Sunday, July 27, 2014

Ripped and shredded tire on the road. Tip o' the day

You don't want this to happen to you. Tricia didn't either. Her tire had less than 150 miles on it, but sometimes you hit a sharp rock or a piece of glass and your new tire just gets sliced. Then of course, the tube pushes through and dramatically explodes. It isn't pretty.

Then what do you do?

Here's the tip part: Carry Park Tool TB-2 Emergency Tire Boots. These little thick plastic stickers go inside and keep the tube from pushing through. You still get a bump, but it beats sitting on the roadside. Sure, a dollar bill or Cliff Bar wrapper might work, but these Park things are the perfect size, they are thick enough to hold up better, and the sticky side helps keep them in place. I've used bills and wrappers in the past and had the tube push them out of the rip to the point the tube ripped again. That doesn't happen with these stickers.

We had to make use of two of these little suckers during our two-week tour and we were ever so glad to have them. If you ride roads out of cell range, or far from high use roads  (think Calaveras Road) you need these in your seat bag. Really.

Saturday, July 05, 2014

Totally completely positively 100% all white Maxis Re-Fuse tires

White tires were on sale, and they seemed to go with my white bike and white spokes. I figured I'd better photograph them now while they're still white.

I had black tires. Then I got a set of nice Schwalbe Ultremo tires with a subtle ivory stripe. They were swell tires, but when Michelin came out with white wall Service Course 4 tires I couldn't resist.

Then I saw these totally white Maxis Re-Fuse tires, on sale no less. I couldn't pass them up. I still use the Michelins on my Power-Tap wheels, but I think these look swell on my Roval Fusée wheels with their several ornamental white spokes.

A responsible person might ask if white tires are a good idea, and if they'll stay white. That person wouldn't be me. I have a black saddle and black bar tape. That's as sensible as I'm willing to be.  But if an excuse is required, I'm going with this: I'm a really white guy, and all the white on the bike makes me look more tan. Yeah, that's it, more tan. And I'm pretty sure these tires will stay white for at least 50 yards or so.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Bohlman-On Orbit, Black Road, China Grade death march

There was dirt too. Photo by Steve
Executive summary: 63 miles, 7800 feet of climbing.

I'd heard of Bohlman-On Orbit ride for years and wondered what it meant. Is there some guy named Bohlman who was once on orbit, or do we ride loops — orbit — something? Perhaps it's so hard you need to be like, way out, man, really in orbit to ride there? Nope, it turns out it's the name of a street in an area where streets all have space-age names.

It also turns out to be crazy steep. As in the longest crazy steep climb I've ever done. And that was only the the first climb of the day. But at least all the climbing gave us an opportunity to descend down a steep loose gravel  trail. By opportunity I mean #&!%@*&?%@. That was followed by a highly technical switchback descent which was also (word of the day) steep. Steep enough I worried about overheating my rims.

Yes, those are 20% grades in spots.
Our friend and über-guide route planner Lanceoldstrong messaged me to say he wanted to do a long ride Sunday. Of course Tricia and I said yes, and joined him and Steve to drive to this crazy route.

Steve had to show off his BMX skills.
I can't believe actual people ride this more than once. There aren't many photos because I spent most of my energy just trying to not fall over and stay alive. That, and keep up with Tricia who, though she kept saying it was hard and she was tired, keep pounding away at a level that made it hard (and often impossible) to keep up with her. Even though she had a strong day riding, she seems most happy with the thumbs-up from a motorcyclist on one of the huge climbs.

Dan may have seen a hobbit.

The ride through the redwoods was stunning, and wonderfully cool. It was great not to have to climb in the hot sun; the trees provided so much shelter despite the hot day it was almost chilly at times. Before the China Grade climb (pro tip: roads with "grade" in their name are often really steep) we stopped to regroup and talked to a guy who was waiting for someone. It was like the state had stationed a tour guide there for us. He gave us park info, climb info and kept telling us how beautiful the climb would be and how much we'd enjoy it.

We did, but is sure was relentless. We kept thinking we must be almost to the top. At one point as we rounded yet another switchback I heard Tricia loudly yell "Really?" as if chiding the mountain would make our summit come sooner. It didn't.

The whole time we were riding I was thinking WTF Oldstrong? But it's amazing how quickly one can forget suffering. Already I'm thinking "Well, that was a nice ride" even as I vaguely remember being at death's door.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Strava motivation

Here's the deal: Strava, (and if you don't know what Strava is I have no idea why you are reading this) the online service that let's us all track our rides and compete for the best time on "segments" also posts "challenges."

