Crouching Rat 300K…

30 04 2012

300K Map - click for larger...

I rode the BC Randonneurs Crouching Rat 300K on Saturday. I’m uber busy at the moment so no detailled ride report will be forthcoming.

Photo: Eric Fergusson...

Ride Stats:

  • Distance = 301kms
  • Event Time = 17:10hrs
  • Off Bike Time = 2:23hrs
  • Ride Time = 14:47hrs
  • Elevation Gain = 2377m

Busy start...

Ride Links:

Tobin - the Patient Randonneur...

The Good:

  • well organized and executed event
  • started/finished at a bakery with excellent espresso and tasty beer [in that order]
  • varied route with lots of different terrain/scenery
  • Tobin [shown above] hung out with me for most of the ride even though he was capable of a faster time
  • friendly faces and treats at most controls [salted pretzels are my new favourite next to chocolate milk!]
  • got to see a lot of familiar BC Rando Club faces
  • traffic was quite polite/courteous
  • 2 different old men on mountain bikes who decided to race us at various points on the course!
  • chose the right clothing for the day so I was comfortable with minimal fuss
  • wasn’t nearly as destroyed as the 2011 Hatzic Hills 300K
  • ~20kms of gravel to switch things up a bit…=-)

Mr. Lazy...

The Bad:

  • my front derailleur wouldn’t shift to the small ring [there were some uber steep slopes I would have used it on!]
  • lots of steep climbs all packed into the first 150kms left me pretty worn out on the 2nd half
  • 2nd half of the ride started with a long stretch of highway riding into a noticeable headwind – demoralizing!
  • GPS refused to navigate us along the route I had programmed for the last 60kms to the finish [when riding in the dark in the city turn by turn GPS warnings are so nice!]
  • course seemed far harder than it should have been….not sure why, but I heard that from several people who I didn’t ride with so it wasn’t just me!

Sumas Mountain Control...

The Ugly

  • we took a 5km detour off route and climbed the most heinous climb off the day only to find out we were on Old Claybourn Rd instead of Claybourn Rd!!!
  • definitely the most punishing bonus miles I’ve ever done…=-(

BC Randonneurs 300K Event Pin - 2012...

Thanks to Chris Cullum who organized the ride as well as his intrepid band of volunteers who staffed the controls! Another fine BC Randonneur Club event in the books…=-)

Congrats to the Rocket Powered Stagecoachers!

30 04 2012

Stagecoach 400 Results Map - click to see live map...

The Stagecoach 400 is a 400 mile unsupported bikepacking race in SoCal. You can read the FAQ here. Looks like a challenging event! If I got my facts straight 3 out of the top 5 finishers were riding Porcelain Rocket bag equipped bikes. Congrats to the racers for getting ‘er done and congrats to Scott for his role in building race winning gear…=-)

A special shout out to Rick Hunter for coming in #2…he not only builds sweet bikes, but can clearly ride the hell out of them as well.

I’m no racer, but during my challenging rides I know that if I have to think about my gear I’m screwed. I can only put out my best effort if everything works and I trust it 100%.

DIY Truck Bed PT1…

29 04 2012

Step 1 - storage...

I’ve been working on a sleeping setup for my F150 where I can actually stretch out. I’ve slept in the reclined driver’s seat and across the passenger’s bench in the cab. They work okay, but don’t result in an awesome night’s sleep. Here is my current MK1 F150 bed arrangement. First step is to grab some Rubbermaid bins. These will support me off the generally filthy bottom of the F150’s cargo area and they will give me a place to store gear I need to bring along.

Note – I could fit 6 large bins in easily. Here I am just using 2 at each end with some random stuff in the middle for this demonstration.

Step 2 - plywood...

I cut a sheet of plywood to ~6′ x 32″ and painted it. This sits on the bins to provide a sleeping platform. It’s wide enough for me to sleep on comfortably. I also have an extra 6′ x 17″ sheet of plywood I can place next to the larger one on 2 more bins to make a double bed for two people to sleep on if needed. If you place the gear you need frequently in the bins along the edge of the bed you can slide them out easily for access without taking the whole setup apart. Reaching the bins at the far corner is harder so I put stuff I only need occasionally back there.

Step 3 - bedding...

I have some old pillows and comforters I can use in the truck without worrying about them getting gnarly. I’m not a princess so a doubled over comforter is fine for sleeping/sitting on. You can of course add a camping style sleeping pad or some memory foam  on the plywood as needed for comfort.

Note – the rear of the topper opens as does a “window” on each side for tons of ventilation. However, there is no bug protection.

Step 4 - add in more gear!

With the single bed I still have room for some gear along the other side of the truck. I’ve thrown a bike in to show you how it would look. I have some plans to build a removable shelf system that would go where the bike is and would hold a stove, water jug as well as a couple marine batteries to power interior lights, stereo and other electronics [cameras, computers, etc..]. I’ll eventually add solar panels to the roof to allow me to be fairly self-contained.

Given my current $$ situation anything requiring a cash investment will have to wait a while, but I can work on the no/low-cost items like building the shelving and installing stove/water jug.

What I like about this concept is that it can get setup or removed in 15mins.

Camelbak Podium Water Bottle Review

28 04 2012

My Camelbak Podium water bottles - click on image for specs...

I use a hydration bladder when I mountain bike. For all my other biking I use bottles. These Camelbak Podium bottles are awesome. They don’t screw up the taste of your beverage. They have a lockable valve for horizontal water bottle cages or other times you don’t want them to leak [ie. in your car!]. The valves are easy to drink from and they are available in clear which I like so I can keep tabs on how much hydro I have left. The shape is easy to hold onto with gloves on. They’ve survived a couple years of abuse without any problems.

Lid and valve detail...

What’s most impressive is that I realized the other day that everyone I ride with uses these bottles. That equals total bike hydration domination…=-)

They are VikApproved!

Brand-New Nomad…=-)

27 04 2012

Porcelain Rocket Edition Nomad...

My Santa Cruz headbadge fell off in Sedona so I replaced it with a new Porcelain Rocket badge…=-)

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.

Volunteer Bling…

26 04 2012

My 2011 BC Randonneur Volunteer Pin...

I’m no uber volunteer. There are folks in the BC Randonneurs that put in a million more hours to support the club, but I feel like if you want to see rides happen you have to be willing to put in some effort to make that happen. Start with helping out at one ride and see what happens. You’ll likely enjoy it a lot. Then see if you can fit in supporting a second ride. Every little bit helps and if everyone shares the work it all gets done easily without burning out a few generous folks.

Sure that means maybe you don’t ride every event that you might like to, but that’s life. You have to put something in to get something out.

I’m never going to win a volunteer of the year award, but you’ll always see me helping out on the other side of the table at a few rides.

The DSLR Dilema…

25 04 2012

Canon T2i DSLR...

