Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Trike Adaptation for Challenged Athletes

A dear friend of the shop, and Challenged Athletes everywhere, John Elliott posted a great article on adapting a trike, Adaptation of a trike for racing at the San Diego Triathlon Challenge on Recumbent Journal.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Responding to Ignorance on the Road - A Different Approach

Written by Dana Lieberman

If you have spent any amount of time riding on public roads as a cyclist, you have probably been yelled at, called names, cut off and generally been abused by a small portion of the driving population. Spending any amount of time on bicycling bulletin boards, Facebook Cycling pages, and other online cycling forums will reveal that this is not an uncommon issue. Online, posts like these tend to get people riled up, with posters stating how they handle these situations, how they might handle the situations if concealed weapons were legal in their state, etc. Quite frankly, this battle between auto driver and cyclist has become pandemic as cycling continues to become a more popular mode of transportation. States, counties and cities are legislating solutions, but I think we all have to take some personal responsibility for the ways we interact with each other.

I used to spend a lot of time yelling back at drivers, pounding on cars and generally being as aggressive as I perceived them to be. A couple years ago, however, that changed. I was out riding with a friend on an early Sunday morning and a car passed us too close while honking. We caught up to the car and I started yelling and beating on his car. I unintentionally dented it. He took off and so did we.

15 miles further into the ride, as we were pulling into a Starbucks for a snack, the same car pulls in with a police officer behind him. We each explained our sides of the story. The officer gave me a choice...I could agree to pay for the damages to the vehicle or he could haul me off to the police station for assault on a deadly weapon. I was quite embarrassed by my behavior, agreed to pay for damages, we both apologized and went our separate ways. You see, we are allowed to yell and scream our heads off, but the moment it gets physical, it is assault.

I really reflected on this episode for some time. It made me think about how I managed my anger and how I responded to others' perceived anger. While it cost me my pride and a few hundred dollars, this episode was rather an epiphany for me...I didn't have to let the behavior of others on the road dictate my behavior. I now have a new strategy for handling obnoxious is one that keeps my blood pressure under control and allows me to turn a volatile situation into an educational one.

(I will start by saying that I take a very proactive approach to cycling as prescribed by the League of American Bicyclists) The first thing I had to realize was that the vast majority of drivers in the Los Angeles are, in fact, paying attention to what they are doing and don't mean me any harm. This is obvious...thousands of cars go past me each week and I rarely have a close call, let alone a collision.

Second, I realized that most drivers don't have good vehicular proprioception. They just don't know how wide their cars are or where they are relative to other vehicles.

Finally, I understand that nobody ever won an argument by yelling at someone who didn't know they were in the argument. When you yell at a driver for driving too close, have they ever come back and said, "gee, I'm sorry about that, thanks for yelling and cursing at me to bring it to my attention"? I'm guessing no...they probably had no idea what you were yelling about...

So, I came up with a different strategy for managing these situations. My hope was that I could turn these into educational moments where both parties left feeling like the conversation was successful. Here's what I do:

It's generally pretty easy to tell the drivers that are oblivious rather than malicious. And inevitably, I will catch the oblivious drivers at the next light. As I am approaching them, I whip out my cell phone and pull up my photo album of my kids. The conversation starts with "Do you have children?"

Most nod yes.

"Me too". And I start showing them pictures of my wonderful daughters.

As I show them the pictures, I explain, "Since you have children, you probably understand that the most important thing for me is getting home to see them again. They way you just (insert reckless driving behavior here), I get concerned that I won't be able to do that. Could you please drive more carefully next time?"

The drivers typically respond with a sincere apology and something to the notion of they didn't realize how close they were, etc.

I end with something cordial like "Have a great week".

I leave feeling like I communicated my message to the driver in a way that was heard. Hopefully the driver leaves with a better awareness of their driving and cyclists rights on the road. It is more likely to be a win-win situation than if I would have yelled, cursed and dented their car! And I don't spend so much time angry...

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Securing a carbon seat to a Bacchetta seat plate.

This article applies to the Bacchetta CA3.0, CA2.0, CA1.0, Aero, and the one Corsa I know of (JC) with a seat plate.

I first really felt a problem when the seat on my aero pivoted at the base when I tried to shift my butt slightly in the seat. This was at 53 mph on a descent in Oregon in 2003, on the Vine Ride Century. It felt like a low rear tire rolling over onto the sidewall. Scary. This was with the stock hardware stack up: 5mm (3mm hex lens head) bolt, thin fender washer, thin rubber washer, seat, thin rubber washer, seat plate, split ring washer, wing nut. In time I discovered that the only way to really tighten it enough, so the seat would not pivot at all, was to use pliers on the wing nuts. I could not on the drive side as my bolt was under under the idler brace. The 3mm bolt heads could not withstand enough torque to get the seat tight enough for me. Even so, after a few months I discovered that my seat has been moving slowly back, as the threads on the bolts had chewed up the carbon in both holes. I can't seem to tighten the bolts enough to keep the carbon in one place. Instead of holes I now had a slotted seat.

After several iterations, I settled on this, and this is what we do at the shop today. To be honest it looks a lot like what Optima does. Drill out the holes in the seat plate with a 1/4" bit so they will just accept a 6mm bolt (4mm hex flat head). We drill out the seat too with a 9/32 bit, to accommodate the head of the flat head bolt. We have a jig for this that allows us to drill the seat centered and straight every time. The jig has multiple drill guides that can be used depending on seat angle. You want the seat to be parallel to the plate at the point of attachment. We also have holes drilled some multiple of the seat plate pitch, plus half a pitch, apart. This means you are not limited to seat positions every 3/8", but 3/16" of an inch. This is good as currently the way to dial in your position on a Bacchetta with a seat plate is to get close with the fore aft location of the seat and use recline to get your leg extension just right. That, or slot the holes in the seat. The next jig I build might have holes that allow for 1/3 of the stock seat plate pitch seat position. So 1/8" between each seat locations.

We use a washer with an inside diameter just smaller than the flat head bolt. This washer is quite a bit thicker than the stock one, so it does not flare. It has a smaller outer diameter though. The bolt head and washer can pivot relative to each other which is nice too. Then comes a thin rubber washer, the seat, a thin rubber washer, 7 fender washers, the plate, a split ring washer and an extra long nut, not nylock. Nylock bolts have less thread and are easier to strip. The fender washers are not needed on the older M5 seats, likely not on an Optima seat either, as they have enough space between the ribs for the seat plate. With the CCK or VK seat now found on most Bacchettas you need to elevate the seat with something incompressible so that the ribs don't hit the sides of the plate. An aluminum spacer would be ideal.

If you tighten the bolts enough, the rubber washer will ooze out the sides of the washer quite a bit. Also If you wheel your bike up to a wall, and put the wheels right in the v formed by the wall and the floor, and now hold the bars in one hand and the seat back in the other and twist, you will find the seat no longer moves independently of the frame tube. Your cornering confidence should improve. You should feel one with the bike. Shifting yourself in the seat should not be accompanied by the sensation of a low rear tire. Once the seat is no longer pivoting, the seat struts play no role in laterally bracing the seat. The odds are they will never crack. If you tighten the bolts enough, they will not come loose either.

There is a downside to all this, and this is Bacchetta's concern: you cannot go changing your seat angle without first loosening these bolts and you may even have to drill new holes in the seat if you change the seat angle a lot. You need to be bolting the part of the seat that is closest to parallel to the plate. You cannot pull the grenade pins and shove the seat down to fit the bike in a vehicle either. That's a great way to crack a seat too.

The upside is this: you may find some threads on using RANS struts or some custom brace in an attempt to stiffen up the seat laterally. The seat does not flex laterally, it only moves if the base bolts are not properly secured. Once you bolt your seat base down so it cannot pivot, none of these modification wi have any affect on seat movement at all. The issue has already been addressed.  The struts just keep the seat from landing on the rear tire once you sit on the bike.

