Saturday, February 23, 2008

95 Miles Of Up And Down - Hills of the Eastside Solo Tour

I slept through the alarm this morning, and once I did wake up my big plan of taking the bus to Everett and then cycling up to Conway didn't sound so appealing anymore. I went back to sleep - it was 5:45 A.M. after all! (The SiR ride was in Conway at 9 A.M. today, it looked like a great route, but I just couldn't make it.)

Instead I did a solo ride with three main goals: climbing Tiger Mountain (~700 ft), Cougar Mountain (1400 ft), and Tolt Hill (500 ft) - since it was sunny and dry outside, I took the Ciocc out for a fast spin. The route was Seattle to Renton to Issaquah to Tiger Mtn to Issaquah to Cougar Mountain to (almost) Fall City to Carnation to Redmond to Bellevue and back to Seattle.

In the end it wasn't necessarily a 'fast' ride, but the light Ciocc (with nice light wheels on it too) is a race bike, and it rides like one! A max gear of 53x11 lets me scream down hills, I think my max speed for the day was about 71 km/h, going down Inglewood Drive out in Sammamish. But the smallest gear I've got on the Ciocc is 39x23, which is probably the most I could push up Cougar, but somehow I made it without stopping.

The views of the Cascade Mountains (and Mt. Baker too) were incredible from Cougar Mtn! And the closer-up view of the Cascades from the road to Carnation were sweet too. I didn't have a camera, but just imagine snow-capped peaks and 4,000 ft cliffs.

I hadn't done Tolt Hill in a few months, and had forgotten how tough that climb really is! Same with Cougar Mountain. But in the end, I counqured them all and got some more miles under my belt.

My computer read 154.6 km at the end of the ride, with 6 hrs and 30 minutes of rolling time recorded. The average speed was only 23 km/h, but with all the climbing it was the best I could muster. Check out the elevation graph, you can really see how mighty Cougar Mountain puts all of the other climbs in perspective. (Click to enlarge)

Start time: 10:15 A.M.
End Time: 6:00 P.M.
Total Distance: 155 km (95 miles)
Average Speed: 23.5 km/h

Friday, February 22, 2008

Random Rambles - SiR, Miyata, Yuppie Thief

Well the Miyata is now running as smooth as butta, and I might even take it out on the SiR ride tomorrow: Conway to Bellingham loop. But there's the whole issue of the fact that Conway is about 52 miles from my house! SiR seems to enjoy staring their rides in far away & exotic places, so I guess I better get used to this. So if I'm gonna make it, I'll be busing it up to Everett, and then riding to Conway from there. I'll probably be late to the ride, but hopefully I could catch up.

Last night I took the Miyata on a 'test drive' - specifically, can this bike withstand the stress of a climb up N. Queen Anne Ave? (That's about 6-8 blocks of some of Seattle's steepest) Would the newly-attached chain pop off, or something similary horrible happen? Nope! I made it up, even though the gearing is maybe a bit too steep (38x25 I think) The other half of the test was can I haul this heavy thing all the way up without dying? The answer there was yes, and I made it to Kerry Park without too much suffering.

And the only time I can really feel how heavy the Miyata is is when I have to carry it up the four flights of stairs to get to our apt! Sometimes that's the most tiring part of my commute, just lugging that damn thing around.

And in other news, a local yuppie was stealing nice bikes! Couldn't he have just bought the damn things?!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Old Yet New Miyata Commute/Brevet bike

I finished putting together the Miyata, can't wait to take it for a real spin! I've had it for a while, with the original Shimano "Exage" group on it, and it had some old busted wheels too.

I took all the old parts off of it, and the bike shop built the rear wheel & installed the fenders, and cranks. I'm still using the original Shimano "Exage" cranks & front derailleur, but everything else has been replaced with newer parts.

After some trial and error, the bike now has brakes, downtube shifters, derailleurs, and a chain on it. The downtube shifters are really easy to deal with, which is part of the reason I'm moving away from the STI-style shifters I currently use. (If they break on the road, it'll be easier to fix)

"Spline triple-butted" it says - I'd think that would be super-light, but I guess not. Although back in the day this was probably equivalent to my Bianchi Eros from '05. This wasn't their top-o-the-line bike, but it wasn't the lowest-grade one either. (As gauged from here)

The finished product, sporting a Brooks saddle & dynohub/halogen light:

In total it's got to be a good 25 lbs or so, without the carradice saddle bag & water bottle mounts... But when I took it for a test-ride earlier tonight, it felt solid, and actually felt decent on a little climb in front of my apt, even with platform pedals!

