Saturday, April 22, 2017

Fun. Training. Cross Training, Sort Of. Mostly Fun.

I really thought that I was going to be riding a forty-five mile charity ride this weekend. I was certain of it because last weekend was the last training ride for riders in my class (lazy climb-hating slacker class.) Not to be, though. The actual event is next weekend. I was truly jazzed to do it this weekend, though. I'm in (relatively) good physical shape. I feel comfortable on my bike. I've even bought a jersey, which I thought I would never do; it's a Club Ride jersey. I bought a jersey because I was advised to get one for longer rides in high temperatures. I bought the Club Ride jersey because I look like an utter dork in one of those super-lightweight skin-tight racing deals.
Yup, this will hide how fat I really am.
I'm still of the "if I can't ride in my normal clothes, it's not worth it" school. I already wear padded shorts and cycling gloves. That seems like enough to me.'s training ride. It was an eight mile loop with a stop at four miles. The return portion of the loop was weight training; I carried six extra pounds (of coffee beans) at that point. You might almost think this was an errand and not a training ride.

It wasn't a fun ride, really. For most of it I felt as if I was pedaling through mud. My legs felt as if they were filled with lead. Pick your own cliches. So...time for a break from bicycling.

I went home, picked up my wife, and we drove out to the MUP where I usually bike. We walked a six-mile loop. The funny, maybe not funny, legs can usually get me where I want to go when I'm on a bike. But walking is an entirely different thing. Yeah, you knew that, your sister and brother knew it, your friend one town over knew that, but somehow I've never thought of it.

We ended up at the Rosie The Riveter WWII Home Front historical center in Richmond, CA. During WWII, Richmond was a center for shipbuilding, and many of the shipbuilders, welders and such, were women. The permanent exhibit at this historical center tells their story.

The Rosie The Riveter historical center is a very small building, but the story it tells is huge. It would take a book or several to adequately present all the information alluded to in the multimedia presentation the building houses. I'm not even going to try. But if you go to the web site, remember that this is part of the National Park Service, which is being badly defunded even as you read this.

Ah, I almost went into politics there. Rather than write too much more, I'm going to close with a series of pictures I took from the MUP on our way out to the historical center. These will bring home that the center is in the middle of a large park.

I don't know if I've mentioned this, but parts of this park are right on the bay (that's the San Francisco Bay, although we on this side of the bridge just call it the bay.)

I might normally comment these pictures, but I can only say that they're things I saw while I was having a great deal of fun.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Schwalbe Marathon Supreme: the N mile semi-review

My primary bike, the one that I commute with and run errands on, the one that I do all my recreational riding on, the one that I actually do all my riding on, came equipped with Schwalbe Big Apple tires (700Cx50).  That was one of the great attractions of the bike; the wider tires gave me a more stable ride, while the low tire pressure gave me a more comfortable ride.

The Big Apples have stayed on the bike more or less constantly since the day I bought it. I did have a brief fling with some Panaracer Pasela 700Cx35 tires, but...they weren't right for the bike. Too uncomfortable. To be fair, I have ridden other bikes with these tires on and they worked quite well.

Like almost every cyclist, though, I'm always looking for improvements in my ride. So I though...well, why not try another Schwalbe tire? After a little research, I settled on the somewhat pricey but good-looking Marathon Supremes.  I went for the 40mm tires, largely because...I don't know why. Maybe there's a placebo effect, but I always feel that wider tires will be more comfortable.

The entirely scrumptious-looking Marathon Supreme HS 469. Photo by Schwalbe.
Are they more comfortable? Well, no. They are as comfortable on some surfaces as the Big Apples. On the chip seal streets that make up about a quarter of my commute, they can be pretty uncomfortable. On the positive side, it's teaching me to have a more relaxed grip on my handlebars. On the negative side, they don't float on the grungier roads the way the Big Apples do.

Was it an improvement? Not a huge one, but enough. I've ridden these tires about seventy or eighty miles at this point. While these tires don't ride as comfortably on rougher surfaces as I might like, they do roll more easily than the Big Apples.  So they're not a huge improvement, but they're as much of an improvement as I was hoping for.

They're also very solid feeling for a folding tire. Like the Big Apples, they give the impression of being very puncture-resistant.  The treads feel almost as stiff as those on the Big Apples. The Marathons have Green Guard, the Big Apples have K-Guard. I believe the K-Guard is either Kevlar or a Kevlar-like material, while the Green Guard is a 3mm thick layer of...something. 

I'm looking forward to riding these on a longer ride next weekend. I'll be doing a forty-five mile ride to benefit Oakland schools. As with all charity rides, it will be a will be a sunny day and there will be a strong tailwind.'s charity!

Coming soon: a review of the only jersey I own.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Get lost

I was recently in a bike shop (quelle surprise!) speaking with one of the staff about the kind of riding I do. One of the things I tried to get across was that I don't go looking for unpaved roads, gravel, etc. but if I run into one, I want my bike to be able to handle it.