We do use nylock nuts on the bolts holding the seat struts to the rear dropouts on the frame. These are just to make sure the bolts never loosen, they do not have to withstand a lot of torque. Its our belief that although checking fittings every once in a while is a great habit to have, nothing should require frequent tightening.

Call me at the shop if you have any questions. 

Saturday, September 24, 2011

High Baron ZR with U-Bar (Tweener)!

This bike was very popular at Recumbent Cycle Con last Sunday. People liked the sensation of having close to even weight distribution between the wheels, and the lower seat height than most other dual 700c wheeled bikes. The U-bar was more popular than the tiller as it made it easier to sit upright in the seat at stops and get on and off the bike.

We actually have 3 of these in stock now, 2 with a U bar and one with a tiller. We also have low Barons with both bars built up and ready to go. We have a Cougar too!!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

JV, Why Do I Struggle in the Mountains?

Here is a table of what happens to a human's ability to produce power as altitude goes up, due to lower partial pressure of oxygen:

Use the Bassett non-acclimatized column if you have not been training at altitude for over 2 weeks. A rough rule is to subtract 10% of your power at sea level for every 5000' you go up. Also note that the gains from acclimatization are not huge. We used this on RAAM to keep from going into the red through the Rockies. Over Wolf Creek Pass (10,800') my power was down a bit over 20%, but it felt like my perceived exertion was just the same as it had been for the last 2 days. I was breathing pretty hard too, as some of you may have seen in the video.

Note the implication here: if you drop 5000', you will gain power, assuming you are not a non-responder, according to the percentage gain for a non acclimatized person, but from your acclimatized level, due to extra red blood cells! This means you may be at 105% for a while. This effect will fade in a few months.

Aerodynamic drag goes down with altitude, so you may descend faster. Many records are set at 6000' to 7000' elevation because of this.

On acclimatization to altitude:
The take away from this is that unless you can spend a bare minimum of 2 weeks training at altitude, you are better off showing up just before the event and doing it. Roughly a third of the population are non-responders, meaning no amount of training at altitude will lead to any physiological adaptation. My brother is a non-responder, but I have never had a chance to find out if I am.

Also make sure you take care of yourself just like on all your other rides:
  • Nutrition (~250cal/hour?), hydration (bottle/hour?), and electrolyte intake.
  • Could you lighten your bike and gear and still be prepared for the event?
  • Get some lower rolling resistance tires that will still be durable enough for the event? Here is the data:
  • Keep your cadence up in the zone where you are most efficient. Don't let it drop 30 revolutions just because you are climbing. Get more gears if you need them.
  • Biggest predictor of climbing performance is power to weight ratio. Shed pounds or get better at producing aerobic power, whichever is easiest.
Hope this helps!

Friday, September 09, 2011

CA2.0 Stock

For those of you still eying my favorite bike: We've got one CA2.0 left in stock. Its a Large 700c Sport Spec, $3199. We could sell it as a frame kit too, or as one of the CA2.0 ZR spec bikes as well if needed.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

The new High Baron built up.

So its occurred to me, after I had Matt built it, that a shorter rider, who is after 700c wheels, might want to sit fully upright in the seat. For that reason I expect this model will get the U-bar treatment on subsequent builds for stock.

The red looks really nice in the sun!

Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Calabassas Tunnel of Trees

This is a short piece of my commute home. This is just after I leave the San Fernando Valley. Its a great place for testing headlights, as you go over 45mph a few times, and the tunnel of trees makes the hot spot of the light very defined all the way around. Note the signs getting a bit bright, thats from my headlight. There really are no challenging turns on this one. The compression right before the sunset can be tricky if you are not ready for it though.

Oh, this is a GoPro HD camera with a RageCams 2.8mm lens set at 720p and 60fps. I thought this camera was toast after I crashed and ground the lens to nothing on the asphalt. This lens is supposed to just about eliminate the fish-eye.

Thanks to Willie for the prototype light, and the RageCams tip!

Calabassas Tunnel of Trees from Bent Up Cycles on Vimeo.

Saturday, September 03, 2011

BWR 2011 - Let's bring it home. Part 8

After getting about four hours of sleep, Roland, Hiroshi and I woke up at midnight and hit the road at about 1am. They had oatmeal, I had a sticky pecan roll for breakfast. A group of four riders had left before us, but we were pretty sure we would catch them, given the terrain.

The first 50 miles were just like the last, only it was dark! Traffic was non-existent, and we just rolled along nicely, enjoying the crisp air. At a certain point, Roland left me. I started getting bored and tired and had to make up silly games to keep me occupied. Here are a few:

1. Catch the rider! I could see a couple riders up ahead. Soon, I was passing Chris and Luis. I would get a half mile ahead of them, stop for something, let them pass and get ahead of me, and start the game over! I think they thought I was nuts, but it kept me entertained...

2. Morning services. I sang the entire morning Shacharet service, out loud...or as much of it as I could remember!

3. Walmart songs. As we approached Wasilla, we were supposed to go to a Walmart at mile 70. Well, the Walmart didn't emerge until mile 74. Did I mention Wasilla is just mile after mile of traffic lights, strip malls and traffic (it was morning rush hour at 7am)? That damn Walmart because the brunt of many imaginative and derogatory songs.

4. Remember the 80's. Any 80's song was fair game, as long as I was singing it at the top of my lungs.

With these tools in hand, the traffic faded away and I quickly arrived at Walmart, five minutes before the MacDonald's opened. A group of us waited, had breakfast and tried to get warmed up.

The last 41 miles took us via the scenic route into Anchorage. Glenn highway was pretty when we didn't have to negotiate the 8" of clean pavement between the gravel and the rumble strip. Roland and I were riding together, and pushed through the last couple of climbs over the Eagle River area. The last 5 miles or so were all downhill, and we cruised into the finish line at 11:34am. We have 26 minutes to spare! Hiroshi followed us about five minutes later, claiming the Lantern Rouge for himself. A wonderful ride!

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

BWR 2011 - Denali, Part 7

We woke up at 7am, ready to go! Today was going to be a great day of cycling. Once we topped out on the Parks Highway a few miles after Cantwell, we would be descending or riding flat to rolling terrain the entire day. Add the short mileage, 125 miles, and the expected beautiful views of Denali and the Alaskan Range, and a perfect day was in order! As we left the hotel, I had to go back to the Chevron station for some food. They actually had fresh cinnamon rolls from a local bakery...excellent! I stowed one in my bag along with a couple more mundane bars, and off I went. Roland had continued on solo and I spent most of my day 20 minutes behind him.

It was a cold morning. It only got colder as I headed for the summit at about 2000 feet. It's amazing how much colder you feel when you are the time I reached the summit after 10 miles, I needed to add layers of clothing as I knew I would be heading downhill. It was damp, so I sat on my dry bag as I added a layer of clothing and munched on the cinnamon roll I got at the Chevron. Delicious!

By the way, the state of Alaska is very good at telling you when you've reached the top of something. They do it by calling it "summit" whatever. On day one, it was Summit it was Summit Airport. When you are starting to get a little brain-dead, obvious cues are very important! :)

Then, the descent began. It wasn't a steep descent, rather just miles of rolling terrain, moving in a downward direction, punctuated by some short, steep climbs. I soon reached the next control 37 miles out, Hurricane Gulch, right as Roland was leaving. Mike was there with his behemoth truck that I think could handle anything Mother Nature threw at it. Great guys with soup...soup IS good food! So far, the day had been views yet.

