Saturday, December 29, 2012

Premium Rush not either

Premium Rush. It's a movie that features bicycles, so what's not to like? In my case, almost everything.

A friend loaned it to me thinking I'd enjoy it. I admit I was a bit worried, having seen the trailer, but thought "What the heck."

This movie pretty much exemplifies almost everything I hate in movies. Let me start with the concept of social responsibility. The bicycle riders in the film, who are the heroes, display no concern for anyone but themselves, and they're proud of it. They consistently behave like jerks when they ride. That might be an important part of telling an interesting story, but it isn't, it's just an excuse to have them ride in an "exciting" way. So either people will imitate them and get injured or killed (creating who knows how much grief for the blameless car driver who hits them) or it will pretty much influence car drivers to believe that all cyclists are crazy and get what they have coming when they are plowed into. In any event, the way they treat their fellow road and sidewalk users is unconscionable. Imagine how you'd feel if your loved one was on the receiving end of their hijinks.

Even though they're the good guys on a mission, they are completely unlikeable and I hope never to have to deal with people like them them in the real world.

As if that isn't enough, it isn't even shot well. The scenes with riders' faces as they pedal look as real as 1960s bad TV. The light on the faces doesn't come close to matching the background. Did they take lessons from McHales Navy or something? And what's with the fixie vs geared bike race? Really? They didn't even try.

This film is just an excuse for a near endless Disney-like chase scene that goes nowhere and becomes tiresome very quickly.

But the biggest failure is that the characters are so flat that I don't really care if they succeed in their implausible goal anyway. It's as if the writers went to the stock character book and plucked out a few. The bad cop with a gambling problem, the troubled misunderstood law school grad, several "inscrutable orientals" left over from racist Charlie Chan movies and a (once she sees the light) stand-by-your-man girlfriend.

Just to be fair, the graphics when our cyclist approaches an intersection and imagines what might happen if he takes different routes look great and are very creative. And several females have commented on the attractiveness of  Joseph Gordon-Levitt, but I'll have to take their word for it.

 Executive summary: Bad bike stuff, no character development, (OK, no characters to even develop,) annoyingly amateurish filming, and zero social consciousness.

My recommendation: Rent or buy Breaking Away again.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Jenny Oh, my new hero

I while ago I saw a post and share on a friends Facebook feed concerning bike theft. I made a snarky comment pretending I thought the poster was offering suggestions on how to steal bikes. Instead of a cheap shot back I got a nice reply and a friend request from the author Jenny Oh. It turns out she is on a mission. A mission to stop bike theft and reunite people with their stolen bikes.

I asked her just what her story was, and if I could write her here. She wrote back, and even told me I could link to her Facebook page where she posts stolen bike photos she's hoping might be seen.

This past summer, my Ibis MTB was stolen. It was recovered by alerting the cycling community through social media, email, forums and other means. I wanted to give back to the cycling community by passing along the knowledge I gained through its recovery, as it seems many folks don't know what to do when a theft occurs. I'd also like to help crackdown on the problem overall. 
 I think she's me new hero. While I never want anyones bike stolen, if it is I hope I see it on her page and again in real life to I can be part of her recovery hero team. She's in SF, and concentrates her efforts there, but sometimes spills over into the greater region.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Garmin 305 vs 500

garmin 500 with BarFly
My Garmin Edge 305 cycling GPS thingy has been having some odd behavioral issues lately. More importantly, all the cool kids have Garmin 500s, so clearly exploring (read "buying") the newer model is in order.

My 305 seems to crash regularly when I try to upload to Strava, and the battery occasionally goes dead when I think I've charged it . When I ride with the 500 crowd my climbing figures are always higher. A lot higher. All this, plus promised longer-life battery charges, faster boot up time, lighter weight (OK, that really didn't matter,) temperature recording (is that cool or what?) and a big sale at finely pushed me over the edge (Garmin Edge 305, Garmin Edge 500, get it?) Plus, I can use my existing heart rate strap and cadence sensor. And, when I get a Power Tap power meter from Santa or some local charity (hint hint) it will handle the ANT+ signal from that and display it. Sure, I'll never really have a Power Tap, but just in case.... Anyway, I bought the 500.

I was also happy to discover that the mounting system for the 500 could be replaced by a nifty third-party item called a "Bar Fly" that puts the unit out in front of the handlebars and is just way cool. I was less happy when I found out it cost almost $40. I got all happy again when I found one on eBay for $19, which seemed like a fair price for something that should only cost $6 in a more reasonable world.

When I unboxed the Gramin and started setting it up, going through the endless beep-beep-beep of pushing tiny buttons a zillion times to navigate through myriad screens I discovered an oddity. On my old 305 I could set my maximum heart rate right on the unit with those annoying buttons. With the 500 I had to use Garmin Connect, their online tool for logging rides. Naturally this entailed downloading updated versions of Garmin Connect and Garmin Web Updater to my Mac, then creating a (thankfully) free account for a service I'll never use, plugging in the numbers on a web page then downloading the info to the unit.  In the end it worked, (I think) but what a pain.