And check out the extensions the LBS put on the fenders! It's a length of tire, quick-tied to the fender. Talk about full coverage, can't wait to take this thing out in the rain.

Oh and the bike has great accents on it, like art-deco triangles like this one, and little yellow squiggly lines on the top tube too, it reminds me of Miami Vice.

(Sorry for the wacky formatting in this post, but the main thing here is the pictures, the pictures!)

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Seattle to North Bend & Back Century (Riding with SiR)

Today I attended the sixth of SiR Winter Training Series, a great set of rides so far. It was a great ride, and I got to the start quicker than expected. I rolled out at 7:15 AM to the tune of a light mist, Schmidt E6 lamp blazing (see photo below). Riding with SiR is great because usually no matter how slow or fast you're going, there will be someone else close by. But the first 19 miles or so of this ride were solo, although I more cyclists than expected going across I-90 & Mercer Island.

After meeting up with the group in Issaquah, we rolled out at 9 AM sharp. The first section of the route on Hwy 900/E. Lake Sammamish was pleasant, and I settled in with a few folks I've met during these rides. We got to the first climb, Louis Thompson Road, within 15 minutes or so. It's a fun climb, and just about on the edge of the steepness that forces me out of the saddle. Maybe 7-9% grade? It lasts for a 1/2 mile, maybe more. After that it was what I like to call "classic" Northwest back roads for pretty much all the way.

Below you'll find a few of the photos I took along the route, most of them taken while riding. Enjoy!

Passing through the Mt. Baker ped/bike tunnel - whenever I ride through here I think about the video cameras in the tunnel - who watches those? Or do the just scan the vids if something happens in the tunnel? (There are three video cameras aimed on peds/cyclists in this tunnel, not visible in this photo)

The scene looking East across Lake Washington at I-90 - North Bend is somewhere out there..

The view from Hwy 202, looking towards Carnation.

My velo at Snoqualmie Falls -it's always wanted to go!

I think this is Mount Si peaking out from behind the fog near North Bend. I was hoping for a more dramatic view, but oh well.

A theater in North Bend, on the way back towards Fall City. North Bend is a pretty small town, nestled in the Cascade foothills. I think it's main feature is a cafe that was in "Twin Peaks."

Heading back to Snoqualmie Falls from North Bend, along Highway 202.

This little creature was running around out feet & begging for snacks at Snoqualmie Falls - it would even touch your hand if you reached down!

Heading back towards Issaquah, leaving Fall City, on a aptly-named Issaquah-Fall City Road - some nice climbing ahead (if you like climbs, that is). I ended up taking it pretty easy coming up this part, as I'd done about 75 miles at this point!

After the official ride was over, heading back towards Seattle through Eastgate. You can see downtown in the distance on the right - that's roughly where I'm headed.

Now in the Central District, this is downtown Seattle in the distance. Almost back to Capitol Hill! About 98 miles so far.

The scenery was great, and I feel pretty confident about longer rides. The dynohub worked, the newly-built wheel didn't blow up, and I didn't have any major mechanical issues. Although towards the end of the ride my drivetrain was squeaking like a nest of crickets..

Start time: 7:15 A.M.
End time: 3:25 P.M.
Total Distance: about 100 miles (Seattle to Issaquah is about 19 miles, the ride was 62 miles)
Total Distance this year: 1,238 km (769 miles) [log]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

SiR Winter Training Series #6 - Issaquah/North Bend Loop (Ride Preview)

On Saturday I'll be riding with the Seattle Intl Randonneurs (aka SiR) for the sixth of their Winter Training Series rides. This one is the Issaquah / North Bend Loop, it should be great. 63 miles long, the route will take us through Fall City, Snoqualmie, and North Bend. While I've ridden to Issaquah before, I've yet to go further East than that, so this should be a great ride.

The little green line on this terrain map shows the route we'll be taking:

Starting in Issaquah, and then heading north on E. Lake Sammamish, east on Louis Thompson Rd, then onward... see the map for details. Also, we're gonna pass local landmarks like Snoqualmie Falls & Mt. Si!

I'll bring my camera, and (hopefully) get some good pictures like the one above. Except you'll be seeing a bunch of two-wheeled vehicles and reflective gear in the foreground!

The loop is 63 miles, and it's about 20 miles to get out there from my house (via I-90, Mercer Island, and Newport Way). So when I ride the 20 back from Issaquah, it should be just about 100 miles for the day! I haven't done that kind of distance since the High Pass Challenge last year.

