Monday, February 19, 2018

Five Rivers 300k staff ride

Amber and I rode the 2018 Five Rivers 300k staff ride yesterday. For some reason we keep doing brevets and permanents the day before a storm comes through. It always messes up the prevailing wind.

We couldn't get a room at the Best Western at short notice, so we had to start at the Motel 6 across the road. It was dark and 46F when we started and rain was predicted for the end of the day so we wore warm clothing and carried more with us.

Motel 6

It dropped down to 39F which made the descent on Green River road a little chilly, but it rose to a comfortable 60F as the sun came up. The reflection of the salmon colored pre-dawn sky on the Santa Ana river made it quite lovely.

Santa Ana trail

There is a soft barrier on the bike path at Taft that can be moved aside if no-one has done so already. Passage through this section is not a problem. About 1/4 of the tents between here and Memory Lane have been removed but the city still has a lot of work to do.

This year I remembered to make the turn towards Atlanta and Amber and I basked in the sunshine as we ate at the Von's control. It's 46 miles to the next control, but try as we might, we couldn't eat enough food to get us all the way there so we carried a little extra in our saddle bags. At this point I realized my bag of Perpetuum had a hole in it and half the powder had infiltrated every crevice of my saddle bag and contents :-(

First receipt control

When we turned inland on the San Gabriel river trail we had a spanking tailwind which was great but we knew it would hurt on the way back. The trail was quite busy and we kept getting stuck behind large groups of cyclists who were riding slightly slower than we wanted to. Maybe that wasn't such a bad thing.

San Gabriel trail

During the climb over the Santa Fe dam my cleat came lose. It came lose last week too and I forgot to fix it. Don't be like me!

View from the top of the Santa Fe dam after I fixed my dam cleat

We got to the Duarte control too soon for pizza so we had to settle for 7-11 cuisine. By now it was a beautiful 75F. Again, despite our best efforts we were unable to eat enough for the next 39 mile stretch to Chronic Tacos especially considering the headwind we would soon be dealing with.

7-11 dining facilities
We picked up a headwind almost immediately on the return towards the coast. It started as a tolerable 10 mph but by the time we got to Long Beach it was 20 mph. I'm really glad I was able to trade pulls with Amber. This is a good stretch to buddy up. We normally get an onshore flow on this stretch of the ride, but today was exceptionally bad.

Rio Hondo bike path, the wind is so strong it's bending the pylons!
Eventually we got to Long Beach and turned south to pick up a well deserved tailwind. We passed through Shoreline village and went straight to Chronic Tacos. Be aware you can either stop anywhere in Shoreline Village or continue about two miles to Belmont pier and use any of the businesses near Ocean and Livingston. We'd been planning this stop for at least an hour. We were hungry and thirsty and decided to have a civilized meal. It was awesome!

Chronic Tacos

Continuing with our tailwind and taco fueled dash southward, we made good time down PCH. The left turn on Dover has a bike-friendly underpass which is currently closed for repair. It looks as if our best bet is to make the left turn onto Dover in traffic. Please be careful.

The tailwind got stronger as we turned inland and we made excellent time to the last receipt control at the Crossroads Center. We decided to go to the Ha Long cafe because Amber was feeling sleepy and wanted one of the excellent coffees. It was starting to get dark by now and the temperature dropped to 60F. I made the mistake of drinking a large jello and crushed ice drink which left me shivering. You'd think I'd know better by now.

Ha Long - great bahn mi, boba, and pad thai.
The navigation over the next few miles is a bit challenging as we jump from bike path to bike path but once we get onto Pioneer it gets easier. The East Irvine trail is always a pleasure, especially as it is so well lit at night.

San Diego Creek trail
The only real problem we had was the right turn from Lakeview onto the Santa Ana river trail at mile 171.3. For some inexplicable reason the gate was locked. Amber and I found a way around, but it wasn't easy and needs two people. I am pretty sure I can get the gate unlocked for us, but if I can't we can continue 1/10th of a mile and make a right on La Palma which will bring us back on course about four miles later with no extra climbing and no extra mileage.

