cyclofiend.com - peripheral thoughts & notes

January 2010
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January Mileage
Filed under: mileage, record keeping
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:59 pm

Gotta love a month that gives you 5 weekends and a brevet.  There’s bound to be some statistical assistance from that sort of help. 

Actually missed one weekend of riding - had a voice acting workshop - and then under-miled things the week before the brevet.  Ended up riding only 14 days this month, but extended the average ride distance a bit. With today’s little loop, ended up at 504 miles for the month.  Also got in a most excellent New Year’s Day hike, plus 6 yoga sessions (teacher was out for a week beginning of the month).

The yoga has been good - especially for what I’ve been calling “anti-cycling” movements. Things like arching your back, opening your chest, stretching your hamstrings and pinning back your shoulder blades have really contributed to much more comfort on the bicycle (and off as well.)  I’ve been really lucky to find an excellent teacher, which makes a huge difference.

And, just not to miss the main point, it’s been a heckuva nice month for riding - got a chance to meet and ride with a few folks that I’d known only on the interwebs, plus enjoyed a nice loop with Gino and JimG, and had some truly grand days out.  A fine start to the year.

Bikey Miles so far in 2010 - 504

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

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State of the Union, 2010
Filed under: general, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:45 pm

No brevet report yet, but in the meantime, here’s my State of the Union Report, filed 1/27/10:


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Pushing Past The Dead Spot
Filed under: general, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 2:37 pm

As I’ve said before, momentum is a fickle mistress. Sometimes it’s emotional, other instances it’s physical.  In cycling, there are palpable moments when things slip easily through your grasp.  When it’s your brain, thoughts or attitude that betrays you, all you can do is try to recognize the patterns, the ease with which your will unhooks its fingers from the goal and learn to trick yourself past that crucial moment of choice.

“Ease up”  “You’re going too hard”  “Too far to close it down” “You can’t sustain this” “Don’t try to climb with them”

One trick seems to be limiting the options. The singlespeed removes the choice.  It forces you to maintain momentum.  It lets you strip past the fluffy, brain-induced crap and give you nowhere else to go.  Nothing to do but pedal. Maybe that’s why I like it. 

“Keep pedaling, it will get better.” - Kent Petersen

Kent, as usual, nails it. That simple sentence has gotten me past tough spots a number of times since I read it. The brain creates that Dead Spot - the place in the pedaling stroke where no one really puts in any power.  It’s how you move through that portion that separates folks.  And that’s always a helluva lot easily to write about than achieve.

And sometimes, it’s subtle.  The Dead Spot encourages you rest longer, take an extra break, lose track of what you are supposed to be doing. That’s where the Framework comes into play.  Back when prepping for my first brevet, one of the really helpful things that Jan Heine wrote was in his series of Randonneuring Basics which appeared in Bicycle Quarterly.  He wrote that having a written plan with both “goal” and “slow” times was a good idea. When things were ebbing away in 2008, seeing that I was still within the “slow” time was a mental lift in the last couple hours of riding.

You never know how things will go out on the road.  Flats, weather, road conditions, cattle grates - all sorts of unforseen variables even before you take the engine into account. I blew a tire off the rim in 2007 - never have I done that before in my life. The Framework gives you a plan, a direction, a timeline.  Then, when stuff happens, if you start pedaling squares for an hour or so, if you want to help another rider along for a bit, if the hot pizza at the Bovine Bakery calls, you’ve got a chance to adapt and mitigate.

It’s still raining today, though the patter on the roof is lighter and steadier than yesterday, which brought tornado warnings to the San Jose area, clattery hail to this neighborhood and produced some pretty danged impressive shower storms through the day. The neighbor’s cats are wicked pissed.  There’s an actual tideline of flotsam in the backyard from yesterday’s puddle. Even the dog is sniffing a little too carefully at the rug rather than heading to the back door to go out.

