Saturday, December 30, 2017

Title No. 1234

Sorry, I couldn't come up with a clever title for this post. I'm not even sure what I'm talking about. Which, now that I think about it, is pretty much a constant state.

Before I begin...there's a lot here that's not bike related. It's been a busy year. My job has kept me busy and exhausted; I'm on the long slow slide to retirement, at which point I hope to do nothing but cook, eat, ride my bike, play and listen to music, work on the know, the typical things people do in retirement.

My LBS started carrying Marin bicycles, which I have to admit I found pretty interesting.

One of the Marins I rode was the Nicaso RC. It's a city bike with a Shimano 8-speed IGH in back. If I were in the market for my first bike, it would be one of the top contenders. It's also really cool-looking. Bright blue with matching fenders. Flat bar for a nice upright position. It looks to me to be the ultimate basic errand/commute bike. But see for yourself:
That blue! (Picture property of Marin Bikes.)
The 650B wheel size is also very appealing to me. 650B tires just seem comfortable, because the handling of the slightly smaller wheels makes the bike easier to handle than if it had 700c wheels. I don't think I'd give up my current errand/commuter bike for it, but it's a tempting bike in its own right. If I had nine hundred dollars in disposable income....maybe.

The other Marin I was able to test ride was the Four Corners model. It's what they call their "Utilitour" model. It's not a bad ride, but I think it could be better. They've done some things to make the bike more affordable and more appealing to (what I think of as) the average buyer.
The Four Corners. You can never get enough of blue bikes. (Picture property of Marin Bicycles.)

The crankset of the Four Corners is 50/39/30. I can't help but feel (based on my limited experience) that smaller rings would be a bit more useful. The front shifting is also a bit mushy-feeling to me. That could just be the way it was set up, but some mechanics I trust have told me that it's typical of the Alivio shifters that are standard on the Four Corners. All that aside, it's a good ride for most conditions; I just wasn't that happy with the shifting and with the gearing on a few difficult hills.

I've also been learning a bit of German in anticipation of a trip to Germany (of course). I'm hoping to celebrate my sixty-fourth birthday with a bike trip down the Rhine. It's always fun to attempt a new language; it'll be even better when I have a chance to use it.

Inspired by a post from the blog "Cycling In The South Bay", I've finally made some New Year's resolutions (other than "Don't make promises you can't keep" which is really sort of a meta-resolution). One I've already acted on: to delete my Facebook account. It's only been gone for two days and  I already feel I've wasted less time than I normally would have. Being less involved with the computer has given me more time to do the things I think I should actually be doing.

I don't often comment on current events in this blog. I'm not comfortable with expressing my political opinions in public, and in fact, I think this may be first time I've done it here.. But I'd like to end with this: despite things sometimes seeming bleak with our current situation, I believe that things will be uphill from here. It'll be a difficult climb, but we'll get there.

See you in the new year.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

The season, such as it is, begins

Once again, it's time to start training for the annual charity ride. Well, it will be the annual charity ride...I think I have to do it more than once before it's actually "annual."

So...even though I've been riding ten miles a day during the week, I thought it would be a good idea to ride ten miles that I'm not used to. And this is what I saw:
If headwind was smog, the air in this picture would be dark grey.
The day was cold, but beautiful.
See the rocks? Native only to California. You don't get rocks like this anywhere else.
And I took enough breaks....
Bicicletta California in its native habitat.
In addition, I just celebrated my sixty-first birthday. I got a new crankset for the grocery bike (Deore XT, 42-32-24). I'll talk about it later when I've had a chance to really check it out.

Friday, November 24, 2017

post-celebration exercise

Post-thanksgiving. Time to work off the calories from the feast. Fortunately, I didn't eat that much, so I took an easy fifteen mile ride and ended up at home.

The end.

Ok, I did see some stuff.  Saw a community theatre building.

An American view of the current administration.
Took a left where I never had before and ended up in...well, an interesting place.
As the aphorism says, not all those who wander are...oh, who am I kidding? I'll never find this place again...
On my way home, I passed a man yelling "Ugly! UGLY! Why be ugly? Why not be beautiful instead?"

Oh, the benefits of living in a diverse urban area...

Friday, November 17, 2017

The more things change more

It is with some slight regret that after three months, I am saying goodbye to my Honey Brooks B17. As much as I tried to make friends with it, my butt had a viewpoint of its own. I never found a comfortable position on it, and I never got it adjusted quite correctly no matter how many times I applied the wrench.

So long, honey...

And there's the rub: the B17 is very adjustable. I could play with the adjustment forever. Forever. I could adjust infinitely and always wonder: is this the best it could be? Yeah. No. So I opted for a flat saddle that will never conform exactly to my sit bones, but I'm somehow more comfortable with that because I just don't think about it.

