Rando Tweaking…

27 04 2012

650B All Road from Boulder Bicycle...

My freakishly fun Boulder Bicycle All Road randonneur machine.

Downtube barrel adjuster for rear derailleur...

I had some sudden shifting issues last brevet which I solved [mostly] on the bike by using the downtube barrel adjuster. It’s conveniently located within easy reach while riding.

Shimano XT rando derailleur - fixed now...

As I was going over my rando bike this week [as should be done regularly] I noticed the barrel adjuster at the rear derailleur had come completely unscrewed and was sort of hanging there askew. That explains the sudden shifting issues! Doh!

Fizik Mircotex bar tape...

I’ve been meaning to put some white tape on the Boulder for a while, but haven’t been motivated enough to do it. We’ve had a few rainy days this week so I got my butt in gear and got it installed. It looks pretty spiffy and supposedly it’s tape you can clean so it should stay white a while.

Miche needle bearing headset...

When I first got my Boulder I had a fairly serious shimmy problem. As it turned out I had the headset installed incorrectly! Doh! This type of low trail bike with supple wide tires and a very flexible frame is a candidate for developing a shimmy. The whole topic of shimmying is very complicated and not fully understood. Bicycle Quarterly has published several articles related to this topic if it interests you.  My bike has a needle bearing headset as opposed to the more common ball bearing headset. The needle bearings provide more resistance to turning than a ball bearing which prevents or reduces the development of a shimmy. My bike is pushing the envelope of using very skinny ultralight tubing for a large frame [59cm TT] and a reasonably heavy guy 175lbs. It has taken some playing around with the headset adjustment to find the sweet spot for me and my bike. I can’t recall the last time I noticed any tendency to shimmy and the extra resistance in the bearings isn’t something you can feel when you are steering.

Update: I lowered my tire pressure for the Crouching Rat 300K and was able to get the bike to shimmy if I tried. So the shimmy is not totally gone. It doesn’t happen when I am riding normally, but if I try to ride no hands I can’t pedal or it will shimmy. I’ll play with the setup some more. It’s not a problem I’m going to do much about since it’s not causing a problem in practice. However, if you need a large frame I’d consider the oversized ultralight tubing for a somewhat stiffer frame. If I was independently wealthy I’d build up a 2nd Boulder with the oversized tubing so I could compare them back to back. Sadly I am not!…=-)

Grand Bois Hetres = 650B smiles...

I understand increased tire pressure also helps reduce shimmying, but I like my tires soft so they do their job of absorbing road shock and keeping themselves glued to the road. The standard Boulder Bicycle All Road uses ultralight oversized tubing which would stiffen the frame a bit. I have wondered if I was to order a new rando bike if I would want to go for a stiffer frame or not. I really like how efficient my bike is to climb on and how it responds to hard efforts. I wouldn’t want to give that up by getting a stiffer frame, but without a side by side test it’s impossible to know how much difference there would be.

Gravel country riding = 650B terrain...

Just to be clear I feel like the performance, comfort and versatility of an ultralight skinny tubed 650B bike like mine is well worth the setup hassles of dealing with a shimmy. I’d also point out that Boulder Bicycle can build you a 650B rando bike with zero shimmy issues. I purposely pushed the limits of what is practical to find out what would happen. If  I set my bike up poorly it can shimmy pretty seriously. If I set my bike up properly I have no shimmy even when I am tired and mashing the pedals without full concentration on steering my bike.

Food to go...

My last 200K demonstrated the benefit of staying on the bike between controls. One element of that is being able to eat on the go. So I’ve restocked my bar bag with a bunch of energy food I like that I can munch and pedal. I will still pack a sandwich or two on a ride for those times when I do stop at a control so I can switch it up with some real food.

Mostly wool bike clothes...

Having bike clothes that cover a wide range of conditions is also key to avoiding frequent stops between controls. Our rides in BC start on cool to cold mornings, but often see warm to hot afternoons with cool evenings and cold nights. I’ve been enjoying wool cycling clothes lately. For my next ride I’ll start with a SS wool jersey + wool arm warmers + a wind vest + ear warmers. On the bottom I’ll have a set of 3/4 length wool tights with wool leg warmers underneath [puts two layers over my knees]. At each control I’ll evaluate how I am doing and shed layers as needed. The key is not to sweat so much I soak my clothes which will be uncomfortable even with wool. In spring here often just taking off the ear warmers and wind vest is enough to transition from cool morning to warm day.

If it rains and/or temperatures get crazy cold I have a rain jacket, rain chaps, rain gloves and rain booties to put on that serve as some extra climate control options.

Selle Anatomica saddle...

