Archive | July, 2010

Taking a Spill

24 Jul

A brief glance at Rachel's bike...

Beyond randonneuring or commuting I’ve also been riding with Rachel for pleasure. Our riding style fits in well with the Slow Bicycle Movement, as we stick to traffic-separated paths for the most part and ride at a slow pace more conducive to chatting, coasting, and observing…a nice contrast with my solo and group rides which emphasize speed, endurance, and (inevitably) suffering.

A few months back we purchased a mid-1960’s-era American Eagle (the predecessor to Nishiki) 5-speed bicycle for her (made by Kawamura Cycles in Japan). It is a beautiful lugged steel bike and appears to have been scarcely ridden until now. We have made some adjustments to it to better fit her, replacing the stem, handlebars, and brake levers so far.

Rachel is a meticulous craftsman (er, woman) – regardless of the medium involved (e.g. needlepoint, technical pen, house paint, etc) – so it was no surprise to me when on her first attempt she did a masterful and stylish job of wrapping her handlebars using white cork tape and red hemp twine.

Prior to adding a coat of shellac as the final touch, we went on a short ride (11.3 miles) towards Lake Balboa Park along the cycling path near our house. Riding into the sun it was somewhat difficult to see, and not long after remarking on the increased responsiveness of the narrow VO Belleville bars, she oversteered over a patch of slippery pine needles, and her bike swept out from under her.

Rolling (surprisingly gracefully, probably from her WuShu training) to safety, she was largely unscathed, much to my great relief. We paused to go over her bike, re-aligning the stem/handlebars, and fixing/adjusting the front brake – and after resting a bit headed off again still in good spirits. Unfortunately, her magnificent handle-bar wrap now has a ragged gash torn through it on one side…thankfully Rachel shrugged off the damage just as quickly as she did the small accident itself – in fact turning it into a new opportunity (should we re-wrap with cloth tape and put on cork grips? should we move to bar-end brakes? etc.):

Rollers to Bonsall 200K

13 Jul

Koi seem to be my brevet 'spirit animal'


I rode the “Rollers to Bonsall” 200K brevet with the San Diego Randonneurs last Saturday. Rachel and I came in to town the evening before and feasted on quite a few properly grilled carne asada tacos at La Fachada. Well sated, we arrived back at the motel so I would be able to get a decent rest, but around 9:30PM I realized that despite all my careful preparation, I had forgotten both my jersey and bib shorts at home. The latter especially are something I consider a necessity for long rides as I find it impossible to ride in regular street clothes for more than 20 or 30 miles without suffering terrible chafing. For me, donning the lycra isn’t about looking cool or being more aerodynamic, it is all about comfort. So we frantically searched for and then raced over to a sporting goods store, arriving just 5 minutes before they closed. I had to buy some cycling shorts that were slightly too big for me, and a shirt (they didn’t have jerseys) that was slightly too small, but at least I would be able to ride the next day. With all this last minute stress I kept waking up throughout the night and hardly slept at all. Oh well.

Around 20 riders showed up for the departure which was great, although I think the larger numbers made it difficult to get everyone registered in time (we rolled out a good 15 minutes late). I noticed quite a few bloggers in attendance (Errin, Esteban, Jerry, Mark…), so read their ride reports if you want to experience Rashomon-like coverage of the event.

I had planned to find someone fast and local to follow, so I could focus more on riding than on navigating (there were quite a few twists and turns on the route, and I’m not familiar with the San Diego area). I ended up tailing Eric Anderson (a recumbent rider I knew from the SLO 300K), but after some long steep slopes I left him behind and found myself alone in the suburbs. I knew Jerry was ahead of me, but he was quite a bit faster so I never did catch up to him.

With caution and a little luck I managed to make it to the next two controls (manned by friendly volunteers who had plenty of fruit and other goodies available) without missing a turn. Passing through well manicured ranch lands between San Diego into Carlsbad, I found myself drafting a manure truck for a few miles. Quite a contrast to the posh surroundings, this was sort of a mixed blessing as the reduced wind resistance enabled me to coast most of the time, but the aromatics and particles making their way back to me left something to be desired.

The stretch into Escondido was rather unattractive so I was pleasantly surprised to find myself in a quiet wooded area just a few miles outside of town up on Jesmond Dene Rd:

My legs started to rebel around this point, as I was maintaining a brisk pace, pushing myself to work harder up the myriad long inclines. I got some respite coasting down Old Hwy 395, a 5 or 6 mile descent before turning off towards Bonsall. This was the northern terminus of the ride, and I had made it 71 miles in about 4.5 hours – so far so good. I downed some chocolate milk, rested for a few minutes, and then got back on the saddle. Eric pulled in just as I was leaving, but I didn’t wait up for him as I figured he would catch up with me later.

