SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.



I think the MUNCH Nut Bar (munchnutbar.com) -- brought to us by the
makers of the penultimate SNICKERS bar -- might make for some tasty
ride food. Right up there with the famous PAYDAY bar...

I'm still plotting/planning my savory pepperoni+cheese bitesized-scone
idea though!


Fuji CX goes to 8 speed!

Last night I finally finished up some bike-tweaking that I've been
trying to get to for quite a while...

When I built the Fuji CX up I used some scrounged wheels I had in the
shop, consisting of some old Wolber rims, early 105 freewheel hubs,
and a 7-spd Sachs FW I've been hording in my parts drawer for at least
10 years. I manged to coax the 9-spd barcon to index on the 7-spd FW
using an extreme version of the "alternate cable routing" trick
described at sheldonbrown.com. At any rate, the rear wheel was
problematic at first, and gave me some dishing/truing problems, making
me think that the rim itself is warped. It's actually held up much
better than I expected, but the FW hub makes me nervous (even though
I'm lightweight, I've bent FW-hub axels before on both road bikes and
MTBs) and I really want 8 or 9 speed compatability to better index
with the 9-spd barcon shifter.

So, I kept looking for a good used cheap wheelset on the local
Craigslist, and I found one a few weeks ago -- a guy who lived 1 block
from me was selling a set of Mavic CXP-21s laced to current-gen/9-spd
105 hubs...and he sold 'em to me for $65, which I thought was a darn
good deal. I'm not too sure about the CXP-21 rims...they don't have
eyelets, and I'm a big fan of those (an aside: the CXP-22s DO have
eyelets). They're also about 1mm narrower than the tried-n-true Open
Pro or MA-2 rims, making me wonder about their capability for wider CX
tires. Finally, the oddest thing about them is that, presumably due
to their semi-aero profile, the sidewall braking surface is only about
7.3mm tall, compared to the 10-12mm found on Open Pros and other rims.
V-brake pads are actually TALLER than the rim sidewall, making pad
adjustment a more precise task.

Some poking around on the web made me realize that lots of CX bikes
come with these rims as OEM (e.g., Cannondale) so I figured that
they'd work well enough. I've spent random evenings over the past few
weeks adjusting the hubs (the grease is still fresh-n-clean!) and
truing the wheels, trying to achieve balanced spoke tension. I
initially thought these wheels were reasonably true, but after getting
them home and in the wheelstand I saw differently. Nothing horrible,
but certainly worse than I'd ride. The front rim also had a minor
sidewall ding that I didn't catch when I was buying them, either --
looks like somebody hit a curb or a big pothole or something with an
underinflated tire.

Finally, I spend some more time truing the wheels last night, and
finally got them "good enough". I'm reasonably happy with the
spoke-tension-balance in both wheels, but the front could be a little
straighter. I got some tires mounted (700x35mm foldable Specialized
TriCross -- thought I'd try 'em since they're "Yet Another Set of CX
Tires Kicking Around the Shop") and I also installed the
filth-n-grunge-caked-on XTR 12-32 8spd cassette I picked up for $5 at
last year's Veloswap (I thought it was 9spd when I bought it, DOH).
It cleaned up nicely with lots of elbow grease, an old toothbrush, and
some degreaser. It actually doesn't look too worn and I think it'll
work, which is great because it's LIGHT.

I mounted the wheels, adjusted the v-brakes to suit, and then
re-routed the rear derailleur cable to use the "standard" alternate
cable routing which is supposed to make 9-spd shifters index on an
8-spd cogset. I'm happy to report that works great (at least in the
workstand). Although I don't have a scale to weigh it, the bike feels
quite a bit lighter now, due to the freehub, XTR cassette, and lighter
tires. Looking foward to a quick test ride tonight after work!

On a tangential note, there's a Fuji CX just like mine up on Ebay
right now: http://tinyurl.com/qvjvx I'm curious to see what it sells


Marin Headlands Loop + Paradise Valley Loop

Originally uploaded by jimgskoop.
53 mile ride with Storkk through the Marin Headlands then Paradise Valley, with a lunch stop in Tiburon, where I had an EXCELLENT egg-salad sammich.

Date: 8.26.2006
Mileage: 53
Bike: ADVN
Time: 10am - 3:30pm(?)


bike commute to work video

Video of my daily bike commute to work, down Market Street in SF.


