Monday, May 30, 2016

400 km weekend

I rode a quick 35 miles on my exercise bike on Friday night, then rode my Anaheim to Oceanside 120 km permanent on Saturday with Amber.

It was overcast as we climbed Santiago Canyon. Something happened to me that has not happened in a long while. I passed someone on a climb - in fact I passed six people. Wow that felt good. We got to Cook's corner in only two hours which is quite a bit faster than normal. The sun came out as we descended the Alisal Creek bike trail but it got overcast again once we got near the beach. Kaylani coffee was as good as usual except I put the dregs of my iced coffee into my empty water bottle and topped it up with cold water. It was good.

While climbing up the bike route out of San Clemente we were riding on the shoulder and a cyclist passed us in the lane which is marked with sharrows. As he went past a motorist started yelling at him because he was in the lane. The cyclist chased him down yelling at him. I doubt it did any good, but it's scary how many drivers don't know what sharrows are. That's why I think they're not worth the paint.

The cyclist joined us a few minute later and he was headed our way so we chatted for a while. He was riding a wooden bicycle. Very pretty.

He turned around at Las Pulgas but before he did he warned us that the Camp Pendleton police were aggressively harassing cyclists lately. Sure enough, a few miles into the base Amber was cycling about ten feet behind me and a police car came by and had the gall to say "Single file" on his PA. What an ass! If you don't know what single file means just keep your mouth shut. We noticed about six police cars pass and re-pass us as we rode through the base. I seriously think they are looking for excuses to ban cyclists completely.

We finished the ride at 3:30 but still had to wait for the 5pm Amtrak. There really isn't much point to riding this route quickly. To kill some time we checked out a triathlon store called Endurance House. Lot's of fun things there for cyclists.

On Sunday I rode my SART 200 km permanent with Stacey. Greg is sidelined right now with an arm injury but Stacey wanted her 67th consecutive R12 and I was curious to see how I would feel after the 120k.

We headed down the SART from San Bernardino and started passing a very large group of people running/walking with backpacks. They were completing the backpack challenge which requires you cover 10km while carrying a 35lb backpack.

I was feeling great but Stacey likes to ride slow and talk. No problem, she had many great stories to tell. I got caught up with Greg's epic single-handed yacht trip back from Hawaii (and I mean single-handed). Also their PBP and 100 Cols ride and their LEL and Land's End to John O Groats plans.

We stopped at the Starbucks at the top of Green River hill Stacey pointed out a new 76 gas station that we will be using as the regrouping point about a mile after the top of Green River hill. We took amount five hours to get to Newport Burgers. I had their Mahi burger for the first time in about five years - it was good. We had a nice tailwind on the way back and stopped at the Lucky Greek. We finished in about 11 hours. My only real problem was a sore backside.

Today I went hiking with the wife. Ouch. I'm taking tomorrow off.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Clean your water bottle

I got violently sick on Tuesday night starting about 11pm. I used the three hour rule to figure out what I ate three hours before. I was working out, drinking from the water bottle I have in the workout room. I hadn't cleaned this water bottle for at least six months.

When my wife checked she saw the cap was full of mold. What the mold was eating, I do not know.

I'm so careful to clean my cycling water bottles after every use and replace them every year. I find it hard to believe I forgot to do the same thing for the water bottle in my workout room.

Clean ALL your water bottles regularly. Replace them every year.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Wrightwood 200k

I rode Willie Hunt's 200 km Wrightwood to Lake Forest brevet yesterday. It starts in Wrightwood at 6000' and climbs a total of 3000' to Dawson Saddle at 7901'. I was very pleased with my new climbing legs and was able to stay in touch with Doug and Hector. If I can lose another 10 lbs I might be able to ride with them! It was cold and bright - perfect climbing weather.

Hector wisely putting on leg warmers before the descent.
The problem with perfect climbing weather is that it makes for very cold descending weather. From Dawson Saddle we descended until the turn onto highway 39 which is closed to traffic (including us!). Caltrans abandoned this road some time ago and it has slowly degraded so some care is needed on the descent. It's not as technical as Ridge Route or Drum Canyon though and I found myself comfortably exceeding 30 mph on several sections. By the time we turned on the 39 we had dropped into the clouds and the temperature was around 40 F. That gives me a wind-chill factor of 28 F at 30 mph. I was wearing a cycling jersey, arm warmers, leg warmers, a Capilene base layer, a wind-breaker, and silk under-gloves. Even with all that I was cold.