PS. It didn't rain

So to summarize there are three things to take away from this blog post.
1. The bike path is open and the homeless population is reduced but still present
2. The left turn from PCH onto Dover needs to be done with traffic
3. The right turn from Lakeview onto the bike path may be closed, but we can use La Palma instead.

See you soon.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Headwinds and bad nutrition

After spending the past week on vacation in Albuquerque and not getting enough exercise, Amber and I decided to ride my Anaheim to Oceanside permanent in preparation for my 300k staff ride next week.

We started 30 minutes late, due to Caltrans and headed out north along the SART from the Anaheim Amtrak station. Despite brightly colored signs stating the SART was closed, it was open and as heavily populated as ever. I'll be riding the entire length next Sunday and I'll post an update on the conditions.

We picked up a headwind as soon as we turned south which sucked because normally we have a tailwind all the way. We got to Cook's Corner ready to eat but just as we got there about 100 motorcycles arrived and blocked our turn. We figured we'd have to wait at least an hour with all those bikers in line in front of us, so we took a photo and kept going. I had a pro-bar which we split to give us enough energy to get to a gas station at mile 40.

When we got to the gas station it turned out they had no sandwiches. All we could find to eat was cookies and chips. Not a great meal after 40 miles of climbing and headwinds. Fortunately, the Kaylani coffee house was only 10 miles further.

We got to Kaylani in San Clemente only to discover they have gone out of business. It looks like the building is going to be occupied by a deli, which is good, but we got nothing to eat. Because it was cold and windy, we took the beach path through San Clemente and it was relatively clear of pedestrians.

Neither of us had remembered to renew our Camp Pendleton passes so we were surprised when they let us through without a murmur. Ten more miles of headwind and we were at Angelo's in Oceanside. We ate our first real food in eight hours and eighty miles. It was yummy.

On the train back we even got to sit down, which doesn't always happen.

That was a tough ride, made worse by the food. Over an 80 mile ride into a headwind I only got to eat half a pro-bar, some Gatorade, a bag of chips, and some toffee covered peanuts.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

No such thing as an easy 200k

Due to the terrible mudslides around Montecito, Greg decided to run the "Between a Rock and a Rincon" route instead of the scheduled "Santa Barbara Easy" last Saturday. Fortunately both rides start and end at the same place and are quite flat.

Amber and I stayed at the Best Western in Simi Valley and we both felt the extra cost over the Motel 6 was well worth it, especially as the ride's 7am start time allowed us to enjoy a nice pre-ride breakfast at the hotel.

We had 34 riders registered and even though we had a few no-shows, a large group rolled out on a cool, calm, and dry Saturday morning. After warming up a little on the rollers of Tierra Rejada we enjoyed a gentle downhill to the coast on Santa Rosa, trying to avoid the rumble strip as best we could.

This 200k only has one receipt control but it has seven info controls. Perhaps it should have been named "Infopalooza". I managed to get to the receipt control in Carpenteria at mile 57 by digesting my enormous complementary breakfast supplemented with a ProBar. As the info control stops were quick, we made excellent time. Greg even managed to route us onto two bike paths I'd never been on before - I thought I knew them all.

In Ventura the nature of the route confused both Amber's and my navigation systems (rwgps) which suddenly though we were on the south bound portion of the route. It wasn't until a mile or so later, when I saw the ocean, that I realized what had happened and turned around. From that point until Carpenteria my gps thought I was south bound and gave me the wrong cues. Fortunately I knew how to get to Carpenteria.

Heading back south we had a gentle tail wind and the info controls made it seem like a scavenger hunt. Greg had made the info control questions multiple choice which is an excellent idea - one I shall copy. For longer rides, it's understandable that riders will be fuzzy with exhaustion and sleep deprivation so I think having multiple choices will really help them understand and answer the question correctly. Unfortunately, his first two info control questions concerned the cash price of regular gas at gas stations. Both of them had raised their prices in the 24 hours since Greg had checked them!

Everything was going well and we were on schedule for a 9:30 ride time until we were about three miles inland on Port Hueneme Road. In the space of a quarter mile we went from having a gentle tail wind to having a powerful head wind. It seems the predicted Santa Ana winds had arrived about 12 hours early.