Another issue I know I'll have to face is that of a battery extender. My 305 runs about 8 hours, which works for most rides. But double centuries at my speed need more that a 8 hour window. I bought a Minty Boost external battery pack (blog entry on the Minty Boost) and have been very happy with it. With a couple of high-end AA batteries in it I can get through a 19 hour ride with power to spare.

Apparently the Garmin 500 has some weird "feature" that causes it to drop out of it's functioning GPS mode and into a charge-only mode when connected an external power pack. Endless searching on the web suggests that adding a resistor between specific pins of the USB charging cable solves this problem, but that level of electronic and soldering magic is beyond my meager skills. There are third-party battery packs, but the descriptions are annoyingly vague on whether they will power, or merely charge a Garmin 500.

Fortunately, the 500 has a claimed 18 hour battery life, so I won't need anything extra unless I attempt another double, which wouldn't be any time soon anyway.

After waiting out the weather and finally getting a ride in I discovered the BarFly is flippin' great. I holds the computer out in front of the bars where it's a lot easier to see. Plus, it just looks totally cool. I'm really glad I got it.

The Garmin 500 seems to have a couple of key differences from my 305.

  1. It records elevation gain lower than the 305. Really, it may be right, or not. Elevation gain is really a philosophical issue as much as a physical issue. What counts? Every bump, or vibration, or only changes of more than 6 inches? Or a foot? Or three feet? It relates to the age old question: How long is the coast of Britain? I'm not sure but I know at least my numbers will match all my Garmin 500 friends, even though my stats will be lower than with my 305.
  2. It records temperature. It responds slowly, and I know 500 units set next to each other read differently, but it's something fun to look at.
  3. It transfers data a zillion times faster. At first I thought it didn't transfer. It was so fast I didn't see progress. I thought it didn't work, but no, it was so fast I didn't see it happen.  I'm good with that. The 305 sometimes seemed like it would never finish.
I haven't tried setting the screens to page by yet, and I haven't tried "courses," which claims to provide some sort of minimal navigation help. I'll test these features sometimes when the weather is less wet. As they say on TV, "Film at 11:00."

Saturday, December 01, 2012

Three cycling books

I'm a reader. Not just blogs, but actual real life dead tree books. I even spend my own money on them. I've recently purchased three very different books about cycling.

Cycling Science by Max Glaskin is a book, that, were it larger would seem like a coffee table book. It's very cleanly designed with interesting graphics and a lot of white space. Each subject is exactly two facing pages long, no matter how complicated or simple it is. You get a header, a snappy lead in, a graphic or two and a short explanation. Nothing goes into a ton of depth, but that makes for an easy breezy read. It could work as a cyclist's bathroom reader.  It's pretty much footnote and citation free, so who knows where these facts come from.
Edit: It seems I missed the 150-odd citations detailed in five pages at the back of the book. I guess that's why I'm not a professional book reviewer. 
I enjoyed this book, but there wasn't much new in it for me. But then I'm an old guy and a compulsive reader who's been reading stuff like this forever. 
The author says he's continuing to gather new material about cycling scence, tweeting daily about it as @cyclinscence1 and beginning to blog at Cool! I know I'll be adding it to my RSS reader.

Cyclepedia by Michael Embacher: I found this at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. It's a collection of beautifully shot photos presented in no particular order. I'm guessing, but I think it originated in Germany and was translated for the American market. Most of the bikes are in the author's collection, so this is really a work of love. Many of the bikes are unusual European historical models I've never heard of, which makes it a lot of fun. The photographs are extremely well done. I've enjoyed just picking it up, randomly choosing a page and oogling a bike.

The Secret Race. If you love cycling, Tyler Hamilton's story will break your heart. Hamilton is hard on Lance Armstrong, but just as hard on himself. It provides a look inside the Armstrong doping years in more detail than you may be able to handle. This whole book has a painful ring of sad truth, but it's well written and fascinating, perhaps like a brilliantly written description of a train wreck. I'm glad I read it, and in many ways I enjoyed it. But it left me very sad for Hamilton and cycling. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Morgan Territory: This is November?

Sixty-eight miles in late November? Over Morgan Territory? That's just crazy talk. But Lance Oldstrong's plan to pilot Midland, Tricia and myself around the mountain had the blessing of the weather gods. Not only did it not rain, the sun was out and it wasn't even cold. Perhaps the 11:00 start from Oldstrong's new digs in Concord helped, but the weather was glorious. There wasn't even any ice at the "ice corner" where, even on not-so-cold days there is occasionally a sheet over a shaded puddle.

steveIt's always fun watching Morgan Territory Road narrow as it climbs and turn into a secret back road suitable for a European road race. The ten-mile climb is somehow always just a bit longer than I think it will be, and I'm always glad to get through the two short steep sections.

