cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

May 2024
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SF Randonneurs - 2013 Fall Populaire
Filed under: general, rides, photos, brevets, coastable
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 1:37 pm

Capped off a fine birthday week by joining about a 100 new and old
randonneurs on the 2013 SF Randonneurs Fall Populaire.  Starting in San
Fransisco’s Crissy Field, we headed north over the Golden Gate Bridge,
hopped over a hill or two and looped out around China Camp Village
before heading westward (back into a mild headwind and increasing fog)
to the most distant control at Nicasio.  Then headed back through the
San Geronimo Valley to Fairfax and the obscure but direct route back to
San Francisco.  Course was about 70 miles, punctuated by appropriate
stops for controls and caloric intake. 

Had spent a too-long
chunk of Friday running down some technical anomalies on the Quickbeam. 
The chain was too worn to trust for the course and after removing it, I
realized what a thought was a bent guard ring proved to be a more
ingrained issue.  I’m still not completely sure of the cause, but the
whole arm/spider has a bit of a wobble to it.  The working theory had
been a bent BB spindle, found that the same arm wiggled no matter which
bicycle it was mounted on (had stripped off the cranks from the
Hilsen, assuming I’d be swapping the BB over).  Cursed and pondered and
decided to clean up the Hilsen and swap over the saddle from the QB. 
And the Hilsen ended up in a nicely stripped down mode - with the
recently cleaned and rewaxed Baggins Banana Bag attached, it would hold
my ritual two-tubes-two-patch-kits offering for any brevet ride, as well
as appropriate gear for a mild, mid-September ride.  So, all that
remained was getting up, getting the dogs walked and fed, and
hightailing it into the city for the ride. 

Which pretty much is
where I started - sipping strong coffee from a thermos cup as riders
gathered in the fog on the generally unpopulated East Beach at Crissy
Field.  I’d arrived past some significant parking infrastructure -
mobile gates and grates and cones and hi-viz folks with flags and
flashlights.  No, the Populaire does not typically generate that much
traffic, but they’ve been racing these sail-driven projectiles within
yards of the shore over the past couple weeks, and in another few hours,
parking would become absolutely nonexistent.

Signed in and got
my card.  Realized I had absoutely nothing to write with - DOH! - so I
would be relying on the kindness of others to supply a pen at the
Nicasio Info Control.  After returning the coffee rental, I saw that a
larger pack had amassed, and RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) Rob
Hawks welcomed the new riders (about half the group) and led us in our
pledge “not to do anything stupid” before sending us out on the course. 

Just about that time, I darned near stepped on ride buddy JimG
(yojimg.net) and we greeted one another warmly.  He was anticpating the
inaugural ride on his Box Dog Bikes Pelican. 

Of course, we
immediately got separated as everyone picked up their bikes and wove
their way to the road. I had decided to under-do things for the first
bits, as I wasn’t sure how I’d feel.  For some reason, the switch from
fixed-gear (the Quickbeam) to a many-geared-coastable setup can mean a
very clunky first ride, as I overdo it in the big gears and feel a loss
of momentum when climbing.  And I also realized it was probably my
longest ride of the year so far.  At least I’d managed a couple of 50+
rides on the QB, even though some of the steeper climbs were prone to
cussing and stopping.

 Rolled up to the bridge with a variety of
SF Jerseyed folks and well-appointed rigs.  Counted at least 3 or 4
Hilsens without even looking for them.  Coughed and woke up and worked
my way over the span and down into Sausalito with a minimum of extra

Seemed to just make every yellow light on Bridgeway, which put
me alone along the Mill Valley Bike Path to the base of the first hill. 
But as the light turned green JimG and a gang of folks joined me.  The
Camino Alto hill kind of worked out the kinks, and I found some comfort
climbing seated, which is not generally an option afforded by riding
fixed.  Then buzzed down the descent while thanking the density of my
bones.  Caught up to the JimG group and promptly lost them on the climb
to San Rafael, but by then I was feeling pretty good on the bike, almost
like someone had flipped a switch.  As we headed around China Camp to
the first control, I managed to tack onto a triplet-led (y’know, like a
tandem but built for three) train and boogied along happily.  Fell back
in with JimG and we found a mutually compatible pace, so we rolled to
the first control, had RBA Rob sign/timestamp our cards and headed

As we pressed slightly uphill and upwind in Lucas
Valley, JimG admitted he hadn’t eaten anything for a while (turned out
to be dinner or breakfast, so… yeah.) We deli-stopped and stretched
out, chatted with a rider (whose name I forgot) on a custom ~75 cm frame
and watched a few pods of riders work their way up the valley.  The
chairs were in the warm sun, blocked from the cool wind by the building,
and it was tempting just to enjoy the warm offerings of the morning. 
But, we figured the miles wouldn’t ride themselves, and remounted after a
15 minute break for food and drink.

Climbed to Big Rock Ridge
and collected a couple of other riders, then spread out once again on
the long steady down valley run to Nicasio.  At the store, the
randonneurs had arrived, ordering sandwiches, buying drinks and seeking
the answer to the Information Control question.  Yes.  I did have to
borrow a pen. 

Since the weather was still overcast and windily
cool, we set off again.  JimG still seemed at a bit of caloric deficit
but we plugged along, picking up a few riders and benefitting from the
energy as our group swelled and other riders joined us from behind.  The
climb out of Nicasio to the San Geronimo valley spread us out again,
but we swelled back up to 8-10 riders as we enjoyed the now-tailwind
towards the White’s Hill descent to Fairfax. 

The sun greeted us
in town, and JimG and I peeled off to honor the siren song of Java
Hut.  Strong coffee and gooey pastries awaited.  But, even better, they
had broadened their offerings of late to include breakfast burritos. 
Mmmmmm.   Potato, egg, black beans  for me and the simple cheese/egg
muffin for JimG.  Such caloric density perked him up (as did the iced
coffee) and we hummed our way back to the start.  Got to help with a
small roadside repair (rattling fender) for another SFR member.  Met a
few new randonneurs on the final miles to the last climb up from
Sausalito and then went by everyone in the world who seemed to have
shoehorned themselves to a vantage point to watch the sailboat race. 
Dodging a few errant pedestrians and the expected rental bike
erraticness, we dropped to the final control, were greeted with cheers
and had always-smiling Carlos D. log in our return and verify our

Done, we found plates of food and fine camaraderie!  And I was happy to feel much better than I thought I would. 

My photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cyclofiend/sets/72157635540840952/

More photos of pretty much everyone on course - courtesy of Deb Ford - http://goo.gl/H8UBBL

Rough Route Map - http://ridewithgps.com/routes/1798411

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Klunking Video
Filed under: general, photos, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:42 pm

Little segment from the pre-history days of mountain biking. I’ve never seen this bit of journalism before, but there are a number of recognizable characters in the footage -


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Inevitable Progression
Filed under: general, rides, photos, bike commuting
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:39 pm

Ran an errand after leaving work, which positioned me nicely for looping home in an indirect manner. Heading eastward against a slight headwind, the true intent of the season became clear.  It’s fall.  Sure, it’s SF Bay Area fall and we’re not exactly knocking frost off the pumpkins, but it felt like this would be the last commute of the season with uncovered knees, and two thin layers of wool under a wind vest were just keeping me warm enough if I didn’t stop.

Folks stuck in cars began to turn their headlights on. Even if the sun wasn’t precisely below the horizon, it had at least dipped beneath the western clouds enough that the last rays only caught the highest hills. I’d replaced the batteries in my running lights the night before, and had some more serious illumination mounted and ready to roll. Even with leaving work a bit earlier than normal, safety demanded a quick pressing of the fore and aft buttons, and I became significantly easier to see.  But, it was still in that wonderful period of early dusk, with colors growing gray and a glow from the sky.

Pedaled and stretched away the drumming cadence of a kind of crazy day. Began to pick up more of a tailwind and stretched out to a couple of ticks above 20 mph, starting to feel easy and a bit smooth.  Even with the exertion, the cooling evening pushed through my sleeves a bit.

Up the hill and into the curves.  The breeze buffeted a bit, swirling in that way it does as seasons change, when it hasn’t yet settled into storm or calm mode.  A young two point buck appeared in the road before me, then trotted dead center in the oncoming lane as a car followed at an appropriate distance. As I looked back over my shoulder, the deer spotted a path and leapt up the hill. 

On the bay below me, it was low tide and as I looked back, the beauty of the rising moon just stopped me.

I slowed and pulled off the road to enjoy it for a bit.  Out of the winds, and with no breeze pushing past my ears, it suddenly was silent. It didn’t seem that even the crickets had kicked into gear yet.  I could hear my own slowing breath and watched a few birds working the edge of the mudflats.

One of those timeless moments.

The chill pressed in again and spurred me back onto the bike. But, that moment now traveled along with me.  Another of the reasons I ride.

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SFR 200K - 2010.1 - pt 2
Filed under: general, rides, photos, brevets, fixed gear
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:22 pm

Lighthouse 200K Ride Report - Pt. 2
“Pt Reyes Lighthouse to Marshall and Return”

(continued from Part 1)

The beauty of the scene at the Lighthouse parking lot was compelling.  I could have sat there for an hour, soaked up the sun and been totally happy. It was a rare and gorgeous day.  Other randonneurs - One Happy Cog, The Box Dog Boys and a few others I recognized rolled up to the control and all was well in the world.

Luckily, the flow of riders in and out of the lot set off my “get moving” alarm, and after half-filling my empty water bottle (the big SFR thermoses were getting low), I commenced the pre-flight ritual. On the return leg, those little pitches that climb up to the main mesa always seem to bite after the short time off the bike at the control. Plus, the initial downhill from the Lighthouse has an incline and surface conditions that fixed-gear nightmares are made of.  So, I elected to keep the rear wheel flopped onto the coastable side of things for a few miles, though I did notch it back up to the 40T chainring, assisted by a helpful guy in a Freewheel SF vest, who has riding a really nice Hunter.

photo by One Happy Cog

It’s pretty disorienting to be able to suddenly coast.  Sort of mucks things up for the first few hundred yards, but I got spinning fairly quickly, dropped down to the first ranch and got stuck in a scrum of oncoming cars, farm equipment and randonneurs. We sorted things out reasonably quickly and commenced cussing our way up the first climb. While it’s good to use the lower gearing of the freewheel, you do lose the momentum of fixed-gear climbing.  However, it did seem prudent to allow my legs to rest a bit.

I even dropped back down to the low/low for the final pitch up to the mesa.  Then misjudged the QR setting when I reclamped it and immediately pulled the axle forward on the first pedal stroke. Ack! It’s the simple things that catch you. Just as I was messing with it for the second time, another rider on a Miyata checked to make sure there was nothing wrong. Admitting to user error,  I got spinning along again.

Reaching the mesa, where Drake’s Beach Road angles off to the south, I commenced to reflipping the gearing. The next section is a fine dividend for the suffering bits encountered earlier.  While there are still a few inclines to resolve, the road drops down ever downward in a series of steps, limited solely by how fast you want to pedal. The smooth road surface hummed under my tires and I enjoyed every moment.

As things leveled out, I had a curious feeling - that of being very hungry. I’d had oatmeal at breakfast before leaving the house, and I’m not sure if this happens to everyone, but for me, oatmeal just evaporates. I go from full to empty in about a second and a half.

Here’s the other thing.  I’ve been writing and erasing, rewriting and chucking out those sentences for a while now - which is why the second half of this ride report has been so damned tardy in getting posted. It’s been very hard to write about the second part of this ride, because things are about to go really well and very poorly. In the hopes of smoothing things out for the future, I’ve been thinking about where things really bottomed out, and tried to backtrack to the point where I wish I’d done something a little bit different - where I’d been alert enough to recognize I was making an error and smart enough to do something about it.

And here is one of those places where I should have recognized a budding issue. All the articles I’ve ever read encourage pretty much the same thing - eat before you are hungry and drink before you are thirsty.  And I was hungry -  growling-empty-stomach, “dang I gotta get some food” hungry.  Luckily, I’d packed a sandwich, and as the roadway stayed roughly level, I commenced to dig it out of my Zugster Rando Bag and nibble away. It made me feel very rando-ey.  I tried to take reasonably small bites, as it seemed as though there wasn’t too much extra saliva in the system, and the reasonably dry food was not doing anything other than sucking up any moisture to be found. That would indicate that I was also a bit thirsty.  After getting about a third of the sandwich into me, things felt OK, and I stowed it back into the bag. 

Wearing the stylin’ Elvis glasses of hindsight, this was the time not to be dainty, foodwise.  While it might not have been the brightest move to cram the whole thing down my throat as quickly as possible, it may have been prudent to keep nibbling away, a bite or two every five minutes or so until I’d finished the whole thing.

As it was, I worked my way upwards towards the Inverness Ridge pretty steadily.  During my first time on this course back in 2007, I’d used the distraction of standing and sitting to go up this longer but easier incline to the crest.  20 standing pedal strokes, followed by another 20 in the saddle. It had been a grind then, but it broke things up and kept the pace up a bit.  Today, I did the same thing, but had some oomph and was able to do “40’s”.  That result was more than likely a direct benefit of the recent caloric intake. Before the top, I managed to catch up with Franklyn again, after he’d eased past while I was flopping my wheel back on the mesa.

Before I knew it, it was high alert mode, zig-zagging down the descent towards the Tomales Bay side of things, dodging sketchy pavement patches and howling through the turns. Again at bay level, if I’d been clever, the sandwich would have come out again.  But I wasn’t and it didn’t.

Here is the benefit of consideration after the fact. At the time, I was spinning along strongly over the rolling roadway with a specific goal in mind: stopping once again at the grocery in Inverness Park for some fluids.  While it may have been considerate to not drain the common igloo of water at the Control back at the Lighthouse, it would have been smarter to walk a ways up the path to the actual water source and refill my bottles completely before shoving off.  They were both pretty empty at this point. 

And if I, Current Self, could time travel back to chat briefly with the slightly under-watered and low-caloric Randonneurring me, I think I might have suggested that since Inverness Park was only about 2 miles away from the Bovine Bakery, it might have been a better move to suck it up, stick it out and proceed to the sunnier destination (passive solar recharge), which has high caloric hot pizza (thermal/caloric assistance), in addition to coffee (”Hi, I’m Jim and I am a Caffeine Addict…”), which would give me access to their sink for water refilling (hydro-sustenance), just to name a few points of concern.  Which, if I’d been smarter and eaten up my whole damned sandwich back a while before that, would have been a simpler idea to come up with, rather than the too-easy decision of “Stop. Buy water now” which cycled through my brain.

Also, my brain for some reason thought Pt. Reyes Station was a bit further away.  So, I pulled on the reins and stopped.

Got some water and such, spread out and nibbled away, listening to the bleating goats and watch the odd randonneur ease past.  The rider I’d seen earlier on the Miyata had stopped and opted for a run on the bakery next door. We chatted a little bit and I think I was able to form reasonably coherent sentences. At this point it was about 12:45, and I was happily within my “good” time for the day.  I finished off my sandwich, but didn’t really want to do too much more eating.

There is a difference - stop me if I’m wrong here - between a 5 hour ride and a 10 hour ride.  One big difference is the whole refueling aspect, which I mentioned earlier. At the former, you can push the gas tank needle past the half-full mark, even let it drop down until the warning light goes on.  On the latter, the trick is to keep the calories coming in while the exertions of the day are using them up.

And that trick strikes me as one I have yet to really master.

