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.

Hatzic Hills 300K…

4 05 2011

A few of the 47 riders at the start...

Let me start by saying we achieved our goals:

  1. getting a hotel room without an insect infestation
  2. not crashing
  3. completing the ride within the time limits
  4. having fun most of the time
On the other hand I think we found the limits of our un-training program at about 200K. One of the reasons we decided to ride the Lower Mainland 300K was to give ourselves more time to prepare. Unfortunately we didn’t really take advantage of that time for training. So last Friday as I got ready for the trip to the mainland I wasn’t sure how things would go. Sharon came along to keep us company and to visit some friends while we were off on the ride. The ferry and drive to our hotel near the start in Burnaby took longer than expected so our sleep time shrank to less than 5hrs. I hadn’t slept well the night before so I wasn’t happy when the alarm went off! On the plus side Sharon had booked the hotel and it was insect free which meant we could at least enjoy the limited amount of sleep we managed to get.

Deirdre & Bob - Ride Organizers and David K registering riders - photo: Colin F......

I took a quick shower to wake up and started to wonder if I had packed the QR part of my front bag’s decaleur. It turns out I forgot the safety pin that secures it, but I brought the critical bit that holds the bag on and I managed to DIY a retention clip out of a thin key chain ring. Note to self pack the bike completely rigged so that I can’t forget stuff like this again and carry a spare safety pin in the bag if I lose one while on the ride. Panic averted we rode the very short distance to the end point at the Knight and Day 24hrs Restaurant for breakfast. I was feeling pretty grim while eating and wasn’t able to finish as much of my food as I would have liked. I was hoping that the sunrise would lift my spirits.

Control #1 at ~38km...

We rolled over to the start control and were met by a wide array of cool bikes and brightly dressed BC randonneurs. That already made me feel better. Besides the usual array of rando rigs I saw a Moulton and a Bachetta recumbent. With the sun rising and our cue sheets/control cards in hand we rolled out with the other 45 riders for the ~40km trek to the first control. Most of this leg of the ride was through urban jungle which is something I’m not used to living in Victoria. We rolled along at a brisk clip with the main group. At one point a section of 2″ x 6″ wood appeared suddenly into view too quickly for me to avoid it so my front tire took a glancing blow. At first I wasn’t sure if I was going down, but was sure glad when I didn’t and then glad I didn’t flat. Riding in a group has benefits in terms of drafting, but the downside is how hard it is to see debris/pot holes. We arrived at the first control quickly and Aaron was the voice of reason suggesting we let the main group go and ride our own pace from here on in.

Team Rando Tractor in the middle at Control #1 - photo: Dan McGuire...

The next leg was about another 40kms and quickly became more rural and had far less traffic on it. We had a lot of fun rolling along through this section of the lower mainland. Temperatures stayed cool and so far the sun hadn’t really made an appearance as promised by the weather forecast. OTOH it wasn’t raining so that was okay with us! There was some really great climbing and descending narrow windy country roads just past the dam we crossed over. The last bit of riding before the control was a series of rollers that took us steadily uphill to the welcome sight of the BC randonneurs control sign.  The ride organizers [Deirdre and Bob] had some hearty soup on the go and some chairs for us to rest on inside. It’s amazing what a bit of food, a bit of comfort and a splash of water/soap on your face does for your energy levels.

Aaron still smiling @ Control #2...

Leaving Control #2 we rolled downhill most of the way to HWY 7. That was fun, but knowing we had to come back to the same spot after the long run out to Control #3 at the Johnson Slough Rest Area made me not so stoked for the return trip! No point worrying about that now right? The sun had come out. We had some nice downhills and then a tailwind on HWY 7 so all was good. We spent most of our afternoon riding eastbound on HWY 7 and then returning back on the same route in the early evening. That made navigation pretty easy, but it also meant riding next to a lot of traffic on a road with average to poor shoulders. I was very happy to have wider tires on my bike as we hammered over cracks and potholes when we couldn’t ride in the traffic lane. Not my favourite part of the ride for sure, but it would have been better had there not been a bunch of assholes on Harley Davidson motocycles who purposely buzzed super close to us with their deafeningly loud bikes for no apparent reason other than to affirm that they were indeed assholes. I’ve been a motorcyclist for decades of my life and I know there is no reason you need to ride at the edge of the white line cruising the highway – especially when you see a group of cyclists riding on the narrow shoulder dodging debris and pot holes. Well unless you want to be an asshole! The first time they did it was unpleasant and a bit scary as each bike got closer and closer to us – literally less than a foot away from our elbows. The second time a bit later they forced us to ride through a big swath of wood debris that ripped Aaron’s front fender out of the fork crown. Before we get to the fender I will say there were lots of other motorcyclists out on HWY 7 that day who were riding Japanese bikes that were reasonably quiet and kept a safe distance from us. To those bikers I say thanks!

Front fender carnage...

So as we are cruising down HWY 7 at a high rate of speed on the shoulder suddenly it looks like a logging truck got hit with a RPG and spewed large bits of bark and wood all over the place. Normally we’d just ride on the left side of the white line for a few seconds to get around it, but unfortunately some more of those morons on their insecure motorbikes swooped in for another round of harass the cyclist. So we plowed through the wood. I didn’t see Aaron behind me in my mirror so I stopped and went back. He was doing something to the front wheel of his bike and I was concerned he had gone down in the wood. The good news was he was fine and hadn’t crashed, but the bad news was some wood had jammed in his fender and sheared the fork crown mount and then jammed the whole thing forward under the fork. I’m amazed he didn’t endo, but the Rando Gods were obviously smiling on us that day! In another stroke of luck I had just upgraded my multi-tool before the ride and the new tool had the wrench size we needed to unmount the fender which was now useless.
We got Aaron’s bike rolling again and left the fender by the side of the road for retrieval on the way back down Hwy 7. We had been feeling pretty good up to that point, but somehow we never got back on top of things from then on. Luckily the route was downhill and we still had a tailwind to the Control #3 at ~150kms. Of course that meant it was uphill with a headwind on the way back! Gary B was at the far control with his travel van and new berg rando bike. I have been wanting a travel van myself and I’ve never had a Ti bike so I was envious of both fine machines! We didn’t stay long at this control as I think we both sensed our lack of training was going to make the return hard and we should start pedaling ASAP.

Team Rando Tractor hard at work on a climb - photo: Colin F...