I will  never get a KOM (King of the Mountain) on any Strava segment that other riders know about. I'm just too slow, and there are too many riders much faster than I am in the area. I'm pretty much resigned with that. I use Strava to track my own rides and see what my cycling friends are up to.

But this challenge thing? It's hard to resist., and I don't know why. All you get is some pixels on your Strava page. Yet there I was yesterday, very much aware that I was going to complete their "48 hours of riding between June 5 and June 28" Challenge. Heck, I went out of my way to make sure I had a long ride in to make the "Gran Fondo 6" challenge wherein I had to ride 130 km in a single ride. I even had to google the conversion to find out how many miles that was. It's about 81 for you fellow metric-challenged folks.

If that isn't enough, Strava is willing to sell me a jersey for some completed challenges. Yes, a special jersey available only to achievers. I have until July 3 to decided if I want to smack down $103 for this orange jersey. I'm glad it isn't a color I like a lot, because, embarrassingly enough, I'm almost silly enough to do it. There is unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, no jersey for the "Battle of June"

These little badges appear only on my Strava profile page — a page that no one will ever bother to look at who isn't me — and yet there they are.

I am so predictable. I am Pavlov's dog.

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Ride Every Road: It's now a "thing" #RER

This is the kind of RER GPS track you get in the burbs

Tricia has always enjoyed adding a few highly randomized, explore-the-neighborhood rides to our cycling outings. We'd done so many goofball routes that I started wondering what it would be like to ride every road in the city of Antioch, where we live.

Little did I realize that it was becoming a "thing." But then I saw a post on Richard Masoner's cyclelicious where he wrote about other folks with the same goal in their cities.  and realized I hadn't had a unique idea at all. But it did give us a bit of impetus to actually see if we could do it.

We aren't killing ourselves to do this, and we have no serious plan. We don't even have a time frame to completion. Mostly we try to "pick off" a few subdivisions when we're out on a ride.

Already we've noticed a lot in our silly attempt. I'll write about sociology, urban planning,  litter, landscaping, architecture and automobiles later. For now I'll stick with a few bike riding observations.

This is harder cycling than it looks like it would be. There's no rhythm to be had. Instead, it's endless turns after short distances. And courts. Oh my dizzy head there are courts. Zillions. And we're trying to hit every one. The constant slowing for a tight semi-circle followed by getting back up to speed is a lot more tiring than just maintaining a constant pace. And of course, drafting is out of the question.

On the North side of the city the streets are in a very tidy grid. We haven't started them yet, but I expect the experience to be quite different from the clever-yet-annoying loops and swirls on the south side. Sometimes we think we've hit every street, only to Strava the ride and discover that, nope, we missed something.

The other part of this that's hard is the documentation. Strava and my Ascent for Mac program show routes on a map for each ride, but don't show every ride. Strava has a "heat map" feature, but it's to show where you ride a lot. Roads ridden only once are hard to see. I'd love to take all my GPS files, combine them and have my tracks show up on a map. I tried to in Ascent, but after many hours of churning, trying to combine 18 months of files, my poor Mac just choked.

If you, gentle reader, have any idea how I might accomplish my GPS mapping goal, please let me know!
I can hardly see the light blue lines. I want more drama!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Delta De Anza Trail: Good news?

This may soon be this missing link: a connector bike path between Antioch and Oakley. #abouttime
This section of cracked pavement may soon be really swell
VIA the City of Antioch Environmental Resources Facebook page I learned that the weekly City Manager's report contained the following short sentence.

Delta De Anza Trail repairs (Viera Ranch Subdivision 7220, between Ridgeline Drive and Neroly Rd.) – Construction is scheduled to begin June 9th and to be completed August 8th.

Does this mean that at long last there will be a connector trail to Oakley so I don't have to risk my life on Lone Tree? That would be great.

I, as always, am a bit skeptical. I rode by there and there is some work going on, but it isn't on the trail itself, it's next to the trail. They are building a wall to keep dirt from washing where they don't want it. I didn't see any work being done on the trail itself.

Currently there is a trail there, but it's gated off and in ill repair. I've heard various tales about why it was never open for use; everything from the developers who constructed it didn't meet East Bay Parks specs to the Water District somehow torpedoing it.

But if it does actually get built and opened, it will be so extra very cool.

Here's the East Bay Park's page on the tail, with a pretty good map, and a screen shot from the area where the trail is being repaired (marked proposed here.)