We stopped for lunch in Livermore, which is always a mistake for me. It's so hard to get my engine warm after a break. The easy climb up Collier Canyon back toward Danville about did me in. I kept checking my heart rate monitor and seeing really high numbers as everyone pulled away from me.

DanAbout the time we got to Danville I was getting worried about the light. The sun goes down about 4:50 and I was wondering if we'd make it back. Oldstrong assured me we would, and indeed we finished up right as the sun dipped.

I was toasted when we got back home, and figured I'd just relax until bedtime. Tricia, the tough one in the family, sat down and graded papers, staying at it long after I'd gone to sleep.

All photos by Midland (Steve)



Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Giro d' Vino 2012

Giro d' vino lodi wine 2012_0171
I really did carry the last bottle back like this.
We've tried this ride in the wind. We've tried it in the fog. We've done it in the rain. All in all, we prefer the perfect weather we had for the Sunday 2012 version. The lack of any hill but a freeway overpass and the absence of even the slightest curve in the road makes the Giro d' Vino bit of an unusual ride for us,  but it's a delightful way to spend the day.

Tricia Giro d' vino lodi wine 2012_0103I kept telling myself, this isn't a bike ride, it's a wine tasting by bike. Indeed, the frequent stops on the 50 mile route meant that at the end we weren't a bit tired. That, and the six hours it took to finish, of which only 3:20 was spent moving. The organizers make arrangements to ferry any wine purchases back to the start, so spending too much money was really easy. We kept somewhat calm and bought only 11 bottles.

We were lucky enough to run into friends Bikingsheare and MaroPolo who provided us with some good company and entertaining tales as we pedaled through the day.

All in all, an uneventful non-epic day. Just what we hoped for.

C + T 2 Giro d' vino lodi wine 2012_0164
Cycles Gladiator jerseys we bought on last year's ride. 
Rich Giro d' vino lodi wine 2012_0148 copy copy
BikingSheare in the vineyards.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Of Bullets and Bicycles

bullets in Antioch
Found on the streets of my town.
What's the point of having a blog if you don't rant occasionally and make broad sweeping generalizations about the state of humanity? That's right, none.

I ride my bike. I ride a lot in Antioch California, where I live. It's a suburb. There's a lot of the usual crap on the road. I've complained on this blog before about amount of broken glass mixed in with the fast food wrappers.

But this is even more disconcerting: Bullets. Yep, lying in the road, so obvious and glistening they grab my attention as I ride past them. You may ask yourself, as I have, "Why the heck are there bullets lying about on the streets?" I don't know the answer, but I'll bet they aren't being dropped by hunters and target shooters carrying legal firearms as they go about in lawful exercise of their second amendment rights.

Clarification: I didn't find these in one ride, or the same place, or even all this last year.  I did, however,  find them on regular suburban neighborhood streets, and not on country roads.

Maybe it's related to this:

Maybe I should just be grateful that, at least so far, I haven't been aware of anyone taking shots at me as I cycle through town. Perhaps it's just a matter of time, and I've been foolish to point out the possibility of becoming a potential target. 

In any event, I am once again reminded of a friends modified appropriation of a line from "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy."

Stay classy, Antioch.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Foxy's Fall Century 2012

foxy's fall century copy

The Davis Bike Club picked a perfect California fall day for their Foxy's Fall Century. Not hot, not cold, just right. The Davis club did an amazing job with support and traffic control. I've never been on a ride with so many police-controlled intersections. It must have cost a fortune. It certainly made a lot of busy roads more fun.

We got started at 7:04, just as the sky started to brighten. Our friends  Dan and Steve were still in registration line. We guessed they'd catch us after the first rest stop, but instead they blew past before we got there. They ended up kicking it in at 6 hours, and only stopped for 11 minutes all day.

Tricia and I took a much more leisurely approach, and ended up with a 6:37 rolling time and a lot more down time.

Tricia keeps a road kill count. I have no idea why, and I'm not sure she knows either. But I report them here none the less.
1 raccoon
1 possum
3 squirrels
2 furry remains of indeterminate origion.

Other more interesting and less gross sights:

When we rejoined the shorter route there was a bouncer-size man in a track suit looking jacket with the words "Diva Security" and a bike on the back. It looked very cool. Then, twenty feet in front was a woman in purple on a comfort bike with a bike licence plate that read "Bike Diva."

We also collected several complements on our Northern California jerseys, always a nice experience.

I need to get my pocket camera fixed. Trying to shoot from the bike with the iPhone just isn't working.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Back again with 50

Joyce invited Tricia and I out to ride central Contra Costa for a 50 miler, so we did. It was my first actual ride since the Knoxville Double. I'd been doing my daily bike commute, but riding on the weekend, or other than really really slowly was not happening.

Today was not fast, though I did make an effort on a few climbs. Mostly it was a relief just to like being on the bike.

Our ride took us past the moving, controversial crosses monument on the Lafayette,  which I am moved by every time I see it.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Knoxville Double Century 2012 followup

Knoxville Double Century 2012 elevation profile
Elevation profile. Click for larger image.

