Sunday, December 13, 2015

Channel Islands 200k brevet

Yesterday I rode the Channel Island 200k brevet hosted by PCHRandos in Ventura. I stayed the night before at the Motel6 on Harbor Dr which was a mistake. There is no sound insulation in the rooms so I heard everything that happened in the parking lot. I can state with certainty that someone arrived at 12 midnight, at 1:15am, and at 2:30am. Also someone left at 4:30am and at 5am. Didn't get much sleep! Need to add this motel to the "Do not stay" list.

The ride started at the Bott house at the civilized time of 6:30. It was much colder than I expected, being 47F according to my car's thermometer but a couple of cups of coffee from Larry warmed me up and offset much of the damage done to my sleep patterns by Motel6. There were nine of us and we took off as a group excepting David Hartson who was still unloading his bike as we left.

Shai got a flat after a few miles and told us to continue. It turned out the be the flat from hell, requiring three attempts to fix it. David caught up and stopped to help him - nice guy. Shai rides a fixie - in fact he has the only bicycle I've ever seen with a belt drive - but he is one of the strongest riders in the group.

Jonathon was riding his orange velomobile and struggled to stay with us for the first ten miles. When I say he struggled I mean he struggled to ride slowly enough for us to stay with him. After the third info control he gave up and shot off the front. I chased but he was holding 20mph into a headwind and I couldn't bridge. There would have been no point anyway because there's no draft off a velomobile.

The first receipt control at mile 40 in Somis was a long time coming because a) I was bonking and b) The burritos there are magnificent. I struggled the last five miles and was thankful to stay with the pack. I polished off my 1lb egg and potato burrito in less than five minutes and headed out slowly ahead of the others to let my stomach digest at leisure. David and Shai caught up with us at the control.

I was testing my new navigation system which is the ridewithgps app. I run a usb cable from my hub generator to my Carradice bag which contains my smart phone - where it is protected and has the screen turned off. I have bluetooth ear buds and use the verbal directions from the app. Problem is the app had gone into auto-pause mode and wouldn't come out. It turns out the trick is to manually pause, then unpause. Once I figured that out at the Somis control everything worked fine. I need to find a way to disable the auto-pause feature or have ridewithgps fix it.

The pack caught up soon enough and we completed the loop back to the Bott house for water and anything else we needed. Then down to the beach to head up the coast to Santa Barbara. The wind was crazy all day - strong and coming from all directions. At one point it was a strong tailwind - strong enough to turn the leaves over on trees so they showed us their pale undersides. Then literally two miles later it was doing the same thing in the opposite direction and yet we hadn't changed direction.

We got to Santa Barbara marina and ate at the turnaround at Sushi-gogo (love that name). That one burrito from Somis had powered me over fifty miles. The special at Sushi-gogo is a great deal and the marina is a fun place to hang out. While we were there we heard that Craig had DNFed back at the Bott house. But we still had 33 miles to go so we climbed on our bikes one last time. Jonathon, David, and Shai were all ahead of the rest of us (Greg, Linda, Kerin, Foster, and me) so we were the lantern rouge of the ride.

We got lucky with the wind and had a 20mph or so tailwind for most of the return. We had a couple of close calls within a mile of each other in Carpenteria. First as we were approaching the left turn onto Carpenteria Ave a woman in a white Hyundai drove within inches of our left elbows. I actually reached out and put my hand on her roof as she drove by. Second we were riding to the right of a line of stationary traffic when someone coming the opposite way tried to make the left turn in front of us. I slammed on the brakes and fortunately Linda - who was behind me - was paying attention and avoided me. Scary stuff!

Foster and the ladies brutalized Greg and me on the few climbs and soon rode away from us. Greg and I finished together at 4:26 for a 9:56 ride time. Boy was I spent!

Thank you to Linda and Larry Bott for hosting the ride and to everyone who showed up to ride.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

SART 200k with friends

Several weeks ago I received an email from Julie Hua Ni, a rando from SFR, asking to ride my 200k SART permanent on Tuesday. As I still needed to ride my November 200k I decided to take the day off and ride with her (like I need an excuse to take a day off!). I posted an open invitation on the PCHRandos website and Mike Bratkowski took me up on it.

Tuesday came around with a slightly ominous weather forecast that indicated rain in the evening but hopefully we would be able to arrive at the end of the ride before the storm did. We started slightly after 8am as Mike moved his car to a spot less likely to earn him a ticket.

L-R Mike, Terry, Julie at the start
I was trying out a new navigation setup. I have been struggling to find a way to use the ridewithgps app on my smart phone in a way that protects the phone while letting me read the display. I had not been successful. Even moderately bumpy roads had the phone jolting violently and me wondering about the quality of the single bolt that stood between my $600 smartphone and a brutal death on the pavement. I've been looking at a $100 bluetooth Wahoo RFLKT that sits on the handebars and shows upcoming turns, but the reviews haven't been that great and I was still worried about readability in direct sunlight (of which we have a lot here in SoCal).

So I have some bluetooth earpieces from Best Buy that I use at work to listen to music for which I paid $40. The RideWithGPS app has voice cues (it just reads from the cue sheet at the appropriate distances). So for this ride I kept the phone in the case and put it in my Carradice bag, running the RideWithGPS app but with the screen turned off. The earpieces are supposed to have a seven hour run time but they were still going at the end of a nine hour ride. I spent 15 minutes on RideWithGPS editing the cue sheet, mainly removing unnecessary cues.

As I rode I heard vocal cues as clear as a bell and it even warned me when I deliberately went off course and directed me back on. For longer brevets power will be an issue but I can power the phone from my dynamo hub and I have an external battery that would probably work with the earpieces. As it was we rode a 9 hour 200k and both the phone and the earpieces lasted the entire trip. This setup solves all the readability, battery life, and phone safety issues I've been having. I never even have to take my eyes off the road to navigate. Of course I will still have a cuesheet for backup because the battery never dies!

The three of us rode well together and we made good time until we hit a headwind about 25 miles from the beach - much earlier than usual.

Nice day for a ride
The headwind slowed us down a little but it was for less that a couple of hours and I was looking forward to a commensurate tailwind on the way back. There's a new deli at the Newport Corner Market and it was taco Tuesday so Mike and Julie grabbed the taco deal but I fancied a steak burrito. All good.

Awww so cute and so friendly
Heading back we immediately picked up a tailwind that just got stronger as we headed through the Corona gap and was still blowing strongly when we got to the Lucky Greek in Corona for our last stop. Fries and Coke (Mike had a shake which looked delicious) - Julie snacked on grapes and nuts. I don't know how she rides so strong while eating so little.

The tailwind stayed with us for a while longer only petering out in the last ten mile stretch. It finally got dark enough for my Luxos to turn on about fifteen minutes from the end of the ride and we finished at 5:18pm for a 9:08 ride time. According to my RideWithGPS we had a 7:27 ride time for a moving average of about 17 mph and an overall average of 14 mph.

Happy at the end
Unfortunately Julie's husband was stuck in traffic somewhere on the 60 near Rosemead so we all went to a nearby Jack-in-the-Box to wait for him. Finally he got to San Bernardino around seven and we were able to deliver Julie safely to him.


Sunday, November 15, 2015

... and then a miracle occurred

Amber and I rode The Crema today. We needed a short ride because Amber needed to study for some exams and there was a storm coming in. In a previous post I mentioned that I had been inspired by a video that was attached to a brevet application. For The Crema I mounted my GoPro on my light bar and set it to take one frame every five seconds.