We didn’t get far before I managed to get us onto the wrong highway and when we tried to discuss the way back on route we were both confused enough that communicating was a challenge. So we laid on the ground for a few minutes!!! before retracing our path back to Hwy 7. Gary saw us going backwards and stopped to ensure we weren’t totally lost and headed for Kamloops.
Gary told us about a cafe down the road that had good food and about his secret weapon [Coke! – the drink…] We decided to try both! After a rando burger and a coke I felt better and we did our best to fight the tailwind and uphill grade back to Control #4 at ~220kms. Not much to say about the return run back down Hwy 7 we got a bit of rain [but nothing terrible] and we didn’t have any Harley Davidsons strafing us. We took turns blocking the wind for the other guy and rotated through to keep our speed above walking pace. We were both happy and sad to reach the turn off of Hwy 7 and down the final stretch to the control. On one hand the quiet country roads were much more pleasant to ride than the edge of a busy highway and the headwind wasn’t a problem in the trees, but the terrain was uphill pretty much the whole way. We stopped at a gas station to get a Coke and snack a bit. Then we got down to the business of being Rando Tractors and chugged along the route. I think on balance I prefer uphill and scenic vs. flat and busy routes.

Bob B - photo: Dan McGuire...

When the control appeared down the road we were happy to take a break and chat with Deirdre and Bob B. We were a little suspicious that he was trying to deny us of our well deserved Lantern Rouge honours, but when he left before us we could relax secure in the knowledge we would not be denied! With only 80kms left I knew we’d make it before the time ran out. I just wasn’t sure how grim it would get before all was said and done. I kept eating and drinking as much as I could knowing that was the only thing that would stop us dead in our tracks. We had accumulated 5 bonus kms by this point and I was aware that we could ill afford any more simply due to the fact our morale couldn’t take the pummeling of extra pedaling. Before we left the control Deirdre kindly took Aaron’s rogue fender for us so he could ride without it strapped to his rack bag – thanks! We geared up for night riding with reflective gear and switched on our lights. Then we set off on the last leg of our mainland rando adventure.

Aaron close to the finish...

Aside from a couple crazy steep hills that we walked we made decent time [for us!] back towards the finish through some lovely country side with the sun setting. My GPS’s maps are old and a bunch of the route was essentially not programable, but I knew we’d appreciate having some navigational assistance on the last leg so I had her ready to roll. I still used the cue sheet as my main resource, but it was nice to get confirmation of what I thought the cue sheet was saying as there were times when my eyes and brain weren’t cooperating 100%! Getting into the city was good for morale as we knew we were close to the end and we had the back up of services if we needed to stop and eat/take a break. I never appreciate gas stations in my day to day life as much as I do on a brevet! I really like night riding so I had fun cruising through the city by headlight. Well at least until the last 15kms or so. We were both starting to lose the plot in the last few kms. I knew we’d make it, but there were a couple times when we just needed to sit down by the side of the road and not be on the bike!

Info control photo so we couldn't DNF due to brain fog!

I can assure you we were stoked to get to the information control ~7km from the finish. In our mentally challenged state we didn’t trust ourselves to correctly answer the skill testing question so we documented the mailbox sign in question with a photo and also took a photo of the nearby bike overpass to back up our claim of being there if something went wrong. We muddled along the last few kms. Deirdre drove out and met us to make sure we hadn’t fallen asleep in a ditch. It was nice to see a familiar face and know the finish was just a few turns away.

Eric F - photo: Dan McGuire...

Thanks to Deirdre and Bob for organizing a fun ride and being patient with us Rando Tractors as we chugged away slowly over the course. That is one of the benefits of being slow – you get savour the course for much longer than the fast folks!…=-)

Hatzic Hills 300K Map - click on image for full size...

Ride Stats:
  • Total Distance = 307kms
  • Time Riding = 14.4hrs
  • Total Event Time = 18.25hrs
  • Time Off the Bike = 3.9hrs
  • Climbing = ~3000m
Our lack of training was painfully obvious as this event progressed. However, I subscribe to the philosophy that training is like voting. You don’t have to do it, but if you chose not to don’t complain about the results! Having said that I did come up with a positive aspect to our slacker approach to brevets this year. By not training and riding slowly with tired bodies and foggy brains we are in fact training for future events when things go off the rails and we need to deal with adversity. We also got in a lot more night riding than other folks because we were out there for so long. Wow that almost makes it sound like a cunning plan!…=-)

Click on image for map and route info - note ride stats are not mine!

The Good:
  • I had fun [most of the time!]
  • my bike worked well
  • I was comfortable the whole time
  • wool clothing was well suited to ride temperatures
  • SON & Edelux lighting was great
  • Petzel e+Lite micro headlamp clipped to my helmet’s visor in red solid mode was good for reading cue sheet in the dark
  • it was good to have company during low points of the ride
Aaron did a great job tackling a PR for distance in challenging terrain. The hardest part of a brevet for me is the mental part and his positive attitude in the last 3rd of both events we’ve done together has been very helpful. He’s got some plans for a 650B Kogswell and/or VO Polyvalent rando rig to get his fit dialed in and make carrying stuff a bit easier. We’ve been talking about doing rando inspired light tours around Vancouver Island that will get some more miles in our legs without having to use the “T” word…=-)~

Colin & Alex Ride Volunteers - photo: Dan McGuire...

The Bad:
  • the travel & resulting lack of sleep before the event wasn’t great
  • I’ve got to take a look at what I’m eating and see if I am eating enough as I had several low points that seemed like they were diet related
  • it’s clear that we can’t count the first 150K of a 300K as a training ride for the last 150K!
  • not training means we’re slow and being slow means a harder ride simply due many extra hours on the bike

You can tell this was early on as there are riders behind us! - photo: Colin F...

Looking ahead I would like to get in a 400K this year, but I’m not sure the Vancouver Island event in two weeks is the one I want to tackle. Aaron is not interested in riding a 400K this year and without the morale boost of another Rando Tractor I’m not sure how I would feel when I hit 300K+ on the course. I’ll give it some thought and also look at events in July when my fitness will be a bit more respectable. I’ve volunteered to help out with the Van Isle 600K Mike C is and his wife Brynne are running at the end of May. That way I’ll have two 600Ks under my belt in 2011…lol…even if I didn’t actually pedal a bike during either event!

Strategy planning - photo: Colin F...

Thanks to every one involved in organizing and running the event. Also thanks to everyone we rode with/near – it was fun! I’m impressed with the BC Randonneurs they do a awesome job putting on brevets. Also special thanks to Dan McGuire and Colin Fingler for taking photos…=-)

Does your bike plane?

28 04 2011

Boulder Bicycle All Road...

Click on the image above to listen to an interesting podcast interview with Jan Heine [Bicycle Quarterly Editor] about the idea of planning in a bicycle frame. Thanks to Terry Bikes for posting this online.

Versatile or Optimized?

12 04 2011

Optimized and integrated...

As my bike education continues I’m learning that something I’ve always loved about many of my bikes – their versatility – is at odds with something I’ve come to appreciate of late – optimized design. This is logical of course. If you build a bike to do a number of things and to be built up a variety of ways you must make the design flexible enough to work adequately for all the tasks owners will use it for. On the other hand if I give you a very narrow specification to design a bike around and a single focus that all owners will use the bike for it’s possible to make a bike that works much better in its area of speciality.

