SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


More Than Human?

This is tooo funny...

Rack Update

Fuji CX with racks and gear
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop
So I decided to go with the cross bike with front & rear mini-racks. Yesterday evening I fabricated some 15-inch-long struts for the Nitto R-10 rear rack, and then after installing them decided that shorter struts mounted further up the seat stays might be stiffer/better. So I took them off, and then I made a set of 11-inch struts. I installed those, then decided that the seat stays on this frame are pretty flexy and I was wary about clamping anything mid-span...so I took off the second set of stays and reinstalled the longer set.

I used my new four-pound sledgehammer to smush the ends of the 0.25-inch aluminum rod flat so I could drill M5-sized mounting holes. I'm a little worried that I overdid this, and now the ends of the struts are too thin. I have a contingency plan if this happens, just need to remember to bring an extra Mafac brake-pad eyebolt along.

Yes, I am a bit obsessive and indecisive about this stuff. Good thing I bought 6-feet of aluminum rod to make lots of struts!

Here is the bike with the front and rear racks installed, plus some of the camping gear I will be bringing along: sleeping bag on front rack, tent and sleeping pad on the rear.

I also relocated my Planet Bike Super Flash rear blinky light down to the left dropout, mounting it onto the same bolt that secures the P-clamp there. Pretty clever, I thought.

I still need to pack the extra clothing I'll be bringing, and figure out where to carry it on the bike. I'll do that tonight.

Aside from the crap I normally lug around, here's a tentative packing list. (?) indicates tentative item:

* extra pair of cycling shorts
* extra cycling jersey (? or handwash worn one)
* 1 light fleece vest
* 1 light wool longsleeved top
* extra pair of socks
* 1 pair of underwear
* 1 pair of cycling tights or thermal bottoms
* pair of street pants or shorts?
* wind shell jacket
* 1 pair shoe/toe covers
* 1 pair glove liners
* wool cycling cap
* cable/padlock
* toothbrush/toothpaste/floss
* Rx eyeglasses
* small bar soap
* deodorant
* camp towel
* flip flops
* sunscreen
* bug repellent spray
* PT EOS headlamp
* extra gatoraide powder


Rack-tacular Obsessions

REI Roadster Tent
I'm trying to gear up for a bike-camping trip this weekend (my first ever), and as such I'm trying to figure out how to carry my gear. I need to haul, approximately:

+ a tent (REI Roadster)
+ a sleeping bag (Lafouma)
+ a sleeping pad (Therm-a-rest Z-Lite)
+ a bag for clothing/personal effects
+ plus the regular crap-plus-the-kitchen-sink I normally haul around on my rides

Not much stuff, for sure. We're only going overnight and we're not bringing or cooking food (rumor has it there's a good deli and coffee shop where we're headed), so I shouldn't need much.

I have a bunch o'bikes. Sometimes this frustrates me. Now is one of those times.

I also have a pile of bike racks: 2 front racks and 2 rear racks of various types.

I'm utterly stuck on how to generate a combination of bike+rack that'll suit my needs! I don't know what route we're taking to our destination (Bodega Dunes) and it might involve a little mixed-terrain riding, so that points towards my fat-tired steed, my cyclocross bike. Of course, that darn velocipede isn't equipped with any rack mounts or eyelets! I have a crappity front mini-rack from Nashbar that'll work, but the only clamp-on rear rack (Nitto R-10) I've got doesn't quite fit the bike w/o some additional hacking, and I'm short on time for that.

My brevet bike might be the next logical choice -- its frame does feature fender eyelets, though they are somewhat thin and wimpy-looking and to bolt racks to them is possibly flirting with bending and thread-grauching and other unmentionable happenstances -- they seem really only meant for fender struts. Additionally, that bike is currently shod with 23mm tires -- though it does have clearance for wider tires (possibly 28s, maybe even 32s though they'd need to be deflated to clear the caliper brakes) -- and I don't really have the time to play the "swap 'dem tires around" game...especially since I don't own anything in 700x28. The final nail in the coffin is that this bike's frame flaunts tight racing geometry and I suspect that 20 lbs on a rear rack will have me "Doin' the Shimmy" the whole 140 miles.

