Sunday, October 15, 2017

We find the strangest things on our bike rides

There's so much weird stuff left on the bike paths and roads in Antioch. I Instagram them, but there have been so many lately it seems like a blog post is in order. So here they are.

Someone is leaving these small offering along the trail. Who? Why? No idea. 
Really. Right on the bike path. It was cracked, so I left it.
We often find evidence of gun fire. 
Another mystery offering.
Rabbit funeral?  
Another offering
Offering on a pedestal. 
Batman is dead.

Tricia shot this on her ride out on Empire Mine Road, a closed road. So how did it get there?




Saturday, October 07, 2017

Dogs on the bike path

Fifteen seconds of my bike commute in Antioch made less enjoyable by my irresponsible fellow citizens. More fun (or maybe less) with sound.

I had three encounters like this yesterday. The next was a large off-lease dog that charged me. I got off and put the bike between us until the owner grabbed it. The third was a little yip yip dog at the end of an overly long leash trying to get caught in my spokes. What's with dog owners here?

These creatures are going to hurt themselves or me. I've had two people lose control of their small dogs that ended up under my wheels, nearly taking me down and not making the poor dogs feel any better.

Tip o' the hat to the folks on the trail with who have sweet animals under their control. I'm talking to you, guy with five friendly hounds, and you, old guy with the well behaved sitter.

 

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Bicycle advocacy in local paper


My local paper did a story on my bicycle advocacy efforts. Maybe their story will help get something done. Read it online here. They even used my video! Thanks East County Times.

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sunrise smoke

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We had a smokey, early morning ride in our attempt to beat the heat (111º  predicted) here on Saturday. The fires in Northern California and Oregon have filled our sky with smoke. Enjoy this scene, because there will a housing development here on Empire Mine Road if developers get their way, and the always do in Antioch.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

SRAM eTap, Praxis 48-32 cranks and the perfect bike —a review

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Since the 70s, when I started road biking, I wondered why I couldn’t have solenoid-activated electric shifting. I wanted to put both shifters on the right and control them with one hand as I’ve always had a hard time with the left side shifter. Getting that would be step one toward my perfect bike.

Maybe it’s because I live in a hilly area and love riding up mountains. Maybe it’s that I’m getting older. It’s probably both, but I think the gearing on most bikes is insanely high. I’ve complained about it before (Why did my triple-equipped Roubaix come with 52-39-30 and 11-27 cassette? That’s just silly.) That’s step two toward my perfect bike: reasonable gears.

When SRAM released their eTap Red WIFLI Electronic and wireless shifting groupset with a rear derailleur capacity of 32 teeth, I knew I was close to my dream. But even a normal compact crankset with its 50-34 tooth rings didn’t go quite as low as I wanted. My goal was a double crankset with a low end gear the same as my triple, a 1:1 ratio, a 30-30 on my Roubaix.

Fortunately, a few companies have started to make “sub-compact” cranksets aimed at the growing popularity of gravel bikes. Not Shimano. Not SRAM. Not Campy. It’s the smaller companies on the cutting edge. Unfortunately, most of the ones I found were darn near crazy- money expensive.

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Eventually I found the Praxis ZAYANTE 48/32. Not cheap, but not unreasonable. With the SRAM 32 tooth cassette-friendly eTap WIFLI I could make my 1:1 goal. I had to get their bottom bracket to fit the crankset, but they make enough types and adapters that it’s highly likely there’s one for your bike, too, no matter what weird standard it is.

I coupled the Praxis crankset with SRAM’s eTap and a SRAM “blip” remote shifter button and, shazam, the Roubaix of my dreams was born.

How does it all work? Pretty darn well. The gearing is wonderful. The 11-32 11-speed cassette has enough gears that there are no huge jumps, and the range means I can often stay in whatever chainring I’m in and find a gear I like without shifting the front.

With a triple, shifting to the lowest gears can be touchy. And it’s a decision to drop into the tiny granny chainring. With my new setup, the low gears appear more naturally and organically. They’re just there when I need them. Super pros might not like that the highest gear is 48-11, but I don’t spin out until I’m above 30 mph, and if I’m going 30 I’m going downhill and almost ready to stop cranking and enjoy coasting.

The eTap is interesting. I’ve ridden Shimano forever, so the shifting to the eTap is an adjustment. Right paddle shifts the rear to a higher gear, left to a lower gear, both at the same time change the front.