Now that I have a DSLR in my camera fleet again I’m making an effort to use it as much as I can. It’s a big camera and I feel the need to treat it gently so the hassle level of taking it along on a ride or even to an event I drive to is significant. That’s okay if I get really great photos from it, but the trouble with a camera like this is that you also have the potential for some exceptionally craptacular photos. Point and shoot cameras have less potential performance and give you less control of the photos you take. However, they tend to deliver reasonably consistent picture quality within that performance envelope. A DSLR on the other hand offers the potential for a much nicer image IF you use the correct settings and that’s a big IF.

Since getting the Canon T2i I have been rewarded with some really spiffy photos that my Canon S95 couldn’t deliver. I have also been punished with a whole bunch of crappy photos that made my S95 snicker at its big brother and puff out its diminutive chest a bit. I can live with a bad photo in my backyard when documenting a bike upgrade, but when I am out and about taking shots of something that’s special – like an event – it’s critical I don’t f**k sh*t up often. Having been disappointed by the pictures I’ve taken on two recent “important” occasions I’m starting to worry about my choice of picking up the DSLR vs. point and shoot for those type of missions.

I know logically that I just need to learn from my mistakes and that unless I keep using the DSLR I’ll never master it. I also know I could set the DSLR to auto mode and have it do all the heavy lifting, but my ego get’s in the way of that!

I’ll just keep plugging away at my DSLR with the hopes of becoming a photo Jedi. Excuse a few less than rockstar images in the process!….;-)

Sharon’s Bike Commuter Update

25 04 2012

Sharon and her Surly Cross Check commuter bicycle...

Sharon’s bike commuting skills have been steadily improving since we moved to Victoria. At first she rode a few days a week. Then she rode every warm dry day. Then she started riding when it was dry and cold. Finally she’s now riding even with some rain in the forecast – which means far more days on the bike.

I’ve been careful not to push her or to say much about her bike commuting other than to give her a high five after she comes home on a particularly gnarly day and help with some bike maintenance.

Ortlieb Downtown - click for info...

Part of the process of riding in more demanding weather conditions and more often in general has been the addition of some new biking gear to Sharon’s quiver. Although I have helped narrow down the options and discussed the pros/cons of each choice she’s been the one to pick what she wants. She’s made some very smart choices such as:

I took the photo at the top of this post yesterday. As you can see Sharon is still rocking her Shower Pass Portland jacket. It’s ideal for days when there is some chance of rain, but it’s not likely to pour. She likes it because it fits well, is comfortable for a wide range of weather conditions at a moderate exertion level. She appreciates that it doesn’t make her look like a traffic cone when she’s riding or has to walk to her office. If the forecast is more on the rainy side she just bought a Gore Bike Wear shell which she uses instead as it’s more appropriate for those conditions.

The Ortlieb Downtown Bag attaches to her bike like a normal pannier, but when you pull it off the pannier frame stays on the bike and you just have a reasonably stylish bag to take with you to your meeting. It’s waterproof which is essential around here and holds enough to be useful for a bike commuter without looking like you are going on an expedition.

Thumbs up for Donkey Boxx...

We are coming up on a year with Sharon using a Donkey Boxx on her bike. It stays on there 24/7 and is her main pannier. She then adds a second soft pannier on the left side of the bike for additional capacity. The Donkey Boxx has survived a serious bike wrecking crash with minimal abrasion marks as well as being generally banged around and bumped over our rough roads. Not only is the Donkey Boxx trucking along just fine, but Sharon really digs it. I took it off her bike after the crash to get repairs done and as soon as it was ready to ride again she wanted the Donkey Boxx reinstalled immediately.

Overall the Surly Cross Check itself has been working great since we repaired it from Sharon’s crash last summer. It’s comfortable, speedy and with fenders and bags can carry Sharon to work with her stuff in most weather conditions. The Nexus 8 IGH means that the only maintenance has been adding some air to the tires and lubing the chain. I think it’s about time that I put the CC in my workstand and give it a once over just to make sure the fenders are tight and nothing needs fixing before the summer. I know she wants new bar tape as she is over the pink and it’s getting pretty grubby looking.

One hassle with this bike is playing the battery game with Sharon’s headlight. For her birthday this year I’ll install a dynohub and B&M light. If I am feeling very motivated I may wire in a tail light as well. That way she should have lights 24/7 without thinking about it which will be nice.

One pedal stroke at a time!

Garmin Forerunner 310XT Review

24 04 2012

Garmin 301XT on our tandem...

This is less of a review and more of a few comments on the Garmin 310XT. I’m not a data whore as evidenced by the lack of bike computers and GPS units festooning my bicycles. I rarely know or care how far I’ve ridden or what my average speed was. Having said that there are times when I do want to know some stats about my rides or adventures, but I am way too lazy to do much to get it. That’s where the Garmin Forerunner 310XT comes in.

Basically this is a small GPS watch unit that can also accept heart rate and bike data. It’s meant for crazy folks who do stuff like triathlons and adventure races. Besides being small its other claim to fame is it’s waterproof. That’s why I bought it so I could wear it while kiteboarding.

Although I didn’t intend to use it on the bike it has become useful for quickly strapping onto a bike I want some ride data from. I just use some foam to pad the bar and then attach the 310XT by its wrist strap. It has enough power for a long day ride, but it needs 1-2hrs from AC power to recharge at night and will eventually need to have its data downloaded or it will over write old data.

310XT porn...

Stuff I like:

  • looks okay for a GPS unit
  • smallish size
  • customizable display
  • easy to read display in sunlight + has a backlight
  • easy to use buttons
  • easy to use menus
  • has no issues getting satellite lock in the forest
  • fast satellite lock after power on as long as you’ve been using GPS recently
  • waterproof
  • easy to attach to bike
  • charges quickly
  • decent all day battery life
  • ANT transmitter works well for downloading data as long as you have a windows machine
  • Garmin Connect website easy to use and useful for reading/sharing data
  • fairly rugged
  • waterproof

Bike accessories and heart rate strap...

Stuff I don’t like:

  • it’s on the expensive side
  • small display can only do so much
  • not useful as a navigation tool
  • battery life limits it to 1 day event durrations
  • doesn’t want to play with my Mac when it comes to downloading data
  • sealed case means you can’t swap in a fresh battery for long events or when your old battery is toast
  • tons of functions I don’t need or use
  • takes a long time to lock onto satellites after a firmware update or when it hasn’t been used in a long time

Sample kiteboard session data...

Would I buy this again?

At full price? – no. I feel like it provides about $100-$150 worth of value to my life. I’ll use it until the internal battery dies or something else stops working. I see the benefit of a small GPS datalogger that can be attached to a bike or to me in a few seconds. If the price comes down I can see myself getting another similar unit, but otherwise I would just invest in a good mapping GPS like a Garmin Etrex 30 and a handful of bike mounts.