I've also undergone a change in my attitude. Biking is no longer something noteworthy. It's just something I do. Time to go to work? Get on the bike. Want to go shopping where there's no parking? Take the bike. Need some solitude? A bike ride would be just the ticket.

Of course, I still have ambitions. Light touring. More charity rides. More group rides.

But now it's (almost) winter in California. We don't of course have the snow and freezing weather that other places have. We do have rain, and some of us (me) are still not prepared for that. Hey, it's California! We don't need waterproof shoes! Or jackets. Or hats. I do find that every time I go out for a ride after a big rain, I have to watch out for sharp objects that washed out of the gutters. So I usually think less of waterproof and more of puncture-resistant.

I hope you all are having a pleasant pre-winter season. Some friends of mine who recently moved to Chicago are already seeing snow. In my area, we're seeing sub-45 degree weather. Hey, don't laugh...that's cold for California.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The danger of inexperience

This last weekend I went to southern California for the first time in a few years. And I had my first SoCal bike ride ever. It looked a lot like this:
For you non-Californians (and northern Californians), this is a "beach."
There was a lot of flat riding along the beach with a few difficult hills. I went out in the early morning of what turned out to be a very sunny day.

Because I hadn't planned to bring my bike, I rode a borrowed bike: a 17-inch Schwinn Crosscut...or Crossfit...Cross-something anyway. A decent city bike with a few features I was unfamiliar with...twist shifters and toe clips.  I found myself shifting accidentally quite a bit, though I was almost used to the shifters by the end of the ride.

But the toe clips...I don't think I'll ever get used to those. The main problem I had was that they were set up for someone with smaller feet. I was able to slip into them perhaps thirty percent of the time, and at a few stops I teetered precariously for a few seconds before I was able to pull my feet out.

Well, there was that last stop. I'd just gone up two difficult but short hills in quick succession. What I was mostly concentrating on at that point was how much worse my cardiovascular health was than I had previously thought. For some reason, this kept me from disengaging one of my feet and I went over in what felt like very slow motion.  As I was lying in someone's driveway, I had two thoughts: "Please don't pull out of your garage, whoever you are" and "I'm really glad I wore this dorky-looking ill-fitting borrowed helmet."

The fun wasn't over, though. I had twisted a muscle in the fall and had to apply an ice pack. I'm used to the gel kind of ice packs, where you can leave them against your skin for an extended period of time. My hosts had actual ice packs, though. Who knew that you could get the equivalent of a bad sunburn from ice? (Well, apparently, everyone but me knows this.)

I'm already planning my next SoCal bike ride, but I think I'll probably bring my bike. And bike shorts, and tennis shoes, and...well, whatever I need to actually be prepared. I'll still be bringing my inexperience, though.
Friends don't let friends look this bad in most pictures. But you do get to see the borrowed helmet.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

they laughed when I sat down to go shopping...

For those of you unfamiliar with the meme that inspired the title of this post:
Well...another day, another thing I did on the bike that I haven't done before. I went grocery shopping. And of course I had to sit down (on the saddle) to do it.

If you haven't gone grocery shopping with your bike, I can't recommend it enough. A good shopping expedition can take the place of any number of fartleks.  And if your ambition is to tour, repeated grocery shopping expeditions might be great training for you.

At least that's what I thought when I was hauling home the groceries. "This is great," I thought. "If I can get good at this, I'll be prepared to haul clothing and supplies."

Well, I probably won't be. But I'll be more prepared than if I'd never hauled groceries. And my wife assures me that she can find me plenty of opportunities for this type of training.

But I'm sure that occasionally I'll be wishing for an Xtracycle with electric pedal assist.

Sunday, September 17, 2017


I've recently "downgraded" myself from commuter/weekend adventurer to simply commuter. In a way, that makes me feel...I don't know, less of a cyclist. But in another way, it makes me feel better. Because I never wanted to be a "real" cyclist. And I was well on my way to becoming an object lesson, believing that there were things I had to do to really enjoy cycling, and burning out on cycling as a result.

What did I feel I had to do? I felt I had to ride more and more miles. I felt I had to tackle harder and harder climbs. I felt I had to conform to someone else's idea of what a cyclist should do.
Gratuitous bike porn: the new Salsa Vaya in mint green with a Tiagra drivetrain. It's the same color as my Straggler. Do you think my wife will notice if I buy this and just leave it where the Straggler usually is?

And one day I thought: no, screw this. I'm not going to ride thirty miles today - I'm going to ride until I feel like turning around. I'm not going to work on the difficult climb near my work - I'm going to work on the climb that's on my commute that I still find difficult. Or I'm not going to work on anything -- I don't feel like riding today, so I won't ride today. I'll learn how to work on my bike instead. Or I'll play music. Or I'll hike. Or do the grocery shopping and cook dinner. Or I'll just watch some stupid kung-fu exploitation flick that adds nothing whatsoever of merit to my life.