I added a “blip” button to the inside of the right brake hood that controls the left paddle shifter. It’s amazing what a little Sugru can make work. I cut a small hole in the brake hood to run the wire through, across to the left shifter port, under the bar tape. I patched the hole and stuck it on with that magic Sugru. Now I can do all my shifting right-handed.

The quality of the shifting is interesting. I paired the eTap with a SRAM chain and a Shimano Ultegra 11-32 cassette. Mostly because I was unfamiliar with SRAM component levels, and was given to believe a Shimano would be just fine. I also knew I didn’t need the SRAM Red 11-32 $260 cassette. Indeed, the Ultegra cassette works perfectly with the eTap.

The rear shifting is slower than on my Shimano Ultegra 11-speed equipped bike. Not annoyingly so, but slower. I had planned to write about it shifting poorly under power, but today I realized that it shifts under medium-hard power pretty darn well. Sometimes light power seems clunky, but in the hills today it was flawless.

The front is interesting. It too is slower — not too slow, but slower. And the motor is loud enough that I can hear it. It’s a very electric zzzzzzz. I almost enjoy it, but I’m weird. It works just fine with the Praxis crankset. I was slightly worried that my braze-on derailleur mount wouldn’t adjust low enough for the smaller Praxis rings, but it worked fine. Another cool feature: because SRAM has what they term “Yaw Technology” there is no need to trim the front derailleur, ever. It knows where it needs to be, and adjusts accordingly. It’s rather slick. It’s even quiet. Even cross chained in either direction there’s no rub, and it doesn’t complain.

My right hand only shifting is perfect. It’s almost like they designed eTap with me in mind.

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I bought SRAM Red brakes as well. Apparently the cable pull is different for Shimano brakes. Pairing my Shimano Ultegra calipers with SRAM shifters would either, according to the internet, be fine, or would catch on fire and kill me. I went with new RED calipers just to have one less possible issue to deal with.


The bike, though not new — it’s a 2010 — is sure cleaner than it was. I rejected the idea of Shimano electronic shifting because my frame wasn’t set up for the wires and junction box Shimano uses. With the SRAM eTap there are no wires, it’s all wireless, and there’s no junction box. It just looks great.


It also pairs with my Garmin 520. I have screens that report battery charge level, and weirdly, in my mind, gear selection. Yep, like I can’t look down at the gears, but I can read the screen to see I’m in 32-16. It’s unnecessary, but still fun.

Conclusion: It’s a successful project. I’ve gone from a Shimano Ultegra triple to a SRAM eTap with Praxis double. I have one handed electronic shifting, perfect gearing for me and the bike is a pound or so lighter. 

Extra notes: I was fortunate that both my Powertap wheel and my Williams wheel offered a 11 speed hub conversion kit. Apparently my Shimano Roval Fusée SL 25 wheels, as far as I can discover, do not.

Shout outs to:
Praxis, who have real people answer their phones and are a pleasure to deal with. Plus, they ship really fast.


Ron at Schwinn City in Antioch who did most of the tricky installation.

Sugru, That stuff is as amazing as duck tape and WD-40



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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Antioch, BART, and the Hillcrest station

I'm trying a bit of bicycle advocacy. I created a video that I hope points out what I see as a serious problem for cyclists riding to the new Hillcrest BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) station in Antioch.
I plan to send it to public officials and agencies, but thought I'd try it here first.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Bonus photos

I haven't had the energy to edit and post photos from our Adventure Cycling Cycle Montana ride, but here are a few pre and post ride Instagrams.


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Bob and Catherine let us stay with them in Portland, and took us on some rides as well. I don't have photos of them riding, because, well, they're too fast for me.

 
And heres a rare photo of me on my own blog. Bob shot this and was kind enough to share it. I almost look cool, don't I? (Just say "yes.")

Saturday, June 03, 2017

Diablo summit. First time in a long time.

It's been way too long since Tricia rode to the top of Diablo with its 25 round trip miles, and 3600 feet of climbing. But with Tricia's wrist recovering and us having a bike tour coming up really soon we figured we should test our uphill abilities. Apparently we can still do it. We took it easy. It wasn't a pain fest. But we made it, and it wasn't bad at all.

I'm pleased to report that Tricia's descending ability came back to her at about 20% of the way down. I'm also happy we only saw a couple of stupid automobile maneuvers, and none that came close to taking us out. Maybe all the new signage is helping.

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Monday, May 29, 2017

Altitude training? Just a vacation?



We got back from our Tahoe bike ride to ride bikes in Antioch.