I got through the bike tech list last evening.  Discovered that the rear axle nut was actually loose, cleaned the grunge out of the chainrings, retrued both wheels, put new tires on (checking the bead veerrrrrrrryyyy carefully and then overfilling the tires to make sure everything was seated correctly) and got everything happy.  Measured the old chain at 12 1/8″, so swapped that out. Added a couple of reflective chevrons to the fenders, finally using the strips of 3M Reflective Tape which I’d bought from the RUSA store last year. (That stuff is reasonably tricky to play with, I’ve now learned…)  The bike’s pretty much set up at this point. 

Sketched out the Framework this morning over coffee.  Interesting to see that in 2007, I got to the Lighthouse 18 minutes slower than 2008, yet ended up finishing a little over an hour faster.

I’ll be running with a computer on the bike this time, which is a change from the last two events. It got me thinking about the ride from the standpoint of “rolling average” - data I haven’t really had access to until after the fact.   Since you have a known quantity of miles to cover, your actual average speed lets you know how long the riding time will be.  (Yeah, I know this isn’t higher mathematics, but I went through a bit of a data fast while riding over the last few years, and well, I guess I’m just reapproaching it now.)

To wit, on a 200K (13.5 hour time limit) actual riding time:
17 mph - 7:25
16 mph - 7:49
15 mph - 8:25
14 mph - 9:00
13 mph - 9:41
12 mph - 10:30

Therefore, TTFA (Time To Fart Around):
17 mph - 2:36 (10 hr finish)/1:36 (9 hr finish)/:36 (8 hr finish)
(Since 9 and 8 hour finishes are in my Realm of Magical Unicorns, we’ll focus on a 10+ hr finish)
16 mph - 2:11
15 mph - 1:35
14 mph - 1:00
13 mph - 1:19 (11 hr finish)
12 mph - 1:00 (11:30 finish)

We’ll see how that plays out, but I’m going to keep that info with me on the Framework sheet.  It probably means that in 2007, I was rolling around 14 mph, because I figured about 1:30 in break time.

Also in 2007, there was another phrase banging around my head, thanks to Finding Nemo.  It was Dory (Ellen Degeneres), melodically chanting

“Just keep spinning! Just keep spinning!…”

Which actually helped quite a bit. 

Hunkerin’ & Thinkerin’
Filed under: general, bike tech, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:40 am

Today (Wednesday) is supposed to be the big thump of this week’s storm session. That’s easily confirmed by the size of the puddle in the back yard, which is actually beginning to develop a wave pattern under the steadily increasing winds. However, the sump pump hadn’t gone off since I rose this morning, so I sloshed my way around to see what was up. Sure enough, the pump had slipped just a hair on it’s soaked mounting and the trigger rod had gotten jammed.  It’s now happily thrumming away.

Last night, I decided to get the official forecast, and found my old NOAA link no longer worked. They had actually upgraded things significantly, with a cool little click-to-find-the-forecast mapping applet which I played with relentlessly for a while.  It’s particularly fun to click out at the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse to see what will probably be the worst of things, as it’s the most exposed section of the SF Randonneurs 200K route scheduled for this Saturday.

It was forecasting 20-30 mph winds with gusts up to 48 mph.  Today, they’ve updated those estimates to gusts to 65 mph. That’s a little staggering.

But, the important thing is really wind direction. It’s been a steady SW wind for the last 24 hours or so, which would mean a bit of a push out to the point, but probably more of a quartering headwind as we came back from Marshall on the return leg. Although, working the mouse around to Pt. Reyes Station and Marshall shows those winds are holding SSW, which puts them in one’s face.

Again, that’s today’s numbers, and whatever else I’m going to get done today, it’s pretty clear that riding won’t be one of those things.  There’s no point other than making things rough on the equipment, both biological and mechanical.  The plan had been to do little riding this week anyway so that the tank would be full for the weekend’s effort. I did manage to get myself up early, wrenching by bio-clock forward another hour so that the shock of the 4:45 AM alarm won’t be quite so shocking on Saturday.

And Saturday, it still seems, may be day of the slight break in this weather front.  The forecast has been holding steady at 20% chance of showers and relatively mild conditions.