Have I gotten a result from this yet? I'm not sure. I've been noticing that my commute climb is a little easier, and oddly, a little more fun. I get to spend more time with my family, and my family has expressed their appreciation.  I'm also finding that walking can be enjoyable. In general, I think I enjoy cycling more when I don't feel I have to do it.

My name is Doug, and I am a cycling addict. But I'm in recovery. I still have ambitions to do some long tours. And I'm still going to do at least one charity ride in the coming year. But primarily I'll be looking for fun things to do on the bike; like going to a nearby brewpub or checking out some coffee place I've never been to.

Even though cycling is and is probably going to remain my primary athletic focus, it's not going to be the focus of my life. I can't take it so seriously that it eclipses everything else. And who knows? One of the results might be that my blogging starts being entertaining again.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Part the twelfth, in which I have to acknowledge my age

A friend of mine put it best: "At our age, it takes a short time to lose fitness, and four times as long to gain it back."

Took the road bike for a twenty-four mile ride yesterday. I don't know if it was the temperature, or if I just pushed myself harder than usual, but the ride absolutely wiped me out. It may also have been that I'm breaking in the Brooks saddle, and I used my legs a lot to cushion the impact when going over speed bumps and etc.

On the plus side, I did take the first halfway decent pictures I've taken in a while. And I ended up in my favorite place: lost. It may just be my inexperience with long trips, but when I realize that I don't know where I am: serenity.

I really wish I had a more clever caption than "Bike path near some condos."
If I'd been paying attention when I stopped and took that last picture, I would have smelled German food cooking, which probably would have tipped me off as to where I was. I figured it out shortly after taking the picture below.
Not only beautiful, but just ten minutes away from beer!
In the end, though, I was rewarded twice over: I went back to that location in a car to have dinner there, and I slept like a tired dog.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Ouch. Sort of.

I treated myself. Again.

I've wanted one of these for a while. Partly for style (because at sixty, I can use all the style I can get), partly because I wanted a saddle that would last for a while, and partly because I wanted to experience the break-in process for myself.

First thing, I covered the saddle top and bottom with Proofide™, then waited twenty-four hours. Had the bike store install it to get their take on the right nose angle, etc.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Possibly two thousand words, probably less

Here are a couple of pictures from recent rides. And a picture being worth a thousand words, well...

This first picture came because I deviated from my usual commute route. My usual route doesn't have this many trees, and as a result it's just not as cheerful.
Really, it's the road less travelled...
And this one is right near my favorite local Biergarten.
It's not Venice, but it's not bad. Like Venice, it's a pleasant place to eat on the water.

Finally broke a hundred miles on the new bike with a thirty-two mile ride yesterday. Sadly I did not get one decent picture from the whole ride. I did learn what "natatorium" means -- it's a building containing a swimming pool.  There was a headwind for about fifty percent of the ride, so it was a pretty fair workout. Not one I'm anxious to repeat, but pretty fair.

And now I'm thinking about it...time for another ride. See you later.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Miscellanea, part N+1

I haven't been blogging much. Lot of stuff going on. I've been learning some German (Ich habe ein neue fahrrad gekauft!) Reading when I can.  Mostly working a lot. But there has been some bikey stuff happening.

We'll start with the big stuff. The N+1.

You can't tell that this poor bike has spent all day in a hot bike locker, can you?
It's a Straggler, pretty much stock. I did use a shorter angled stem ("Don't you understand that you're supposed to be more stretched out on a road bike?"),  changed out the Surly Knards (700Cx41) for Panaracer Paselas (700Cx35), and put fenders and a rack ("How could you ruin that beautiful road bike with fenders and a rack?!?!") on it. I'm not sure, but I think there is also a Brooks B17 in this bike's future.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Ya got to have friends

Yesterday I road ten miles. Yup, only ten miles. In eighty degree heat.

Why did I do this? Friendship. One of my colleagues who has become a friend is moving out of town, and this was my last chance to see him. So naturally I rode over to see him. Had to ride the bike, almost impossible to find parking in his neighborhood. Yup.

After I got home, I started thinking about friendship. And then about biking friends. I have one biking friend who's pretty good about going anywhere I want. But there's a limit to where I can go. Not quite good enough to tackle some of the difficult hills yet, and that leaves only a couple of choices for long rides.

All I can think of to do is to start riding with a local cycling club. I've gone out with one cycling club, but I found them to be overly competitive and not much fun to be around.

So I'm asking anyone who's reading this: if you have experience with cycling clubs (good or bad) that you'd be willing to share, could you write about it in the comments? I'd especially like to hear what made the experiences either good or bad, and what kind of things to look for (and look out for) in a club.