39 miles down the road, Mary's McKinley View Lodge was waiting. 39 miles of wonderful cycling! Again, the road headed down, no more than about 1%, but perfect for a relaxing day on the road. The sun came out periodically, there were still no views of Denali. The traffic was light and all was good except for my squeaky chain. I guess that's what happens when you don't lube your chain before the ride and then ride 600 miles on it. No problem...a squeak is just a squeak...

The McKinley View Lodge wasn't...that is, it wasn't a Lodge with a view of Denali. That's okay...they more than made up for it with the best cinnamon rolls of the trip. Sticky pecan rolls, actually. Warmed up with a cup of hot chocolate was wonderful (I was trying to stay off the caffeine today as it was a short day of riding in complete daylight). Just to give you an idea of how good these rolls were...I asked the nice young lady who was serving me if she had made them. "No." Good thing, because if she had, and I wasn't married, I would have proposed on the spot! JR, the volunteer who was signing brevet cards said she's used to getting several proposals a day! LOL!

While hanging out and chatting with JR, I learned that Ryan had DNF'd. This made me Lantern Rouge for the moment, but I had plenty of time so I wasn't worried about it. Shortly, I stripped down (it was definitely warming up) and hit the road for the last 50 miles of the day. It was only 3:30pm...plenty of time!

As if the cycling wasn't perfect already (except for the missing views of Denali), it just got better. I had finally dropped off of the descent and was not cruising along "real" rollers. You know the cruise down one side at 25-30mph and you have a enough momentum to just soft-pedal over the top of the next one. It was truly delightful and the miles just melted away. I passed Hiroshi and relegated my Lantern Rouge position to him.

Two highlights. Bob stopped at one point to make sure I was okay. He was out of wheat thins and chocolate chip cookies, but he had chain lube. Nothing like having a quiet bike again. Second, outrunning a thunder storm! One minutes it's fine, next minute it's raining. Quick, put on the rain jacket and take off. Five minutes later, it's sunny again!

A few minutes later, I crossed the Susitna River, and it was a quick, rolling 20 miles to Talkeetna. The organizers had arranged for rooms and food at the Swiss Alaska Inn...a nice indulgence on the last night. Unfortunately, Beef Strogonoff just didn't do it for me, so I settled for soup, garlic bread, rice and corn for dinner. One more day!

BWR 2011 - The crux move. Part 6

This was the day. Actually, THE should be capitalized. In all of my planning, I knew this day would be the hardest, the crux move, so to speak. I wasn't all that concerned about the first day...I've ridden....okay, maybe I haven't ridden 322 miles straight, but I was really confident that it wouldn't be a problem. I was right...32.5 hours on the road with no sleep breaks. Just good times both on and off the bike. But to wake up 4 hours later and ride another 200 miles? Can't say I've ever even contemplated that before. So, here we were...5:15am, on the road, with the goal of reaching Cantwell sometime that night. I knew that after completing today, the last two days would be easy in comparison (125 and 110 miles, respectively, on very easy terrain).

We had a nice 50 mile flat warm up to Fairbanks. The roads slowly transitioned from 2-lane highway to busier, 4-6 lane highway as we got closer to our destination. Roland noted a MacDonald's on our left about 35 miles into the ride, so we stopped for breakfast. We were definitely cutting it close to the control closing times, but didn't give it too much thought (after the 600k mark, the closing times start getting stretched out to eventually give the rider 10 additional hours). The sky was slightly overcast, the temperatures moderate, and there was absolutely nothing to look at other than the highway and suburban sprawl of North Pole and then Fairbanks.

We finally arrived at the Fairbanks control with a couple hours to spare. Saw a few other riders there; Hiroshi from Japan who had blown out two tires and was trying to get to the local bikes shop to buy new ones, Chris Hanson was taking a nap in one of the support vehicles before hitting the road again. It was too easy to get dragged into conversations and spend too much time at the control. But soon enough, we were on our way, ready to hit the two major climbs of the day.

The next two climbs caught me a bit by surprise. It's hard to look at a route profile that spans 750 miles across the width of your computer screen and know exactly how steep a climb is. Well, these were steeper than anticipated. Each climb was about 1000 feet over a couple miles...the first was the harder one, but the weather was clearing up. We finally reached the top and started down the rollercoaster descent on the other side. The views from the top were expansive, to say the least, and quite enjoyable.

Huh? Were's Roland? He had disappeared from my rear view mirror. Slow Roland. This area was much too remote to just leave, so I started riding back up the climb. There was Roland, fixing a flat...much better than the alternative. So officially, I rode one bonus mile, a bonus climb to boot! But you don't leave your partner...

At the bottom, we pulled over to have a snack. Imagine my suprise when Bob pulls up in his car and asks if we need anything. I look at my umpteenth bar, and ask "Got anything interesting to eat?" "I've got wheat thins...and chocolate chip cookies..." Sold...I stuffed my bar back into my bag and sat down to enjoy the gourmet dining.

"Wait, I can make you some coffee." This was getting better.

"I've got some peanut butter here, but no knife." No worries, we can dip. This was phenonemal! We all hung out, enjoying the cool morning air, good food and good company. We were delighted to hear that Bob was assigned to SAG duty for the back of the pack. He would be accompanying us for the rest of the ride! Awesome!

We started up the second climb, refreshed. The summit approached quickly, and then we bombed down the other side through the rolling countryside to Nenana, our next control.

In Nenana, we met up with several riders. Ryan was cruising along with his iPod blasting. Brennan was feeling pretty good, Hiroshi arrived in good time. Pretty soon, we all set off for the gentle climb up to Healy, the next overnight control.

We all leapfrogged each other for awhile. It was overcast and cool, perfect riding weather! As the climbing got a bit steeper, Brennan led the charge, Ryan and Roland carried on without me, and I headed up solo with Hiroshi close behind. A light rain started, so I stopped to put rain gear on in Bob's car, and enjoyed an apple (it's amazing how enjoyable the simple things in life can be on these advantures). Somewhere outside of Nenana, my Garmin 800 had stopped working, so I was left to navigating Healy with the cue sheet. I think it was around 9pm when I arrived...definitely later than anticipated.

The Healy control had pizza, another perfect randonneuring food! I dried off, exchanged stuff in my drop bag, and slowly got myself together to push on towards Cantwell. Roland and I left together, and swore loudly as we climbed the short but steep climb out of Healy!

Of all of the sections, this one was undoubtedly the most difficult. After the initial climb, the first 15 miles went by without issue. It was a long descent down a canyon, dropping down to the river below. It was a blast, my Surefire light lit the way, and I wished it was light out as it appeared to be gorgeous scenery.

Soon enough, though, I reached the entrance to Denali State Park, with its commercial "lodges" and tourist traps, and we began the long climb up to Cantwell. I had a few issues during this stretch. First, the 18-wheeler trucks were out in force, with their bright lights that pierced the gloom (I guess they really need to see when they are going to hit a moose). Most were going the other direction, but the oncoming truck lights were very bright and disruptive.

The other thing that I finally realized was that my own lights were mesmerizing me! I've never had that happen! The Supernova light was mounted above and behind the Surefire light, and it was reflecting off of the housing of the Surefire light. Also, the Surefire light was so bright, that the glare off the wet road was disturbing. I stopped many times to adjust the light angles and tried different combinations of running the lights. As we approached Cantwell, I finally figured it out and was able to ride the last seven miles in a straight line.

We stopped for my quickest control stop to date...five minutes! Get the card signed, get a cupcake and get to the hotel for a shower and a couple pieces of pizza (I stowed them in my back from Healy). It was 2:30am, we were about three hours later than expected, but the room was large, the showers hot, the beds comfortable. We set the alarm for 7am knowing that the next two days would be easy!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

BWR 2011 - It just keeps getting better. Part 5

We were thrilled to be leaving the Paxsom Lodge. We had one good climb to the top of the Richardson Highway, and then it would be basically 80 miles down the other side. Woohoo! As we climbed higher and higher, several things were apparent. First, a swarm of flies can keep up with a cyclist going 4.5 to 5mph! They weren't biting...just annoying! More annoying because they seemed more interested in me than Roland, who was 15 feet behind me!

