Archive | August, 2010

In the Bag

18 Aug

I have been pleased with my Velo Orange Baguette, a handle-bar-bag that I think will provide sufficient space for food and personal effects on anything up to an unsupported double-century…but when you start talking about unsupported rural 600K+ events in variable weather, an increased carrying capacity becomes necessary. So a couple weeks ago, I purchased this:

(click to enlarge)

Considering you can pick up THREE Carradice Barley saddle-bags for the price of a single Acorn Large saddle-bag, I felt a bit foolish pulling the trigger on the latter. It basically started off as a high-end knock off – much like offerings from Origin8 or Zimbale – but it seems to have evolved into the superior product:

  • I suspect it will hold its shape better than the Barley (which might deform if loaded heavily) thanks to the addition of wooden dowels and a polyethelene liner.
  • The leather “stand-off” is a cheap and elegant solution to the problem of the bag crashing into your thighs as you pedal, especially compared to the $45 Bagman rack offered by Carradice.
  • The side pockets are easier to get in and out of (not having to un-do buckles every time you open them) – a boon for fingers rendered cold and clumsy by fatigue.
  • It is at least as versatile – with an expanding collar, options to attach lashing or the Acorn roll bag (which I already own and use), and loops for an optional shoulder strap.
  • For what it’s worth, it is crafted locally by a husband-and-wife duo.

In the “con” column, the Acorn bag has slightly less capacity and slightly more weight. The “cotton-duck” canvas they utilize is not waxed, so it may not offer the same water protection as the Carradice; however, if I find this to be a problem I can always waterproof the bag myself. Paperwork, food, and (if rain threatens) electronics always reside in sealed plastic bags anyway while aboard my bike or in my jersey pockets.

If it works well on my longest rides, I’ll put these picayune feelings of buyer’s remorse to rest for good. September will put it (and me) to the test, as I’ve scheduled both a 400K and (*gulp*) a 1000K ride before the month is out!

Sunset 300

10 Aug

Until now, every brevet or permanent I’ve ridden has been a loop. Last Saturday I rode an out-and-back 300K from Old Town San Diego up to Sunset Beach and back. If you think seeing the same scenery twice is a bit dull, well you wouldn’t necessarily be wrong – on the other hand there are some advantages to a route like this: in particular a reduced risk of getting lost on the way back (of course I managed to throw in a couple bonus miles anyway).

The weather was fantastic – cool but not cold with a light marine layer hanging around for most of the day – this in the first week of August no less! Perfect for hammering without overheating. Carlton from Arizona had signed up, but didn’t show up at the start – I ended up following the wheel of another strong Arizona randonneur, Mike Sturgill (wearing his Boston-Montreal-Boston jersey – a very cool design) along with Jim Verheul on his ‘bent. After the descent down Torrey Pines, we chatted a bit pushing hard past the stench of the lagoons (sewage?) on through the still sleepy beach-towns. Our early start (4AM) and our high pace meant that we made it to Oceanside before day-break.

Next we entered the I-5, riding along the wide shoulder skirting the guard gates at the Camp Pendleton entrance. When we reached the bike path it was fairly rough, but the main concern was evading the dozens of cotton-tails darting in and out of the bushes, often running right alongside our feet or wheels. The cement looked like an abandoned air-strip, and after a long false flat we reached San Onofre – the campground is essentially a parking lot stretched out for miles, the ocean obscured by a short berm running the length of the campground, with lots of RVs and tents dotting the base of the small hill. Not much to look at through this stretch, except for some very fit surfers and joggers I suppose…

Heading into Orange County traffic picked up a bit, but there seemed to be more cyclists on the road than cars. We alternately blasted by swarms of team-kit wearing weekend-warriors, and once or twice were nearly sucked into the wake of a group of very fast riders (though I didn’t latch on, since doing so would violate the rules of randonneuring – you can only draft riders that are officially riding the brevet with you – though I doubt I could have kept up anyway!).

Before I knew it we were through Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Newport Beach, Huntington Beach, and rolled into the mid-way-point control in Sunset Beach. The highlight of this leg was the estuary at Bolsa Chica – with thousands of cranes drowning out the traffic! I paused at a 7-11 to eat another one of my onigiri, washed down with a smoothie, chocolate milk, and apple juice. After grabbing another chocolate milk for the road I raced back up to Mike who had went on ahead (Jim picked up the pace even more so). I mostly clung to his rear wheel on the flats, but would pass him on the climbs – we often split up to avoid the worst of the traffic and eventually he dropped back, caught out by a series of rollers and/or red lights. He passed me at a control in San Clemente, and I didn’t see him again until the end, as I got myself a little lost on the way back to Camp Pendleton. The ride back to the start was basically a busier slightly more painful version of the first 93 miles (it was especially painful to pass up stopping in to Pizza Port San Clemente – considering how good their beer selection is). It wasn’t exactly lonely though, as I once in a while I would exchange waves with some of the more leisurely riders still on their way up the coast as I rushed back down towards San Diego.