It's possible that joining a club will expand my horizons. It's possible that riding with a club will challenge me to the point where I can eventually make the difficult climbs that will open up longer and longer rides.

And who knows? It's possible that someday I'll be able to bike the hundreds of miles to see my friend/colleague again.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

bike as mirror

"I'd be lying if I didn't admit that cycling is expensive." - Ayesha McGowan

If you've been riding for more than a year,  you've most likely felt the truth of that quote. Though we're not all racers (as McGowan is), many of us have probably spent more money on our bikes than we ever thought we would.

But if you've met more than a few cyclists, there is something that you've received great quantities of for absolutely nothing: advice.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

The internet steers us wrong

Last weekend was beautiful. I rode fifteen easy miles on Sunday, followed by five hard miles. Of course, I rode the hard miles very slowly; I'm no fool.

Speaking of fools (great segue, right?), I've started to read a lot of Internet opinion on biking. Articles with titles like "Why you must ride the Baja Divide (even though you're out of shape and ill-prepared)" and "You don't deserve to own a bicycle unless you race every weekend!"

All right, those aren't real articles; I made the titles up. But I did read something that made me laugh, and though I don't remember the title, it was largely about mistakes (or "faux pas") you could make while cycling. The article enumerated such unforgivable social infractions as wearing the wrong socks or wearing your glasses incorrectly (with the stems inside the helmet straps). This made me wonder: where are the articles that stress the importance of not letting your attention waver when you're cycling? Or not challenging cars to some sort of "who owns the road" duel? Or not acting as if everybody is in your way simply because you're in lycra on a full carbon bike?

My point -- there is a whole industry built around convincing people that the most superficial things about cycling are somehow very important, while ignoring things that are very important. The single most important thing about cycling to my mind is getting where you're going safely. It doesn't matter how good you look. It doesn't matter how cool your bike is. Nothing actually matters more than staying alive through your ride. Even having fun is secondary, if it distracts from the effort needed to keep yourself breathing.

Yeah, I know that most everyone knows the things I've written above. But it feels like very few people keep those things in mind while they're riding.

And that is today's frivolous opinion.

Monday, July 3, 2017

Beautiful in and out of town

Ok, here it is...the obligatory picture. Fortunately, it's not just's also pretty. I saw this biking through downtown Oakland. I often go through this part of town on one of my favorite loops, and it's full of art like this.  I've started to note all of the murals I see; I thought of taking pictures of them all, but that would entail stopping every minute or so.

I don't know what this is, but to me, it has a mystical feel.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Coming soon to a garage near you...

The high temperature yesterday was ninety degrees fahrenheit.  That's thirty-two celsius for you who think in those terms. However you measure temperature, it was hot.

So of course, before it got that hot, I had to go out for a ride. I did get caught in very hot weather, but there was a slight breeze, so it was only hot when I stopped.

I found this body of water in the middle of a city, situated between a residential section and a shopping mall.

I don't know where this water is coming from, but I suspect it's not for swimming.

The fence shown below used to have the outline of a bicycle painted on it. Obviously, the city decided it should be beautified..
Though...what could be more beautiful than a bike?

Sunday, June 4, 2017

And I thought I was done with school

In the last few months, I've become gear-obsessed. Not the expensive Garmin thingies, or more fancy bike clothes, but the type of gear that affects speed and hill climbs.

I've always been mystified by gear ratios. In fact, I've always been mystified by anything that smacks of math. However, the ratio can be expressed as gear inches. The formula for gear inches is actually pretty simple:

drive wheel diameter in inches * (teeth in front chainring/teeth in rear cog)

Note, though, that the drive wheel diameter should take into account the height of the inflated tire. So the diameter can differ depending on the tire used. I think. So figuring out the tire diameter, while not exactly a black art, is of necessity imprecise.

But my understanding of it is also this: gear inches represent a virtual wheel. So if I'm on my granny gear (22) in front and the smallest gear (11) in back, I'm running 54.6 gear inches. I'm also hopelessly cross-chained, but let's ignore that. So I'm running a virtual drive wheel of 54.6 inches.

In a real-world situation, let's say I'm taking a tough climb, or at least as tough a climb as I ever take. The chain would be on the 22-tooth ring in front and most likely the 26-tooth cog in back. That would give me approximately 23 gear inches, roughly equivalent to a single speed folding bike if you want to think of it that way.

While this seems somewhat uninteresting, the upshot is this: if you know how many gear inches you're using on difficult climbs, then you may want to know what kind of gearing you can use to potentially make those climbs easier.

And I bet you thought you were wasting your time.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Breakfast with friends


Yeah, we're cool with scones. We eat them all the time. Hey, don't finish that!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Now where was I?

