Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Film review: Ready, Set, Bag!

Note: This post is not bicycle related. But you should read it anyway!

Hey Chico, listen up. There's a movie that will be premiering at the Pageant in January that will make you blush with sympathy, and make you laugh repeatedly.

I had the pleasure of screening the wonderfully awkward-and-hilarious film called Ready, Set, Bag!, and it's a winner. I kept finding myself smiling, and feeling slightly uncomfortable in the same way Best in Show made me feel - except Ready, Set, Bag! isn't a mockumentary. The cast are all real-life grocery industry workers, some with dreams that lie elsewhere, some who are lifers in the grocery industry. The one thing they all have in common is they're headed to Vegas to compete in the National Grocers Associations Best Bagger competition. And they're serious about it. Really serious.

I bagged groceries in 1988 and '89, and had I known there were such a competition of epic oddball grocery-bagging proportions, I'd have been all over it. Pure comedy, this film. Go see it!

"Ready, Set, Bag!" HD Trailer from Ensemble Pictures on Vimeo.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Configurating for The Grand Tour of New Zealand (breweries)

In preparing for my upcoming tour of New Zealand, I tried these two different ways of carrying a light-ish load of ~18lbs (photos are below).

Interesting to note:
• I could easily ride no-handed with either setup, even on slight inclines going slowly.

• The rear panniers caused a big no-handed shimmy if they were even slightly behind the rear axle. If I moved them up 5mm to be even with, or slightly in front of the axle, the shimmy stopped completely. Luckily, I don't have any foot strike on the panniers.

Overall, either way would make a good setup for extended inn-to-inn touring, or for S24O's. For this trip, I'm going with the rear big rack simply because it's faster to assemble and disassemble.

What's in the bags?
• 2 pair cycling shorts, 1 Ibex, 1 Pearl Izumi
• 2 wool short sleeve jerseys (one Ibex, one Rivendell/Woolistic)
• Ibex long sleeve micro merino thing
• Wooly warm wool arm warmers
• Ibex wool 3/4 length leg warmers
• 3 pr Smartwool socks
• 2 pair Ibex wool boxer thingies for off the bike
• Ibex wool beanie
• 2 pair Defeet wool gloves
• REI rain jacket
• Puma sneakers
• Portland Cycle Wear knickers
• Patgonia quick-dry pants
• 1st aid kit
• toiletries kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, Dr. Bronners, floss, etc.)
• toolkit
• spare Hetre tire, 2 spare tubes
• cable lock
• saddle cover
• wet wipes!
• silk sleeping sack
• MSR camp towel
• cotton cycling cap

I think that's it. The panniers are about 70% full, and the handlebar bag is mostly empty (it'll be for food 'n whatnot.)

On my body, I'll have cycling shoes, one of the pairs of shorts/jerseys/gloves, a helmet, glasses, and all the regular crap one wears when cycling.

Configurating for The Grand Tour of New Zealand (breweries)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Book Review: Bike Touring - The Sierra Club Guide to Travel on Two Wheels

Bike Touring - The Sierra Club Guide to Travel on Two Wheels
by, Raymond Bridge
Sierra Club Books, San Francisco

Raymond Bridge has been writing about bicycle touring since I was born, quite literally. His first book, Freewheeling - the Bicycle Camping Book, was printed in 1974, the same year I was born. I happen to own the original, so when I was asked to review the new publication, I was quite excited! Oh, and for the record, here is his first book:

The core of the original is certainly alive and well in his new book, but the execution is significantly different.

With that, we can all agree that Bridge has had a while to contemplate cyclotouring, and to gain experience as an author on the subject. As one might expect, some things like equipment, ease of planning trips and availability of local information has changed significantly. The internet has revolutionized trip planning and the ability to find pertinent information en route. The average production bicycle that most people will tour on is a quantam leap from that of 30-something years ago. The spirit of cyclotouring however, hasn't changed very much.