Of course you can only stay on the bike for hours if you are comfortable. My saddle and my feet are totally happy these days even for 10hrs+ of nearly non-stop riding. My hands are comfy if I wear bike gloves as opposed to unpadded fleece gloves and I move them around the bars a bit. So I can start the ride in warm fleece gloves, but I should switch to bike gloves after a few hours. This also means I have a spare set of gloves on board if one set get wet/damaged/lost. My main comfort issue at the moment is tension in the area between my shoulder blades. This is due to poor bike posture and letting my neck/back tense up. I can avoid it by sitting on the bike in a more ergonomic position [sort of like not slouching in your office chair] and also consciously relaxing my upper back as I ride. I also stretch that area out every time I stop at a control.





Why you should buy a Boulder Bicycle randonneur bike?

13 04 2012

Me and Boulder Bicycle All Road 650B randonneur bike....

I talk to a lot of people about my Boulder Bicycle All Road and about what randonneur bicycle to buy. When I was looking for a randonneur bike I went through all the production options and determined the Boulder Bicycle offerings were the best.

Here is why:

  • you get the proven Rene Herse low trail steering geometry
  • cost is reasonable
  • you can have 700c or 650B in all sizes
  • you can have lugs or TIG welded frame by Waterford
  • you can have oversized or skinny tubing
  • ultra light tubing available
  • semi-custom sizing option is available for reasonable up charge
  • custom paint available
  • frame/fork is design for integrated use of front rack and fenders [everything fits perfectly as a whole]
  • front and rear lighting mounting has been designed into bike
  • available as a complete or as a frame/fork/rack
  • exception support and customer service from Boulder Bicycles
  • reasonably quick turn around on orders
  • designed & built by randonneurs for randonneurs

When taken all together there really isn’t another production randonneur bike option that comes close to this level of performance, customization and price without going the full custom route.

A lovely profile shot...

Here is what Boulder Bicycle has to say on the matter:

“A Boulder Bicycle frame represents the latest step in a journey to build frames that perform without compromise.  The designs of our randonneur frames are obtained through careful study of classic Rene Herse geometries and those of other French makers.  Some of the “classic” designs work better than others, and we obviously select those from the best-performing historic examples.

Over the past 10 years the French randonneur bicycle saw a rebirth in the United States.  Mike Kone, lead designer at Boulder Bicycle, was one of the early proponents of French randonneur machines.  In fact, some of the most notable writers and modern proponents for this style of bicycle saw their first Rene Herse bicycles in Massachusetts when Mike Kone owned Bicycle Classics inc.

Classic geometries are juxtaposed with modern materials to create the current line of Boulder Bicycles.  Waterford Precision Cycles does the actual frame construction.  Waterford was somewhat reluctant to embrace the low trail and light tube specifications used on Boulder Bicycles, but they have come to appreciate the performance of these machines.  In addition, Waterford brings expertise to the Boulder Bicycle line which is unique to the industry.  Waterford has arguably built more custom and semi-custom high-end steel frames than perhaps any builder in the county.  Their understanding of materials combined with their access to proprietary materials is an invaluable asset.  They are unyielding in their quest for reliability.

There are many builders constructing randonneur style bicycles.  But our extensive experience yields advantages.  We know what geometries are most likely to perform well.  We know when we are pushing the envelope with extra light tubing.  And as students of bicycle history with many examples we’ve personally ridden, we know what is most likely to work well for a rider.

Many of our Boulder Bicycle customers think of their purchase as a stepping stone to a Rene Herse.  They are welcome to think that.  But in reality, there is no performance gain in going to a more costly frame.  If there was a better tube or a better geometry for performance, we would use it on the Boulder Bicycle.  But there isn’t.  Now a Rene Herse frame (or a frame from some other wonderful builders such as Peter Weigle) may offer cleaner wiring integration or more elegant lug shaping or fancier racks.  But when it is you and the bicycle and the mountain, your Boulder Bicycle will deliver the same ride and performance as a frame costing many times more.  So please take advantage of our experience and eye for value, and let us supply you with the bicycle that will provide the ride of your dreams.”





650B Dirt Dawgs…

30 01 2012

My Boulder Bicycle 650B rando rig...

Training might be too strong a word for our first road ride of 2012, but when you are as lazy as we are you need to count every pedal stroke. I was stoked that pulling my Boulder Bicycle All Road down from its winter slumber hanging from the wall of my office didn’t reveal much work needed to get her operational. Some air in the tires and dead batteries in the taillight & bike computer were the only items that needed attention. I like a bike that doesn’t need a ton of maintenance.

Pre-ride shenanigans...