Ride to Pine Mountain

Fuji Cross and a big rock
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop.
62 mile mixed-terrain ride with Carlos and Cyclofiend Jim. Route as follows:

-Meet up with folks in Mill Valley
-Enter RR Grade at end of W. Blithedale Ave.
-(R) Hoo Koo Ee Koo
-(L) Blithedale (~100 yards)
-(L) Indian Fire Road (an incline)
-(R) Eldridge to Lake Lagunitas
-North on Sky Oaks Rd
-(L) Bon Tempe Meadow Trail (unmarked?)
-(L) Fairfax-Bolinas Rd
-(R) Pine Mtn Truck Rd
-Drop down into Woodacre
-Connect w/Sir Francis Drake and ride back home via the usual route thru Fairfax

Date: 8.19.2006
Mileage: 62
Bike: Fuji Cross
Time: 8am - 5:30pm

Ride Report:

Yesterday, intrepid iBOBers Carlos, Cyclofiend, and yours truly met up for another epic mixed-terrain ride across the highways and fire roads near Mount Tamalpais. I left my flat just a few minutes after 8am and sped through the Panhandle of Golden Gate Park aboard my Fuji Cross, turning northwards to meet up with Carlos at the scheduled time of 8:30. Carlos arrived a few minutes after me on his nice Habanero MTB and we continued on in short order, cruising across the majestic bridge in the crisp chilly morning air...reminding me of Mark Twain's famous quote: "The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco!" Of course, as soon as we crossed the bridge and dropped down into Sausalito it warmed up considerably. Zipping along the Sausalito Bike Path, we soon came upon Cyclofiend waiting for us at the designated spot with his trusty Lemond Poprad. "I was just trying to tweak out the squeal in the front brake" he said as we pulled up...and it must've worked because I don't recall his brake making any sounds on the rest of the ride. Can't say the same for mine!

We continued on, riding northwards on Miller Ave into downtown Mill Valley, passing Mt. Tam Bikes and (if I recall correctly) WTB's headquarters on the way. Jogging around the main square in the center of town, we pick up W. Blithedale Ave, which quickly turns into a pleasant rural road winding through a nice neighborhood where a few folks are out walking their dogs in the morning air. Having grown up in the area, Cyclofiend knows these parts like the back of his hand under a microscope, and abruptly darts from the road onto an unseen little singletrack shortcut that drops us out right near the trail head.

We leave the relative safety of the paved road at this point. Old Railroad Grade is a gently winding fire road that formerly held the tracks for a locomotive that took tourists the easy way up Mount Tamalpais. The rails, ties, and spikes are long gone and what's left is a nice dirt road up the side of the mountain. We don't have it as easy as those tourists -- we have to pedal -- but we still have it pretty good since the road is never too steep in any one spot, and the elevation gained is left as a surprise until you pop out of the trees near the top with some awesome easterly views across the valley towards the Bay. We'd fortunately left the morning fog and chilly air behind us by this point, so it was time to shed some layers and smear on the sunscreen.

We briefly return to the pavement on Summit Road, which is crosscut into the side of the steep foothill and in treeless spots offers up some of those powerful views to the east. Cyclofiend says that Sammy Hagar has a house up here and if I could afford it so would I! As we rolled along Cyclofiend's Lemond suddenly emitted a strange FFFWOOSH from the rear wheel....a flat tire of course. After a quick tube change and a boot, we left the paved world again and came to Hoo Koo E Koo fire road. Now I've heard of the bike called Hoo Koo E Koo but I didn't know it was named after a road! I made my first attempt at some on-the-bike action video of Carlos and Cyclofiend riding near here, and we passed several other off-road cyclists and friendly and not-so-friendly folks hiking with their dogs.

After Hoo Koo we took Eldridge Grade over towards Lake Lagunitas, which is one of my favorite trails to ride -- the path gets fast and roller-y and narrows down almost to single track, letting you zip right around the lake. Plus, it's nearly at the water's edge so you get some nice views onto the quaint lake which feels like it's in the middle of nowhere. We rode around clockwise to the north side of the lake where we came upon an access road, facilities, water, and some picnic tables in the shade -- the perfect makings of a lunch stop! When you're on the bike for 8-10 hours at a time, lunch is a crucial and much-welcomed break in the middle of the day, and I'm usually very hungry by then. There's no place to buy lunch in the woods so brown-bagging (or I should say "Camelbak-ing it") it is the way to go: it's a bagel with hummus and roasted red peppers for me, Carlos has his usual quesadilla, and Cyclofiend packed a wholesome-looking sandwich. Home and the stresses of the daily grind feel a million miles away here as we sat, ate, and talked enjoying the warm sun and camaraderie.