Top of highway 39.
Down, down, down, we descended 6500' in 25 miles. After about five miles of unmaintained road there was another gate and we entered maintained road. I decided to stop and wait for Hector and Doug because I had somehow run ahead of them. Unknown to me Hector had clipped a rock on the descent and split his tire. Doug waited while he booted it. After ten or fifteen minutes I was starting to get cold again so I decided to keep going. In retrospect that made no sense as I was still descending so 'going' made me even colder.

This was the view as I was waiting for Hector and Doug.
Looking up the unmaintained 39. Still no sign of Doug or Hector
The first control is in Duarte at the same 7-11 as my 300 km control. Ominously, I had had a strong headwind for the last ten miles which is very unusual here. I goofed around at the control hoping Doug and Hector would show up but instead two new randonneurs Adam and Hadi arrived. They told me that Hector had damaged his tire but both he and Doug were OK.

As Adam and Hadi left I decided to join them. We struggled into the ever increasing headwind with Adam taking heroic pulls. Hadi tried to pull but it was obvious he was at his limit. I got the impression he was bonking and fifteen minutes after his pull he dropped off the pace (an epic 13 mph on my aerobars). I would say the wind was a solid 20 mph gusting to 25. Normally this stretch is 18-20 mph without too much effort and we only get a headwind for the last five miles or so.

The miles slowly went down to 20, then 10, 5, and finally we got to the info control at the River's End restaurant in Seal Beach.

There must be a word for taking a picture of someone while they are taking a selfie
By the way - don't ask the waitress the answer to the info control. She got it wrong!

Hadi joined Adam and me at the restaurant after five minutes. Doug and Hector joined us after five more. We had worked so hard to get from Duarte to Seal Beach we decided we needed food so I ate my last Odwalla bar and Adam ate some of the food he had taped all over his bike (I wish I had taken a photo!). Then the five of us set out to cover the 17 miles to the Chevron which was the next control.

We decided to take the beach path which was pretty empty so with a slight tailwind we cruised along at a recuperative 15 mph. Only the pier section was crowded and there was only one total retard in the crowd so that was good. Plus there was a young lady wearing a thong that would have been illegal in any of the bible-belt states so that was good too.

We jumped on PCH at Newport Beach and had a pretty uneventful ride to the Chevron where we chowed down like the homeless people we looked and smelled like. A foot-long subway veggie sandwich really hit the spot.

After we turned inland Hector went crazy and started pulling us along at 21-22 mph. I know we had a tailwind but I seriously wonder where he got the energy from. I knew we had some climbing ahead to get to Willie's house so I asked him to slow down a tad which he graciously did. Even so, when we started climbing my knee started bugging me so I had to drop off a bit.

Eventually we got back to Willie's house and our time was 10:02. I thought this was going to be a speed fest but with the waiting around and the headwind I ended up with an average time. Adam and Hadi had been dropped by Hector's need for speed and they showed up 20 minutes later. Hadi looked pretty wiped out but I'm sure he'll be back for more. Congratulations to both of them.

This is a great route and Willie did a fine job of dealing with the logistics. You definitely want good cold weather gear and fatter than average tires for highway 39. Bring plenty of your own food because the distance between receipt controls averages 50 miles.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Carpe Diem

I rode my Lucky Greek permanent on Friday night. The weather all day was bad, with cold winds and rain all afternoon. While rain is not necessarily a reason not to ride, it was threatening to snow at home and I was only driving the Prius so for a while I thought I wasn't going to ride.

Finally, about 4pm the weather eased up. The rain almost stopped and the temperature started to rise. I decided to take a chance and started my ride at 5pm.

I was testing my new IXON IQ Premium LED Headlight. It has the optics of a high-end dynamo light but it takes batteries. Although I like my Cygolight front lights, they have a perfectly round beam pattern that smoothly brightens to the center. After using old halogen Cateye lights for years which have weird, spotty beam patterns I thought the round, smooth Cygolights were much better.