We had normal headwinds on the way to the beach but an unusual tailwind on the way up the coast to Seal Beach. We put the favorable winds down to the approaching storm and resigned ourselves to a headwind on the return. The speed limit along the beach path is 10mph but that was hard to do with a 20mph tailwind so we "compromised" by riding at 18mph.

The wait at The Crema was thirty minutes so we rode over the the pier to watch the surfers enjoying the high surf. The food at The Crema was fabulous as usual and eventually we climbed back onto our bikes to face the headwind. And then a miracle occurred - the wind had turned at least 90 degrees and we had an even stronger tailwind on the way back south! It was literally blowing up a storm. At one point I stood on the pedals and the wind blew me along at 12mph for a while.

We turned back inland on the SART and had a strong cross wind with a slight tail component that was a little tricky to ride with but we completed the 50 mile ride with about a 2:45 ride time.

When I got the GoPro home I looked at the timelapse video and didn't like it so I chose some key frames and annotated them. Then I created a slide show and added some Vivaldi. Take a look at https://youtu.be/dz7N_XqlffE

Lots of snow outside right now and thunder and lightning. So cool!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Good weekend and a cool video

I got a request to validate a new permanent in San Diego and it came with a link to a video. Check it out at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cPb1eegegkE&feature=youtu.be. Who wouldn't want to do this ride after seeing the video? I want to make one for my rides too. It looks like a lot of work.

I rode my Lucky Greek 100k Friday after work. I was cruising along at 22mph thinking I was getting really strong. Then I noticed the trees were being blow inside out by the tailwind. This is gonna hurt on the way back, I thought. I was right. Even on the aerobars I was was struggling to hold 12mph on the flat. I burned through the large fries and coke that I ate at the turnaround and finished the ride hungry and thirsty but with a decent total time of 4:21. I tried one of those cheddar, onion burgers on a buttery bun at Jack-in-the-Box. It was pretty good.

On Sunday I rode my Seal Beach to Duarte 125k permanent with Amber. This is actually the first time we have ridden it as a permanent. I didn't enjoy it as much as I thought I would - it was kind of boring. I got a flat right at the start (first one in about a year). The tip of a thorn had worked its way through the tire and caused a tiny puncture. I put a new tube in and flatted again after about 20 miles. This time the new tube had failed at the base of the stem.

One of the problems with getting very few flats is that my spare tubes tend to hang around for a long time and they have a limited shelf life. The other problem is I tend to buy my tubes during those half-price Tuesday deals and I swear the bike shop is just trying to get ride of old tubes.

We still rode too fast to get pizza in Duarte so Amber and I ate too much 7-11 cuisine and Amber had really bad stomach problems on the way back. We had to deal with a couple of assholes flying down the Los Angeles River Trail on midget motorbikes at 30mph. I gave one the finger, he gave me a finger back - it's important to communicate!

Ate at the Schooner or Later restaurant at the end of the ride. The food is better than the name.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

YES!

Finally it was cool enough on Friday evening to comfortably ride my Lucky Greek 100k permanent populaire after work so that's exactly what I did. It was a warmish 80F when I started at 5:15pm but I knew it would cool down quickly after the sun set because the sky was clear. The wind was very mild for this ride - maybe 5-10 mph instead of the usual 15-20 mph. I got down on the aerobars and held a comfortable 18 mph to the end of the upper SART and still had a 17 mph average by the time I got to the Lucky Greek. One order of fries and a raspberry coke later and I was ready to turn around.

The wind was still mild on the way back so I missed my usual tailwind but still had a 16 mph average when I got back to the upper SART and finished with a 16.5 mph average. Total elapsed time for the ride was 4:07 - not my fastest but not too shabby. It was a wonderful ride.

Today I hiked five miles with Sherry and explored some new trails. One of the trails had fire hydrants along it which was a bit puzzling.

Fire hydrant in the middle of nowhere
Tried the cheese burger with blue cheese at Blondies - not too bad.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Mount Baldy

No riding this weekend. I hiked Mount Baldy for the first time. Not like those pussies that rode the ski lift up and then sauntered up the last couple of miles saying "Look at me, I'm hiking". No - Amber and I hiked up Ski Hut trail and then hiked down Devil's Backbone like it's supposed to be done. Anyway $12 for the ski lift is way too expensive.

We started with a four mile, 4000' climb. Probably the hardest four miles of hiking I've ever done. Not only is it very steep, but it's extremely technical most of the way. Some of this hike would qualify as a class one mountain climb. It was cool and we were in fog most of the way but it was pretty awesome. We had some light rain at the start but fortunately it didn't develop into anything. At the ski hut I took my first selfie and we ate some rice bars I had made the previous evening. That's my daughter ninja'ing my selfie.

Mile 2.5 The Hutts at the Ski Hut
From there it's a very strenuous two more miles to the summit where it was cool, foggy, and very windy. There are narrow trails shooting off in all directions so we got lost a couple of time and scrambled over rocks and scree until we found the main trail again. One great thing about a summit climb is that you just have to keep climbing and you're bound to get there eventually! We sheltered in the ring of rocks and ate more rice bars and a PBJ. There's a couple of chipmunks up there that I don't know what they eat. I hear they can live for six months on one dead hiker. I threw one a morsel of PBJ but it didn't seem to realize it was food. Maybe it still had some dead hiker stashed away somewhere.

Mile 4.5 Snacking at the Summit
After twenty minutes or so we headed down on the Devil's Backbone which loops around back to the start in 7.5 miles. As steep descents kill my calves I thought this would be less painful and perhaps a little safer. Descending the technical ascents we had just mastered seemed a bit iffy to me. It turned out the first mile of the Devil's Backbone descent was pretty technical too. The trail is named after a narrow ridge with a steep drop off on either side, but it turned out not to be too bad. You would have to be very careless to get into trouble there - or taking a selfie.

We quickly returned into the clouds and we saw a deer ahead so I took a couple of photographs.

Deer in the Fog
 After the first mile the trail became a fire road and the going got very easy. We were still fairly cold so when we got to the ski lodge at the top of the ski lift we decided to treat ourselves to some hot chocolate. It was really good.
 
Really good hot chocolate

From the ski lodge it is a very easy three miles back to the start of the ride on a wide, smooth fire road. Our total elapsed time was 6:30 with about 5:30 of moving time over a total of 11.8 miles and 4600' of climbing. I would definitely do that hike again - in about a year. On the way down Amber started talking about doing San Gorgonio. Heaven help me!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Anaheim - Oceanside 125k permanent

Yeah it was raining - so what? A little rain never hurt anyone. Amber and I rode my Anaheim - Oceanside permanent on Sunday. The climb up Santiago Canyon was quite nice with 60F weather and light to moderate rain. The descent was a little scary and Amber's disk brakes finally proved their worth. There were still a lot of cyclists but nary a biker to be seen. We got to Cook's Corner and it was so deserted we thought they were closed. The usual stalls outside were not to be seen which was a shame because both Amber and I wanted to buy new cycling glasses.

Where did all those big, tough bikers go? 
We ate our usual - Amber had the French Toast and I had a breakfast burrito. The burrito was a little bland so I put on some tabasco sauce. I normally avoid Mexican food and salsa while riding but for some reason I thought tabasco would be a good idea. I would pay later for that mistake.

We left Cook's Corner around 11am and enjoyed the long descent down to the coast under dry skies but on wet roads. It is a wonderful route and made even better by the lack of other trail users. We got to Kaylani coffee house in San Clemente thinking perhaps the worst of the weather was behind us. We actually had shadows as we rode up to the door. We drank our usual caramel and sea salt iced coffee and headed down the coast when it started raining again. When we got to Camp Pendleton the tabasco made it's presence forcefully known. Thank goodness they have portable toilets near the entrance. Ew.