Which is, of course, a thought that I wish had occurred to me quite that clearly as I was sitting there as the clock edged into hour six, nibbling the slices of tangerine I’d packed along.  I’d marveled a bit at the way that the sandwich seemed to fuel me over the ridge coming back - just didn’t seem able to draw any larger conclusions from that behavior.

I packed up and rolled out again, coming up on a couple of riders on Rivendells as we reconnected to Highway 1.  Another half a mile up the road in the town of Pt. Reyes Station, the familiar figure of One Happy Cog appeared before me.  I caught up to him as we finished the rise to get out of town, and chatted a bit on our way north to Marshall. The winds had remained reasonably still, and though a few clouds sat to the west, the sun shown on our path.

It was good to share the miles with another rider. Even better, it was a chance to ride with him a bit. Although we’d crossed paths a few times, we had not ridden together before. Our pace seemed well suited to one another, his range of gears helping to entice me up the rollers on the way to the second Control. We traded the lead now and again, chatted a bit and hailed the randonneurs who had reached the turnaround point and were heading back to San Francisco.  At some point, he dropped back and snagged a little video footage of me.

Can’t quite recall what was hanging out of my back jersey pocket…

We rolled up the final bit to the Marshall store, and upon stepping inside, found a goodly line of sweaty brevet riders all queued up to buy some food and get their card stamped.  With the gorgeous weather, a fair number of folks had driven out there as well, and were seated along many of the outside tables, sampling the chowder.  The place was about as busy as could be, and I tried not to fret about time being lost while standing in place. As it was, my purchase time was 13:45, frighteningly spot on to where I’d hoped to be for the day.  This whole having a timepiece easily accessible on the bike was not at all bad.

It made me realize too that I’m normally not very time or distance oriented when riding.  Riding without a computer, as I’d been doing for recent years, you become a bit reliant on your own, highly fallible, internal clock. Segments of a ride which required the most effort often times felt like it also took the longest.  Putting a timepiece against it makes you realize that while mentally you range from “all hope lost” to “dang, I’m good!”, it may have only taken 2 or three minutes to move from one place to the other.  (One of the reasons that Kent P’s “Keep Pedaling, It Will Get Better” mantra works.) There are times on that some stretches of roadway and incline become endless, relentless cycles of turmoil. But, then you can’t replicate that combination of exhaustion and timelessness ever again, rolling over the spot that held you for hours, according to your recollections. There’s a tendency of the mind to become a bit unhitched sometimes, and when doing so it tends to assume the worst.  Recognizing that the last year of purgatory took only 2 minutes can sometimes snap  you back a bit.

Back on this ride, what was assuming the worst was my taste buds.  I don’t know if it was the sudden thump of boiled oysters and seafood on my nostrils, or just the combination of a few too many Clif Blocks combined with Vitamin Water, but when I tried to drink the fruit juice I’d bought, my throat was having none of that. One the one hand, I wanted to trust what my body was telling me, but felt like I needed to get some calories somehow.  I didn’t really think that hanging around in Marshall was an ideal game plan - so I used the facilities, failed once more at sipping more than a smidgen of juice and then just decided to roll on out of town. 

There was a small group of three riders ahead, so I eased my way up to them.  Unfortunately, the curse of the fixed-gear system raised it’s head, as they - equipped with a range gears and coasting mechanisms - tended to climb and descend at a considerably different pace than I did.  I’d ease off the front on the short rollers, and they’d zip past me on the sharper downhills. It was actually nice, though, as it took my mind off of the effort being made.  Then they all pulled off the road together, and I noticed that there was a strong pitter-patter sound of raindrops hitting my helmet. 

Ahead I could see sun on the hills.  Behind I could see the sparkly white clouds to the north.  But, for some danged reason, there was a reasonably thick cloud overhead intent on doing nothing other than pissing down big wet drops of rain. The only concession I made was to quickly stash the camera into the front bag, choosing to focus only on the sunny bits in the distance. When the splashing started coming up from the roadway as well, I finally decided to protect my saddle and stopped to haul out the cover which was rolled up in the back bag.

Leaning over the saddle to keep it out of direct rain, I positioned the cover, worked out the slack and tightened down the cord to keep it in place.  One Happy Cog rolled past with a wave.  I remounted and tried to find momentum once more.

About 20 pedal strokes later, the rain stopped for good.  Nature has a heckuva sense of humor.  But, it did get me laughing.

The last little pitch on Highway One is near the Pt. Reyes Vineyard.  This one bit a little harder today, and for the first time for the day, I got the distinct negative message from the legs when encouraging them to give it a little more. Luckily, the group of three caught up with me just then, observed politely that fixed-gear riders might be a little off their nut, and eased ahead just slowly enough to give me a carrot once again. I cut down the distance a bit on the flatter mesa that followed, and by the time the left turn came up for the Petaluma-Pt. Reyes Road, we were more or less nearby.

At this point again, I started thinking a bit about food.  I suspect that somewhere down in the operating system, the word had gone out that the reserves were getting a little thin.  The wind had freshened slightly, and the last molecule of boiled seafood had removed itself from the olfactory system. As we rolled along the river valley, the clear thought manifested that I should dig out something and eat it.  I couldn’t figure out what to eat however, and somewhere the big dumb animal instinct that seemed to be taking over was getting a bit transfixed by the idea of pedaling strongly, rather than opening up the front bag and rooting around for calories. The Hunter/Gatherer was not strong with this one.

Things got worse as we made the turn up towards the Nicasio dam.  The problem was that I was actually feeling rather good, and the bike was moving well. The three riders pulled off for a natural break out of sight of the roadway, but momentum pulled me forward. Even though I stood on the pedals for a portion of the incline to the reservoir level, things felt strong. Once on the flat, there was just a hint enough of a headwind that I could push the speed up towards 20 mph.  Meanwhile, my voice of reason was tapping me on the shoulder, saying, “Hey! Dummy! Eat something!”

The Rouleur brain was saying, “yeah….got it… uhhh…just a sec….ummm… in a minute…”  Maybe it expected the team car to ease up next to it and pass over a croissant and some other goodies.   Its non-linear counterpart was egging it along, saying we’d be in Nicasio before too long, and that would be a good place to stop and recharge.

If I find myself in this situation again, I hope I will recognize it for the error that it was.

Somewhere on the way out to the Lighthouse, the phrase of the ride popped into my brain - “Discomfort is Temporary.”  Typing that now makes it sound a little bit like the more macho statement, “Pain is Weakness leaving the body” and  I really want to distinguish between those two ideas.   Discomfort is the condition when you ask yourself to do a little bit more. It pushes the needles a bit into into the red zone, but you are within what you can do. Pain comes from telling your body to do something. It’s your brain asking for more than you can reasonably do.

This isn’t to say that you should let your lazy body off the hook.  It’s knowing the difference between enabling what you can do versus doing damage.

This phrase, “Discomfort is Temporary” had cropped up a few times so far since then, helping me to remember that the roadway would crest out soon, and though I’d be a tad uncomfortable for another minute or so, that would soon end.  Here though, as I spun past Nicasio Reservoir with some momentum, the phrase misled me, and I continued to keep both hands on the bars and pedal along.  I wonder if I wouldn’t have been more cautious if the sun hadn’t been out and the winds so moderate.

Reaching Nicasio, I parked, used the blue plastic phone booth and dropped into the store to get some water.

Nothing I had seemed too appetizing.  Maybe I should have trolled through the store once more, looking for crunchy/salty.  Finally, in anticipation of the rise and pitch to get back over to the San Geronimo Valley, I squeezed a GU-analog into my mouth and followed it up with some water. I  chatted briefly with a couple of other riders, one of whom was riding a tan Bob Jackson rigged up as a fixed-gear.  He was talking about a group of single-geared who were doing various centuries together. They rolled out a minute or two before I did.

Even though the sun still shone, the temperature felt cooler, and with the next few miles under the redwoods, I added my windvest underneath my flecto vest. At some point, I’d also put on my wool gloves, and correctly reckoned that this was a good time to switch out of the cotton cap back to the wool, and add a little ear coverage.

Oh, and for those of you playing along at home, feeling suddenly cold is a good indicator that you are not eating enough.

Now, I’d made Nicasio at around 15:25, and was hoping to get back into Fairfax at around 16:10 or thereabouts. Though it felt like I was crawling up the first incline, I didn’t have to walk.  In fact, when I hit the pitch that crests out at the Cecy Krone Memorial, I only stopped once.  With auto traffic at zero here, I managed to tack my way through the steepest section while remaining on the bike, and just like that, was looking down at the valley below.

I always like this point in the ride.  My feeling has always been that I can limp home from here.  Clipping back in, my cadence got a hair past the second “hop” in my technique - one goes through right at 25 mph, and  the second one comes in at about 32 mph.  Perhaps someone with more of a math background can explain why.  By the time the road ended back at Sir Francis Drake, a few of us had collected waiting for a gap in the cross traffic. We were finally beginning to truly backtrack on the initial course we’d headed out on this morning. Chatting a bit as we swung left and eastward onto SFD, the Cooper rider noticed that we were non-coasting kin. I hung along with them for a while, but was feeling the unmistakable condition of marshmallow legs setting in.

Things were OK as long as the roadway was dead flat, but as soon as any topography introduced itself, there was just nothing there. The slight rise near the treatment plant got to me, and the incline up to White’s Hill bit pretty well.  The two riders I’d met in Nicasio had stopped here as well.  One set off again pretty quickly, but the other hung back.  Here, I took a few moments to focus a bit before the descent. Auto traffic back from the coast had picked up a bit, and I wanted to make sure that my brain was going to be ahead of me.  Riders have been hurt here on brevets, and I did not want to break my earlier pledge to “do nothing stupid.”

It proceeded without fanfare, avoiding several nasty spills of loose gravel to the right and taking the lane when conditions and speed warranted.  Squeezing every bit of momentum out of the slight decline into Fairfax, I kept the pedals turning, hooked into the town proper with a quick right and left, avoiding a driver who didn’t understand STOP when applied to their direction and rolled down Center Ave again.  Though I looked longingly at the Java Hut, the lure of momentum and progress kept me on the path.  I slugged a little Vitamin Water down and immediately felt the worse for it. It started doing the slappy dance with whatever bits of GU (technically “Honey Stinger”) were attached like moss to the inside of my stomach.

Log that combo for a definite “No, Thank you.”

As already admitted here, I know better than that. Once you start the GU packs, you need to keep chaining them. Or, you need to throw some real food in there to absorb the artifacts.  And you need water, not more sugary sippy juice.  By the time I was halfway to San Anselmo, my helpful brain was trying to recall the last time I actually threw up. Swallowing and breathing helped a bit, as did focusing on not hitting pedestrians or getting run down myself.  Finally, I took a small sip of water, and things calmed down slightly.  This seemed to reactivate some shard of logical behavior, so when the stomach started churning again a half mile up the road, I sipped a little more water. 

I’d like to apologize to anyone who passed by me, or rode near me between San Anselmo and Corte Madera.  If you said something cheery or encouraging and I just sort of stared past you, I’m sorry.  It was just that I didn’t really want anything other than air passing in or out of my mouth.

That’s really the way I got to the base of the Camino Alto hill - sipping and hoping that I wouldn’t get sick.   As the road began easing upward, I pulled over and tried to assess things a bit.  I remembered that I’d tucked a package of dark chocolate into the front of the bag, and finally decided that a couple bites of that would send me one way or the other very quickly.  The funny thing is that it wouldn’t really melt when I put it in my mouth (how’s that core temperature workin’ for ya?), and when I finally started chewing on it, the bits just kept seeming drier and drier (see Dehydration: symptoms of).  There was about thirty seconds of “hmmmmm” when it hit my stomach, but by then I’d remounted and was leaning on the pedals in a slow-motion effort to get the Quickbeam moving once again. Considering I’d been standing in front of a pizza restaurant, it seemed that barfing while moving would be a better option. 

Happily, my stomach started to settle. Less encouragingly, my legs felt like dry capellini. It was about the ugliest climb I’ve ever done up that hill.  I might have stopped once or twice.  Must have once, because I recall biting off a little more chocolate. A couple riders passed me on a turn, said something upbeat and eased passed. If my eyes were focusing correctly, my speed was somewhere in the 3’s.  “Walking speed” thought I.  “Faster than stopping!” suggested another voice. “Discomfort is Temporary,” offered another.

I just concentrated 10 feet ahead of the bike, shifting all my body weight onto each pedal in succession.  I knew that would get me to the top.

Sometimes, a brevet is about faith.

At this point, it was not about optimism.  Optimism implies a future.  My brain was having none of that.  The moment was just lean, weight, pull with the arm, shift to the other side and repeat.

Then, on one pedal stroke, it was just a hair easier. And again.

This is the blessing of the fixed-gear - the intimate connection with incline, traction and gravity.  I looked up just a bit to confirm my location. The hiking path on the right meant the top was near. I could even sit for a few pedal strokes now, using different muscles and finding a slight glimmer of momentum. And suddenly, at the top, there was only the pull of the descent.

Looking at the above photo, I see a couple of things.  First, my recollection had been that I looked at the camera when taking the photo. But, the image shows a weird thousand yard stare.  It also shows another inattention to detail item - my wind vest is clearly unzipped.  It’s even a bit outside of the flecto bib.  And I was wondering why I felt cold at this point…  I wouldn’t zip it up until after I’d finished and hung around for a few minutes at the final control.

Though the climb was disheartening, the descent brought my spirits back once again.  Since I don’t get to coast on the downhills, there’s little chance of letting my mind wander.  Working the rough pavement and easy curves of the descent into Mill Valley sharpened up my outlook a bit, and upon reaching the bottom I remembered how close I was to my goal. The pie-in-the-sky hope had been for a sub-10 hour finish, and that had pretty much evaporated when I crested on Camino Alto at 16:56.  The realistic goal had been to match my 2007 finish time of 10:31. 

Back in Nicasio, I’d rigged up my headlight - a NiteRider MiNewt USB - so when the sun dipped behind the clouds at the horizon while rolling over the Mill Valley Bike Path, I flicked a switch to stay as visible as possible.  At the traffic light on the far end of the path, I bumped up with a couple of other randonneurs.  We all rolled out when we got the green, and I saw that One Happy Cog had slipped into our midst. I was in serious pit bull mode at this point - clamping down with a death grip on anyone’s wheel and trying to hold it.

Between chocolate kicking in and the vagaries of the Bridgeway traffic and lights, I held on almost to downtown, when a gap appeared and half the group made a yellow that we didn’t.  We threaded our way through increasingly erratic drivers and then swept uphill for the final climb to the Bridge. Unfortunately, the combination of sugar, cacao and enthusiasm was not a match for the realities of the incline. The first pitch upwards did me in, so I eased over and caught my breath, crammed another bite of chocolate and focused for the next and steepest bit. Here also, we were begining to intermingle with the return migration of light-less, bike-renting tourists.

Slaloming and grunting, I got up the worst bit, then just tried to be a machine for the rest of the climb.  Reaching the Bridge level, I  saw a few riders ahead pull left to cross on the east side.  I continued under the narrow tunnel, whooped my way up the final insulting pitch, eased over and dropped down to the west sidewalk. By midspan, I could see several randonneurs learning the hard lesson about crossing on the east walkway - the folks on that side can’t hear you and don’t care.  On the west, it was cool runnings.

Enough light remained from the setting sun that it felt like daylight on the Bridge - an extremely uplifting condition.  Before I knew it, I swung below the roadway and chicaned down to the Final Control. A couple other riders were negotiating paperwork with RBA Rob Hawks, who aimed his pen at me and said “16:43.”  Signed my card when he finished with them and passed it back to Rob.