Recently I disassembled my Boulder Bicycle All Road’s front end to correct a mistake I made assembling the headset. It was a bit of a chore because the front rack, bag, fender, lighting and brakes are all tied together. Then when I reassembled it I put two 2mm spacers in the wrong spot when putting the front rack on. Nothing would line up. The fender line was totally wrecked. I was shocked as the bikes I’m used to, such as my LHT, are not built to such tight tolerances. A difference of 2mm would make no difference on that bike. In fact my LHT’s fork brake posts are not symmetrically welded to the fork and are both angled incorrectly. A flaw that I’ve been able to pretty much ignore because nothing really depends on them as long as the brakes have enough adjustment room. On my Boulder Bicycle everything from the fender to the rack to the bag would be out of alignment due to such a fabrication mistake.

Working on my Boulder Bicycle several reasons that few bikes are optimized and integrated becomes clear – it’s hard to do, it’s expensive because fabrication tolerances are tight and you can only sell each design for one purpose. When every part is supposed to fit perfectly into place a mistake becomes glaringly obvious. As you can imagine welding and assembling these types of bikes is very challenging.

Interlocking pieces...

This begs the question is the cost and hassle of optimized design and integrated components worth it? I think the answer is yes for two different reasons:

  1. an optimized integrated design is beautiful. Each part working with the next in harmony.
  2. a focused design works noticeably better for its mission than a bike that has been made to do many different things

Looking at it from the opposite point of view it’s very hard to make a bicycle that doesn’t work at all. My LHT is a bike I love and it’s optimized moderately well and not integrated at all. It works with a variety of parts for many missions. It does many things well and isn’t bad for a bunch more missions. It will never be perfect. I love it anyways. When I go to mount the VO hammered fenders I bought for it I know they’ll go on well enough. They won’t fit the wheel perfectly and I’ll have to cobble together some DIY spacers and brackets to get the best fit I can. The front fender won’t tie into the front rack elegantly for proper support. The result will be nice and work fine, but there will be many areas that are not ideal.

Anna's lovely versatile LHT...

On the bright side, while a bike that’s not designed to be integrated will never be one, even a versatile bike design has a mission and build spec that makes the most of its capabilities. I think that’s why I love the LHT so much. She’s got a bit of a frankenstein vibe and she is not wonderfully harmonious to look at, but in the saddle she works very well for what I use her for. The tubeset and geometry Surly used works well for my size, weight and cargo. If I was 60lbs more or 60lbs less or +/- 8″ taller/shorter than I am than it would likely not be a bike I loved so much. I also have to give credit to the custom parts build I used. It all has come together better than the sum of its parts would suggest.

What interests me is now that I have an appreciation for optimized bikes and integrated designs will I build up any more versatile bikes? I really don’t know. I can tell you that looking at the Rawland Cycles Drakkar the first thing that comes to mind is that if I built it up that the fenders, wheels/tires and front rack would have to be hacked together around the specific build I chose. It would all work. It would likely be a lovely bike, but it would never be as elegant or purposeful as my Boulder Bicycle All Road.

Perhaps I’ve been ruined??!!

Willie's Vanilla Rando rig on a OR Rando Club 300K...

The trouble with a taste for optimized/integrated designs is that there are very few production frames/forks available. Boulder Bicycle’s 700c/650B offerings are a couple of the only ones that come to mind along with a couple from Velo Orange and the Box Dog Pelican. And keep in mind none of these bikes is fully optimized or integrated. They go part way down that path, but leave some flexibility to the owner which results in some compromises. At the far end of spectrum are the Rene Herse bikes offered by Mike Kone which are only available as completely integrated bikes that must meet certain standards of aesthetics and performance with a price tag that matches. I have neither the budget nor the refined tastes for such a fine machine so my VISA card is somewhat safe!

Lugged Boulder Bicycle Porn…

8 04 2011

Lugged Boulder Bicycle with custom paint...

Jump over to the Rene Herse Blog and check out this lovely lugged Boulder Bicycle with custom paint.

The Hills are Alive 300K…

7 04 2011

Ready to roll...

Update: I’ve decided not to participate in this ride. Sharon wasn’t happy that I was going to spend the Saturday of her 4 day Easter Weekend riding my bike which would screw up any plans to leave town for the holiday weekend. Add to that the Easter holiday road traffic and my general level of unpreparedness for a brutal brevet it seemed like a reasonable issue to concede on. Sharon’s work schedule doesn’t have the same flexibility mine does so 4 days off in a row without taking vacation time is understandably a big deal for her. So instead I’ll spend the long weekend surfing at Tofino – *sigh* the sacrifices I make. I’ll ride the BC Randonneurs lower mainland Hatzic Hills 300K on 30 April which gives me an extra week to prepare and I figure the course can’t be any harder than the Hills are Alive! As a bonus Sharon wants to visits friends in Vancouver so she’ll come along and feel like she is part of the rando support team…;-)~

I’m thinking of riding the Hills are Alive 300K on 23 Apr with the BC Rando Club.  The name sounded a bit ominous…lol…, but then I read Raymond Parker’s blog post about it and I’m not sure if I am better of knowing what’s in store or just doing the ride blind?  One thing I really like about this ride is that it starts a 5 min bike ride from my house so I’ll be able to ride it door to door – that’s a first for me!

I put a bug in Aaron’s ear about this brevet so hopefully I’ll have some company. Suffering isn’t half as much fun alone…=-)

Aaron is smilling thinking about all that climbing!

BC Randonneurs Spring Islander 200K

3 04 2011

My bike at the start...

I got up at 5am yesterday to get to the BC Randonneurs Spring Islander 200K start for 630hrs. My stuff was already packed and my clothes laid out so all I needed to do was ingest some food and as much tea as I could manage before riding off into what was left of the night. Things began poorly when I managed to reset my bike computer halfway to the start. I lost everything, but the only bit of info I really cared about was how far one revolution of my front tire was in mm. Luckily I had that in my head and I then only had to relearn how to program the damn computer in dark with time ticking away before the ride started. After much trial and error I figured out what the 3 unmarked tiny buttons under the computer did and got myself back in motion. I verified I had the right roll out value by comparing my GPS speed to my bike computer – all was good. Thanks the Rando Gods I started early.

It was nice to see a whole pile of rando rigs parked outside the Mohka House coffee shop and even better to get myself another cup of hot tea after registering for the ride.

Signing in...

I got to meet the famous Ken Bonner uber-rando in person after reading about his exploits online and exchanging a few emails with him. Naturally that was the last time I saw him on the ride…=-) I also got to meet a few folks from the previous weekend’s Victoria Populaire.