Having said that…if you are a data junkie who likes to run, bike and swim this is a pretty cool unit and may be well worth the $$$ to you.

The Partridge Hills Are Alive!

23 04 2012

Sharon enjoying the sunshine at Partridge Hills...

Up close and dirty...

Playing in the shadows...

What us lost? No way!

Lazy rides the big wheel bike...

Wo-Man and machine...

Sharon riding the solar powered line...

Sharon survived the limbo tree...

Just proving I really was on this ride...

Deep forest riding...

Hills Are Alive 300K…

22 04 2012

Who is in Control here?

I had the pleasure of volunteering at the BC Randonneurs Hills Are Alive 300K brevet yesterday. When the alarm went off at 0430hrs I panicked for a second realizing my bike wasn’t ready for the ride…until I remembered I just had to help out at the event….not ride it! The 0630hrs start was well staffed so I mostly took photos and did my best imitation of a Rando Cheerleader.

Team Croy ready to rumble...

Once all the riders were off I grabbed the stuff I would need to staff a control at ~222kms along the route from our fearless ride leader Mark. I debated getting a nap in, but decided to be productive so I fixed our BBQ after breakfast. Then it was time to head to the control for a 1300hrs opening time. I stopped at the grocery store to stock up on a few items I always like to see when I pull up to a Rando Buffet [chocolate milk, chocolate bars, peperoni sticks, chips, coke, etc…]. Sadly while at the grocery store I forgot to buy any real food for myself…an error that came back to haunt me as the clock ticked past 2100hrs in the evening.

Mark gives the riders a few pointers before they head out...

Another volunteer, Patrick, showed up right at 1pm to lend a hand. As it turned out our first customer wasn’t until nearly 1600hrs so it was good to have some company to kill time.

Steve M shot the video above while he was volunteering on the ride.

Lee, Jim & Phil - far too cheerful at ~120kms...

My second mistake after not bringing any food was to forget my laptop. The Ottawa Senators were playing hockey at 5pm and we were getting a strong WiFi signal from a nearby house. I’m such an amateur sometimes! Luckily we could follow the score on my phone and we won. Go Canada!

The big picture...

The main pack came through between 1730-1900hrs and we did good business at our control. Boost and chocolate milk were very popular as were chips and brownies. Not much interest in cookies, fruit or muffins.

Happy customers...

After our control was the last 80kms which has some very tough climbs that have to be pumped out with very tired legs. Our stop was mostly a morale and resupply stop to keep the riders stoked for the last effort.

Guido gets back in the saddle...

The weather stayed sunny all day and the temps rose to at least a warmish 12 deg C. Ideal conditions for a tough ride like this. Once the main group was through we had one last rider out on the course at night. Not ideal – especially when they are near the edge of the cut off time. He rolled in after 2100hrs just before the control closed and made the smart decision to stop riding. We packed up the control and returned the control supplies to Mark at the finish while Patrick gave our last customer a ride home.

Jeff heads back out...

All in all it was a great day to be outside supporting the ride. As the saying goes – “This shit doesn’t run itself!” and if I want to have rides to participate in I have to support the club when I can. I rolled home around 2230hrs to crack open a cold beer and then pass out.

Ed on the move...

Hills Are Alive 300K links:

Click to enlarge...

Loving my other Long Haul Trucker…

21 04 2012

Click on image for more info on custom Buddy Flaps for your fenders...

I recently posted that I was not loving my oldest bike a 700c Surly LHT. Having just installed some Retroshift brake levers on my 26″ wheeled Long Haul Trucker it has seen a bunch of saddle time and I must say I love it. The saddle, pedals and bars are exactly where I want them and the big balloon tires roll along like I’m on cloud. I’ll eventually take some measurements of the cockpit so I can adjust my 700c LHT to the same fit, but for now I’ll just ride the fat tire trucker and smile.

Profile shot...

This LHT is setup with:

  • Schwalbe 2.15″ Big Apple tires
  • Velo Orange fenders with some sweet Buddy Flaps
  • Old Man Mountain Sherpa rack [new version]
  • Velo Orange double crank
  • XTR derailleurs and MTB cassette
  • Shimano bar end shifters mounted on Retroshift levers
  • Tektro 720 canti brakes
  • Brooks B17
  • Velo Orange stem & bell
  • Salsa drop bars
  • franken wheels I pulled out of the garage of which we shall not speak!

Protected light placement...

If you read this blog regularly you’ll know that my preference for bike tires has slowly move towards wider and wider rubber over the years. There was a time where I had a road bike on 23mm rubber and a city MTB on 25mm rubber. Today I wouldn’t ride those same bikes if you offered them to me for free! My performance road bike runs on 42mm wide rubber for example – yet it’s fast and comfortable enough to hammer out a 300K even with my pathetic engine.

So it’s not shocking to me that I am enjoying the 55mm rubber on this LHT more than the ~35mm rubber on the 700c LHT. For urban environments as well as the gravel/dirt around Victoria big fat rubber makes life better. There is no real downside at a utility ride pace to this big rubber and there are wide performance rubber options [26 x 2.0″ Schwalbe Kojaks] if I wanted to improve the speed/range of this bike.

Those are some Big Apples...

Ideally I’d like to see 650B wheels and Grand Bois Hetres on this bike as I love how they feel, but I’ve got a limited bike budget so replacing some perfectly good wheels/tires isn’t a top priority. I’ve got some nice shiny Velo Orange 650B rims hanging in my garage so I’ll keep my eyes open for a deal on some disc hubs. That way when I do have a 650B wheel set I’ll be able to use it with both rim brakes and disc brakes.

Old Man Mountain - that's how I roll!

Retroshift Install and Initial Review

20 04 2012

Retroshift brake lever w/ Shimano bar end shifter...


Retroshift Two brake levers are simple to install. Just slide the mounting bracket onto the bar. Move into position. Lightly bolt lever on and fine tune your lever position then tighten. Once you get the levers onto the bars your bar end shifters just bolt on. Retroshift provides a few small washers to take out any play that you may experience depending on the levers you are using.

My 26" wheeled LHT - Black Beauty...

The cable routing is a bit funky, but I actually like how it looks and it’s less in the way of a bar bag than my usual bar end shifter cable routing.

The whole installation process is painless. I thought it was weird that Retroshift didn’t provide a step by step set of installation instructions, but it really is so simple that you don’t need any.

Keeping the cables neat...

On The Road

  • The bar end shifters mounted to the Retroshift levers fall to hand very easily.
  • Shifting is fast and positive. The position of the levers tells you what gear you are in by feel.
  • You can dump multiple gears on the rear with a swipe of your hand.
  • The shifters don’t interfere with braking from the hoods or the drops.
  • You can only shift from the hoods so if you are on the drops you have to move your hand.
  • Due to the shift mount you can’t use the cable release feature at the lever to generate extra cable slack.
  • The ergonomics are not as refined as brifters, but it’s way easy to dump a lot of gears or operate Retoshift bar cons with heavy gloves on.
  • Using bar end shifters the front derailleur is always in friction mode and the rear derailleur can be run in indexed or friction modes. That means it will keep shifting in challenging environments.
  • Current version will work with road bike specific mechanical disc brakes, but not MTB disc brakes.

