Sunday, November 24, 2013

Top Tube Bags

I recently reviewed the Roswheel Bicycle Frame Pannier and Front Tube Cell Phone Bag on It's a good bag.

I gave it five stars;
I am an avid cyclist, riding 8,000-10,000 miles a year. I specialize in randonneuring which consists of very long (200km+) unsupported rides. I've been using top tube bags for many years and spotted this on the top tube of another cyclist a month ago. He and his wife both had one and recommended them strongly. When I saw them on Amazon at ~$6.00 I thought they can't be any good because I normally spend $15-$20 for a top tube bag. They finally arrived today (I got one for my second bike, one for my wife, and one for my daughter). I am VERY impressed. I might have to buy one for my main bike and one for my other daughter.

Let's start with the top. There is a transparent plastic top with a Velcro flap underneath that is designed to hold a cell phone. My wife's iPhone fits comfortably while still in its case. My Lumia 928 barely fits when I take it out of its rubberized case. I think it would also fit if it were in a very thin case. You could also put a routesheet in here or even a Garmin Edge GPS system to protect it from the rain. I just put my Garmin Edge 705 in there and I can read it fine. I could even put the external battery pack for my Garmin or my phone in the main compartment.

The case comes with a headphone extension cord and a port in the front of the case to run a cable through so you could plug a headphone in to your cell phone if you wanted, not that I think that's a good idea. You would run the extension through the port so it's peeking out, then you could plug or unplug your headphones as you want. The top flips towards the rider which means it lays flat on the top tube when open - makes sense.

There's a double zipper around the top with extra large zipper tabs so you can open it with full finger gloves. Opening the top reveals a capacious bag about 2.5" x 2.5" x 5". That's plenty of room for gels, beans, bars, trail mix, even a spare pair of arm warmers. There are no compartments in the bag other than the one for the cell phone. It is sturdy enough not to collapse under its own weight when there's a cell phone in the top.

It fastens to the frame with three Velcro straps with buckles - two for the top tube and one for the steerer tube. You can cinch it down pretty firmly and it doesn't move around. The build quality looks good - I don't see any flaws in the stitching. It also has a reflective strip on each side. It looks good, it's highly functional, and it has a very reasonable price. What's not to love?

Unfortunately its raining outside so I don't feel like giving it a test ride. Hopefully next Saturday :-)

OK - time for an update now that I've given it a test ride. There are a few issues - nothing major.
1. This bag is about an inch wider than my other bags which means when you stand to climb your knees may brush against it. This is an issue with all top tub bags but the width of this one makes it worse. You'll need to keep your knees about an inch further apart when you stand.

2. The straps are too long. If you have an aluminum or carbon frame your top tube will be wide enough (about 1.5" seems OK). If you have a steel or titanium frame you may have problems. My top tube is about 1.3" diameter and when the Velcro loops back on itself through the buckle the hook part misses the loop part which means I can't cinch it up as tight as I want to. I put some rubber strips from old light mounts around the tube and it works fine now but I think this is a design flaw.

3. The strongest point is also a weak point. I use my top tube bag to snack from while I'm riding. The top flap where you put the cell phone makes it more difficult to get to the contents of the bag while you're riding. I found that unzipping one side but leaving the other side zipped up worked fairly well but it's not as easy to get to the food as my other top tube bags are.

Monday, November 18, 2013

SART 200k

Yesterday I rode my November instance of the SART 200k brevet. The weather was perfect - between 60F and 70F all day. I started riding with Sabrina and Sherry but they stopped at 13 miles and I continued on. I thought about stopping at the In-n-Out burger at 30 miles but decided to eat at the Arco instead. Stupid move - I should know by now to relax and enjoy.

I got to Huntington beach around 12:30 and ran into the Redlands Bike Club leaving Newport Burgers. I had a quick chat with some old friends and then ate at the Newport Liquor store which has been renamed NBC (Newport Beach Café) and has a nice new deli counter run by a couple of young Korean ladies. Very good food.

Around 1pm I headed back up the SART and, rather than stopping to eat at the Lucky Greek, I blew past relying on the trail mix in my top tube bag. They problem is that trail mix is just not a substitute for proper food so I bonked the last ten miles. I just couldn't get enough trail mix down to provide enough calories. I ended up with a 8:52 ride time and a roaring hunger.

I went to Panera and tried the new fontina grilled cheese sandwich that replaced the old big kids grilled cheese. Really cheesy :-)

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bravo Norco

A miracle occurred while I wasn't looking. The city of Norco, long reviled for it's anti-cycling stance, has finally marked a bike route with sharrows. For those who are unfamiliar with the term, a sharrow is a an arrow marked on the road telling motorists to share the road with cyclists. They're not worth the paint they're painted with but it's certainly a good sign. Even better, there is now a bike lane painted on Norco/Corydon.

The route that has been marked is the route that I've used to ride through Norco for many years so I highly approve of it. Not only did Norco mark a bike route but they did a good job of it. I guess I'm going to have to start obeying their stop signs now.

Next request - put a button on the lights at Corydon and River Rd that cyclists can get to. Right now we still have to get off our bikes, pick them up, carry them to the light that's set back 20' from the road, press the button, and carry them back to the road.