Saturday, June 14, 2014

No sports at sports bar #bitter

Sad Tricia needs food. No luck at Tailgators. 
Maybe I'm just spoiled. When I ride my bike to Antioch's Okawa Japanese restaurant for sushi they graciously stash my bicycle in the back. When Tricia and I go to Antioch's Cocina Medina we park our bikes next to us on their patio. So when we thought "Beer, burgers and World Cup soccer on a patio at a sports bar" after our bike ride we figured we'd roll into Antioch's Tailgators and get similar treatment. After all, it is Tailgators Sports Bar. Surely paying customers with sports equipment would be welcome.

Apparently not so much. When we entered the front door we were shouted at by the distant bartender not to bring our bikes in;  that we could leave them in the bike rack (far away from the door, near the dumpster, in a perfect bike-theft zone.) We said we just wanted to leave them on their patio — the patio with not a single person was using.  Nope. No deal.

This, in a near-empty restaurant in a location that's failed several times before, can't be the best way to gain customers. At least it didn't work for us.

Tricia and I believe in local dining. We avoid chains and try to eat where we'll see the same staff and deal with owners that have actual names. Partly because we support local businesses, and partly because we think we get better food and service from real people and not faceless corporations.

We'd been to Tailgators twice before. They have a good beer list, the food is fine for pub/sports bar fare, and the wait staff was commendable. Heck, the staff was the main reason for our return visit.

But sorry excellent wait staff, no tips for you today.

We instead rode over to the lovely and delightful Cocina Medina, parked our bikes on the patio, enjoyed lunch (and a margarita!) and had a fine time.

Tailgators, we won't trouble you again.

I really want to park my bike here.
I got an email from a member of the local bicycle club:

Well, I did go by and the Gator did smile!
This seems to be the story:

The bike rack by the dumpster is largely used by the employees that ride to work.

There is a back gate (another CA secret path and secret menu thing) to the patio that is reached by a path around the back. The back gate is locked for security, but it will be opened and people with bikes will be helped to get around. It will not be locked back right away since they trust people with bikes (did not understand that part)
The manager I spoke to was surprised this was not offered and will make sure that all the greeters know. If they do not (or cannot be bothered) just ask for a manager.

Dogs (except service dogs) are not permitted on the patio and bikes in the restaurant are not permitted (even $5000 carbon fiber bikes) due to CA Health Code which currently does not make an exception.

The front patio will shortly have a low iron fence and chairs and tables and the bikes can be placed there and secured if you sit on that new future patio. (Apparently they need more quiet space for those of us who cannot hear or just want to talk to our wives or girlfriends).

It worked out OK, I hope. BTW - The number is 925.754.2277 and you can call ahead to order food so it will be ready when you get there - if you like to eat and run.

The Fixer, Bill Y

Friday, June 13, 2014

Marsh Creek Trail closed WTF?

Tricia and I were surprised on our ride this week to discover the Marsh Creek Trail closed. If you get on at Big Break Marina in Oakley you can ride as far as the bridge over the canal, but that’s it. Not only is it closed, but it will be closed all summer, until October. This is a highly used path that connects Antioch to Brentwood. It helps cyclists avoid some very sketchy high traffic roads. It also serves families on walks and nature observers enjoying the delta wetlands. I guess were just supposed to ride down Highway 4.

Of course, there were no detour signs, temporary bypasses, marked useable detours,  or any of the things that you’d normally find for autos. Not that I’m bitter…

I called the Contra Costa water District office number listed on the closure sign — 925 688 8010 — to register my disappointment. While the man on the phone was nice enough, he basically said "Yep. That's the way it is." I'd like to encourage you to call as well. Perhaps it won't fix this issue, but it will send a message that this is unacceptable.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Anniversary ride to the Diablo summit

Fifteen years ago, on July 12, Tricia and I were married.  Today we celebrated with a bike ride up to the Mt. Diablo summit. We started in a huge wind that was mostly in our faces and we wondered if we'd end up bailing out at the junction. But as we rode the wind let up, and the day became pleasantly warm.

We must have seen 40–50 cyclists, and only a dozen cars. Maybe the state park should rededicate the pavement to cycling, and then see if they can find funding for some very small, limited access automobile paths.  Or have limited automobile use hours, or days, or both. Just a thought...

Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Schwalbe Marathon Plus mounting and review

I live in the land of broken glass and stickers, so I've become pretty darn proficient at changing (and patching) bike tubes. I can get most road tires mounted without even using tools. I've done it in the dark, and in the rain. Not to say I love it, or I'm the best, but I know what I'm doing. At least I thought I did.