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Sunday, May 21, 2017

Tour della Vigne 2017 — Lodi


With our summer bike tour quickly approaching and with Tricia's wrist still in titanium-plated healing mode, she figured the best thing to do was sign us up for a century. So she did. She's not crazy. She had a plan: Instead of riding the flat metric they offer, ride the century route that included some climbing around Lake Comanche and Pardee Reservoir, then cut off the last 20 boring flat miles. So we did.

We hadn't planned on the ninety degree plus weather we got, but we started early and finished just as we started to really bake. We might not have felt as hot if it hadn't been the first hot riding day we'd had this season. 

Tricia's wrist hurt, but she toughed it out. Neither of us are prone to foot issues, but for some reason — maybe lack of hot weather practice — we both got uncomfortable feet.


Tricia, who wore her "And yet she persisted" jersey, was tickled to see a "Persevere" street sign.


After the ride we were beat, so we stopped for some medicinal processed grape extract at McCay Cellars.




Thursday, May 18, 2017

Helmets are tough


I DID NOT CRASH. 

Don't worry, this is an old helmet I'd kept for no good reason. It had a crack in the inside styrofoam (or whatever it is) liner. I think I was from when I was mugged. I'd kept it, but that's silly. It was time to have it gone.

I'd read that one should cut the straps so no one will find it in the trash and use it. I did that. Then just to see what would happen, I decided to hit it with a hammer and find out how tough helmets really are.

They're tough. This took a handful of full on total leverage serious swings. The first couple just bounced off. I had to really try to inflict this much damage.

I know that helmets are designed to decelerate your head so your brain isn't jarred, and that stopping hammer blows and the like isn't their primary purpose. But still, it was nice to discover  that they do a good job doing so.

Goodbye Catlike!

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Nevertheless she persisted

Tricia has been working so hard to get full use of her broken wrist back. She used hot and cold baths, exercise putty, and a slew of other exercises. She just keeps at it, and she's getting better, even though she's frustrated at the speed of her recovery.

I figured what's the point of all this suffering without some sort of reward or acknowledgment? When I saw Savvy Bike offering tis jersey I new she had to have it. Because she persists.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Amgen Tour of California 2017 Ryer Island

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When Rich, and old friend, messaged his plan to ride out to Ryer Island in the California Delta to watch the Tour of California pass by not one, but three times, Tricia quickly replied "IN!"

On a beautiful California Day we met at Clarksburg and rode a leisurely 15 miles to the bridge he'd picked. We waited by the bridge until the cycling gods came past, ever so fast and ever so effortlessly. First the four-man break, than two minutes later, the peloton. Then another lap, then a turn to leave the island. What a blast.

Sure, standing by the roadside sounds boring, but with good company and bikes to drool on it's pretty cool. Really. I even managed to shoot video as they went by so many times.
Crossing the bridge onto Ryer Island

Leaving Ryer Island

Our leader, Rich, in the green jersey



A short clip of the second lap

Tricia shot this video of the peloton leaving the island

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Bike to work day 2017

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Bike to work day for me is pretty much like every other day, except I get a free bag from the nice folks at YouCanBikeThere and Bike East Bay. But the commute still has the same amount of weird stuff and odd people. Oh well.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

#30DaysofBiking complete!


Yep. I made the pledge and I kept it. Sure, one ride was a late night beer run to the corner store  just to keep the string alive. But note there's a little tick mark for every day. There's really only one "real" ride — a metric century, and the rest are commutes. But still...

Tricia also made it. At the start of the month they were trainer miles as she worked on wrist recovery. But the organizers say that counts, so we counted it.
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Ceramic cycling and a short ride


We visited Davis, California for the The California Conference for the Advancement of Ceramic Art and we amused to see a ceramic bicycle by Anthony Madrigal of San Jose State University among the many treasures on display. It's really only about a foot tall, so you wouldn't mistake it for an actual bike But it's nicely done and sure made me smile.

We stopped in Martinez to ride the Carquinez Scenic Loop on our way home for Tricia's first "away" ride since she broke her wrist in January. It's only 20 miles and 1400 feet of climbing but it was harder than we remembered it being. I guess we haven't been riding as much lately. Gotta fix that!
 

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Jersey unveiling and March for Science

I'd been waiting for a chance for Tricia and I to wear our new East Bay Regional Parks jerseys together. I didn't want to go solo with it.

 Our Saturday ride to Walnut Creek for the March for Science (OK, we took BART part way) was that chance. It was also Tricia's longest post-broken wrist outing, 38 miles.

We walked, and rode, in support of facts and scientific method. We enjoyed getting to wear the EBRP jerseys our son Eddie managed to get for us. They're really nice! A good day indeed.