A few pictures from a recent ride. Not worth quite a thousand words apiece, but...

I went through this tunnel to a large recreational area right on the bay.

And like a dork, this is the only picture I took on the other side. The more I look at it, the more it looks like a large sleeping bear.
I rode almost forty miles, and all I got was this picture of a big rock.
There were a few highlights to this ride. One is that it's the longest solo ride I ever took: thirty-seven point nine miles. After a point, it was also one of the prettiest rides I've ever taken. Next time, more pictures.

I also got to try one of the more difficult climbs I've ever attempted. I didn't get all the way up; the hill went from a seven percent grade to a ten percent grade in what seemed a very short distance. A couple of riders zipped past me as I was walking up the last part of the hill; but the rear hubs on their bikes looked like Copenhagen Wheels, or some other power-assist mechanism. Maybe I'll get one of those when I'm older and they're cheaper. Or maybe I'll just get a Harley.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Feeling a little cranky today

One thing I and all my biking friends seem to have in common is a two-sided relationship with the bicycle. We love to ride, we like to use the bike for errands, and when we do these things we're not thinking much about the bicycle itself. But once we get off the saddle, many of us think of little else.

I have one friend who started out using the bicycle as a tool to exercise and lose weight. Since then, he's become obsessed enough to have built up over ten bicycles, and he has a small shop in his house.

Another biking friend likes to ride centuries, and has told me that he never thinks about bicycles. Yet he and I recently had a serious and disturbingly deep discussion about how many current bikes are being built to a standard that just doesn't conform to real-world usage. Then we talked about what components would work well for various uses.

It seems as if a lot of bicyclists are also addicted to bicycle minutiae. I'm no exception. I've been riding for less than two years, and almost since the beginning, I've been evaluating the bike I ride (it's pretty darn good, in case you're wondering) and evaluating what kind of bike I might want if I get a second bike. And like some others, I've come to the conclusion that I'd be better off buying a frame and parts and either putting it together or having my LBS put it together.

Though I've evaluated a number of frames, the one that I've settled on actually surprises me. I thought I was going to get a Soma Wolverine -- but what I think would be best for me is the Surly Straggler.
Photo by Surly. Frame for surly rider.
This is based on perhaps ten test rides. It's not so much that riding a Straggler blew me away; it's that I kept coming back to it. The Straggler feels to me like a good all-around bike. And I like the pretty minty green color.

So why get a frame and build it up if I enjoyed the test rides? it stands, I think the Surly is a nice sport riding bike. The compact crankset is nice...but at my fitness level, I think a triple would be better.  The Surly also comes with drop bars; if I'm honest, I would say that I would ride in the drops just about zero percent of the time. So...maybe a Jones H bar, or a butterfly bar.

That triple crankset is what I've been thinking about the most. The one I've been looking at is a Sugino Alpina2. I've seen it advertised in a 46-36-26, 48-36-26, and some US shops seem to have them in 46-36-24.
Photo by Sugino.
I imagine using this crank with an 11-36 10-speed cassette. I imagine gearing so low that I'll be able to do almost any climb. Granted, some climbs could take hours, but what the heck; it's all about not mashing the pedals, right? As long as my legs hold out...

As for the Wolverine frame...maybe someday. 

In the meantime, I'll continue learning more and more about bike components. In a few months, I'll know enough to be boring about hubs, spokes, and rims. Watch this space.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

My multi-modal meander

What do you think is the very best thing about bicycling? The convenience of making short trips? Challenging yourself to do something difficult? Or just the simple pleasure of riding?

For me, it's riding a new route. Getting somewhere I've never been before.  And given my superb planning skills, there's alway the suspense of not knowing exactly how I'm going to get where I want to go.

My plan this Saturday was simple: take a ferry to San Francisco, go up to the Golden Gate Bridge to check it out, then ride back to the ferry and go home.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Impulsive Urban

I'm an urban biker.  Probably because I'm an urban guy. Not often out in the country. In fact, I've only biked in the country once, in an organized event. So I get to see a lot of things like this:
I have no idea what this is.
And you gets boring. I can get out into nature nearby; but it involves making climbs that I'm not really prepared for. I'm getting there, but...maybe next year. I have two standard twenty-five to thirty mile routes that I typically ride. One is totally urban, though it does take me through one nice park. The other involves biking along the freeway and then through a series of very nice parks.

Sunday, April 30, 2017

if everything goes as unplanned...

This year I registered for an organized event. I can't explain it. Peer pressure, I guess. My neighbor rides in this event every year, as do two of my high school friends. Also, my LBS is one of the sponsors. The event itself is to raise funds for local schools. This year, it took place on Saturday, April 29th.