Although I could sit in the relaxing sun for another few hours, it was time to go so we packed up and prepared for the second half of the adventure. We headed out north on the winding Sky Oaks Road, where I got stuck behind a large diesel pickup pulling a small fishing boat -- Carlos and Cyclofiend were off the front quite a ways down the hill. Finally the road straightened out, the truck/boat sped up, and I was able to speed up and catch up to them. They'd stopped at a trailhead off the side of the road, and I saw that Cyclofiend had his pencam out so I started waving. Carlos laughed that I was waving to the truck as I pulled up, and I said "no, I saw that you were taking pictures" and only then did I realize that Cyclofiend was actually shooting some more pencam video!

The trail we took didn't have a name, but it was a great shortcut, looping us around the back part of the upscale country club golf course and letting us out much farther up on Fairfax Bolinas Road than we thought. We continued climbing up into the Mt. Tam Watershed area and the temps climbed the higher we got. Around a curve we saw a group of three other cyclists off in the distance, and Cyclofiend said "Ah, we're gaining on 'em" -- I think we all took that as a subconscious signal to raise the tempo a bit, which we did. Shortly we came upon the gate to Pine Mountain Fire Road, AKA Pine Mountain Truck Road -- depending on whether you go by the name on the map or the name on the sign at the gate! Cyclofiend wisely turned around here to head back down Fairfax-Bolinas Road and on home, claiming an afternoon commitment. We said our goodbyes and Carlos and I pressed onwards, neither of us having ridden this particular trail before. Just inside the entrance gate we passed this gnarly-looking piece of construction equipment: a large yellow caterpillar-tread backhoe with some sort of horizontal chopper blade mounted in place of the shovel. (Visualize a huge weed-wacker capable of smashing rock and you've got it.) This image didn't sink in until we were a good third of the way into this trail, which was steep and rocky and covered with loose shale, making pedalling all but impossible and walking nearly so. Carlos soldiered on but I gave up and started hoofing it.

This aptly-named trail leads up Pine Mountain which is north-west from Mt. Tam. Perhaps the only highlight of the struggle on this trail was that it passes the top of the famous Repack Road where mountain-bike history was born. I was sorely tempted to take Repack back down, which would've led straight into the town of Fairfax, but to do so would deviate from our agreed-upon route. Fortunately the rough trail leveled out and became a nice fast dirt road which we happily pedalled across. Pine Mountain Road leads to the south edge of the small community of Woodacre, home of the Woodacre Deli and their delicious sandwiches. After a few false turns -- the trails near Woodacre apparently don't conform to our map -- we made it down into the town and to the deli. [Ed. note: actually we came out near San Geronimo, which is the next town over, the trails up there really don't jibe with the MVBC map!] But, Carlos was craving espresso which they don't offer, so we passed on by and continued on Sir Francis Drake Blvd., over White's Hill and into the town of Fairfax. There's a friendly little Java Hut where cyclists often stop to refuel and that's just what we did. After some much-needed calories and caffiene we continued on our way back home, through the towns of San Anselmo, Ross, Kentfield, and Larkspur, where we made a brief final stop to refuel our appetites. We climbed over the Camino Alto hill and into Sausalito, where we had to stop to add some layers since the temps had dropped as we neared the fog of San Francisco. Our climb back to the bridge was punctuated by an unfortunate cyclist going the other way down into Sausalito who'd lost control of her bike and crashed. She was very shaken but seemed ok with hardly any road rash. We offered assistance and stayed with her until her (presumed) husband came back up the road to find her.

Arriving at the bridge, we paused briefly to compare notes about the ride. Then it was onward to home for hot showers and food! I splurged and took my wife out to a nice dinner at a new Turkish place around the corner.

videos and photos


Ride Videos!

Aiptek Pencam SD 1.3 Videos from this weekend's mixed-terrain ride to Pine Mountain!

I strapped my pencam SD to the handlebars using an old velcro pump strap:
Pencam Video Setup


I'm a movie star!

Cyclofiend figured out video on the Aiptek Pencam SD -- here's a sample vid from our
epic Mt. Tam/Bolinas Ridge ride
last weekend. The vignette features Carlos with yours truly in a supporting role.