Another look...

I like Shimano bar end shifters. I’ve used them mounted on the ends of drop bars and on flat bars using Paul Thumbies. Retroshift levers just give you a 3rd option for a mounting location. Which one you would prefer is simply a matter of taste.

I spend a lot of time with my hands just behind the hoods on drop bar bikes so I am used to moving my hands to brake or shift. I’m also not an uber frequent shifter so this doesn’t present a problem for me. In fact I find moving my hands to brake and shift is helpful to prevent circulation related problems on long rides. I don’t race so I don’t need a dozen lightening fast shifts each minute.

More cable routing porn...

What about Brifters?

I’ve used several sets of integrated brake & shift levers that came OEM on my bikes. They work fine when they are clean. I don’t want to mess with them for any challenging applications like bike touring and I would never pay the retail cost for a set if I was building up a frame. I’d rather go the Retroshift route myself or stick with bar end shifters.

Tektro 720 cantilever brakes...

The Downsides

  • need to buy new brake levers
  • current version not compatible with v-brakes/MTB mechanical discs [a compatible version being released later in 2012]
  • can’t shift from drops
  • looks a bit unusual

Some fresh bar tape...

You can read my initial impressions of the Retroshift levers when they were unpacked here.

Sandman Fat Bike Video…

19 04 2012

The Crazy Randonneur Blog…

18 04 2012

Click to jump to the Crazy Rando Blog...

Ty is a randonneur and has started a blog to document his various crazy adventures. Click on the image above to check it out.

100K Un-Populaire!

17 04 2012

Sharon's first 100K ride ever!

Sharon completed her first ever 100km ride on Sunday. We set out from home on a rough approximation of the BC Randonneurs 100K Populaire route. Skipping the start at the University of Victoria we headed for the Mohka House coffee shop to get fuelled up. We then followed the 100K Vic Pop route along the south end of the peninsula to Mattick’s Farm where we stopped for a bathroom break. Cruising up to Sidney we stopped for a bite of lunch before looping around the top of the Saanich Peninsula and dropping down towards home. We got a bit “creative” with the route so we could reach 100kms without heading to the official ride end point at the university.

Ride data - click for bigger...

Although the GPS data above is a bit less than 100kms we did ride the full distance. We just started and stopped recording data on the bike path near our house so as not to give away the exact location of the Lazy Rando HQ!…=-) Overall the ride was fun and a big accomplishment for Sharon. Riding 100kms opens a lot of doors for seeing cool things in our area and makes a reasonable daily ride on a bike tour.

Sharon wondering when I'll put a Brooks saddle on the tandem for her?

We need to tweak the back end of the tandem for Sharon’s long distance comfort. She wants to move the Brooks saddle from her commuter bike to the tandem and then she’ll break in another Brooks on the commuter 10kms at a time. The straight bars and bar ends worked, but we’ll do some scheming to see what other bar options we can come up with that may work better for her. In general our Bike Friday tandem worked awesome for us and was a fun bike to pedal while enjoying the scenery of our island home.

Garmin Forerunner 310XT...

I threw a Garmin fitness GPS on Sharon’s bars so she could keep track of our ride stats. It’s a handy unit because I can install it on any bike in about 10 seconds and I don’t have to bother with a bike computer the other 95% of the time when I don’t care how far or fast I went.

Garmin Etrex Vista Cx...

I had the 100K Vic Pop route loaded into my Garmin mapping GPS up front on my bars to navigate us.

Rando Beer!

The weather was great. It started off cloudy and cool, but ened up sunny and warm as the day progressed. Nice day to be out on a bike…=-)

Fun Fun Fun!

16 04 2012

Sharon and Laura excited about a Dirt Girlz MTB Club ride...

Since a vehicle was heading to Hartland I figured I might as well go for a ride...

This strange guy on a rigid bike started following me.

I tried to shake him, but he was too fast!

He was getting close to my bike at stops. Was he thinking of stealing it?!

I would have had to chase him on this bike. It doesn't even have pedals!

He called his bike a Jeff Jones Spaceframe Truss Fork.

He called himself Porcelain Rocket....must be his Burning Man playa name?

He could ride that strange bike pretty well...

I tried his bike and got distracted by that crazy huge front tire! Doh!

He didn't let me ride his bike after that...something about liability and bad PR...

That's cool. I kept rolling on my Santa Cruz Nomad...

As soon as he saw I had the camera out he went all crazy like...

I just did my best not to make him angry at that point...

Finally he stopped to pee so I blasted out of there...

If anyone asks you my name is Jesus-Eduardo and I'm from Guadalajara Mexico!

Expedition to Mount Work’s Summit…

15 04 2012

Is it much further?

I thought we were headed to Hartland Mountain Bike Park for a quick 2hr fun blast around our favourite trails on a sunny Friday the 13th. Little did I know we were on a 4hrs+ bike-xpedition to the summit of Mount Work.

Going tubeless?

We were talking about tubeless tires on the drive to Hartland and Kurt stated that he was going tubeless on his Santa Curz Nomad after this ride. So naturally the Puncture Fairy gave him a snake bite less than 5mins into the ride and while she was at it she ripped his valve stem nearly clean off. Plus she stole Kurt’s spare tube. Yikes! Bad Fairy! Luckily I had a spare tube stashed in my bike’s Porcelain Rocket frame bag. We also realized his front tire was either defective or not properly seated on the rim. After 10mins of futzing with it we gave up and he just kept going. It’s not like a front blowout could be a problem mountain biking right?…;-)

No bikes? - No shit!

We wanted to head to the top of the bike park and ride Dave’s Line to Fun Trail and then back to the parking lot. Sadly we took a couple short cuts that we thought would let us ride more singletrack on the way up rather than just grinding up the easy to navigate double track. We should have know things had gone horribly wrong when we ended up on a hiking trail that was signed “no bikes”. As we were to learn this was because 1) the trail didn’t lead anywhere bikey and 2) it wasn’t rideable! Being the eternal optimists we figured that once we were at the top we could drop down the other side of Mount Work and connect with the trails we were after. This of course was totally incorrect.

That's not a smile...

So we slogged uphill for over an hour on a nice warm sunny day. I didn’t realize my bike was in the All Mountain category because it was so much fun to push all 35lbs of it up a steep hiking trail.

Kurt is happy because he thinks this is the summit and he'll be riding down now - not!

A couple false summits later we thought we were finally at the top, but it was lies all lies.

The summit - for real!

Eventually we did get to the top. Ironically the one person who would have enjoyed this experience, Scott “Hike A Bike” Felter, was at home slaving away on some Tour Divide bike bags.