Just before the 7am start...

We set off in a big group at 7am. I hung back to stay away from any funky riding and to warm up the legs. My GPS was programmed in 3 legs both to accomodate its pathetic number of route points and because it didn’t like the MUPs that formed a big part of today’s ride. The first leg got us to the Galloping Goose MUP for the long ~50km run to Sooke BC. I had folks to follow through the many turns in southern Victoria, but it was good to see the GPS working as it should. I love early morning riding on quiet streets. Everything is peaceful and the drivers that are up seem to be the kinder gentler variety.

The previous day had seen heavy all day rain so I was happy to have dry cool conditions to start the ride and clear skies. We passed the turn off to my house and I thought briefly about my warm bed! Although I am lazy by nature riding a bike on a nice morning with some fine folks is a worthy adventure to get me out of bed and rolling along.

Unlike the populaire the group’s bike handling skills was much better and nobody did anything funky as we rode up the Goose and out of Victoria. There were lots of cool bikes to look at some I did some geeking out and compared various setups to my own bike. The  Galloping Goose MUP is great, but it has three problems:

  1. a ton of bollards [posts] at each road crossing to stop vehicles from driving down the MUP. Problem is they are 3′ high so if you aren’t the first cyclist in a group they are blocked from your view until the last second.
  2. a ton of road crossings early on. In fact I really divide the Goose into 3 sections 1) downtown to just north of my place [no road crossings], 2) from the junction of the Lockside Trail to about 25km from Sooke [many crossings] and 3) the last 25kms into Sooke [no crossings]. The first and last sections are super fun to ride while the middle section varies between tedious and dangerous.
  3. just north of my place the Goose turns to dirt/gravel for the 40kms or so run to Sooke and offers 3-4 very steep gullies that have to be bombed down [usually onto a wooden deck bridge] and then climbed back out. I don’t mind the dirt on 42mm tires, but the gullies need some care and an honest assessment of your bike handling skills.

First control in Sooke - the Rock Beach Grill...

We had a little drama on the Goose when a rider who was scanning for cars as he approached a road crossing didn’t see a bollard until he was on top of it. He managed to throw his bike sideways out of harms way, but I was right behind him and it looked to me like he hit the post square in the “man bits”….8-(. The impact stopped him dead and I skidded to a stop figuring we needed to arrange for evacuation, but he climbed right back aboard his bike and carried on. I was impressed!

I really enjoyed the ride out to Sooke on the dirt. My tires gripped the damp soil well and my fenders protected me from splashes when we rode through puddles. I also learned that my fat rubber threw up a lot of water when riding through really deep water so it was best to level off pedals or the lower foot would get wet. We cruised along quite fast on what I would later realize was a slight downhill most of the way. The sun was out. There was no traffic on the MUP. Not much more you could ask for really…=-)

I had turned my GPS off for this part of ride as it wouldn’t route me along the MUP, but I turned it on as we got to Sooke and I recalled a bit of confusing road crossings from the pre-ride report. Together this stopped our band of 4 riders from taking the wrong turn and I became the defacto navigator through the many turns on the way to the first control. I had another bike computer “glitch” at this point. The whole computer is a button and I must have touched it as I rode because it switched from Trip 1 Distance to ODO. since I had just reset the computer on the way to the start the difference was only 2kms which didn’t look wrong, but totally screwed up my cue sheet directions. Since the GPS was on target I followed it and realized what my problem was after about 10mins of confusion.

We rolled up to the first control, the Rock Beach Grill, where they kindly signed our control cards. I hadn’t eaten anything to this point in the ride [~65km] so I drank a chocolate milk, ate part of a sandwich and gobbled carbo blocks. Two of our group left early while I waited for Geoff [the guy sitting in photo above]. I felt a bit bad for Geoff as he was the stronger rider, but I had a GPS and cue sheet on my bar bag so we both had something to offer and we ended up riding all the way to the finish together.

Geoff gets a flat...

Although the ride back down the Goose was slightly uphill most of the way and there was more civilian traffic on the MUP it was still very enjoyable. The skies were clear and I preferred riding with just one other person so we could stop and adjust pace as needed without feeling like you were screwing up the group’s pace too much. Geoff got a flat and I was able to contribute my frame pump to get his tire back up to pressure. I also used the opportunity to eat, drink and take a bathroom break. I was fairly good on this ride in terms of eating at every stop even when I didn’t feel like it as well as using each stop for as many things as possible.

We rode this leg without GPS for the same reason as above. When we got back to Victoria we turned north on the Lochside Trail [another populaire MUP that heads to Sidney BC]. The rain started at this point and lasted for ~30mins. I pulled out just my rain jacket and stayed warm and comfortable. When the showers ended I threw it back in my bag and the rest of me [wool & fleece] dried out quickly in the sun and moving air. Sadly our most excellent adventure took a wrong turn on the way to Sidney – literally! I hit a low spot in my energy cycle and was trying to catch up to Geoff. In my haste I assumed we rode the Lochside Trail all the way to Sidney when in fact we rode the Lockside Trail almost all the way to Sidney. We realized our error when we saw the dreaded “turn right onto Lochside Trail” at the distance on my bike computer – seeing as we were already on the Lochside Trail something had gone wrong. We retraced our steps and 8kms of bonus riding later we were back on track. Now 8kms isn’t fatal for bonus distance, but that’s about 30mins of ride time including the figuring out what went wrong bit and 30mins at the end of a long ride is hard on the morale.

Happily we had our next control just ahead in Sidney [~140kms] and we stopped at Serious Coffee for a snack and some fluids. We ran into a few fellow riders there so our detour hadn’t put us too far back in the pack. Most longer rides in the Victoria area end up at Sidney simply because we live on a peninsula so there are a limited number of roads to use and Sidney is a nice place to stop and resupply. I like Sidney for two reasons 1) the resupplying and 2) the fact it generally means we are turning back towards home. Psychologically it’s great for morale to know you are done riding away from home and now every pedal stroke is taking you closer to a shower, a hot meal and your loved ones! As a bonus the ride from Sidney was along the scenic westside of the Saanich Peninsula.

Geoff and I at the secret control...

I’ll break the ride down the peninsula into two parts:

  1. the fun warm ramble part [~30kms]
  2. the cold deluge death march part [~40kms]

The observant reader will have noticed that if the Sidney control was at around 140kms and the ride was 200kms long than the rest of the ride should have been 60kms. Very true – well this is where the 8 bonus kms come into play and the fact that the route was actually 202kms. Again in general an extra 10kms is not a big deal, but when you are in death march mode 10kms is like F-O-R-E-V-E-R!