Second, it was getting prettier and prettier. The hills on each side of the road were turning beautiful shades of orange and red, the sun was shining and all was good with the world. It truly was inspiring!

As we reached the top, we could see it was raining in the distance. We could see Summit Lake approaching on our left. This calm lake stretched for about 5-6 miles across the plateau at the top, with the beautiful red and orange hills on either side. The Alaskan Range had finally poked its head from out of the clouds in the distance, and the contrast of the colorful hills in front of the giant white mountains was stunning. To top it off, clouds were drizzling rain off at the far side of the lake and a beautiful rainbow had taken flight just beyond the hills in front of us. I have to say, this was the most spectacular view of the entire ride and nearly brought me to tears. We cruised alongside the lake, where it had obviously rained minutes before, but was now dry. (I was so entranced, I couldn't even remember where I was going!)

The descent down the other side was equally spectacular. As we pressed close to the base of the Alaskan Range, the colors and rock formations were breathtaking!

As we continued down the canyon, enjoying the rollercoaster ride alongside the river, we could admire the mountains on either side of us. All too soon, we had arrived at our next control, the Black Rapids Lodge.

We walked our bikes up the dirt driveway that lead around the lodge and to the front door. The view when we walked in was breathtaking (notice, I seem to be using that word a lot) was the picture-perfect spot to look at the mountains down a long canyon. Two lovely young ladies greeted us and asked us if we were hungry. The menu was soup...chicken noodle with homemade noodles and russet potatoes or Caribou beef, both made from scratch with homemade bread. It was tasty...really tasty...I had two bowls before getting the bill for $31! It was worth it. We filled our bottles, pet the dog, enjoyed the view one more time, and then headed back down to the highway.

The 38 miles to Delta Junction went by rather quickly. We left the lodge and hit two short climbs, followed by a long 4-5 mile one that brought us over the foothills into the next valley. From the top, it was all downhill as we raced the incoming storm to the control. We won, just barely.

At Delta Junction, we ate a bit, swapped out gear from our drop bags, and pressed on into the possibility of coming rain. It was 48 miles to the next control, and then seven to our hotel. The first 30 were rain free, but further along I could see the storm clouds brewing and lightning crossing the sky. It looked like I was going to get a chance to try out my rain gear.

When all was said and done, it was pretty mild rain. Descending some of the hills at 40mph could be a touch painful as the water stung our cheeks, but the roads were straight and smooth, and we could let the speed go. Roland, in particular, was quite fearless in the rain (he deals with it more than I do), and outran me on the descents a few times (few people can say that).

By about 10:30, we had arrived at the Midway was time to EAT and get dried off. The owner offered to throw our clothes in the dryer (very nice), and I enjoyed a bowl of broccoli cheddar soup, followed by a grilled cheese sandwich. Although the owner smoked like a train, the company was pleasant and we were enjoying a nice meal together.

Once finished, we hopped on the bikes with dry clothes (the rain had stopped), and rode the quick 7 miles to our final destination, the Salchaket Roadhouse. They had agreed to leave the key under the mat of room 3 so we didn't have to disturb anyone when we arrived. The room was small but clean, with real, full sized towels. It was 12:30 (we were only a half hour later than planned) and we had been on the road for 32.5 hours, covering 322 miles. We set the alarm for 4:30am and were asleep the moment we hit the pillows!

Monday, August 29, 2011

BWR 2011 - Morning has broken. Part 4

We grudgingly packed up and headed out into the fog. Of course, as soon as we pulled out of the driveway, we began a three mile climb up into the darkness The fog had disappeared and we were all way over-dressed! Roland and I left together...Larry was still relaxing and trying to get himself together. Once to the top, we began riding a series of rollers as we slowly ascended to the Hub of Alaska, our next control at mile 119. I can't say there was a whole lot going on during this section. I had the pleasure of riding with Katie and Roland, but Katie left us when we stopped because you-know-who had to pee again.

We arrived at the Hub of Alaska around 3:30ish, tired and ready for some food. A Cup O Noodles and Coke were perfect for me! Before long, I was back to my perky self and ready for the 80 mile climb up to the summit of the Richardson Highway.

Sunrise emerged as we continued along. While some riders have a hard time riding through 3-5am, I seem to get really sleepy right as the sun is coming up. A stop for more food, though, and I was fine. Sometimes, you just need to get off the bike, walk around and eat something to get you back into the spirit of riding.

As we cruised up the road, I started looking for's a great way to keep your mind stimulated! Not five minutes later, I noticed what I thought were two horses in the road (we had just passed a sign that portrayed horses in the area). As we got closer, we discovered it was a female moose with its calf. They crossed the road and disappeared into the brush, and I cursed myself for not having my camera out. Roland may have gotten some good shots, and I wasn't going to let that happen again. We began our climb again, in search of more wildlife.

With our minds fully occupied, we quickly arrived at the Sourdough Roadhouse at mile 151. This was our first real road house experience, and it was quite worthwhile! Who could resist sourdough pancakes dating back to 1896? With a cup of coffee, they were delicious!

The road house was owned by Patty, an older woman who had been in Alaska forever. Her assistant, Shirla, had just arrived from Idaho yesterday and was beginning her Alaska experience firsthand! Finally, the local neighbor (can't remember his name) was hanging around, helping serve pancakes and tell us where to see the best moose, caribou and bears! It was quite the assortment of characters, and even included a genuine outhouse in the back! As far as I was concerned, this was classic Alaska.

After breakfast, we signed the guestbook and got a shuttle ride for 6.5 miles over some road construction. We were approaching the highlands, and the scenery was changing drastically as we got higher. The colors turned to reds and oranges, and the views were spectacular!

We were definitely in the interior of Alaska! We rode along Paxsom Lake to the far end for our 300k control at the Paxsom Lodge at mile 189.

Honestly, this Lodge was kind of a hole. While there, one of the staff complained about all the work we were putting him through (there were about a half dozen of us there at the time), and the food was expensive and not very good. They definitely did not win the best Lodge award!

Big Wild Ride 2011 - On the road! Part 3

Now I would like to give you a word of advice. If someone tells you that the local bakery made some "energy bars" for riders, I don't care how delicious they are, don't eat them. I woofed one down about a half hour before the start. They were so tasty, I stowed another two more in my bag.

We headed out right on time. Larry immediately jettisoned to the front, and I chased. Not to race, mind you...I wanted to make sure he didn't go out to hard! We cruised along the first 15 miles at about 125w, taking in the scenery as the sun vaguely started showing itself along the mountains. At mile 15, the course would climb gradually for five miles, and then the 10 mile climb up Thompson Pass would begin. This would definitely be our hardest climb of the ride, 10 miles at 5-6% sustained throughout.

As we rounded the turn at mile 15, we entered a beautiful canyon filled with waterfalls. It was absolutely gorgeous as we rode by Bridal Veil falls and began the ascent up to the summit of Thompson Pass. I stopped near the falls and ate another energy bar, and continued climbing in the company of Tom Parker. Before leaving, I admired the beauty of the area with Veronica, one of the volunteers. Her response..."welcome to my backyard!" And this was just the beginning...

Tom eventually left me as I caught up to Roland. We rode together and chatted for awhile. My goal was to keep the pace conversational...we still had over 700 miles to go! The climb continued further and further up into the mist, until we eventually crested the summit to an amazing view of our first glacier!