Maybe wasn't the best idea to attempt a ride report the day after a double when my brain was still mostly mush, but I did. Of course, I left out half the insightful thoughts and adventures I had. I'm going to try and correct that, despite knowing it's only a few days later and I'm still not 100 percent.

Carrying stuff and dealing with it is a pain. My bike is beautiful, but once I get the lights, Garmin battery extender, Banjo Brothers bento box and giant seat bag on it it's just ugly and heavy. Adding a "miners light" and blinking light to my helmet doesn't make me look any better either.

I am a fan of being as comfortable as possible on these uncomfortable rides. I don't want to be cold, or hot, so I try to take the appropriate clothes. On the early morning hours that means:

  • Headsweat head cover
  • Underamour short sleeve base layer
  • Lightweight arm warmers
  • Knee warmers
  • Super-lightweight jacket.

As the day warms I peel things off. But it takes so long and I have to stash them in my pockets or bag. I end up carrying quite a load.  Still, when the temperature swing is near 50 degrees, it's hard to be in the right clothing all day and not have to carry it about. I did make use of the Quacks drop bag to send my knee warmers and base layer from rest stop two to five, but I still had a pile of junk. Maybe I should HTFU, but I think I'd prefer a team car, or some solution to all my extras.

I normally don't like ice water too much. Having it closer to room temperature seems to shock my body less, but this time I was so hot all day long that I wanted ice, ice and more ice. I was hot enough I had trouble forcing myself to eat. Before the heat came on I was doing fine with Hammer Sustained Energy and HEED. Once the day heated up I couldn't choke it down. That's odd because in the past I've done entire doubles on their products. I ate a Bonk Buster for lunch and tried to chew a peanut butter bar. I finished, so I guess I ate enough, but it was hard.

At rest stop one. Check the stylish head lamp.
My finish time seem to reflect the weather as well. Fellow rider Jay (Read his blog entry on the ride) says it's really the weather that makes a ride hard or harder, and I think he has a point. My moving time this year was 16:19 opposed to  16:12 in 2010. That's only 7 minutes difference for the same distance. And the Garmin said there were 500 feet more of climbing on this years route.  But actual time on course was 19 hours. In 2010 it was only 18:22, meaning I spent 38 minutes more not riding this year.

I have a few styles of riding. One is the "I feel strong" flavor where I can stand up and knock off a big climb. The other is what I think of as "Survival riding" where coasting is my friend. It isn't pretty, but it keeps me moving. I did too much of the latter and not enough of the former during this ride. I thought I'd trained enough, but whether it was the heat, or just me having a less than optimal day, this ride was a bear and I spent a lot of it riding ugly.

RickOCR, a rider I know from Bikeforums, sent me a message after the ride telling me he's glad I made it, and that I didn't look real good at the lunch stop one hundred miles in. I think he was right. He also said his Garmin reported 104 degrees on the hardest climb of the day, which hadn't even happened when he saw me.

After climbing Cobb Mountain in the heat, coming down  should have been a delight, but it wasn't. Having had my friend Lance Oldstrong crash this summer, and having a 25 mph downhill front tire blowout made my descending a little (ok, really a lot) more cautious. If I'd have bombed the downhills I might have finished 20 or 30 minutes sooner. Or not all if I got killed. As it was I only got close to 40 mph once, and not for long.

After the last rest stop I was riding along in a base layer and knee warmers when suddenly I was so hot I couldn't believe it. I wondered what was happening to me. But twice riders nearby commented "What is this? Who turned on the heat?" I guess we went through some weird night time heat packet. It was really odd, not just warmer, but actually hot. Fortunately it didn't last long.

As I rolled into the finish I though the cones directing me to the pavilion were warning cones, so I rode past them. I saw a cut through to the area a moment later and took it. It turned out to be a horse shoe pit, filled with sand. I darn near fell over, but made a few ugly balancing turns and didn't. I was have felt pretty silly landing on a horse shoe spike twenty feet from the finish.

Injury and aftermath report:
I'm always amazed my buns are fine after a ride like this. I think my Selle Italia SLK saddle gets credit.
My right shoulder aches a bit.
My right Achilles tendon pretty sore.
All my leg muscles are telling me they've been abused. Going up or down stairs hurts bunch.
That said, I did manage to bike commute to work Monday and Tuesday, though the trip took a lot longer. I barely rolled, but I made it.
I'm still not mentally back 100% yet as of Tuesday afternoon. I'm really enjoying sleep.

I just realized I spent money for ride registration, two hotel nights, dinner for Tricia and myself, a new tire, magic food products, and helmet headlight, all just for this ride. I paid money to hurt. This cycling thing really is sick.

Knoxville Double Century 2012 route map
Route. Click for larger image.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Knoxville Double Century 2012

I lived, and finished. That's my big accomplishment for this ride. Two hundred and two point nine miles, and according to Garmin and Strava, 15,752 feet of climbing. I even got a higher "Strava Suffer Score" on this ride that I did on the Devil Mountain Double.