I always like to click out the route on a Google Map prior to doing a new loop, in order to see the "lay of the land." Here's a link to the route on a Google Map: [link] And of course, here's the elevation profile, generated by (w/ data from the USGS):

The first big bump is the Issaquah Plateau, and then the next climb flattens at about Snoqualmie Falls, then goes even higher and peaks at just past North Bend. The half-way point/turnaround is the North Bend/Tanner area, pretty damn far up into the Cascades! This would be a nice back-roads route to attempt a descent from North Bend heading West via I-90, or just to get on the pass without doing I-90 the whole way. Can't wait!

The SiR Winter Training Series is open to anyone, you don't have to be a member to ride with us! Just show up, sign in, get a cue sheet, and roll. But note that there are no regroups, and you need to be self-sufficient with food, water, and mechanical issues. And, you should really, really think about having full fenders if it's wet out! The peloton rolls at 9 AM sharp. See you Saturday!! [ride details]

New Rando Bike - What to Get?

I was thinking of fixing up this old 1980's miayta for brevets, but the frame is so damn heavy that I'm kinda leaning towards just getting a whole new bike. Luckily now that I ain't a broke-ass student anymore, I can actually think about a new bike without too much concern.

What I'm looking for: something to do a Brevets on, possibly up to 1200km! (More likely a 600k will be my longest ride this year, we'll see).

The bikes I'm looking at:

  • Waterford S22 - their lugged rando bike [link]
  • Kogswell Porteur/Randonneur - their classic-style bike. I love this one but it uses obscure 650b wheels [link]
  • Rivendell has some nice bikes too! BUT they also rely on 650b tires... well I guess I could just buy a couple of replacements to have them around... and carry them on brevets? Not sure if I want to make the jump to this tire-size.. - [link]
  • Surly Cross-Check - lots of clearance for wider tires (32c+ w/ full fenders), eyelets for fenders & racks [link], longer wheelbase
  • Surly Pacer - their sport-tourer with decent tire-clearance - a little lighter than the cc [link]
  • Of course there's Vanilla and other custom frame makers, but I don't want to wait two friggin' years for a frame to show up.
  • What else? There's Kona, Soma, Salsa, and others... so many choices it makes my head hurt.
After sleeping on the idea of getting a whole new rig, I've decided to just stick with what I've got, and build it up with used components. This weekend is the Issaquah->North Bend ride with SiR (Capitol Hill to North Bend & back for me), so it'll be a great time to give it a (long-distance) whirl.

The Miyata at least has the advantage of more clearance for fenders & such, whereas the Bianchi Eros is really lacking in that area. Plus, the Miyata has that classic lugged look that I love. Did I mention down-tube shifters? Yes, this will be the kind of bike that somebody will say "you rode over the Pass on that?!"

My (planned) response: "fuck yeah! and I'd do it again too."

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Vashon Island Loop with the Seattle Intl Randonneurs

Today the Seattle Intl Randonneurs held a "training" ride on Vashon Island. At least this one started relatively close to my house, so I just rode to the Fauntleroy ferry terminal from Capitol Hill, using this ~16 km (10 mile) route: [link]

The Ride to the Ride
The group was going to take the 8:20 ferry, so I had to leave my house by at least 7:15 I figured. It just so happened that I slept in a bit, so with only four and a half hours of sleep, I woke up at 6:45 instead of the planned 6 AM. I didn't even leave my apt until about 7:20 AM, so I knew it was going to be close. 16 km isn't much, but with strong headwind out of the south, and light rain falling, the more I pedaled the more I felt like I was gonna miss the ferry. Not to mention that my route was going to take me over the large hill that is West Seattle.

And of course, Google Maps made this one turn look easy, but once I got over to West Seattle (under the W. Seattle Bridge) I ended up taking a left on Delridge Way instead of the planned 35th ave. Sure, they're parallel, but W. Seattle's streets are sometimes disconnected in strange ways. I trudged on up the hill, hoping for an easy way to go East. (For some reason there are ridges that block a bunch of roads from connecting out there, it's weird)

I finally hit Orchard Way, and climbed a ways up to the 35th ave - ah, back on track! But by this time it was about 8:15 (T-5 minutes), so with a few more km to go I figured I wasn't gonna make it! When I got to Lincoln Park (just north of the ferry terminal), my watch showed 8:22, so I figured it was a lost cause. But I pedaled the 1/2 km to the terminal anyway, and lo and behold there was the group of 30-40 cyclists waiting to get on the ferry! I paid for my ticket at the booth, and met up with the group.