Don't get too excited Kurt...

Kurt was stoked to start riding down the other side of the summit to the bike trails we wanted to shred. He got about another 100m further than shown in the picture above before he realized we were not even close to being in the right spot and that the only way to the bike trails was back the way we came. In the photo below the pen is lined up with the trails at the top of the bike park we wanted to ride and the electrical tape is the summit of Mount Work. Doh!


So we turned around and spent 25minutes or so hiking down a steep mostly unrideable hiking trail back to the point where we left the bike park. We had started from my house in the middle of a sunny afternoon and were starting the real riding as the sun was going down and the forest was getting gloomy! We got to ride a bunch of great trails though:

  • Lumpy Pants
  • Dirt Falls
  • Phase Two
  • Dave’s Line
  • South Ridge
  • Fun Trail
  • Crossover
  • Ruffles

Cleaning up the mess...

On the plus side we got a great workout. Hahahaha! We did get to do all the riding we had set out to do. It just took a bit longer than we had anticipated. Mountain bike foreplay?…=-)

Evergreen Whisper SUP Review…

14 04 2012

Laura paddling the Whisper SUP near the Selkirk Trestle...

When I first got interested in stand up paddle boards there were really only 2 choices: 1) surf inspired shapes and 2) race boards. The race boards were so long and narrow that they weren’t really useful to most paddle boarders which means 95% of SUPers ended up on surf shaped boards. That worked out fine since surf shapes were fairly stable and easy to use. However, once you got your SUP legs under you the same surf shape that was so easy to use didn’t deliver the performance even a moderately athletic flatwater paddler wanted due to their big rounded noses and significant amounts of rocker. Not to mention that many stand up paddle boarders didn’t live anywhere they could surf!

Lovely Evergreen Whisper 12'6" SUP with bamboo finish...

That’s sort of where I am at since I live within a frisbee’s throw of the Gorge Waterway in Victoria, BC, but I am 2-4hrs away from the nearest surf breaks. So when my friend Andy at Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham  mentioned he was selling a new line up of SUPs called Evergreen I was immediately drawn to the flatwater friendly shape of the Whisper.

She is sleek...

The first thing you’ll notice about this paddle board is the sleek outline with a pointed nose that slices through the water.

Built for speed...

This means a lot more of the energy from each paddle stroke goes into driving the board forward than it would with the fat rounded nose on a surf SUP.

Flat rocker and moderately tall nose to deal with small swell...

The nose is tall enough to ride over small wind swell if you are doing a downwinder.

Flat bottom rocker...

The bottom has only a small amount of rocker which makes it a fast and efficient SUP.

Generous rail volume and single fin...

The single fin design limits drag and allows you to fine tune the directional stability based on where you place the fin in the fin box.

Note the adjustment possible in fin box...

During my test paddles I kept the fin all the way towards the rear of the fin box to maximize the board’s tracking stability. I want a SUP that is fast and stays on course when I am paddling flatwater. That of course means she doesn’t spin around on a dime.

The back end...

The square tail has lots of volume so you can step back onto it for rides down small swell and the flat shape will absorb the energy from and waves efficiently.

EVA deck pad installed...

You can get this board with an EVA deck pad installed or naked showing the spectacular bamboo finish. I checked out both versions of this SUP and I’m torn. The EVA pad is very handy and makes for a simple traction solution, but I really hate the idea of covering up that bamboo finish. You could get a naked Whisper and use wax for traction, but that’s messy and you won’t get to enjoy the bamboo that way. I think I’d spend the $$ to put clear traction material on this SUP like the NSI Clear Grip I put on my bamboo kite surfboard recently.

I love bamboo!

When I said above that the first thing you’ll notice about this SUP is its sleek outline I may have lied. The bamboo finish is really beautiful and especially on a SUP without a deck pad it really grabs the eye.

Resting between paddle sessions...

Beauty is only skin deep though. The construction of this SUP is a 1.5lb EPS core covered with 2 two layers of 6oz cloth and epoxy then a 2mm layer of real bamboo.  The finishing layer is a polished polyester resin that brings out a really warm colour from the bamboo layer. The test board I have was used as a rental SUP last season which means it got abused – a lot! Other than a few marks and couple chips on the nose it has survived really well. I take care of my boards really well so that means one of these SUPs in my fleet would stay minty fresh looking a long long time.

Flatwater SUP and classic surf SUP...

You can see in the photo above how different the Whisper is from its cousin the Evergreen Legend surf SUP. The fat round nose and lots of rocker gives the Legend the ability to play in the waves, but that comes at the expense of flatwater speed/efficiency.

SUPing under the Selkirk Trestle...

Standing on the Whisper I was impressed how stable it was for a 29″ wide SUP. It has a lot of volume and floats my 175lbs frame + gear easily. I could throw a dry bag on this board for some coastal SUP touring  no problem. You could also fish or take photos/birdwatch off the Whisper without needing to focus on staying out of the water the whole time. That’s ideal since even on a performance board like this you aren’t going to be racing 24/7.

Cruising on the Whisper...

If I was starting my SUP fleet from scratch the Whisper would be the first board I’d get. It’s perfect for the flatwater recreational and fitness paddler. It’s so much faster and easier to paddle than my surf shaped SUPs I can’t really ever see myself wanting to paddle them on flatwater again. I’ve been spoilt. What I really like is that the added performance comes without needing a crazy long board that’s hard to transport and impossible to turn. The Whisper is so easy to paddle I got two friends out on it for their first ever SUP paddle and they went from zero to having a blast in only a few minutes.

Easy to learn on as a first SUP...

Typically performance SUPs come at a premium price. I was looking at a fast SUP at MEC just prior to testing the Whisper and it cost a cool $2400 for just the board. So I was a bit shocked to see the Kite Paddle Surf has a Whisper SUP package on for $999.00 that includes a carbon paddle, deck pad and a bag for the board. When I bought my first SUP a carbon paddle and bag were $500 on top of the cost of the board.

Paddling the Whisper...

So what are the downsides to the Whisper?:

  • at 12’6″ it’s longer than a typical general purpose surf SUP which tend to run around 11’2″ so it takes a bit more effort to transport/store
  • you are not taking this baby to a surf break to hang ten
  • the sharp point at the nose is a bit delicate so you don’t want to give this SUP to the kids to play with near the rocks!
  • it’s not fast like an dedicated open ocean race SUP
  • however it is fast enough you won’t have an excuse for losing a friendly SUP race
  • Kite Paddle Surf Bellingham is the only Evergreen dealer at the moment which means you’ll have to get your SUP shipped if you can’t swing by Bellingham WA to pick it up.

Gliding along on the Whisper...