It was clear we would have a 30mph headwind while climbing the 11 miles of Santa Rosa Road, but it turned out the real problem was the strong crosswind while we were on PCH. Sure enough,  especially in the vicinity of Point Mugu, the cliffs and Mugu Rock concentrated and diverted the wind so that it was strong enough to cause a sandstorm across PCH and forced us to stop and wait as a particularly violent gust went by.

It was actually a relief to get onto Santa Rosa Road so that the wind was in our teeth, at least I wasn't worried about being blown off my bike. When we got to Camarillo we stopped at the Chevron and ate the massive cookies we had bought in Carpenteria and refilled with a little Gatorade. The wind was fairly calm at the gas station and I thought, perhaps, we had seen the worst of it. But no, as we left the shelter, the wind came back and we crawled up Santa Rosa at 10 mph.

When we turned onto Moorpark Rd, we still had a head wind. Go figure! Finally we turned onto Tierra Rejada and had two miles of well-earned tailwind. We finished with a 10:22 ride time so the wind cost us about an hour. Like I said to Amber "If all the rides were easy ..... that would be great!"

Greg was making pizza and it was good - the four cheese was one of the best I'd ever eaten. We shot the breeze (pun intended) for 45 minutes then headed back to our cars for the drive home.

This was my first ride with my new helmet mount. I purchased a small headlight during a flash sale on Amazon for a mere $15 and was very please with it, although it's not as good as my $80 Cygolite. Still, it would make a great helmet light but it doesn't come with a helmet mount. So I decided to foray into 3D printing. I downloaded some free CAD software from Design Spark and designed a mount so I could attach this light to my existing Cygolite helmet mount. Then a friend, who owns a 3D printer, printed it for me. After a couple of iterations I had the mount shown below.

See you later.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lucky Greek and Acorn Bags

Amber and I decided to do a different route last night and rode from Anaheim Artic to the Lucky Greek in Corona. There are fewer problems with the homeless encampments in that direction and I get a good climb up Green River Road.

On the way back we saw a high illuminated sign on the bike path saying it would be closed 1/22/18. There was no indication of why or for how long.

I finally managed to order an Acorn Bags saddlebag for myself on the third attempt and also snagged some leather straps for tying a jacket or something to the outside.

Medium Saddlebag with light jacket lashed on
Even though I still think Carradice bags are superb, this is the perfect century/200k saddle bag.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Fast solo 200k

Last Saturday I decided to celebrate getting over my cold by riding my Four Rivers 200k solo. I tried to set the best time I could, while keeping my calories to a minimum. It was a beautiful day with a high of 68F and mild winds.

Starting out on the SART

Nearly at the park

First control where they messed up my order
I got to the Jack in the Box which is the first control and ordered a breakfast croissant. Somehow I ended up with a junior breakfast sandwich and hash browns but I couldn't be bothered to wait for them to fix the order. I took one bite and burned my mouth so I shoved it into my Carradice bag and took off.

Time for breakfast
I headed up the San Gabriel bike path and about 30 minutes later I started to get hungry so I ate the breakfast sandwich which was still warm and kept going to the Shell control. There's a Subway there so I got the veggie sandwich (my favorite while riding). I got here to the halfway point in almost exactly four hours, but I'd had some tailwind.

Heading back towards the beach on the Rio Hondo bike path I picked up a headwind almost immediately. No surprises there.

Rio Hondo bike path before the Whittier Dam

I still had a decent average when I got to Long Beach. I shot some video as I approached the next control. As I passed the electronic sign I saw I was about the 700th cyclist to pass it that day.

I ate a Chronic Taco because their carnitas quesadillas are fantastic. This was my longest stop at about 30 minutes. I should take a photo of the food one day.

View from Chronic Tacos
I left well fueled and headed back towards Huntington Beach and then picked up a tailwind as I rode inland back to Yorba Linda. I got back to the car in 8:48 - one of my better times for a 200k.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Winter solstice 200k

December 21st was the winter solstice, the longest night of the year, so Kerin Huber organized a 200k from Pasadena to Oceanside starting at the Sierra Madre Gold Line station at 7pm. For a late season 200k, we had a surprisingly large turnout of 12 riders.