So we had a fun warm ramble through some nice quiet rural neighbourhoods. We ran into the secret control [photo above] and had a snack. Then just as civilization started to build again we took a short break so I could buy fresh batteries for my GPS and Geoff could scavenge some oil for his squeaky chain from some empty oil cans at a gas station. My GPS had started the day at 75% charge. With a 24hrs operating time and having shut it off for at least 4 of the previous 8hrs there should have been lots of power left, but once again my GPS lets the team down – sadly not for the last time on this ride.

I was getting a bit tired at this point, but my constant eating seemed to be working to make me feel much better than the end of the 100K populaire. I guess the Rando Gods figured I needed a challenge – so they made it rain – a lot.

I hate both battery powered devices...

I will admit I made a bad choice that could have made this last leg less heinous, but for the love of God can I not get this GPS to actually follow the route I want to ride?…=-(

I should have put my rain gear on at the start of the deluge, but I was trying to be optimistic and wanted to believe it would be short lived like the rain earlier in the day. I also hoped that my wool clothing would do the trick for the short run to the finish – of course I had conveniently forgotten our bonus mileage. So I got soaked and then cold and then soaked some more. At that point I figure what was the point in putting on rain gear as I couldn’t get any wetter? Well it would have kept me warm for one thing.

Adding to the horror was the fact that our bonus mileage meant that I had to do some math every time I read the cue sheet. Not a big deal except for the fact I was cold, tired and the plastic covering the cue sheet was nearly impossible to read in the heavy rain. At least I had my GPS to fall back on right? Wrong – this is about the point when my GPS decided to go it’s own way on a route that wasn’t even close to the one I needed to stay on. *sigh*

Luckily I didn’t pass one of those e-waste depots or I would have dropped off both my bike computer and GPS!

Defeat wasn’t in our vocabulary so we marched on. Pathetically looking for street names that seemed correct. Geoff knew the area we were in and was able to figure out our route based on street names I yelled out between sobs. Luckily with the heavy rain he couldn’t see my tears…=-)

Finally the GPS decided it wanted to help out again and got us through a section of really heavy rain that I could barely keep pedaling through I was so cold and morale was pitifully low.

It was at this point a couple catches up to us. Sees I have a GPS and the wife says to the husband “…ah he has a GPS hopefully he’s on the correct route..” So she rides up to me and asks in a critical tone “…do you know where you are going?…” If I had had a bit more energy I would have replied sarcastically “…no we are just taking random turns until we get to 200kms and then we’ll ride to the finish and get our cards signed!..” If you want to follow someone on a brevet and use their navigational skills/equipment have the good manners to either get behind them and shut up or go your own way. It is pretty much a given that people are following what they think is the correct route and if they aren’t they don’t know it – so there is little point is asking. Besides if you are so confused you can’t tell if you are on the route or not what difference does it make – your not going to get more lost…=-)~

I needed to stop and eat something so we let the couple head on down the road and navigate the route for themselves.

The rain stopped for the last 10kms which was nice so I guess things were getting too easy again. No problem – my GPS went off on an erroneous detour so we were back to the wet cue sheet. The run to the finish was both happy knowing we’d be warm soon and crazy hard because of our long day in the saddle. We passed very close to Geoff’s home which was severely tempting, but we managed to resist. Finally we spotted the Mohka House a few blocks away and zoomed to the finish! I go to the Mohka House a fair bit, but I’ve never been so darn happy to see it…=-)

Route Map - click image for cue sheet...

Ride Stats:

  • distance ridden 210kms
  • time on the bike 9:07hrs
  • total ride time 10:28hrs
  • time off bike 1:21hrs
  • avg speed on bike 23kph
  • number of times I nearly threw GPS into ditch = 2

Luckily I checked my bike computer right after the ride as somehow it got reset between Mohka House and home. Cateye seriously what was wrong with actual buttons on a bike computer? I never lost data or reset my older Cateye units and I was never too tired on a ride to operate a button!

The Good:

  • I am eating well
  • I felt better at end of 200K than at end of previous 100K
  • I’m learning to read a cue sheet well
  • Planet Bike Superflash handled extended heavy rain fine
  • bike is working well
  • slightly lower bars with slight rotation up is very comfy as are new brake lever hoods
  • new mirror position is better [glad I tried it]
  • brand new SA saddle was comfortable
  • nice to have company on ride
  • beautiful route
  • ham & turkey sandwich I packed was rocking
  • cinnamon bun I packed was even more rocking!

The Bad

  • SA saddle needed 2 tension adjustments during ride [I think frame is bending]
  • GPS routing poorly
  • need to pay closer attention to cue sheet to avoid bonus kms
  • I need to get a grip and put on my rain gear earlier
  • Cateye Bike computer one touch button sucks [I may install older version with actual buttons]

Photo - Jim Runkel...click on image for more...

Up Next

  • Tour de Cowichan Valley 200K April 9
  • clean and lube chain
  • look at GPS route to see if problems were my fault of GPS’ fault
  • research another GPS!
  • start with fresh GPS batteries and bring an extra set
  • dig out an older Cateye bike computer and consider swapping it in

Update 1: I checked the GPS track provided on the BC Rando ride page and it was not correct which means the GPS was doing the right thing when it was sending me off route. I’ll need to do a turn by turn verification of any GPS info provided for a ride as the cue sheet is understood to be the only “legal” document when it comes to determining what the actual route is. My bad!

Update 2: There are some photos from the ride here, the ride results here and organizer’s ride report here.

Update 3: my GPS isn’t the only one doing goofy things!

Photo: Jim Runkel...click on image for more...

Photo: Jim Runkel

Congrats to Nathan [above] and Jessie [below] for great first rides…=-) Read the ride report for more details.

Photo: Jim Runkel

Boulder Bicycle All Road Mk2…

1 04 2011

Boulder Bicycle All Road Mk2...

I’ve made a few tweaks to my Boulder Bicycle All Road over the last week or so.

Nothing drastic…

  • fixed headset assembly problem [my goof when I built the bike]
  • pulled stiffener from Berthoud bar bag to make it lighter and quieter
  • flipped stem so rise was going up and lowered bars slightly [will ride for a while before cutting steerer again]
  • installed Tektro 720 cantis with Koolstop Salmon pads & Cane Creek levers
  • installed white Selle Anatomica [strictly for bling]
  • got some white Grand Bois Hetres tires [more bling won’t install until dry weather is here]
  • modified a Planet Bike Superflash for rainproofness

New Tektro brakes and semi-sealed PB Superflash...

The brakes have a bit of play when installed on the bike which may be a problem in terms of squealing [silent so far!]. I’ll give them a couple weeks and see what happens. If they can’t be setup quiet I’ll be looking for new brakes!