Nearing the end, my knee started to burn from cranking up the hills, but I pushed on even harder, figuring I was close to the 12 hour mark (I didn’t want to look at the time yet though). I pulled into the start/finish and was surprised to discover I had finished in just 11 hrs and 12 minutes! Pretty good considering I didn’t sleep the night before, arriving in San Diego on the train at 1AM. The pre-ride carbo-loading at Santana’s (a burrito with fries in it? – surprisingly good actually) and the conversation with John Mestemacher (who rode to the start from the O.C.!) put me in the right mood for a fast ride I guess…

Sad to say I only took one photo, and it didn’t come out – so you’ll have to make due with a map for now (or go watch Jim Verheul’s VIDEO he made from the ride):

(click to enlarge)

Metric Meltdown

4 Aug

On Sunday I headed over to the North Hollywood station to meet up with the Bicykillers who were doing a tough metric century in the middle of the day. Ten riders showed up at the start (let’s see how well I can remember names): Lee, Illy, Jeff, Ron, Leo, Lindsay, Alfredo, Vic, Craig, and myself. Rolling out a little before noon, we kept a pretty civilized pace to wake up the legs along Chandler before cutting down to Ventura Blvd.

Along Ventura into Encino we began to ride a little closer together, though not as a tight pace-line because of the pot-holes and traffic. Four or five of us made it up and over the first hill of the day and then pulled off on Topanga to wait for the rest of the group to catch up. And we waited…and waited…and waited…

After a few minutes, there was no sign of the rest of the group. After a few brief exchanges via iPhone, we learned that there had been a crash, so we turned around the way we had came, and discovered a scene of minor carnage outside of Fatburger. Jeff and Lindsay had tangled up in traffic – thankfully neither was badly hurt – and I didn’t know what was more cringe-inducing: Jeff’s gleaming new SRAM Red rear derailleur bent out at a bizarre angle from the twisted hanger, or Lindsey’s fileted shin. We all stood around grimly, discussing the details of the crash. By the time we finally started out again, Jeff was catching a bus, and Alfredo was too shook up to continue (he was right behind the pair when they went down, and blamed himself because he shouted when a car seemed to be merging into the group).

Lindsay is a strong tough rider, and soldiered on undeterred by her road rash. I know she felt pretty bad about running into Jeff, but in true roadie fashion, most everyone consoled her by making inappropriate jokes about her breaking things and taking the “bicykiller” name literally. Some members of this group have elevated trash-talk to an art-form really…

Anyway – up Topanga we went (passing some enthusiastic obese hoola-hoopers in a park on the way, sorry no photos):

The Rapha Sharp team leads-out up Topanga...

…and down, then pausing to re-stock at Topanga General Store (carrot juice, V8, and a granola bar for me), we carried on up Old Topanga. Craig went ahead and was never seen again – we suspect he went back to the valley.

The tree cover offered a nice respite – which I enjoyed without bothering to photograph. Next up we went up a very steep section of Muholland Hwy (I think?) that found me walking a few yards before taking a deep breath and carrying on. We stopped at a gated-community guard tower to re-fill our water bottles. Leo soon called to let us know he was dropping out as he broke his chain on the ascent and couldn’t repair it (I had a chain tool but no master-links).

After a few minutes, Mannuel caught up with us (climbing like a maniac, but then he climbs the 39 regularly) on his Torelli, and joined us for the rest of the ride. We crossed the road and raced down 7-minute hill before re-crossing Mulholland to begin our assault up one of the more famous climbs in the Santa Monica Mountains: Stunt Road. Surrounded by hundreds of acres of chaparral, looming sandstone cliffs, and thick hidden riparian woodlands fed by the Cold Creek watershed streaming down from the heights of Saddle Peak, Stunt Road is an extended (4 miles?) 5 – 6% grade with a few 8%+ sections. A popular challenge among motorcyclists, car clubs, hikers, and of course cyclists – this twisting scar above the transverse range offers an unrelenting climb rewarded by a superior view of the Channel Islands in one direction (except for the marine layer) and this in the other:

We re-grouped at the top before heading down Fernwood back to Topanga (a very fast and twisting descent – technically difficult for me, and while fun, it was also a little scary). The people-watching was surreal in Fernwood – in particular there was a surfer/model couple who seemed like a pair of endangered birds and was dressed in an even more precious/weird manner than our group of lycra-clad road warriors.

After making impressive time pace-lining to PCH, we ran into incredibly dense traffic. I lane-split while commuting routinely, but have never done so on a group ride before – a bit hair-raising! When we were able to, we pulled off to ride through a long beach parking-lot which offered some temporary relief from the crush of cars back on the road:

Relinquishing the ocean breeze, we turned inland in Santa Monica, hammering our way back towards the valley, cutting through the Beverly Hilton property to cross Wilshire and following wide pristine mansion-flanked side roads up to Franklin Canyon, where I picked up the pace knowing the road well as it forms part of my daily commute home.

Descending Coldwater I kept shouting “car back” as a car would approach us from behind, but we were traveling so fast around the curves that the motorists couldn’t catch up to us. Back in the valley, we ended up at Ron’s apartment where we enjoyed good beer, good company, and the largest pizza I’ve ever seen: