Thursday, November 10, 2022

I'm an idiot. New Trek 520 Grando bike woes

Hear now my tale of overly hopeful and unrealistically optimistic, painfully expensive bad decision making,

I wanted a touring bike. I'd signed on for two self supported bicycle tours and realized the bike I had wasn't ideal. It didn't have a way to attach a front rack, and trying to carry everything on a rear rack resulted in a very unbalanced ride.

In April 2022 we were still in supply chain hell. Buying a new bike was near impossible. But shockingly enough, when I was visiting the Trek shop in Geneva, NY they told me they had a Trek 520 Grando arrive that morning.

The Trek 520 is a classic road touring bike. It's darn near the gold standard for touring. I wasn't attracted to it because it ships with bar end shifters, which I find a pain to use.  But their new iteration, the 520 Grando model checked all my boxes. It was designed more as a bike-packing gravelish bike. It has brake-shifters. (check.) Low gears that feature a 42-28 double crankset (check.) High spoke count wheels (check) Included a front rack (check) but no rear rack (can't have everything.)

The Trek sizing guidelines put me exactly on the line between a 51 cm and 54 cm size frame. The model they had was a 54. I figured that the slightly larger frame would  be fine for touring, and still in within spec.

I was wrong. I thought I'd adjust. Sure, it felt odd at first, but all new bikes feel odd. And it wasn't horrible, just different... I thought.

But not only was the frame larger than I was used to, which made me feel more "on" the bike than "in" the bike, the cranks were 172.5 mm instead of the smaller 170 mm cranks like all my other bikes. Again, I thought "How much difference could that make?" It turns out it matters more than I imagined.

After a multi-day self-supported 346 mile trip on the C&O and GAP trails and a week touring in Cape Cod I had to accept that this bike was just not ever going to feel right.

So, what to do? After obsessing way too much, I decided I'd just have to start over. I'm not made of money, so this was a tough and painful decision. It feels a little like I'm borrowing money just to light it on fire in the back yard. But what good is a bike I really can't enjoy riding? 

I begin shopping for a replacement, but interestingly enough the Grando really does have the perfect spec for what I'm after. The only other possibilities were custom zillion dollar solutions that were out of reach for me.

I visited with the wonderful folks in the Geneva Trek shop and learned Trek doesn't have any 51cm Trek Grandos to sell.  They consulted their national database to see if there was a shop that could transfer a bike in my size. Alas, the only places that had one reported their model was shipping damaged and had issues.

But miraculously  an "out of network" independant Trek dealer in Rochester, and hour and a half away, had one. Geneve Trek couldn't transfer it from in independent shop, so I drove there and bought it. 

It feels soooooo much better. But now I have a hole in my wallet and a 54cm model of the same bike that I'll need to sell.  Here's hoping I can sell it for enough that my error won't hurt too much for too long.

Wanta buy a touring/gravel bike?

Added photo of the new bike in front of the falls.

Friday, September 02, 2022

How much too much did my touring bike weigh?

That's my bike on the left, Tricia with hers on the right

We just finished our 346 mile bike journey from Washington DC to Pittsburgh along the C&O canal towpath and the GAP trail. It was our first “four-pannier” trip. We took our tent, sleeping bags, clothes, a lot of food and our coffee fixin’s.
I didn’t weigh anything before we left, but did when we returned. 
Here’s a breakdown of what things weighed.

Disclaimers: I weighed the larger items by holding them on a bathroom scale then subtracting my weight. Smaller items weighed on kitchen scale. 

Item info Weight in pounds
Trek 520 Grando (With pedals light, racks, Garmin and full water bottles) 33.2
Rear left pannier (Sleeping bag, pad, chair, etc.) 19.4
Left rear pannier (Mostly clothes) 21.2
Front right pannier (Coffee, stove, personal stuff) 8.2
Front Left pannier (Mostly food, electronics) 7.0
Front bag that sits on front rack (lock, rain coat, glasses, small stuff) 3.1
Tent (on rear rack, without poles or ground cloth) 4.8


Total weight without bike 63.7
Total weight with bike96.9

Yep, that's too much stuff. 

