Monday, January 31, 2011

The right clothing for the weather

ccc dressed for cold by steve
I wasn't the fastest, or the coolest, or the thinnest on Saturday's 85 mile ride. I went out, guided by LanceOldStrong and his sidekick Steve, to climb Patterson Pass and Mines Road. It was a bit ambitious to think I could just roll out that distance with about 6000 feet of climbing in January. I suffered as I grunted slowly up the hills I thought would never end. I had more than a few "Why do I think this is fun?" moments.

But I did absolutely nail one aspect of the ride: I dressed perfectly. I almost never hear roadies talk about it, but I've seen fellow cycling commuters do a fist pump when they get their clothing perfect on a cold day. As someone who does both, I find I'm quite pleased with my own bad self on the days I manage to pick just the right clothing. It doesn't always happen. I've been caught out too cold, or overdressed and melting. But the delight of picking the perfect kit for the weather, for cheating mother nature, is rewarding.

I knew the ride would start in cold dense fog, then we'd climb into at least partial sun. I knew the climbing would create heat, and the descents would be cool, if not cold. I thought about what I'd wear way too much, but in the end I got it just right and rode — at least temperature wise — very comfortably.

Obsessive clothing details:
I wore a "buff" under mt helmet. What a great invention! I used an Under Armour baselayer under a long sleeve Champion Systems Tech Fleece jersey.

For the early morning fog and for descents I wore a Pearl Izumi Barrier Jacket. If there is one useful piece of information in this post, it's this jacket. It's somewhat windproof, and it's often just the extra layer I need. And it is so very small and light it stuffs into a jersey pocket and almost disappears. I highly recommend this jacket!

Tricia is a wool glove fan, so I listened to her and wore wool glove liners under my new Descente cycling gloves.

I have new Oakley Jawbone sunglasses with vented, yellow lenses that worked perfectly. (Review to come soon.)

I went with regular bibs, but covered my legs with Voler leg warmers. and finished off with wool socks under Performance toe warmers.

Now if I can just get the engine functionality even close to the clothing functionality I might almost be a cyclist.

fog ride 1 by steve
Curtis and LanceOldStrong in the fog. All Photos by Steve Monroe

Sunday, January 30, 2011

How clean is clean, and does it matter?

Clean cassette
On a ride with LanceOldStrong I looked over at his cassette and was amazed, if not stunned, to see how clean it was. Given the recent weather here anything short of filthy would have been an accomplishment, but this drivetrain went far beyond that. It was sparkly.

I'd been meaning to clean up my bikes, and my plans to put on a new chain pretty much mandated I at least clean the cassette. Inspired by OldStrong and using the "Anything worth doing is worth over doing" approach I ended up not only installing my chain and scrubbing the cassette, but cleaning the crud-encrusted disaster drivetrains on my commuter bike and Tricia's commuter bike as well.

What a mess. There is just no easy way to do it. I popped the bikes on my cheap wobbley stand and used several brushes, Orange Peel solvent, a plastic chain cleaner device, the garden hose, a ton of rags and a special cassette brush. Even with all that, there's no way, short of taking off the cranks, to really clean between the chainrings.

The worst of it was around the derailleur pulleys on the commuters. It was amazing they still shifted at all. Naturally, that area is really hard to get to and requires a toothbrush.

I am now covered with black gunk. My clothes may never recover, and my hands will be stained for days.

But the bikes are clean, and my cassette shines like a diamond in the sun, so it was worth it, right?

Friday, January 21, 2011

Morro Bay and journalism, with Apple and bikes

Tricia and I went to the Journalism Association of Community Colleges winter conference in Morro Bay. During a workshop Kurt from Apple demonstrated podcast tools for education and journalism. It was very cool. He handed out Macs and iPods so we could try making our own. Since I'd managed to sneak out with Tricia for a quick 25 mile ride during lunch I made my podcast about her.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mt Diablo, with fog sans water bottles

tricia in fog
"Where are the water bottles?"
"I left the bag on the table so you could add the Cilff bars you wanted."
"I thought you had them."
"Well, I thought you had them."

tricia gets rteady for coldAnd that's how it was when we started setting up the bikes in Walnut Creek's Los Lomas High School parking lot. We'd bailed on a 10 a.m. start due to amazingly thick and cold fog, and went to Barnes and Noble instead (if you know Druple, call me, mail me, save me.) Our 11 a.m. start wasn't much warmer, and we had one old ride freebie bottle we'd left in the car. I bought another when we got to Danville.

The ride up started in pretty cold fog, but around 1000 feet the day because glorious. It was downright warm. We shed jackets, arm warmers, gloves, and we're still almost too hot as the sun warmed our thawing selves. What a difference. And what a delight to look down on a Diablo Valley full of cotton-candy fog.

From the junction we zoomed down until we hit a wall of that dark, cold stuff again. Our decent went from rocket like to cautious as the visibility dropped to not-so-much.

By the time we got to Walnut Creek again the sky was blue and beautiful, and stayed that way until we drove into the gray curtain of East County. A cold, and warm, then hot, then cold, then really cold, then just right time was had by all.

Sunday, January 02, 2011

Year end mileage and goals

Bottom line: 7477 total miles
Fixed gear/SS 326
Commuter 2484
Kestrel 1520
Roubaix 3146 (road bike total 4666)

magic jerseyI managed to reach my major goal: Five double centuries (Solvang, Hemet, Davis, Knoxville, Bass Lake)
I also had some other big events, including a tour in Montana and the Mendocino Monster century. I also turned my odometer over on the commuter bike at 10,000 miles.

In the upcoming year I don't plan on trying anything like five doubles, but do hope to do one. I have several out-of-state bicycle adventures planned, and with any luck will even get to touch down in Canada for a short ride.

Saturday, January 01, 2011

Contra Costa Underground Railroad

While almost everyone is familiar with the Underground Railroad on the east coast, few are aware of the very different kind of underground railroad in Contra Costa County.
Originally started as a simple way to avoid building rail lines over the steep hills of Contra Costa, these rail tunnels were later used during World War II to make the transport of munitions around and near Port Chicago harder to track by on-ground spies. There were even adapted during the cold war to move nuclear weapons in and out of the Concord Navel Weapons Station.

After years of being strictly off-limits to non-military personnel, with the closing of the Weapons Station and the general thawing of the cold war, the extensive tunnel network is being eyed as a possible bicycle transportation solution to the increasingly crowded highways in the area.

We were allowed to ride about 15 miles of the recently repurposed rail tunnels with East Bay Regional Parks representatives last week. Though the tunnels are very dark (more lights are planned for installation), and many remnants of their past linger in the shadows, in general they do indeed make wonderful bicycle routes.

These bike route tunnels address three of the most common concerns that non-cyclists have: Hills, cars and weather. In the tunnels there are no hills — they were build for train cars and are essentially flat. There are no cars and, perhaps best of all this winter, no rain.

Our ride went well, and we look forward to the official opening of a proposed more than 40 miles of underground bike trails in the county.