The descent down the other side was amazing, and I approached the first control at mile 39 pretty quickly. My goal had been to ascend Thompson Pass by 9pm - I arrived 15 minutes early! I reached the first control at about 9:20...plenty of daylight still left to continue on this beautiful ride through the Chugash Mountains along the Tsaina River. I got deeper and deeper into the mountains as nightfall descended upon me. The massive mountains arising on either side of me were spectacular, until they finally disappeared as dusk ended.

Remember my advice about "energy bars"? I was now starting to feel my mistake. I spend the next couple hours on the verge of vomiting. I didn't want to throw up as that could lead to dehydration, so I basically dealt with it, scaled back the eating and drank only water. By about mile 80, my stomach had returned and I felt incredibly lucky that this incident had not derailed my ride.

So let's talk about riding on a deserted highway at night in Alaska. As night descended, I started thinking of all of the warnings I had heard...bears, bad roads, moose...and quickly put that all out of my head. I was having too much fun! I wasn't carrying any dead salmon on me, so I wasn't worried about any bears jumping out at me, and I wasn't going fast enough to be worried about hitting any moose. The roads were good, there were cyclists in front of me and behind me, and I insisted on enjoying the night!

At mile 75, I finally caught up with the group in front of me. I could see their lights in the distance, but it seemed like every time I would get close to catching up, I would have to pee. As the road started dropping away towards our second control, we were enveloped in a dense fog and it definitely got cold! We cruised down the road until we saw a car parked in a driveway that started flashing its lights...we made it to mile 83! We rode 100 yards down a dirt road, and were welcomed into our first Alaskan lodge experience, the Tonsina Lodge!

Anna had set up quite a spread for us, and it was easy to sit back, enjoy some wonderful soup, mild pasta and rice, with a cup of coffee, and get warmed back up! The owner was like my grandmother...she kept pushing us to eat, eat, eat! Given the state of my stomach, I took it real easy and didn't sample all of the eastern European delights she had spread on the table. It was hard to leave, but we finally did!

BWR 2011 - Getting there is half the fun! Part 2

They say that getting there is half the fun. I'm not sure I would go that far, but it was enjoyable. I met Andy Sorenson at the Gold Rush Randonee in 2009. He lives in Anchorage and was off to do PBP while we would be in Alaska. So, he offered us the use of his house as a home base! How cool was that! So, Larry and his wife, Christine, flew into Anchorage on Wednesday, while Roland and I flew in on Thursday (separately). Thursday was a busy day as we wanted to get our bikes assembled. Larry and I had a great time getting to know each other as we assembled bikes in the driveway. He was riding his Bacchetta Giro 26 ATT while I was riding a Carbent HPV Raven.

Some of you may have looked at the picture of my bike as I posted it about a week before the ride. Well, it got a little portlier over the week as the forecast became a bit more ominous. I added full rain gear, including pants, jacket, booties (thanks Andy!) and rain gloves. By the time we were ready to leave, the bike was bulging with supplies!

On Friday morning, Larry and I took a nice spin around Anchorage, got lost, found ourselves again, visited Speedway Cycles and headed back home in the drizzle. The weather was not looking cooperative... Later, all of us went to the meet-and-greet at Speedway, and then had dinner at the Organic Oasis. Delicious!

Saturday morning, we were up bright and early to hop on the train to Whittier. From Whittier, we would take the ferry to Valdez. The train ride was fun and a great opportunity to meet other riders. Kevin, the RBA, whipped out a giant map of Alaska and we explored the route together. The views of the bay were amazing, and we got our first glimpse of glaciers. I'm pretty sure everyone had a great time...I did!

In Whittier, Roland and I headed for the Orca Cafe for lunch. The salmon sandwich was delicious. It seems that every menu item in Alaska involves salmon, and I quickly discovered that Copper River salmon was quite good! We then stood in line in the drizzle while waiting for the ferry to dock. Again, more good times meeting riders and swapping stories.

During the ferry ride, the weather was once again ominous...glad I brought the rain gear! Roland and I discovered an unfinished 1000 piece puzzle and proceeded to finish it between naps. The goal here was to relax and rest. I knew from past experience that the more rested I was, the more successful I would be on the ride.

Once in Valdez, we headed for the Mountain Sky hotel, got settled and went out to dinner! 10 randonneurs took over the Totem Inn and enjoyed an evening of good food and company!

Sunday morning, Larry and I took a 10 mile spin up the beginning of the course to check it out and make sure that the bikes worked perfectly! The clouds had broken and it was turning into a beautiful day! Perhaps the weather gods would be friendly? One last nap before we start...

Saturday, August 27, 2011

The Big Wild Ride - A 750 mile adventure to discover Alaska's best roadhouses, lodges and cinnamon rolls! Part 1

"Why are you doing that?" I think that is the most common question we randonneurs get from both friends and strangers. Good question. Why would anyone endeavor to ride 750 miles in 90 hours or less? As I recently put it to one friend, I'm going to ride almost four double centuries in four days, with four hours of sleep between each. I think the response I got was along the lines of "you are crazy!"

Last Fall, a good friend of mine, Tim Woudenberg, convinced me that we should do Paris-Brest-Paris together. PBP is the granddaddy of all 1200k annual pilgrimage is made by thousands of cyclists every four years to ride in PBP. He promised me wonderful scenery, great food, and the option of sleeping in a French barn! Although I didn't care much for French food and wasn't all that excited about flying halfway around the world to ride with 5000 of my closest friends, I grudgingly agreed. After all, when was the last time Tim wasn't spot on about a ride?

Well, in January, another friend of mine, Bruce, brought the Big Wild Ride to my attention. He was excited about it as there would be minimal riding in the dark. I was excited about it because I have always wanted to go to Alaska! Since reading Jack London and Walter Morey as a kid, Alaska had always been a destination I wanted to explore. Besides, it was closer, better food (in my mind), and was a ride across a vast wonderland with only 40 riders! I cancelled my date with Tim and signed up for BWR 2011!

Bruce and I began our preparations by completing a (relatively) local brevet series. These rides are 200k, 300k, 400k, and 600k, and completion is required to be qualified to ride a 1200k. At the 400k, Bruce made the decision to pull out for a variety of reasons, and I was left to finish the qualifications solo. I ran into one of our customers, Roland Bevan, at the 400k, and we eventually decided to ride together on the BWR. Also, a 2012 RAAM teammate, Larry Graham, was coming along as well. The three of us would conquer the Alaskan landscape!

Here is the route in a nutshell:

To talk about preparations briefly is impossible. The logistics of doing a ride like this can be mind-numbing. I had several goals for this ride:

1. Complete the course in 90 hours or less, enjoying the scenery and the Alaskan culture.
2. As much as possible, ride during the day and sleep at night.
3. Sleep in real beds with real showers (no community sleeping arrangements).
4. Have fun!

Roland was in agreement on these goals, and so I set out an ambitious plan to meet them. Remember, our goal was to finish in about 90 hours...we were not interested in racing the course to see how fast we could do it. To meet these goals, we would need to alter the standard course plan slightly to access hotels on the route. We also had to extend our first day about 60 miles to get on a daytime riding schedule. So, here was the plan:

1. Ride starts at 6pm on Sunday. We would arrive at the first overnight control (mile 265) around 4-6pm on Monday, and keep riding to Salchaket Roadhouse approximately 60 miles further, arriving between 10-12pm. Get 4-6 hours of sleep and continue.
2. Day two would take us to the Healy sleep control 150 miles down the road, and then an additional 38 miles to Cantwell where the Backwoods Lodge would have a room waiting for us. Again, arrival was about 10-12pm. Get 4-6 hours of sleep and continue.
3. Easy 200k day to Talkeetna to the overnight control there. They had a hotel with beds and showers for all riders.
4. Up at midnight to finish the last 110 miles to Anchorage before noon on Thursday.