But the problem is that you really want to top edge of the bright center on the horizon to get the best illumination. When you do that you illuminate the tops of trees and dazzle low-flying pilots. If you tilt the beam down to waste less light the bright spot is too near and washes out the rest of the road.

The beam pattern of a good bicycle front light pushes most of the light to the top of the beam and has a distinct horizontal cutoff. You should read this article from Peter White - it has great comparative photographs.

I was impressed by the light - it makes a perfect partner with my Luxos U dynamo light. I was hoping to take some photographs and write a review but the pavement was wet so you couldn't get a good feel for how good the light is. That review will have to wait.

Back to the ride - I had to be a little careful because the pavement was wet from the storm and I got rained on a few times but it was no big deal. The temperature was a perfect 60F and the wind was lighter than usual. I've been eating a little heavier at the turn around point lately and it has certainly improved my strength on the return trip. I had my usual four hour ride time plus 20 minutes eating.

I was absolutely thrilled to be able to ride after thinking I would be rained/snowed out. In some way it made the ride better to know that I almost didn't ride.

IXON IQ Premium LED Headlights

I have noticed recently that my Niterider headlight is not lasting as long as it used to. I checked my old blog postings and realized the light is about four years old. This means the lithium ion battery is at about 60% of its original capacity or worse. Time for a new light.

About a year ago I bought a Luxos U dynamo light and I absolutely love it. One of the many features that make this light worth over $200 is the beam pattern. This is one of the things that normally differentiates battery lights from dynamo lights.

The high-end battery lights from Niterider, Cygolite, etc have perfectly round, smooth beam patterns. These are far superior to the lower quality battery lights I used to use which had jagged weird shaped beams with black holes in them that made it very difficult to see rocks and pot holes.

The problem with the round pattern is that it puts too much light on the road near the rider which then washes out the road further away. The road further away needs a lot more light on it to look evenly illuminated to the rider. If you put the bright center of the beam on the road far ahead you end up with a third of the light above the horizon where it is useless. Peter White explains it perfectly.

My Luxos U (and most other dynamo lights) have beam patterns that put most of the light further up the road and have a hard vertical cut off so that you don't waste light illuminating the tops of trees or dazzling low-flying pilots. Although at first they don't look as bright, you realize they are evenly illuminating the road much further ahead, giving you more time to respond to hazards. On dark, country roads and bike paths they are far superior. On brightly illuminated streets there isn't much difference.

When I started looking for a new light to replace my Niterider I found the IXON IQ Premium LED Headlights on They are more expensive than the Niterider or Cygolite but they boast the same optics as high-end dynamo lights. They use a custom charger instead of a usb cable which is a bit of a pain. For people who are OK with a smaller, less bright (and less expensive) light with excellent optics there is also the IXON Core. Both these lights are listed on Peter White's website. You should also look at his beam comparison page.

Here is a brief summary of the IXON IQ Premium vs Cygolite Expillion 850, both at the brightest setting..

The IXON is larger and heavier than the Cygolite.
The IXON is more expensive.
The IXON has a custom charger instead of a USB charger.
The Cygolite puts out more light in total.
The Cygolite illuminates the fog line 100' ahead of the rider (about 3 seconds at 18mph)
The IXON illuminates the fog line 200' ahead of the rider (about 6 seconds at 18mph)
The IXON has a wider beam, making turns safer and improving side visibility.
The Cygolite has a replaceable proprietary battery
The IXON batteries can be replaced with standard batteries (4 x AA) mid-ride.
The IXON runs for 5 hours. The Cygolite runs for 2 hours (up to 4.5 hours in low mode)
The Cygolite has four steady modes plus a flash mode. The IXON has two steady modes and no flash mode.
The IXON uses NiMh batteries which last much longer than the Cygolite's Lion batteries.

The two things that sell me on the IXON is the improved visibility on dark roads and the ability to replace the NiMh batteries with regular batteries during a long ride. As most of my night riding is on dark roads on very long rides - these features are valuable to me. But as you can see, there are many rides for which the Cygolite makes more sense - especially if your night riding is mainly city commuting.

About the same time as I bought the new bicycle light the flashlight we keep by my back door died. We use it to watch raccoons and when the power dies. My old Niterider has replaced it. Even though a two hour run time isn't enough to get on my handlebars, it's perfectly OK for a flashlight.