"Epic" Mt. Tam/Bolinas Ridge Trail Ride

Group Photo
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop.
Mixed-terrain Bolinas Ridge Epic ride with Carlos, Cyclofiend Jim, and Patrick. Met up at same spot in Mill Valley and climbed the Railroad Grade fire road, then up to Mt. Tam, down Mt. Tam, over to Bolinas/Fairfax Rd, and on to Bolinas Ridge Trail. Back home through Samuel P Taylor park and Fairfax.

Date: 8.12.2006
Mileage: 75
Bike: Fuji Cross
Time: 8am - 6:00pm


A Connundrum...

Assume you have the following:

a) a 1993 Bridgestone RB-1 frameset in really good condition
b) a 1983 Austro Daimler Vent Noir frameset in fair cosmetic but good mechanical condition
c) a 2004 Shimano Ultegra 9spd STI triple-crank group and Mavic Open Pro/Ultegra wheelset (plus bars/stem/seatpost/saddle/brakes/etc to complete the build)

Which is the correct answer?

1) a+c > b+c
2) a+c < b+c


No iBOB Today

I'm trying to go for one entire day w/o reading the iBOB list. So
far, so good...


If it ain't broke...

...don't fix it! Well, in this case I didn't follow that advice. Last weekend I converted my Nishiki Sport back into a fixed gear, and rode fixed to work all last week. AaaaahhhHHH! I'd forgotten how nice riding fixed is for city riding -- the ability to modulate/control your speed instantly w/o relying on the brakes is SO nice. As is the improved track-stand-action being able to pedal backwards yields. I started riding that bike as a single speed and it was nice. A couple of times, I've added gears to the bike (both 6 and 12) and it just didn't feel right. Fixing it makes it really come into its own!

Date: every weekday
Mileage: approx 5
Bike: Nishiki Sport
Time: 9am - 6pm


Just Ride 'em. [A Rant]

Currently on the iBOB list there's a discussion that originated from
Rivendell announcing that they were discontinuing some of the smaller
and larger sizes of their Rambouillet model, and has since morphed
into a comparison of the ride qualities between the Rambouillet and
Atlantis models Riv sells. Some folks have also speculated that Riv is
phasing out the Rambouillet model because the market is moving away
from "sport-touring bikes" (when was the market ever IN sport-touring
bikes?!?) towards constructor-style randonneuring bikes with custom
racks etc.

At the same time, there's an interesting post on another blog I
sometimes read, putting forth the opinion that a "versatile bike is
not an all-round bike" because a bike that is versatile includes too
many compromises vs. one that is specifically built to be an
"all-round" bike. (Huh?)

Finally, there's another new bike-speak term that's cropped up --
"planing" -- which I'm guessing is an attempt to describe the
(desirable?) "spring-back effect" in a bike frame as you exert force
on the pedals. Discussions surrounding this concept argue that some
frames are better than others because they "plane" better....stiffer
over-sized tubing vs. more flexy standard, blah blah blah. (Can we
get some scientific data to back this up, vs. someone just
"proclaiming" it to be real based on opinion please?)

Man, I'm sorry but this all sounds like so much bullshit!

People have spent lots of money on multiple boutique bikes and they
invent all of this crap to self-justify those purchases!

Just get a bike and ride it. Your legs make you go faster, not the
bike. Your imagination governs the "versatility" of your bike and
your determination facilitates the completion of your chosen route,
not the width nor diameter of your tires. The reality is, you can get
on nearly any bike and ride it nearly anywhere. Ride brevets on an
MTB, commute on a road-racing bike, "train" on a hybrid, tour on a
fixie, whatever. So put a handlebar bag on a high-trail bike -- who
cares, the world's not going to end!

Sure we see what might be "clueless newbies" out there huffing and puffing on the
"wrong" bike and quietly look down our noses at them, but they're out
there doing it...and often putting in more miles than us. It's easy
to succumb to the complacency of specialization when your wallet gets
fat -- I've certainly fallen prey to that to some extent, and now I'm
trying to climb out of that hole.

Man, just shut up and RIDE!


Railroad Grade Ride

Mixed Terrain ride with Patrick and Carlos. We met up with Patrick on the Mill Valley Bike Path in Sausalito just past Mike's Bikes & across from the school soccer fields, then we rode up to Mill Valley and picked up the Railroad Grade fire road, taking that up towards Mt. Tam, then decending on Deer Park Fire Road. We took Panoramic Road back to Mill Valley and returned via the bike path through Sausalito to the GGB.

Date: 7.28.2006
Mileage: 45
Bike: Fuji Cross
Time: 9am - 2:30pm