I knew #1 was doable...I've done it before. My bigger concern was #2. Completing 530k and then getting up a couple hours later to ride another 200 miles was unfamiliar territory for me. I knew that once I got past day 2, the last two days would be easy as they were on relatively recumbent-friendly terrain (read flat to rolling) and significantly shorter.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Optima High Baron Is Here!

...and the color is really nice too. For you Baron enthusiasts, check out the new QR skewers to make seat angle adjustments wrench-less. Nice improvement! The fork is 640g with the alloy steerer tube, so a Bacchetta Full Carbon Johnson would save about 220g.

We'll be building it up tomorrow with our signature ZR package: SRAM 10s!

This brings dual 700c speed and choice to those who prefer a lower seat height.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

Anticipating the Big Wild Ride!

Next week, I head to Alaska to complete the Big Wild Ride, a 1200K Randonee from Valdez to Fairbanks and back to Anchorage. 1200 kilometers equates to 750 miles, and it is ridden in a period of 90 hours or less. Basically, it is like doing double centuries every day for four days, but without a good night's sleep between each ride. In fact, I think the mental aspects of completing this ride are more difficult to grasp than the physical. Let's face it...after two or three hundred miles, your body is done. It really takes an act of will power to finish the remaining ride. So, how do you do that?

Aside from the nitty-gritty details that I have been reviewing over the last couple weeks, I have spent a lot of time doing some visualization. I spend time envisioning the first, 9-mile climb (the hardest climb of the ride), that takes us to about 2700 feet. I imagine doing it slowly, keeping my power down so I don't burn out, without fretting too much about how long it is taking me.

I have spent a lot of time visualizing the finish. The sense of accomplishment of completing my first 1200K. I DNF'd my first 1200K a couple years ago...I didn't understand the rules and that cost me the event. I'm not making that mistake again.

I visualize all of the problems I may have on the road...flat tires, broken cables and chain, the pure exhaustion of riding, and solve those problems in my head repeatedly.

I've been doing this long enough that I have a good idea of how I handle sleep deprivation, and what my mind will start doing. I imagine wanting to quit, and talking my way out of it. I imagine wanting to stop at controls and hang out, and then imagine kicking myself to get up and get on the bike. I think about all of the mental games I will play with myself over 90 hours, and how I will overcome each one. Trust me, I will feel like quitting...the key is to move past that and keep going. Set short-term goals, promise myself an ice cream cone at the next town...whatever it takes to keep moving forward.

The logistics of this are quite daunting. I need to think ahead and pack three bags of supplies to send up the road. In this planning, I need to account for they varying weather conditions of the area, the time of day I anticipate riding, and everything else that may just come up! Long lists are involved...

I plan to ride with a friend, Roland, who I've ridden a few times with in the past. We ride about the same speed and he is great company. I enjoyed building his Bacchetta CA2.0 for him last January, and he is putting it to good use.

We decided to forego the pre-established "sleep controls" for a variety of reasons. The first is at mile 265. Well, we will probably be there at 4-6pm, which is prime time for riding! I want to see Alaska, not ride through every night, so we decided to push on to mile 322 and get a hotel room where we can have a real bed (no sleeping bags) and hopefully get some good sleep for about six hours.

The next stop is at mile 475. Again, we will probably arrive there late afternoon, and decided to press on to mile 514 and get another hotel room. Same plan...sleep through the night and head out around 4am when it is getting light out.

Our last sleep stop will be at the last "sleep control." at mile 640. The ride up to this stop is through Denali National Park, and I really wanted to see this during the day. I hope we are on schedule so we can enjoy this beautiful scenery! After getting our last nap, we head off for the last 115 miles to Anchorage!

It will be quite an adventure, and I look forward to posting more afterwards!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Photo Credit: John Foote,

Sandy Earl to Attempt 24-Hour Unfaired Recumbent Bicycle Record August 13-14

Arcata, CA – How far can she go? We'll find out sometime in the wee hours of August 14, when Sandy Earl finishes her 24 hour attempt in La Conner, Washington. Using the same course that Chris Ragsdale used last year to set the UCI 1000-km record, Sandy will pedal her Carbent Raven around the clock to accumulate as many miles as possible.

UMCA records may only be set on certified courses. Three officials will ensure that the attempt is carried out fairly and safely, and two crew members will be present to keep Sandy moving forward. The racer, officials, and crew will be fueled in part by Los Bagels, an Arcata mainstay.

Regardless of the final mileage, and pending certification by the UMCA, Earl will establish a 24-hour UMCA record for recumbents – no one has attempted this feat on a recumbent bicycle before. Other notable mileage numbers that are in her sights:

12-hour womens' recumbent record: 241.008 (also 12-hour womens' overall record)

12-hour recumbent overall record: 241.473

24-hour womens' overall UMCA record: 439.65

24-hour womens' UCI record: 461.45

Earl's best 24-hour result to date has been 442.6 – at the Sebring 24-hour race this past February. Live course updates will be posted as possible at

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

New Blog -

We have started a new blog documenting the odyssey towards RAAM 2012. Check it out...we hope you enjoy it!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Carbent USS Skunk Works Project: Raven USSAH (Ape Hanger)

Now is the time to get into training and doing events with a power meter!! Powertaps on sale big time!!

I have been using power as a training and racing metric now for over 5 years. I think I was an advocate of it by the 3rd ride. Powermeters have been getting more widely used in both the pro peloton (a group very resistant to new ideas and added weight) and the Ultra Riding and Randonneuring communities.  Prices have been going down and the number of choices have been going up over the years too. Saris (CycleOps), makers of the ubiquious PowerTap hub, has announced a tremendous sale.

SL+ Wheelset MSRP is 1749, now on sale for 1249! Joule 2.0 computer extra.
SL+ Full Kit MSRP is 1599, now on sale for 1049!
SL+ Hub MSRP is 1349, now on sale for 899!

Pro+ Wheelset MSRP is 1349, now on sale for 999! Joule 2.0 computer extra.
Pro+ Full Kit MSRP is 1199, now on sale for 849!
Pro+ Hub MSRP is 949, now on sale for 699!

Both these units are wireless and ANT+ compatible, menaing they will work with several Garmin, and other, computers as well.If you want to convert a current wheel, the labor is $60 and spokes are $1 for straight 2.0mm DT.

Feel free to call me if you have any questions about these discounts, or power training in general.

JV (El Jimador)

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Davis 600k Brevet - a Classic Butt-Kicker Course!

My goal this year has been to complete a brevet series (200k, 300k, 400k and 600k) to qualify for riding the Big Wild Ride 1200K in Alaska in August. Having completed a full series last year, I knew this goal would be challenging given the time constraints of running the shop. DNF-ing my scheduled 600k in Lompoc in May only made this goal more challenging! So, I decided to sign up for the Davis 600k...a beautiful course up the Feather River Gorge with mild climbs and 170 miles of completely flat riding on the Sacramento River delta! I was looking forward to an easy course that would allow me to meet my goal without too much stress (not that riding 375 miles is ever easy...).

Much to my chagrin, the Davis Bike Club changed the course two weeks before the event to the difficult ride that I completed this last weekend (did I just give away the ending?). The new course, as I found out later, is offered every four years to prepare riders for Paris-Brest-Paris. With two incredibly difficult climbs right in the middle of the course, the goal was to wear the rider down and show them that they could still succeed. Very admirable goals for the Davis Bike Club, very frustrating goals for someone who just wanted to finish the qualifiers and move on! :)

Given the evening start, I decided to try a new strategy this time, and I drove up with another rider on Thursday night. We slept in on Friday, spent the day getting our things together, and then I got another nap in the afternoon. This left me feeling refreshed and rested at the start at 8pm.

