Monday, January 01, 2018

2017 wrap up, 2018 Diablo kickoff

A few hiccups in 2017 kept my mileage lower than I would have liked, and what it's been in the past. But my wife and riding partner broke her wrist roller skating and was off the bike quite a while, which cut into my riding as well. It wouldn't have been as much fun, and "See you later, I'm off to ride" just seemed cruel.
We did manage to kick off 2018 with a ride up to the Diablo Summit. It was slow (at least for me) which is a wake up call if I hope to do any serious riding summer '18. But it was fun!

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Another rare mountain bike ride

Well, a mountain bike ride for me, but for Tricia, a chance to try her Salsa Vaya on gravel. Gravel that turned to bumpy dirt and cow pies for a while, but generally gravel. She and her Salsa did well, and looked sharp.
We rode with a Delta Pedalers group who claimed they were roadies just dipping their toes and old mountain bikes into the trails at Contra Loma.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas Lights ride


It's Christmas Eve and really cold, so of course Tricia wanted to go for a bike ride in the dark. So we did. Just far enough to check out the local Christmas lights.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Hillcrest Highway 4 BART onramp improvements

Apparently sometimes a little person can make a difference. In September I posted a video to Facebook and this blog pointing out the dangerous nature of the bike lane and onramp at Highway 4 and Hillcrest.  I had little hope any thing would change, but at a recent meeting of the Contra Costa Transit Authority they showed plans for phase 1 improvements at the on ramp that include new paint, signage and a promise that Antioch will enforce the no-right-turn from the center lane. They told me they'd be painting today if it wasn't too cold for the paint to stick. 

They even say that in a later phase they say they'll move the bike lane to a safer zone as well. Perhaps out from between lanes of auto traffic.

Apparently my video, and help from Bike East Bay, an East Bay Times story, a receptive Transit board and some local official involvement worked together to make this happen. I look forward to seeing it, and more forward for a further improved plan.

I hope they'll do something like what I propose in the video below.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Tricia's Salsa Vaya first ride

This can't really be a review because I didn't ride it, she did. But she seems happy. She likes the feel, the 40mm tires, and the gearing. It feels like it fits, though a minor tweak may be in order. She'll get a different saddle eventually. And water bottle cages. And lights. And a rack. And panniers.

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Salsa Vaya. Orange you glad she got a new bike

Tricia and her new Salsa Vaya

I'd been wondering why a middle school teacher would volunteer to take on an extra class. When Tricia announced she was getting herself an early Christmas present I knew why.

It's a swell Salsa Vaya. She'll use it for commuting, light touring and maybe a bit of playing on dirt roads first.

The bike comes with 40mm tires and has sane gearing with 48-32 and 11-36.

Like all new bikes, it's pretty now. But soon it will have water bottle cages, lights, a rack and panniers, a Garmin and a tail light. Maybe a front facing camera. We should enjoy it as it is, for a moment, standing as a work of art before it becomes a work horse.

I'm also placing partial blame (or credit) on Russ Roca from Path Less Pedaled, who wrote glowingly about this bike, and Adventure Cycling's Jim Sayer who toured on one last summer and wrote about it.

Tip o' the hat to Huckleberry Bicycles in Berkeley for having a timely sale and being pretty darn pleasant to deal with.

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Friday, November 10, 2017

A good commute. Rainbow!

Giro D' Vino 2017

What's my blog without a yearly Giro D' Vino post? I'm not about to find out

Weather was cool, but no rain and no fog and not much wind worked for me. As always we bougght more wine than we'd planned for. Oh well.

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Sunday, October 29, 2017

October light, October clouds

I hate that the days are getting shorter, but I love the beautiful light that slips in sideways instead of blasting down.  Plus: Clouds. They're just better.

So we did our usual ride out along the river and then up to the damn at Los Vaquerous.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Foxy's Fall Century 2017

Foxy's Fall Century is one of Tricia's favorite rides, so we signed up. Alas her favorite part of her favorite ride was affected by the horrible fires in Sonoma, so the Davis Bicycle Club had to reroute elsewhere.

The Davis club did a great job, as always. Even with their last moment changes it felt like they been practicing for years. These folks know how to run a ride.

We got to ride with old friends Chris and Deborah for most of the way. Riding behind a tandem is truly an enjoyable experience. It's like to vacuumed along. Thanks ya'all!

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.

I find more all the time, so here's a link to my Instagram with my #ccbiketrailoffering tag in case the photos below aren't enough

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.) Fixing the gearing issue would be step two toward my perfect bike.

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.