I knew I was riding this solo. My friend Dan had crashed this summer, and though recovering well, is  wise enough to manage his recovery intelligently (with the help of his even wiser wife, Julie) and skip this ride this year. Ron didn't feel ready and did Levi's Grand Fondo instead. So I was alone.

I started at 3:41 am – even earlier than last time — and eventually limped in 19 hours later.

What a beautiful morning. Seeing the almost-full moon reflect on lake Berryessa and play hide-and-seek behind the mountains was wonderful. I only saw a few other riders before daylight. With no one on the roads, and the perfect weather, the start was an almost zen-like experience.

Knowing I'd be riding alone, and without my trusty navigator, I was more methodical with my bike prep. I bought a small head mounted light for my helmet so I could read my route sheet and see my Garmin computer. I used velcro and a large clip to make a bullet-proof map holder, and left my map in plastic. The light worked perfectly. I even hung an extra small blinky light on the back of the strap. I realized how glad I was that I'd left the map in a plastic bag when I saw how much "personal moisture" it was covered with after the first climb.

I'd brought my iPhone thinking I'd make photos, but this ride was just too hard. I think I shot one at the first water stop, then gave up

Knowing I'd be out alone, and forever, when the sun came up I decided to listen to an audio book. I have a great Onegood™ one-ear earphone Tricia bought me. It goes in the not-traffic ear, and because I'm not listening to loud music, just talking, it doesn't remove me from the audio environment. I listened to a lot of Ken Follett's Winter of the World. It's not "Literature" but it's a darn good story.

As I feared, the sun and heat started to become a factor on Knoxville Road. I'd brought two large water bottles and a collapsable  Platypus bottle. I went through all of them by the time I hit the water stop after the tunnel. It was so hot and I was so beat I stopped a couple of time, not getting off the bike, just hanging on it, to cool down a hair.

My usual riding plan is to ride my slowish pace, but not rest long at the stops. The heat made me toss that plan out. Every stop I drank a bottle of ice water, refilled and even sat a few minutes. Fellow East Contra Costa Cyclist Jay caught a photo of me resting at the water stop on Knoxville Road.

For some reason seeing others suffer makes my suffering easier to take. Maybe it's because it confirms there is actually a reason to feel crappy, and it's not just me being weak. I saw numerous riders taking a break (as I did) riding up the stupid-steep Loch Loman.

Quack Cyclists, the event organizers, realized how hot it was. They'd stationed two unplanned stops with ice and water on the short Loch Loman climb, and they were both life savers. Quacks rock. Their rides are the best supported rides I've ever been on. I don't think I'd have been able to finish without their excellent efforts.

At that point, mile 120, the ride is supposed to get easier. I guess it does a little. There's a nice long  downhill, and no serious climbing for a while. Still, it is 80 more miles and there are a few real climbs left.

I got to the second-to-last rest stop just as the sun went down and there were fortyish miles left. It started to cool off (at last!) and as I left, with my light color sunglasses, knee warmers, and base layer
back on, I could hear an owl in the woods.

The Berryessa climb that I'd been dreading — it seemed to last forever two years ago — wasn't bad, and the descent to the last rest stop was relaxing. Last time there were lots of cyclists near me, but this time, I only saw one.

The last rest stop is 12 miles from the end. Last time I thought I was almost done and was amazed how long it took. This time I settled in and just let it happen.

At the last rest stop I'd texted Tricia and left my phone on (I'd turned it off for the ride to save battery power for the end) so she could use Apple's "Find my Friends" and track me as I got closer. It didn't work as well as we'd hoped. It had me at 9 miles away even as I rolled in. Maybe it fails in roaming mode.

Tricia met me with a hug and a Sierra Nevada IPA. My friend Dan who couldn't ride surprised me by being there to congratulate me. It was a delightful way to end 202.9 miles.

This just in: Followup report

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Blow out

blow out graphic

Yikes, yikes and double-triple yikes.

I was going to do a few hill repeats on Somersville Rd near Black Diamond mines. It's about two miles with a couple of ten-percent-plus sections perfect for coughing up a lung.

I'd strapped on my heart rate monitor and had done one slow warm up grunt and was descending when, at the 10% zone my front tire went boom. Suddenly I was riding on the rim, pointed downhill and doing 25 mph with a corner coming up.

I'm not sure if i didn't panic, or if I just froze. It's hard to tell the difference. The brakes weren't working much, and the ride was very sketchy. It seemed like I had a lot of time to ponder crashing. I managed to not go down, and as the road turned right I crossed the lane and headed for the dirt. I was wondering if I should lay the bike down, or just try to crash into the roadside berm.

But somehow I slowed enough to get a foot down.

Check the graphic. Downhill tire explosion, speed drop, and then my heart rate go up up up.

I unwrapped the tattered tube from the hub. I was so rattled I installed my spare tube without really checking the tire. It, of course, promptly blew up, there big a large hole in my tire.