It rained on and off all the way to the Oceanside so we stopped at Angelo's as long as we could. Cheese omelette, hash browns, and toast - what a great way to finish up a ride. Finally we rode the last mile to the Amtrak station. Fortunately the train wasn't too crowded so we got a seat this time; seats that were a lot damper when we got off the train than when we got on!

Friday, October 2, 2015

BrevetManager.com

For the past few months I've been working on a new website for RBAs and brevet organizers to help run their events more smoothly. I have found there is a huge amount of repetitive and error-prone paperwork to create rider lists, track payments and waivers, generate brevet cards, and submit results.

I find myself endlessly cutting and pasting rider contact and emergency info, creating spreadsheets, and hard generating brevet cards. My new website is designed to streamline all of that.

The website is
the guest user email is guest@guest.com and the guest password is "guestuser". Feel free to take a look.

The website is not ready yet - it doesn't handle permanents properly and there is a problem with the help system in Netscape Navigator, but it's been well tested in IE11, Edge, and Chrome. It also appears to work in Safari.

The website is helpful at all stages of the brevet process.
  1. Once you have added a route with its controls you can easily create an event for the route.
  2. The website supports brevets, populaires, and permanents but not fleches, arrows, or darts.
  3. Control open/close times are automatically calculated for the route and each event.
  4. Adding riders is a matter of entering their RUSA number. The name and city is pulled from the RUSA database. If you have previously added contact and emergency numbers for them  in brevetmanager that information is automatically completed for you. Couldn't be easier.
  5. You can easily print brevet cards for your riders using Adobe Reader two at a time. You can also print blank cards for day-of-the-event registrations.
  6. You can email all registered riders with last minute instructions or route changes.
  7. You can print a rider list which is useful at the start of the ride to track payments, waivers, etc and is useful during a ride in case you need to contact a rider or their emergency contact.
  8. For the end of the ride there is a special page designed for mobile devices that calculates and saves finish times and ride times at the click of a button. No more "The ride started at 5:30 and it's now 3:17 the next morning - that's how long?"
    Each event has a URL you can paste into your website to link to the event results.
  9. You can mass submit the ride results to RUSA. Yay!
  10. Each region has a URL you can paste into your website to link to the region's results for a year.
  11. Anything else you can think of that I can do.

Capturing the results of an event on a mobile device

Monday, September 28, 2015

Las Vegas

I spent most of the weekend in Las Vegas to celebrate my wife's 50'th birthday. My God it's hot there (106F one afternoon) - you have to appreciate the irony of Sin City being as hot as hell. The best part was the Sigfried and Roy baby tigers.



Amber and I rode The Crema on Sunday morning. On the way back my bike computer registered a temperature of 101F but it always exaggerates - it was really only 87F. I used my Note II with the RWGPS app and it worked great. I love the way I can upload the ride to RWGPS with just the press of a button.

When is it going to cool down????

Monday, September 21, 2015

Cycling the world from my spare room

It was really hot down the hill and Amber couldn't ride with me so I decided to put some miles in on the exercise bike using my website www.noheadwinds.com. I rode 75 miles in Oxfordshire, England and then 40 miles in Portugal, both while watching the Midsomer Murders series on Netflix.

I rode a final 17 miles in the upper desert (thanks Jim #3) but had the TV turned off for that ride. Interestingly my average speed for the last ride was 20.2 mph - much faster than my average for the first 100 miles of the ride. It seems that watching Netflix makes the miles fly by but in actuality I'm riding slower.

Curious.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Goodbye Garmin

For some time now I've been growing more frustrated with my Garmin Edge 800. It takes way too long to load a route or find satellites. You have to turn it on five minutes before you start the ride to give it time to get ready.

I recently bought a stem mount for my Galaxy Note II but sent it back because it had a poor design. Today I received a bike mount for my Note II which it rock solid. It's heavy but it isn't going to snap off on the first pothole and send my cell phone flying across the road at 20mph.

I took it out for a spin up to the top of Keller Peak - my weekly sufferfest. I used the RWGPS android app, downloaded the route, clicked "Ride" and off I went. The app doesn't have as many metrics as the Edge but you can read them while looking at the map. I have a dynamo hub and a USB converter so I don't have to worry about running out of batteries.

This app is totally worth joining RWGPS as a basic member.

One of the very coolest things I found is that at the end of the ride you can upload the details to your RWGPS account without having to hook up to your computer. There is also a feature called "Live Logging" which updates your location to your account every few minutes so your loved ones can keep track of you.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Matthew O'Neill memorial brevet

I've been getting some good riding in lately with a 200k permanent last weekend, another ascent of Keller Peak road, and the Matthew O'Neil memorial 200k brevet yesterday. There were about 15 of us on the ride, four of whom had recently returned from successful PBP rides. Eric, Shai, Greg, and Stacey were all wearing their PBP jerseys with justifiable pride.

We started from the Bott house at 7am and headed down to Point Hueneme and then inland to Somis for club subsidized burritos. Amazingly the whole group stayed together except for one rider who flew off the front like a bullet. At the control Foster explained that RUSA had refunded some money to the various regional groups based on ridership and we were using some of our share today which is why this ride was free for CIBC members and we got free food. Interestingly Foster mentioned my night audax ride where I traditionally buy burgers for the riders at the turn-around point for giving him the idea.

It took forever for the burritos to arrive and I could tell some of the riders who like to get through controls quickly were chafing - including me. But the burrito was great and I ate most of it in seconds, it seemed. We had ridden hard (for me) to this point so I knew the group would take off at 20mph which would offend my digestive system. I decided to sneak off before the main group left so I could ride easy until they caught me. Lonnie left with me and we rode a gentle pace and talked until the main group caught us - which didn't take long.

I managed to stay with the leaders until mile 70 when we climbed a nasty hill up to Rincon Point. Then Greg (our fearless leader) and I battled minor headwinds for the last 20 miles to Santa Barbara harbor at mile 92. As we were arriving the lead group was leaving.

Actually they weren't really the lead group because Jonathon Grey was riding his new Velomobile and was destroying us. By Santa Barbara he was 15 minutes and a control ahead of us. He seems to have fixed all the mechanical issues on his new bike.

The lines at Sushi-a-go-go (that's the real name!) were long so we settled in for another long control and chat. This ride is always very social and that's one of the fun things about it. It's late in the year so there's no worries about qualifying for SR or a 1200k.


Greg - looking particularly fearless and leaderly

I finished while Greg was still eating so I rudely left him and took off for the return leg. Just 30 miles to Ventura with tailwind all the way. Alan Tolkoff and a 'bent rider (Jeff?) joined forces and we cruised at an easy 18-20mph trying to catch Lonnie who had taken off a few minutes earlier. We caught up with him after Montecito and rode with him to the hot dog stand at Rincon point where he stopped to refuel.

Alan, Jeff, and I rode easy back to Ventura and for I while I thought we might manage a sub-nine hour 200k despite the long stops. But I had forgotten about the seven miles of climbing and red lights that is Ventura. We got to the finish at 4:10 for a 9:10 ride. When I looked at my Garmin I had a moving average of 17.2mph which means we spent 1:40 off the bike. If I had just grabbed food at the markets I could have taken an hour off my ride time, but where's the fun in that?

We socialized for a while at the Bott home and some local kids showed interest in Jonathon's velomobile. It's a fascinating vehicle.


