Sunday, May 02, 2021

Crunch. Creak. Tap. Click.

Crunch. Or maybe creak. Kind of like tapping or clicking on a carbon bike frame. Whatever you call it, a sound like that, even if it's not that loud, over time destroys the harmony of a bike ride. Like the drip drip drip of a faucet when you're trying to sleep it becomes increasingly annoying until it drives every other thought from your mind. 

I was sure it was the bottom bracket. Partly because every annoying bike sound seems like it's coming from the bottom bracket. Partly because that would be the toughest thing to fix, so that must be it.

But I figured I should try simple things first, because I know weird sounds come from weird places. Like the time it took an hour to figure out that a click was coming from my Road ID dog tags hitting my heart rate monitor chest strap.

Chainring bolts? Nope. Cleats on shoes? Nope. Something in the seat bag? Nope. Not a loose water bottle cage bolt either. But with everything that's easily attached now removed the sound was gone.

I tend to forget that riding a bike constantly rattles it, and that  things can and do loosen over time. I eventually noticed my Lezyne pump had managed to become unscrewed where the body meets the plunger. It didn't stand out as much it does in the photo, but there it was, completely disconnected. I tightened it, as well as a couple of bolts on it. Now, once again, the universe is back in balance.  And it didn't even cost me any money.

That little piece of black fuzz? That's a slice of velcro glued onto the pump handle to keep it from clanking on the frame, a lesson from a past find-the-noise adventure. 

Friday, April 30, 2021

Good stuff like this never happens

I'm not much of a mechanic. I can change tires, patch flats, put on cassettes, put on a new chain, but beyond that most bike maintenance is over my head. 

I have a set of 650B wheels and a set of 700C wheels. I recently purchased new derailer to handle a larger that I had installed at a bike shop. I had hoped to be able to swap the wheels back-and-forth painlessly. Alas, when I had the derailer adjusted for the 650B wheels the 700C wheels shifted really badly. They wouldn't go into the highest or lowest sprockets..

I figured it was due to a variation in the hubs or cassettes and that I would have to adjust the cable and put a spacer behind one of the cassettes, and generally do things that would be way over my head. 

I avoided it for as long as I could. With great reluctance I decided today would be the day would work on making both wheels shift equally well. I was not expecting a good outcome. 

 But when I got the bike on the stand I realized the shifter cable tension was just fine. I thought perhaps the derailer limiter needed to be adjusted; perhaps that's what was stopping me from shifting to the largest and smallest sprockets. 

Three quarters of a turn later on the high end and half a turn on the low end of the limiter screws and my 700C wheels now shift perfectly. It was so easy I am still expecting to discover something horrible. But right now I'm happy guy with a well-shifting bike trip

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Bonus photo from Contra Loma

It's been so windy here I've been taking the slower weightier gravel bike out to ride around our local reservoir, Contra Loma. I don't feel bad about going slow, stopping for photos and just doing the cycling equivalent of a stroll when I'm on it. Plus, Contra Loma is rather pretty at times.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Bike Dog gravel route West Sacramento with Kellie

The beauty of West Sacramento knows no bounds. Nestled between train tracks and graffiti laden walls lies some of the chunkiest gravel you could ever wish for, if you were wishing for sharp chinky gravel.

My Sacramento-dwelling friend Kellie got a new Liv bicycle, so I drove up to ride levee you roads with her. She picked out a ride that starts from the Bike Dog brewery, a good call, because it also ended there.

I rode my new 32 mm Stampede Pass Rene Herse tires. A lot of the gravel was a good deal more gravelesque than I expected and I found myself wishing I'd used my 650B wheels with much larger tires.
This is what all gravel feels like when you're a roadie at heart.

This short ride took a lot longer and was a lot more work that a similar ride on pavement. Even with pretty much zero climbing it took 2:45 to complete.  But in the end, there was beer, and Kellie like her new Liv just fine.

Friday, April 02, 2021

Gravel Specific bandages

The fine folks at the Path Less Pedaled and their accompanying Youtube channel sell sell tongue-in-cheek Gravel Specific stickers when they aren't creating killer Party Pace™ content. 

I think they should also market those stickers pre-applied on band-aides for those of us who aren't gravel specific enough and aren't sure how do handle deep tire grabbing crushed rock.

If they don't want to go into bandage production, perhaps they could at least produce a "Beginners  Guide on How Not to Crash in Deep Crushed Rock" video.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Continental Grand Prix 5000 and latex tubes

The weather has become nice enough now that I don't need old tires, suitable for the trainer, on my bike any more this year (Yea California!) I am ready for the outside world.