Taking a photo break...

Aaron's new Bridgestone rando beast...

You can always spot the rolling pumpkin...

A few more tweaks...

eVent jacket and wool keep me comfy and dry...

Aaron coming...

A lot of the ride was slick gravel or mud - perfect 650B terrain...

Aaron going...

Hanging with our good friend...





VO Chainstay Protector

10 07 2011

Effective, but F-ugly!

The paint on my 650B Boulder Bicycle All Road is delicate and it gets ridden with less care than it deserves as I am usually pressed for time and not at 100% when I’m riding a brevet. I managed to get a couple decent chips in the right chainstay’s paint in the first ride or two so I threw on the Lizard Skins chainstay protector shown above. It works well, but it’s not aesthetically well suited for this fine machine. I could tell it was bugging Aaron as he offered me a clear stick on protector on more than one occasion!..=-)

Velo Orange elkhide chainstay protector installed...

I declined to swap out the Lizard Skin protector until I could get my hands on one of these Velo Orange elkhide chainstay protectors. It suits the bike much better while being cheap and effective at its job.

That's much better!...=-)

You can get the VO protectors in a bunch of colours shown below. I’ll report back with a long term review in the winter.

Lots of options...





Velo Web Reader’s Rides…

22 05 2011

Boulder Bicycle All Road action...

Raymond Parker publisher of The Velo WebLog was kind enough to add my Boulder Bicycle All Road to the Reader’s Randonneur Rides section of his site.  Thanks! Since I haven’t published a full review of this bike yet the material posted on Raymond’s site is a nice concise summary of my experiences so far.

Yes I am Lazy!





Riding Loaded!

12 05 2011

My Berthoud bag equipped Boulder Bicycle...

I remember reading a blog post years ago that Kent Peterson authored. I want to say it was in the preparation phase for his first GDR race. He noted that he didn’t really train in the conventional sense of the term, but instead rode his bike with all it’s race kit for fun in the months prior to the event. That seemed like a lot of work at the time and while I can certainly relate to not getting into the whole HRM/intervals/cycling coach training thing riding a loaded bike all the time seemed excessive. Of course he was making a lot of sense I just didn’t have the sense to make full use of that advice when I first read it. I’ve become smarter over the years and I can certainly agree that riding your “event” bike setup for the event in question is the way to go. Not only do you get some extra exercise when riding it around, but you are learning how to handle the bike loaded and how to make the most of it. A naked bike feels nice, but you can’t muscle the loaded bike around the same way so it seems like a good idea to ride the bike with everything you’ll carry in the event. And of course you get to test out all your gear so that if something is going to be a problem it’s much better for that to happen 2kms from home on a Wed PM a week before the big day rather than 20kms into the event.

Berthoud handlebar bag...

I got my Boulder Bicycle All Road 650B randonneur bike with the Berthoud handlebar bag shown above. It sits on a Nitto M12 front rack. I really like this bag because it is so lovely while being 100% functional. I can open it on the bike while riding, it’s waterproof in extended heavy rain, it provides a useful place to store my cue sheet for navigation and the decaleur [QR] I got for it is very secure. I’ve seen decades old bags just like this that are going strong so I expect it will last my entire randonneur career.

Front bag profile...

Other than a couple short test rides when I first assembled this bike I have always ridden it with a loaded bar bag. It was designed for that and I always want to have a few items with me. A blog reader asked me what the bike handled like without the bag and my reply was “…I don’t know…why would I ride it without the bag?”

Front view with Edelux headlight...

For a shorter ride – say up to 200K with decent weather I just use the front bag and I’ll carry:

  • spare 650B tire
  • spare tubes x 2
  • tire levers, patch kit
  • multitool
  • fiber-fix emergency spokes x 2
  • small bit of duct tape
  • reflective sash & ankle bands
  • energy bars & other food
  • rain jacket [I never trust the forecast completely – maybe I’d skip this at the peak of summer]
  • cue sheet & control card & pen
  • iPhone
  • Visa & cash & ID
  • spare GPS batteries if the ride is long enough
  • as things warm up I’ll throw spare clothing in the bag

Decaleur detail...

The decaleur [bag QR] attaches to the stem and then the bag is placed on the rack with a leather strap looped over a small hoop of metal that sticks up from the rack. A metal rod is pushed through the decaleur parts on the bike and on the bag [bolted through the leather]. Once in place  a retention pin is used to secure it. I’ve used a thin bit of keychain wire in the photos above.

Other side of decaleur...