Done. Whew.

I would have loved a strong espresso or even a scalding hot chocolate.  Alas.  None to be found.  Nibbled on some pretzels and potato chips which seemed to turn to dust in my mouth. Dug out all my layers and zipped everything up.  About that time, One Happy Cog appeared, stood me up and we posed for a photo:

Unfortunately, the flash didn’t fire, and I misjudged the 1890’s era portrait exposure timing, so my features are slightly doubled. 

But, the act of standing together in a photo reminded me that brevets are about camaraderie.  We’d passed some beautiful miles together on the roads today, and now we had both arrived at roughly the same time where we’d left some ten and a half hours earlier.

I whooped and hollered for a few more folks easing in under the dwindling light before realizing that heat was escaping like air through a nicked tube. Said a few goodbyes, and rolled back onto the  Bridge, in search of a car with a heater that would soon be blasting. 

Rolling down towards the north tower, I think I glimpsed Franklyn again as he made his way on the other side walkway.  I waved but could tell he hadn’t been looking.  I can’t imagine riding that course with a cold. 

I reached the car, sore and chilled.  Recontacting the saddle on the way back had not been a positive experience. My feet hurt a bit and I was just really happy to be done for the day.  This ride had gone both very well and reasonably poorly in spots.  A few more miles, a bit more concentration on climbing, a lot more awareness about food all would have helped.

Brevets are about learning too, I reckon.

The one last thought I had, before calling my wife to let her know I was done and heading home,  was that after brevet number three, I feel as though I’m more of a beginner than before my first one.

Not really sure what that means, but it was clearly in the jotted down notes from later that evening.  It will be interesting to see where that thought leads.

San Francisco Randonneurs - Lighthouse 200K - 1/23/10
~125 miles - finishing time: 10:43

This report will be edited and posted to the brevet section of cyclofiend.com

1 comment
SFR 200K - 2010.1 - pt 1
Filed under: general, rides, photos, brevets, fixed gear
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 1:11 pm

Lighthouse 200K Ride Report - Pt. 1
“San Francisco to the Pt Reyes Lighthouse”

Brevets are sometimes about faith and confidence. 

I had faith - and I was confident - at 5:30 am on Saturday morning, that the rain pounding the roof would pass. I was so confident, in fact, that I turned on the computer - something I said I wasn’t going to do - to check the Doppler radar image of the sky above the SF Bay Area.  The screen showed several big clumps of green and yellow moving east and south.  As near as I could tell from the resolution, the trailing edge was directly over our place. And almost just like that, it stopped raining.  In the range of signs, this had to be good.

There really wasn’t all that much to do. Quaff some strong coffee and stuff down some oatmeal.  As I have been more or less obsessively documenting, this past week has been a series of short checklists and scribbled notes. The bike was ready, the clothing had been laid out, the options winnowed down and items that made the cut packed.   Nothing to do but ride, really.

So, I sipped the last bit of coffee, loaded the bike and got out the door.  It was pretty clear from the standing puddles on the roadway that a good deal of rain had fallen in the night. Not a lot of other cars on the highway, but up ahead, I noticed a small white car with a bike on a roofrack.

Just guessing here, but I thought possibly, the only other auto on the roadway splashing through large puddles towards the Golden Gate Bridge at 6 am with a visible bicycle strapped on just might be another randonneur.  As I got near enough, it was even more odd - the bicycle on the roof rack was clearly a Rivendell A. Homer Hilsen.   My Quickbeam was lying down out of sight in the back, so the poor driver probably never quite figured why someone was shadowing him so closely down the freeway at that early hour.  Still, it seemed another good sign.

He continued over the Bridge, while I turned off to save the toll and ride the last couple of miles to the start.   A couple other reflective outfits flashed from across the otherwise vacant lot as I angled in.  Again, a pretty safe bet we were all heading to the same place. 

The only thing left was to change into proper riding shoes and get going.  I ended up opting against wearing my new rain booties - the only piece of gear I’d brought that was untested.  The clearing skies made me think that they were just not necessary, and I’d just end up carrying them for the whole day.  Did pop on the toe covers, though.

This year, the gate was open on the west side crossing, so I didn’t have to use the pedestrian subway.  Rolling along felt good,  especially after a week of virtually no on-the-bike time.

The solitude of the crossing ended as soon as I rolled down the ramp to the area around the Strauss statue.  Bikes and riders were everywhere.   Somewhere in the scrum, volunteers were checking folks in as fast as possible, but for some reason that didn’t register in my brain.  Ended up rolling past that gang down to the dirt parking lot, seeing no one and turning around again.  This time I saw an  obvious line in the middle of the sea of yellow jackets and reflective gear, stowed the Quickbeam and worked my way in. Within a few easy minutes, I confirmed my information, had my brevet card stowed in a fresh ziplock bag and was only 200K or so short of my goal for the day.

Many riders I recognized by bicycle or face hopped in place a bit to keep warm, or enthusiastically greeted friends and swapped stories.  Whatever else, randonneuring is definitely for morning people. I looked around, spotted and greeted Carlos, chatted briefly with our RBA Rob and enjoyed a bit of bike watching, spotting another Quickbeam that was prepped for the day.

I knew JimG was out of town for this ride, but figured I’d run across a few folks during the course of the day.  The breezes were still pretty damp, and I kept my rain jacket on, listened to the instructions provided by Rob, fretted that it surely must be past 7 am, put my hand on my heart and pledged not to do anything stupid and we were off, rolling northward under lightening skies.

Since my flash went off (new camera, y’know), it kind of skewed the lighting balance a bit. A more accurate feel of the day’s start can be found via One Happy Cog’s video of the rollout.

I’m always a little hyper-concious during the first miles, as everyone can get bunched and your reflexes may be too taut or not quite grounded enough to react well to the unexpected. But, it reminded me again why I like brevets - folks rode steadily, predictably and alerted one another to their movements.  It was 180 degrees difference compared the the sketchy, bunched miles of the Marin Century this past August (a great ride in its own right, but as we moved through the descent on Lucas Valley just a few miles from the start, there was a near-perfect-storm of nervous/erratic slower riders and swarming hyper, “what’s wrong  with jumping a double yellow line on a blind curve” proto-racers which went on for too damn long. This year, on that ride, we start earlier! But, I digress…).  We skimmed down into Sausalito under clearing skies and wet pavement. Even among the randonneurs, a few folks ran relatively narrow tires and no fenders, and they seemed most ill at ease here. Hopefully, they’d remember to keep their lips together when we passed through the farm effluent on the way to the Lighthouse.

All that lay a bit in the future, of course. As the riders grouped and strung out along Bridgeway, it seemed like I had the traffic light charm, and managed to hit every green light change without losing a bit of momentum.  When we hit the Mill Valley Bike Path, I even had the presence of mind to unclip and raise my feet while rolling through the deep, floody puddles in front of the bike shop. The sky continued to gain shades lighter than we’d seen all week, and I felt well rested and better with each turn of the pedals. Even a pit stop at the restroom didn’t knock my mood.  I doffed my rain shell, rejoined the route and managed to perfectly catch the tail end of the green light at the end of the bike path, transitioning towards the Camino Alto climb.

Another easy, curving descent on wet pavement, everything feeling rock solid with feather bed comfort on the new Jack Brown tires.  As I’ve written before, descending on a fixed gear can kind of mess with your technique, as you can no longer just drop the outside leg and carve.  One of the great things about the Quickbeam is that Grant’s designs corner exquisitely for my riding style, even when your feet are whirling about and the pavement is soaked.

As I reflexively twisted my way through the lower portion of the route (which takes up so much of the 200K cue sheet), I’d been mentally ready to feel kinda cruddy. Between the rains and deciding to err on the side of low miles in the week before the brevet, I’d managed to ride pretty much not at all.  Yeah, I’d whirled around the neighborhood a bit after installing the new chain and tires back a couple days before the brevet, in that brief moment between the showers.  Not much else though. I was not really sure how that would work out, as I’ve always had the feeling that things go better when the riding is more consistent.

For the couple nights before the ride, I’d been having to get up and stretch at o’dark thirty.  Maybe they call it excess energy. Whatever.  But sometimes, that ends up with a fairly clunky start to the riding day. When work or other commitments has cut down on my rides, the first hour or so of the first ride back can be pretty blocky, and things feel better as the distance increases.

On the other hand, Carlos has written before of taking time off the bike before his long rides - his “not training” training. While I may not have felt super smooth yet, there was a certain amount of latent energy in the system.

As my mind churned these relatively useless thoughts and comparisons, it made me realize once again that using the fixed-gear system of drivetrain does tend to isolate one on a ride.  You don’t really climb at the same pace, and you certainly don’t descend in the same manner.  I’d been aware of some other riders in the general vicinity, but I wasn’t really going the same pace as anyone.

Until reaching San Anselmo, that is, and finding myself behind a couple of fixed-gear randonneurs.

This was pretty cool.  Not only were there others with the same mental affliction as myself, they were moving at roughly the same pace.  They were also chatting with the geared, coastable rider seen in the above image, so I held back a bit as we negotiated the stop signs and pedestrian traffic in town. 

Then, just as suddenly, they were gone. One of the back road connectors between San Anselmo and Fairfax.  They had gone straight and would have to go right a couple blocks up, while I went right and followed the road as it veered left.  We’d end up in the same place, but I think they added an extra zig-zag to the route.

On the way out to White’s Hill I came upon a couple of riders here and there, but grunted my way up the first big incline pretty much solo. I recall passing a pedestrian on the way up, which struck me as reasonably odd - probably the first I’ve encountered over the years.

The hill was kind of the first real test of the day. While the riding has been consistent over the past couple months, there hasn’t been a lot of extra climbing involved.  This would really be the first goodly chunk in memory, though I’d gone up it a few weeks before when Esteban was in town.  Climbing is funny.  It gets easier each time you do it. But, it still hurts. Since I knew I hadn’t been doing it, I tried to keep things as throttled back as you can when you’ve elected to ride away off for the day with no shifty bits. It went pretty well, with a pause-for-recharge near the summit.

Dropping down into the San Geronimo Valley, a couple other riders had passed me, and I tried to keep them in sight.  Spinning along on the flats here things actually began to feel pretty good. Moving through the straight section of the main valley, then easing into the twisty and narrower sections under the redwoods, it made sense to stay on the pavement until reaching S. P. Taylor State Park.  Here, I steered the Quickbeam into the campground, crossed Paper Mill Creek and connected with the Cross Marin Path.  Under the towering trees and rushing waters, large drips fell and a consistent mist made it feel as though I were under water in places. 

About halfway along, the sun broke through in a meaningful way, adding to the fairyland feel.

And it was damp and drippy, but not rainy.

And I seemed to be making pretty good time.  The appearance of the rainbow was just icing on the cake.

(I’ll digress here briefly as I’ve already read a couple of accounts of this ride by others. For some reason, folks are associating rainbows with unicorns. Please, speaking from the strain of Irish blood in my heritage, it’s “pot o’ gold” people! Rainbows and unicorns are an 80’s marketing phenomenon…)

Up until this time, things had been mostly in solo mode, which was ok.  But, it did make me wonder if through some quirk of momentum, I’d be spending the day by myself. Rejoining the roadway, I saw the Box Dog Boys a quarter mile up ahead on the climb over Bolinas Ridge. They climbed steadily and disappeared around the dogleg near the crest.  On the descent down the over side, I came upon a solo rider on an Ebisu. 

This turned out to be Franklyn W,  who I’ve “known” for a while via Flickr and his submissions to the Gallery (1, 2, 3).  It was great to finally meet in person, especially while out enjoying a day which seemed to be growing more gorgeous by the minute.  He said he had been overcoming a cold this week, but decided to roll out on the 200K anyway. 

I’d seen some of the images of this newer bike, but they really don’t do it justice. The Ebisu has such a wonderful, understated quality to it, and seeing them on the road is always a pleasure.  In my mythical Barn of Bikes I Want, the Ebisu is definitely on the list. By the way, the Barn is well sealed against the elements, heated, has wooden floors and looks conspicuously like either Peter Weigle’s or Richard Sachs’ places.  It does not currently fit in my backyard.

We chatted a bit, separated slightly on the slight rise past the Earthquake Trail, and passed the Box Dog Boys, who had pulled up to fix a flat.  They waved us on and we skimmed along the wet pavement, pulling into Inverness Park fairly quickly thereafter.

I topped off and shifted some fluids, anxious to get going again fairly quickly. One of the differences between the 2008 (geared) 200K and the 2007 (fixed) edition had been briefer stops.  The time difference had been about an hour between the two years, and although I’d been a bit under-miled in 2008, and there had been strong winds to deal with on the course, my motto this time was to be efficient off the bike as well. I bought some sugar - uh - “Vitamin” water (though I had to ask the clerk to take my money) and got rolling.

The other reason I wanted to get on the move had to do with the climb up from Inverness, which skirts the shoulder of Mt. Vision. It’s deceptively steep and it hates me.

OK. Maybe it doesn’t hate me. It is deceptively steep in a couple spots. You realize this on the way back, when the descent invigorates your senses and fills your sails, but there’s something about the way up which is a bit mind-crunching.  It bit pretty well on the first section, and I rolled to a stop to regain my breath.  The incline had collected some other riders - most of whom were smart enough to bring a wide array of gearing options - and we  chugged upwards, giving thumbs ups or encouragement when we met eyes.

I used the lack of auto traffic to tack my way up some of the pitches, which helped quite a bit.  Somewhere in my brain, I wondered what that would do to my cue references, had this been a brevet on an unknown route. But, since realizing I can’t quite focus on the odometer while riding anyway, it’s a bit of a moot point. The crest came a bit quicker than anticipated, and momentum began to work its magic on the bike. 

Pedaling down a moderate grade is always such a recharge - it makes me think of the phrase “blowing the ballast” (as in submarines, not fluorescent lighting fixtures).  The sun was out, reflecting off the wet pavement and roadside trees. My Jack Brown tires hissed along and the pedals seemed to pull my feet.  This was a great section.

I bottomed out at the turn to the Oyster Farms, having skimmed through a section of flooded roadway.  This was 0′ elevation once again.

This is also where the route wants to make sure you are serious about going to the Lighthouse.  It starts with a couple little pitches to get onto Pt. Reyes proper, then you turn south towards the Lighthouse and it shows you where need to go.

These are not bad climbs, but if you click through and view the full size version, you’ll get a little better sense of the scale. I had worked my way back to The Tandem With the Hypnotizing Tail Light, a couple other riders and Franklyn, who had eased past me on the Inverness climb. We worked our way along, the tandem climbing like, well, a tandem and then descending like a peregrine falcon.  The rest of the single cockpit bikes found and lost momentum and we wheezed along the road like an accordian bellows.  The pain was temporary and even with the efforts, I was actually feeling pretty good.

Somewhere up on the mesa, a group of 3 + 1 riders came towards us - the Fast Kids moving along to what would be a sub-8-hour 200K.  I looked down at the fuzzy font of my odometer, maybe to work out some math or another diversionary project. If I saw it, the number didn’t stick.  What ever the equation, they rode fast.

Another rise and fall of the landscape and the point appeared.

…again, the embiggened version is helpful.

This view is always both depressing and invigorating. You’ve been
climbing a bit and thinking you have made some progress. The you come
up a rise and see the far-distant-seeming point of the Lighthouse,
remember the angle of the last pitch and go “unnghh!”. Then you
remember you’ve done it before and realize you have a goal - especially if
you are near the time you’d hoped for.