Jonathon reveals the secret of his speed - he has a co-driver

Thanks to Foster and the Bott family for organizing the ride, feeding us, and allowing us to invade their lovely home.

Here is a pictoral selection of the some of the classic randonneuring bikes that were ridden on this brevet.



Monday, August 24, 2015

Mechanicals

Amber and I rode our 50 mile night ride from Anaheim to Seal Beach and back last night. It seems this is all we can do lately what with her schedule and the heat. We ate a Beachwood BBQ again and I had the grilled Mac'n'Cheese which was awesome.

As I loaded my bike up for the ride I noticed I had a flat tire. That's the first I've had in a couple of years. I was worried that my amazing Gatorskin tires had lost their perfect record but I was relieved to discover the tube had failed at the base of the stem. Gatorskin tires still have a perfect record on my bike. I wonder why tubes often fail at that point even after months of flawlessly holding air in.

When we were four miles towards the beach Amber's bike suddenly started making a chirping noise and the pedals wouldn't turn. I span the back wheel and confirmed the freewheel and brakes weren't causing the problem. Then I removed the wheel and verified the jockey wheels were moving freely and the bottom bracket wasn't seizing. As soon as I put the wheel back in the problem returned.

When I looked very closely I saw a nub of metal sticking out from the rear dropout that was very close to the cassette. I couldn't slide a business card between the nub and the cassette so I pulled the wheel out again for a closer look. One of the bolts holding the rear dropouts together had worked its way loose so all I had to do is tighten it up and away we go. Always something new!

Friday, August 21, 2015

PBP

I climbed Keller Peak a couple of days ago - 11 miles round trip - one hour up and ten minutes down. At the top I snacked on a frittata and an individual bread pudding I baked from my new favorite recipe book. Such a treat.

It seems like I know half the population of France right now. PBP has just finished and I tracked many of my friends as they labored 1200km from Paris to Brest and back. I see Pete abandoned after 800km which is a personal best for him. I don't think he realized how well he was doing because his average speed to that point was pretty good. Others such as Iria Pico and Doug Church don't seem to have completed the ride even though I was sure they would. Russ Cammell and the Klines both had impressive rides.

They all make my 11 mile ride see pretty pathetic. They've got me all jealous so I'm looking at a 1200k up in BC I'd like to try in 2018. That's a pretty long term goal.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Found Treasures

My friend Iria showed me a cook book she recommended called the Feed Zone. When I looked for it on Amazon I found the same authors had written a book called Feed Zone Portables, which I bought. The focus of the book is creating portable, delicious, and nutritious food to carry on endurance rides. I get so sick of fast food and gas station cuisine and several of my riding family make the bulk of their own fuel, I decided this was something I wanted to explore.


The first thing I did was to buy a rice cooker. Amazon had a simple one from Panasonic at a great price and it makes much better rice than a saucepan can.

The book starts with a very detailed and well considered discussion on exercise nutrition. I had always known that drinking soda and Gatorade on a long ride would upset my stomach but I didn't know why. Apparently high concentrations of sugar in the gut cause water to move from my bloodstream into my gut which causes bloating. I don't agree with his stance on electrolytes (he stresses sodium over potassium), but overall I enjoyed this part.

The first recipe I tried was a savory rice bar but it had no flavor so I moved on to a blueberry and chocolate rice bar. It's really simple...

Cook three cups of sticky rice (I use Calrose brand). Add 3/4 cup coconut milk and 1/4 cup raw sugar to taste. Spread half in the bottom of a 8" x 13" pyrex dish. Add a layer of 1/2 cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips and a cup of blue berries (any berries work). Spread the rest of the rice. Press down hard. Chill, cut into squares and wrap individually in foil. Refrigerate. Absolutely delicious.

You get about 30 two-bite bars from this recipe with about 60 calories each. The nutritional profile is ideal for endurance events. The cost is 15 cents per bar. So for 30 cents you get the same calories as a $1.50 energy bar but it's delicious and only has natural ingredients. The only downside is that these bars don't have a shelf life of years. Don't worry - they taste so good they won't last to the end of the week.

Next week I'm going to try some polenta bars and then some two-bite pies.

On Saturday I went for a hike on a new trail called 1W10 that starts in Rim Nordic just off highway 18 between Running Springs and Big Bear. I was surprised to see so many fire roads and trails in this area. I had no idea. We started with a strenuous climb up to a mountain meadow. There was 700' of climbing in 1.1 miles!


We ate some of my rice and fruit bars part way through the hike and that really helped. By the time we ate about an hour later we weren't really that hungry.

On Sunday Amber and I rode from Anaheim to Irvine and back for a fun fifty mile night ride. Path of the Peters Canyon bike path has closure signs on it which we ignored. There is absolutely no reason for the signs - their only purpose is to inconvenience and endanger cyclists. They say the path will be closed until August of 2016 which impacts my 300k brevet. We shall see.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

11 + 2 = Audax ride

Rarely do so many factors conspire together to make it difficult to ride a brevet as we contended with on the 2015 Night Audax 200k which I hosted yesterday. This is a 200k brevet that starts in Huntington Beach at 7pm and heads inland to San Bernardino and then back. The intent is to ride as a group, but as we are Americans, this can be a challenge.

The weather forecast was appalling with 50% showers and thunderstorms predicted for the night of the ride. There were heavy thunderstorms all morning and continuous light to moderate rain all afternoon. As I drove down to the start at Huntington Beach I got a stream of phone calls and texts from people who had decided not to ride.

In addition there was a fatality on the Amtrak tracks around Oceanside and both north and south bound trains were seriously delayed. Mel called from Los Angeles to say he could not make it and Lisa and Hector called from San Diego to say they were going to be very delayed.

When I arrived at Huntington Beach the roads were wet but the storm had moved through leaving the air muggy and warm, but dry. As I waited in my car riders started showing up so we got their paperwork done. A couple of riders called to say they would be late for the start of the ride so I left their brevet cards on my windshield in case they got there within a hour of the ride's start time.

James called at 6:55 to say he was at the park - where were we? I don't know why Garmin likes to take people to the other side of the park. While we were waiting for him to drive around, Lisa showed up having ridden down from Anaheim Amtrak. We got started at 7:10pm with eleven riders and two more on the way.

The bike path was wet from the recent storm and exactly half of the bikes in the group had fenders. Five bikes had full fenders and I had a rear fender. The storm had reversed the prevailing wind so we had a headwind. It wasn't strong but is wasn't the expected tailwind. We rode cautiously on the wet pavement and got to the Mobil on Green River Hill a little late. As we rode by the road works on Green River Road Amber got a front wheel flat from some sheet metal that Caltrans had left by the side of the road which we fixed quickly. 

Atmospheric photo of bridge over SART - credit Brent Shaver
 
We felt a few drops of light rain for a few minutes at several points but it was never unpleasant. But when we got to the upper SART we started seeing lightning on either side but heard no thunder which tells me the storms were more than ten miles away. Still quite alarming. The storm had brought down a tree on the bike path which had left maybe 12 inches for us to squeeze by. It's a good thing we were running good lights.

As we regrouped at the top of the upper SART Lisa's front tire blew as she was just sitting there. Weird. She runs tubulars with slime. I have never seen slime work and it didn't this time either. It just ran across the bike path. Useless stuff.

With two flats, headwind, and wet roads, we were 45 minutes behind schedule so Lisa got 45psi into her tire and we rode the last 1.5 miles to In-n-Out for the turnaround. We thought Hector and David would join us here, but they didn't. We ordered an immense amount of food and somehow got some extra burgers and fries.



