Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Auburn, maybe?

I'm running out of time for my "metric century a month" plan. Last Saturday's ride was only about 70 km long and it's already the 27th! The forecast for the weekend is very cold, though, so I'm not quite sure if I can pull off a 100k with temperatures well below freezing. The plan would be to ride to Auburn and back, about 120 km. Part of the plan is to get an idea if my ride to Lake Ontario and back is feasible/fun -- Auburn is almost exactly halfway between Ithaca and the lake. The elevation profile is relatively flat and I'd be on back roads almost all of the time. So a rolling average of 23 km/h shouldn't be too much of a problem, which results in 5 1/4 hours riding time. Sunrise is 7:22, so if I get going at 6, I could be in Auburn for a nice little breakfast and back home for lunch. Well, I'll think about it during the next couple of days and see if the forecast gets any warmer.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Brooks got here!

Okay, my Brooks Imperial B17 finally got here. Of course, I couldn't wait even until after grocery shopping to install it on Wolfgang. Very first impression: it has a very defined seating position. In contrast to my other saddles where you switch between different position without them feeling clearly wrong, with the Brooks you really feel where you're supposed to sit. This position is, obviously, still a bit hard at the moment, but I'm optimistic that I'll indeed like the saddle once it's broken in. Pictures will follow shortly.

Odo Wolfgang: 3232 km

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunny, nice, but with a Google Maps fail

The weather forecast for Saturday looked good -- 4° C and sunny -- and after a foggy early AM, Saturday delivered on its promise. I decided to ride out to Spencer and back, using a backroad alternative on the way there and NY34 on the way back. As Spencer is 180 m above Ithaca, this puts almost all of the climbing into the first half of the ride. The advantage of this: your legs are still fresh and, more importantly, the climbing is on scenic backroads, away from traffic. While NY34 isn't the most busy road and has relatively decent shoulders, it still has a good amount of traffic. Going Spencer to Ithaca, I probably had an average speed of around 30 km/h, making the traffic much more pleasant to deal with.

General ride notes: I left Ithaca on Spencer Road, going parallel to the busy NY13. There is a little foot trail connector between Spencer Road and Buttermilk Falls State Park. If you have a road bike with skinny tires, you'd probably have to walk your bike there, but it's only 50 meters or so. From the state park parking lot you again have to go on little foot trails to get to Sandbank Road. Sandbank Road is the first major climb with a pretty steep grade. Fortunately, the climb is not too long, and once you've reached the intersection with W King Rd, the route continues to go up, but rather gently.

Up on Jersey Hill Road

The next intersection is with Comfort Road, and a few kilometers in from there, you hit the first dirt road parts. The road condition is fairly okay, but I'd recommend at least 28 mm tires and possibly more if it's really wet. (For my ride, the ground was still mostly frozen.)

Comfort Rd, shortly before it turns into a dirt road

Around km 15 you enter Danby State Forest and soon get to an intersection with Bald Hill Rd. Well, actually this turned out to be a T-intersection, with Comfort Road ending. I was rather surprised, since my original plan, made on the basis of Google Maps, was to just continue through the intersection on Comfort Rd. However, that part of Comfort Road does not exist or, at best, it exists as a hiking trail.

This is supposed to be Comfort Road. I see neither "comfort" nor "road."

I've had that problem with Google Maps before. Just compare the following two maps.

View Larger Map

View Larger Map

Lesson learned: if riding on minor roads, also cross-check the existence of roads. My Garmin Topo map had it right (while Openstreetmaps has it wrong, just like Google).

Anyways, instead of taking Comfort Road, I turned left on Bald Hill Rd, which leads you down into Danby. Turn right on NY 96B and take the next right onto Michigan Hollow Rd. Michigan Hollow is maybe the nicest part of the ride. You're following the stream into the state forest on a wide dirt road with almost no traffic. Once again, in wet conditions and with skinny tires you might run into problems. Around km 23 you could turn left on Smiley Hill Rd but this is a "minimum maintenance road" which is not ridable in winter.

Minimum maintenance indeed.