Took lunch yesterday down at the laundromat, re-TX-Direct-ing my rain jacket, wind vest, non-cycling rain jacket (the instructions did say up to three garments per bottle), new rain booties and toe covers.  Today is wool washing day. Tonight I’ll swap to the new tires and get the hub fixed and new chain installed.  Probably need to tweak the fenders slightly.  Then I’ll just have to fret about packing and such.  Find some zip-lock bags. Charge batteries. That sort of thing. 

Yes, I have been compulsively making lists on little pieces of scratch paper for the last week or so - “Tech To Do”, “Clothing to Wear”, “Things to Check/Find”, “Food”.  Last night I baked a batch of pumpkin sugar cookies.

Here’s the thing - the lightning is freaking me out.

Rain - yeah, ok, I’m not gonna melt.  Wind - is what it is once you’re out there. Cold - layers and keep moving.  However, this is not the place you want to get caught in a lightning storm:

The lighting came rumbling in Monday night, sounding like a passing freight train.  Yesterday AM, we had a sub-second blast that light up the windows and gave the house a mighty thumping. Haven’t heard too much today, but every time it echoes, I think of that long open road out to the Lighthouse and back.

Hmmmm….that’s not too helpful, now, is it?

Fine. Back to the lists…

Making Myself Crazy
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 3:17 pm

While on hold, when a brevet is pending, one should not be perusing the wind conditions websites.



Today has been wind/sun/rain/wind like breakers on the beach.

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Typing While the Winds Buffet
Filed under: general, bike tech, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:26 am

Kind of a slow paced day today. No riding this weekend, though Saturday would’ve been about perfect - no wind to speak of, glimmers of sunlight here and there plenty of folks seemed to be out enjoying the day.  I was in an advanced voice acting workshop with Tom Pinto on Friday night and all of Saturday, focusing on fine-tuning auditions and enjoying the company of a great teacher and several stellar VO contemporaries.  It’s the first class of the this year, and always good to see folks in person.

It also worked me like a long ride, as it’s a day and a half of pretty high concentration, focused efforts and extreme attention to very intangible things. And although I had vague intentions to get a little leg stretching ride in, I must admit that the alarm got quickly thwacked and I rolled over until the rains hit, worked a Sunday crossword with my wife and generally bumped around for the morning.

Hey, sometimes you gotta just recover. 

I also began fretting a bit about next Saturday’s San Francisco Randonneurs 200K, as I realized that, curiously enough, it was going to take place next Saturday.  Add to that the fact that no one has shown up for an intervention, despite the fact I seem to be favoring the Quickbeam for this year’s ride.

Things do feel a bit better this year, though that may have more to do with not doing last year’s ride. Memory can be soooo subjective.

On the other hand, there are some issues to deal with before setting off at the Golden Gate Bridge, mostly minor tech issues.  But they all begin with the bikes being clean enough to deal with, so when the morning rains subsided, I threw on the Grundens bib and rubber boots and pretended to be a pit wrench on the cyclocross circuit.  The hot, soapy water felt good on my cold hands, and I scrubbed both the Quickbeam and the Hilsen down a bit.

The Quickbeam is pretty much ready to go.  It’s feeling as comfortable as ever these days, and between the Zugster Rando Bag afore and the Keven’s Bag aft, it can carry enough in the way of jackets and bits to be perfect. I’m going to double check the sprocket teeth for wear and see if I can’t remove the slight play that’s in the rear hub, check the chain (which I think may be worn) and replace the tires, which are just a bit thinner than I like them to be on what is shaping up to be a damp ride.

I decided that the Hilsen needs to be ready as well, if only as a spare so that if I freak out late in the week and decide I need a coastable many-geared setup, it will be ready at a moment’s notice.  There are a couple of issues there - first, the bottom bracket started making some very crunchy sounds the last couple times it was out, especially when I was out of the saddle.  This makes me just super-happy, as you can guess, because it’s an excuse to pull the Ritchey Cross Cranks off the bike.  As much as I like the gearing and the lightness and Q-factor of these cranks, it’s just hard to trust them entirely any longer.  I’ll be interested to see if they have started to slip a bit.  (More on that story here.)