So...Saturday morning. Four in the morning. Excited and apprehensive. Wait, is that a sore throat I feel coming on? Oh, no, am I having stomach problems? What, I'm really supposed to ride forty-five miles? I can't do that! Not even on my best day, and I'm feeling really tired.

Fortunately for me, I have a colleague who is extremely athletic and does loads of runs/rides/hikes. This is what she said to me: "Every run or ride or whatever that I've planned to take part in...I doubt myself and my ability to do it. And I start coming up with reasons why I can't do it. But then I usually do it anyway."

Side note: I don't have a good record with this sort of thing. I've registered for only one other organized event, a twelve mile ride around my home town. And I actually lost sleep over whether I would be capable of doing the twelve miles. I didn't want to fail, but more importantly, I didn't want to fail in a group. So I didn't go to that particular event. Instead I went on a solo fifteen mile ride, and felt like a dolt.

I thought about what my colleague had said. Then I got dressed, got on my bike, and rode over to the departure point, from which riders would be bussed to the point where ride would begin. The ride itself departed from Vacaville and ended up in Sacramento. There was a lunch stop in Davis, about thirty miles in. Note: Vacaville, Sacramento, and Davis are all cities in California.

Friday, April 28, 2017

event anticipation

Tomorrow I'm going on my first charity event ever. At least I think it's a charity event. People have pledged money, and I'm not getting any of it. That's charity, right.

This is really only the second organized event I've ever registered for. So my low bib number isn't a big deal, because I only have one other to compare it to. But it's pretty low. But does that mean anything? Probably not.
Big deal bib.
I've also taken the rack off my bike and replaced it with a seat bag; a Banjo Brothers large waterproof saddle trunk. I doubt taking the rack off saves me much weight; but honestly? I've always wanted a large seat bag for short trips. Who knows? I would have left the rack on and used the seat bag instead of a pannier, but the rack would have prevented me from filling the seat bag all the way.
So far it's holding a spare tube, patch kit, and tire levers. But tomorrow it will also hold my jacket and leg warmers.
I am slightly nervous about this. It's ten miles longer than the longest ride I've ever taken, and twenty miles longer than my average weekend fun ride. But it's effectively flat for the entire route; there's maybe two-hundred feet (or is it meters?) of elevation gain in the first five miles.

Also, I've been told that there's usually a tailwind on this route. And the high temperatures will be in the eighties. I'm looking forward to the tailwind, if there is one. I've never experienced one, and I'm starting to think that they're largely mythical.

But who knows? Maybe there will be a tailwind. And maybe we'll see a unicorn too.

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?

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Talk about suffering

In the bike world, particularly in the racing area, there is a lot of talk about "suffering."  Some events, races and whatnot, are called "sufferfests" and the voluntary suffering that happens at these events is worn as a badge of honor.

But there is the voluntary suffering that happens at these events, and there is the tragedy that arises from actual suffering.  I know, I know -- you're thinking, "OMG, is this about bikes or what?" Yes, it is.

In This Road I Ride, Juliana Buhring talks about the tragic and horrific loss of her lover.  She turned her suffering into a round-the-world bike tour.

The adventurer Jill Homer documents the end of a long-term relationship in Be Brave, Be Strong: A Journey Across The Great Divide. Despite (or because of) the suffering resulting from that, she rode the Tour Divide.

You can draw the inference here that suffering makes a person want to move. To ride a bicycle for instance.

The inference I draw is that there is something about riding a bicycle that alleviates suffering. Moving quickly under your own power, being independent of anything else, feeling the wind...being out and about and in your own head at the same time. And also that we're instinctively drawn to it.

I know that many people have said much the same thing about cycling: that they feel more free when riding a bike.

That's really all I'm thinking about right now. I'll be funnier next time, I promise.

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Bicycle un-chic

I really like colorful bicycles. For instance, this Marin Four Corners Elite:
Photo owned by Marin Bicycles.
That is a beautiful bike. Though honestly I prefer bikes of a single color. This is my bike:

I also like the splash of red the pannier adds. And the dirt on the tires gives it class.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Encouragement, part two

This is a follow-up to the post titled Encouragement; if you haven't read that post, some of what follows may lack context. So you may want to read Encouragement first. But if you really don't want to read that post, it said in a nutshell "Doctor tells out-of-shape Doug to exercise - Doug gets bike."

As it turned out, cycling is the sport for me. I took to it like a duck to quacking. My wife was very surprised. She said "I thought riding the bike was something you'd do grudgingly every weekend. I didn't expect you to actually like it."

Honestly, I surprised myself.  Within three or four months of getting on a bike, I was doing things I had been afraid to do. I was riding through traffic like I had a right to be there. My attitude about people improved, largely because of the polite drivers I was meeting. I even went on a group ride, though I'm about as anti-social as anyone you'd ever meet. I graduated from being an annoyance at my LBS to being a frequent and tolerated guest.