My commuter bike seems perfect: it's got 700x32s, fenders, and already has a rear rack installed...sport-touring geometry so it'll be OK with a slight load. But dammit, it's a fixed gear, and I'm just not in any kinda shape to crunch a mono-cog to Bodega Dunes and back, let alone with any kinda load! I've got a spare wheelset with a 13x30 freewheel on the rear, a triple crank, and a couple of derailleurs w/shifters in the parts bin -- I'm temped to throw those on and create a passable touring bike, but again that's more fiddlin' about that will certainly take longer than I think it will (no, I really don't want to be up at 2am tonight reinstalling a bottom bracket, thanks).

@#$@#$@ #$!!

Carlos says "Ride more Worry less Ride more!" I need to remember that now, and just pick one option and forge ahead.


More Weekend Activities

This weekend was an interesting one.

Workbench, complete
On Saturday, I finished up my new work bench by installing the vise, a work light, and a power strip. Since the floor of our garage slopes, I also had to level the bench top by adding shims underneath the two front legs.

Carlos on the road
On Sunday, Carlos and I did a favorite mixed-terrain short loop (30 miles) up into the Marin Headlands, over to Miwok Stables, out on Tennessee Valley Road to Sausalito, and then back home. I got back home early in the afternoon, so after cleaning up, I worked on my bike a bit and discovered that the special ceramic bearing in the upper derailleur guide pulley on the XT rear derailleur is cracked. I cleaned the parts up and reassembled everything with fresh grease, and it should be OK for the short term, but I just bought a replacement pulley from Ebay that should fit. I cleaned and re-oiled the bike's chain, too -- the Marin Headlands trails are dusty enough that, even though I use a dry lube that's not supposed to attract dirt, I generally have to clean the chain after every ride -- this is a huge pain, but the alternative is listening to the horrible sounds my chain makes as it gets eaten away by some semi-organic grinding paste. I still had some time to kill before dinner, so after a quick visit to the corner hardware store for some parts, I started working on my next project, a DIY LoFi Porteur Rack. This is still in stealth mode -- stay tuned for details!


Exploded Diagrams for Shimano Components


MTB Handlebars -- Why Risers?!?

Something that's been bugging me for awhile and finally rattled to the front of my brain today...

Admittedly I'm mostly out of touch with modern MTB goings-on, but WHEN and WHY did riser bars on MTBs become the current fashion?

Look on any XC racing machine or singletrack sled from the mid 1990s and they all had straight handlebars that were generally as wide as the shoulders of the bike's rider, and nearly ALWAYS had some sort of bar-ends for a strong climbing position.

Fast forward to modern times, and -- ignoring for a moment all the "freeride/all-mountain/hucking" categories -- bikes that are still marketed as XC machines have wide riser bars, and more often than not, a sit-up-and-beg rider position. I know that iBOB & Riv kin generally espouse a handlebars-up rider position, but even this must be a bit too much -- these are XC mountainbikes, not vintage English three-speeds!

And bar-ends seem to have fallen out of fashion. I don't understand why?!

The "oldskool" bar setup seems to be a better overall choice:
+multiple hand positions
+good climbing position
+narrower bars are better for navigating through tight trees
+bars at or slightly below the saddle level balances the rider's weight more evenly over the bike
+straight bars are inherently lighter and stronger than riser bars

Plus I just think they look better! Every time I see riser bars on an MTB I think they look like wanna-be motocross levers borrowed from an older-brother's Kawasaki.

Next we'll be seeing one-piece carbon-fiber bullmoose bars ala the earliest Stumpjumper & Ritchey bikes. You just wait...


SFPD Bicycle Training Video

From the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's email newsletter... The SFBC has partnered with the San Francisco Police Department to produce an officer training video which explains bicyclists' rights and the proper procedures for a few situations common in urban cycling (bike-car accident, getting doored, etc.). The results are pretty good...

The SFBC website also has a new outreach flyer, Give & Get Respect, promoting considerate cycling by not stealing the right-of-way from other road users. I heartily applaud this action, however the pamphlet doesn't go far enough in my opinion -- it doesn't even mention using lights at night, nor does it espouse driving your bike to the same high standard of the law that the SFBC expects of auto traffic. The SFBC wants the SFPD to crack down on scofflaw auto drivers who run red lights and drive recklessly on the streets of San Francisco, but they don't really expect cyclists to adhere to the same laws.