However, the slightly taller gearing has been nice, so I’ll probably pull the chainrings off and change the Sugino XD2 triple to a 48/38.  That way I won’t have to move the front derailleur (though it will be interesting to see what that does to the shifting, since I’ll be leaving the 26T inner ring in place.)

Other than that, it needs fenders remounted. Since riding with Gino a couple weeks back and enjoying the shiny smoothness of his Honjo fenders, I’m feeling a need to upgrade.  However, that’s probably not in the immediate budget, so the SKS’s in the garage will have to do in the meantime.  I did get a set of Sheldon Nuts to simplify the mounting, but that’s going to skew the position a touch, so I’m not sure I’m going to mess with those yet.

The other things to resolve will be giving the saddles a treatment with the Nikwax Aqueous Wax, and hoping that the new style of Brooks saddle cover which came with my Swift will do the job in terms of protection in case of torrential rains. The downside of using the Quickbeam in fixed mode is that you do tend to be out of the saddle more, especially on any type of climbing, so that the saddle gets exposed to rains. This one does look pretty sturdy and “Grunden’s-like”…

One area which concerns me is my feet.  I finally retired my old solid lorica SIDI shoes for new ones, which have a couple of mesh panels on them.  Didn’t really need those under summer conditions, and now that rain and cooler temps prevail, mitigating the damp is key.  I’ve got a set of Pearl Izumi “CalienToes” which are OK for cool, but pretty useless in the rain.  Though I’ve silicone-sprayed them, they just don’t really cover all that much acreage.  I do have an old pair of neoprene booties, but find that those get pretty danged hot over the course of a day, and they tend to collect rain at the top.  I’ve got a little credit at REI right now, and was looking at the Pearl Izumi Soft-Shell Shoe Covers (as opposed to the Barrier model, which seems to be heavier neoprene.)

For the rest of the outfit, I’ve got Rainlegs and my trusty old eVent Jacket, which I’ll probably retreat once more before the ride.  If I really think the rain will be torrential, I could always swap in a pair of GoreTex rain pants I have, though I’ve only ridden in those for shorter commutes.

I also spent some time forwarding route options to RBA (Regional Brevet Administrator) Rob, who had asked for those of us with local knowledge to comment on what to do if the creeks rise.

Mill Valley Option #1 (Hwy 101) -

Mill Valley Option #2 (via  ) -

Kentfield Flooded Option -

San Anselmo Flooded Option -

Then, in the last hour or so before it got dark, I cleaned out the gutters before the rains returned, slicing my palm on the sharp edge of a connector.  Good thing I got a tetanus update when the I was in the ER back in June. Took a while to clean out properly, and it made me realize that I should also pack a pair of danged glasses on the brevet, just in case I need to do detail work at any point in the day.  But now, as the winds rattle the windows and the rain begins in earnest, I’m glad I did the prep work.

Finally, I’ve been looking at times on the course in the two times riding the brevets.  (Though I’ve filed my danged brevet card from the 2007 ride and can’t lay my hands on it…going by timestamped photos on Flickr.) Finding it interesting that the difference of about an hour between 2007 and 2008 completion, all took place in the latter part of the ride, and just averaging another mph faster over the last 40 miles or so would’ve been helpful.  But, when you are out there and doing it, you give what you’ve got.  This is the first time I’ll actually be using a computer on the bike, so we’ll see if that helps to keep me on track a bit better.

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Because the 200K is Next Saturday…
Filed under: general, brevets
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 9:19 am

“What we just experienced is a harbinger of a major change in the
weather pattern from what we’ve been experiencing over the last few
weeks,” said Warren Blier, the science officer for the National Weather
Service in the San Francisco and Monterey Bay areas. “We’re looking at
a series of storms over the next week to a week and a half that will be
consistent with an El NiƱo event.”

Read more yonder.

Elly Blue’s Article
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 7:01 pm

Elly Blue penned a cogent article on the BikePortland.org site - Worth a read if you haven’t come across it


She brings up a number of excellent points which I won’t attempt to reiterate here.