While we were eating it started to rain which was worrying, but by the time we were done the rain had stopped. As we were pulling away from In-n-Out, Lisa's front tire flatted again so she put a tube in and as she was doing that we saw Hector and David pull into the In-n-Out. We took off without them.

Riding back we had a strong tailwind and suddenly we were riding 18mph. We flew back until Doug caught a goat-head in his front wheel in Corona. Flat number four. We refueled at the Arco in Corona and kept on going - still with a tail wind. On Green River Road - almost exactly the same place she had flatted on the way out, Amber flatted again. Flat number five. By now the sky had cleared although the roads were still wet.

Dawn lit the eastern sky as we rode past Yorba Linda park and the tail wind grew even stronger. Hector and David caught us but David Nakai had ridden off the front so we were now twelve. We got to the end at 6:25 which put us 1:15 behind schedule. But considering the wet roads and five flats, I'm OK with that. The good news is we didn't get soaked, no-one crashed, and we weren't hit by lightning.

It's raining again as I write this. Damn we got lucky!

Although every rider who completed this brevet deserves credit for overcoming adversity, several riders deserve a special mention...
Brent (in blue) rode this bike on a 200k brevet

Brent Shaver who rode a beach cruiser wearing sandals. Single speed? Who does he think he is? Shai? That was a very impressive performance and if he ever gets a real bike he will be awesome. He also posted some photographs on his RWGPS trip.

Lisa, Hector, and Osvaldo took the train up from San Diego and were going to ride my 125km Anaheim to Oceanside permanent populaire with Doug and then ride on home. I think if you can do that then you're in good form for PBP.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Keller Peak

Got the bike serviced with a new chain, cleaned the drive train and trued the first wheel. It cost $125. I got the Prius serviced this week too - that only cost $30. Something wrong here.

I picked up my sparkly bike from my LBS and rode up Keller Peak again like I try to do each week. I really dug deep and managed the 5.7 mile 1800' climb in 55:15 - a new personal best @ 6.19 mph.

I'm hosting a 200k night audax brevet on Saturday night and have 16 people signed up already. Should be fun.

Yay me!


Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Colorado vacation day 2

Before we started riding Amber, Sherry, and I went up to Glenwood Springs Adventure Park which involved a fancy ski lift up and down. There was a lot to do but we stuck with the cave tours which were pretty cool.


After the cave tours we ate at the Pullman Restaurant. It was phreeking amazing.

Amber and I rode from Glenwood Springs to Eagle in the afternoon. It's 38 miles with a fair bit of climbing, but once again things didn't go as planned.

Everything started off well and we rode on the bike path alongside the Colorado river. With all the rain we have had lately the river is running high and the rafters were having a good day. We had a strong tailwind and the climbing was no big deal.


Everything went well until we got about half way through the ride. First it started raining, then the road was closed and there was no way around. We had to wait for a bus but the bus driver was off somewhere getting food so we waited under the bridge that was closed to stay out of the rain. We didn't realize at the time, but we were being eaten alive by carnivorous mosquitoes. By the time the bus finally arrived we were weak from loss of blood.

It took another 30 minutes for the bus to get use around the closed bridge. No matter - we finished up the ride in plenty of time.

Colorado vacation day 1

I dropped Amber and Sherry off in Aspen so they could ride down 40 miles to Glenwood Springs. On paper it looked like a fun ride with 1800' of descending in 40 miles of class A bike path. However, Mother Nature had different ideas.

To start with there was about three miles of packed dirt instead of pavement in the first five miles. Fortunately my wife and daughter have bikes that are very capable on packed dirt. Unfortunately it started to rain - hard - very hard. I had driven the car back to Glenwood Springs and my cell phone had decided it didn't want to work today. So they got soaked and chilled and had to take shelter all while sending me frantic messages that they wanted to be picked up. I had no clue.

My plan was to drive to Glenwood Springs then ride up the path to meet them and ride back with them. I reckoned I would meet them within 20 miles as I was climbing and they were descending. I got 20 miles up the bike path and still hadn't seen them so I assumed they had gone past me when I went off the course for three minutes. I turned around and headed back to Glenwood Springs - assuming they would be at the hotel room when I got there.

Looking up the Glenwood Springs to Aspen bike path
When I got back they were not in the room so I started to get a bit worried. I used the motel room phone to caall them (long-distance even though they were only 5 miles away). Amber answered and told me they were only about three miles from the end. They had sheltered in the rain for so long they were still a couple of miles above me when I turned around.

I had a great ride with 38 miles and a little light rain. They had not had such a great time.

Monday, June 29, 2015

LA Wheelmen Grand Tour

Amber, Iria and I rode the LA Wheelmen Grand Tour on Saturday. We rode the lowland double century route because I was afraid it might get hot (we have had temps in the 90-100 range for two weeks). Amber and I used to ride this regularly but I got cold feet after the 2009 ride when Rod Armas was killed by a drunk driver during the ride.

We braved Friday night traffic to register in Malibu and as we got out of the car Shai Shprung walked past having just registered for the quad (400 miles). He rides a fixie so I'm assuming that's what he was going to ride the quad on!

Saturday morning and up at 4am (yikes) to start the ride at 5:30am. Three miles into the ride a bug the size of a cesna lodged itself in my throat. I couldn't breath, cough, or swallow so after a few seconds of struggling my stomach solved the problem by throwing up. First time that has ever happened. We made good time through to the second control near Moorpark where we ran into Greg, Ron, and Foster from the PCH Rando group. Ron was feeling rough from food poisoning so I told him about the bug which seemed to cheer him up a bit.

We all agreed to ride up the Ojai bike path from Ventura which is so much nicer than the proper route and is only 1/2 mile longer. After a long lunch in Ojai where we ran into Alan Tolkoff and Jeff Karotkin as well as Phil (whose second name I can never remember) we went back down the bike path but took a detour on Barnham so as to approach the (secret) control from the correct direction.

Turning north along the coast we had a powerful headwind. Thank goodness Foster, Greg, and Ron were with us to push through the wind. I'm sure we got to Rincon point 15 minutes earlier thanks to their efforts. The good news is that the overcast became even heavier and although it was humid, it was pleasantly cool.

Rincon Point - Ron, Greg, and Amber - Iria has her back to me.

While we were relaxing at Rincon Point we felt a few drops of rain and I could see the clouds upwind of us were precipitating so I rallied the group and we headed south to try to ride out from under the rain. We had a good tailwind and managed to get under dry clouds pretty quickly.

Elizabeth met us in Hueneme where the soup was as wonderful as usual and we hung around for a while then headed out for the last stretch with a diminishing tailwind. About ten miles from the end, where the hills start, the tailwind was replaced by a headwind. Curses! We couldn't stay with Foster on the rollers and the group ripped apart. Iria, Amber, and I regrouped and took the long way around on Malibu Road to the end of the ride to avoid that ugly left turn off of PCH. It adds distance and climbing but it's worth it.

We got back to the cars at 8:53pm for a total ride time of 15:13 which wasn't too bad. We had a moving average of 16.17 so our moving time was 12:20 which meant we were off the bikes for almost three hours. That's probably an hour more than we should have been. Oh well - we had fun.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

A new training ride

I have decided to improve my climbing by riding up Keller Peak road once a week. The road is 5.5 miles long and climbs from 6000' to 7800' by the time it reaches Keller Peak fire lookout. It is well paved and only has a few cars (I was passed by four during the hour it took to climb it today). I set a base time of 58:31. Starting after 7pm seems to reduce the bug and the heat problems. In fact it was below 60F by the time I turned around and started descending.