Marathon Plus

After my last tire wore out I did some research and decided to try a 700c 28mm Schwalbe Marathon Plus for my commuter bike. It's the darling of commuters and tourists because it is, apparently, bullet-proof and lasts almost forever. At over $50 (discounted!) it isn't cheap, but if it lasts as long as its fans claim, it will be a cost savings in the long run. I'd used their Marathon Racer and Marathon Green Guard (they cost less) and been satisfied. I figured I'd step up to the Plus as not flatting on my commutes would be really really nice.

I'd read that they were hard to mount. Heck, just click this. Google has a lot of hits for mounting. But, as I said, I'm really good.


I tried using no tools. No luck. I couldn't even get it started. I tried using one, then two, then three levers, but couldn't get it going. I'd think I had, but it would just pop off the other side.

I was eventually inspired by this video. (I might have realized there could be issues when there's a YouTube video, but there are YouTube videos on boiling water...)

Living in 2014, I had no extra toe straps hanging about to use as the video suggests. But I did have some serious Velcro waiting for a useful purpose. And that's what it took.


Using three levers, and tying down the tire with several velcro strips ever time I got another inch settled in the right spot I was eventually able to get the blasted thing mounted.

Maratho Plus mounting

It's all good now. But what will I do if I hit the biggest thorn ever? How will I repair it on the road? Should I carry three levers and a bunch of velcro strips? I'll need a bigger seat bag...

If you have any hints about mounting this tire, let me know. And seriously, don't think you could do it easily if you haven't actually tried.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Democracy by bicycle

New bike stickers #'merica

Tricia has been riding to vote for along enough she has quite a collection of stickers — there are a lot more than you see here.  I love the Spanish one, I just wish we could get them in every language they make them in. Viva Democracy!

Saturday, May 31, 2014

New returning cyclist joy

"It wasn't long after we moved to Tehachapi, that Kellie started hanging out with local Tehachapi toughs and joined her first gang." — Kellie's Dad, Gregory McCown

Kellie left her cycling life behind for a number of years, but now she's back. Tired of automobile problems, and moving to bike-friendly (at least a lot more than Antioch) Sacramento, she bought "Margarita," as she calls her new bike.

 I clearly remember the day my Dad took off my training wheels, and exactly how it felt. That wonderful sense of balance and freedom returns every time I get on my bike. It's been fun talking to a new/old rider who is rediscovering how nice it is just to be on a bicycle.  As we rode along the canal trail she just kept saying "This is so fun! This is just so fun!"

Of course, I've been cycling almost forever, sometimes it's easy to forget how many little things I've learned over the years — like how to take open quick release, how high the saddle should be, how to patch a tube, how to watch for the door zone and right-turning cars that too-often fail to stop. The list is endless, and trying to figure out what's important to share now and what would be a too-huge information dump is a challenge. Is it better to shut up, or mention a pump and tube might be good things to take on a ride away from cell phone coverage?

Kellie has a zillion questions though. I'm hoping to teach her how to fix a flat before she leaves town. She's also planning to take an Urban Cycling class. I think she'll be ready for anything.

Including endless hipster selfies with totally cool shades.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Fifty yards of safe

I don't know what we did to warrant such concern for our safety, but I hope it's a trend.  The highway 4 over-crossing at Hillcrest in Antioch now sports concrete barriers, not just on the auto lane side, mind you, but to the right as well, protecting us, from... whatever is over there, which is nothing, or perhaps protecting the nothing from us.

It isn't as pretty as the flower containers used elsewhere for the same purpose, but I still like it. Sure the areas leading up to the bridge are far from bike friendly, but this fifty yard section is just fine.

Not Antioch, but nice flower-barrier, no?

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Amgen Tour of California Stage 3 Mt. Diablo 2014

Amgen Tour of California stage 3 diablo 2014 a

Curtis and Tricia Tour of CA (TC)_0264It was hot, it was uphill, it was hot (And it was also hot), and we carried a ton of  picnic goods and camera equipment just to make it harder. Still, it was totally worth riding up Mt. Diablo to just past the junction to see the ATOC cycling gods.

Tricia pointed out that we needed to make a day of it, and not just live for the quick passing of the peleton (and it was pretty quick indeed.) So we started up the mountain around 11, me on my heavy fenderized commuter bike with full panniers. Thank goodness for really low gears. I like riding uphill, but Tuesday I had to keep reminding myself to relax and take it easy. I did. I passed no one, but many passed me.