Overall I was very pleased with my experience on the Whisper. It’s the first SUP I’ve tried in a long time that has really got me thinking about a new board. The paddling efficiency and straight tracking mean I can go a lot further with less energy. The stability means I can give it to Sharon so she can easily keep up to me when we paddle together and it’s not going to be a hassle to stay upright. Finally the package price is compelling at $999.00 including a paddle and bag!

Lovely day for a paddle...

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.”

My Rando Load…

12 04 2012


For the gearheads out there I thought I would share the state of the art in terms of my rando gear. It occurred to me as the recent 200K approached that I should streamline my kit down to the bare essentials, but I decided to stick with a general purpose load that would see me through pretty much any spring brevet on Vancouver Island.


  • wool long sleeve jersey
  • wind vest
  • wool 3/4 tights
  • wool leg warmers under tights [double layer over knees]
  • wool socks
  • SPD shoes
  • fleece gloves
  • ear warmer
  • helmet
  • rain jacket [in bar bag]
  • rain over gloves [in bar bag]
  • rain chaps [in bar bag]
  • rain shoe covers [in bar bag]
  • full finger bike gloves [in bar bag]
  • buff neck warmer [in vest pocket]
  • sunglasses [worn or in vest pocket]

For summer rides I would shift towards wool short sleeve jersey + arm warmers and wool shorts. I’d also skip the fleece gloves. I haven’t done any uber long rides [600K+], but if I did I would probably want a spare set of jersey/shorts/socks/gloves around the mid-point. Ideally in a drop bag so I don’t have to carry them.

I like wool for long events as it adapts to varying temps well and is warmer/comfier wet than synthetics. It also doesn’t get smelly as fast! I’ve had good luck with Ibex & Woolistics products.

Rain chaps are not as protective as rain pants, but vent better and are easier to use. I’m not likely to start a ride with all day rain forecast, but if I did I would likely get some rain pants. I would also add a waterproof helmet cover.

My Boulder All Road 650B rando bike...


  • Boulder All Road 650B low trail rando bike
  • Grand Bois 42mm Hertres 650B tires
  • 48/36/26 x 11-32 gearing [I use only 36T front ring 99% of the time]
  • Honjo full fenders with mudflaps
  • SON dynohub + Edelux light + Planet Bike Superflash rear light
  • Selle Anatomica saddle
  • Nitto Noodle bars
  • Berthoud bar bag on a Nitto rack and Berthoud seatbag
  • frame pump + bell
  • Garmin Etrex Vista CX GPS
  • Cateye Strada bike computer
  • 2 water bottles

Berthoud bar bag on Nitto rack...


  • Petzel e+lite [clipped to helmet visor]
  • multi tool
  • tire levers [seat bag]
  • patch kit [seat bag]
  • 2 spare tubes [seat bag]
  • 1 spare tire [seat bag]
  • 2 fibre-fix emergency spokes [seat bag]
  • chain tool & spare quick link [seat bag]
  • spare set of batteries for GPS
  • pen and ziplock bag for control card
  • camera
  • cellphone
  • credit card + $20
  • ID + health insurance info

View of Berthoud seatbag...


  • dilute Kool Aid in 2 water bottles [resupply along route with water + Gatorade mix]
  • 2 sandwiches
  • 2-3 packs of shot blocks energy chews
  • 2-3 energy bars
  • carry $20 + credit card for food along route
  • eat at each control and grab water

If there are few controls and little resupply along route I will pack more water and food.

Lazy on the move...

This isn’t the most minimal nor the most excessive amount of rando gear folks carry. I think it strikes a good balance of being versatile and dealing with likely situations without needlessly weighing me down. It also handy to carry the same basic load on all brevets so you can just grab your bike and know you have what you need.

What happened to my Long Haul Trucker?

11 04 2012

My Surly LHT with the Selkirk Trestle in the background...

I’ve been out of town a lot so far this year and have mostly been riding my MTBs and Bike Friday Tikit when I am home. So the other night I grabbed my oldest bike and jumped on it for a ride into town to meet a friend. My sage green LHT has been one of those bikes I’ve used to size other bikes I was buying because it fit so well and it was definitely in that category of “bikes I would never get rid of”. So it came as a huge shock that I was both uncomfortable on my LHT and didn’t enjoy how she felt to ride…=-(

Now logically I know our bodies and our preferences change, but emotionally I was just so totally unprepared to not be smiling as I pedalled this bike into Victoria.

Some of the issues are reasonably easy to fix. I need to move the saddle to get my butt/knees and BB into the position that’s comfortable and efficient. Then I may or may not have to swap in a different stem to get the bars positioned where I want them and I definitely will need to rotate the bars and reposition the brake levers. This is a bit of a pain, but nothing overly challenging. Give me a warm sunny afternoon and 3 beers! =-)

I wasn’t loving the skinny 35mm Marathon XR touring tires either which is also a shock as these have been one of my favourite for a long long time. Tires are easily replaced so other than feeling bad for not enjoying an old friend’s company I can get over this issue. Now I know 35mm isn’t skinny for a road tire, but keep in mind my MTBs run on 2.4″-3.7″ tires and my go fast road bike runs on 42mm tires – plus the XRs measure a bit on the narrow side so they aren’t a true 35mm width.

I actually came home after the ride in question and said to myself “I could sell this bike and be fine about it.”

Now I’m fortunate in that I have a 26″ wheeled LHT in my work stand getting Retroshift brake levers + bar end shifters installed. I just setup the bars/levers and saddle position to be comfortable/efficient so that’s not a problem and it’s running on Schwalbe Big Apple 2.15″ balloon tires. This should address all my concerns about my 700c LHT. I’m keen to get the 26″ LHT back on the road and ride both of them [after adjusting the 700c bike’s cockpit]. A always assumed the 26″ wheeled LHT would be a bike I’d keep for 2-3yrs to compare wheel sizes after which I’d sell it, but now I’m really not sure which LHT will get sold.

If I do end up keeping the 26″ wheeled LHT I may forge ahead with the 650B conversion I had been pondering and perhaps even get the fork re-raked to lower the trail. That seems to be where my bikey preferences are headed.

Life is always full of surprises!

Rick Hunter’s MTB Touring Rig…

10 04 2012

Fun to hear a custom builder talk about his own bike.

Tour de Cowichan 200K…

9 04 2012

The route...

The two biggest challenges in successfully completing this ride were:

  1. getting out of bed at 4:30am on a freezing cold morning with no Rando Buddy waiting to shame me for sleeping in.
  2. the last 50kms where my lack of training put the hurt on me big time.

When my alarm went off Saturday morning I wasted 10 valuable minutes pondering the existential dilema of riding the 200K or staying in a warm bed. I had prepared just about everything the night before including 2 cups of tea and breakfast. So Getting out the door wouldn’t be too hard. The forecast was for warm sunny weather which was helpful. The route was through a lovely area of Vancouver Island which got me stoked. Even better the start was at a bakery and the finish was at a pub. How could I say no?!

Thank you Weather Gods!