I need to drop a few pounds.
It won't be easy. All the bags together (empty) add up to 8.1 pounds, so I'm at 41 pounds before I add any items.
I took a lightweight chair (1.2 pounds) I'll leave behind. 
I also took a USB plug in hub charger and 2 power bricks (2.4 pounds) that'll I'll leave most of behind. 
My toiletries bag weighed 1.3. I'm sure that could be less.
Maybe I could take fewer clothes
I carried food we didn't need. Not a lot, but some.
I carried lightweight shoes, but next time I'll go with ultra lightweight "flops"

I'll upload too many photos in a seperate post, but here we are close to the start, ready to get lost in DC on our way to the C&O trail.





Thursday, August 11, 2022

Hemlock Lake loop, Lake 6 of #BTFL

Tricia and I cycled around Hemlock Lake as part of our quest to ride all 11 of the Finger Lakes, part of teh Finger Lakes Cycling Club's Bike the Finger Lakes Challenge. #BTFL. We've now ridden all the lake to the west of Watkins Glen where we live. We still have the two largest left, as well as some that are smaller, but farther away.

This ride, according to the club site, "boasts both one of the longest climbs and one of the steepest climbs in the Finger Lakes Region.Yet we survived and even had fun.
As beautiful as the ride was, it was somewhat odd to loop a lake, but never see it except at the start and finish. 
At least I managed to make some photos of my favorite model as well as lake at the start.
It's a treat to have so little auto traffic

There are flowers everywhere here. Zillions and zillions. 

Here's the ride start. If we hadn't climbed a few stairs we wouldn't have seen the lake at all

I'd never seen a sign like this before. I was tempted to follow the arrow, but who knows where we'd have ended up.

It is indeed a beautiful lake.

Monday, August 01, 2022

New chain day and first ride with Finger Lakes group

Putting on a new chain almost feels like getting a new bike. Shifting becomes so smooth. Sure, it may be that I left old my chain on too long...OK, I'm sure I did. But it's all better now.

In fact, it's super better, because I installed two new chains, one on the Roubaix and one on the gravel bike. It took a while, mainly because I cleaned the heck out of both bikes first, and because I couldn't find my Park quick link tool that disappeared in our move to NY.  I used a wire wrapping technique I found on youtube, and it worked. Of course, afterwards (but in time for chain two) I was reminded by a comment online that I have a pair of tire levers that could double as quick link pliers. They worked better than the wire method. And I have the proper Park tool on order now.

Let me rant a bit. I know there are "supply chain issues" but holy smokes, the price of chains has sure gone up. And cassettes are even worse. At least I don't need the multi-hundred dollar 12 speed versions, but still, they are almost $100 now. Crap.

In happier news, Tricia and I rode with the Finger Lakes Cycling Club for the first time on Saturday. They're a nice bunch of people, and gaining some local knowledge is always a good plan. 

Of course, I screwed up a bit. Just as we were leaving a cyclist rode past and told me "You left your van side door open." So I rode back and closed it, then spent too much energy killing myself to catch the group. I did catch them, and just as I did they stopped to regroup. I'd have been fine riding normally. Maybe I should just think of it as a bonus workout.

We look forward to riding with them again. But next time I'll check the doors more carefully.

Sunday, July 17, 2022

Beer and the Trek 520 Grando

We ride through Montour Falls, about 2 miles away,  on our regular Catherine Valley Trail ride. Today there was a sign announcing the opening of a new brewery there. OK! So of course we went  by on the way home. It provided a delightful... Diversion.
I installed a Tubus Evo rear rack on Trek 520 Grando. It has a set of lower rails that allow the panniers to ride lower on the bike, making for lower center of gravity. It also frees up the top of the rack to carry other junk. My Ortlieb bags are currently filled with bubble wrap, but next ride I'll add some actual weight and see how it feels more loaded.

Saturday, July 16, 2022

Continuing quest to cycle all Finger Lakes #BTFL11

We had to cancel our planned ride Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany. I tested positive for COVID the day before we were going to travel to the ride start. It was a mild case, I recovered quickly, and best of all didn't infect anyone else.

As a consolation we decided to ride a couple more of the Finger Lakes. It went beautifully. 