To that end I mounted a set of Continental Grand Prix 5000 tires with Victoria latex tubes on my Williams wheels.

Rumor has it that these are nice rolling tires. I have also read that latex tubes are more supple as well as lightweight. Much to my surprise, the rumors seem to be true. Whether it's the Grand Prix's or the latex tubes I don't know, and I'm not about to take it all apart to test it.But the ride seems much smoother and more free of vibration.

Sure, it could easily be the placebo effect. After all, who wants to spend money only to discover that it doesn't made a darn better difference. So I could just be convincing myself that the ride is smoother. But I don't think so. Then again, that's how these mind games work, right?

So, whether it's me faking myself out, or the tube/tire combination actually smoothing the road vibration, I'm feeling it. I could really tell on a recent downhill stretch of not-great roadway that my bike was rolling a lot more smoothly. Priceless. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Pardee and Comanche loop

We had an actual full normal day! We started our Lake Comanche and Pardee Reservoir ride at the International Order of Odd Fellows hall in the small town of Clements, California. I have a new travel camera and warned Tricia that we'd be pausing regularly for me to play. with it. She didn't complain.

We stopped for poppy portraits, the Pardee Dam,,the historic ruins of Campo Secco California landscapes

We managed to stop at Klinker Brick for wine, and our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. Life is good.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Finished gravel bike with super low gears

I blame (or maybe credit) Russ Roca of Path Less Pedaled and his “Cave of Bad Ideas” videos on his Youtube Channel.

I have plans to do a week-long ride on forest service roads along the Continental Divide. But I'm a roadie with a road bike, and also a bike commuter with a gravel-ish bike I turned into a commuter bike. Though my commuter bike was sold as a gravel bike, it was more marketing than function. But it did make a great commuter bike with a rack and panniers and lots of lights.

But COVID-19 put an end to commuting. It's all work from home now. So I converted my “commuter bike-gravel bike” to a useable gravel bike.
The first thing to go on my bike with the nice Ultra compact (50-32) crankset, replaced by an FSA 46-30 that’s a lot more realistic for me. Why this ratio isn't standard, or at least an option on all gravel bikes is a mystery. Maybe the rest of the world is just stronger than me, but I don't think that's it.
Russ is a fan of larger tires, and also 650 B wheels, particularly for shorter riders like myself. To that end I purchased a set of FSA 650 B wheels and a Soma Cazadaro 42mm tire for the rear with a Specialized Pathfinder 48mm for the front. (I’d actually purchased a set of Pathfinders only to discover that it I couldn’t fit a 48 on the back with reasonable clearance.)
I followed that up with a Red Shift suspension stem, again recommended by You-Know-Who. It works, and I don't notice it's there. It doesn't bob at all, but seems to be helpful on big wacking bumps.

The gearing was still a bit tall for me. Unfortunately the bike industry doesn't seem to want to make derailers that will handle large cassettes and work with road-style brake shifters.

Again, it's Russ to the rescue. His Path Less Pedaled Cave of Bad Ideas YouTube channel reviewed a new derailer by a company named S Ride that magically works with Shimano Ultegra 11-speed brake-shifters and will handle huge cassettes.
I ordered one, along with a Shimano 11-40 11-speed cassette and miraculously it actually works. And I like the shifting. It's a bit more effort to push the lever when the gears get really low, but the shifting is very crisp.

Now I have a bike that may be ready for serious gravel roads and some hills. As an old roadie this new thing feels a little odd ,and a little heavy, but what the heck. It works; it’s a bike, and let’s go!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Round Valley gravel-ish ride

As I freely admit, I'm a roadie and not a mountain biker or a gravel rider. But given the events of early January I felt like I needed to be out in nature. I took my commuter bike turned gravel bike with its 650B wheels and wide tires out to Round Valley East Bay Regional Park

The very first hill is steep enough that I couldn't ride it. I don't know if I could ride it even if I had lower gears, which are certainly on the schedule to get. Not that the gears I have now aren't really low. I just need even lower. Then, not being a mountain bike or gravel rider, I found the first downhill pretty intimidating as well. I felt like I was taking my bike out for a walk.

Fortunately things smooth out from there. I was able to ride almost all of the rest of the trail without any trouble. I do have have to admit I'm not a huge fan of those cow hoof holes that make the ride incredibly bumpy. But there weren't too many sections like that.

On the other hand, the setting is absolutely beautiful. Once I got away from the parking lot and off of the terrifying hill I felt like I was all alone in the world. And it's a beautiful world indeed. I didn't even see other cyclists or hikers for most of the ride and felt like I'd been transported to another time. OK, another time with nicely scrapped dirt roads and trail markers. But still, another time.