It made me think of a few others which might compliment them:

Thought #1 - The Base Perspective
On a good day, it seems we may be oh-so-slowly wrenching the perspective away from racing as the driving factor in cycling.  That’s a tough switch, as there was a big lump of people who discovered cycling when Greg Lemond first won the Tour, and a more widespread cultural awareness when Lance Armstrong had his run.  That racing approach becomes The Way until you finally realize that it has as much to do with cycling in general as does Formula One racing with using a car in your personal life. There are changes afoot, everything from that group aging to the adoption of more practical approaches to bicycling.

When I worked in a shop, if someone came in to buy a road bike the oft-repeated answer to their inevitable comment that the bars were too far and too low was - “well, after you develop the muscles, it will be more comfortable to you.”  Which is pretty much why a whole generation of riders got introduced to cycling  by riding mountain bikes on flat, paved paths. But, the expectation was that if you were buying a road bike, you intended to ride it fast, gritting your teeth and mimicking the “pro fit.”

The first Specialized Globe (’93?) was a beautiful bike but an abject failure.  Bike shops didn’t know how to sell it, even if it became the most used “shop errand” bike.  When the Breezer city/utility bicycles became available, there wasn’t a lot like them, and they struggled until non-traditional bike shops (like REI, with a different client base and sales force) had some successes.  Before that, you pretty much had to either import something similar or build your own up from a random frameset.  Now there are porteurs, tweed rides and city bikes of all manner - an entire paradigm based on using the inherent efficiency of the bicycle in an urban environment or the enjoyment of the ride.

Granted the great chunk of the industry is racing focused, but what was definitely outside the mainstream has become an identified segment.  You don’t need to dress funny unless you want to. It makes it look normal and fun.

more to follow

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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…

Rivendell Collaboration: SOMA San Marcos
Filed under: rivendelica
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:47 pm

In winter, it doesn’t take too much to get the various bike-geek lists lit up (and I say that with love, since I admin one of them myself…).

A couple of days, a new image popped up on the SOMA fab Flickr feed -

which was interesting enough by itself. 

Then further photos emerged a day or so later, after an RBW Owner’s Bunch member espied a new frame at the RBWHQ&L -

(You can view the slideshow of the images here.)

This was a bit more interesting, clearly showing that something of a collaborative nature was in the works. Could it be the rumored SOMAdell A. Homer BorneFoy Atlanticabombaluki Roaday-ay-ay-OH?  Some felt that obviously it was, would be or could be.  Others felt the fork was clearly a disappointment. It was instantly an internet star.

Following in the wake of such conjecture, both SOMA and Grant at Rivendell released clarifications on their various websites:

The SOMA Feed

The RBW News

Since the RBW News column included a wide variety of other topics, here are the pertinent paragraphs:

“It’s what used to be called a road-sport bike. It has light tubing (by our standards — like the Rambouillet, A. Homer Hilsen), and accepts tires up to 28mm with a fender, or about 35mm without. It has two eyelets on the rear dropouts, one on the front, and hourglass mounts on the seat stays. It’s not for loaded touring, but fits a rear rack anyway, and you can use that as a saddlebag support, or put a trunk rack or some other light load on it. It probably won’t break-like-carbon if you load it up and head for the hills, but it’s really not built to do that fantastically well. The tubing is too light.

It has the same “expanded” kind of frame as the Bombadil and Sam Hillborne. The top tube slopes up about 6 degrees, so ultra classicists will barf, but the upslope forces you to be comfortable, and some people must be forced. It also means you’ll ride a frame that’s three to five cm smaller than what you’d ride in one of our bikes.

The fork is threaded, so you can use a quill stem. All the lugs, the crown, and the BB shell are the same ones we use on our own bikes. The rear dropouts are a stock model that have been used on lots of frames, but I didn’t pick them. They’re small, strong, and light.

The tubing is Tange Prestige (heat treated CrMo). Tange is a tubing maker; Prestige is it’s top, heat-treated CrMo tubing, and it’s plenty good for any frame.