It's a pretty steady climb averaging about 6% but it touches 20% in a few places. By the time I get back to the bottom my rims are pretty hot. I put all my lights on the for descent. That's a Luxos U at full power, a Cygolite 850, Cygolite 600, and a Night Rider 600. When I got into my car and started driving, my car headlights seemed really dim!

Let's hope I can bring those times down.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Lake Fire and Luxos U

I took delivery of a new B&M Luxos U generator light from Peter White on Wednesday so I wanted to do a test ride. The light came with the wrong size spade terminals for my SON 28 generator so I nipped out to Mac's Electronics in San Bernardino which is like a candy store for an old electronics hack like myself. Three dollars got me a bag of the correct spade terminals so I replaced the old ones and wired up the light.

We're in the middle of a heat wave so I decided to ride up Keller Peak road in the evening. The road starts at 6000' and climbs to 7800' in 5.5 miles. It's a great ride if you want short and intense and it's only a few miles from my house. I started at 6:30pm but, much to my surprise, I found myself at the top by 7:30. The top of Keller Peak has a fire lookout tower and I got a great view of the Lake Fire which is currently burning near Jenks Lake and has route 38 closed.

Lake Fire from Keller Peak fire lookout tower 6/18/2015
I killed some time eating a packet of Squinchers which I had bought but I wasn't impressed. They're supposed to be electrolyte energy chews but they only have 90 calories a pack and have a pathetic electrolyte profile (3% RDA sodium and 1% potassium). I won't be buying them again. I can get the same calories by opening my mouth while riding through a cloud of gnats. If only they could genetically engineer black cherry flavored gnats.

Talking of gnats; the bugs were a royal pain on the climb. I have found that if you can hold 7 mph most of the bugs can't keep up. As I was averaging 5.5 mph the little devils swarmed me. I have a mosquito net I use for hiking. I wonder how stupid I'd look if I wore it cycling. I wonder how much I care. My hand is covered in mozzie bites too so perhaps I just need to speed up.

So it wasn't very dark on the way down and I was only able to confirm that the daytime running light works and it charges my GPS system.

I still needed to test the new light in proper dark conditions so I worked late Friday night until 8pm when the temperature had dropped to a balmy 90F down the hill and went for a ride on the upper SART bike path. Several miles out I came across a snake that must have been upward of three feet long sunning itself on the other side of the path, as well as several large lizards at least 6" long. Cool.

It got truly dark around 8:30 and I could see the new light was pretty amazing. Compared to my old Lumotec IQ70 it is brighter and wider. It doesn't have such a smooth beam pattern but it throws a lot of light onto the road. The boost feature is nice too - it uses the capacious internal battery to throw an extra 20 lumen onto the road at the far end of the beam. It makes a difference.

The light I received is slightly different from the light I was expecting. The documentation has not been updated. The old light had a USB port directly in the handlebar switch but my light has a cable coming out of the switch with a floating USB port at the end. I do not like this change. I have aerobars so I can hide the extra cable but if I had regular handlebars I don't know what I would do with it. I'd much rather not have to deal with it at all. It adds nothing that I can see. If your USB cable doesn't reach to the switch buy a longer one. They're cheap and readily available.

Let's look at some of the features of this light.
Stand light: Thanks to the large internal capacitor the stand light is bright and long lasting
Daytime: There is a daytime running light with a flash option (that I haven't got to work yet)
Night time: The beam is bright (70 lumen) and wide and adjusts to push light forward as you speed up. There is a manual boost option to put an extra 20 lumen at the tip of the beam.
Sensor: There is a sensor that detects Day vs. Night and switches accordingly.
USB: There is a USB port that can charge your GPS or cell phone during the day if you are riding more than 15kph. You can charge while using your daytime running lights but not at night.
Beam: The beam is very wide and has a well defined upper edge where most of the light is put, especially if you are riding fast. It's not as clean as the Lumotec around the edge close to the bike.
Controls: There are controls on the back of the light and on the handlebar switch. There is a single button that has a long and a short press that do different things.
Feedback: The feedback on the handlebar switch consists of a red led that indicates USB charging, and a blue led that indicates boost mode. There is no indication that the light is actually on which would have been nice for the daytime running mode.
Hardware: The light came with a crown mount and is well constructed (it's German). There may be issues with water getting up underneath if you ride in the rain without fenders. There are more zip ties and cabling hardware than I know what to do with.
Documentation: The documentation is for the old version of the light and is poorly translated from the original German. However it is more than sufficient for the job.

Monday, June 8, 2015

New Permanent

I've been toying with an idea for a new permanent that is the upper loop of my Five Rivers 300k brevet. It starts in Seal Beach and heads up the San Gabriel Bike Path to Duarte where it turns around and heads down the Rio Hondo and Los Angeles River Trails to Long Beach. From Long Beach it uses the Long Beach Bike Path and three miles of surface roads to get back to Seal Beach.

The entire permanent has 77 miles of bike path and 4 miles of surface roads for a total of 81 miles and 1200' of climbing. It is a phenomenally fast 130km, especially in a group to counter the inevitable head winds on the way back. Iria, Amber, and I completed it on Saturday at an average speed of 16.85mph with a brutal headwind all the way back (no, we did not have a brutal tailwind on the way out).

I gathered up the paperwork and submitted it to Crista Borras of RUSA yesterday so hopefully we can ride it again in a month or so and get credit.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Riding Brevets in the Old Days

Although long, group rides became popular soon after the invention of the safety bicycle (distinct from the penny-farthing, bone-shaker, and earlier styles), the first Allure Libre events, with the exception of a solitary PBP like event in 1891, were not held until 1904 under the auspices of the newly formed ACP. As the vast majority of randonneuring in the USA is of the Allure Libre style, let's consider what it must have been like to try to ride one of those first French 200k brevets.

By 1903 Sturmey-Archer had started manufacturing internal three speed hub gears but they were probably not in wide use in 1904 so riders still used single speed with a freewheel to allow them to coast or a reversible wheel fixie with a different sized cog in each side so the rider could stop, reverse the wheel, and continue in a new gear - a far cry from the electronic shifters I am starting to see. Modern derailleurs would not be invented until the 1950's.

I note that American machinist Johnson patented and manufactured a two-speed internal hub gear in 1895 but it seems unlikely that French cyclists would use them.

Fortunately pneumatic tires were available by 1889, greatly reducing the weight and increasing the comfort of bicycles. As tires were previously made of solid rubber, you can imagine this brought great relief to cyclists of all denominations. Pumps were made of wood or steel and looked very much like frame pumps do today.


1904 Gentleman's Meteor Rover
Wheels were heavier and wider but you could take the 27" wheel off a 1904 bike and install it on a modern touring bike and ride it with no problems.

Take a look at the pedals on this bike. They are platform pedals with rubber grips. Toe clips existed at the time, in fact photographs of Tour de France racers from 1904 clearly show them. Below is a photograph of Maurice Garin - winner of the first Tour de France in 1904. You can plainly see his toe clips. Our modern so-called "clipless pedals" were invented by Look in 1984. So early randonneurs rode with platform pedals or, if they were wealthy, with toe clips.

Maurice Garin and his toe clips
The frames in 1904 were made of  steel tubing or sometimes bamboo, but the tubing and components were much heavier than even today's cro-moly bikes, with total bicycle weights in excess of 50lbs being common before adding bags.

