SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


Chameleon Cycles #2 - Scott's Schwinn Cimarron

Another bike in the continuing Chameleon Cycles theme.... I'd been thinking about what bike to feature next, when this excellent posting from Scott C. appeared on the iBOB list, like manna sent from heaven. His writing captures the spirit I'm trying to convey so perfectly that I'm just blatantly going to steal his words:

Last night I let a Centurion Pro Tour go on eBay. It was another
almost-perfect bike--my version; roadish bike with large clearances and
cantilevers--but I just don't have the budget to fight out these online

Plus I kept thinking "why do I need this?" Sure, it'd be close to my ideal rough-stuff bike, but how much of that kind of riding do I really get to do?...

I'd been really down on the Cimarron commuter lately--it was always dirty, the chainrings were wobbling, it weighed a ton compared to the Univega, etc.,
etc. Almost every weekday, I'd drag the kid to school behind the Cimarron,
then toss it in the basement and zip to work on the Univega.

But this weekend I finally did the maintenance that the Cimarron desperately
needed--gave it a good wash, replaced the crank arm that I messed up (thanks, David!), installed a new Tange cartridge bottom bracket, put on a new chain,
and made various adjustments. While I had all the commuter stuff (battery, light, lock, bags, tools, pump, .....) off for the wash, I thought, boy, this thing isn't so heavy after all--it's all my crap that's heavy!

This morning, I didn't need to do the trailer run, and I almost jumped on the Univega for the commute. But, after all that work, I had to ride the Cimarron. And it was like a whole different bike. No frustrating chainring wobble; just smooth turning. It was quiet, smooth, and reasonably quick. Of course, it's still noticeably slower accelerate up a hill than the Univega, but it's a different type of bike. Not my mental ideal of the rough-stuff day-tourer I really want, but really a very good bike, and one that I can be happy with if I can just keep it maintained.

Just for fun, I may put my stashed Marathon Cross tires on it instead of the Big Apples just to accentuate the difference between my two bikes and to see how the Cimarron works on gravel and dirt with them.

And eventually, someday, the perfect rough-stuff/underbike will come along at a time when the budget is better, but I really don't need to pine for it now. I just need to get out and ride what I have. (note to self: repeat this until it sinks in...)

Perfect practicality!



2007.01.27 - San Francisco Randonneurs 200k Brevet

JimG approves
Originally uploaded by cduquenot.
So a couple of weekends ago, I participated in the San Francisco Randonneurs 200k Brevet. In retrospect, the thing that strikes me the most about the day is that it was fairly unremarkable, and I totally mean that in a good way...no really.

Last year it was cold, rainy, and mostly horrible. I got a flat an hour into the ride -- as a result, I ended up riding alone for most of the day, and I think I finished after 12.5 hours 2nd from last...or certainly in the last 4. This year was partly sunny and almost warm, generally dry, I had great company during the ride, no mechanical problems at all, and I finished in 9 hours and 44 minutes with daylight to spare.

Here are some photos I took during the ride.

Date: 01.27.2007
Mileage: 136
Bike: RB-1
Time: 6:30am-6:30pm (overall), 7am-4:44pm (event time)

UPDATE: A couple of weekends after this event, as I was cleaning the gunk off of my bike, I discovered that several of the drive-side spoke-holes on the rear wheel's rim had cracks radiating out from them. Yikes! Good thing that wheel didn't decide to implode while I was miles from nowhere!


Riding a different bike is sometimes like wearing the shoe on the wrong foot

Overall view
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop.
I decided to mix things up today by riding a different bike to work. Normally I commute on my Nishiki Sport single-speed, but today I rode my Fuji Cross (as pictured, minus front rack and seat bag). It's been a few months since I last rode that bike, and man was it weird!

First off, it felt TOO LIGHT. I can't remember the last time I rode a bike without at least 10lbs of gear strapped to it. Today, because everything was in my Timbuk, I didn't need anything extra on the bike except a rear blinkie and a front light. No racks, no bags, not even a waterbottle. The bike felt just FRAGILE.

Secondly, it felt REALLY TALL. I've put a few hundred miles on this bike since acquiring it last summer, and it never felt like it didn't fit. Today, for whatever cosmic reason, things seemed wrong -- like the bike's saddle was about a mile too high. Maybe my legs are shrinking?