The Actual Ride - Vashon Island Loop

Here's the route map:

And the elevation profile, generated by veloroutes: (map link)

After the 15 minute ferry ride to the Vashon, it was time to go! With light rain coming down, it was the picturesque Northwest day. If you can't ride in weather like this, your days on the road in the NW will certainly be limited!

The route was pretty much all rolling hills, starting with a pretty big climb right off the ferry. That was probably 300 feet of gain or so, and really split up the group. I pulled ahead and kept pace with some of the faster climbers.

At the top of the initial climb it was just me and a few other riders leading the pack, with one guy on a single-speed that was killing everyone on the hills. He even had to wait for us a few times, he was that fast.

I had a cue sheet, but it fell apart quickly, so the fast single-speeder and I had to wait up a few times to find someone who actually knew where the hell they were going (or at least had a cue), and eventually found 4-5 more riders that hung with us for just about the rest of the route.

Vashon seems similar to Camano Island's landscape and views, except that you could see Seattle once or twice from the road. Lots of rolling hills and open fields. The rolling hills kept separating the ride more and more, and I just stayed in the front the whole time. Talked to the fast single-speed guy for a while, he said he's done the S2S, Cannonball, all these crazy rides I want to do! It was great to see if I could just hang onto his wheel, although he was probably taking it easy so he didn't have to ride alone.

Towards the end of the loop, there was a pretty steep portion called "the wall" that split out lead group of about eight riders into a group of four. I was in that group, and the triple-gearing of the Bianchi allowed me to keep a decent pace up the steeper part. It wasn't all that long, and at the top it was mostly flat.

We made the ferry terminal at just about 11:50, just in time to catch a ferry back to Seattle! I usually finish somewhere in the middle of these rides, but today I ended up in the front pack. While waiting to get on, a few more riders showed up. So about eight riders out of the 30-40 made it on this ferry, and I was one of them! It was a great ride, and everyone I met was plenty nice.

I got back home at just about 1 PM - not bad for doing a whole Vashon Loop plus the ride there n back! It was a great route, and would be a great small group ride on a weekend, I'll certainly be doing this loop again sometime. Also, my kinda-heavy dynohub+smchmidt lamp didn't seem to slow me down! And the newly-built wheel held up great!

Another great ride with SiR, I can't wait for the Brevet Series to start!

Total Distance: 74 km for Vashon + 32 km there n' back = 107 km
Total Time: 7:20 AM to 1 PM - only 30 minutes off the bike when on the ferry (and about three hours total for the Vashon Loop)
Avg Speed: ~22-24 km/h (14-15 mph)
Total Distance this year: 1069 km (664 miles) [log]

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Dynohub Wheelbuild!

Last night I built my first wheel from scratch! And it just so happens to be a light-generating dynohub, so the outcome is extra-fun. It was basically two projects in one sitting:

1) build a 32-spoke, triple-crossed wheel on a Mavic OpenPro rim & the dynohub
2) mount & wire a Schmidt E6 lamp to the dynohub

Here's what I started with: 32 spokes/nipples, a rim, and a hub! Using Schraner's wheel-building book, and some advice from the LBS, I sat down on the living room floor and went to work. (A real workspace would be nice, but our apartment just doesn't have the room..)

A few minutes later, and the wheel is starting to take shape. This is an awkward part of the build, because the hub wants to flop all over the place, but you don't want to bend or stress the spokes. A vice-grip would have helped, but I managed.

After probably another 30 minutes, it'd definitely looks like a wheel, and even feels like one! It felt great to pick it up and have it feel sturdy, like a real wheel. Hell, it is a real wheel! This pic is with the right side done, just starting on the left side:

Ta da! Using a truing-stand that the LBS let me borrow, the 2nd part of the wheel-build commenced: truing. This part is actually harder than putting the wheel together, and I probably spent at least another 30 minutes fine-tuning it.

So once it was more or less true (still some radial "untrueness," e.g. the wheel isn't perfectly round, but it was about as good as I could get it), I just had to try it out! Previously I'd planned on taking it back to the LBS for a check-up, since I didn't totally trust my newly-found wheel building skills. But fuck it, all this work, you bet I'm gonna take it for a spin!

The finished product - A Schmidt E6 lamp attached to my shiny new wheel/hub!

When everything was all finished, it was 2 AM. So what do you do with a new dynohub/light setup at 2AM? Test it out! Once I started rolling I was so excited to see the dynohub in action, I didn't even realize it was the wheel I'd built that I was rolling on! It didn't explode or crumple, so I guess I did it decently well. I think I'll still take it into the LBS for some fine-tuning, just to be sure. Last thing I need is to be on a 200k Brevet and have a wheel blow up!