This style of decaleur is a bit of a PITA to use as you have to line up three metal parts and slide the QR rod through them, but it’s cheaper than the other faster decaleur options and it’s very secure. When I crashed pretty hard on a 200K the bag didn’t budge. This system is also more theft resistant and you’d have to really examine the bag to figure how to take it. If I am leaving my bike at a brevet control I just grab my money and my iPhone and leave the bag in place. It’s too much hassle to remove and reinstall it each time. I’m not sure if I would spend the $$ for the faster QR decaleur option that just drops onto the bike with no retention rod. I guess if I was headed to PBP and wanted to take my bag with me at each stop I would. For BC brevets that doesn’t seem necessary.

Small Berthoud saddle bag...

I wanted to free up some room in my bar bag so I got the small Berthoud saddle bag shown above. When it arrived it was a bit smaller than I had hoped so I’m not sure how much use it will see. I’ll probably put it on another bike like my Surly LHT when I complete the rebuild/upgrade I’ve got underway.

I used it for the 300K last weekend and carried:

  • spare tubes x 2
  • tire lever & patch kit
  • small roll of duct tape
  • fiber fix emergency spokes x 2
  • multi-tool

Small saddle bag profile...

It’s a nice size for a spare tube or two and a few tools which may suit a lot cyclists. I did free up enough space in my bar bag to be helpful when the day got hot and I wanted to strip off a lot of my cold weather gear.

Large Berthoud saddle bag...

So I called up Mike at Rene Herse and he sent me a large Berthoud saddle bag. This is an older model as the new ones all come with a QR bracket rather than a leather strap. I actually prefer this model as I won’t be removing it from the bike during a brevet.

Enough cargo capacity to be dangerous...

I’ve packed the larger bag to see what I can fit in and will carry the following in it for a 400K+ brevet and perhaps for some fast credit card touring:

  • spare 650B tire
  • spare tubes x 2
  • patch kit & tire levers
  • fiber fix emergency spokes x 2
  • multi-tool
Overall I’m quite pleased with the quality, functionality and aesthetics of these Berthoud bags. If you are in the market for bicycle bags and don’t want to go the modern Ortlieb route these are worth some consideration.




Boulder Bicycle All Road MK3…

11 05 2011

Getting close to perfection...

I’ve had a number of small tweaks I wanted to make to my Boulder Bicycle All Road rando rig. I finally got my butt in gear the last couple of days and wrenched on my bike while I watched some playoff hockey on my computer.

Lazy - that's me!

I got some custom Buddy Flaps made for my bike. They are sold as a set with the rear flap made with reflective material. My front Honjo fender is so long I couldn’t use the front Buddy Flap so I DIY’d one out of that big piece of stair tread material I have on hand. I’ll use the the now spare front “lazy” flap on another bike. The rear flap is more burly than needed, but it looks cool and provides perfect coverage. If you are a weight weenie you may want to stick with a chunk of milk jug and use a sharpie marker to customize it!

Front DIY mud flap...

The Honjo ultra light mud flaps that I got from Boulder Bicycle are indeed very light, but only offer minimal protection. I prefer to have more protection and I’m okay with a little extra weight to get it.

Berthoud large seatbag...

Acorn may not want to sell bike bags to Canadians, but Berthoud has no such qualms! I got a large Berthoud seatbag which I will use for longer brevets. This is actually an older version without a QR. I prefer attaching the bag to the saddle with a leather strap rather than the complexity and dead weight of a QR I’ll never use. I have my spare 650B tire, 2 tubes and my flat change/patch kit in there. Since I rarely need these item it frees up room in my bar bag for extra clothing and food.

I'm seeing red...

My white bar tape was getting grubby so I replaced it with some red tape that should last a while longer. I have a line on some washable white tape that doesn’t hold dirt, but couldn’t get it in right away. I’ll shelf it when it arrives until I’m feeling in a white mood!

Ding! Ding!

Almost every ride from my house starts with some bike path KMs. Having a bell to get the attention of dog walkers, roller bladers, etc.. is a nice thing. I found this Electra steerer mounted bell which doesn’t take up any bar real estate and looks nice on the bike. I also cut down the steerer a bit so I just have a minimal spacer above the stem.

B&M Baby!

The Blackburn rearview mirror I was using worked well, but it’s bulky and I have to put my hand on it when on the hoods which was not ideal. I installed a small, but effective B&M mirror on the end of the bar. An equally effective, but more elegant solution.

Dura Ace downtube shifter...

I still haven’t shifted out of the middle ring on a brevet. So I decided to ditch the bar end shifter for the front derailleur and instead install a downtube shifter. That freed up the left bar end for the B&M mirror I wanted to use and still gives me the option of the granny or big ring should I feel the need.