There was a lot of construction on the highway, so the route lead us over an abandoned bridge and through an unmarked path before spitting back out to civilization. As I turned towards the coast, the headwinds increased making the 7 mile stretch along the bike path into Oceanside a chore. I paused for 10 minutes or so to help a roadie fix a flat tire so by the time I had popped open a big can of coconut juice at the next control, Eric pulled in. We rode together along the coast, passing by outdoor concerts, beach parties, and through resort towns before picking up speed along the 101/Coast Hwy. Eric passed me, zipping down the descents, and when I thought I could catch up to him going up a long hill, I found myself dragging terribly.

Soon I realized my rear tire had flatted, so I pulled off to fix it. After struggling for 15 minutes to get a new tube on, I nervously pulled back out on to the road – as I couldn’t find the cause of the flat (usually a goathead or piece of metal embedded in the tire tread). Another group of randonneurs passed by me and I wasn’t able to catch up to them either as by now one of my legs was in quite a bit of pain. The beach was gorgeous along this stretch, but I didn’t take any photos as I just wanted to finish. Going up the final steep climb to Torrey Pines I chatted with a local cyclist briefly to take my mind off my knee, which swollen and strained was making me wince with every pedal stroke.

Passing by Sea World and Fiesta Island seemed to take forever as traffic was jammed in every direction due to the Over-The-Line tournament. With something between a smile and a grimace I limped back to the finish, happy that I had not gotten lost and that I had still achieved a personal record [~8.5 hours] for a 200K brevet despite some (minor) physical and mechanical difficulties.

After a much needed shower (I’m not sure how, but I was covered in so much grime by the end of this ride, people were asking if I had crashed), Rachel and I went out to celebrate, walking around a couple neighborhoods we hadn’t seen before on previous visits to San Diego, making stops at Velo Cult, Hamilton’s, Toronado, and The Linkery (where we enjoyed house-made goat head-cheese among other things).

The next day we spent some time hanging out in Balboa Park (where we went to the model railroad museum among other places) before returning to L.A. A great trip – and with the Summer heat finally coming on, I’m looking forward to a 300K in August and a 400K in September that both hug the coastline for pretty much the entire ride…

Midnight Century

2 Jul

I pulled an “all-nighter” yesterday, riding the BICYKILLERS Century, which rolled out at 9:30PM. With some “bonus miles” when I got myself lost around Camarillo, I did 120.19 miles in a total ride time of 8 hours, 5 minutes. Here’s a map. The other riders of this night-time insanity were soon divided into an “A” and “B” group, with me in no-man’s-land in-between. The group at the front had at least three racers in it (including Rich Bartlett), and the pace they were sustaining was pretty remarkable (I think they finished in well under 6 hours including copious time farting around at re-group points). We had a good pace-line going through the valley along Ventura Blvd and were out-running lots of cars. Many people lining the road were cheering us on, including a homeless guy with a shopping cart – very encouraging! We made it to Westlake in amazing time. Next up we climbed Potrero through Hidden Valley (I was on my own by this point) – the high-speed descent over the mountain was thrilling with no cars on the road. I was very pleased with the brilliant illumination provided by my Supernova E3 headlight: the blazing center-line road reflectors rushing past reminded me of something out of Tron.

After getting quite lost among the strawberry fields of the Oxnard Plain, I finally made my way back to PCH just West of Point Mugu. The marine layer hadn’t moved in yet so there was a surreal clarity along the coastline. The reflections of the moon made the roiling Pacific and even the silent cliffs, spilling black shale and sandstone out of their ancient wounds, seem alive. A coyote darted across my path, probably on its way to pilfer the remnants of a meal in one of the somnolent sea-side campgrounds.

In Malibu I caught up to the “B” group (they didn’t take a wrong turn) who was taking a long break at a Chevron. I ate some salt and vinegar chips and downed another chocolate milk and was ready to move out. I dropped most of the group going over the rollers into Santa Monica, although I traded a few pulls with one guy who was spinning a stupendous cadence (I guessed correctly that he usually rides fixed). Back up through the city I watched the sun rise as I slowly made my way up Sepulveda (the hardest climb of the night, especially after riding well over 100 miles). I enjoyed a final long descent returning to the valley, watching the city wake up (including another coyote, this time at Ventura/Beverly Glen, right in the middle of Sherman Oaks). After finishing I rolled over to Panera and squinting through red bleary eyes, ordered a light breakfast to celebrate my finish:

Chai Latte FTW