And as the slow-ly switch-ing, reh-ed, mon-do, home-brew, tail-light mount-ed up-on the-uh tan-dem a-head forced me to admit, my time estimate was pretty spot on. I may have also spewed my social security number, PIN code, various passwords and admitted my involvement in any number of crimes.  But, I chomped down on the bit, followed the light up soul-crushing S-turns up from “Historic B Ranch” and made it to through the swill (actually, not bad on this day) at A Ranch, before pulling up a the Y (not a Ranch or a workout locale, an actual “Y” in the road) for the “Rivendell Shift.”

Here, another rider was coming back from Chimney Rock.  I figured he was not on the brevet, as that’s quite the wrong direction. Then he laughingly said, “That’s not the right way…” and I had to agree.  It’s gotta get better, right?

As I flipped the wheel and rerigged the chain to the freewheel side, riders hit the 20% last pitch to the Lighthouse, grabbed the wrong gear and wobbled to a stop, or motored up cursing Zeus and the gods of topography.  A few riders screamed down at what I would describe as dangerous speeds, pebbles skittering and tires scrabbling for adhesion.   Most dropped down under control, aware that things get sketchy right there, between autos, bikes, cattle effluent and metal stock guards. Franklyn checked in as he went by, offering to hold the Quickbeam as I went through my ritual.

Soon it was butt down, bars up and try to stay stuck to the roadway.  As I wondered inwardly why it was exactly that I liked cycling in any form, another rider edged up to my side. It was Barley, one half of the fixed gear couple I’d seen back in San Anselmo.  He was thumping his fixed Specialized upwards, and the effort was evident.  As we hit the tougher sections, I eased up a bit faster, feeling like the consummate slacker for bringing a coastable option.

However, this would be an example of the maxim that old age and treachery usually trumps youth and enthusiasm. (Well, only briefly - they would finish a chubby half hour ahead of me on the day). 

Before you could say, “Cough up a lung”, I found myself in front of a cheery SFR volunteer, getting my card signed for 11:03. 

This was my third time out here under the clock of a brevet. The first was 11:18, after a flat, and I felt like crap and really, really needed to sit for a spell, calm myself and refocus for the rest of the ride.  The second was 11:01, after pushing hard into a headwind which wrung me out pretty well. Today, I felt, strangely, good.

The weather was utterly perfect. The bike acted well.  I’d tightened up the cue sheet to just show pertinent info for my ride.  Since I knew the route, that meant waypoints with Good and Slow times. Plus, as I noted at the start, my bike computer was 15 minutes fast. In other words, optimism was high and I was, well, confident…

I mean, how could it not be, on a day like this?

Please Continue to Part 2

comments (0)
Out, Old - In, New
Filed under: general, photos
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 1:03 am

The pencam is dead.

Also, the Pencam is dead.

My pencam had been slowly, steadily going the way of all things. The last one I got (fifth?) was never really that great.  I  half-thought that maybe they’d just sent me back one of the dead ones I sent their way.  The shutter was always very vague, and unless there was a thunderous amount of light on the subject, it tended to add striations to the image. 

Like in this one - sun behind me, bright day -

But, it was down to about $15 by the time I bought the last one.  You can’t get too mad at anything except your intrinsic cheapness when you’ve paid $15 for a digital camera.

A few weeks before Christmas, it made a truly forlorn electrobeep sound when I plugged it in for a download, coughed up the images to the hard drive, and then never turned back on again. New batteries.  A good shake.  Nothing.  I quietly borrowed my wife’s pocket camera (a nice Minolta Dimage which we’d bought in the dawn of time), but didn’t feel particularly easy about using it on the road and trail, and stowing it in a sweaty jersey pocket.

I finally decided that the pencam wasn’t going to heal itself, and with credit card in hand, wandered over to the Aiptek store to get another one, hoping that this time it might be of better behavior, or perhaps, the PocketCam-X which JimG was using might actually be available to purchase.

But, ’twas not to be - the Pencam as a genre appears to have gone the way of the dodo.  As the price on pocket video cameras has fallen, they have replaced any of the still camera offerings on the Aiptek site.  The only remaining simple still camera they had was an old MegaCam 1.3, the weird little vertical camera which I’d started on.  No expandalble memory, somewhere around 16 frames storage…. nope. 

Poked around a bit online and found something which I think is a viable replacement for it — snagged a Nikon Coolpix L20 for about $15 less than they seem to be going for this week - I think it was a combination of coupon and the red color of the case through.  But, it arrived yesterday, I dinked around with it for a while and it seems pretty impressive.

It has 10 point something megapixels - an utterly ridiculous amount in a (now) sub-$85 camera.  Runs on AA’s, so I can use rechargeables from my stash and grab some on the road if they zap out for some reason. It has a screen a little larger than my first Macintosh computer, plus it’s in color.  It takes SD cards (and they offered me a 4GB card for another $7, which is shipping separately.)  Just because I was feeling frisky, I put in the SD card from the pencam - a 512mb card which I’d never been able to actually max out on the pencam. It actually read the old pencam images from the card - which was cool but redundant - and when I cleared off the memory, it suggests that I can take 155 images at the “Good” quality setting.   The “good” quality setting is something north of 3600 pixels at 72 dpi.  Yeah, it shoots video too. (And does all kinds of daffy things in software - multi-shot mode, cyanotype option, etc.)

It’s a little idiosyncratic, of course - for some reason when I plug it in on either my old Cube or newer imac, it doesn’t show up on the desktop (haven’t gone looking for it in system profiler, and there’s some software that Nikon included I haven’t looked at), but it does fire up iPhoto.  There’s no viewfinder - you have to use the screen to frame up your image.  But, that’s probably a plus for my eyes and the efficacy of peering through a small aperture while operating a bicycle at speed.

Brought it along on the ride in to work today -

(For some reason the x-if data isn’t showing up with these, but they were there on earlier images…oh! I saved these through photoshop!)

Anyway, we’ll see how this one holds up. I’m going to have to get used to a camera that actually focuses…

And I may have to knock the image resolution back a bit (so I’ll get, what? 310 images on the 512mb SD?).  I’m not sure I want that much detail knocking about the interwebs…

First Ride, Great Ride
Filed under: general, rides, photos, people, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:49 pm

One of the really inspiring and gratifying things to come out of overseeing the Rivendell Owner’s Bunch list has been watching folks find one another and set up local rides.  The SoCal Rivendell Riders have seemed particularly adept at gathering up and down the SoCal coast - I think they managed 12 or 14 monthly rides to date. I keep hoping to schedule a visit to my sister at an opportune time, so I can attend one of these rambles.  Ok, there’s a resolution for the new year.

Up here in the SF Bay Area, we are perhaps a more clannish bunch, as those types of Riv-oriented get-togethers have not occurred with the same frequency.  Though, given the geographics of region, maybe you are more likely just to run into another while out and about.  (Granted, I did miss the ride back in October).

So, when SCRR riders Esteban and Aaron announced they’d be up in the region around the New Year, making the ride became a high priority.  Couldn’t swing the mid-week ride, but cleared myself the Saturday just fine, which is why I found myself muttering minor curses at 8 am or so, realizing I’d left about 10 minutes late after a few last scattered tasks at the house.

All was not lost, however, as JimG checked back in via communicator to let me know that most folks had really just gathered, and one of the riders had to deal with a flat. When I rolled up to the Strauss statue at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge, it was pretty evident which group was mine.

Wool, steel, lugs, tweed, canvas, twined bits and big ol’ road tires.  These were my people.

It was a fine group of six - Esteban and Aaron up from the southland, regular ride-buddy JimG, ZugsterBags Adam and Bradley on a Quickbeam and me on mine - evenly split between coastable many-geared bikes and those with proper drivetrains.  Rivendell bikes held a slight majority, with a pair of Romulii (Aaron and Esteban) and two orange Ents (me and Bradley) versus a Kogswell P/R700 (JimG) and the Box Dog Bikes Pelican (Adam).  Another statistical impossibility played out as there were actually three Zugster Rando Bags represented on one ride - a beatable record, but still pretty danged impressive. (Which made me very happy to have spent a few moments remounting mine before the ride.)

We introduced ourselves around, oohed and ahhed over one another’s bikes, and then headed north over the bridge.  Fell into an easy rhythm with JimG, and we realized we’d not ridden together in waaaaaaay too long. In fact, I think there some rumors flitting about the tubernets that we were, in fact, the same person. While there has certainly been a preponderance of Jims about, it’s important to quell such rumors with periodic public appearances.

I’d been enjoying a mild tailwind assist when zipping down toward the bridge, and now it was clear that we needed to push a bit to head north. Despite some happy talk on the forecast to the contrary, the weather had not yet cooperated, and things remained resolutely overcast as we dropped down into Sausalito.  Still on Bridgeway, I managed to be looking at a car edging in us, rather than the gang ahead of me at one point, and may have put a brake-lever-shaped bruise into Bradley’s buttock when I had to shoot into a slim gap as a traffic light caught us. Hopefully, he will someday see fit to forgive me…

The clouds dropped lower as he hit the Camino Alto climb, with visible mist in the air. The flat gremlins chose this moment to bite into Aaron’s front tire again, and he was again forced to change tubes.  At first he took this as a sign to head home, but we talked him out of it after taking a tube and patch kit count among the rest of us (more than some small bike shops). We hung out as the mist came down, watch a few packs of all-logo-all-the-time groups go upwards on the hill.  Other than a single Pinarello tacked onto the back of one gang, they were all devotees of the Church of Carbonium.  They also had Occultorotaphobia - fear of the covered wheel.

Back when were gathering at the statue, I’d asked Esteban if he knew what Latin was for “covered wheel.”  He allowed as how though he was a professor, he was not a Latin professor, and the question remained unanswered (until I started writing this and looked it up). I nattered on for a while about the consistent parade of folks I’d seen on the way down who were fenderless, until it occurred to me that the only folks who where not running fenders our group were Esteban and Aaron.  Since I didn’t want to be a flippant host, I tried to let the subject drop.

I think there are four main regions of fender culture in this country - (1) The Pacific Northwest, where fenders are assumed, and if you don’t have an extended fender with flap that scrapes the ground, no one will ride with you (2) Most of the rest of it, where if you want to roll out the door every day to ride with a minimum of fuss, fenders (or at least a fendered bike) is a good idea, (3) the SF Bay Area (and a goodly chunk of California), where fenders go on in November and off in March, and (4) SoCal, where fenders are simply not necessary.   In short, Esteban and Aaron are totally off the hook with respect to need for fenders, which really do complicate things when trying to pack a bike for travel, anyways.

But, it cracks me up when I see local folks out on road rides, tattooing themselves with reverse skunk-stripes courtesy of the road grit flung upwards from their 23 mm tires. Mind you, I’ve done it myself many once upon a times, and there’s nothing like starting out into the rain and sensing that first feeling of damp cold seeping into the back of your shorts - a feeling you know will not leave until the ride ends. Of the many, many bikes that went past, a mere handful had even a spray guard, and I think only one (a mtb-ish Cannondale sporting drop bars heading south) had a proper rigged set of fenders.  I mean, it wasn’t like the day had started out sunny or anything.

Aaron rejoined us and we pressed onwards. It was still holding air in Larkspur as we rolled past the Village Peddler, but by the time we made the left turn towards Shady Lane in Ross, he was running about half pressure.  He took that as a further sign - unfortunately the old “third time’s not a charm” - peeled back towards Breaking Away Bicycles in Ross Commons, and bid us to continue on without him.  This time we honored his wish.

We paused for a damp refueling at the Java Hut in Fairfax. One of the things I appreciate about riding in Marin County is the opportunity for glimpsing cycling royalty*, and in this case, Otis Guy was hanging out under the awning with a couple of friends, clearly having just finished off a ride.  He commented a bit on our setups as we settled in and pounded down some calories and caffeine. White’s Hill and thickening fog beckoned to the west.

*It should be noted that said glimpses involve those folks actually riding their bikes.

As we hit the initial incline, “Oh-you-know-I-haven’t-really-been-riding” Adam rocketed forward on his fixed Pelican.  At first it seemed he was going to leave us in the dust, but then he pulled over and set up for some excellent climbing images.  My eyes crossed a bit as I tried to keep up with JimG and Esteban, who kindly pulled up near the summit for a regroup in the fog.

At this point, Bradley decided to head back to the City, as he had to connect with a friend.  If I caught it right, it was his first time that far north of the GG Bridge, and hopefully I’ll see more of him on the roadways now and again.

Still maintaining drivetrain parity, we pressed on into San Geronimo Valley. Encouraged by gravity during the decline, I got that good feeling and pressed onward through towards Lagunitas. I don’t know if it’s having the White’s Hill behind us, but for some reason things often feel strong for me there. Esteban connected up, and we buzzed along, skirting sharp rocks and trash cans until the road narrowed before the turns began.  We caucused briefly, and decided to stick to the pavement of Sir Francis Drake - probably one of the oldest stretches of oddly improved roadway left in the county - rather than veer onto the unpaved section of the Cross-Marin Trail. The old concrete of the road has been reconfigured and patched, but once inside Samuel P. Taylor Park boundaries, it remains an esoteric reminder of driving along the river in your 1947 Hudson.  Depending upon the attitude of the autos, it can be a wee bit sketchy, but a fair amount of rain had fallen here on New Year’s Day, and things felt even more damp in this narrower and more wooded section.  Rather than splatter mud over all of us unnecessarily, we went straight at Inkwells Bridge, did a little coffee shifting at SP Park and caught the paved section of the Cross Marin Path.

Here we were able to spread out a bit and chat, snap excellent photos of one another and enjoy the first inklings of sunlight we’d seen all day. We chugged our way up the soul-crushing incline to Bolinas Ridge and dropped down to Olema.

At this point, I must admit that I was becoming a little fixated on food. The Sirens on the rocks at Bovine Bakery sang so loudly that I neglected waiting at either the Ridge or at the stop sign in Olema.  So, it was with some embarrassment that I realized no one else was near me on Highway One.

It felt good to stretch a bit at this point, but it did little but underscore my poor host-y-ness. Esteban, Adam and JimG rolled up, the latter not sure if we’d taken the Bear Valley Road option.  Luckily, he’s ridden with me enough to know my beeline-to-Bovine tendancies, and had chosen wisely.

As we unsaddled and tethered our mounts in town, it suddenly dawned on me that the already seated rider who had said “Howdy” was indeed One Happy Cog.  It was indeed a day for Flickr-interactions, as we’ve chatted and commented through that medium for a while. I’d met him once before, back at the Marin Century, and we enjoyed pizza, baked goods, real sunshine and each other’s company for a while.  And of course, more bike-geeking, as he had ridden his Eddy Merckx, which we had to enjoy.

About the time we realized that we still had to ride back, Aaron suddenly appeared on the roadway.  When he stopped in the bike shop back in Ross, he and the wrench went through the front tire with a dental pick and magnifying glass, removing all errant shards of glass before wrapping things up and sending him on his way.  Reinvigorated, he decided to set off after us.  Despite the fact it threw the balance back in favor of coastable, many-geared bicycles, it was great to see him again. We regrouped briefly at the public facilities and headed out, JimG going one way and me the other. 

JimG’s routing proved to be the superior option, and we scaled the pitch out of town and grabbed the Pt. Reyes - Petaluma road for a while. 