Bridge covers all sorts of touring styles, from inn-to-inn (or roof-to-roof) touring, to weekenders and overnighters, to supported tours and cross-country journeys. He ties them all together before explaining any of them though, with the following:
"The underlying motivation for this book is to inspire readers to experience some of the remarkable rewards that cycling can provide to anyone with an adventurous nature who enjoys physical activity, the experience of the natural world, and the process of overcoming challenges that are both unique and personal."
Closest to me due to my busy schedule, his coverage of short weekend trips resonates loudly. The following paragraph certainly makes me think of ways to squeeze more of these types of trips in this summer and fall:
"A lot of touring consists of one or two-day weekend rides that cover a circuit fairly close to the cyclist's home, perhaps with longer trips on holiday weekends or vacations. The variety of touring that can be enjoyed even close to home is amazing. Since good cyclists are quite likely to cover 50 or 100 miles on a day's trip, there' is a wide range of possibilities starting from your own doorstep."
Aside from touring styles and planning, Bridge also goes into a surprising (to me) amount of detail with regards to touring bicycle handling, (such as subtleties of trail/caster), frame materials and geometry. The bike geek in me was pleased to see all of these topics covered. And where it makes sense in order to stay on topic, Bridge provides pointers to web sites and news lists. Phreds are mentioned several times in this book. You know who you are. :-)

A list worth noting here is his production road touring bike short list:

• Cannondale Touring 1 and 2
• Cannondale T800, T2000 (older models)
• Trek 520
• Fuji Touring
• Specialized Sequoia & Sequoia Elite
• Specialized Tricross Sport
• Novara Randonee (from REI)
• Bianchi Volpe (up to 2007)
• Jamis Aurora
• Raleigh Sojourn
• Kona Sutra
• Terry Valkyrie Tour (women)

I don't think that list would be complete without adding the Surly Cross Check and Long Haul Trucker. Likewise, I'd consider the SOMA Double Cross as a must-have in that list.

Several custom builders and higher-end makers are also mentioned including Rivendell, Bruce Gordon, Waterford, Kogswell, Co-Motion and others, but given the current explosion of framebuilders in the United States, one would have a hard time listing all the good ones.

The book is paperback, and filled with illustrations (but no photos). At over 460 pages, there is almost certainly useful information for most people with an interest in bicycle camping, touring, mountain touring, and just about any other kind of two-wheeled adventure travel.

Lastly, given that I tend to get "pointy" when it comes to the Sierra Club's stance on certain, but certainly not all, topics, I feel it important to mention that Bridge does an excellent job of keeping politics out of his book. This is a book about cyclotouring, and a thorough one at that. If I had to rate this book on a five star scale, I'd rate it 5 for completeness, 4 for production quality, 3 for design, and 4.5 for editing. There were some typos and extra words that weren't spotted by the editors, but eh, I don't really care. I was inspired to go touring, and that's ultimately what counts with a book like this: the author meets his goal, which is to get people on the bike.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Idaho Stop

I generally operate on logic, and for the best of me, I can't figure out how the "Idaho Stop" law isn't on the books in every state. It's simple, makes sense and still requires cyclists to behave like law-abiding citizens. Aside from that, this animation is visually great, so do yourself a favor, and watch it!

Bicycles, Rolling Stops, and the Idaho Stop from Spencer Boomhower on Vimeo.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Cyclocross Santa Rosa: Doyle Park

There's long been an idea knocking around in my head that I love Sonoma County and want to live there someday. This weekend furthers that notion. What a place on Earth - perhaps the best place.

Team Paul (minus Lau Ackerman, who is undergoing knee surgery. Get well soon Brother Lau!) headed to Santa Rosa for a weekend of rain-soaked muddy cyclocross racing, touring of three breweries in three days, and some bicycle day touring on the Sonoma coast. Mission accomplished: fast-n-dirty racing, brewery trifecta (Russian River Brewing, Bear Republic Brewing, Hopmonk), beautiful coastal riding, great fun and people second to none.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Barrier hoppin' and diggin' in

Roy Steves has some good photos of the team at finals a few weeks back.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

My SF Randonneurs Pt. Reyes 200k DNF

I hadn't ridden more than 80 miles in one sitting since the last 200k, but given my decent base, and the fact that I'd been racing cyclocross all winter, I figured I would hop on the bike and ride the season opener with the San Francisco Randonneurs. Great company, world class scenery, possibility of bad weather. Sounds great!

photo by Damien
I was up at 5:30am to go through my normal routine: coffee times two with bagel(s), hot shower, get going. I was staying at a friend's house in Sausalito, so my trip to the bridge was minimal. As I rolled over the Golden Gate to the start control, the wind was howling. I wasn't too worried yet, because the wind always knocks one around on the bridge. The Pacific can blow, and she nearly never feels the need to stop.