When specing the bike I went with a triple as I wasn’t 100% on what I’d want from the gearing. With a 48/36/26 x 11-32 setup I haven’t left the middle ring yet on a ride. I could swap in a 13-26 cassette I have for tighter gear spacing and then use all three rings or I could swap in a 11-34 wide range cassette and go with a 1×9 setup. The 1×9 would let me ditch the left bar end shifter and use that spot for a B&M rearview mirror which would make me happy. I’m not overly sensitive to varying my RPM and I can spin quite fast when needed. I’ll hold off making a decision until after the 300K Hills are Alive brevet later this month. If I don’t use the granny on that ride I’ll go with a 1×9.

Tektro 720 brake detail...

I haven’t setup cantis in a long time so I just took a guess at a decent straddle cable position and figured I’ll adjust as needed.

Cable hanger porn...

I’ve got to give Mike Kone at Boulder Bicycles some props for helping me figure out I had the lower seal on the headset installed upside down. The bike rode fine, but the handling riding no handed was off. We worked through a bunch of issues tracking this down and only clued in to the problem when I was describing how the tension adjustment felt on the headset and Mike realized the seal was causing unwanted drag. As soon as I flipped the seal the bike was super easy to ride no handed. I appreciate the time invested Mike and your focus on customer satisfaction. I can see why Rene Herse/Boulder Bicycle is so busy….=-)

Revised stem/bar position with new brake levers...

This bike gets a ton of attention wherever I go – young/old – bike geek/civilian – they all stop to check it out and want to talk about it.

I flipped the mirror to try out a new position...

Without the heavy stiffener the Gilles Berthoud bar bag is much lighter and quieter as there is nothing hard to rattle against. The bag is holding its shape just fine without it. The bag has been a pleasure to use rain or shine so far. I’m trying a new position for the mirror. I’m not sure if this setup will make any difference, but I thought I would try it for a couple rides and see. If I end up going with a 1×9 drivetrain I’ll ditch this mirror for a small B&M mirror like I put on Sharon’s Cross Check.

Front Tektro 720...

Weekend Projects…

26 03 2011

Time to get to work...

I’m happy to be home again and I’ve got a few projects to take care of this weekend.

  • my Boulder Bicycle All Road needs the v-brakes/levers pulled and cantis installed. The v-brake on the front interferes with the Nitto M12 rack. It’s been at least a decade since I last setup up some cantis so I’ll be referring to Sheldon Brown and Park Tools online expertise!
  • Most of the folks I had hoped would ride with me on the Victoria Populaire have dropped off for various reasons. But, my friend Sean decided to give it a go. He was worried about his road bike’s lack of fenders and asked me to help him install some Crud Roadracer MK2 fenders on his rig. I’m stoked about that because I wanted to check a set of these out, but didn’t have a bike that they made sense on.
  • the Victoria Populaire takes place on Sunday so I need to upload the route into my GPS. Now that I know what a limited route mapping ability it has [50 waypoints for turn by turn navigation] hopefully I can massage the route so that  it works without any road side edits or cursing on my part! If this doesn’t go well you’ll be seeing a new GPS review on this blog next week….hahaha!
  • I’ll be riding the 100K route and Sean will tackle the 50K route. Kurt may come out and ride the 50K or 100K route.

Almost made it home…

12 03 2011

I was just as soggy!

I’m out of town for a couple weeks working so I wanted to score some much needed training on my bike before I went away. Unfortunately the forecast was for rain all week. Aaron and I picked one night and decided to just see what happened. I figured a bit of night riding would be smart to confirm that our lighting was working adequately. We met at a coffeeshop in town with the plan to see how the weather was looking. I had downloaded a 100km route of the internet that looked good, but I am no glutton for punishment so I won’t set off on a long night training ride in the pouring rain.

When the appointed hour came things were looking dry and clear – nice! Not being foolish enough to count on that holding we decided to ride the south part of the route and if things got gnarly we’d be close to home so we could bail. My Garmin Etrex Vista Cx wouldn’t follow the route I had downloaded because it had too many waypoints! So I had to quickly hack off the last 23 turns to get the GPS to load the route. I had the whole route backed up so when we reached the end of the current shortened route I could hack off the top bit of the route and get the GPS to work the rest of the way. I’ve been trying to hang on to this unit and make it work for at least this year, but this kind of lameness isn’t helping its cause!

It was just getting dark as we rolled away from the java stop with a working GPS and headed down to the ocean. The road along the coast is a nice way to circumnavigate Victoria. It’s winding and scenic with neat houses along the way. There are so many cyclists in town that drivers are courteous and aren’t shocked to see a bike on the road. The coastal roads were quiet in any case and I had fun getting to know my Boulder Bicycle All Road a bit better. After 21kms or so we reached the official start of the route and the weather was still holding – sweet! After a short snack break we headed north along the coast. Victoria is located on the 30km long Saanich peninsula which is surrounded by water nearly 360 degrees. Which allowed a lot of the route to be near the coast in view of the water. In the dark it was peaceful riding and it seems like the views would be lovely during the day.

The route...with Victoria at the bottom and Sidney at the top...

We reached Sidney in good spirits and decided to stop for a snack. That snack consisted of turkey soup and toast washed down with a pint of beer! Going back out on the road was tough as it had cooled down and we were a bit damp from our efforts. I had a double layer of wool on my legs and torso plus a wind vest on top of the wool as well a neck warmer and ear warmer under my helmet. The weather was still nice so we got out butts moving to warm up and rounded the north part of the peninsula where the ferry terminal to Vancouver is and started our return south. I love hitting the halfway point on a ride and knowing every pedal stroke from now on was talking us back home.

The route down the west coast on the peninsula was really nice. Very winding with more climbing, but nothing outrageous. Traffic was light and the rain held off for quite a while, but sadly not long enough for us to get home.

With about 20-25kms left a moderate steady rain started. *sigh* I pulled on my rain jacket, but skipped the Rain Legs, rain gloves and shoe covers figuring it was warm enough for my wool to get me home. Slightly tragically I goofed looking at the GPS and we rode a few bonus KMs in the rain up a steep hill. Luckily I didn’t totally zone out and follow the pink line back to Sidney! Retracing your path after an unnecessary excursion always seems twice as long as it did to ride that leg in the first place…the rain didn’t help…=-(

Not much to say about the last 90mins of the ride in the rain. It was wet. I wished I was home, but it was warm enough that the suffering was not awful. I will never be one of these folks that enjoys rain riding. I was very happy to peel off at my house and throw my bike into the garage before eating some chocolate, having a hot shower and passing out!

104kms covered in 4:45hrs on the bike with an 1hr off the bike at 22kph avg. Nothing revolutionary, but given the fact this was all night riding with a good chunk of rain at the end and neither of us have been out for a 100K in months – I’ll take it.

Wet and ready for the garage!

Although I could have done without the rain it allowed me to put my gear through a more challenging test on this ride. The 100kms my legs needed was priority #1, but it was great to get a chance to try out how my gear worked at night in the rain and when it was dry and cool.