Starting in Pasadena

We have had terrible Santa Ana winds for the past two weeks - so strong that Amber and I had to abandon last week's ride. Fortunately the wind was fairly calm, and the prevailing northerly winds had returned for our ride. On the other hand it was bitterly cold (for California) so I had the opportunity to try out some of my new cold weather gear. I had new silk undergloves, a long-sleeved woolen RUSA jersey that I had only worn once before, and a new Showers Pass jacket.

When we started the ride it was about 46F. We rode tempo around Pasadena before heading east to the San Gabriel river trail. Charlie was unable to hold our pace and dropped off. It turns out he was not feeling well and was unable to complete the ride within the allotted time. David Nakai started late and caught us after an hour or so, then quickly rode off the front because he needed to finish before we were likely to.

Dana Point

Once we got onto the San Gabriel bike path, around mile 30, the temperature dropped even lower - bottoming out at around 36F. Fortunately as we approached the coast, it rose back up to around 41F and stayed there for the rest of the ride. Even with four layers of clothes, standing around at the controls was very cold, so several times I left before others were ready so I could warm up a little.

At Seal Beach, the McDonalds had closed early so we rode on the the Harbor House Cafe which is open 24 hours. This is good to know. The service there was pretty chaotic, but they got the job done eventually. We spent an hour here in total but at least we were well fed when we left.

We rode south with a tailwind in one or two groups, coming together and splitting as people felt stronger or weaker. Riding through Laguna Beach at two in the morning is much better than during the day. Hardly any parked cars, traffic, or pedestrians. Dana Point was quiet and we stopped at the penultimate control at the Arco to use the rest room and get water.

I showed Mark Tagawa the bike path through San Clemente which is slightly shorter and has less climbing than the bike route or PCH but because it's hard packed dirt, it is slightly slower. As we finished climbing out we saw the group that had stayed on PCH pass about 30 seconds ahead of us so I chased to get back on. Mark didn't even know the bike path existed and he said it was cool. When it's not packed with pedestrians, it is a lot more fun.

I was with the lead group of five as we approached Las Pulgas Road but I had to stop to eat some GoCubes and ended up about 1/4 mile behind them. I think they stopped at the rest area off the I5 because I saw them go in but I got to the Oceanside Amtrak before them.

My total ride time was 10:03 and the whole group, except Charlie, rolled in within another twelve minutes at 05:15. We were lucky enough to catch the 05:42 Metrolink to Los Angeles and Terri and Kerin were kind enough to show me how to buy a Gold Line ticket (and pay for it) back to Pasadena. It turns out it's not enough to buy a ticket. You buy the physical, reusable ticket and then have to load a virtual ticket onto it, and scan it as you enter. Too much for my sleep addled brain to figure out.

Ending in Oceanside

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Southern California has been experiencing unprecedented Santa Ana winds for the past 10+ days. During this time of year we have normally had our first snow and started the rainy season. However, in 2017, we have had no snow and almost no rain. Instead, we have had continuous dry, warm, powerful winds blowing off the Mojave desert. The Thomas fire is wreaking havoc in Ventura County and is now the third largest fire California has ever experienced. And it's still going strong.

Amber and I were scheduled to ride from Anaheim to Oceanside, but the wind in Anaheim was very strong and would have been a side-wind on the descent of Santiago Canyon so we decided to abandon that idea and ride up the bike path to the Lucky Greek. At least the wind would have been a head-wind on the way up and a tail-wind on the way back.

I pulled 16 miles into a 20-30 mph head-wind until we reached the canyon, by which time the wind had increased to the point where it was unsafe even as a head-wind. We decided to turn around at that point and flew back. At one point we were riding at 26 mph and I could still feel a tail-wind on the back of my legs. Our average speed on the way out was 12.1 mph and on the way back was 21.2 mph.

This is what 30mph looks like on the bike.