We cut back towards the Cross-Marin Trail again, enjoying the greening hills and rural landscapes.  There have been enough rains to reinvigorate a bit of growth, without making things excessively sloppy. Once on the trail, opted to slog through the unpaved bits rather than duke it out with the vehicular traffic returning from the coast.  The worst part was the first half mile or so, with sloppier mud and more leaves.  As we continued onward, the terrain firmed up again and I realized why Aaron had caught up to us - the man could move his bike pretty danged well. We ended up on the Inkwells Bridge awaiting the rest of the gang.  I was a little worried they’d hate me forever for dragging them (figuratively) through the muck,  but there were mud-flecked smiles all around when the rest of the gang rolled up.

Back on the roadway, we retraced our path of earlier in the day.  By now, the clouds had moved off, and the light played beautifully in the San Geronimo valley. Esteban, Aaron and I rolled along just fine for a while, and then I heard a couple of knocks from the pistons and they eased away. 

It was definitely one of those “keep pedaling, things will get better” moments.  Shifting up around on the saddle into the climb seemed to help a bit, and we regrouped again at the top of White’s Hill, collected the rest of the gang and then plunged downward.  The descent can be a little hairy,  but we timed it pretty well against the cars and everyone swooped back towards Fairfax.  After a short mixup as to the whereabouts of Adam, we all gathered once again at the Java Hut, this time in the waning sunlight.  Double-E’s all around (well, I think Adam had something more fluffy) and then I decided that it was late in the day enough for me to vector homeward rather than tagging along to the bridge once more.  Adam had connected with his wife who was nearby and planned to take advantage of the conveyance.

JimG agreed to ferry them onward through the rapidly increasing dusk, and after a round of “Great riding with you’s”, we went our separate ways.   By the time I hit home, I’d  notched about 82 miles. 

Now, that was a great way to greet the New Year.  Here’s to MMX!

My Flickr set
Adam’s Flickr set
JimG’s Flickr set
Esteban’s Flickr set
One Happy Cog’s photos

Cranks Revisited
Filed under: general, photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 7:06 pm

A couple o’ months back, I was stomping my way down to engineer a class in Sausalito and ended up pedaling the last few miles single-leggedly.  (The initial post appeared here, and then I nattered more about it yonder.)  Now, the fine folks down the peninsula at Ritchey Logic did address the problem quickly and effectively.  It turned out that my initial left crank arm had been subject to a voluntary recall, as it had been built sub-spec (got one? ID yours with this handy Ritchey Design Voluntary Recall pdf  )  They received the crank and had another one out to me within a scant few days.  All good.

Well, yes and no.

Let me say  a few things about the crankset.  Because I really like the crankset, and it’s important to know that.  They are light and have a comfortably narrow tread (“Q-Factor” AASHTA citation), use a 110mm BCD chainring and have generally done their work reasonably quietly and efficiently.  But, dealing with these breaking has reminded me of a whole host of other memories and experiences concerning crankarms, their failures and the fact that manufacturers have really managed to go out of their way to complicate this part. For the most part, my frustration is with the general area of cranksets, a needlessly stormy sea in which these cranks just now happen to be swimming.

This whole discussion is multiplying and expanding in my brain right now - because the Ritchey cranks remind me of why I went with them in the beginning - replacing a reasonably high-zoot set which failed egregiously.  I broke two of those.  Or, more accurately, I had two sets catastrophically fail on me. That recollectioin got me thinking about the sheer number of chainrings that wore out on the mountain bike - especially during the El Nino years - ground what seemed to be too soon into nasty shark fin profiles, which reminded me of the grease-and-voodoo-incantations engaged in attempt to quiet the continually squawking but beyond elegantly beautiful Cook E2 cranks I had, and how those were horsetraded to switch over to the then-new Shimano XTR 4-bolt design, which had wonderfully meaty and long lasting chainrings.  I loved that setup - until I priced replacement rings, which - I kid you not - were only a couple of movie and burrito nights difference in price from a new crankset with rings…!

I think what I really want is a set of steel cranks.  But, I’m getting a bit ahead of myself.

It’s possible I have crankset issues.  Didn’t really realize it until writing all these things out.  I do hate to rant, but,  dang it, there should be a simple solution for all of this stuff.  It should work and be solid, hard to mung up, and not look like it was created by an art director.  There should be an elegant solution.  This should be available.

Man, it does seem that I’m all worked up over this. But, I don’t think I should have to buy a 10 year old set of cranks to solve this problem.  Again, I digress.  Back to the story.

The replacement arm arrived from Ritchey and was a “B” fit.  In other words, it was tighter than what I sent back to them, and I had to really press it to set it onto the splined interface of the bottom bracket. These cranks - the Ritchey Cross Cranks (which curiously do not appear any longer on the RitcheyLogic.com website) use an “Octalink” design which Shimano brought forth to sunset the square taper design which was simple and proven, but non-proprietary.  On the Octalink, the 8 splines should mesh like gears and prevent the crank from rotating on the bottom bracket spindle.  Unlike a square taper, it should not really be a force fit.

I lined them up carefully, pushed them on as tightly as I could, then tightened the new arm down, then removed the bolt again to make sure it had seated correctly.  Took a couple of short, post-flu rides on the bike and from about the middle half of the first ride, something felt funny on my left hip and low back. Then it would get better, then it would appear again.  As I was negotiating some slow speed maneuvers, coasting with the cranks level,  there was a definite shift in the left crank arm. Flipping to the other foot forward, I felt it again.

Got home, broke out the good camera and took an image of the worst of it. Digital straight-edge added for reference:
For a More Bigger Image, click here
click for bigger than is really necessary.

The image is slightly misleading, as I used the non-drive crank arm as the reference.  The drive-side arm is really the one that didn’t move.  I could bring the arms in and out of alignment by leveling the cranks and weighting the left  - forward equaled out, and back equaled in alignment.  After sending this image to Ritchey, they wanted the arm back to see what was wrong.  I did so and the day they received it, sent back a detailed email saying that the splines had been misaligned upon installation and that was what allowed the shifting.  They also said they’d replace the arm so I could try again.

That was darned nice of them to do that.  Honestly, I didn’t agree with their assessment.  But, there’s certainly a possibility that my ham-fists and incrementally increasing farsightedness combined to do that.  I’ve bent bits, snapped bolts and generally mucked up mechanical adjustments.  Just didn’t think I did then.

Now, I did have an unplayed card had they chosen not to replace the replacement.  Y’see, this is actually the second time this has happened. The first set I got of these had a similar issue, and as seen here the angle was more dramatic, but I rode more miles before becoming convinced there was an issue -

In this instance, Ritchey had dealt very kindly with the situation.  The first arm had actually stripped out, and this was the replacement set.  They replaced this as well, with the crankarm which ended up snapping. In the case of this arm, it had set easily upon the splines, so there really wasn’t an installation issue.  My eyes were better back then, too.

Back to the Future - well, the future of a couple weeks or so ago. The 2nd replacement arm that Ritchey sent fit more easily onto the spindle. Just to make sure, I used the camera to make sure that things lined up before tightening everything down.
Click here for the full size image
click for bigger than is really necessary, but it does give good detail.

I tried to be extremely mindful about the installation. Got it set into place, checked and double checked and even looked at the photo image onscreen before I put the bolt in and turned it tight.

And that’s pretty much the moment when I thought, “y’know, I really shouldn’t have to go through this to hang a phuh-reakin’ crankarm on my bicycle…”

It got me thinking that small splines are always fiddly little bits, and square tapers are stout simple means to install something. It’s actually easy enough to mount an Octalink crank one spline tooth off, so that the arms end up misaligned.  You certainly (well, you certainly should) notice it before you get on and pedal, but it’s darned near impossible to not notice the 90 degree aberration if you did that on a square taper bottom bracket.

In other words, why did Shimano - or any of the manufacturer’s who signed on for the non-compatible ISIS version that came out around the same time - feel it necessary to take a simple working standard and change it?

I expect the answer might have had something to do with CNC-machining, and the boom of the mountain bike market. In the early 90’s, it seemed that anyone with an expired military contract and a machine shop was cranking out bike parts.  Cranks were particularly sexy - highly visible, easy to make, easy to make unique looking.  Just going to the BikePro crank overview gives 20 or so different manufacturers.  My paper catalog shows about 18 pages of cranks, from companies like Kooka, Grove Innovations, Adventure Components, Flite Control, Grafton, Sampson, T-Gear, Sims and TNT. A goodly number of names that surfaced then and have since submerged.

Thing is, groovy-cool CNC’ing from raw billet can lead to some pretty dramatic failures, especially when the raw billet gets swaged onto a tapered connection and then really cranked down.  Well made cranks are generally cold-forged, which means that you have to spend the money to make dies and such, but you align the grain of the metal in specific ways, to offset stresses from things like, oh, attaching them to the a tapered spindle and then torquing the heck out of them by pressing the pedals.

My recollection was that the ISIS standard and the Octalink standard came out at the same time, but I’m not sure that’s entirely correct.  Maybe what happened was that Shimano wanted to regain the crank business - because at that time, they were really losing ground to non-Shimano cranks (and generally, across the board, on brakes, levers, etc.) - and so unveiled this new design of bottom bracket to make sure people used their cranks. The ISIS may have been a reaction to gain the claimed benefits to the newer BB design - since the larger, hollow spindle was supposed to be - wait for it - stiffer and lighter (lordy, how many times do we need to hear that?).  But, I have to believe that setting a CNC’d crank arm into a fitted interface reduced the stresses from installation.

Which is why, some 10 years later, I’m looking at my computer monitor with a magnified image of a greasy splined interface, knowing that I have it lined up properly, but still making sure that I’m removing any variable that could be claimed as my incompetence.

At this point, a couple of rides later, things continue to work as they should.  But, I really have not stressed things.  In fact, my working plan is to have another moderate ride or two, then remove the arm and check the splines for galling.

That working plan got me thinking about cranks which are actually made these days, because at some point, I’m going to get tired of messing around with this thing, or Ritchey is going to run out of replacement arms for me.

Sugino is the the logical first visit.  They have the XD2 which was the original crank on the Hilsen (shown below), and was used on the Quickbeam as well.  It’s a very good value for the money, cold forged, silver uses a square taper.  There are probably only two things that fall into the negative column for me - they are a hair wider than they need to be (Q-Factor/Tread):

As a non-scale comparison, here’s the same view of an totally different crank on an entirely different bicycle:

This image was taken of the Dawes, which has narrower rear triangle spacing (hence a slightly straighter angle of the chainstay) and uses an older Shimano 600 series (last year before they renamed it “Ultegra”) road crank.

To inaccurately illustrate the difference, I hand-positioned my XD2 non-drive arm in roughly the appropriate position while balancing the bike and snapping this photo with my other hand:

You can at least get a sense that the new/current design will sit further away from the chainstay - necessary if you are designing a crank for more current, shorter wheelbase bicycles which tend to have wider stays.  And, I have shown a complete inability to be hampered by slight changes in this area.  Some riders may be more directly impacted by it.  I get on a wider set of cranks, go “whoa! those are wide!” and then promptly forget about it within the next half hour of riding.

The Sugino XD2’s also use the evil hidden bolt arrangement.  The EHB arrangement is peculiar to triple chainring cranks, I think.  The first time I came across it was with the Specialized crank (Strongarm? Son of Strongarm? I’m pretty sure it’s out there someone in the parts pile…) that came on my old M2 Stumpjumper.  The outer two rings are held on with a standard “sandwich” of outer ring / machined spacer on the crankarms / inner ring. The fifth bolt position is in line with the crankarm itself.  At this position, they machined a small gap so that you can fit the threaded nut into position. (I don’t have an image of this detail right now.  You’d think, with all the pictures I’ve taken….)

What you end up with is a gap that is a bit too narrow for the chainring bolt tool to get in there. Which means you’ve got to figure out some combination of tools and angles to keep the threaded bit from turning as you torque down the bolt. With the Specialized design, I used to have to shove a rag and screwdriver tip in there. It’s a minor inconvenience, and I seem to overcome the issue.  It just always gets me frowning when dealing with it. It seems really slick to integrate the 5th bolt to the arm itself, but just doesn’t work for me.

(As a comparison, the Ritchey Cross Cranks I have use the same hidden 5th bolt design, but just threaded the hole so you use a standard length bolt and go for it.  I’ve never had the threading fail, but have had one of those bolts back out on me.)

One design I like is the Sugino Alpina 2

Simple, silver, 5 exposed bolt design, but with the clever addition of material as “webbing” near the arm itself, presumably to distribute stresses effectively.  What Sugino doesn’t indicate is whether or not they have a similar tread width to the XD2’s.  Unfortunately, the website doesn’t have anything other than a side view.  It’s only possible to guess from the images. There are a few vendors which list the Alpina (or Cospea) which appears to be more expensive.  The only domestic “for sale” listing of the Alpina2 had it at ~$125  (significantly less than the Alpina/Cospea), but also says this isn’t available.

Poking around their website again, it appears that Sugino has also added a “Mighty Tour” to their lineup.  Hard to say what the differences may be - it does seem to have sharper finishing and may be an actual replacement for the coveted Alpina/Cospea.  But, it also seems that sometimes models surface on the Sugino site which don’t migrate into production models.

Returning again to the larger picture, a few years ago, Shimano came up withe the Hollowtech II series, which featured an outboard bearing design and “two-piece” crankset.  Basically, this let them run an even larger spindle, which they permanently attached to the right crank arm.  The left arm was then attached to the other end (using smaller teeth on the spindle, but wisely using a wider alignment notch which prevented misalignment.  The outboard bearing design meant that all of a sudden, facing the bottom bracket of the bicycle frame became important again. It also meant that the chainline gets adjusted by using spacers between the bearings and the frame. You aren’t going to be able to tweak the position of the front chainrings by a few millimeters by getting a shorter bottom bracket spindle.

And, I’m not against this design precisely. Initially, there were a few simple designs, but everyone now seems to be phasing those out in favor of carbon.  SRAM, for example, initially brought out a Rival series crank which was silver and looked pretty darned nice and allowed the use of a smaller inner chainring due to the 110BCD.  Which of course meant that that they had to change the design, going to a black anodized finish and electing to use a 130BCD (minimim small chainring size of 38T).  If silver was the only concern, you can still find their “Cross” crank model around (or the indistinguishable S300 GXP), but again, you are back to using the “road” rings of 130BCD.  Everything else in the upper end is a carbon crank.

Which is really off the table for me, as the cranks which I alluded to way back at the beginning of this saga - the ones which failed twice on me - were carbon. More precisely, they were carbon wrapped over an aluminum skeleton.  Light and stiff and all carbony, they both failed the same way, going from perfectly fine to “that feels funny” to rubbery, bendy, twist-em-with-your-hand delaminatedness within 15 minutes.  Had it not been for the aluminum bones, they would have been useless.  As it was, I was lucky enough both times to be relatively close to home.

I know why they failed - it’s simple enough.  The resins had not permeated all the layers of carbon - clearly a manufacturing issue. The company (which curiously enough then got out of the crankset business entirely) replaced both pair after each failure, but I never used the third replacement - sold ‘em off (with full disclosure) to someone for whom carbon held a compelling allure and bought the Ritchey Cross cranks.

The companies who are still making carbon cranks have certainly had more than a few manufacturing cycles to shake down their processes.  My guess is that they have more weight in resin than they do in carbon, and cranks are probably a reasonable application for the material, as impacts tend to be few, and you can, theoretically make the highest use of the directional nature of carbon. If you are going to hang carbon on your bicycle, it probably makes sense to put it there.

I just don’t really want them on my bike. Or maybe it’s just that I’d like to have a little more choice. Carbon just strikes me more and more like a disposable material.  Maybe it’s aesthetics. For me, carbon starts shiny and sleek, but gets ratty when it ages, while to my eye the metals gain a burnished and rubbed finish as the years go by.

