Archive | November, 2010

Wolfpack Hustle All City Century #4

20 Nov

...my hard-won Wolfpack sticker...

Once a year, Wolfpack Hustle (perhaps the oldest of the fast-paced Midnight Ridazz weekly night rides) puts on a century  through the heart of greater urban Los Angeles. Monday night celebrated their fourth year. I think my Casseroll weighs twice what the majority of bikes do on this ride, but that didn’t stop me from showing up at 9:30PM to pick up a doughnut and route sheet. I’d been up since 5:00AM, and had 40 miles of commuting (during which I broke my rear derailleur cable…) plus a few miles to get to the start in Silverlake in my legs…

Route Slip...

There were around 50 – 60 people at the start, quite an impressive group. The crowd was diverse: One guy showed up with a bike that had a massive bullhorn mounted on the rear rack, and he was blasting old time music out of it into the night…he was surprisingly fast, keeping up with the main group for the first few miles until he had a spoke-breaking crash. Another rider showed up on a pursuit bike with a disc wheel in back, a carbon rimmed tubular in front, aero bars and (supposedly) 55×12 gearing! We had a half dozen other people come in “party ride” mode, pretty much all of them dropped off before we even reached the San Fernando valley.

It was a bit claustorphobic riding so close together among a large group of cyclists of varying experience – and I was relieved when the “A” group broke away (and surprised to find myself as part of it) on the first sustained climb of the evening up La Crescenta. I was slowly getting dropped until we crested the hill. Another couple riders tangled up due to a miscommunication at a stop-light, and on the extended mild descent down Foothill Blvd I found myself back up in front.

We pulled into our first stop at Balboa/Rinaldi, waiting while two or three more waves of riders pulled in. I drank a liter of chocolate milk in the interim. Once everyone had refueled/rested a bit, we headed out again – careening down De Soto and zipping around the Warner Center. Coming down Corbin, a smaller residential street on our way down to Ventura Blvd, we all came to a shouting skidding stop at a red light right in front of a cop car – we all gawked at the car for a few moments, until the officer broke the silence by chuckling over the intercom. He sent us on through the intersection admonishing us to “move those legs!”

With a number of Cat-1, 2, and 3 racers up front, the pace surged when we hit Ventura Blvd, with a series of brief attacks sending the more human among us scrambling to latch on to a wheel. We were through Encino in no time at all, stopping again at the base of Sepulveda. Cranberry juice, a couple dried bananas, and I was feeling OK. I was underdressed but not too cold, though I was eager to get rolling again after we waited for a couple more groups to catch up. John commented on my situation with his usual understatement: “Jesus man – Aren’t you fucking freezing? I’m getting cold just looking at you! Don’t you have any leg warmers or something in all those bags hung all over your bike? Hell, just put the bags on!” Huffing and puffing up Sepulveda I was hot before long, despite the temps in the upper 40s. On the climb I couldn’t hang on to the lead group, and spent the next 20 miles trying to catch up. I would pass or be passed by a handful of other riders who were getting dropped or getting a second wind, and this was really the only part of the ride that I did solo.

At the bottom of the descent, I managed to find three other riders going my pace, all of them fast fixed gear riders and we pace-lined hard down to Westchester. The fog was so thick, my glasses became useless, and I ended up missing our turn and nearly riding into LAX. We back-tracked a bit and with my heart feeling like it would explode, we reached the “A” group at a 7-11 on Manchester, mostly looking well rested. Riders pulled in too quickly behind us, some skidding out and tumbling over on the slick concrete leading into the parking lot. Ice cream, potato chips, halva, dried fruit…my heart rate finally came back down. I chatted with a few other riders and hid from the cold inside the store until everyone was ready to roll. We had a decent sized group on Florence, but the front group split us up when we turned North again. The streets were mostly empty in the ‘hood, but occasionally we’d see a figure running down the sidewalk (one crazy individual ran out in front of one of the groups behind me).

Blow outs, broken shifter cables and other mechanicals plagued us, until the pace-line was down to just four of us – killing ourselves to bridge the increasing gap between us and the array of blinking red lights flying away into the night. We kept accelerating and trading attacks rather than pulls until we embraced our “B” group status (leaving the racing to the racers) and went back to figuring out the rest of the route.

From Monterey Park we rode West to Downtown, eventually hitting Caeser Chavez, Sunset, and back to the start at Tang’s.

Tang's

Regrouping at the end, we headed off to Denny’s for a repast, but were turned away by the host when we tried to bring 10-15 bikes inside and stack them up near the waiting area. Watching John try everything from basic logic to bribery was highly amusing, but the host wouldn’t budge on his “policy” so the group went to another Denny’s a few miles away that let them all in (I opted to take the subway home instead, which had just started running at 4:30AM – I was in bed about an hour later).

My first Bicykillers was a century route, and now my first Wolfpack was a century route – wondering if I can keep up this pattern with T.R.F.K.A.S., Cyclones, or one of the other “hustles” – ?

Tons of photos here

John taking photos...