As I arrived at the control, nearly everyone seemed to be there. 100 riders (maximum capacity) for this season opener, and the sun itself was still asleep. Bicycle lights were blazing. Reflecto-geeky attire was in full effect. The biggest collection of amazing rando bikes I'd ever seen; Rivendell, Toei, Pelican, Kogswell, Ebisu - they were all there. The women's bathroom was out of order, so women and men were using the same one. As it was my turn, a guy wearing roadie cleats/shoes slipped and fell to the wet public bathroom floor, landing on his tailbone. He sat there, not saying anything. It definitely hurt, given the amount of time he kept his eyes closed, swallowing the pain. He finally eeked out, "well, that's not a good way to start the day." A young woman and I peed next to each other, and then I went to hear Rob Hawks give orders for the day.

The ride started out well. Perfect overcast-yet-dry skies, no wind once we left Sausalito. Warm enough, but cool enough to keep me cool. The bicycle headlights were soon turned off. My stomach didn't feel great though... as if the too-much-garlic from the previous night's pizza was nagging me. I thought it would go away in no time, but in fact it would come back to haunt me.

(photo by JimG)

Compared to the racers I often ride with in Chico, I've noticed that many SF randonneurs don't paceline very well; it felt like more of a loose organism than a tightly controlled wind-breaking machine. Randonneurs could save a lot more time and energy by pacelining properly. That said, it is such a fun group of like-minded folks, I only thought about this fact for a minute or two as the groups became separated by traffic lights, and in the first hills. Then we were mostly alone.

Even though I lived in Marin in the late 90's, rode in Marin, drove in Marin fished in Marin and ran in Marin, I'm always blown away by the beauty of Marin. Every time I come back to visit. There's something about the freshness of the air, the everpresent reminders of the Pacific (fog, mist, sloughs, marshes, seabirds, fishing boats, howling winds) that really make my heart pitter patter like no other place on Earth. I do love it there, yuppies, hippies, grumpies and all. Marin, for me, might hold the best cycling on the planet.

As the affluent and beautiful suburbs of southern Marin passed us by, we headed over White's hill and through San Geronimo Valley, then JimG and I took the off-road option through Samuel P. Taylor State Park. It was a mud-soaked affair, and when we got back on the road, I looked like I'd been in a cyclocross race. It's the same path I rode with Cyclofiend and Jim last fall, and there were a few times I caught myself thinking, "man, I wish the other Jim were riding with us!"

Jim Gourgoutis

The fences disappear in the west of Marin, and cattle guards become the only man-made containment mechanisms for all the dairy cows. I reckon the country is just too rugged to escape, and the milk gals just can't go anywhere that isn't on the road, so a few steel bars across the road does the trick. In cattle guard country, fat tires are a good thing. And between the cattle guards and metric tons of rain-soaked cow shit and mud, so are fenders.

It's a funny mind game, the route out to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse. The approach reminds you that for every hill you crest, there is another waiting for you no matter which direction you choose. My strategy was to focus on the unthinkable beauty of the hills falling to the coast, the sun trying to get through the translucent yellow-haloed grey blanket of clouds, and the lack of wind in a land where there are no trees because the wind is generally so bad. Coyote. Deer. Egret. It was a good number of things to take in as we headed west, and while the riding was tough, the experience was sublime.

At mile 45 or so, my Stomach Thing started waking up. I could feel hints of it along the route, but to this point I was still far too excited to let it bother me. I figured I could ride through it. Maybe gas? Lack of salt? Drinking enough? Only ten hard miles to Control #1 at mile 55.

Jim and I rolled into the control, and after getting our brevet cards signed, we heard the volunteer say that there were only about 30 of 100 people ahead of us. Good! We were making great time! I ate half a sandwich, drank the remainder of my first water bottle, and we rolled out, headed back through the hills toward Inverness and Pt. Reyes Station. We spent maybe 10 or 15 minutes at the control.

Back through the hills, my stomach started to go, um, downhill. What was a whisper of a cramp slowly turned into a full blown sour stomach cauldron, Long Knives Drawn episode. But I pedaled on with Jim for 21 miles or so into Pt. Reyes. By this point, I felt feverish, achy, and the stomach thing wasn't going anywhere. I told Jim to just go on without me to the next control in Marshall. I told him I thought I was out of the brevet. I called Claire (my wife) to see where she was, and to ask if need be she could come grab me from Pt. Reyes if need be. She confirmed, but I told her I'd call her later. When Jim left, I got horizontal on a public bench, and thought about my choices. It was an out-and-back 17 mile arm to the Marshall control, and I figured if I could stay down for a bit, things might get better. After a half hour and a cup of coffee from Bovine Bakery, I texted Claire telling her I was bailing on the brevet, but would start riding back toward the Golden Gate. Stand by just in case.