Here's a perfect example: On the very same page where they promote the "Give & Get Respect" campaign, they have another link to an article "explaining" why cyclists don't like stop signs. As if this "scientific" rationalization offers proof why -- unlike cars, motorcycles, mopeds, school buses, and cement trucks -- cyclists shouldn't have to stop at stop signs!?! The gist of the article is basically "stopping at stop signs is too hard and might make me sweat". Geez, how namby-pamby can you get?!? It sounds like the authors want to feel all high-n-mighty and self-righteous as bicycle commuters, but they don't want to have to work for it. Sorry, but there's no free lunch! If you're scared of a little effort, then you'd better trade in your bike for a Segway...

And oh, I bike-commuted to work today...so there!


Weekend Activities

Bike Storage
So typically on a Monday morning I'd be uploading bike photos and blogging about an epic ride...however I felt lazy this weekend and I didn't ride. Saturday was spent preparing for this month's edition of Vino Club (we hosted, so it meant lots of cleaning, shopping, and cooking). I also made a trip to the corner hardware store to pick up some rubber carpet runner pieces to protect the carpet underneath my new indoor bike storage rack.
My New Workbench
Sunday morning was chilly which never helps my cycling motivation, and I also I felt lazy, like I needed a day to unwind. Too much red wine the night before, perhaps? After a slow start, I decided that I'd at least spend the day completing a project that I'd been wanting to finish since we'd moved into our new condo a couple of months ago -- building a compact workbench to fit against a particular wall in our half of the garage we share. I wanted a place to mount a bench vice for various projects, as well as a bench to hold my wheel truing stand and various other tools. There's enough space in front of our car to set up my folding bike work stand and work on a bike; now I'll have this bench on the other side to keep the tools I need close at hand. The bench is constructed from 2x4s and laminated MDF sourced from Home Depot, who sell it in 24"x48" panels and cut it down to the 40" size I needed. I based the design on free plans I found at Hammerzone.com and modified it slightly to make a compact bench (40" W x 24" D x 37" H) to fit the space, and also to provide a 1.5" front overhang on the work surface to facilitate clamping parts. The lower shelf will provide miscellaneous storage, hopefully someday I'll store a small tabletop drill press down there along with some bike tools. I still need to mount the (pictured) vice, level the surface (the garage floor slopes away from the wall), and hook up a power strip to get some electricity, but the basic structure is done and I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.


Bikes Are Like Legos. Is this a Good Thing?

If, like me, you tend to spend most of your wrenching time on old steel road bikes, you quickly learn that most of the parts hung onto a bike frame are relatively interchangeable. Sure, seat posts come in a few different sizes aside from the now-nearly ubiquitous 27.2mm diameter, but most other things Just Fit. Like Lego blocks, you can just swap parts around as the whim suits you. My bikes have generally standardized around 700C wheels, 126-130mm rear hub spacing, English threading, and 1-inch headsets. Theoretically, I could move any wheelset and any drivetrain from any frame onto another. Although I've never put this into practice, I generally see this as a Good Thing.

After a mini-epic night ride with Carlos last Friday plus a mixed-terrain ride the next day, I've been fighting off a minor cold all week (woke up with a sore throat on Sunday, which still lingers today), and as such I haven't been riding. That allows ample opportunity for the mind to freewheel...

Right now, I'm visualizing the wheels and drivetrain from my Fuji cyclocross on the frameset from my Nishiki Sport...

Fuji Cross and a big rock

Nishiki Sport v1.0

"Why?" you might ask... Several reasons:

  • I'm trying to reduce the number of bikes I own for efficiency and economy.

  • I'm inspired by people who make the most of what they've got and "run whatcha brung".

  • I've really enjoyed riding my cyclocross bike, it's been a real education in how and where you can ride a skinny(er) tired, drop-bar'd bike, but it's not perfect; I think I'd prefer more traditional sport-touring geometry for mixed-terrain riding due to less wheel flop, and this would be a straightforward way for me to find out.

  • I think the Nishiki actually might have more rear tire clearance than the Fuji.

  • Cracked Rear Hub The rear hub on the Nishiki looks like the one in this borrowed photo, so taking that rear wheel outta service for awhile might be a wise precaution...

Now, that said, I did my first-ever mixed-terrain ride several years ago aboard the Nishiki Sport (I'd swapped a 2x6 drivetrain onto it) but that was a combined nightmare of getting lost, too-high gearing, too much air pressure in the tires, crappy brakes, and me not being in strong shape.

Hmm. I definitely think too much about this stuff...