The ride starts across the Sacramento delta and I ended up in my usual position, riding solo between the lead group and the back group. As I started up Putah Creek Rd. (apparently a well-known road to cyclists in the area, confirmed on the return leg on Sunday as I noted dozens of cyclists riding the other direction), I could see the tail lights just up ahead of me, and I eventually caught up with Elaine, a local cyclist from Silicone Valley. We spent the next 20 miles yakking and enjoying a beautiful night - the weather was moderate and there was a beautiful almost-full moon lighting up the hills around us as we headed up into the foothills. Elaine was a fantastic tour guide, educating me about the orchards we were riding through, and the upcoming climbs that we would tackle. She beat me up the "dam" climb and Cardiac, but I generally caught up on the descents off of these steep but short 500-footers. Travelling along highway 128, we finally reached our first control at mile 45. I got caught up in fixing someone's front derailleur, and Elaine left a bit before I did.

The next section took me around Lake Berryesa and down into Napa Valley to Calistoga. There were some memorable moments on this section. Notably, I found out what a flock of peacocks sound like when you wake them at 2am! Not a happy sound! More like a group of angry women, screaming at the top of their lungs. Cruising through Napa was great, though. The signs from the wineries were lit up, the roads were empty and the terrain gently rolled away under me. Arriving in Calistoga, I was greeted by a friendly group of volunteers who definitely won the award for "best coffee." It was so good, I added a cup of it to my bottle of Cafe Latte Perpetuem...perfect! I left Calistoga alone, knowing that I had one short climb before rocketing across Sonoma on my way to Cloverdale. The Garmin 800 was guiding me perfectly, and I found my own company quite enjoyable! :)

I am often asked "what do you think about when you are spending so much time riding?" I think it really depends on the ride. Riding at night without companionship can be a little mind-numbing. It's almost Zen-like...I don't really think about anything. It's easy to get caught up into negative thinking, so I make a huge effort to stay away from that. Let's face it, if you spend too much time thinking about riding 375 miles in under 40 hours, you will soon realize how absolutely stupid it is! It's kind of like asking why you would climb Mt. Everest? Yep...because it's there. Instead, I try to focus on short-term goals...the top of the next climb, the next control (and what kind of food are they serving?), etc.

Anyway, I arrived in Cloverdale around 4:30am, and enjoyed a cup of Chevron coffee and donuts with a couple other riders who arrived before me. We all left together under the first glimmers of dawn to attack the six-mile climb outside of Cloverdale. This was a great climb, but my companions quickly got away from me. I chugged up the road, enjoying the emerging dawn and reminding myself how much fun this would be to descend later. Occasionally, I thought I heard my companions up above me, cheering as they crested the next part of the climb. I finally reached the top, did my own victory dance, and began the descent down Mountain House Rd., one of the worst roads on the course!

Up and down, up and down, I finally emerged outside of the Fetzer Winery. On Friday afternoon, I had lunch at the Davis Food Co-op, and I bought a 1/2 pound piece of Vegan chocolate cake to bring with me on the ride. Oh, was it good! I sat down in front of Fetzer winery and had a couple bites of cake and started stripping off layers - it was warming up as the sun came up over the mountains! I then set off for the 17 mile trek to the Ukiah control at mile 160. This was beautiful countryside with many vineyards, cows, horses and greenery. The headwind sucked, but that's life.

I finally arrived in Ukiah around 8:30, and was greeted with the best food of the ride! Scrambled eggs and Vegan, Kosher bacon (okay, not really) was topped off with a bagel and cream cheese and sun-dried tomato and basil wheat thins (oooh, those were good!). Topped it off with some good coffee and whatever else I could stuff in my face, and I was set. I knew I was coming up on the hardest part of the ride, but didn't spend too much time thinking about it. Instead, John, Mel and I took off to climb over Highway 253.

The climb on the inland side of the 253 is only four miles long. However, it is a sustained 10-11% grade. I felt like I was doing leg presses, despite my 27t chainring and 32t cog in the back. Mel took the early lead when I stopped to strip off several layers of clothing. John had turned back to go get his forgotten brevet card, but eventually caught me about 2/3 of the way up the climb. This was hard! I watched my altimeter and tracked my progress by counting off 100-foot marks...700, 800, 900, 1200, 1800, 2200...I finally reached the top (and quickly started down the other side before I had too much time to think about it).

With thoughts of my kids, I stopped to take some video of these horses on the way out to Dimmick.

The road to Dimmick Campground included some great scenery, but a strong headwind and aggressive drivers once we got into the Redwoods. The road was pretty bad, as well. I passed John on this section, and tried to catch Mel. He beat me into the control by about 5 minutes. We were now 188 miles out! After a quick lunch, I headed back out and decided that I would take a 15-minute nap on the lawn of the first winery I saw. 10 miles later, I finally found one, and enjoyed luxuriating in the sun to the soothing sounds of traffic and the knowledge that my phone would ring loudly in my ear in 15 minutes. Once back on the road, I enjoyed the tailwind all the way back to Boonville, where I filled up with water before the long climb back to Ukiah. I just kept telling myself that all I had to do was finish this climb, and everything else would be easy in comparison.

This return climb was brutal. Technically it was easier than the other side, but it was longer and hotter. I stopped multiple times to enjoy more chocolate cake, a banana, water, all the while trying not to throw up. Ah, the joys of cycling! I the top, I truly felt like Superman, ready to just cruise through the next 155 miles. While there was still some climbing to come, the terrain trended downward and I was hoping for some tailwinds. Did I mention the weather was absolutely perfect?

I arrived in Ukiah with one thought...lasagna. They didn't have any, so I had to use my imagination. I must admit, though, grilled cheese sandwiches were great, and I joked it was the best tasting lasagna I had ever eaten! I had two! :)

Ukiah involved one nice snafu. On the outbound leg, I had used a power strip with my Garmin charger to add a bit of juice to the Garmin before heading over the climb. I expected to charge the Garmin up some more on the way back, and bring the charger with me for use in Cloverdale while I was sleeping. Alas, the charger (and power strip) were missing! Oh well, I guess I would actually have to use a route sheet, although I remembered the route almost in its entirety. So, flying blind, I headed for Cloverdale.

You may recall that I was really looking forward to the descent into Cloverdale. I left Ukiah at 6:30, resigning myself to the fact that I probably would not cover the 30 miles with climbing in under three hours. Rather than perseverate, I just started pedaling. The nice tailwind shot me across the first 17 miles in well under an hour! I started the climbing up Mountain House Rd., trying to enjoy the beautiful evening. My only company was a CHP officer who drove by a couple times and waved. As I approached the top of the fourth and longest climb, I realized that I would actually make it in time to descent in the dusk. Awesome! Debra Protho, the woman I drove up with, also pulled up in a SAG wagon to let me know she had DNF'd the ride (to be honest, I was rather surprised at the high DNF rate on this ride...over 25%). I fired up my Surefire light, and started bombing down this awesome, technical, windy descent into Cloverdale. It was really exhilarating, and by the time I reached Cloverdale, I really wasn't all that tired.

Cloverdale kind of sucked. I tried to get about 1.5 hours of sleep, but (a) the Control staff were a bit loud outside, and (b) three riders came into the room at some point like a herd of elephants. Sleep alluded me and I woke ready to just get going. The next section was supposed to be pretty was midnight and I was ready to ride through Sonoma and Napa in the dark again!

About eight miles out of the control, I caught up with John (previous companion) and Clyde. They asked me to slow down a bit as they were unsure of where to go, and I was happy to have some company. Together, we rolled along at a relaxed pace, enjoying another beautiful night.