Talking of bags - they haven't really changed all that much. The invention of Velcro and reflective tape have improved things somewhat. Carradice, a major manufacturer of today's randonneur's bags wasn't founded until 1932, and Gilles Berthoud were not around back then either but the duck canvas and leather that they use today were widely used in 1904 so the bags would have looked very familiar to us.

Saddles have changed as much as you want them to. In the photo of the Meteor Rover above you can see the saddle is a Brooks B73 which is still made over 100 years later. The owner of this bike was obviously a serious tourer. With a saddle like this, who needs a fancy carbon or titanium frame?

One last thing to look at on our 1904 bicycle photo is the front brakes. There are no cables - it's a solid pull rod that pulls the whole brake mechanism upwards and pushes the brake pads against the underside of the rim. The rear brakes had a similar mechanism running alongside the top tube. There is a lever mechanism just above the brakes that magnifies your leverage but you still had to squeeze the brake levers really hard to get any stopping power. Imagine that with road numbed hands.

Veeder odometer circa 1895

Early randonneurs had no computer to tell them how far they had traveled. When I was a lad I had a mechanical device that attached to the front fork that had a five spoke wheel that got moved forward 1/5 of a turn by a pin in the spokes and gave me some indication of my distance traveled, although even with young eyes it was hard to read and impossible at night. This device actually existed in a similar form prior to 1904 so many of the first randonneurs may have owned one. GPS? We have it so easy!

Take a look at the carbide lamp below. Although battery lights were available for bicycles in 1904 they were weak and didn't last long. If you had to do much night riding you would attach one of these lamps to the front of your bicycle (take a look at the standard lamp mount on the front of the Meteor Rover above).

"Carbide lamp on a bicycle". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

This lamp works by placing calcium carbide in the lower chamber and dripping water onto it from the upper chamber. This released acetylene gas (C2H2) through a jet which was then ignited and burned with a bright white flame. I'll take a Li-ion battery and a 5 Watt LED thank you very much! Tail lights, which have lower power requirements could be battery driven even in 1904.

I was surprised to discover that bottle dynamos (they aren't technically dynamos because they deliver AC whereas a dynamo uses a comutator to deliver DC) existed in 1904. In fact there is a German patent for one dated 1886. It's quite possible that some randonneurs would have used one of these instead of the carbide lamp. Can you imagine riding in the rain, hoping your stash of calcium carbide wouldn't get wet and explode?

In actual fact lights would not have been a big problem for the first randonneurs because their target was to ride 200k in daylight so extended night riding would not become a staple of randonneuring for several more years. However it was a requirement for the first Tour de France riders in the same year.

As for nutrition they would have home made bonk bars for which there were many recipes. Most included nuts, fruit, rice, and some kind of binding agent like treacle. One requirement was that they didn't make you handlebar tape sticky. There would be water in the bottles, or maybe some cordial or watered down beer.

Lycra gel-padded cycling shorts - not until the 1970's by Tony Maier.
Gel padded handle bar tape and gloves - Nope. Even cork tape wasn't invented until 1987.
Aerobars - 1984 Jim Eliot.

So those riders had heavy, single-gear steel bikes with Brooks saddles and canvas bags similar to ours. They might have toe-clips, leather shoes, cotton or leather handlebar tape, shorts, and gloves. Their jerseys would be cotton or wool and they probably didn't wear helmets. They navigated with a map, compass and an odometer accurate to perhaps 5%. If they rode at night they might have had weak electric lights or a highly combustible acetylene light. And all the men had mustaches, and some of the women.

One advantage they had was that the surge in the popularity of cycling towards the end of the 19th century meant that many previously gravel roads had been metalled (paved). That, and the absence of large numbers of cars meant this would have been a wonderful time to be a cyclist.

While researching this blog I found a wonderful resource for those interested in old bicycle history at http://www.oldbike.eu/museum/. It's poorly organized and antiquated but full of old treasures.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day Weekend

I rode with the Redlands Bike Club for the first time in many years on Saturday. I recently added fenders and a Topeak rack and bag to my Trek 520 touring bike so I rode with the slow group to give them a shake down. It had rained the previous day but unfortunately the roads were dry already so I couldn't really test the fenders all that well. It was a lovely group and I got a very pleasant 43 mile ride in with some surprisingly tough hills.

I got pretty hungry from the ride so I ate at Five Guys burgers which has amazing fries. I really didn't need the burger at all.

The same evening I drove down to Anaheim to ride the Flame Broiler evening ride which encompasses the entire southern loop from my Five Rivers 300k brevet. It was a lovely ride although we had a strong headwind down to the coast. I got 54 miles on that ride for a grand total of 97 miles for the day. That's a good day.

On Memorial day Sherry and I hiked on the exploration trail from the Deerlick fire station up towards Keller Peak fire lookout. It was the first time Sherry had been on that trail and she liked it. We ended up with about 4 miles of strenuous hiking. It was a beautiful day.



Next weekend Amber and I plan on riding my Anaheim to Oceanside 125k permanent populaire with Iria. Then the Grand Tour double century in June and riding across the Rockies with Sherry in July. It's going to be a fun filled summer.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Oregon Eden's Gate 400k Brevet

Amber and I just got back from the Oregon Randonneurs Eden's Gate 400km brevet. On paper it was an easy ride with only 7000' of climbing and lovely roads. In practice it turned out to be quite difficult.

For some reason Amtrak has jacked their prices up since two years ago, and I would never fly with a bicycle, so Amber and I decided to drive up and make a road trip out of it.

Out first day of driving was from Los Angeles to Garberville which is a little north of San Francisco on the 101. Garmin routed us through downtown San Francisco via the Golden Gate bridge and I, like an idiot, just followed the purple line. Stupid mistake. We didn't get to the Best Western until late that night. Great hotel though.



On Friday morning we drove north on Avenue of the Giants and stopped at the visitors center for a hike and also the gift store where we shopped for a few extra mother's day gifts. Then back on to Interstate 5 to Wilsonville which is just south of Portland, OR. We stayed at Guesthouse Inn which was the closest to the ride start but it was a terrible mistake. It was so noisy I could not believe it. The guests were rowdy and the staff couldn't control them. It was shabby and quite unpleasant to stay in. There were obvious security problems here to. We couldn't wait to leave, but we had to ride 400km first.

We started the ride at the very civilized time of 6am along with quite a large group of perhaps 30 riders. After 30 miles of easy rollers I was lulled into a false sense of security on Cole School Road which terminates in a long 15%-20% climb. By now the temperature had reached the low 80's and my legs were screaming as my heart rate reached a new personal best.


The group we were riding with had long gone and Amber and I were slipping further and further towards the back. The only other thing I remember from this part of the ride was a loooong 5 mile climb after the lunch control that meandered up to the heavens. It was in the 85-87F range by now.

The turnaround control was in Walterville which we arrived at just as our earlier group was about to leave. I felt like death warmed over (lightly broiled) and we stayed about 45 minutes as I dozed in the shade trying to cool down. Eventually I felt recovered enough to continue.

Fortunately, the return trip is almost perfectly flat (6100' in the first half and 1500' in the second half of the 400k) and as the sun started to set it went behind a bank of clouds and the temperature dropped quickly. Also the predicted headwinds never really materialized except for perhaps 20 miles or so.

I was able to recover almost completely over the next couple hours and we eventually caught up with our earlier group on the road into Independence. Now I was actually able to hold a conversation with them. There was Bob and his English wife, Deirdre, and their friend Ron - all from BC. These were all seasoned pros and skilled navigators so even though we could probably have passed them we decided we would have much more fun if we stayed with them.

