SF Cyclotouring

Ride reports and other ramblings from a San Francisco cyclist.


2008: Questions and Answers and Stuff

Lots of folks seem to be doing the year-end recap thing, so I'll throw my hat into the ring too. First, some basic stats: I rode 3411 miles in 2008, just a bit more than in 2007 (3162 miles). I rode three 200k brevets and one 60k mixed-terrain rallycat. I rode all the way to work from SF to Sunnyvale six times . Four unofficial centuries, plus two other rides that were just shy of 100 miles. I did the combo commute (bike+Caltrain) 51 days this year, which averages out to less than one day per week -- pretty poor in retrospect, I'd like to get to work this way 2-3 times per week, ideally.

Unfortunately I did NOT get around to making another overnight bike-camping trip happen. I experienced my first such trip in 2007 and had big hopes for a couple more this past year, but I didn't take the initiative to make this happen. Perhaps in 2009...

I got to ride bikes with my lovely wife Dawn twice this past year, once when we meandered through Golden Gate Park, and the other when she rode across the GGB for the first time and all the way to Sausalito.

I had the distinct pleasure of meeting, riding with, and getting to know yet another iBOB member, Gino from Chico. I even cajoled him into riding his first 200k brevet, time will tell whether he's caught the rando bug or not, though! I look forward to riding more with him in the coming year.

This past year we said a collective farewell to Sheldon Brown and Eugene Sloan among others in the cycling community. They continue to be missed, but their memories, efforts, and ideals live on!

I started a couple of Flickr photo groups: BikeEats and Vintage Bontrager Cycles.

I built a lofi porteur rack and experimented a bit with frontal cargo loading. I became seriously obsessed with low-trail front geometries and -- at the urging of the Serpent of Shimmy -- ultimately decided to bite into the fruit of the Low-Trail Tree by buying Yet Another Bike (a Kogswell 700C P/R) and equipping it with a front bag and rack, getting me banished from the Garden of Rivendell (kidding!). I am still obsessed with both -- I love low-trail handling, yet I hate bike shimmy, and I do not know how to have my cake and eat it too. I have uncovered more questions than I have found answers for. At the close of 2008, I'm finding myself wondering whether any of my current bikes is well-suited to my needs, and therefore pondering the expense of a custom frame, which when put into perspective is somewhat silly IMHO. Silly, because I have a decent collection of fully-functional bikes that I've (ignorantly?) enjoyed riding for many years...On the other hand, I could spend ~$1500 and get 98% of what I think I want, and people easily spend more than that on laptops (or production carbon frames, even)! I continue to obsess... In terms of bike hardware, I think ignorance truly is bliss. Pushing the pedals is what's really important, and it's too damn easy to get sidetracked. Be mindful of that apple!

In the past year, I finally bought a new bike helmet, a Bell Venture, which though a budget "sport" helmet with a universal sizing system, I like very much -- I tried on nearly a dozen helmets and that brand/model fit the best. My previous helmets have all been from Giro, but I think they changed their sizing or something because their helmets no longer fit my oblong head! I also finally found some cycling shorts that fit me really well and don't cost too much: Performance's Century model (size M for future reference). And, I picked up a Swobo wool jersey (again M) which I think is nearly perfect: the feel is fabulous, the fit is great, the (short) sleeves are just the right length, and the zipper is long enough to actually serve as a temperature-regulation device instead of just a head-opening. I also just recently bought a new set of SPD-compatible bike shoes (Specialized Taho, size 44) which don't really LOOK like bike shoes AND are quite comfortable to walk in, so they'll be great for commuting -- but I haven't really finished setting them up yet, so more on that later.

2008 also seemed to be the year of unfinished projects. I bought a low-trail 650B conversion fork, but still haven't painted it, let alone installed it on a bicycle. I also picked up a 1993 Bontrager Race Lite frame (size Large) to temporarily replace my 1994 Bontrager Race (size Medium), because I've always suspected the bigger frame might suit me better...but of course that frame needs some TLC and as such, it's still sitting in the corner of my room, untouched. It annoys me to realize that I've gotten to a point in my life where my time is much more valuable than I think it is, and spending more money upfront for a turn-key solution vs. going with a cheaper option that requires more work is probably the practical option. The reality is that, between being gone 12+ hours per weekday for work, riding one weekend day, and spending the other weekend day with my wife or working on house-repair tasks, I just don't have much time left over for bike projects! I need to be more mindful of this in the coming year(s)...