The downtube says the opposite of SOMA, and the model nameSan Marcosis in small letters on the back of the seat tube.

I think it’s best and fairest to evaluate this frame in the context of the current bike shop selection, and the price, about $895. I want to say that, because if all you do is consider “lugs” and “steel” and “fork crown” and maybe even “Rivendell-designed” it’s a short step away from being compared to frames that cost a whole lot more.

Please DO compare it to any carbon frame and fork. Compare the clearance, the bar height and comfort, the tire and fender clearances, and the overall look. DON’T compare it to an A. Homer Hilsen, etc., and expect the same details. The fork won’t be as beautiful, but it’ll look a whole lot better (by certain standards) than any carbon fork, and it’ll be way safer, too.

This frame is perfect for anybody who wants a really nice, super comfortable, attractive, safe, and versatile bike for well under $2,000. It’s great for any road rides, centuries, and (with 35mm tires run soft), some smooth fire trails.


SOMA San Marcos

Sizes: Probably 51/650 or 700c (not sure); 55, 59, 63. Maybe a 47/650, too. It’s designed, but nobody ever buys small bikes, so I may suggest to Jim to nix it. It’ll be up to him, so don’t get mad at me….

Fitting: Go three to six cm smaller than your level-top tube frame.

Color: Not set, but maybe the light blue that’s on the table (and the ‘net)

Brake style: 55 reach, sidepull or centerpull, but there’s no cable hanger stop, so if you want to use a centerpull you’ll need the stops and hangers, and I’m sure Merry Sales will make them available to dealers.

Max tire with fender: 30mm. (Who makes a 30? But if you have one)

Max tire no fender: 37mm.

Braze-ons: Two bottles, two eyelets on rear drops, one on each front, plus the normal cable stops.

Designed for: Road riding, light loads. If you’re light or if you ride light (don’t smack things, pedal smoothly, unweight the bike over bumps, things like that), you can go glorious unpaved places on this bike, but the bottom line is: Road bike, not trail bike.

Loaded touring?: Nope. It won’t break, but it’s not touring-stout.

Rear spacing: 130mm

Fork type: Steel (CrMo) with Riv’s crown

Lugs, BB shell: Riv’s investment cast

Kinda tubes: Tange Prestige, with 0.8mm butts in the top and down tubes.

Seat post size: 27.2mm

Anything quirky, weird, or spooky that you’ll find out too late? No, it’s normal.

Frame weight: Shouldn’t ask, but a 55 will weigh about 4.4lb.

Available where: Bike dealers who opt to stock it, and Rivendell.

Available when: We aren’t going to rush it, and if all of the details aren’t nailed, it plain won’t happen at all. Right now the most optimistic guess is Fall, 2010. I bet it won’t land till Spring 2011, though.”


How, oh how will we make it until 2011…?

Ride Interludes
Filed under: general, rides, people
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 11:45 pm

Thinking again to last weekend’s ride. As with all fine outings, there were a couple of specific moments that stick in my mind.  The ride report I posted on Sunday seemed to have a little more emphasis on the framework of the day, and I wanted to jot down these before I forgot about them.

Spinning my way down White’s Hill towards the end of the day.  I was somewhere in the low 30’s, pedalling quickly but not insanely so.  Near the bottom, JimG shot past on my left. He took one hand off the bars as he went by and his bike shuddered with a bit of a speed wobble.  When he brought his hand back, it stopped immediately.  Then I could see him shift his weight somehow and it began resonating again. It was pretty freaky to watch that happening 10-15 yards out.  Just as quickly, it ceased.

When I caught back up to him, he said that while he had never been able to eliminate the incidence of wobble entirely, he now had a very good sense of when it was going to happen. He had actually intentionally caused the second instance.  Jim’s been working to dial in that bike for a while, his engineer’s sensibilities picking things apart and reassembling them.  Shorter stem, thinner tires, different rack setups, saddle heights and more.  But now it seems like it’s becoming much more his bike.  Watching him go in and out of the wobble made me realize he knows that bike now.