Stuck on a no-cell-reception road in Shimano cleats I was wondering what to do when a Dow Chemical Fire Fighter with a pick up drove by, stopped, and offered me a ride back to my college.

So, I'm OK, I didn't have to walk miles in Sidi shoes and I didn't crash. My Roval wheel may be trashed. The edges are very scuffed and scrapped. I'll be trying to contact Roval and finding out if I can buy a hoop, or a discounted new wheel.

I don't know what caused my blowout. My tire was near new, I hadn't over-braked coming down, I didn't see anything, or feel like I hit anything. It's a mystery.

But mostly I'm just happy to not be bleeding.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Northern California, Italy

I have a couple of jerseys from Italy, so it seems only right that Italians have a jersey from Northern California. And now, thanks to Steve (AKA Midland) they do. It seems he has managed to get his brother, an Italian resident, hooked on cycling and then sent him a jersey. Why should I care? Because it's the jersey I designed, and now it's in ITALY, that's why.

When she saw this photo, Tricia immediately suggested we take our Northern California jerseys there for a ride. I like that idea. Please send all contributions to out Italian vacation to this web site. 

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Inflation, and I don't mean tire pressure

tricia near Brentwood
I noticed that I'm not posting as much to my blog, and I've asked myself why. Perhaps it's because there aren't any readers, or maybe it's the the BikeForums community has taken a hit from Facebook, Google+ and Twitter, so I feel like my cycling circle has grown smaller. Or maybe it's inflation.

When I started any ride of 100 feet or more was blog worthy. Heck, maybe ground breaking. Now, maybe it takes something that's actually new. And there isn't a lot of new going on in my cycling world that's noteworthy. Blog inflation. It's a real problem. I guess. Or not.

Today Tricia and I had a perfectly nice 47 mile scamper around our Antioch loop and out to the recently reopened Los Vaqueros Dam road. Not much traffic, blue skies, delightful golden hills with Mt. Diablo in the background. But it's pretty much the same old ride. How many blog posts can there be about the same ride?

We did see a injured hawk. We reported it to the the ranger folks at the park. Birds of prey are rather frightening when they're close, so we didn't bother it. I sure hope it doesn't drop to the bottom part of the food pyramid. Here's hoping it gets rescued.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Blaze! The cycling wonder dog!

Blaze goes for a ride

Tricia and I were knocking out our usual don't-want-to-drive-to-ride local loop when we came across Blaze out on Empire Mine Road. I'm not sure how he talked his stoker into providing him with a great view and wind in the face without having to pedal at all, but more power to him.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Mines Road

rich and dan
What a beautiful day. Not hot, not cold, just right. Tricia and I joined Dan (Lanceoldstrong) and Rich for an out and back on Mines Road. The last time I rode it was during the Devil Mountain Double, after  100 miles and three huge climbs. I should have been a lot easier today, and it was, but not as much as I thought it might be.

 I have no photos of Tricia because she was up the road before the rest of us warmed up. You'll have to make do with Rich and Dan.

I learned two iPhone things today.
  1. It can get wet in a pocket and not shoot, even if you sprint ahead to the perfect spot to shoot your buddies.
  2. If you stop to take off your base layer because the day is getting warm, you'll need to take off your jersey first. Make sure the pockets are empty. iPhone screens are breakable.
That is all.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hobo Roads half-a-hundred

Hobo Roads half a hundred_Dan

LanceOldStrong, featured prominently in this blog, is well on his way to recovering from his June Mt. Diablo crash. He's been riding again for a while now, but today was his longest since "The Event."

Hobo Roads half a hundred_Erotic Ball and gunsMidland plotted a route, that though not pretty on paper, works out very nicely in reality. He piloted Tricia, Mr. OldStrong and my own bad self for fifty-five miles headed out over the Benicia Bridge, with not much climbing, but a ton of wind. It looks very California, with a nice mix of industry (ok, not the prettiest part of the day,) wetlands, and some beautiful oak-covered golden hills. Dan deemed it the "Hobo Roads Half-a-Hundred" for the parts that passed through the less than stellar areas.

We all had a grand time, and actually worked reasonably hard, as evidenced by our Strava suffer scores.

Highlight of the day for me was a delightful sign informing me I could attend an erotic ball, and go to a gun show. I can only hope I have money for both...

Hobo Roads half a hundred_Tricia
Photo by Midland. Pretty neat jerseys, huh? 

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Antioch glass vs Schwalbe

Tired tire goes bomm

Schwalbe makes great tires, but not even their efforts can stand up to the glass littered streets of Antioch. I can't even think of the last time I wore out a tire. They generally get cut and ripped before the tread wears out.

This time I was headed out for intervals when the front exploded. I figured it was just another puncture, but when I looked it was a big hole. Fortunately I had a handy Park Tools tire boot in with my spare tube and managed to limp home, change the tire and get at least an abbreviated interval set in.