When looking back to aluminum, I have to admit that two aluminum crankarms failed on me as well.  One was pretty danged old, failed exactly as aluminum tends to  - minor warning cracks (which I did not notice), followed by immediate separation.  That was the most dangerous example, as I went down reasonably quickly with vehicular traffic behind me. The other was sub-spec material, as I’ve rehashed to death at this point.

All of that strangely points me back to steel. On a set of cranks. Which is about as common in the current market as…well… a set of steel cranks.

What it could let you do, is work with some of the newer, lighter steels, have something which takes impacts well, fails in a slow manner and could look really nice.  The only downside would be that they require plating for that snazzy shiny silver look that aluminum does so well.  As I poked around the inerwebs, muttering about this and the kids on my lawn, I came across something that fit the bill -

I found this image on Greg Terzian’s blog, with some really interesting historical information.  First, these “Redline” Flight cranks were made by…Sugino.  Second, as Greg states, “the Sugino 400 drive arm had a 110BCD five-bolt aluminum spider permanently installed.”  And, the sharp-eyed among you have already noticed, it’s designed for a traditional square-taper bottom bracket. As his writings mention, these are of course highly coveted by collectors, who probably wouldn’t think of slapping ‘em on a bike and actually using them. 

But, if I had some, I’d run ‘em…



Roadeo, Roadeo, Oh Have You Met Roadeo?
Filed under: general, photos, bike tech, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:21 am

You may have heard the rumors that Rivendell Bicycle Works is prototyping a lighter, club-oriented bike.  As with a lot of things Rivvish, the info first popped up over on the RBW Owners Bunch List.  (In fact, there’s even a thread about it…)

Well, things have continued to move along on that front, and while I’m cursing a schedule that prevents me from dropping everything and rushing over to the RBWHQ&L in Walnut Creek today (or tomorrow…) to see this bicycle model in person, Grant Peterson was kind enough to share some info. His words follow:

We got the first prototype Roadeo yesterday, and Mark built it up and rode it, likes it a lot. We’ll have something on the site on it tomorrow or Saturday, probably saturday… Here are some AFAQ:

1. Why does it look so unRivendellish?
a. It IS steel, it IS lugged, it HAS a fork crown and a nice fork rake. You CAN fit a 35mm tire. It has longish (by race bike standards) chainstays, and a lowISH bottom bracket. It has a clamp-on front derailer. All quite in keeping with all of our bikes.

2. Threadless?
a. Done it before, with the Legolas. The Roadeo will be available threaded or threadless, same price, your choice.

3. That price?
a. $2,000 frame and fork. And we’ll have some package options—likely a club-rider-racerish package with a road double and SRAM brifters  for around $4,200; and a country-ish version, probably with a triple….for $3,600. Specs to be determined, but one racey, one normal….with mixitup flexibility, whatever one likes.

3. Who makes it?
a. ‘ford.  (ed - that’d be “Waterford”)

4. Colors?
a. white with red; white with blue; any color you like except white or cream, with cream.

5. Tubing?
a. Mix of Reynolds 725 and TrueTemp OX Plat. As thin as I/Grant could stand to go. (0.65 butts in the tt and dt, with 0.45 bellies)

6. Frame weight?
a. Well, man, the prototype frame here weighs 4lb 3oz, in a 55cm. Now, there are ways to trim another half pound off it, but not without getting super ridiculous. We’re shooting for 3.9999999999999xinfinity pounds, and think we can get there by trimming a lug, using a narrower crown, monkeying around with the chainstay brake bridge, possibly using a different bb shell and seat tube. But that’s it! Then it’ll weigh what it weighs, and it’s over.

7. Whole bike?
a. as shown, 20.7. with four ounces off the frame, three off the fork (we can do this easily on a threadless), and something else, we can get it to 19.9999999999999 pounds with Jack Brown greens.

Some spec notes:
The best brakes for it are the Tektro Bigmouth 57s. They’re super light, and allow 35mm+ tires, releasable without deflating. The photo shows a SRAM crank–Mark picked all the parts for it–but we may go with a D/A compact. It’s all up to Mark (I just designed the frame).

Eventually the particulars will go onto our site, but I hate taking about decimal metric numbers as though the decimals matter and the numbers reveal the essence of the frame. I don’t like stubby chainstay even a little, but I don’t want my preference for 44.5+cm chainstays to smite this bike before it leaves the gates, and in the big pic 43/43/5 is plenty fine, and if it works for Mark, it’ll work for anybody. The rest of the numbers are right down the middle of our lane, with a slight Mark-’fluence, because Mark has that ‘fluence, and he knows. I may get a 59, so I jogged a little with the numbers for the 59, designing it just for me, but it’ll be fine for anybody who fits it. I think the bb is a few mm lower than the 57 and the 61—77 or 78 instead of 75. Not significant, but it’ll allow me the clearance I want with the fatties I’ll ride on it.

Who the bike is for:
Club riders who weigh under 210l bs and who aren’t looking to load it up or ride it on trails. We have other bikes for that, and the Roadeo is for road riding with minimal gear. There are no rack eyelets (reinforces the message) but there are fender eyelets on the dropouts.

ANYBODY is welcome to come by and ride it, and we should have another prototype in a month or so. Maybe another Mark’s size, or maybe mine, not sure.

It is every bit as zippy as any road bike, and a lot  more useful, comfy, safe…and lower priced than a lot of them..


full rez version of the image - click here

Just Some Images
Filed under: photos, bike tech
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 8:04 am

Felt like I could finally wrap my hand around a wrench yesterday, so spent a little time fiddling with the Hilsen setup.  I’d cut the housing too short when I swapped out the stem a while back, which sent the get-homer-on-the-road impulse into a tailspin.  Now, however, the idea of gears seems good, as  my left shoulder isn’t too ready for the stress of handlebar honking.   Got a little twine-fixated, but really like the touch of wrapping near the barend shifter.  Not my best bar wrap job, but it got things ready to ride.  Which, after a quick swap to smooth tires, seems like a fine way to spend the morning.

Enjoy these while I’m gone -

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Singlespeed Love
Filed under: rides, photos
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:30 pm

Whatever else single speed cycling is, it often shows only your weaknesses. You spin like a madman to cover the flat distances and can’t quite maintain a cadence.  You go anaerobic on steep inclines and walk.

But single speed cycling also gives back. Its praise honest. No distractions of gearing options and false optimism.

There are trails which don’t change. Or at least, they ascend at an angle which won’t change appreciably within my lifetime.  A few months ago, the main climb of my local trail had me wondering about age, flagging strength and whether it might be time to change some gearing. I could do the work, but needed to loop out and pause to regain my breath, stop on the bridge to take a moment of recovery.   Rode the whole thing out of the saddle at sort of an ugly, diesel-esque cadence, momentum hard to come by.

But last night, I nipped out as the sun set and ran the trails. Miles have been a bit hard to come by this month, so I wasn’t sure how it would go.  But, I stayed seated and found power, raised out of the saddle and had the odd feeling of accelleration. In short, it felt fast, clean, good.

And therein lies the beauty of the single gear. Same gearing. Same trails. Some honest and direct feedback.

That tenuous feeling of grace.  One of the reasons we ride.

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Monday, Monday
Filed under: general, photos, bike commuting
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:53 pm

Haven’t been taking too many photos on recent rides. Focus has been necessarily elsewhere of late, which means that I’ve had to sneak in miles a bit here and there.  I think I got my battery sets mixed up, so when I did pull the pencam out, it made a warbling beep and frizzled out.

But on the way in this  morning, there was a grand alignment of light, image and power sources, so when the feeling of efficiency and smoothness hit this morning, I remembered to take a few shots.

Nothing special.  I mean nothing really in the Big Picture sense.  Just a nice bit of road and smooth pedal stroke to start the day.

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Current Classic Gallery Update
Filed under: general, photos
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 7:42 am

Bit off a small chunk of the backlog last evening, and the Current Classics Gallery now has a few new entries. They start at 639 with a beautifully photographed Rawland Olaf, courtesy of Joe S. (who also landed an image in last year’s Cyclofiend.com calendar) -

Me… I’m riding in today for the first time in May.  Seemed to have shaken whatever minor grunge had nicked me last week. Woke up seriously sore from last night’s  yoga class.  “Worked” sore - not damaged sore.  Been bending and stretching in very non-cycling directions, which is a good thing.  Have found that after pretty seriously bouncing off my left hip a couple years ago, I must’ve over corrected, and now find that there are some oddly tight and immobile aspects in my right hip.

Which is, I reckon, one of the reasons I’m doing this.

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Filed under: general, photos, bike commuting
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:02 am

The Marin County Bicycle Coalition had sent out these two photos a few weeks ago, to remind us that actual work had begun on the 1100 foot long Cal Park Hill Tunnel between San Rafael and Larkspur.  The project broke ground back in September, after a final meeting green-lighted it in - what ?- February 2007.  (Project info

The only truly aggravating aspect is that the fine folks in Larkspur pushed for limited access.  Currently, the plan is to have the tunnel open from 5 am until 11 pm for the first 6 months, and then re-evaluate that.  Of course, this means they need to create a lockable exterior, pay for someone to go open it and then close it (at both ends) each day. When the Larkspur City Council members asked in the meetings for safety statistics for tunnels which were closed versus thosse which were opened, they found that no major tunnels on either commute or recreational routes ever closed.  The Cal Park tunnel would be the first.  Which means that if you were to roll up to the Larkspur end at 11:05 or so, you would find yourself at a dead end, with little visibilty from anywhere. Seems to me to be a much more dangerous situation than anything which can occur with an open tunnel, on a commute route between two cities.

I guess it’s one small step at a time. I’m resisting (well, I guess I’m not) the comment that the folks in Larkspur don’t want certain elements of San Rafael to have easy night time access to their protected area of the county.  Anyway.  That’s not helpful.

The point I was going to make is that things are progressing. There’s actually a video from ABC-7 News which was taken about the same time (early February).  Some decent historical footage regarding the extensive inter-urban electric train system which networked Marin County once upon a time.  (And I just found that an MCBC member has been posting more images on this project to Flickr.)

Anyway - these two images were forwarded in a recent MCBC email update -

This photo shows the removal of the old, wooden arches and crossmembers, in preparation for new steel arches and shotcreting.

In the photo below, you can see how much progress has been made.

Newly repaired section of Cal Park Tunnel

All of which is wonderful, but it’s still only the first of the many lost-but-not-forgotten tunnels in the county.  This Wednesday, in Mill Valley, there’s a meeting on the Alto Tunnel.  This runs underneath Camino Alto and could connect Mill Valley with Corte Madera. (And no, you don’t have to use the tunnel if they built it - you can still go over the hill if you want to…)  There is more significant opposition to the study and the potential reuse of this connector.  So, it would be good meeting to attend.

Mill Valley to Corte Madera Bike and Pedestrian Corridor Study Public Workshop

Wednesday, March 4th, 6:30 PM
Edna Maguire School: 80 Lomita, Mill Valley

The Marin County Bicycle Coalition encourages you to attend this very important public meeting hosted by the County of Marin, which will focus on existing conditions and the upcoming evaluation of potential bicycle/pedestrian routes between Mill Valley and Corte Madera.

Included in this study will be an evaluation of opening the Alto Tunnel. The Alto Tunnel has long been considered an ideal route for connecting Mill Valley and Corte Madera, creating a safe, fast, and flat route for bicycle commuters, recreational riders, and pedestrians. This route would help get people out of their cars, reducing greenhouse gas emissions and supporting the local business districts of both Mill Valley and Corte Madera. Also being studied are the routes over Camino Alto and Horse Hill.

The link between Mill Valley and Corte Madera is the biggest gap in the North-South Greenway (a pathway separated from cars) being built between Sausalito and Sonoma County. Please attend this meeting to indicate your support for the safest and best design alternatives. We’ve been waiting 8 years for this study to begin – now is the time to get involved!

If you can attend, please RSVP to Andy Peri: Andy@marinbike.org or call 415-457-0802

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A Cleverly Delusional Idea
Filed under: photos, cyclocross, video, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:57 am

This bit of the story continues from here.

After peeling my muddy, soaked gear off and slipping into something at least dry, I wandered out to find the gang. JimG had brought brownies, and between those and a quick slug of strong and hot coffee from the thermos, I continued to feel pretty warm and upbeat.  The folks up in Santa Rosa put on a right fine and homey show.  At one tent, bags of free pretzels  were in attendance. Others had food, beer and coffee offerings.  Fundraising raffles and the BikeMonkey magazine folks. An exuberant marching band (the Hubbub Club) arrived to regale us with tunes. A couple of beautiful weimaraners and a puppy or two hung out, wondering both about all the complex smells about and the sanity of their owners for bringing them along on a sloppy day.

It felt like I was surfing a bit of the post-race elation, but as the capillaries began to constrict again, the cold and damp seeped in a little bit. After a quick facilities check, it seemed to make sense to sit for a spell and see if there was any reason to think that racing again was a good idea. I regained the motor vehicle, wrapped some jackets over myself and sipped my way through the Clif electrolyte beverage. When mixing it that morning, I realized that I had bought a “Hot Apple Cider” which the instructions specifically said was to be made hot - the implication of a glowingly warm drink being a friendly recharge.  Ignoring those instructions, I had made it with cold water - it isn’t like I had a large enough thermos to maintain another hot beverage anyway.  Still, it was pretty good, and the chemical compounds seemed to do their thing.

Somewhere out on the other side of the front windshield, the women’s wave went off.  A few of the fast folks I recognized from the BASP races moved out to the front, the thickening mud making progress iffy and soiling the pink-and-flowereed Sheila Moon racing kits that were in attendance.  Singlespeeds, A’s and B’s were all out in a 45 minute race. Whoever was off the front moved through the conditions with an amazing momentum and fluidity. But, her dark jersey quickly became mud-sodden, so by the time she went by, I couldn’t pick out any logos (and as of right now, they still haven’t posted results on the Bikemonkey.net site).

By this point, I had maybe an hour and half until the Old Guy Geared race at 2:30. I had two thoughts on the subject. One, I didn’t feel totally torched by the first race, and in fact had felt a little better towards the end of it.  Two, I have a pathological dislike for racing/riding for less time than it takes to get to the race/ride. At this point, I’d  gone for about 15 minutes less than it took to get there (well, if you discount the warm-up riding).

Stepping back out into the day, I made my way down to the signup tent, and inquired what one had to do if one was so idiotic as to want to take the organizers up on the offer to engage in the free second race. Unfortunately, the Human Services Officer was down at the beer tent, heckling the women’s racers, so there was no one to engage in an intervention.  Thus, the sign-up folks were all too happy to give me a second number, and transfer my information to the next start sheet.  At the same time, I met a fellow who was also older and multi-geared.  We chatted a bit, and I mentioned that I’d done the singlespeed race earlier.  He said, “Oh man, I did that earlier this season.  It was a great workout, but it hurt!

Somewhere behind me, there was the of sound a large and heavy door swing shut on rusted ancient hinges, closing with a resonant echo that dissolved into eerie silence.

Oh.  Goodie.

Since commitment to a stupid idea is often key, I decided to change  back into a more cycling-oriented attire before completely losing my nerve.  Luckily, I had a backup set of dry clothes, so there was not the chilling sensation of damp and muddy chamois contact.  About this time, it struck me that the C. Xavier Hilsen was shod with my older, much more worn set of tires.  If any course conditions cried for every bit of tire surface area and knibbly bite-ability, this was it. Conditions continued to degrade visibly as the other race laps continued.