  • bike worked great overall, fast and climbed well
  • lighting was great when dry and adequate when wet, not having to think about batteries was nice
  • Superflash taillight [sealed with electrical tape] didn’t mind the rain
  • fenders w/ mudflaps kept road spray off me so I only had to deal with the clean rain that was falling
  • I only used the middle ring the whole ride and didn’t get as far as the 32T cog so I may need to simplify my gearing at some point
  • bike was comfy no hand, foot or saddle issues
  • cotton front bag was easy to use at night and stayed dry inside during rain
  • 42mm tires are fast and smooth as expected which allowed me to relax even when I rode over a bump or some gravel I didn’t see until the last second
  • GPS can only handle 50 waypoints in a route [lame!] so I’ll need to break out a longer ride into several legs
  • GPS worked well to navigate us with turns indicated early enough and it was nice riding along in the dark without looking at maps or cue sheets
  • my DIY GPS waterproofing repair seems to be working
  • I couldn’t read my bike computer or the cue sheet as I didn’t have a small light and I need it attached to the helmet in any case…I’ll track one down before the next night ride
  • my REI Vertia rain jacket performed well keeping me dry and warm with no more sweat build up than when I was riding with just a windvest earlier
  • wool tights and leg warmers did okay when wet at 8 deg C, but next time I’ll take the time to put my Rain Legs, MEC rain gloves and shoe covers on

Not too lumpy...

Thanks to Aaron for coming along on this ride. I’m enjoying having company on my rando prep and since we are well matched in terms of speed and personality I think we’ll do well on upcoming brevets. I can’t imagine going back to the solo TT vibe that characterized by rando training/rides back in Alberta…not to mention I have to say the scenery and roads on Vancouver Island are top notch.

Sannich Metric Century route info – click here.

Boulder Bicycle All Road Build…

11 03 2011

My Boulder Bicycle All Road...

Boulder Bicycle All Road

  • frame size custom tweaked but essentially size E 57.7cm TT
  • frame welded by Waterford
  • skinny standard size tube set [7-4-7mm TT and 8-5-8mm DT]
  • 1″ steel fork with 70mm offset [~30mm trail]
  • colour pearl white
  • Nitto Noodle 42cm bars
  • MEC white bar tape
  • Nitto 95mm 5 deg rise stem UI 5GX
  • Miche needle bearing headset
  • Nitto seatpost [single bolt]
  • Selle Anatomica Titanico
  • Cane Creek brake levers
  • Tektro 720 canti brakes w/ Koolstop salmon pads
  • Jagwire brake and cable housing
  • Shimano 9spd bar end shifters
  • Front derailleur Shimano LX
  • Sugino triple cranks [48/36/26] 175mm
  • SKF BB
  • Time ATAC XS pedals
  • SRAM 9spd chain PC971
  • Shimano 9spd 11-32 or 13-26 cassette
  • Nitto M-12 rack
  • Velocity Synergy 650B 32H rims
  • Front hub SON Deluxe
  • Rear hub White Industries
  • Grand Bois Hetres 42mm 650B tires
  • Honjo hammered fenders
  • Edelux headlight
  • Planet Bike Superflash/Blinky 7 taillight
  • Berthoud large [28] black bar bag
  • Cateye Strada bike computer
  • Velo Orange bottle cages
  • Planet Bike frame pump

Why a 650B Boulder Bicycle All Road?

5 03 2011

Semi-Custom Boulder Bicycle Allroad...

If all goes well I’ll be riding my Boulder Bicycle All Road in the SIR 100K today.

All my previous brevets have been on recumbents so I had to think long and hard about what bike to use for brevets this year.

I knew I wanted a bike that:

  • was a fast climber
  • was comfortable for all day riding
  • was reliable
  • could carry a loaded handle bar bag
  • easy to ride when tired
  • had dynohub lighting
  • full fenders for rain riding
  • didn’t suck to look at!

Having a stack of Bicycle Quarterly Magazines at my disposal I was interested in trying out a number of things I had read positive comments about:

  • low trail front end geometry since it seem optimized for use with a loaded bar bag
  • wide supple 650B tires ~40mm for efficient comfortable moderate speed riding
  • ultralight standard diameter steel frame tubes to aid in uphill climbing speed through their flexiness
  • full coverage metal fenders on a performance bike
  • SON Deluxe dynohub because of its lightweight and low drag
  • Edelux dyno light for its powerful beam with a smart vertical cutoff to avid blinding oncoming traffic

There aren’t many sources for a bike like this and I knew I didn’t want to go the fully custom route for the reasons I posted recently not to mention it would be the 2012 brevet season before a custom bike showed up. So the positive review of the Boulder Cycles Randonneur 700c frame in BQ caught my attention. Browsing the Boulder Cycles [aka Rene Herse] website they seemed to have everything I wanted in a readily accessible package that other folks have been riding and giving positive reviews on. I dithered between the 650B version and the 700c version for a bit, but realized that all my riding has been heading in the direction of wider supple tires so it made no sense to stop now. Jan Heine from BQ was kind enough to answer a few 700c vs 650B questions which was very helpful given the fact he had ridden quite a few of each type of bike.

All Road parts unpacked...

So I went ahead and ordered a 650B All Road frame/fork. Mike Kone [owner of Rene Herse] chatted with me about my sizing and we settled on a slightly tweaked version of their size E [57.5cm TT] stock frame. Since I was tweaking things I ordered a non-stock pearl white paint job and silver decals. I wanted Shimano bar end sifters and derailleurs so I ordered the All Road without them and used my own parts. The result was close to a Boulder Bicycle All Road production frame, but met my needs better.

If you read BQ you are familiar with the term constructeur bicycle.  It’s a hybridization of French & English that really means fully integrated bicycle.  Such a bike has been designed for a specific purpose and equipped with everything needed for success.  Lights, racks, fenders, luggage and tires have all been selected and considered as the bike is designed and built. The result is a harmonious optimized bicycle that works well, looks attractive and is easy to maintain.

The Boulder Bicycle All Road is what I would call a semi-constructeur bicycle. It has been designed for a specific purpose – fast comfortable travel over any type of road surface with a modest amount of luggage.  All the components that are required for this to happen have been considered in the design.  However, the level of integration has stopped short of perfection at a level that is functional.  This has been done to keep costs down and to allow the purchaser to equip the bike with a variety of components.

Rene Herse constructeur 650B all road bicycle...

Rene Herse will make you a fully custom integrated constructeur 650B all road style bike if you wish. The cost will be approximately double that of a production Boulder Bicycle All Road. Looking at these photos you can see some hints of what makes the fully integrated bike so special, but it takes a much closer look and keen eye for detail to really understand the effort and thought that goes into making such a bike.