Calistoga had great coffee again, but I can honestly recommend ever eating Cup-O-Soup Macaroni and Cheese! A group of riders were heading out, including John, Clay, Elaine and a couple on a tandem, and I left with them to enjoy the rolling hills of Napa. This part was enjoyable and fast, but as we started up the climb to Lake Berryessa, I got more fatigued and tired. During the final long climb up Sage Canyon, I stopped for a couple minutes to close my eyes and re-group my thoughts. The sun was just starting to come out, it was cold, misty and beautiful, but I was tired! I finally rolled into the last control as a couple of the other riders were starting to leave. I sacked out in the back room for a half hour, and awoke with renewed vigor to finish this ride in style!

I couldn't check into my hotel until noon, and it was now 7am. I only had 45 miles to go, of which 35 were flat! This one was in the bag, and I went into tourist mode as I cruised through the hills, riding Cardiac and the "dam" climb in reverse. The morning was warming up and it was going to be a glorious day!

I was really excited to see this section during daylight...on the way out I could tell it was beautiful, but in the morning light it really came alive. The hills were green and brown, the canyon walls descended to the river, and the descents were decadent! After the last descent, I enjoyed a nice cruise down the river valley, through the Putah Creek Wildlife Area. There were many people enjoying the river, camping, and checking out the tree farm.

I stopped at the Pleasant Valley Road turn to strip off some layers and lather up the sunscreen, and enjoyed all of the birds in the nearby trees. It was now a mere 30 mile ride to Davis along Putah Creek Rd., with a receipt control about 12 miles from the finish. I was definitely in tourist mode now and was looking for a stand to pick up some fresh-picked strawberries. I couldn't find one that was open, but found a neat bridge to explore.

There were many cyclists up and down Putah Creek Road...all friendly and responsive to waves from a grundgy recumbent cyclist. One even stopped to make sure I was okay when I had pulled over to check my email. How nice! I finally arrived at the finish line at 10:58am, with an hour to spare! I promptly fell asleep. :)

A few post-ride thoughts. First, thanks to the Davis Bike Club, Dan Shadoan (their RBA) and all of the volunteers for putting on an outstanding ride! Support was fantastic and everyone was cheerful, enthusiastic and helpful. If you ever have the opportunity to ride with this group, I recommend it highly!

Second, I feel that getting a good nap in before the ride meant the difference between success and failure for me. While I was tired, there were few times that I was so fatigued that I didn't feel I could continue, and at no point did thoughts of DNFing even enter my head. Coming in to an event like this well-rested is imperative.

Navigating with the Garmin saved me so much time and effort. The Garmin 800 was great to use and provided really useful information along the course. I can't imagine going back to route sheets.

When doing an event this long, it is important to be really well-organized and comfortable on your bike. Knowing where everything was saved time and energy needless digging around looking for something...I'm normally not the most organized guy in the world, but I try to be on a brevet!

What a great ride. I look forward to seeing you out there!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

JV on Bacchetta Dual Pivot versus X-Eyed Brake Calipers, and other braking issues......

I've got issues. If you've read any of my writing, this is no surprise.  ;-) Three of my biggest issues with a lot of recumbents are:
  • Poor braking.
  • Lack of rigidity.
  • Loose seats.
I have a feeling that there are a lot of bent riders out there who will never truly feel in control of their bikes due to one or more of these issues.This makes it hard to hold a nice straight line, descend smoothly, or feel comfortable at speed in tight traffic.

This article is about the braking thing. I am talking here about Bacchetta Dual Pivot and X-Eyed Brake Calipers, but a lot of this is applicable to all braking systems.

A lot of customers ask me about the differences between Bacchetta Dual Pivot and X-Eyed Brake Calipers, so lets start there

Big pluses of the X-Eyed binders:
  • Light! Over 100g lighter for the pair.
  • Stiff!
  • Much higher quality bearings, that come well adjusted out of the box.
  • Much more functional and durable spring followers.
  • Easy to adjust toe.
  • Low aero profile.
Many of these mean a lot less maintenance. You set them up right and they stay that way. I've got crust and goop from 2 full brevet series, RAAM, and several Sepulveda Roubaixs on mine, and they feel smooth as ever. So if your braking power was good initially, and gets worse as they get dirty, these will be more powerful. Yeah, I need to clean mine one of these days.....

However, stopping power is a bigger function of the installation and the other components in the system. I have worked on dozens of Dual Pivot Bacchetta brakes. With some work, all of them became part of extremely powerful braking systems. If you take some measurements of the Bacchetta Dual Pivot, and compare the measurements with Ultegra or Dura-Ace (pronounced Durachi) you might get a big surprise. They are very very similar! So, clearly, the geometry has potential.

Both brakes can be set up to be very powerful with:
  • High quality cables.
  • Intelligent routing of the cables (there are over a dozen pitfalls possible here).
  • Stiff levers and lever bodies.
  • Correct lever location relative to hand location and squeeze direction.
  • Correct attention to hand size and strength.
  • Correct leverage adjustment (on some levers).
I will say this about the X-Eyed calipers: On wider rims, like the new 23.6mm wide HED C2 extrusions, you will have to run modified, or worn, pads to achieve a very powerful brake set up. I know Bacchetta is working on this, and I hope Feather is too. The latest trend in road rims is wiiiide. The Dual Pivots fare better with wide rims.

I have tried some other exotic brakes, but so far the X-eyed is my hands down favorite. I put something else on to test for a bit, and am always happy when I can put the X-Eyed back on.

Now for some general tricks that can make or break any braking system, even with a good caliper:
  • Run the rear cable outside of the hole in the seat clamp, especially if you have the seat farther back. Housing constriction near the caliper is a no no.
  • Most of the pivots on the Dual Pivot are overly tight. To get good braking you will have to tolerate a bit of slop in the brake bearings (bushings in this case) to reduce friction. This is one of the first things I adjust when I am attacking a set of these.
  • Put a drop of oil on everything that moves against anything else: brake bushings, spring stops, spring followers, spring coils if the touch each other, lever pivots, cable end cradle pivot, cable end in cradle.
  • On the X-Eyed, make sure that the front brake cable housing is held vertically under the brake, as the housing stop on the brake will not hold it vertical, and if its not vertical the first part of every pull on the lever will allow the inner wire to slowly put a groove in the red roller rocker  that the housing stop sits in.
  • I have seen overly tight bend radii in the cable housing on new bikes. This adds friction. Friction is very bad. No friction.
  • I've seen some really kinked inner cables on new bikes. Kinks are bad. No kinks. Kinks mean friction. See previous.
  • I have seen overly short housing runs on new bikes, so short that when you release the lever, the housing end comes out on or more housing stops in the path. This is a no no. If part of your hand squeeze goes to seating the housing, you are behind the eight ball already. 
  • Realize that moving your pads away from the pivot (usually called lowering them) results in reduced leverage! So, only buy a frame with as much tire clearance as you need. The farther the brake fixing bolt is from the rim, the less leverage. This applies to every caliper brake I can think of, but not to cantis, U, V, or X(scissor) brakes.
  • Your hands are stronger the more clenched they are.
  • On tweener or U bars, keep in mind that you are pulling aft on a lever that wants to pivot upward. Mount levers as close to actual hand position as possible.
  • Make sure you pads and pad holders do not come in contact with the frame during their travel, statically, or dynamically (when the arms are flexed one way under hard braking). 
  • The Dual Pivot used to come with these little plastic sleeves between the spring and the follower cast into the caliper arm. These either wear and fall off, crack and fall off, or just fall off. The new brass sleeve is a big improvement, and can be retrofitted. 
  • With the proper ferules, shift housing can be used for brakes, its a lot less compressible, but not as flexible, so beware small bend radii.
With a well designed and installed brake system, there is no reason that recumbent brakes can't feel just as snappy and powerful as the ones on top end road bikes, it just takes some attention to the details!