We tossed the bikes into our Adventure Van™ and headed to Canandaigua Lake for Tricia's birthday ride. Just joked she was "45 miles old today." as we finished 

We tent camped at a beautiful park and had it all to ourselves. Except for the zillions of fireflies that put on a great show into the evening.

The next morning we rode one of the shorter lakes, Honeoye Lake before returning home. 

Thanks to Finger Lakes Cycling Club for providing a wonderful resource for us. Their Bike the Finger Lakes 11 Challenge web page has suggested starting spots, suggestions for food, road info and RideWithGPS maps. We could even attempt this without them.

Wednesday, July 06, 2022

Wild ride of amazing excitment


Michael and William really enjoyed the ride around the neighborhood. They treated it like a carnival ride, tossing their arms in the air. They also said hello to the neighbors we rode past and well as greeting cars, motorcycles, signs, yards and most plants. A good time was had by all. 
I was relieved that hauling them around out flat neighborhood wasn't that much work, unlike the hills in our Antioch home.

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Adventure Van and Bike the Finger Lakes Challenge #BTFL11

 When Tricia and I bought our Pacifica last fall we decreed that it was not a minivan, but rather an adventure van. Our plan was to use it to transport our bikes and our own bad selves to fun places. 

We finally had a chance to take it out on a shakedown cruise. As part of our mission to cycle all 11 of the Finger Lakes we tossed the bikes in and drove to the most western lake, Conesus Lake. We still need to perfect how will load the bikes, but just using a couple of bungee cords worked reasonably well.
We managed to not only ride Conesus Lake, but tossed in a second nearby and even smaller lake, Canadice Lake. We were a bit worried because the website we checked said there was a 4 mile stretch of gravel. Gravel could be a dirt path, or could be giant boulders. And we were on road bikes with relatively skinny tires. But it turned out to be an  easy to ride and well-maintained path that we had no trouble with. And, it was even more beautiful than we could've imagined. During the road section I think we saw four cars total. 
As you can tell from the map,we've started with the easier ones. The largest are 82 and 97 miles with a good deal of climbing. But it looks to be a fun project.
Tip o' the hat to the Finger Lakes Cycling Club for putting together a web page with descriptions of the routes, best parking, GPS files and a web page to log your progress.

I'm in a Facebook group called "Look at my bike leaning against stuff." Because of course I am. Anyway, here was my contribution from our ride. So... Look at my bike leaning at (or on) Canadice Lake, one of New York State's Finger Lakes.

Sunday, June 26, 2022

Burly trailer test with live subject


Mr. William loves his balance bike and at less than two year old is already flying down the sidewalk. In an effort to continue our indoctrination we took him out in the Burly trailer today. I think he liked it. But it might've confused him. Who knows. He has a lot of words now, which include "Grandpa and helmet," but will have to wait until he can string them together into sentences to find out how he feels about being in a trailer. Overall,though,  it was a success. At least for me.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

Can't fix this with duct tape

I took my Ti commuter bike/gravel bike/almost touring bike out for a ride and boom, my derailer exploded/melted/died. It's this bike and derailer setup

I'm not sure what happened. Perhaps I banged it on something and the it hit the spokes when I shifted to a lower gear. But I don't really know.

The good part, if there is a good part, is that it isn't some $800 electronic thing, but a relatively inexpensive item. I even found one on sale and ordered it already. And I do have another bike I can ride.

The derailer I ordered is an S-Ride. It doesn't shift as smoothly as a nice Shimano derailer, but it does handle the incredible wide range of my 11–40 and 46–30 drivetrain. I wish the Shimano gravel derailer could handle a larger cassette. Maybe I could stretch it. But I didn't want to buy a derailer and have it not work and still need to buy a new one. Plus, apparently the are impossible to find. So S Ride it is...

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

It's all uphill from here

I've been here in Watkins Glen NY less than a month. As far as I can tell everything is uphill. Some a bit,  most a lot.

The Catherine Valley trail is slightly uphill for 10 miles. It's a smooth gravel path, 5 miles of which cross no (as in zero) roads. In fact, riding from home we put a foot down only once or twice during  20 mile out and back. 

But the other routes out are brutally uphill. These roads are often double-digit grades that hurt.

My plan: Get stronger or die.