I also bought more parts to build more LED headlamps, some driven by battery and one (hopefully) by generator. I seriously thought I'd acquire a generator hub in 2008, but I've been waiting for real-world reports of Shimano's newest/latest dyno-hub offerings, which are only now reaching the USA. I'm also missing some parts from Dealextreme, who assure me that they're forthcoming. We'll see.

In 2009, I hope to do the following bike-related things, in no particular order:

+ braze a custom front rack for a handlebar bag
+ ride a couple 200k brevets, another 300k, and hopefully a 400k brevet -- possibly a fleche, too
+ ride all the way to work once per week; combo-commute 2-3 days per week
+ plan and complete a couple of overnighter bike trips in the summer or early fall
+ install that low-trail conversion fork on another bike to serve as a second low-trail testing platform
+ swap my MTB parts from the medium Bontrager to the large Bontrager; possibly get a rigid fork for that bike as well
+ do more mixter (mixed-terrain) riding this year; it was great conditioning in 2007!
+ sell stuff: I should unload at least one bike, and I've got several things in my parts stash that need to get cleared out (various freewheels, Mavic bits, Campy hubs, old suspension forks, road shoes, Look & SPD-R pedals, etc)


New Music Blog

Apologies for the off-topic posting here. Occasionally I get weird interactions where my bike-circle intersects my music-circle in some crazy Venn diagram from hell. If you're one of the folks that might get caught in that overlap, you might be interested in my new electronic music blog: Mektronic Music. And yes, that pun is intentional!


Do I want a custom frame?

Things I'd want in a custom frame:

+ 1-1/8in threadless steerer/headset

+ 40-45mm trail, for good handling w/both wide tires and front-bag load

+ 44-45cm chainstays

+ simple/plain lugged or TIG'd

+ lightweight tubing, but stiff enough to prevent shimmy

+ titanium? steel fork definitely

+ powdercoat finish (if steel)

+ 70mm BB drop; clearance for 172.5-175mm cranks

+ vertical dropouts

+ lowrider braze-ons on fork

+ canti or centerpull brakes

+ clearance for 700x40mm tires & fenders

+ chainring clearance for 26x38x48

+ standover height ~84cm (my PBH is 86-87cm)

+ TT length 58-60cm

+ DT shifter braze-ons

+ 3 bottle cage mounts; ST cage mount should straddle the clamp-on front derailleur; under-DT mount should be as low as possible to clear front wheel/fender

+ pump pegs on the left seat stay

+ 132.5mm rear spacing

+ 27.2mm seat post

+ 68mm BB shell

+ separate seat post clamp collar

+ 11-o'clock TT rear brake cable routing, w/ housing stops

+ standard under-BB derailleur cable routing using the normal Shimano plastic guide

+ hydraulic brake hose guides on R fork leg for hub-generator wire routing, also along underside of DT?

+ dual eyelets at fork-tips and rear dropouts

+ proper fork crown and SS/CS bridge placement for good fender lines

+ 73/73 angles

The Kogswell 700C P/R comes close, but I already have one of those and, well, you all probably know my issues with that. The Box Dog Pelican is another close call, but it uses semi-horiz rear dropouts, and a 1-inch threaded steerer for a standard quill stem. The V-O Passhunter is another near miss -- very similar to the Pelican, and it also has vert rear dropouts. What else is out there?


Rack Building - Requirements Summary

In 2009, I want to try to build a custom front rack for a bicycle -- something small, to support a handlebar bag or similar. Alex Wetmore has a great series of blog posts on custom rack building, which I've read and re-read. They are a valuable resource!

First, I really would like to find a local source for tubing. You can order steel tubing online from various sources (check here and scroll down to "Tubing Sources"), but I've found that mail-order is often a hurdle to getting things done, especially if this is going to be a continued endeavor. But, what tubing do I need, and how much of it? Alex provides some guidelines:

* Handlebar Bag Rack - 1/4 x 0.028"; ~4ft needed

* Porteur Rack - deck: 3/8 x 0.028", stays: 3/8 x 0.035", cross members: 5/16 x 0.028"; ~12.5ft needed

Locally, I've found some metal-supply houses to check out, including Bayshore Metals, Metal Supermarket in Redwood City, and J.C. Metal Specialists, Inc in San Francisco.