Next year I think I'll keep running stats on this blog about flats and their causes, and maybe the number of patches I apply. 

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Motobecane Fantom Outlaw vs SKS Fenders

Motobecane Phantom Outlaw fender strut spacers
Nylon spacers and bent stays with a long bolt.
When is a bike "finished?" I'm not sure, but I hope I've about got this one done for my upcoming semester of bike commuting, and that this is that last upgrade/improvement for a while.

I started here with a new bike. I didn't like the gearing and ened up getting a new crankset and all that entails, detailed here.

My latest — and I hope last —  change, was to install SKS Chromoplastics P45 fenders and a set of
Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires. What a royal pain it all was. It must have taken me eight total hours before I was finished.

The fenders look cool, but because I have disc brakes I had to do all sorts of bending and modification to get them on. I bought nylon spaces and longer bolts at the hardware store. Because I didn't know exactly what I was doing I bought a bunch of things just in case, and now have a collection of leftover pieces.

The stays on the front fender were way too long, which is good as it gave me bending room, but bad because the ends poked out like dangerous knives. I ended up getting a cutting tool to trim them.

The back was even harder. Again, more spacers, and a bunch of stretching the rack and bending the fender stays to get it all to fit around the brakes. It was really a juggle to get everything lined up and tightened down as it was all trying to explode like a wound up spring. The Motobecane has no chain stay bridge to fix the fender to, so I used the front derailleur pulley bolt. It doesn't put the fender in the perfect place, but it worked.

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme tires may be the hardest tires to mount I've ever had. What a pain. They are too loose at first and fall off, but the last inch is almost impossible. I pinched tubes twice, and I almost never do that.

I'm hoping the tires will be as bullet proof as they are advertised to be. I am not looking forward to changing a tire on the road.

What a load of whining, huh? But I'm thinking it will all be worthwhile when I ride my pretty, super custom, fully-fendered, nicely-panniered and low-geared, coffee-carrying, MagicShine lighted, way-cool bike to school.

Motobecane Phantom Outlaw commuter bike
The fenders match the bike pretty well, and even look better in person than in this photo.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Velo Orange, meet Motobecane Fantom Outlaw

velo orange crank

When I got my new Motobecane Fantom Outlaw and set it up as a commuter I was pretty dang happy. But it turned out that the gearing was just a hair tall for my headwind commute with parachute-like, wide catching panniers. That, and I'm just not always willing to work really hard on a commute ride.

When I realized my Sora shifters were made to operate a triple, I started looking for something with lower gears. I looked at all kinds of cranks, both road and mountain. Then I came across the Velo Orange VO Triple Crankset with 24, 36, and 48 tooth chainrings. It looked sharp, and was reasonably priced. I needed a different front derailleur, which I found used on eBay for $10. I also needed a long cage rear derailleur too, but I had a nice Ultegra model left over from upgrading Tricia's Ruby. I got a new chain and was in business.

I like the lower gears. The 36 tooth ring is a lot more useful than the 39 was for me. I haven't needed the 24, but I have fantasies of over-night "touring" and think I'll be happy to have it. The amazing part is that it shifts really well. The Sora nine-speed shifters are very positive and the bike shifts with a very reassuring mechanical crispness that I wasn't expecting in a lower-level group. The Velo Orange chain rings are ramped, so both front and rear shifting are pretty swell.

 Next up: Fenders, before it starts to rain.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

US Cycling stamp

Quack envelope When the USPS announced a cycling stamp, how could I not be pleased? I ordered a stack, as well as commemorative first day envelopes. I'm sure philatelists would have something collectible to do with these envelopes. I had my own plan: I used mine to send in my entry for the Quack Cyclists Knoxville Double Century. So, as the saying goes, the check is in the mail. Now it's time to start training in earnest.

Friday, June 29, 2012

I love nature, and Antioch too

magic trees of electric stuff

On a recent ride through Antioch there was a gate that, though always locked, was open. It opened to a beautifully smooth road up a hill. It was irresistible, so we didn't resist. We climbed.

At the top were the most magnificent trees. It was if Dr. Seuss had gone all steam-punk and hybridized the trees of his dreams.

Coming back down from Magic Land we stopped briefly to admire the work of local independent artists and the view of Antioch rooftops.

I've tried to drop my magnificent panorama into an iFrame. Hover over it and with any luck magical scroll bars will appear. In Chrome, just try to scroll it and it seems to work. In Firefox, click it and it will fill the frame and revel scroll bars. Your mileage may vary.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Havana daydreaming

bike cuba 2

I'm back from teaching a week-long photo class in Cuba. I'd hoped to meet someone in the Havana cycling community, but it didn't happen. I saw lots of pedicabs and transport bikes, but didn't see any roadies in the city. On a bus ride outside of Havana I saw a roadie in full kit, but didn't get to talk to him as we flew by.

My week off the bike was the longest time I've not ridden in years, and it was odd to say the least. I walked a lot in Havana — Tricia and I ran our students into the ground — but didn't get my heart rate up at all. The rum and cigars did, I'm sure, compensate for the lack of physical activity.