Then...well, at this point you might expect me to say "disaster struck". The fact is that I made a stupid mistake. I was approaching a stoplight in a very high gear when the light turned yellow, and I stopped quickly without downshifting. When the light turned green, I pushed down with my right leg as hard as I normally would and felt something in my hip go "ping." Though it didn't bother me at the time, within a few hours I started feeling as though someone had kicked me very hard in a sensitive area. I talked to the doctor about it (yes, at my age, you talk to the doctor about almost everything.) The upshot of it was that I should stay off the bike until I felt comfortable getting back on. This stretched to a little more than two months.

When I did get back on the bike, I stuck to higher gears. The theory was that it's better to spin a little than to hurt yourself with exertion. (No, I don't mean taking a spinning class...)

Also definitely not the kind of "spinning" I'm talking about.
I got back into it slowly. I started wearing padded shorts for rides over five miles. I made sure to downshift when coming to a halt; and if I couldn't, I made sure not to exert myself to the point of injury when starting to pedal again.

Everything since then is a blur. I've started training (yes, genuinely training, not "training") for the forty-five mile charity ride I'll be doing at the end of April. I've started taking climbs that I don't have to take, simply because I know that I'll need to able to do it in the future. And I've started planning parts of my bike rides; well, if "bring a snack and enough water to stay hydrated" can be called a plan. 

It is difficult for me to believe, but I now have goals. The hard part is admitting that I have goals; I've always thought of myself as very unambitious. A slacker. But now I'm consumed with the idea of doing some medium-distance bike traveling. With camping wild. With making my first cup of coffee in the morning over a simple camping stove.
My alternative camping stove for coffee. I'm sure there's a racktop adapter for this.

I have no doubt that I'll get there. A year ago, I thought it would be impossible for me to ride thirty-five miles on a bike; and now I know that it's not only possible, but likely. Six months ago, it was impossible for me to climb certain hills; and now I see it's only a matter of practice and persistence. As little as a month ago I was fearful of stepping too far outside my comfort zone; and now I'm planning what Alistair Humphreys calls a "microadventure."

This leads me to my first point. It's a simple variant on "If I can do it, anyone can do it." I've come to love being outdoors where formerly I was reluctant to get up off of the couch. Though I enjoy chatting with people quite a bit, I've come to enjoy a little solitude now and again. I now look forward to exercise rather than fearing it.

In the beginning of a previous post called Encouragement, I said I was writing a letter of thanks to all the people who had given me encouragement. And that that letter ended with "So thanks. Thanks a lot. Thanks for ruining my life with your support and encouragement."

And this leads me to my second point.

A year or so ago, I had no expectations beyond living a quiet sedentary life. But now I've seen what's possible. Now I'm looking further than I have before. And now I can't be satisfied with a quiet sedentary life. In fact, I am very dissatisfied with life as it is because now I have greater expectations of myself.
Please, sir, may I have another? I'm fueling up for a fifty mile ride.
And because I'm sometimes given to using hyperbole in a humorous way, I say that my life has been ruined because these greater expectations have given rise to a greater dissatisfaction. This dissatisfaction that I would not have had if it had not been for the support and encouragement of those around me.
This guy has an excuse for being slothful. I don't.

I also realize that I can't attain my goals quickly. I'm ok with that. Rushing into anything is usually counterproductive. If it takes me six months to do my first campout, that's all right. If it takes me another year or so to do the two hundred mile tour I want to do, well, fine. The important thing to me now is to keep moving in the direction of more activity rather than less.
There are many things that can halt this forward activity. Injury. Illness. And the unexpected. But these things are temporary. After they're over, forward motion can begin again.

Sunday, February 26, 2017


I almost didn't post this. It's kind of personal, and might put people off. But then I thought, well, I've got at most four readers, and if this puts a few here you go. Part one of how biking changed things for me. The good, the bad, the ugly. I think this is my imaginary TED talk.

It's official. I've been bicycling for a year now. Even the time I spent off the bike due to bicycle-related injury -- even that time -- I count as cycling. That's largely because I still think of it as well within the parameters of "learning to ride the bike."

All the time that I've been learning to ride, I've had people around me giving me encouragement. Telling me that I can learn to ride well, and learn to ride long distances well. That I can build the stamina and strength that I need to do difficult climbs. That there is very little that I want to do that I won't be able to do.

I started to write a letter of thanks to those people, and oddly, it ended with "So thanks. Thanks a lot. Thanks for ruining my life with your support and encouragement."

I should explain. If the negativity of this post so far hasn't "harshed your mellow" then please, read on. Some of this gets personal. If you're uncomfortable with that type of thing...I know I often am...then perhaps you won't want to read any further.

