Monday, April 12, 2021

Bike Dog gravel route West Sacramento with Kellie

The beauty of West Sacramento knows no bounds. Nestled between train tracks and graffiti laden walls like some of the chunkiest gravel you could ever wish for, if you were wishing for gravel.

My Sacramento-dwelling friend Kellie got a new Liv bicycle, so I drove up to ride levee you roads with her. She picked out a ride that starts from the Bike Dog brewery, a good call, because it also ended there.

I rode my new 32 mm Stampede Pass Rene Herse tires. A lot of the gravel was a good deal more gravelesque than I expected and I found myself wishing I'd used my 650B wheels with much larger tires.
This is what all gravel feels like when you're a roadie at heart.

This short ride took a lot longer and was a lot more work that a similar ride on pavement. Even with pretty much zero climbing it took 2:45 to complete.  But in the end, there was beer, and Kellie like her new Liv just fine.



Friday, April 02, 2021

Gravel Specific bandages


The fine folks at the Path Less Pedaled and their accompanying Youtube channel sell sell tongue-in-cheek Gravel Specific stickers when they aren't creating killer Party Pace™ content. 

I think they should also market those stickers pre-applied on band-aides for those of us who aren't gravel specific enough and aren't sure how do handle deep tire grabbing crushed rock.

If they don't want to go into bandage production, perhaps they could at least produce a "Beginners  Guide on How Not to Crash in Deep Crushed Rock" video.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

Continental Grand Prix 5000 and latex tubes


The weather has become nice enough now that I don't need old tires, suitable for the trainer, on my bike any more this year (Yea California!) I am ready for the outside world.

To that end I mounted a set of Continental Grand Prix 5000 tires with Victoria latex tubes on my Williams wheels.

Rumor has it that these are nice rolling tires. I have also read that latex tubes are more supple as well as lightweight. Much to my surprise, the rumors seem to be true. Whether it's the Grand Prix's or the latex tubes I don't know, and I'm not about to take it all apart to test it.But the ride seems much smoother and more free of vibration.

Sure, it could easily be the placebo effect. After all, who wants to spend money only to discover that it doesn't made a darn better difference. So I could just be convincing myself that the ride is smoother. But I don't think so. Then again, that's how these mind games work, right?

So, whether it's me faking myself out, or the tube/tire combination actually smoothing the road vibration, I'm feeling it. I could really tell on a recent downhill stretch of not-great roadway that my bike was rolling a lot more smoothly. Priceless. 

Monday, March 29, 2021

Pardee and Comanche loop

We had an actual full normal day! We started our Lake Comanche and Pardee Reservoir ride at the International Order of Odd Fellows hall in the small town of Clements, California. I have a new travel camera and warned Tricia that we'd be pausing regularly for me to play. with it. She didn't complain.

We stopped for poppy portraits, the Pardee Dam,,the historic ruins of Campo Secco California landscapes


We managed to stop at Klinker Brick for wine, and our favorite Mexican restaurant for dinner. Life is good.

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Finished gravel bike with super low gears

I blame (or maybe credit) Russ Roca of Path Less Pedaled and his “Cave of Bad Ideas” videos on his Youtube Channel.

I have plans to do a week-long ride on forest service roads along the Continental Divide. But I'm a roadie with a road bike, and also a bike commuter with a gravel-ish bike I turned into a commuter bike. Though my commuter bike was sold as a gravel bike, it was more marketing than function. But it did make a great commuter bike with a rack and panniers and lots of lights.

But COVID-19 put an end to commuting. It's all work from home now. So I converted my “commuter bike-gravel bike” to a useable gravel bike.
The first thing to go on my bike with the nice Ultra compact (50-32) crankset, replaced by an FSA 46-30 that’s a lot more realistic for me. Why this ratio isn't standard, or at least an option on all gravel bikes is a mystery. Maybe the rest of the world is just stronger than me, but I don't think that's it.
Russ is a fan of larger tires, and also 650 B wheels, particularly for shorter riders like myself. To that end I purchased a set of FSA 650 B wheels and a Soma Cazadaro 42mm tire for the rear with a Specialized Pathfinder 48mm for the front. (I’d actually purchased a set of Pathfinders only to discover that it I couldn’t fit a 48 on the back with reasonable clearance.)
I followed that up with a Red Shift suspension stem, again recommended by You-Know-Who. It works, and I don't notice it's there. It doesn't bob at all, but seems to be helpful on big wacking bumps.

The gearing was still a bit tall for me. Unfortunately the bike industry doesn't seem to want to make derailers that will handle large cassettes and work with road-style brake shifters.

Again, it's Russ to the rescue. His Path Less Pedaled Cave of Bad Ideas YouTube channel reviewed a new derailer by a company named S Ride that magically works with Shimano Ultegra 11-speed brake-shifters and will handle huge cassettes.
I ordered one, along with a Shimano 11-40 11-speed cassette and miraculously it actually works. And I like the shifting. It's a bit more effort to push the lever when the gears get really low, but the shifting is very crisp.

Now I have a bike that may be ready for serious gravel roads and some hills. As an old roadie this new thing feels a little odd ,and a little heavy, but what the heck. It works; it’s a bike, and let’s go!

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Round Valley gravel-ish ride

 
As I freely admit, I'm a roadie and not a mountain biker or a gravel rider. But given the events of early January I felt like I needed to be out in nature. I took my commuter bike turned gravel bike with its 650B wheels and wide tires out to Round Valley East Bay Regional Park

The very first hill is steep enough that I couldn't ride it. I don't know if I could ride it even if I had lower gears, which are certainly on the schedule to get. Not that the gears I have now aren't really low. I just need even lower. Then, not being a mountain bike or gravel rider, I found the first downhill pretty intimidating as well. I felt like I was taking my bike out for a walk.

Fortunately things smooth out from there. I was able to ride almost all of the rest of the trail without any trouble. I do have have to admit I'm not a huge fan of those cow hoof holes that make the ride incredibly bumpy. But there weren't too many sections like that.

On the other hand, the setting is absolutely beautiful. Once I got away from the parking lot and off of the terrifying hill I felt like I was all alone in the world. And it's a beautiful world indeed. I didn't even see other cyclists or hikers for most of the ride and felt like I'd been transported to another time. OK, another time with nicely scrapped dirt roads and trail markers. But still, another time.

I was amazed how long my short ride took, but walking and grunting is a slow process. But I'll give it another shot now that I know what to expect.




Friday, January 01, 2021

Year end wrap-up: 2020 pandemic edition

 

And there it is, a year plagued by California wildfire smoke, pandemic lockdown, lost bike commutes due to work-from-home teaching, as well as cancelled bike tours, cancelled organized rides and no group rides at all. 

My 5,670 mile total is well short of my usual 7000+. And I seem to be getting slower on top of everything else.  Oh well. At least I got this much in.

But it's a new year! Bring me the vaccine and get me ready for tour (please, oh please.)  I've already started to focus on shedding the bonus stress weight I gained from working way too close to the fridge during a year of teaching online, first live via Zoom, then last semester asynchronously. 

I have a much lighter teaching load this semester. That should give me time to do things I want to do. In my rich fantasy world I get vaccinated, spend a lot of time riding and preparing for a summer bike tour that will actually happen. I lose the extra pounds, become younger, and the world becomes a happier and safer place for all of us.