Also - how about extending the upper SART 200 yards so I joins up with California Ave. Cycling on Arlington is nasty and dangerous plus we obstruct traffic which no-one likes.

I went running last night and ran my first 10k. It took 1:13:42 - only a few seconds off my 5k pace of 36:30. That's half of a half marathon. Next week perhaps I could manage 12km. I'll have to see where the turn-around point would be.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Amber and I rode the 90 miles from Anaheim to Solana Beach on Saturday. When I got to Panera for breakfast on the way to the start I realized I had left my wallet at home. As you need ID to get through Camp Pendleton and to get on Amtrak I had to go back home to get it. This made me an hour late for the start of the ride.

We took the normal route to Santiago Canyon. I had not realized before how bad the route is. I will be changing that to add some miles at the start but keep us off the bad roads. We climbed up Santiago Canyon and got to Cooks Corner too late for breakfast :-( Oh well, the lunches are pretty good too. I had a breakfast burrito with lashings of hot sauce. I don't know why breakfast burrito is on the lunch menu.

We screamed down to the coast with the feeling of wind on my face and hotsauce on my lips. Because we started late we decided to catch the train at Oceanside instead of Solana Beach so we took it easy. It was a lovely day with highs in the low 80s. Traffic was lighter than usual.

At Oceanside we ate at Angelo's and then rode a couple more miles to the Amtrak station. When we got there they informed us that our train was running at least an hour late. That meant we could catch it at Solana Beach if we could ride 15 miles in 80 minutes. Amber pulled. We got there in 50 minutes despite hitting lots of red lights. We rode PCH through Leucadia - a section of PCH I detest, especially as Jim was killed by a drunk driver there two years ago. Normally I would detour on Vulcan but we didn't want to miss our train.

We were paralleling the train tracks and I knew if we saw a northbound train it was ours and we had missed it. We saw no train and we got to Solana Beach 30 minutes before the train. The serendipitous part of it is that if I had not forgotten my id we would have had to wait 90 minutes for the train instead of 30.

We hadn't planned on riding after 4:30pm but we brought lights and an extra layer of clothing anyway. We ended up riding until 5:40 and it was pitch black and about 60F when we finished. Randonneurs plan for these things.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Fifty-six minutes and forty seconds

I finally ran the entire five miles of the pedal path last night. Before I've only run five km and walked three km. It was below 50F so I wore unpadded cycling tights, a long-sleeve cycling jersey, and a wind-proof vest. It was a bit odd being cold and sweating at the same time. Probably a good way to catch a cold.

It was also pitch black so I had to bring along a flashlight too. There was no-one else on the trail for the entire hour. The crescent moon and Venus were setting and the lights across the lake were very pretty. It was rather fun.

I don't think I run very fast. Running the extra three km instead of walking them only took three minutes off my total time. Let's do some math...

If v1 is my run speed and v2 is my walk speed and time = distance/speed then...

5/v1 + 3/v2 = 1   (it takes me an hour to run 5 km and walk 3km)
8/v1 = 57/60       (it takes me 57 minutes to run 8 km)

v1 = 8/(57/60) = 8.42 km/h

So... 5/8.42 + 3/v2 = 1
and v2 = 7.38 km/h

I run at 8.42 km/h or 5.2 mph and I walk at 7.38 km/h or 4.5 mph.
Not a lot of difference!

I have signed up for the Southern California half-marathon in Irvine on Jan 11th. It's gonna hurt like hell.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Solvang Prelude

My wife and youngest daughter decided to ride the Solvang Prelude this year so they wanted me to come along in case they got a flat. I don't normally pay to ride such short rides but I agreed to come along as support.

The Solvang Century and Prelude rides are organized by SCOR and are not to be confused with the Solvang Double Century which is organized by PlanetUltra. They've been organizing rides for many years and recently changed the routes on this one to address safety concerns. In my opinion they failed.

We had a pre-dawn 7:30 start with temps around 50F and rode on the 246 highway into the rising sun. The 246 is busy and every car passing us was also driving into the rising sun which means they were blinded. Never organize a ride so that the riders are riding into the sunset or sunrise. It's very dangerous.

After four miles we rode through Solvang and turned onto a quiet road. After many pleasant miles we turned onto the 154 highway. This is another busy road even though it has a good shoulder. Many riders were not sensitive to the needs of other riders or motorists and blocked the shoulder to regroup, take photographs, etc. After 11 miles of heavy traffic we turned onto Zaca Station Road/Foxen Canyon.

This is a perennial cyclists favorite despite being hilly and rough. It's a beautiful road with wineries every half mile or so. Unfortunately it was an out-and-back section of the route which meant it was clogged with cyclists on both sides. This isn't a very busy road but there are plenty of people out for wine tasting and tours. Wine tasters and hordes of cyclists on both sides of the road make a very bad combination. This would have been better ridden as a loop so the cyclists would only have been on one side of the road.

We went back to Fess Parker winery on Sunday. They had hosted the 40 mile rest stop on Saturday and we spoke to the employees. They were very unhappy about the way the cyclists behaved and I had to agree with them. That one or two percent who think we own the road and can behave anyway we want ruin the ride for, and reputation of, the other 98 percent that ride responsibly.

I much prefer to participate in smaller rides of 20-30 people who form a few, spread out, small groups that don't impact traffic. There's no way I'll ride this ride again.