Gentlemen at Tour of CA (TC)_0298We ended up at Lookout Point, just past the junction, relaxing under a tree with some very cool Lithuanians transplants in nicely designed cycling jerseys. We chatted and watched the horizon for the helicopters that would signal the riders were approaching. Eventually we could see them arriving as small specks on a distant road.

Tricia, Tour of CA (TC)_0305

They came by so amazingly fast. Where we were, the leader, several seconds from the main group was the Mexican National Champion. After that is was a blur for me. But it was a wonderful blur.

Leader at this point Tour of Ca stage 3 diablo (b) 2014

Giant Amgen Tour of California stage 3 diablo 2014_0201

Tour of CA (by Tricia)

Later group Amgen Tour of California stage 3 diablo 2014_0187

Cannondale Amgen Tour of California stage 3 diablo 2014_0167

United Health Care Amgen Tour of California stage 3 diablo 2014_0141

Riding back down after the event I was noticing the large number of women cyclists who looked, and rode, like they were serious about it. At one point I couldn't help but admire the athletic shape (if you know what I mean, and I think you do) of a young woman who kicked past me near the bottom on a slight uphill. Then, as my gaze rose higher I realized "Oh, that's Tricia."

Life is good.

Curtis uphill Tour of CA (TC)_0280
That's me, not the racers, grunting my way up.

UPDATE: From the small world department, one of the cyclists from Lithuania, Vitas, found famed blogger Diablo Scott's cell phone on Diablo and returned it to him. Read about Diablo Scott's VIP experience at the summit of Diablo. And just because they are so wonderful, here's a photo of their jersey I like so much.

Jersey Tour of CA (TC)_0291

Saturday, May 10, 2014

Completed DMD ... two weeks late

DMD sign DMD part 2_0348

Two weeks ago I started the Devil Mountain Double Century. I DNFed at mile 150. But I can't stand that, so today I drove to the point I stopped — the Crothers Road rest stop in San Jose — and rode the course the remaining 54.9 miles (and 5000 feet of climbing)

In tennis, winning the four major tournaments in a year is called a Grand Slam. But winning four in a row outside a year is termed a Non-Calendar Year Grand Slam. Therefore, I'm henceforth referring to my 2014 DMD as a Non-Calendar Devil Mountain Double Finish. Don't try to tell me different.

The pinched/compressed nerve in my neck that affects my shoulder and was the big reason I bailed out still hurts like something that hurts too much, but bothers me even more when I'm in the drops, when it hurts way way too much. I'm doing some doctor-recommended voodoo stuff, and I've raised the bars on my commuter bike to an embarrassing height. I may feel better some day, but it wasn't today.

ccc ride start DMD part 2_0346
Today was a lot like the weather of two weeks ago, windy and a bit on the cool side. I wore knee warmers, glove liners under my cycling gloves and a buff most of the day. I took along my very lightweight Pearl Izumi Barrier Jacket  for the early downhills and I'm glad I did.

Because this was a point to point ride, I left home before 6 am and left the car at Crothers Rd. Tricia picked me up in San Ramon on her way to visit family, then dropped me to pick up our car.

Sierra Road sign DMD part 2_0353
From where I started the much-heralded Sierra Rd comes up soon. It's steep after 100-something miles, but it's steep even when you're fresh. And there's no lead in. You turn from a normal road, and boom, straight up. When I went with LanceOldStrong to see the Tour of California stage finish there I was amazed how hard it was even to stand and not fall over. It's that steep. (Gradient chart)

Seirra Road DMD part 2_0352

The morning sun slipping through the clouds, a beautiful view, and not being worn out helped make it less awful than I'd remembered. Still, I'm not making light of it. I think I went up about 5mph. It took forever.

After the rich people's houses, the road turns very, very narrow for a while and it's easy to imagine you are riding hundreds of miles from any city.

Sierra Road one lane DMD part 2_0361

Later, along the beautiful Calavaras Road I saw a large shape in the road. It was ground squirrel-sized, but not ground squirrel-shaped. It was sci-fi quality big. Frighteningly big.  I shooed it off the road after making a few photos. My naturalist son says it's a non-native invasive species and I should have considered leaving it where it was ... but I don't think I could have.

This, of course, is the kind of photo I'm forced to run when I'm not riding with Tricia, who is a much more attractive subject.

frog DMD part 2_0368

I eventually arrived in San Ramon, two weeks later than planned, with no trumpets or banners. Tricia, however, was there for me, with water and some Whole Foods sushi, so it was all worthwhile.