I was amazed how long my short ride took, but walking and grunting is a slow process. But I'll give it another shot now that I know what to expect.

Friday, January 01, 2021

Year end wrap-up: 2020 pandemic edition


And there it is, a year plagued by California wildfire smoke, pandemic lockdown, lost bike commutes due to work-from-home teaching, as well as cancelled bike tours, cancelled organized rides and no group rides at all. 

My 5,670 mile total is well short of my usual 7000+. And I seem to be getting slower on top of everything else.  Oh well. At least I got this much in.

But it's a new year! Bring me the vaccine and get me ready for tour (please, oh please.)  I've already started to focus on shedding the bonus stress weight I gained from working way too close to the fridge during a year of teaching online, first live via Zoom, then last semester asynchronously. 

I have a much lighter teaching load this semester. That should give me time to do things I want to do. In my rich fantasy world I get vaccinated, spend a lot of time riding and preparing for a summer bike tour that will actually happen. I lose the extra pounds, become younger, and the world becomes a happier and safer place for all of us. 

Friday, December 25, 2020

Zwift vs Me


 What with the pandemic becoming more and more prevalent I have been reluctant to travel anywhere to ride. It's also been incredibly foggy here. Most of my cycling friends it seems are on Zwift these days so I thought I'd give it a try.

We already have a Kurt Kinetic trainer (it's what they call a dumb trainer: no electronics) But I have a Powertap power meter and heart rate monitor so all I needed to buy was an $18 ANT+ dongle to connect to Zwift.

I've only tried it twice, but I have to admit I don't get it. Though it was fun to "ride" with my friend Jaime and try to keep up with her, I didn't get much out of my solo ride. 

My Zwift-o-phile convert friends tell me that I would like it a lot more if I had a smart trainer that varies resistance based on what the game is showing. But holy smokes that's a lot of money to spend on some thing that I'm not sure that I'd really like or use that much.

But if I had one I'd be able to see people from all over the world ride past me at higher speeds that I can ride instead of just the few local riders I encounter when I'm out in the world. That's got to be worth something, right? But $1000 or so? 

So, the jury is still out. Will I just roll my eyes and move away from it, or will I drink the Zwift Kool-Aid and become a proselytizing convert?

Sunday, November 08, 2020

Patterson Pass with the OldStrongs

 When Dan (Lanceoldstrong) suggested an easy 25 mile ride with his wife Julie I had no idea he was talking about climbing Patterson Pass. I've ridden it before, but holy smokes is it ever steep. And I wish I'd been smart enough to take more clothes so that when the sun went behind the clouds I wouldn't have been quite so cold.

But that's just whining. It was wonderful to be out on the bike again. Plus, hey, we found out today that the Bidens will be moving into the White House.

Sunday, October 18, 2020

Sing me the Delta, gravel and rivers

When LanceOldStrong suggested a ride, Tricia and I suggested gravel. We'd set up our commuter bikes bikes as gravel bikes for an off-pavement tour in Montana that was pandemic-cancelled and never really got to try them out. Dan, champion route designer, came up with this 20% gravel 20% crap-road route that meandered along the North Mokelumne River on levee roads near farmlands near Rio Vista and Isleton.

Tricia's Vaya with 50mm tires and my Ti gravel bike on 650B wheels and 46mm tires helped keep us from rattling apart on the washboard sections.

But holy smokes, fatter tires are slower than 23mm tires.

At least there was no wind, and a good time was had on our first away from home ride in ages.

Sunday, September 27, 2020


Why are there two bikes on the car, but only one front wheel in the back? How was it possible that I loaded the bike, but forget her wheel? She forgave me. We walked down to the river, watched it roll by for a while, then came home. Oh well.

Wednesday, September 09, 2020

Not much riding lately

Smoke, smoke and more smoke. It seems like the entire West is on fire. While I'm grateful to be safe, and grateful that my home isn't threatened, I'm missing my riding. It seemed like it was the one thing I could do during this pandemic to keep myself sane. And now that's on hold as well. It may be time to bring the trainer inside and give that a try. But riding a trainer is nothing like riding outside and feeling the wind in your face, the vibration of wheels on the road, the joy of cresting a hill, and the delight of descending the hill you climbed. 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Smoke smoke smoke

Riding in California is a bit tougher these days. It's been so smokey I skipped a couple of days, but there are limits. Riding in a mask like this isn't great, but it's better than not riding at all.And today was actually better than the last few. I'm thankful this is my biggest problem right now, and that unlike so many my home and family are safe.