On a positive note, this bike handles really similarly to my Nishiki Sport and it's easy to ride no-handed; it steers from the hips rather than from the handlebars, if you know what I mean...


Chameleon Cycles #1 - Carlos' Miyata 500

OK, a couple days ago I posted about creating a secondary blog for my favorite interesting bikes. Fellow-Bontrager-Sweater-Wearin' Tarik gave me the go-ahead, and made the recommendation that I just use the new labels feature vs. creating a separate blog. So here goes...I'll try to add one of these a week (give or take) until I run out of ideas. If you've got a bike that has "evolved" for you, let me know about it and maybe I'll feature it...

Shown here is Carlos' customized Miyata Elevation 1000. It was originally sold as a rigid MTB, but now it's a commuting / touring / brevet / off-road / on-road / all-rounder sort of bike. Carlos modified things slightly with a non-stock fork, repositioned cable-housing guides, and a matt-black powdercoat with custom black reproduction "MIYATA" reflective decals. He rides this bike everywhere -- probably 200-300 miles per week -- and affectionately refers to it as "The Tank".

Although I've never ridden this bicycle, it's taught me a lot about what a bike is and can be, and continues to do so. On any given ride, it's the bike that its rider needs it to be, and that's what makes it a great Chameleon Cycle.



2007.01.21 - Solo Ride to Point Reyes Station

R(ando)B-1 in Point Reyes
Originally uploaded by jimgskoop.
83 mile solo ride to Point Reyes Station. SF-Fairfax-Samuel P. Taylor Park-Olema-Pt. Reyes Station, then back home the same way. Stopped only a couple quick times to shed/add layers, and for pastries and coffee at the Bovine Bakery in Pt. Reyes Station. Had a bit of fender trouble in SP Taylor due to a wheel-entangled stick. 8:30am to 3:30pm.

Date: 01.21.2007
Mileage: 83
Bike: RB-1
Time: 8:30am-3:30pm


Chameleon Bikes

I'm thinking of creating a 2nd blog called "Chameleon Cycles", featuring interesting bikes that seem to adapt to the uses their riders put them to. Bikes that do unexpected things. Evolutionary bikes that morph with their changing environments, if you will. Think this might be interesting/useful? Thoughts?

Soma Speedster Lugged Frameset

I have around 8 bikes, which is crazy-far too many. Whichever one I'm riding is my favorite, when asked. Lately, I've been riding my Bridgestone RB-1 in preparation for the SFR 200k brevet next weekend, since I think I'm going to ride that bike on the event. Anyways, as I said, I've got lots of bikes...and each one of them has one or a couple of characteristics that I really like, but also some flaws or issues that undermine their complete enjoyment. This fuels the quest for The One Bike, I guess. OK, back to the RB-1...I tweaked the rear gearing a bit and now this bike seems perfect for the long day rides I do in Marin, low enough gearing for the hills I go up and high enough for the hills I ride down. A couple of months ago I installed a taller stem and some wider, curvier handlebars, and the controls feel quite nice now. I spent a full day on the bike last weekend, and amazingly nothing hurt aside from my tired legs, which is something I haven't experienced in a long time. That bike just feels FAST! It's nearly the perfect bike, aside from a couple of issues, of course: I really wish that the frame was designed for long-reach brakes for better tire/fender clearance -- this issue is mostly my fault for taking what was intended as a road-racer and using it as a fast day-tripper. And I also really wish that the frame had been brazed better (mine has, at least for now, non-structural cracks at the headtube lugs due to incomplete brass penetration == poor brazing).

I was just poking around on the Soma website, and noticed that they've updated their page on the new Speedster lugged frameset, which now has a picture of the matching fork. I think that's a pretty nice frame -- the chromed headtube lugs and fork crown are a classic touch that you don't see on many frames these days. The dimensions on this frameset VERY closely match those of my RB-1; really the only difference is slightly longer chainstays (and therefore overall wheelbase), which is a good thing in my book. The frame has front, double rear, AND seatstay rack eyelets, too, and Soma claims it'll fit a 28mm tire with fenders. Poking around online, I've found a couple places selling it for around $700, which I guess isn't too bad for a frameset built with heat-treated Tange Prestige tubing (in comparison, Kogswell's Model P, similarly made with heat-treated tubing and lugs, sold for around $800).