Thursday, February 23, 2017


On February 24th, my Kona and I will have been together for one year.

What do you get a bike on the first year anniversary? I'm thinking a new saddle.

Or maybe another bike to keep the Kona company...hmmmm.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cycling and roaming (whining and moaning)

I'm not cycling and roaming. It's raining, and I'm in the middle of my second cold of the year.  I'm actually in the whining and moaning phase.

And of course, when I'm in this state I spend quite a lot of time contemplating bicycles. And researching bicycles. And thinking about rides that I've taken.

It's truly a joy researching bicycles on the internet. There are so many experts out there willing to share their vast wealth of knowledge that it's overwhelming.

Consider the expert judgement of the commenter who said "Sloping top tubes on bikes are an abomination. No serious cyclist will ride one of these bikes."
See? The horror of the sloping top tube. (Photo from Rodriguez Bicycles.)
Where did sloping top tubes come from, anyway? Mountain bikes? Everyone knows that mountain bikers are just kids who shouldn't be taken seriously.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

one way or another

I've been test-riding a lot of bikes. A lot. One of my favorites has been the Surly Straggler. A mechanic at my LBS says the Straggler just "feels like it wants to go." I understand what he means. I've ridden the Straggler six times now, and I like it more every time.

There's something that mystifies me, though; the rear wheel dropouts on the Straggler.  It's not just that the dropout on one side has a screw pointing backwards and the one on the other side has a screw pointing forwards. No, my quandary is more fundamental: why are there horizontal dropouts at all?

I understand that horizontal dropouts are what you need on a single-speed or a fixie. But the default build on a Straggler is geared. Hey, if Surly can make a 650B Straggler, why can't they make one with vertical dropouts like me and all my old friends ride?

Errgh. I like the Straggler, but I'm not crazy about the rear dropouts. Knowing my general level of mechanical aptitude, I can picture myself missing several meals while I try to figure out the rear dropouts the first time I get a flat.

Well, if I decide I can't deal with the Straggler, there's always the Cross Check with its "semi-horizontal" dropouts. But as much as I like Surly bikes, I am just not crazy about horizontal dropouts. I couldn't tell you why, but they seem like a remnant of a bygone age. It seems to me horizontal dropouts would make it difficult to get the rear wheel straight. Am I missing something?

Picture by Surly.

What do you think? What do you know?

Monday, February 13, 2017

Chaos Training

I went on .a bike ride Sunday. To call it training is probably incorrect. Most people who actually train have a plan of some sort. So I came up with the theory of Chaos Training, loosely based on Chaos Theory. A butterfly flaps its wings in Malaysia, I go for a bike ride in California. I think, though, that Chaos Theory actually has some sort of scientific basis, whereas most things I do aren't constrained by either science or common sense.

My Sunday Chaos Training:

  • Take Mystery Dog for a walk to limber up my legs. Actually, let Mystery Dog pull me around the block.
  • Meet a friend. 
  • Ride bikes for twenty miles.
  • Stop at a local Farmer's Market to eat at the best taco stand ever.
  • Ride the additional six miles back to my house.
The parts above almost could have been planned, if I weren't allergic to any sort of planning beyond "let's meet here, and go there." My riding partner called my style of riding "spontaneous, but cautious enough." Here's where the real chaos comes in:
  • On the way home, I realize that there might be something wrong with my front wheel. Possibly I put the quick releases back on in too much of a hurry.
  • I also realize that I can't stop at the LBS to have someone look at my front wheel, because I need to get the pasta sauce I bought at the Farmer's market into the refrigerator.
  • Go home. Put food in fridge.
  • Ice my back, remove ice, get back on the bike, go to the LBS where the mechanic tells me that the front wheel was in slightly crooked, and don't do that again.
  • Come uncomfortably close to buying the latest object of my obsession.
  • Go home without bankrupting myself by making an unwise purchase.
In all the chaos, though, I did get to ride a Surly Straggler. I've done about six test rides on the Straggler and like it more each time. This time I rode it home (about two miles from the LBS), and started to put it in the dining room where my bike normally lives. My wife caught on immediately that it was not my normal bike, and was fairly blasé even when she thought I'd bought it.

Since no post is complete without a picture, here's one of a Surly Straggler. Mmmmm, minty green color...

This picture owned by Surly.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Progress. Decline. Incline. Climb.

On a group ride yesterday, we did a long gradual climb on the Bay Bridge. There was a lovely headwind that tested me just a bit. Did I just say "lovely" and "headwind" in the same sentence? I hate headwinds; they make me feel as if I'm twice as wide and twice as heavy as I want to be.
This is the way I went yesterday, though I didn't take this picture. I was too busy getting to the end of the climb.