To my mind the semi-custom Boulder Bicycle All Road, which is not an inexpensive bike, provides the best blend of performance and cost.  Although I will admit she is not nearly as stunning a ride as the chromed Rene Herse.

Dealing with Mike Kone at Rene Herse was a pleasant experience. He is friendly, knowledgeable and passionate about the bikes he sells. He accommodated all my requests without hesitation including building my bike from ultralight standard diameter tubing vs. the oversized tubing normally used for a production All Road and getting me the custom paint colour of my choice.  Given that these frames are built off site at Waterford the level of organization and management involved in getting an unusual frame through with fast turn around to meet my schedule was impressive.  He assembled my parts list and installed a few items I wanted taken care of in advance of shipping [install fenders/then pack, install headset] since he was at it he installed the BB and cranks.  That wasn’t necessary, but it speeded up my build which was nice.  The frame and parts were packed professionally and shipped to a US address so I could grab them on my way home from Baja.

Parts detail...

The only criticism of my Boulder Bicycle/Rene Herse customer experience was that Mike is super busy and the amazing amount of details that need to be communicated back and forth for a semi-custom bike presented some communications challenges. In the end everything I asked for arrived and the bike looks fantastic. I publish this comment not to identify a problem that Mike should feel bad about, but rather a note to any potential customers that you may need to send an extra email or make an extra call to confirm some detail.  If you are not sure Mike has some bit of info you sent him or if he doesn’t reply to an email don’t assume it’s been read and actioned. Take the time to confirm.  The result is worth it and I would happily buy another frame from Mike.

Photo: Chris Richards - click on image for a lot more lovely bike porn...

The obvious question you might raise is – could I not have ridden a bike I owned on brevets this year? Yes – of course I could.  My Surly LHT touring bike and Bow Cycle 24 cyclocross bike both would have worked.  However, both have a high trail front end geometry which results in compromised handling with a handle bar bag.  Two of my main complaints with my rando recumbents were excessive effort for climbing and difficulty accessing my gear while riding.  I was not prepared to ride brevets without my gear/supplies in easy reach while pedaling.  Had money been tight I would have made one or the other work as best I could.  Since I could afford a rando specific rig I decided to build up a bike that is optimized for my long distance riding needs.

Mud De-Fender!

3 03 2011

20kms of muddy rail trail later...

I just came back from a ride on my new rando rig.  Total distance ~60kms. About 20kms of that was damp dirt trail including numerous mud puddles and another 20kms was various wet paved surfaces. We even made a couple poor routing choices and had to ride through sections of thick juicy mud…=-( I was a little horrified to subject a new bike to such treatment, but as you can see from the photo above that’s the result after splashing my way through puddle after puddle and cruising over a wet dirt trail. Luckily my bike sports full coverage Honjo metal fenders that fit the tires diameter perfectly. A bunch of that splatter isn’t even from my bike as Aaron and I kept passing one another and his rear fender was fairly short so it was shooting crap at me if I wasn’t careful about my bike positioning. I also do not have a full front mud flap on this bike yet so the fender protection factor can be improved.

Good fenders not only make wet weather riding more pleasant they drastically reduce the amount of maintenance you need to do on your bike.

650B or 700c?

6 12 2010

Photo: Chris Richards

I’ve been enjoying the bike porn on the Rene Herse website [such as the fine bicycle above click on the image for many more lovely photos]. Between bikes rides and surf sessions here on the west coast I’ve been pondering a fantasy build of a low cost Boulder Bicycle Randonneur.  Low cost and fantasy build – is that possible? Well I guess lower cost is more appropriate since the Randonneur frame/fork are still ~ $1300…not cheap, but much cheaper than a fully custom Rene Herse.

One detail that I cannot settle in my mind is the choice between 650B or 700c wheels.


  • I have some decent light weight 700c wheels I can put on the frame so my cost is much less
  • I have 700c tires I can use as well
  • My Surly LHT is 700c so I can share wheels, tires fenders between them [ie. only have to build 1 dynohub wheel]
  • I’d use 30mm Grand Bois Cypres tires on a 700c Randonneur which is a proven fast comfy road tire I like
  • If I’m on the road and need to buy spares in an emergency 700c is well supported at LBS
  • can’t use uber wide tires and can’t try out 650B to see what it’s like


  • frame has clearance for tires up to 41mm with fenders for supper comfy fast riding on road or dirt
  • I’d likely start with 35mm Grand Bois tires and see what they are like
  • I’d try 41mm tires depending on how the 35mm tires were or later when I felt like tinkering
  • I’d need to build a custom wheel set incl. a dynohub that wouldn’t work on my other bikes
  • I wouldn’t be able to share wheels. fenders and tires with my LHT
  • If I needed spares away from home I’d have to carry them or get someone to overnight me parts
  • I’d get to tryout 650B which is a wheel size I’d heard lots of good things about

Here are some build ideas I’ve had [PB = already have in my spare parts bin new = need to buy]:

  • drop bars [Salsa Short n’ Shallow] – PB
  • Deore V-brakes – PB
  • Cane Creek drop bar v-brake levers – PB
  • Salsa stem – PB
  • FSA Orbit XL-II headset – new
  • seatpost – new
  • Selle Anatomica Titanico saddle – PB
  • Honjo hammered fenders [always lusted for a set of these] – new
  • 700c wheels Shimano R500 [from previous bike] – PB
  • 700c dynohub wheel built up later in year – new
  • 650B new custom wheels with dynohub – new
  • Grand Boise tires [30mm Cypres if 700c, 35mm if 650B] – new
  • custom front small PR rack from CETMA – new
  • DIY removable coroplast front rack box – new
  • dynohub headlight BM IQ CYO- new
  • Planet Bike Superflash Stealth tailight – PB
  • platform pedals [not sure which ones] – new
  • 1×9 drivetrain from parts bin [not sure exactly what yet]
  • bar end shifter

I had thought that a Shimano Alfine 11 might be a good match for this bike, but I have tried every conceivable way to mount IGH shifters to a drop bar and the only one I like is the JTek bar end shifter.  Unfortunately they don’t make one for the Alfine 11 yet – although that could change.  Based on my experiences with 8 speed IGH drivetrains and my fixed gear bike I think a 9 speed wide range cassette should be fine for this bike as I won’t be riding it with a big load [I won’t even install a rear rack so I am not tempted]. If I end up wanting more gears I can always add a second ring and derailleur up front.

Please do me a favour and don’t bring this post to the attention of the folks at Rene Herse.  If I decide to place an order for one of their frame/forks in 2011 I don’t want them to know what sort of franken-bike it will become.  Gauging by the super sweet looking rigs they show on their website I risk being blacklisted due to my DIY coroplast rack box alone!…=-)~….j/k!