And the light, you ask? How's the actual lighting? Holy shit, the Schmidt E6 lamp is insane! I almost felt embarrassed rolling down Broadway with what probably looks like a scooter headlight strapped to my bike! It certainly lights up the road no problem. And the drag is minimal, you don't even feel it when rolling.

From a product description:

"The E6 has the most focused and brightest light pattern available. It's rectangular window keeps all the light on the road in front of the rider. There is no extraneous light. It is the only light that can cut through on-coming auto headlights to light the road."
For night-commutes and overnight Brevets, this thing will be perfect! No longer will I be squinting into the darkness to try to make out my weak LED's light on the ground. No longer will cars in the distance be wondering if they see a fire-fly up ahead. They'll know that this is some kind of moving vehicle - even from up to 1/4 mile away, from what I hear!

But at the same time, I don't want to turn into one of those people (you know who you are!) that ride with ultra-bright lights on the Burke-Gilman/I-90 trails and blind everyone! Point that shit down! I usually say something ("too bright!") when attacked by someone's lamp, so I'll be sure to not blind anyone myself.

Bring on the night!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Speedy Mercer Island Loop

Yesterday the SiR ride got canceled due to fear of snow/ice, so Dennis & I hammered out about 70 km on the Green River Trail instead. It was pretty scenic, and we worked on pacing and drafting. My two layers of wool worked out great, even in 30-something degrees & light rain: short-sleeve Ibex wool jersery, with a long-sleeve classic wool jersey over that, and then wool arm-warmers over all of that. I was pretty tired last night after our ride, but decided to do some fast-paced riding today.

Usually when I do the Mercer Island Loop I'm doing about 32-36 km/h throughout most of it, but today was a bit different. I passed up a rider on I-90, and sprinted up the little hill onto Mercer. Already a little winded from the 3km effort (40 km/h for 2 km or so) of catching up to they guy in the first place, I got onto the rolling hills of the Mercer Island Loop and started hammering away (for me, I'm no racer yet, just out to have fun) at 34+ km/h (21+ mph).

By the way today I was on my fast bike, not the heavier Bianchi that I've been randoneurring on. It lives up to its title as the "fast bike," no doubt. If only it fit full fenders on it, I'd use the thing for randonees.

About 4 km into the loop, I noticed a black shape behind me. Was it the guy I'd dropped earlier? Who knows. I pedaled on, at an estimated %75 of my max heart rate (I don't use a heart-rate monitor, I'm just going from perceived effort), at a steady 34-40 km/h pace. I even jumped and sprinted at the top of a hill, thinking that would do it, but he eventually passed me, and I could see that he's a racer-type: local team kit on, powertap hub, fast pace. Me, I'm just in a blank blue wool jersey, but I love to see how long I can hang onto a fast wheel. He wasn't the guy I dropped earlier, so he must've been catching up the whole time I guess.

So we're cruising at 36-44 km/h, over the rolling hills of Mercer. No big climbs, just little inclines up and down, up and down. I'm drafting off him, at about 1.5 bike-lengths back. I don't even know this rider, so I'm not about to sit directly on his wheel, but I don't think he minded the competition/pacing. (Who knows if I was even competition for him at all, for all I know he was on a recovery ride!)

I kept up with his pace for about 16 km (10 mi) or so, the whole time getting close to my max heart-rate/bonking level, and recovering. Even when we got to the 200-foot climb (towards the southern tip of the island), I was steady at his pace, just hanging on. At times I felt like I could've passed him, but I figured he's the sponsored one, I'll let him tug me around for a bit.

Even through the twists and turns coming up the east side of the island, I was hanging on to his pace, still 36+ km/h. Eventually he pulled out and motioned for me to take the lead, so I did. I think at that point I had the advantage of having conserved so much energy, and kept up the pace, or at least tried to. After a few km I noticed he was gone, not sure what happened to him.

I tried to keep up the pace all thew way back home, but it gets hilly once back into Seattle. On the I-90 bridge heading back to Seatown, my average read out at a whopping (for me) 30 km/h! It was a little less than that by the time I got home, but this was probably the fastest I've done that loop. I definitely felt the toll at the end, but never bonked. I probably need to start doing more fast-paced rides like this if I'm gonna do anything useful at the crits this season!

Distance: 40.77 km
Time: 1hr 26 minutes (roughly)
Avg Speed: 28.5 km/h
Elevation Gain: 571 m (1,818 feet)
Total Distance for 2008 so far: 888 km (551 miles)