Stopped on the side of the road in Mill Valley, near the base of the Camino Alto climb. Esteban had set Aaron up with a tube and we were waiting while he swapped it out.  It was misting lightly, that fine, foggy, SF Bay Area weather.  I pulled out a saddle cover and nibbled on some dates. Of the five people who were not working on a flat tube, I don’t think any more than any combination of two of them had ridden together before.  But, we were just hanging out, happily chatting about all sorts of things (well, certainly about bike gear…) as though we’d known one another for years.

In one sense we have - reading one another’s ride reports, seeing bikey photos and trading the odd email now and again. Sometimes, when a flat happens in a group, you can feel the tension increase palpably.  Here, it was an opportunity to relax and enjoy each other’s company in real time.  We hung out, the mist built up on our outer layers.  The “go with the
flow” vibe seemed to infect us all.

Hanging out at the Strauss statue before the ride and realizing that I’d never ridden with another orange Quickbeam. It’s interesting how the same bicycle model can be set up so differently. I have this feeling that we need to call an Entmoot before too long and see how many of these step out of the forest.

The Cross Marin Path is one of the true jewels in the many ways of getting around marin county.  That was made abundantly clear when riding with a group.  You get to spread out a bit as you ride, enjoying one another’s company without feeling like you need to keep a weather eye out for impending auto traffic.  The fact that it eases through a beautiful valley and is just another plus.  Like most interesting routes, it manages to go through many microzones - the redwoods of Samuel P. Taylor State Park, the meandering course of Lagunitas creek, the damp and wooded stretches,
the open grassy sections - all in the course of just a few miles. 

Cyclofiend Site Updates & Notes
Filed under: general
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 1:49 pm

Things got too danged wacky into the holidays, so I had to pull the plug on Gallery Updates for the last few weeks of 2009.  If you sent me photos and a writeup, it’s in the queue more than likely.  My ethical dilemma at this point is whether to include those bicycles in the 2009 site counts or consider them as 2010 entries.

Wow.  I have “fiscal year” issues…

The 2010 Cyclofiend.com Calendar looks like a “GO” at this point.  The plan is it to run it February to January (with 2011’s running the traditional calendar again), if I can get a firm commitment (which has not been forthcoming) from the printer on turnaround time. That’s this week’s project.  I’m finalizing image choices and obtaining hi-rez versions this week also. Please do not order anything until I make the official announcement to the blog (hey that’s here), twitter, the cyclofiend.com site and via online groups of note (you’re also likely to get an email if you ordered the 2009 calendar).

Thanks… no.  A HUGE THANKS! to those folks who made end o’ the year donations to the site.  I really appreciate your support of this no longer so little venture.  As traffic and entries have crept ever upwards, so has the cost of running this enterprise. Your donations help to offset the real server expenses which are incurred.  It’s always gratifying to hear that this collection of bicycle images, thoughts and natterings has helped or inspired.

Look for Gallery updates beginning next week.  Thanks again for your support and enjoyment. 

Here’s to a great MMX!

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Market Street in 1905
Filed under: general, video
Posted by: The Cyclofiend @ 12:27 pm

This has very, very little to do with cycling, but I really enjoyed this slightly slo-mo’d version of a cable car ride down Market Street in San Francisco.  I’ve always been drawn to historical footage, but this one is really clean (Thanks to voice actor David J for posting a link to it!).

I’m not sure what part I like the best - the kid on the bike at around 30 seconds in is pretty good, especially as you can see a cable-car-awaiting pedestrian get totally freaked out as he approaches while looking back at the camera.

But, then the pedestrians in general get a big vote - the sauntering, let’s-see-how-close-the-car-can-get-to-me, pace of those crossing in front; the sheer joy of the kid at running at a perfect pace to stay ahead of the street car. 

The cross traffic is stunning as well.  Reminds me of being out on the bay in a boat, caught near a turn in a sailing race, where folks are cutting right in front of you and there’s nothing you can do about it.

As Lou Reed once said, “..those were different times.”

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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