This was during the women’s race -

Hemming and hawing a bit, time suddenly seemed much shorter, and the reappearance of JimG was highly fortuitous.  He dove into the task of swapping my muddy front tire from the Quickbeam over to the Hilsen.   Quicker than I could hand him levers and a pump, the newer tread was in place, and there was pretty much nothing left to do but race.


I pedaled around a little bit, found a Honey Stinger Gu-analog in my pocket and fired that down for whatever good it might do.  Then lined up in the wave of guys who were old enough to know better.  Putting my foot down as we waited for instructions, it seemed to set very deeply into the mud. There was no longer any grass left to speak of. When I picked my foot up for a second, the attached mud made it appreciably heavier. Of course, once you are out there with a number pinned to your side, you have pretty much traded away any opportunity to slink unnoticed back to the car.

An electric guitar version of the star-spangled banner played, and then the young pup B’s headed out. A minute or so later, we dug in and saddled up. Things felt a little clunky at the start, and it seemed as though my swapped-in-from-the-MB1 WTB saddle was a trifle too high.  Beginner’s error, but no time to mess with it. 

Actually.  Honestly.  The “beginner’s error” in this race was bothering to bring a bike with gears.  For the next 45 minutes or so, there was no chance of spinning out the Quickbeam, and although the C. X. Hilsen would’ve gotten jealous, I think it secretly would have been very happy to stay in the back of the dry vehicle. Plus, there would have been a few less surfaces to pile on mud.

I suppose for the first 15 minutes or so, things didn’t really feel that bad.  Slipped, slid and slogged a bit, to be sure, but nothing really horrible.  Then I noticed that the mud seemed to be packing up a bit. Then a bit more. The bike began to get noticeably heavy.  Then my body began to get noticeably heavy.  The bicycle had an excuse, as it was adding mud that I couldn’t manage to shed through momentum, the odd bunny hop or simply dropping the bike hard after shouldering it. The race became a bit of a slog.

They say when you’re head is down, you’re in a bit of trouble.  In the above photo, you’ll notice that if my head were any further down, it would start going up.  I must point out though, in this small sized image of Gino’s photo, it appears as though my eyes are closed too.  They weren’t.  I mean, it wasn’t that bad.

The course continued to dish out its challenges.  The intended directional input seemed to matter less and less with each lap.  Each time down the creek dip brought with it new and interesting explorations of geometry.  I think I manged to stay upright most of the times, but it wasn’t pretty and the tangential angle began earlier each time. The runups were, well…runups.  In the singlespeed race, I’d managed to pedal up some of the time, but now the power had seeped out of my legs and it became a game of trying to ride the momentum to the moment of inertial loss, then hop off and try to find some angle of toe entry or foot splaying that would generate something resembling grip.

I think I cursed once.  Well, I know I did.  But, I did apologize.

However low optimism set in the west, somewhere through the mud-soaked haze I could hear Gino and JimG yelling.  At some point, Gino ran alongside for a while (well, let’s be honest here - he trotted… Ok…he at least walked briskly…) barking encouragement and snapping a few photos. I don’t think I thanked him enough afterwards - it was actually quite helpful.

The short stair runup became a weird thing to fear each lap, but the tactile sensation became quite loathesome.  As it was the one place to be shouldering the bike, I would grab the downtube.  Each time, there was a thick, cold hunk of mud which would form into my glove, creating one of those weird, finger imprint shapes that was popular on golf club handles for a while.

The announcer took up some of the heckling as well, as I would generally go by with few, if any competitors around. At one point, I guess he figured out this was my second race, and offered the observation that it must’ve seemed like a good idea at the time. Only, he again mined that for all the humor it was worth.

Yep.  Like I didn’t think of that, myself.

Anyway, it eventually ended.

I pedaled off into the sunset following the guy I never quite caught, chatted with him for a little bit while my breathing normalized. Then the gang caught up to me and the documentation ensued.

That, my friends, is one muddy bike.  I guess it kinda gives away the fact that I didn’t use the big ring too much during the race. But, it was over.

We hung for a while watching the A’s go past.  The rain which I’d prayed for during my race finally came.  I used up 8 or 10 water bottles to try to knock off enough mud to load it onto the roof rack. JimG was kind enough to offer the use of the shower at his hotel room. Gino was resourceful enough to notice a stray hose outside the same hotel and I got to play euro-trash bike racer and hose everything off near the front entrance. 

We rested a bit, and then headed up to Healdsburg, where aside from a tippy table dropping a pint or so of someone elsee’s beer onto my lap, it continued to be a great evening. Bear Republic serves a great root beer and ale, some darned fine polenta and one of the zippiest concoctions of garlic fries you are likely to come across.

The company was off-the-charts great, and it was wonderful to cross the streams - introducing the Bay Areans and Chico Hooligans forged friendships which should continue to grow in future rides and outings.

Rumor has it that we may all head to the next CX Nats up in Bend, Oregon in December. Word.  (Um… do the kids still say that?)

Video now posted here.

Slip-Slidin’ Saturday
Filed under: photos, cyclocross, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:15 pm

As mentioned here a few times, the Chico Hooligans had planned an offensive to the south, and showed up in force minus one for the Last CX Race of Last Season, put on last Saturday (2/14/09) in Santa Rosa by the enterprising folks at BikeMonkey.net.  I hadn’t toed the line or thought about time and place based racing since BASP #4 back in November. (Scheduling conflicts had prevented a full-season attendance, causing me to miss the race at Coyote Point.)  But, as any cross-junkie will tell you, once you start thinking about barriers, run ups and lap cards, the twitch sets in and you’ve gotta get your fix.

The good stuff, y’know - the uncut, pure cyclocross fix - always has some weather mixed in.

Oh sure, we had a little residual mud down at the Candlestick Park race.  But, for the most part, the most pressing question about the weather was where to toss your arm warmers before your race, so you could find them again afterwards.

It started raining mid-week or so. Big, heavy drops with serious intent. Our sump pump kicked on for the first time in months, it seemed.  Then, it just kind of kept raining.  And (for  us) it was a relatively cold rain - snow levels were said to be below 2,000 feet.  Though we probably wouldn’t see flurries, it would certainly be damp.

Chico Gino had come across a Vanilla Singlespeed CX bike through an incredibly serendipitous chain of events. So, he had entered in the B Singlespeed division.  I decided that would be a fun way to spend the day, so on Friday night, I swapped, flipped and stripped the Quickbeam, and made it ready to race.  The Hilsen was still in C. Xavier Hilsen mode, and since the second race was free, I brought it along just in case I was stupid enough to do the Geared, Old-Guys race.

On race day, my wife was feeling a little less-than-perfect, not buoyed by the possibility of either (A) standing in the rain watching us race or (B) sitting in the car trying to stay warm. Against her strong protestations, I made her sit this one out and headed north with a loaded car. Which should explain the dearth of photos for this event.

It rained most of the way to the Sonoma county border, then cleared to a low cloud cover, with some heavy dark clouds still threatening to the west. I got to turn off my wipers, but the steady hiss of tires on wet pavement continued to the race venue - Doyle Park in Santa Rosa. I’d never been to that particular park before, arrived at the wrong parking lot, corrected and pulled off a ridiculously fine bit of parking karma to snag a place facing the course. Exiting the vehicle, an orange and metal-fendered bicycle eased along at the edge of my vision.  This turned out to be Claire, Gino’s wife, who had ridden over from the hotel and was tracking down the rest of the gang. They appeared quickly, and I met Paul P., Roy and Renée, who had previously existed only in photos by reputation. Gino was there, and kindly allowed me to fondle and parking lot ride the Vanilla, which was even lighter than I’d imagined and ridiculously nimble-feeling.

Back on the Quickbeam, I plodded around the course to find and deconstruct the tricky bits, figured conditions would degrade quickly once tires began removing the sod, and opted for trying to get my heart rate up on the paved roads around the park.

Before too long, we all lined up on the squishy wet grass and awaited the start. As B Singlespeeders, we were looking at a 30 minute race, and had to wait for the Men’s C wave to start before they released us.  Someone had observed that the lawn had no idea what was about to happen to it.

Then we were racin’!

Gino hit the gas, his BMX-roots still vibrant and fertile.  I slip-slopped a bit on the grass before beginning to thread my way through all manner of Junior B’s and C’s that started with us. They routed us on a “follow-the-concrete” parade lap to begin, and within a minute or two, we came upon a herd of brake-squealing, momentum-killing, oh-we-have-to-ride-this? folks in the C’s.

Now, I bear no animosity towards the C’s.  And it wasn’t like a title or a jersey was on the line. And, to be blunt, it wasn’t like I was going to win or anything. And it isn’t like I haven’t hit the brakes at an inopportune moment and heard the gasp of exasperation from a faster rider who had been behind me.  But, there were obviously four relatively tricky bits on the course, and I  had at least made a plan on what I wanted to do. 

Just to break with the race narrative briefly, here is some unsolicited advice to any new or novice cross (or mtb) riders -

Y’know that “perfect” line you rode during your practice lap? (You did ride a practice lap or two, right?)  It will not exist for you.  Sure, it’s nice to have a sense of where you’d like to be, but for the first lap or so, you need to realize that every other person in your group wants to ride the exact same slice of  topography in pretty much the same way.  This will lead to everyone in front of you hitting their brakes, and, in the most egregious circumstances, standing stock still astride their bikes until they get their chance to ride “their” line. Now, remember, the course exists from tape to tape, not just the smoothed line that you rode earlier. So, when you come across a tricky bit during the early parts of the race, assume two things: (A) someone will be stopped and standing right in the middle of where you planned on riding, and (B) someone will have fallen and will be lying directly in your exit line.  In fact, it’s  probably best to assume that you will need to get through the section by following The Worst Line Imaginable. Therefore, when you engage in your practice lap, see what alternatives you can find.

Oh, and during the race, it’s ok to pick your bike up and run past people who are just standing there. As long as you don’t hit them, hook bars with them or yell at them.

Dropped in, scrambled up, brought a tree with me, detached it and remounted.  Then we were into the “intestine” section - multiple right/left switchbacks among trees with incredibly short straights between - a course feature which I really hate to encounter on a singlespeed, when you are among geared riders, as they are twiddling in too low of a gear and you end doing a fair amount of half-stroke, half-stroke, half-stroke then trackstand work.  This was exacerbated by the quickly degrading surface of the grass, which began to turn into a chili-type mud beneath our tires. 

Still Gino was nearby -

and I thought I saw the white Rock Lobster singlespeed that Paul was riding.

We worked our way out of the intestines (?!), found the only serious straightaway which led across a couple of curbs and into a broader set of switchbacks in front of the announcer and the tents. To keep interest up, the announcer was openly heckling us, and seemed to be mining the “keep-both-hands-on-that-Vanilla!” vein at Gino to humorous effect. Another switchback in front of the crowd, two barriers (a little higher than most and built to what appeared to be Mil-Spec) and another switchback, and we were heading towards the creek.

Gino shot by the other way, a vision of momentum and grace.  I fell in with another group picking its way to the creek area. Luckily this batch had a little better sense of purpose, and we brought some speed into the drop in, which curved left and immediately climbed back  up. 

Well, theoretically.  I found myself on a slide-for-life on a tangent to my preferred route.  Slid for a while on shoulder and hip toward the water, came to a stop, got untangled and scrambled up the muddy bank. Dropped in on the next dip, came upon a bottleneck as the narrow trail constricted to a narrower set of concrete stairs.  This was thoughtfully covered in sand, and had a 3″ steel pipe as a handrail at hip height, so you bang against it to constrain any course deviation.  The sand, as it turned out, was a feature for the next ten or fifteen yards or so, bringing one of the endearing features of Dutch cyclocross to our fair lands.

We arched around the playground, found the sand once more and then bumped up a curb and down off some concrete edge to the creek again, looped around and came up.  At this point, I realized my bars had been tweaked by the unscheduled landing, so I hopped off and twisted them back.  The Quickbeam began to wonder just what it had done to deserve this kind of treatment.  Back on again, we hit brief pavement, then headed to the fourth creek dip, which had been the first tricky bit on the first lap. 

From here on, it was back to the maddeningly-slow-intestine-bit, followed by the why-don’t-I-have-any-power straight section, then the yeah-just-keep-heckling-monkey-boy bit, the sloppy  running-the-barriers-is-supremely-uncomfortable
-but-for-some-reason-it-feels-better-than-pushing-pedals part, before repeating the creek dips. After the first lap or two, I was feeling pretty crappy. The mud was thickening and momentum was fleeting.

Then it started raining. Which you might think was a bad thing.  But, you’d be wrong.

First, I’m one of those people that actually enjoys riding in the rain. Second, it made things wet rather than just gloopy, and the mud stopped sticking. In fact, it was downright refreshing.

As further support for the Kent Peterson mantra “Keep pedaling, it will get better”, I did.  It did. And I commenced to start catching people. There was a Legolas guy out there, and I nicked by Paul (though I had to resort to making clanky derailleur sounds  to fake him out), and some other folks.  I did have to wonder how much some of those full suspension mountain bikes were starting to weigh by the last couple laps. 

The C race leader caught me in the last curve, and so I got a free pass on the last lap.  The fast kids like Gino had to finish theirs out. This was a cause for much rejoicing.

Gino finished shortly thereafter, just off the podium.  Nicked by someone who went on to win her “A” singlespeed race.

The singlespeed force is strong in this one…

I spent a little time trying to knock the big chunks of muck off the Quickbeam, then sat for a spell. I don’t know if it was the new-to-me Clif electrolyte drink that I quaffed, or just the exuberance of escaping from a shorter race with fingers, toes and teeth attached, but, while the more sensible folks were donning warmer clothing and enjoying the ambience…

… an altogether much less clever idea was forming in my brain.

This story continues here…..

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Filed under: photos, bike tech, cyclocross
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:28 pm



And we’re ready as we’re gonna be for tomorrow’s little cross shindig up in Santa Rosa. I let Gino talk me into doing the B-Singlespeed.  Short race, but fast youngsters. If I don’t decide to play lame afterwards, the second race is free, so maybe I’ll get the Hilsen muddy, too. Depends how nasty things are out there after showers all week.

And, of course, how nasty I feel…

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Shellac Merit Badge
Filed under: photos, bike tech, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 1:58 pm

My bar tape finishing habits have been bothering me for some time. They began back in my Cinelli cork splash days (oh, come one… we all did it at least once…) when the “Cinelli-Cinelli-Cinelli…” finish wrap tape snapped (again!) just as I applied what should have been an appropriate amount of pressure.  The electrician’s tape roll hung on a nail by the shared workbench, and I’d watched my sensei use it quickly and efficiently numerous times, while he would silently shake his head as I snapped my way through the stuff that came in the box. Since the final breakage of the C-tape meant it no longer even made one complete orbit of the bars, I reached for large black roll.

It worked quite quickly, and you could put a boatload of pressure on it.  The resulting snap-back of the tape tightened things up even further. From that day forward, it was three and a half wraps of black electrician’s tape.  No more tape popping and unravelling from the stem area.

More recently, it just started to seem cheap and tawdry. I’d notice the way it would catch the light and look wrinkled and scrunched.  I’d see the adhesive residue creeping out from underneath, and spend more time cleaning up the bars to remove the gunk.

Recently, as the white bar wrap on the Quickbeam became increasingly dishwater grey, I felt it was time to move on. Back when the Hilsen arrived, Mark at Rivendell had finished off the cork wrap with an exceptional twining job:

In the year or so since I’ve had that bike, I’ve realized that you spend a fair amount of time with that general area in your field of vision. The care put into the twined and shellacked wrap tended to bring about a smile.