Just before we got to Independence we passed another rider sleeping in a ditch. Bob recognized him as Barry - another BC rider. We left him alone and arrived in Independence a few miles later looking for food. We found the "mecanico" bar - a cool converted garage - and got signatures and food. Barry joined us quickly and this stop became the highlight of the ride with pulled pork sandwiches (the last food in the entire bar) and coke from bottles.

Eventually we had to leave and complete the last 50 miles back to Wilsonville. We had a 6 man (5 man, 1 woman) pace line holding an easy 14-15 mph. I needed to stretch out my back a little and only felt comfortable on the aerobars when I was on the front so it was difficult to keep my speed down and not drop the group when I was pulling. A complete 180 from the first half of the ride.

We made an impromptu stop about 30 miles later to stretch and eat. I discovered my rear water bottle was empty which meant I had run out of water. Fortunately Barry had a spare bottle which saved me from risking giardia. We trucked on home and ate at Shari's to get the receipt. Total time was 21:12 - still slower than my target of 20 hours but it's not like it's a race.

We got back to the hotel at 4am and had no guilt if we happened to wake any of the other guests up as we took our showers. We woke at 10am and got more food - this time at a small Chinese restaurant that was surprisingly good. Then we drove up to Portland to see Lonnie Wolf who had ridden the 200k the previous day and seems to own an apartment in every major city. He took us to Deschutes bar which has a splendid selection of local beers. That night, I finally slept well.

On Monday we drove to Redding, CA and while passing through Salem we found the best bistro ever. It's called the Word of Mouth Bistro and it is amazing. I'd love to go back there but it's 1000 miles from my house.
Plate of Love = Creme Brulee French Toast, veggie hash, and eggs

When we got to Redding we ate at a decent Thai place and then went for a
ride on the Sacramento River Trail which is truly wonderful, especially considering that Redding itself is a bit seedy (well the Motel6 is for sure). Here's a picture of me on the Sundial Bridge.




Monday, May 4, 2015

Hidden features

Amber, Iria, and I rode the Back Bay loop on Saturday. I was hoping Tracy and Elizabeth would be joining us, but it was not to be. Amber and I haven't ridden this route in a while and Iria has never ridden it before. We ate at the Champagne Bakery as usual and it was tasty. We tried a new bike path that heads north from Champagne Bakery and heads around a lake to Yale Ave and then joins the familiar Walnut Trail. I took a wrong turn so we left the path early, but I'd like to try it again as it was very picturesque.

It was very hot - my bike computer was reading 102F so the real temperature was probably in the mid-90s. I was so sleepy on the way home I had to pull over and take a nap until the car interior got too warm. Hot rides always do that to me.

Iria has decided that the Grand Tour triple century option would be good training for PBP so she's trying to persuade us to ride it with her. I've been thinking about riding the double for a while (we haven't ridden it since Rod Armas was killed back in 2009) but I'm not sure about the triple. We'll see.

I was reading an article about the new Apple watch that has a sensor in the back that monitors your pulse using a green led. Apparently the device can also measure blood oxygen levels but that feature is not currently turned on. Odd that Apple would chose not to enable a powerful feature.

I was playing with the Garmin Nuvi GPS system in my Prius the other day and accidentally found that it has free traffic monitoring. When I turned it on I started getting updates suggesting faster routes and showing congestion ahead. It's a really cool feature that I've not been using since I bought the device a year ago. I don't understand why it wasn't turned on by default.

Given that both Apple and Garmin are selling devices with unactivated features, I decided to see if maybe my Serotta road bike has a motor in it that no-one told me about. Alas, I have yet to find it. But I keep hoping...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Turnbull Canyon

I just rode what must have been one of the ten best rides ever. Amber and I met Iria, Elizabeth, and Tracey at Joe's Crab Shack in Seal Beach and rode up the San Gabriel bike path to Turnbull Canyon in Whittier and back. Elizabeth and Tracey were planning on riding only 30 miles and skipping the canyon, but Iria, Amber, and I planned on riding 50 up to the top of the canyon and back.

Turnbull Canyon is a huge surprise. I didn't expect to find a quiet country road with almost no traffic right in the middle of Los Angeles. The road was crawling with cyclists (well it's about a 6% grade for nearly two miles) but I attacked hard and held about 8mph which is pretty good for me.

We are about ten miles from down-town Los Angeles

Amber was trying out her new Topeak MTX rack and bag so I helped her test it by putting my sweater and a large Monster drink in the bag. Obviously she had no trouble keeping up with me, even so. The rack and bag performed well except that they make a lot of noise as the plastic at the base of the bag knocks against the metal of the rack. I think some sticky-backed dense foam strips would help a lot. I'm thinking draft-excluder.

On the way down we saw Elizabeth climbing the canyon. Apparently she had changed her mind. We turned around and re-climbed the canyon with her - much to the surprise of some cyclists that were resting at the top who thought we had just reclimbed the entire canyon. We did nothing to correct their error :-)

Heading down for the second time we met up with Tracey who had been waiting patiently at the bottom and grabbed some breakfast together. Decent, but not as good as Cook's Corner in my opinion.

L-R. Tracey, Amber, Elizabeth, and Iria
Then we ambled back onto the San Gabriel trail for the last 15 miles back. Tracey was struggling so I tried to pull her back to the group but she couldn't stay on. It didn't help that Iria pulled at 22mph into a strong headwind for a while. We felt six drops of rain (California Monsoon!) on the way back to the cars. Iria, Amber, and I took turns pulling into the headwind (we got so screwed by the wind) and we made it back in good time. About two minutes after we finished it started to rain properly. Great timing.

So, bike path, great new road, climbing, good food, some competition, and a great group. All the ingredients of an awesome ride.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Test ride with new gear

I went for a lovely 40 mile ride with Sherry last Saturday and rode my Anaheim-Oceanside 125k permanent with Amber and Iria on Sunday. Iria has not ridden this route before and she seemed to really enjoy it.

I was having some problems with my 10+ year old seat post on the ride and couldn't get the pitch of my saddle to stay locked in so I decided to replace it. I bought a Botranger seatpost from Redlands Cyclery. This is a very reasonably priced seatpost which has a neat feature. Instead of one bolt that controls everything and makes setting the precise pitch of the saddle almost impossible, this one uses two bolts that allow you to easily set the saddle position. I love it. Redlands Cyclery even put a dab of grease on the shaft so I could insert it easily.

I've also been having problems with the USB port on my Cygolite headlight which is a shame because it's only about two years old. I decided to buy a new one which was also an upgrade to a brighter model.

With all this new gear, and a major ride coming up, I had to do a test ride after work last night so I decided to ride the upper SART.

It was windier than normal with a 15-20 mph wind out of the SW which was a headwind on the way out. I had the new seat post dialed in and I mounted the new light where the old one went. The new light came with a helmet mount option so I put the old light on my helmet to see if I liked it.

The ride out went really well. Despite the headwind I maintained a 17-18 mph average feeling unusually strong. After turning around I was holding 20-22 mph and completed the 38 mile ride in just two hours. I rode so fast I only had five miles of darkness to test the lights in. They did great.

The seat post performed well although I had to stop and retighten the bolts after 30 miles so I think a light touch of loctite will be necessary. The cygolite on the helmet didn't bother me, although I probably wouldn't ride with the light mounted during the day.

A friend of mine sent me a link to a new paint called LifePaint being tested by Volvo that contains microscopic glass beads that reflect light. There's a temporary water-based version and a permanent oil-based version too. Interesting.