Shortly after I sat up and had thrown a leg over my Saluki, still in Pt. Reyes, I ran into Brian and Gabe, who offered me Tums. My stomach was so rank that I couldn't take the stuff. So off they went toward Marshall, and I decided to click in, and bail on the Marshall control. I just needed to head back.

I pedaled slowly toward Olema, climbed out of Olema toward Samuel P. Taylor state park and Lagunitas. I rolled back through the gravel/mud option that Jim and I cranked through earlier in the day. Alone in the gravel, the quietness of the tree canopy had a soothing effect on my mind, and surprisingly, my stomach started to feel a bit better. I kept the pedals turning much slower than I wanted, but really, there was little choice to be had in the matter, so I took what I could get. I was running on fumes at this point. Exit the park. Sir Francis Drake. Fairfax. San Anselmo. Ross. Kentfield. Camino Alto.

I got to the bottom of Camino Alto as it dumps into Mill Valley, and lo and behold, there's Claire, on her bike with her friend sitting at the traffic light at Blithedale just getting back from their own ride on the Paradise Loop. I was less than a half mile from our truck and her friend's house it turned out, and I had just rolled over 100 miles. Twenty four miles from completing my brevet, and not regretting my choice to abandon. Heck, I still got to climb all the 7700+ feet of hills... I was glad to be done, and looking forward to lying down after a shower.

Almost to my friend's house in Sausalito, I saw my crew (JimG) rolling toward the finish control. In the time that had passed, I had lost a half hour trying to get better, and then my riding pace was slow enough that he nearly caught me, even though I cut 20 miles off the course. That's how slowly I limped back south. Phew! I yelled some words of encouragement to Jim, and headed on up the hill, to hot water and down pillows. The stomach thing was on and off for the remainder of the evening, but today I feel pretty good, albeit a bit sore in the legs.

Could I have finished? I likely could have unless something went terribly wrong. Jim's time was around 9:45, and I imagine I'd have finished an hour after that. The bigger question for me though is, would it have been fun on any level to have stayed out there for another couple of hours fighting bio-failure? Eh, not really. I'm stubborn when it comes to these things, and apparently/obviously I like suffering. But on this day, the fire just wasn't in me to battle my stomach issues, so I made a decision and stuck with it.

I'll be back out there, likely on the Davis 200k in March, the Russian River brevet in April, not to mention some of the upcoming Chico Velo rides.

Notes to self
• didn't use rain jacket or gloves, shoe covers, or extra socks
• ate less than half of the food I packed (gels, bars, dried fruit, beef jerky, figs). Attribute to stomach ailments.
• Left knee was pinging pretty nicely the last 30 miles. Suspect too-wide crankset. Changing this week.
• the borrowed NR MiNewt light was extremely bright, but offered poor mounting options. When on, it interfered with the wireless cyclometer - no reading.
• 44cm bars feel too wide. On this, and other bikes.
• don't do well with onions or garlic. Stay away from it before big rides!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Bringin' it home for Team Paul

Well, I stuck it out in the C's this season, and brought home the win for Team Paul. As Paul says, ' TEAM PAUL DOMINATES THE SLOW CLASS OF A REALLY SMALL RACE SERIES!'

And so it was, my first cyclocross season, and probably my last season of winning. What does an Overall Winner receive in a tiny race series? Well, for one, a custom etched 1st Place beer mug bigger than my head. Any astute Chico Gino readers realize this may well be a Gift from God in these parts. It's true. We like beer here.

I also received a nice $50 gift certificate to a bike shop in Redding (that's a good number of tubes!), some Yerba Mate, a Redline beanie, and a pint glass from Kona Cycles, which has a sketch of a fella doing a table top on a penny farthing, with the descriptive exclamation, "SICK!". More cycle-themed beer implements... I'm in love.

Oh, I've also been advised to not come back unless I'm willing to move up a class. I guess it's time to start training harder for the B's next fall.
Zahnd in the lead, by jnkochs