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Malibu Coastal Cruise 200K

7 Nov

Ready for take-off?

So, we are entering the “off season” for cyclists across much of the country – soon the cold weather will drive many indoors to their trainers, their rollers, or to spin class. Meanwhile (as recently as a few days ago), in Southern California temperatures still hover in the 90s as we flirt with the arrival of Autumn. Seasons here are barely discernable, the natural rhythms muted or contorted. On Saturday, it finally cooled off a bit, so it was a perfect day for a ride.

The “Malibu Coastal Cruise” is one of the more popular RUSA permanents, thanks to its gorgeous scenery and relative lack of elevation gain (only about 1500 feet over 208K). On Saturday, the PCH Randoneurs rode it as a RUSA brevet and we had a small but enthusiastic group show up for the ride.

I left home around 4:15AM, biking 34 miles to the start in Malibu, enjoying the empty bike path and the dark solitude of Topanga Canyon. On the descent, I realized that I had installed a fender stay bolt that was too long, as it locked my chain/drive-train up when I shifted into my highest gear (oops). I managed to take the rear wheel off and wrestle the chain free, switching out the bolt when I reached the start. All this work was for nothing; as someone else remarked, installing new fenders ensured that there was no rain.

Wanting to finish in less than 8 hours, I rushed off ahead of the group, reaching Point Dume on my own, passing a few groups of roadies on my way. Sea-gulls formed huge arrow-shaped formations, strung out over the horizon while hugging the water-front. Not long into the ride, Bruno (an experienced rider I hadn’t met before) passed me on his Merlin, and we traded pulls until Point Mugu, where he went off the front, and I couldn’t hang on to his wheel any longer. For most of the day, if I looked ahead of me, I would see him just out of reach:

Bruno breaking away on the 101...

I’d catch up to Bruno at the controls, and we even had a leisurely chat at the mid-way point in Carpinteria (I needed some time to re-fuel properly, as I was fighting cramps from the pace). When we turned around to come back home, we ran into Shai, Jim, and Marcus (the former two riding a fixed gear and a mountain bike respectively!) who seemed hot on our heels.

Bruno pulled ahead again on the way to Ventura, but by the time we reached Emma Wood State Beach, he was fighting off a bonk. I assumed he would latch on to my wheel, but a few miles down the road, I realized he was nowhere to be seen. I stopped in Port Hueneme to mix up some more electrolyte drink and down more chocolate milk, apple juice, and some jerkey and dried bananas – feeling better, I upped the pace when I hit PCH again.

The view of the beaches, some abbreviated coves hidden from campers and tide-pool invaders, were stunning – the ocean remarkably blue, off-set by the gray sky. Alas, my attempts to capture some snippet of these vistas range from the mediocre to the comical…

(click to enlarge)

On my way back over Point Dume, traffic started to back up – at the top, the CHP had blocked off the road entirely. Waiting a few minutes, I saw a car riding against traffic in the fat left lane, a long arm sticking out from its undercarriage across the right lane and shoulder, a camera mounted to the end. After waiting a little longer, the CHP waved me forward, and I was back on track.

(Stay behind) the CHP...

From here, it was up and down some rollers, watching the addresses slowly wind down as I got closer to the finish. I pulled in to the Starbucks less than 7hrs and 45minutes from the time I left. I had time to organize my receipts and eat a big chocolate brownie before Bruno arrived after 10 or 15 minutes. After that, I did some people watching for another hour before the other riders started arriving (the group just behind us in Carpinteria had stopped for a proper lunch). Everyone seemed to have a great day out there and it was fun talking to Errin and Marcus at the end, and amusing to see that my Casseroll outweighed even Jim’s mountain bike!

The path of the Surfliner along Los Padres (click to enlarge)

Kronan the Barbarian

1 Nov

Assembled! (click to enlarge)

I’ve been looking around at various options for a utility bike – something to handle load-hauling, grocery-getting, pub-going, bike-path-cruising, picnics, and other short trips in street clothes where speed isn’t a priority.

I considered building up a Velo Orange Polyvalent, or picking up a Workcycles FR8 or a Civia Loring, but I wanted something less expensive. I looked at a KHS Green, a Linus Roadster and a Public D1 – but none of them seemed particularly suited to hauling a front load.  Converting an older mountain (or even road) frame was a possibility, but finding something suitable (for the right price) proved more difficult than I anticipated. Workcycles produces some suitable options, but then I encountered the bike pictured above: Based on a design by the Swedish Army, the Kronan resumed production at first in Poland, and more recently in Taiwan. Bicycle Fixation posted a well written review of this model (aptly describing it as a “muscle beach cruiser”), so when I saw that they were on sale (20% off), I ordered one.

I assembled it today and had a quick ride up and down the street (my cold precluded me from taking it further) – the low pressure 650b tires (weirdly, the tubes have Woods valves!) eat up pot-holes amazingly well. The carrying capacity should make “car-free” life a lot easier…despite it being a single speed and weighing in at ~55lbs+