Even with my preparation the night before I got out of the driveway 15mins later than I had wanted to. That meant driving very fast the whole way to the start at Chemainus while hoping the police had some crack dealers to bust at 5am on a Saturday rather than set up speed traps. I got to Chemainus with about 15-20mins to spare before the ride started. I rode leisurely over to the start only to find it closed. Hmmm…the ride started at The Dancing Bean last year and I guess I hadn’t read the ride page closely enough to pick up the change…=( I slowly rode around town looking for signs of life and men in tights! It didn’t take too long to spot the start at the Utopia Bakery and some familiar faces.

Jeff & Steve getting registered...

My first problem showed up around this time when I powered up my GPS and tried to load the route. My lame-ass Garmin tells me it can’t navigate the route because there are more than 50 way points. For the love of God! My phone can hold the entire contents of the Great Library of Alexandria and my GPS can’t sort out a 200K route? I had forgotten how pathetic the Garmin operating system was since last year’s rando season. Oh well – I loaded up the track of the route that I had put on the GPS and used that instead. A track is basically a trail of dots showing where someone had gone before. Not as nice as turn by turn directions, but it was better than a punch in the head!

Martin addresses the riders at the start...

The 20 odd riders rolled out onto the course in very chilly temps. I was starting to doubt my clothing choices as it was a lot colder than I had expected, but I didn’t want to stop and put on a jacket because I’d lose the Rando Train! As it turned out my wool layers were ideal for the cold to warm weather we ended up with. I was trying to stay with a slower group that wouldn’t kill me on the ride. I tend to go out too fast and then suffer at the end. I settled into a larger group that was going my speed on the flats, but they really slowed on the climbs. I had to decide if I wanted to push on to a faster group that climbed at my pace, but that would probably go faster than I would like on the flats or stay where I was. I didn’t want to ride alone so I needed someone to stick with. I ended up leaving the larger group and finding a smaller group up the road.

Jeff - photo: Melissa

That group got whittled down to Jeff and I. He was going a fast pace that I could manage in his draft, but I started to feel guilty after a while. I wasn’t sure how long I could wheel suck before I went from Rando Buddy to Rando Jerk. Eventually Tobin rode up to us and we were three. This 50km stretch  to the  first control had a lot of climbing in it. [You can click on the route map at the top and get an interactive ride map.] I was climbing pretty well and managed to hang on on the flats. I did take a turn at the front to assuage my wheel sucker’s guilt, but it was tough enough that I knew that wouldn’t be happening a lot on this ride! We eventually caught up to John [who as it turns out is a blog reader] and he motored along with the three of us in tow to the first control near Lake Cowichan at around 50kms. It hadn’t warmed up much to this point and we started to doubt the forecast for sunny skies.

Photo: John M. - See I wasn't kidding about eating a lot at the controls...

I was keen to keep my stops as short as possible on this ride and the first control set the right tone for me:

  1. stop
  2. put some food in your mouth
  3. pee
  4. get control card signed & put away
  5. eat some more
  6. adjust clothing
  7. adjust bike [leather tension on my saddle]
  8. eat some more
  9. get rolling
I’m guessing we were in and out of the control in 7mins or so. One thing that helped is I was wearing fairly flexible clothing that I could vent while riding to adjust for changes in temperatures, wind and effort levels. I also had lots of food on the bike I could eat while riding. I made a conscious effort to eat a small amount consistently throughout the event. I also had something to drink every time I thought of it and every time anyone else pulled out a bottle I grabbed mine for good measure. So when I rolled into a control I wasn’t trying to recover from the damage I had just inflicted on myself. I was simply adding some extra calories to the tank and taking care of tasks I couldn’t do on the bike.

My Rando Rig taking a rare break...

I was feeling good leaving the first control and I knew if I could get the next 50kms done easily than I would have conquered a good chunk of the climbing and I could roll the last half of the ride with less power in the legs. We did great getting over the lumpy bits on the way back from Lake Cowichan towards Duncan. I was starting to think I might not get crushed like I usually do on these rides due to my non-existant training regime. I got on the front and took a pull on the Trans-Canada Hwy section of the second leg trying to contribute something to the group. As we turned off the highway and headed to the Kinesol Trestle I was getting pretty low energy. I don’t think I was bonking simply because I had been eating pretty solidly on the ride so far. I suspect my body was just reaching the end of my typical long workout timeframe at 4-5hrs and was starting to wonder what the heck was going on!

John walking back from the Kinesol Trestle...

Happily control #2 at the Kinesol Trestle [~116kms]  was well stocked with provisions. I repeated my routine from control #1, but took an extra 5-6 mins to sit down and rest. I didn’t waste this time though and I kept a constant flow of food entering my mouth without gorging. Jeff and Tobin had gone up the road during the climb to the trestle with John and I following a bit behind. We regrouped at the control, but didn’t ride together too much more as our speeds kept diverging. I totally appreciated the company thus far and the ability to draft some stronger riders. It was way nicer than the solo death march I had envisaged earlier in the week! So thanks guys!

Tobin, Lazy and John at the Secret Control @~ 130kms...

Not shockingly [to me] my energy levels kept dropping from this point onwards. I can’t really be upset or surprised when I don’t put in a reasonable amount of preparation for these rides. John and I stuck together on the ride to control #3. He was stronger on a lot of the sections and went ahead to wait for me at key spots. It was still nice to have some company even if I didn’t have the speed to stay with him all the time or to do much chatting when we were together. There were a couple fun fast downhills on this section that put a grin on my face. The 3rd control was at 151kms so this was a short leg. I was happy about that as I needed the morale support, food and to feel like the finish was at had.

Control #3 @ ~151kms...

The last 50kms to the finish was really hard for me. I eventually lost contact with John completely and got passed by Gary Baker. The KMs ticked down very slowly – very slowly! I just kept the pedals turning and kept eating. So far in the ride I hadn’t got off the bike between controls and I wanted to stick with that strategy so I ate a sandwich while coasting down a couple long gradual hills. I did eventually have to stop for a brief pee break, but my general plan to keep moving and keep control stops short did contribute to a low overall time for me. I know when I am suffering looking at the odometer is a bad thing as it seems to be broken it’s counting so slowly! The fact the finish was at a pub meant I could look forward to a pint and a Rando Burger. That helped keep me pedaling along. Eventually I got to a pub and I thought it was “The Pub”, but I didn’t see the control sign or any bikes. I took a moment to consult the route sheet and I knew my brain wasn’t at 100% so I didn’t rush the cognitive process! While my neurons fired very slowly Martin Williams [friendly neighbourhood brevet organizer] came out to let me know I was done.

Photo: Melissa

Happy Happy! I got my route card signed and was handed a finisher’s pin. I immediately grabbed a seat and started looking at the menu!


  • Total distance = 202kms
  • Total ride time = 9:30
  • Avg speed = 22.9kph
  • Riding time = 8:49
  • Time off the bike = 41mins

Tobin at the finish...

