Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Mountain bike ride proves I'm a roadie

I've flirted with mountain bike-ism before. My first, a Specialized Hard Rock, lost its life to an out-of-control car, my second was stolen from my garage. I purchased this Cannondale F500 around 1997. I've taken it on the stunningly beautiful Flume Trail in Tahoe, and used it as a commuter bike with slicks. But mostly it waits for some action while I'm out on the road bike.

After our recent overnight at Black Diamond Mines and the difficulty I had with the gravel on my commuter bike, I thought I heard the Cannondale calling me again.

It was all a trick. I'd pumped the tires the night before, but when I went out the front was flat. When I took the tube out the aging rubber rim tape strip came out with it, torn in two. Oddly enough I had some rim tape, so installed that and ended up leaving for Black Diamond Mines half an hour later than I'd planned.

I like climbing on a road bike, but mountain bikes are a different story. I like to stand, but standing on loose ground means the rear wheel loses traction. Usually I can cope, but when the gradient hits double digits it's hard. The steepest section of this ride is a 19.5 % bump at the top of a hill. I can't stand, and sitting is tough as the front wheel wants to lift. And lift it did, so down I went. I like to joke that mountain bike riders like to show off their blood and scars. I didn't get a scar, but I did bleed a little. But, no scar, so I think I'm still a roadie.
Of course, all that climbing means there's a descent. I like the climbing more. I'm just not willing to "just let the bike go" down 12% rutted trails. Maybe I'm a wimp, or maybe I need newer suspension, but whatever the reason, just no. NO.

There is a payoff. The view is grand. I complain about Antioch, but Black Diamond Mine Park is a jewel, and the views are wonderful.

But all in all, I'm a roadie. When I got home I cleaned my titanium road bike and took on on a test ride. What a delight. 

Monday, June 13, 2016

Cool ride in Caifornia

A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Holy smokes, that was a lot of climbing. And the climbing was steep too. One section had miles of  +10%. Even the short climbs were mostly double digits. Usually a "climbing ride" is 100 feet of climbing per mile. We were slightly over that, but it seemed even harder. Tricia said at one point "You didn't tell me the 4000 feet of climbing was all in three miles." It wasn't, but it felt like it was.

We found the ride near Auburn on RideWithGPS right here. It starts in Cool, so how could it not be.... you know. I downloaded the TCX  file and dropped it in the Garmin. I grabbed and installed the Openstreetmaps tile for the area and we were good to go.

Except something went wrong, The route, showed, but not the turn by turn part. I was smart enough to have printed the cue sheet and map on paper, and with those we were OK, with only a few missed turns. I sure missed the turn notification. But the "off course" warnings still worked —I saw a few of those — and the map showed our path. With the paper it all worked out.

Lesson learned. Check the turn by turn before leaving. And always take paper backup. Just make sure not to sweat it to pieces.

Thursday, June 09, 2016

Using OpenStreetMaps with RideWithGPS and a Garmin 520 in Pismo Beach

Tricia near Morro Bay.
Some people are great at finding new routes, or boldly taking off into the unknown. Not me. I'm not thrilled when I'm out riding and exploring only to discover I've managed to ride onto a busy road with no shoulder. I'd much rather ride with people familiar with an area, and enjoy their secret and hopefully safer routes. But sometimes that isn't possible.

Now I have a solution.

I bought a Garmin 520 mainly because it could upload data from my phone. But my friend Lance Oldstrong showed me that some mapping capabilities that, though clunky and geeky, are also amazing.

On a recent trip to Pismo Beach Tricia and I weren't sure where to ride. Using info from Lance Oldstrong, the DC Rainmaker site and RideWithGPS.com we found our solution.

We found a ride from Pismo Beach to Morro Bay and back through San Luis Obispo by searching RidewithGPS.com. The site has downloadable turn-by-turn queue sheets. Unfortunately it isn't free to download them (you can read them online for free) but what the heck. Better yet, you can download a route file as well.

Here's how it worked:

I downloaded openStreetmaps of the area I was visiting, in this case Pismo Beach. (The Garmin 520 comes with a "base map" that's pretty pointless.) I used the directions provided by DC Rainmaker to download them and get them on my Garmin. The 520 has limited space, so I have to put in just the small area I'll be in. I made sure to save the map the Garmin came with so I could reinstall it later, then loaded the Pismo area map.

I searched RideWithGPS for rides near Pismo Beach and found this one that has turn-by-turn directions. Because I paid for RideWithGPS I could download both the queue sheet to print and the GPX file to put on my Garmin. I used advice from LanceOldStrong DC Rainmaker and the RideWithGPS site to get the files loaded properly. It's weird, but it works.

On the ride I could see either a text screen of the turns coming up or a detailed map with my track that also flashed "turn here" info. It's very reassuring. Best of all, a wrong turn generated an "Off Course" warning.

I was very happy with how it all worked. It was almost like having a local guide us through the safe and interesting roads. It was completely worth the trouble.

Update: I was looking at the RidewithGPS site and saw I could download a KLM file to read in Google Earth. It came in handy when Tricia asked about trees and shade on a ride I proposed. I "played" it in Google Earth and saw that, yes, tress and shade were abundant. How totally cool!

BONUS VIDEO (click to play)

A video posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on


A photo posted by curtis corlew (@cccorlew) on

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Our first overnight self-contained bike adventure

Black Diamond Camping_tricia tent

In honor of Adventure Cycling's "Travel by Bike Weekend" weekend Tricia and I rode an entire nine miles to Black Diamond Mines Regional Preserve to camp out.

That sounds so simple. Though it was, it wasn't.

We've camped, we've ridden bikes, but we've never attempted to carry our gear and go camping. Still, in the spirit of safe adventure, we booked their one "backpacker" camp site, loaded our tent, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads into our Travoy trailer and filled our commuter panniers with water, dinner and flashlights.

Curtis and trailer

We also packed a small stove, a french press and some coffee. And just because, I packed my camera gear and a big tripod.

We started learning things right away. Make sure one person is clearly responsibility for who packs the pot for boiling water (thanks CVS for having one.)

Trailers are slow. And our stuff weighs too much and is too bulky.

Tricia Black Diamond Mines camping Lumix_0521

There's a reason mountain bikes have fat tires. Commuter bikes do alright on gravel until it gets steep, then the wheels just spin. Knobby tires? Who knew?

Mountain bikes also have very low gears for a reason. My commuter bike, pulling a trailer up a 10% plus hill on gravel with 34-32 gearing is... problematic. But, with a little less-than-graceful pushing we eventually made it.

feather Black Diamond Mines Camping

I'd like to claim we chose where to set up the tent based where we found this feather, but it was just a happy coincidence.

I've always wanted to shoot star trails, but I've never been in the right place at the right time. I brought that heavy tripod for a reason, so I opened it up and, in the dark, fumbled around trying to get the camera controls set up correctly. It kinda-sorta worked.

Black Diamond Camping star trails

Before it got totally dark I had fun playing with a laser pen as well.

Laser Pen Black Diamond Camping_0376

After a delightful smoked salmon dinner and a pleasant night's sleep – Tricia enjoyed the yelp of the coyote pups more than she does the incessant yip-yip dogs racket from next door – we got up and made the coffee we'd dragged a stove and gear out for.

coffee Black Diamond Mines Camping iPhone052

Tricia had brilliantly brought along our early voter ballots so we could drop them off at the polling place, thereby making us not only travel-by-bike bike campers, but vote-by-bike voters as well.

Black Diamind Mines Camping vote1

All coffeed and voted, we headed off on our next adventure, biking across the Benicia Bridge to a birthday party. But that's another story. One without a trailer.