He said, "So you take road less traveled."

Something about that sounded wrong to me. Perhaps a little pompous, much like my use of French in the first paragraph.

So I thought for a bit, and finally said, "No. I just get lost a lot."

And that's true. I do get lost a lot, because I rarely have a plan. But getting lost has taken me to new places, and so far, that hasn't been a bad thing.

I'm looking forward to years of getting lost.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Frame day

I've lately come to the realization that every bike I've test-ridden in the past year was a sort of compromise. I like the frame, but I don't like the groupset. I like the groupset, but the frame is a little wonky for me. So I've been thinking that it would be best to buy a frame I liked and build it up slowly. This would also help me to become less inept at bike repairs. (I think.)  Since yesterday was Cesar Chavez Day in California, I thought it would be great to celebrate by checking out bike frames. (Because every state holiday should be celebrated this way.)

So off to the bike shops I went.

My first stop was at the nearest local Soma dealer, American Cyclery. They're in San Francisco, just forty-five minutes away from me. It was quite an adventure finding parking, but ultimately worth it.

I've been eyeing the Soma Wolverine for quite a while now. Also, because of the split seatstay (Rohloff/Gates compatibility should I ever have a windfall) and the space to handle wider tires and still have fenders.  And that fork! It's just beautiful!
Is beautiful, no? Photo owned by Soma.
I'm simultaneously intrigued and dismayed by the dropouts. Intrigued because they're changeable. Dismayed because they're not part of the frame, and my animal brain is saying, "No, they can't possibly be strong enough."

In the best of all possible worlds, I would be building this up with a Shimano 105 drivetrain. This brings up the possible problem of finding a 135mm rear hub that is compatible with the 105 11-speed cassette. I've read that there are hubs from White Industries or Phil Woods that will probably handle this, but...spendy.

Saturday, March 25, 2017


I believe I reached a milestone today.

I've been ill almost this whole year. Cold, cough, flu. It's been great! I don't know when I've had such fun.

Today was the first time in recent memory that I haven't had a sore throat.  I needed coffee beans, the roaster is only four miles away...back on the bike!

The milestone was nothing huge. I was just riding, observing things around me, and...that's all I was doing.  Normally I would have been concentrating on how much power I was putting out, on how my breathing was...but instead, I was just riding.

Of course, this moment of Zen was broken by my noticing that I wasn't noticing.

Well, that and that the theme song from the 1970's "Spider-Man" cartoon was running through my head.

And now, a gratuitous picture of a bike (a VSF Fahrradmanufaktur T-1000).

Yes, it's black. Like every other German bike that I've seen.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

What's smaller than micro?

A while back, adventurer/writer Alistair Humphreys coined the phrase "microadventure", which Wikipedia describes as overnight outdoor adventure that is "small and achievable, for normal people with real lives."

I've been planning my own microadventure for a while now; it will start with a ferry ride, followed by a bike ride to and across the Golden Gate bridge, followed by a forty mile bike ride through some beautiful landscape and pleasant small towns, ending with a ferry ride to an island where I would camp overnight.

Today I did part of it. Not enough to even qualify as a microadventure. More of a nano-adventure. I was only going to go to downtown Oakland; but in the back of my mind, there was the thought that it would be cool if I went a little further.

I checked the ferry schedule. The next ferry was coming in twelve minutes. I took it, and that was the start of my nano-adventure.

Kona takes a ride.
The ferry dropped me off at the San Francisco Ferry building.  All I knew at this point was "walk out of the ferry building, turn right to get on the Bay Trail." This is where the adventure really began -- sharing the road with San Francisco drivers, even with a clearly marked bike path, is...well, adventurous. Fortunately it was early enough in the morning that most of the drivers weren't awake enough to react to the presence of a bicycle on their turf.
The joy of bicycling in San Francisco.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

How we see things

I'm currently reading Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across the Great Divide by Jill Homer.  It's about her "record-breaking ride in the 2009 Tour Divide." At one point, she writes about riding in the mountains, and the sentiment is so beautifully expressed that...well, I hope that if she ever sees this, she won't object to having been quoted at length.

She writes:

"...the injuries and the heat, the logistics and the repairs, the hunger and the fatigue, the distress about not having enough companionship and then having too much. These problems were all human failings, the outside world creeping in. Firmly locked in cruise control, I only needed to understand the fine mechanics of pedaling my bike. I pedaled my bike, and everything else fell into place, had purpose, and made sense."

That's a viewpoint, and a beautiful one. I don't know that that's my viewpoint, but I have felt that way some times. I believe that many people get this feeling. Some would say that those people are obsessed with riding, but I would disagree. I think that for them, riding is just a natural part of their lives.

My viewpoint is largely this: I get on my bike. I ride until I'm some miles from home, and then I feel I should turn back. But I don't want to. I want to keep going. And going. And end up some place I've never been.

And you?