The Good

  • got out of bed at 4:30am!…=-)
  • great weather
  • great route
  • enthusiastic friendly club volunteers at the controls
  • ate and drank well
  • good folks to ride with
  • no bonus KMs
  • finished middle of the pack
  • no flats or mechanicals
  • wore the right clothes for weather conditions
  • bike was comfy
  • 650B tires were ideal for all the rough pavement and gravel patches

Photo: John M. - Jeff, Tobin, Lazy and John @ the Secret Control....

The Bad

  • shifting needed tweaking
  • saddle needed tightening
  • GPS route didn’t work
  • lots of rough pavement needed my full attention [especially when drafting]
  • low energy on the last part of the ride
  • didn’t take many photos

The Ugly

  • nothing! – sweet…=-)

Photo: John M. - ready to roll out of Control #3...

What I should do different next brevet?

  • check out the bike a little more carefully [shifting, saddle, ect…]
  • turn on GPS at home and load route to ensure it will navigate
  • pack food that’s easy to eat on the bike [open some packages in advance]
  • train hard – hahahaha…yeah right!

Photo: John M. - Let's get this party started!

Related Links:

Route sheet and finisher's pin...

Birth of our Bike Friday Tandem…

8 04 2012

Cutting tubing...

These are some photos the kind folks at Bike Friday took for me when our Tandem Traveller XL was being built. I meant to post them last year and misplaced them for a bit. I won’t say too much about them as I don’t understand all the details of the construction process very well, but I thought it would be fun to share and to get a sneak peak at how these bikes are made.

Selecting some more tubing...

Prepping each tube...

Time to drill...

More prepping...

Welding jig...

A big bike needs a big frame fixture...

Welding the rear triangle...

Rear triangle...

Rear triangle...

Captain's seat mast opening in front TT...

More drilling...

Rear triangle fittings...

Rear V-brake posts...

Rear dropouts...

Stoker's BB...

Stoker's seat mast tube...

Rear triangle fittings...

Kickstand plate...

Cable guides...


Frame parts after powdercoat...

Assembly begins...

Installing the headset...

A box of tandem parts at my house...

The finished product...

Rob English – Custom 29er MTB…

7 04 2012

Rob English is part of the Bike Friday team that made my favourite folding bike the Tikit. He also builds custom bikes and in this video he chats about a custom 29er MTB he built with some pretty neat details.

Happy 20th Anniversary Bike Friday!

6 04 2012

20th Anniversary email from Bike Friday...

April 2012 marks Bike Friday’s 20th anniversary of making cool folding bikes. I’m only in my 5th year of being a Bike Friday customer, but it’s been a great ride so far.

Bike Friday HQ...

I stop in whenever my travels take me along the west coast past Eugene, OR during business hours.

Belt drive Tikit...

I managed a quick 30min visit on my way home from Sedona to check out the new showroom bling.

20th Anniversary Bike Friday - click image for more details...

The 20th Anniversary Bike Friday looks pretty sweet [it’s missing a wooden front fender].

That's a lovely disco paint job...=-)

I particularly like the sparkly metallic paint job.

A colourful flock of Tikits...

I always leave Bike Friday HQ scheming about a new bike!

Want to tour and need some gear?

The showroom is sporting a great selection of accessories for the bike commuter and cyclotourist.

Red bikes are faster right?...=-)

I had a hard time passing by the red New World Tourist with matching red Selle Anatomica saddle! If it had red rims and some red fenders I’d probably have a new Bike Friday…=-)

A herd of Bike Friday tandems...

I love all the Bike Friday tandems they had to check out. Although I must say we chose well. Our Raspberry Rocket is a primo tandem and still the nicest Bike Friday tandem I’ve seen.

Purple belt drive Tikit...

This belt drive Tikit has a lower cost belt drivetrain that makes it a lot more affordable than the upscale carbon belt.

Back end view...

Sorry I don’t have all the details. If you are interested give Bike Friday a call/email. I’m sure they’d be happy to give you the 411.

Crank end view...

A lower entry cost is certainly pretty key if belt drives are going to penetrate the mainstream of cycling.

The fancy bling carbon Gates belt drive...

All in all it was fun to see the folks I know at Bike Friday and to check out some of the new upgrades to their product line.

20th Anniversary Customer Appreciation Offer...


5 04 2012

See new tab at top of blog...

I’ve added an “About” page at the top of this blog. It also says FAQ since in explaining what this blog is about I tackled some of the often asked questions. If you can think of more Q’s that should be answered in the FAQ let me know.

Bike Friday Tandem Brakes….

5 04 2012

Note a front disc and v-brake posts...

I was asked about the brakes on our Bike Friday Tandem Traveller XL over at my Flickr site and thought I would share the answer here for wider dissemination:

My Bike Friday tandem was ordered with disc brakes and v-brake mounts. I haven’t felt the need for extra braking at this point so we only have the discs mounted.

Like for any bikes there is no magic in v-brakes vs. discs. They both work. So you can pretty much pick whichever you prefer and use them.

Neither v-brakes or discs can take prolonged application before they’ll fail. V-brakes will heat up the rims and your tube will blow. Disc brakes will boil their hydraulic fluid, melt the plastic parts of the caliper and warp the rotor if overheated. Neither outcome will be pleasant with your GF on the back bombing down a mountain!

On a tandem the extra weigh without as much aero drag = extra speed on the downhills which can be a problem.

Are you saying we are so fat we need 4 brakes????

My suggestions are:

  1. if the roads are good sit up, take the lane and let the bike run without braking or minimal braking [I do this with my loaded touring bike frequently]
  2. if you need to brake a lot use pulse braking….slowing hard with front brake, releasing and then slowing hard with rear brake…then repeat. You’ll speed up to a top speed each pulse and then slow down to your bottom speed. Note the fast top speed allows a lot of air to flow over your brakes to cool them very effectively.
  3. add if a 3rd or 4th my case a v-brake front and rear possibly. Use pulse braking, but now you have 3 or 4 brakes to cycle through so you can brake more frequently without overheating.
  4. take a break or 3 on a steep descent to snap a picture or nimble something while your brakes cool.
  5. if you need more braking than you can get with pulse braking or you can’t be okay with the faster speeds of a pulse braking solution you can get a rear drag brake that will keep your speed lower since it’s on all the time. Keep in mind only a specially designed drum drag brake will do this safely. A disc or v-brake applied even very lightly, but constantly will quickly overheat and fail.

Our tandem team weighs ~300lbs + gear + bike…so probably close to 400lbs total on a ride with a lock and a light load of gear. My main strategy is #1 above….I just let the bike run as fast as she wants and brake only when I absolutely have to – which is infrequently. For a tour with full camping gear I’ll do some test runs locally and determine if I need an extra brake. If  so I’ll put a stoker controlled rear brake on.