Next, I also need a means to bend the tubing. I have a cheap Harbor Freight tubing bender, but I've heard this isn't beefy enough for 4130 steel. I'll try it (maybe with a cheater bar over the handle?), and if it doesn't work, I'll figure something else out (I have some ideas for a home-built bender). Alex recommends the Ridgid 405 5/16" bender for the first-time buyer, since 5/16" is a good compromise between the lighter-weight 1/4" and stronger 3/8" tubing. I'm wondering if my cheap bender might handle thinwalled 1/4" tubing well enough...

Finally, I need a torch to braze with. I've got an old Bernzomatic handheld MAPP torch that I've done some lightweight brazing with, and I think it'll be fine for rack building. The trigger start is broken, but I have a flint lighter for it. I haven't lit the torch in about 4 years, so it might not even work. I have some old paste flux (needs re-hydrating) and some brass rod. That should be enough to start with.

[And just so I can find it again, Alex has a great tutorial on calculating tubing bend lengths]


Cycles Alex Singer


It's He-ere!

At long last, the Shimano DH-3N80 is for sale in the US. Harris Cyclery has 'em for $145.95 USD.

The DH-3N80 hub supposedly approaches the performance of the SON hub at about $100 less in price.

Here's some info I gleaned from the BikeCurrent mailing list on the new hubs:

I posted:
According to this post the 3N80 is much improved over the previous
Shimano hubs... http://tinyurl.com/63t5fy


Shimano DH-3N80: 483 g
SON28: 570 g
SON20R: 385 g

>the lights-off drag is also lower

At 30 km/h in a 700c wheel the lights-off drag is:

Shimano DH-3N80: 1.8 W
SON28: 1.2 W
SON20R: 1.0 W

> not sure about the lights-on drag

At 30 km/h in a 700c wheel the lights-on drag is:

Shimano DH-3N80: 7.3 W
SON28: 6.8 W
SON20R: 5.8 W


And Andreas Oehler (from Schmidt/SON) posted:
The 3N72, LX and the new (!) Alfine hub dynamos use the same generator as
the 3N80, which is available since end of last year. The main difference
between the 3N80 and the 3 new hubs is the steel axle instead of the
aluminium axle. The new hubs also use a little different bearings and
seals. Each hub has a differnt hub-shell design. Electrical and mechanical
data are nearly identical. The 3n80 weights a little less than 485 gramms,
the new hubs are about 50-60 gamms heavier. Measured data about the 3N80
can be found here:


Measurements of the new hubs has taken place at my lab and will be
published in next issue of "Aktiv Radfahren".




All I Really Need To Know, I Learned While Mountainbiking

Borrowing from All I Really Need To Know, I Learned In Kindergarten...

All I Really Need To Know, I Learned While Mountainbiking:

  • Stay focused on the best line. If you keep looking at that big gnarly rock, you will hit it!

  • Sometimes when you hit a rough patch, it's best to lay off the brakes and just keep rolling!

  • If you keep pedaling, you'll make it to the top.

  • What goes down, will (eventually) go back up.

  • Remember to stop and enjoy the view every now and then.

What other inspirational words can you think of?



MixTer is my new buzzword for mixed-terrain riding.

Here is Scott Clark's newly-built mixter mutt -- a fine example of a do-it-all frankenbike you can throw together on the cheap!

It reminds me a bit of the first iteration of my Nishiki Sport:

Nishiki Sport v1.0

I later added gears to this bike and once actually did attempt to ride it off road, which ended up scaring the newbejeesuz outta me, due to the craptacular brakes and way-too-high gearing I had configured at the time. Total turnoff and I wouldn't attempt to ride a drop-bar'd 700C bike off road for several more years...NOW I know that if I'd only lowered the gearing and got better brake pads, things would've been fine, and I'd be making-do with one less bike these days!

For completeness, here's my MixTer rig these days...a 2001 Fuji CX:

Fuji CX

Tell me about your mixter rig!