Two Wrongs Don't Make It Right

On my morning bike-commute to the Caltrain station at 4th and King, I
encounter many traffic signals. One of these signals is, I think, at
5th and Bryant, and is timed in such a way that it often is a four-way
red stop light with a white pedestrian "WALK" in my direction of
travel down 5th. I sometimes take advantage of the pedestrian
right-of-way and roll through this intersection, nudging over towards
the crosswalk -- I acknowledge that this is poor effective-cyclist
behavior on my part.

Today I did this again, since I was late this morning and I was trying
to hustle to catch the last morning bullet train. While I was waiting
at the next red-light intersection (at 5th & Brannan, which doesn't
have the same crosswalk loophole), a motorist in a minivan with a
wireless cellphone microphone plugged into his ear rolled up next to
me and shouted through his open window "Why don't you run this light

Apparently to his disbelief, I said "I didn't run the light, I moved
through the crosswalk which had the right-of-way" (admittedly I was
bending things a bit here, as I mentioned above). He stared back at
me blankly and retorted "Of course you did, I saw you, I was sitting
right there!" I replied "Hmm. Like you've never broken the speed
limit, either." "F%#K You" he yelled, and drove away. "No, F#%k
YOU!" I yelled back at him.

I made my train, and once I boarded, racked my bike, and found a seat,
I had time to think on what just happened. Many ideas swirled in my
angered head, but ultimately I realized the age-old rule, oft repeated
by my mother when I was a young kid: "Two Wrongs Don't Make It Right".

When someone confronts you with something you (obviously) did in
error, it doesn't help matters to attack them in return. Two wrongs
don't make it right.

When someone yells profanities at you, it doesn't accomplish anything
to swear back at them. Two wrongs don't make it right.

[And if I WAS going to take the low road, in hindsight I wished I
would've at least been more productively clever and said something
like "Why don't you pull that thing out of your ear and focus on

As I sat and thought about this incident further, I realized that
there was a broader lesson to be learned here...

Anyone who's bicycled with me knows that I'm a fairly strong supporter
of Effective Cycling practices: Ride your bike like you're driving a
car, with the same rules and responsibilities, resulting in
predictable behavior on the road. For the past many years I've
attempted to do just that, always stopping at every light and sign (my
trackstands got real good, yo!), signaling turns, and using good
lights at night.

I got mad every time I saw a cyclist blow through stop signs or
lights, sometimes chasing them down and attempting snide comments like
"Nice stop, yo!" or "Get some lights!" if they were riding in full
stealth-mode at night. I felt personally violated -- it was my belief
that these ignorant riders were selfishly lowering the bar of respect
for all of us out there pedaling two wheels...see one stupid cyclist,
it's easy to assume we're all like that. At one point my feelings on
this issue got so bad that I nearly decided to stop bicycle commuting,
because I didn't want to be associated with people who behaved so

I thought long about this problem, and finally came to the conclusion
that it must be human nature to break a rule when we know we can get
away with it. We're generally selfish beings, right? People on bikes
blow through stop signs because they know they can get away with it.
In our cars, we go 5 or 10 miles per hour more than the speed limit
because we know we can get away with it. Do we ever stop to think
about the larger picture, the cascade of ill-effects we may be
generating? I'm certainly guilty of doing this, just as much as that
minivan driver who crossed me this morning is.

In spite of my perfectionist longings, this train of thought made me
realize "Hey, I'm no better than anyone else" and also "If you can't
beat 'em, join 'em." I decided to stop seeing things in absolute
black and white, and try going shades-of-gray for awhile. Relax! I
rolled through that occasional stop sign when no one was looking.
Blow that traffic signal, no harm no foul. Everyone else does it,

Well, today that old adage "Two Wrongs Don't Make It Right" caught up
with me again, it just took awhile longer than usual. Taking extra
personal liberties on a bike -- just because other imbeciles do too --
doesn't make anything better for anyone, it just makes us ALL look
dumb. Aside from yelling at me and ruining my morning, that driver did me a
favor and reminded me of that, because he labeled ME as the Dumb
Cyclist this time. Oh how easily the tables are turned!

In the odd chance that Mr. Minivan Driver reads this, I'd like to
apologize for taking the low road this morning. And also thanks for
the dose of reality!

Be safe, stay lit, and stop for reds!


Mad About Racks

Mentioning this here as a way of bookmarking it...here's a really nice DIY Porteur Rack made from cheap automotive brake-line tubing! And a rear rack from the same builder.