Honestly, I’ve been shying away from the whole shellac thing. Twining the bar tape seemed a bit like a simple gateway drug.  Adding shellac just seemed to change people.  It seemed that fine and normal folks would start there, then start wrapping and shellacking all manner of things.  Which, in and of itself is fine. But, where do you draw the line?  Clearly, I needed some boundries.  Or, at least a safe word.  Maybe a lacquer-buddy… My wife was starting to work with oil paints again, so we volunteered to watch out for each other.

The twine turned out to be the easy part (although RBW just mentioned that their source may discontinue the product).  I just put it on the same order that brought a new chainring recently.  Me and 385 feet of hemp twine, hanging out. Cool.

But shellac? Not so simple. Seemed like it should be easy enough to pick up at the chain hardware store near work.  Well, only if I wanted a gallon. Or an aerosol spray can.

Nope.  I figured that there could be little more dangerous than me armed with propellant-powered shallac.  I recently recaulked the tub, using one of those clicky-gun-things.  It was ugly. I mean, did you know that you had to pierce another  seal after you clipped the tip off of the caulk module? 

Local hardware store? No.  Another local hardware store? They kept steering me over to the varnish display, and asking rather pointedly why varnish wouldn’t work better, especially since it came in a wide variety of colors and finishes.  I think they knew about the hemp.  Struck out at the big craft store, a model & hobby shop and Sears. I’d actually peeled the bars over the weekend, and was riding around with gloves and near-naked bars for these errands. It began to recall  the recent theme of “Quest for Salmon Canti Kool-Stop Pads“…

Finally, I thought to hit up Marin Color Service - a contractor-oriented paint retailer who always seemed to have lots of cans of stuff on the shelves. A phone call confirmed they had it - both clear and amber - in sizes as small as a half pint.

Turns out they lied, of course. But not badly. I honestly hadn’t expected the clerk to wander out onto the floor the check that they had the smaller sizes, especially since they claimed to stock it, which at least meant they could probably order it. His answer had been so decisive that I hadn’t confirmed that they actually had clear in the little can. So, I had no one to blame but myself upon finding myself staring at a gallon of clear, and many varieties of the amber.

My plan had not been to start with the hard stuff. A clear sheen on some twine might mean wax or some sealant, but not necessarily shellac.  The rich roasted color of the amber was a definite sign that I was using, similar to the Mentats. There was no turning back. They also gave me a free paint can opener. 

So, it began.

Despite knocking the twine ball off its perch, chasing it across the floor and then figuring I had plenty of twine already pulled out only to find myself two wraps short (not enough tag end to do the nifty whip finish), things came together pretty well. I could put the kind of pressure on the turns that I’d only dreamed of with tape. The whip finish worked perfectly. The twine wraps were not specifically symmetrical, but close enough not to be offensive, while being different enough to be interesting.

Because it was Saturday, the weather silly-gorgeous and definitely time to ride, I neglected the shellac step before heading out onto the roads. But, last night, I broke out the cheap brush, spread a little paper and put a couple coats on the wrap.  Here it is in this morning’s light:

In fact, it got me excited enough that I decided to re-coat Mark’s original twining job on the Hilsen. Since the working theory is that the C. Xavier Hilsen will be out on the course this coming weekend, I wanted it to look its best.

As I considered the bar tape, the fraying at the corners of the ramps worried me a bit. Once that works through, the unravelling begins. Granted, next on the work manifest was the stem replacement on the Hilsen, but in the meantime, I didn’t want to be trailing bar tape. And the shellac was open.  And the brush was already dirty.  And I knew it would help seal things a bit to resist the wear. And once I started, it looked pretty cool…

Um.. ok.. It may be time for an intervention. Maybe it’s something in the laquer.  Once you get that brush in your hand, it’s really, really hard to stop. Let this be a lesson to you all.

No Ride Sunday
Filed under: general, photos, bike tech, rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 10:43 am

Had heavy-duty classes on Friday and Saturday, plus a last-minute houseguest starting Thursday, in addition to regular work stuff. So, when the friend headed off to the airport on midday Sunday, my working plan had been a leisurly ride, enjoying the silly-warm weather and comparative lack of traffic. Something about a sports event causing the latter.  I was suprised that so many people were going to stay in and watch the Cyclocross Worlds, but maybe there’s hope for us afterall.

But, I could tell Saturday night that the week had taken its toll a bit. Wasn’t exactly fighting something, but my voice was off and head a little loopy.  When I reevaluated things on Sunday - or more precisely, when I asked myself whether I wanted to ride and didn’t bounce around the house like a dog who sees the leash get taken down - it just made sense to underdo things a bit. Another Anti-Costanza workout.

And there was some real pressure to knuckle down and clean up the bikes.  Or, at least one bike. As I’ve mentioned before, my “workspace” is basically in the art room, so if it involves cleaning, degreasing and other nasty byproducts, it’s banished out back. With the weather we’ve been having (or more appropriately, “not having”) this winter, it’s been tough to trade away a ride for some scrubbing. In fact, I ‘d rather don the raingear and boots and do the cleaning in the rain.

But, the “to-do” list on the Quickbeam had grown to a lengthy list - nasty-noisy drivetrain, road gunk, the dirty-dishwater-won’t-clean-up anymore bar tap, a
little hop in both the front and back wheels, dry pedal bearings, dry
spots on the saddle, a little “tick” sound out of the headset every once in a while, that embarrassing rear-brake squeal.  Oh  sure, it still looked good in the sun, but wasn’t ready for its close-up.

I actually had been trying to do this for a while, as the brake pad issue was reasonably egregious.  For some reason, it had been very important to replace the OEM Shimano pads with some Kool Stop Salmon compound.  Even the half and half would’ve been OK.  The first set was easy enough to find - a little pop into A Bicycle Odyssey after class.  But, they’d only had one set, and since new canti pad installation is a dish best served in four courses, I needed another set. Should’ve put more weight on the suprise of the staff that they’d had it.

Five other shops had only the standard compound. Another had no smooth post canti pads at all. Another stop in the Sausalito shop brought news that the next shipment had not arrived.  Luckily, they took the extra retail step, checked an upcoming order and confirmed that they were coming.

In the meantime, I exfoliated enough of the trail grit and lube goop from the chainring to see that things were ugly. One of the curses of a simple drivetrain is that you don’t really assume things are wearing like they do on many-geared setups. So, you don’t flip the chainring.  And, I’ve been running the same chainring since February of 2006, when the Quickbeam arrived.  As  mentioned above, it had developed a grindy sound that was not really part of my singlespeed asthetic.

The drivetrain kept catching my eye as well.  On the “Fixed Up” ride a few weeks earlier, the position of the rear wheel seemed rather far aft.  It seemed that a stretched chain and ground down ring might have that effect.

Parts accumulated with a small package of bits from Rivendell, another trip to the shop, and a bit of rooting around the parts pile (actually down to my last 8 speed chain). The warm Sunday afternoon tipped the cow… wait.  Is that a phrase?

First step was a quick eval - with the gearing set in the 40/14 fixed mode, the effective chainstay length was 45.7 cm’s.  The chain measured - I kid you not - 12 1/4″ for  24 links.  The 40T chainring looked like breakers at the beach.

Got drivetrain noise?

Things mostly chugged right along - everything got scrubbed and no anomolies appeared, new chainring setup easily, pads went on quickly, a little adhesive residue from the bar tape.  The only thing that didn’t get addressed was that I couldn’t budge the freewheel so I’ll have to use a big bench vise at some point.  When things went back together, the chainstay measurement came in at 44.9 cm’s. (Insert Roger Rabbit-y rubbery headshake sproing noise here.) Yeah, almost a centimeter is a change. 

It got me wondering about dropping another link out of the chain.  It might be interesting to experiment with a slightly shorter wheelbase.  Of course I need to make sure that the 18T freewheel setup wouldn’t bottom out (or,  technically “front” out) on the fork end.  Food for thought. Project for another day.

Got things mostly wrapped up and stowed in time to shower and zip out to see “Slumdog Millionaire”.  Which is brilliant.

The Quickbeam is much happier now.  And ready for its close-up…

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Numbers and Lights
Filed under: photos, bike tech, brevets, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:04 am

Spent part of Saturday afternoon hanging out just south of the Golden Gate Bridge, enjoying the cool but not-raining weather, waiting for riders to finish the San Francisco Randonneurs 200K.  The first batch showed up around 14:35.

They had started off at 7 am, so if my quick calculations are correct, that means that they rolled over the 200K (~125mi) course, which has just a tad over 7,000 feet of climbing with a rolling average* of 16.48 mph.  That’s truckin’ right along. 

My official volunteering gig ended at 16:00 (randonneuring time), but I hung out to see ride buddies Carlos, JimG and Gino finish up.  I didn’t have to wait long as both Carlos and JimG finished under 10 hours.  Unfortunately Gino suffered a biomechanical and dnf’d.  He did, however, snag one of the all-time great photos from the ride - 

I’ve kind of been ignoring the fact that I was going to not ride this event, but being there and seeing folks finishing up just made me miss it that much more.  My long-distance riding has been pretty minimal, and after the last cross race this year, I  had some work issues coming to a head that pretty much assured that January, February and probably March were nixed as far as having extra time (let alone energy) for considering brevets.  As December wound down, things changed, and although it doesn’t now leave me extra time, it could mean with a little judicious planning, I might be able to engage in a brevet or two.

Hanging out, watching riders finish, knowing something of the feeling of accomplishment they had, seeing them enjoy the post-ride buzz… all definitely stoked that feeling a bit more strongly.

It also helped to crystalize some errant thoughts which had been bandying about my brain in the past few months, about riding, about training to ride and lighting systems. I  think these will more or less end up in the right order, but if not, please bear with me.

- The Anti-Costanza Training Method has worked well in terms of keeping healthy.  This weekend is actually the first time I’ve felt like I was fighting something, and when I first noticed it, I backed off even more. For the first time in a long time, it actually feels like I have some resistance.

- The 2008 200K was hard.  I finished about an hour after I had the previous year.  The returning headwind didn’t help, and we took a break at Nicasio where I hadn’t the year before, but I suffered more.  I know my mileage had been down - or had it….?

- And that leads us to the whole “Numbers” issue.  At some point over the past 4 or 5 years, I’ve ended up with mostly computer-less bikes.  The only one I have right now is on my Specialized Stumpjumper.  What?  You didn’t know I had one? Probably because the last time I actually rode that was mumble-mumble-mumble… “Um, your honor, I cannot recall at this time.”   

Let me explain that a little bit. I do own a heartrate monitor, and there was a time when I dutifully set target zones and tried to stay within them.  That info was recorded along with reasonably precise distance measurements. I even used to check my waking (pre-coffee) pulse rate fairly regularly.  When setting up my first singlespeed - the Bridgestone MB - I didn’t have a bike computer for that, so since I more or less knew the distance of most rides, it didn’t matter.  Then I started leaving the HRM at home, since I was pretty much maxed when riding the singlespeed. When the battery on the thing died, I just never sent it in to get it replaced.

It was kind of freeing, actually.

I set up the cross bike without a computer, since CX is basically if-you-can-focus-on-a-computer-you’re-not-going-hard-enough.  Besides, such things get reasonably inaccurate when you are running around with the bike on your shoulder and the front wheel isn’t spinning.

The  Quickbeam and the Hilsen just never got rigged with one. I mostly looked at the ride time by the wall clock, estimated out the long breaks and figured out the mileage.  Since the 200K was on local roads, I certainly didn’t need one to key out the route sheet.

Along the same time, my record-keeping edged into slacker mode. Using the VeloNews “Training Diary” was getting a little embarrassing for some reason, and the pre-printed information areas for “meals” and “sleep” and other specifics became a bit onerous.  I’d jot down commute miles, and longer rides, but then a smidgen less frequently as I’d often already recorded it in Flickr on here on the blog.  Then, taking more classes meant a bit less time time for reflection, and bob’s your uncle, alluvasudden,  I’m working without a net.

Which is kind of my personal shorthand for not taking the time to write things down, keep things ordered.  (As pedantic and obsessive as I may come across here, I’m really not.  Ok, I may be. But, it may also be that I’m fundamentally right-brained and need to keep some definite structure to maintain a node in the common time-space continuim.  All I know is that there’s often a lot of arguing back and forth…) It meant I was trying to recall if I’d looped out the long way from work the previous Monday commute home, or if that was the night I stopped by the burrito place because I’d had to stay a little late. It got a bit frustrating, often more time-consuming, trying to reconstruct things.

Then (Not So) Large Fella On A Bike tacked up a post with a link to a John Francis clip. Noted the bit about how we end up walling ourselves into certain stances and behaviors. Though that clip (and post) resonated much more deeply that this example, it solidly clicked a tiny switch, made me realize that my own idiosyncrasies were once again sticking out a limb to trip me up.  Somehow I wanted to be the guy who didn’t have a bike computer, no matter if it helped or didn’t.

And it wasn’t really helping either.  So, I think it’s time to stick ‘em back on.  A bike computer can be used for reference without obsessing about it. Oh, I still might do another long loop around the block if it’ll kick a distance up from Something-9 to a larger, rounder number. But at least I’ll be laughing at myself when doing so.   Making it easier for myself to track some mileage just may make it simpler to focus attention where it is really needed.

- Numbers don’t lie. There’s a certain distance that needs to feel comfortable before it makes sense to toe the line for a 200K, and especially next month’s 300K. Which I really, honestly think is mostly out of the question.  Really. SFR manages to kick off their season much, much earlier than most, and so folks like Davis Bike Club don’t even start their series until March (Santa Rosa in late Feb). And I keep thinking about doing the Wildflower, though that weekend is already a bit crowded. But, the fact is I played a bit fast and loose with prep for last year’s 200k, and it was less than pleasant at certain points.

- As an odd parallel thought, there’s the whole fixed versus many-geared issue for the longer rides. This is a much longer topic than I can even consider tonight.

- Speed. Momentum. Two essential components, obviously. There’s a good rule-of-thumb which is that you tend to ride at the speed you train. Two years ago, I had a longer CX season which then eased into longer rides.  Last year, I couldn’t stay healthy or uninjured during CX, which meant that I didn’t do much hard work. After cross, I rode long, but usually ambled along at the same speed. This year, I definitely did more short, sharp work, and feel better on the (fewer) longer rides so far.

- Seeking Illumination. Which more or less will tie off this evening’s nattering. Long rides (300/400k) or a Fleche or a Night-200 (and hits on a bad weekend…grrrr…) require reliable lighting. My NiteRider has again gone flaky, clicking out of gear entirely on a commute last week. And even if  it were healthy and I were careful with power usage, that would be a bit sketchy for the run time needed.  With the newer LED technology trickling into generator-driven systems, it’s time to sell off some gear and get a SON wheel built up. Plus, there’s the new - and light - 20R hub which will drive the LED’s just fine (even though it’s supposedly a hub for a 20″ setup). I’ve read and re-read the Bicycle Quarterly article on both the hub and the Edelux light.  I’d purposely held off the last couple years as things just have been changing so fast with LED technology, but it seems like the stuff that’s coming out is pretty slick.  Of course, I could always sign up for Cyclotron Scorcher Build-Your-Ultimate-Lighting-System Seminars which JimG ought to put on…

Anyway.  Thanks for reading.  Here’s hoping everyone gets more or better miles this year.

*The clock does  not stop on brevets, so times are not actual on-the-bike-pedaling times. For more about randonneuring and brevets, visit the RUSA.org site or SFRandonneurs.org.

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