Monday, June 06, 2022

First ride at new home.


Even though we bought our new home in Watkins Glen in October 2021 I didn't totally finish moving in until June 1, having "commuted" back to California to finish my final semester of teaching. But at last I'm totally here. I took my first in-residence bike ride on the Katherine Valley Trail as soon as I could.  After spending 11 days driving a convoluted route to get here and not riding at all it was wonderful to get back on the bike. It's going to be interesting to see how living here changes my riding opportunities. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Primavera Century 100K 2022


Holy smokes. I rode my first 100K in quite a while. I haven't been riding enough. Between teaching, visiting New York and just being busy with moving, my time on the bike hasn't been what it's been in the past. If nothing else, I'm missing my daily bike commute to work. All this means my simple 100 K ride was completely and totally exhausting. It took a lot out of me. I feel a little silly about that but at least I got it done.

Tricia and I had signed up for the Primavera Century two years ago. But each year it was postponed  due to COVID-19. Now that they finally held it they used our old registration payment so we could ride. Alas, Tricia is in New York while I'm in California. Instead of letting it go to waste, we gave it to our good friend Dan, a.k.a. Lanceoldstrong. He and I wrote it together, me riding as hard as I could and him riding at a very social chatting pace.

I was surprised that they had changed the route this year. We rode out toward Calaveras road from Fremont just as we had in the past, but rather than heading up the access road along 580 and climbing the relentless Palomaras Road to the terrifying no-room-for-bikes Niles Canyon to finish, we instead rode the route as an out-and-back. I'm not normally a fan of out-and-back back rides but getting to ride along Calaveras Road twice made it OK. Although Calaveras Road is weird. It seems like it's uphill both directions. If it wasn't so beautiful it would be downright annoying.

We had great weather, and as always, the support was perfect. But holy smokes was I hurting by the time we got done.

Friday, April 08, 2022

Trek 520 Grando

I installed two panniers on the bike with a temporary rear rack  just to see how it looked. Yes, the bars are rotated up too much. I'll fix that. And add water bottles.


Tricia and I have two self supported rides planned this summer. We've done a couple of rides with just panniers, but not carried food and such. This time we're going full tilt and wanted front panniers as well. 

 I took my gravel-esque titanium bike into a shop near where we recently moved to see about a front rack. (Shout out to Trek Bicycle Geneva NY) and was told "Nope. you don't want to put a front rack on a carbon fork." 

 I lamented that I'd feared that, and told them I'd done research and had thought I'd like to buy a Trek 520 if I could find one, but in these pandemic times I've read tales of people looking for months and then driving states away to get one. I figured I had no chance and that I'd better start working on a "Plan B. "

 They told me I looked like a 54cm size guy and that they had a 520 Grando that would fit me that arrived two hours before I got there. TWO HOURS! 

 So, BOOM, I bought the bike. Right then. 

 I know it's not the usual for touring, but I love brake shifters, which this bike comes with, so I'm thrilled already. Plus, check that crankset. 42-28. An actual useful double! I may see if I can stretch to a 40 tooth max cog in back to replace the 36 it shipped with. I hear it MAY work. It doesn't ship with a rear rack so I ordered a Tubus Logo Evo. I've already swapped the pedals. 

 The rest of my tale is that I got the bike in the Finger Lakes region of NY and promptly flew back to California where I have to finish teaching this semester before permanently moving to Watkins Glen. So I have a new home, and a new bike I can't ride because it's at the new home. It's just sitting there waiting for me until June. 

 But when I do arrive home Tricia and I have planned several rides: The Erie Canal from Buffalo to Albany, the C&O and GAP from DC to Pittsburgh and a week in Cape Cod. Can you tell I'll be fully retired in June?

Wednesday, March 30, 2022

Bonus non-cycling East Coast cold photo


After a lovely dinner at The Graft Wine and Cider Bar in Watkins Glen we strolled down to the Seneca Lake harbor on our walk back to new home. It was a bit chilly for this newly-arrived Californian, but not too cold to appreciate the beauty and wonder of my new village on the Finger Lakes of New York. It's been in the 20s and I'm too wimpy to ride for fun in this weather. I've been Zwifting in the unheated garage, which is hard enough.