morning and my wide tires can handle the bad pavement relatively easily. The creek in the woods has grown to full-fledged rivers, and small waterfalls seemed to be flowing down walls everywhere. It was quite nice through the woods except it was very foggy, and quickly the fog turned into rain.

Rain continued to come down after i exited the forest and climbed up the hill before HWY 1. I saw a quickbeam on the descent toward Olema and recognized the rider to be Cyclofiend Jim, whose wonderful Cyclofiend website host beautiful bikes--mostly steel bikes with classical designs--is a regular destination for bicycle enthusiasts. After turning left onto SFR again I introduced myself and we chatted our way to Inverness Park. I stopped to adjust my fender a little and used the facility. Jim took off first and I was back riding by myself again.

In November, it was during this stretch between Inverness Park and the lighthouse when I began to have some problems with cramps. I took an electrolyte pill and regularly ingested energy drink and gel. I actually felt pretty good, and didn't have any problem going up the climb before the intersection to Pierce Road. The road was a little flooded, but the weather definitely has dried up. The section between Pierce Road to the lighthouse is extremely scenic, and today especially with the clouds doing a number to the sun light. I rode comfortably as my clothes became dry. Several other randonneurs are in sight, and several passed me on this stretch. Toward the base of the hill to the lighthouse, I began to see the fast riders coming the other way.

It was not nearly as windy today as when I rode it in November. After passing through several graze guards, I started the climb to the lighthouse control slowly.  I saw Jim at the bottom of the hill changing the gearing on his quickbeam. He seemed to have the procedure down so I told him I'd go on. I was using 36/26T combination almost the entire way. The lack of strong head or cross wind made the climb much easier and actually enjoyable. After the section where you can see ocean off both sides of the road, a parking lot emerged and I have arrived at the first control around 11AM.

Looking at my brevet card from the november event, this is actually about the same time I got here last time. The time saving from going over the east sidewalk of the bridge and going through the paved section of Sir Francis Drake in the park was probably offset by the time I stopped in Inverness Park to use the facilities and check my fender alignment. However, unlike in November, I actually still felt pretty fresh at this point. I got a bottle filled up before the buckets seemed empty. I only have 20 miles of rolling downhill before lunch at Pt Reyes station so I don't need much more water. I grabbed a few packs of energy gel, stretched a little, and left.

Last time on the way back toward HWY 1 I kind of bonked a little, and had to sit on the side of the road to wait for the leg cramps to subside. I believe that's a result of insufficient electrolyte and calorie intake. This time I was prepared to throw calorie at the problem to get me to lunch. I ate gel, drank energy drink, and swallow a couple of electrolyte pills as I traced my way back east. The strategy seemed to have work, as I didn't need to get off the bike to rest and generally felt OK. Just as I approached the intersection of Pierce Road and about to roll downhill, I began to feel really hungry. I took another serving of energy gel and continued on.

It was kind of miserable to be hungry on the bike. Somehow I didn't want to stop, maybe fearing that I'd have lost momentum and time in the process. Good thing the stretch to Pt Reyes Station from Inverness is very flat. I got to Pt Reyes Station at about 12:45, after leaving the lighthouse control at 11:17. After parking the bike near the end of town, I dashed into Bovine Bakery and grabbed a vegetable roll and a soy chai. I ate in earnest, though I chewed carefully to avoid indigestion down the road. I found a bench near my bike and stretched a little after the roll went down, and sat there to watch other cyclists and randonneurs stop and pass. I got up and began rolling toward Marshall at 1:10, after a 25-minute break, which is a good 25 minutes shorter than the break I took here in November.

Usually a head wind greets a rider going north on HWY 1 between Pt Reyes Station to Marshall, the rider then enjoys the tail-wind on the way back. Today no strong head wind was present. It began to rain shortly after I passed the Pt Reyes-Petaluma Road intersection. The rain was cold (I later read report from another rider of hail on this stretch) and significantly reduced my comfort level. Along the way I saw and waved to faster folks on the return leg. I got to Marshall Store just before 2PM. The store was full of patrons, with a large portion being randonneurs. I grabbed a orange juice, got my card stamped, and walked outside. The rain has stopped by now and the sun was out. I saw One Happy Cog and Jim here. I quickly drank the orange juice and finished some bread I bought at Bovine Bakery.

After reshuffling my bag to consolidate all the remaining food in the side pocket, and mixed another bottle of Perpetuem, I got on the road again. A fellow randonneur, who told me that he'd blew his top and needed a little drafting tagged alonog. Since I didn't mind riding by myself, I didn't mind it that much. I got back to Pt Reyes Station quickly and stopped to take a break and let the fellow go on his own. It was about 2:45 at this point, and I figured I should get back just around 6pm.

I was getting cold, as both my base layer and the outer shirt were soaked with sweat and rain. I was also beginning to feel tired and hungry. I stopped before Platform Bridge to take in some calories and drank water. I was certainly going at a slower pace now than in November. I am half an hour to 40 minutes ahead of the time at the same place, but most of that time-saving came from a significantly shorter break at lunch. I did eat less lunch, but have been more methodical in taking in calories in smaller increment all day. Maybe my cold, which prevented me from breathing deeply and required me to spit out fluid, is finally catching with me, with the dropping temperature exacerbating its effects. I rode the next 5 miles with a negative mind state, and doubting if I can finish.

As I rode by the reservoir, I looked down on my cyclometer and I was still pushing a modest 15mph and the sun was still out. I told myself that I had to get back to the City anyway, so I might as well enjoy it. I stopped at the baseball diamond in Nicasio, and lied down on the grand stand for a while. I phoned home to tell M. where I was and when I might likely me home. That 10-minute spell really helped me. I headed out energized. Climbing up Nicasio Valley and Whites Hill seemed relatively easy, as I wasn't pushing myself to go very fast. I put on the rain jacket at the top of Whites Hill and that immediately made a difference.

It began to rain a little in Fairfax again. The folks that stretched along the route are bunching back together again and heading for the finish. I bumped in to Bonnie, whom I rode with on the bike path in Samuel P. Taylor Park in November, near Camino Alto. We rode together from Camino Alto back the the base of the bridge in Sausalito. I waved her and her friend on as I needed to stop to put on new batteries in my Dinotte light. The cold weather must have drained the battery faster. Climbing up to the bridge, being the last of the day, was rather satisfying. The west sidewalk of the bridge was most likely still open (and I confirmed it later as I saw cyclists riding on it), but it was dark at this point so i headed to the East side walk. Many bell rungs later, I got back to the Strauss Plaza, checked in at 6:11PM--a full 33 minutes earlier than when I did it in November, even though I felt notably worse in the second half of the ride.

I got back to BART and went back to Berkeley. It was a great day and I learned some good lessons.

- I need to keep my core temperature up in the wind and rain
- I still didn't bring enough food. I like real food better on these rides, and will bring some real food next time
- I am more more familiar with my Ebisu now, and am very comfortable on it. I didn't wear padded shorts, and have zero saddle sore--laced Brook saddle is great!
- I need to come up with a better way to transport my bike to the start as the slight tire/fender rubbing really bugs me

I look forward to do it in another two weeks, on a slightly different route!