More photos at this short slide show

Curtis in Cuba Photos by Tony Gotelli 2012

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Anniversary ride to the Diablo summit

Tricia at Diablo summit

Tricia wanted to ride to the Diablo summit for our anniversary. Really, it's June 12, but since we've been married 13 years now, doing it on the 13th seemed OK. Most people only ride to the parking lot and claim the summit, but we carried our bikes up to the top of the top.

Curtis and TriciaTricia had a plan. She wanted to ride there and surprise me by buying me a Mt. Diablo State Park cycling jersey. Unfortunately, they only had a small in stock, so she ordered it for me. Little did she know I had a necklace all wrapped up (courtesy of daughter Erin, wrapping princess) and hiding in my jersey pocket, so she got a present too.

It was a beautiful day, and I anticipate doing our anniversary rides to Diablo summit for at least another 50 or 60 years.

Tricia on Diablo at the very top

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Cycling cures back pain

Cycling cures back pain. Or at least doesn't make it worse.

I've been hard on my body lately. About the time I recovered from my torn calf I tweaked my back. I'd promised myself to not move anything heavy when I worked in the yard, but bags of soil are big. And heavy. So I moved them and trashed my back. A bit of tennis the next day didn't help, and I ended up laying around Saturday with spasms and pain.

Sunday I tried riding. It turns out that riding a bike hurts less than turning over in bed, or even watching TV.

Tricia and I joined Joyce, who we haven't ridden with enough lately, for a near-forty mile ride through Central Contra Costs. We've been in a wind storm for a week, and it was nice to ride in relative calm. Franklin Canyon and the Carquinez Scenic Loop are as pretty as ever, and I felt just fine right up until we got off the bikes.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Unauthorized Devil Mountain Double jersey debut ride

6 3 12 3 Bears & back 1 deceased motorcyclists 054
Steve's photo of us in our unauthorized jerseys
I love the Quack Cyclists, the folks who put on the Devil Mountain Double and the Knoxville Double century rides. They run a great ride, have wonderful volunteers and the best support I've ever experienced. But they come up just a tad short in one area.

After finishing the Devil Mountain Double my riding partner Dan bought their DMD ride jersey. Now, bearing in mind how wonderful the Quacks are, and that I'm a regular grumblebutt when it come to jerseys, let me just put this on the table: It's my least favorite jersey ever. Sorry. I hate the colors, and the graphic of the cyclist whipping the devil is in questionable taste. I may be overly sensitive to type, but typography on this jersey makes me weep. To top if off there's an exclamation point — do I need that to make a point that's it's 200 miles? — and even a misspelling. Ironically our friend Veronica had one she didn't want, and gracefully donated it to me. I didn't mind wearing it too much because I couldn't see it when I had it on. But I sure didn't like having to see it when I rode with Dan. Yet he kept wearing it, I guess  because the ride is such an accomplishment that a little jersey-based bragging is entirely appropriate.

Because I didn't like looking at the jersey, and because Dan acted as my personal domestique to get me through the DMD, I thought I'd concoct a jersey I liked (because it is, after all, all about me) and present it him as a reward for his faithful service. It would be a thank you, and a way to save my delicate eyeballs.

dmd jersey front
Official jersey on left, my unauthorized version on right
dmd jersey 1
Backs of the official jersey on left, and my unauthorized version on right.
Most cycling jersey manufacturers have huge minimum orders, but I found one in China that would make just two for a reasonable price. With that in mind, I started working on my own DMD design. When I finished it looked like it was missing something, so I added sponsors. Yes, we have sponsors. We'd never get through these rides without the support of our families, to say nothing of them driving us home when we are stupid tired.

Our sponsors: 
  • Campbell Coaching for Cyclists — For my wife Tricia
  • Julie's Jewels, refining diamonds in the rough for over 15 years — For Dan's wife julie
  • Michael Aerospace, rocket science for the home — Dan's son, Michael
  • Erin & Erin Cupcake Factory, We both have daughters named Erin
  • Oldstrong Racing, Dan's Bikeforum name is Lance Oldstrong
  • Dancing Bear Productions, because I always say "It's not how well the bear dances, but that the bear dances at all"
  • Corlew and Butler International, because we are worldwide
That done, a little bastard Latin on the collar, "In Ascendo Est Verum" (In Climbing, Truth,) a set of horns in a "D" and a tail on the "Y" and the design launched on a slow boat to China. OK, really. it was sent over the internet at light speed.
dmd jersey logos
Logos a plenty
Detail of design for back

After I surprised Dan with his jersey, he suggested a 37 mile shakedown ride with 4800 feet of climbing with Steve that he calls "Pigs, 6 Bears, Wildcat and Happy Valley."

Steve loved our swell togs, and even contributed a photo to this post. I was inspired to take the first hill and find a new highest heart rate ever. I faded quickly after that, but still had a great ride.