Thus, I just kept going on Michigan Hollow all the way through the state forest. If you keep going further on Michigan Hollow you will eventually reach NY 34. If you don't care about going into Spencer, this would provide a slightly shorter alternative. Instead, I turned left at km 28 onto Signore Hill Road. This, again, is a dirt road and the first part is short but very steep, making my wheels lose traction a couple of times.

Signore Hill will slow you down all by itself

After you've reached the high point, the road follows another stream, providing another very nice part of the ride.

Back in Danby State Forest

Signore Hill eventually connects with Irish Hill and Fisher Settlement Road, leading you right into Spencer.

The valley opening up on Fisher Settlement Road

In Spencer you can re-fuel at the local inn, the gas station, or a supermarket, before taking the speedy downhill route back into Ithaca.

Downtown Spencer

Buttermilk Falls

Odo Wolfgang: 3217 km

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Shake it, baby!

Short ride report for a short ride.

I had to go up to campus to get a couple of books and I didn't feel like taking the direct route. So I went up South Hill and hit the trailhead for the South Hill Recreation Way. I was worried that it might be all ice, but actually it was a very rough, frozen snow surface. Traction was okay (I couldn't go much faster than 10 km/h anyway) but it was as bumpy as a washboard. I had never taken the trail before and it was completely dark, and thus I missed an intersection and was led back to Coddington Road instead of taking the trail all the way up to Burns Road.

Notable events: I used my Toasti Toes foot warmers in my normal cycling shoes for the first time. Result: Numb feet after the uphill part, but got back to normal much faster than usual. And on the short descent into Ithaca they kept my feet surprisingly warm.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Multi-modal transport

When you mention multi-modal transport, most people would think of commuting to the train station by bike and then taking the train; or driving your car to a park & ride and then taking the train. (Well, what  most people would actually is think is something like "Multi-what?") This post, however, is about combining cycling and flying.

I had some research business to do in North Carolina, and because NC is too far to drive and flights were cheap, I flew from Ithaca to Durham this Wednesday. The Ithaca airport is about 10 km away from and 220 m above downtown and while a bus connection does exist, it's useless for both the early morning and the evening departures and arrivals. The alternative is to take a cab but that's pretty expensive, and thus I usually end up taking the bike. Well, to be precise: I don't fly out of Ithaca that frequently, and so this was the second time that I did the bike-and-fly combo.

The first time, I had actually contacted the airport's customer service in order to figure out if they provided any secure and dry bike parking. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this wasn't the case. The only bike parking they have for the whole airport is a measly wavy bike rack (no idea what they're actually called, something like this) that, at best, accommodates four bikes and of course doesn't have a roof or is covered by the airport's many CCTV cameras. Now I don't care too much about Wolfgang getting wet and Ithaca isn't exactly a bike theft hot spot. But still -- there's plenty of space for a couple of staple rack under the roof in front of the entrance.

Oh well, I'm perfectly aware of the fact that I'm probably the only nutcase cycling to the airport. But examples of more bike-friendly airports do exist.

Maintenance and Upgrade

Temperatures have gone up slightly (i. e. it's slightly above freezing and sunny), getting me motivated to work on Wolfgang a bit. Operation 1 was switching the front brake lever, operation 2 just maintenance.

Last October, after getting more and more annoyed by mediocre stopping power and horrible screeching, I had switched Wolfgang's stock Tektro Oryx cantis to Avid Single Digit 7 V-brakes. Because of the different mechanical advantage required by V-brakes, I installed a Problemsolvers travel agent, a small roll that gets installed in place of the brake noodle and that changes the amount of cable travel. This worked reasonably well (one issue: the holder for my headlight was in the way of the travel agent, probably reducing stopping power a little bit); but because it doesn't look as clean and I was in search of something to put on my Christmas wish list, I decided to switch from the Tektro R200 to the V-brake compatible RL520. Installation was pretty easy, I didn't even have to re-wrap the handlebars. Will they deliver more stopping power? -- We'll see. Probably not as much as replacing the pads with Kool Stops would, but I want to run down this set of pads first. With the current weather conditions this shouldn't take long anyway...

The other thing to do was some maintenance. I've complained about salt damage before, and thus I decided to give Wolfgang a little TLC and clean his drivetrain. The good news: all the rust and grime comes off no problem. It takes several rounds of cleaning with citrus degreaser and the Park Tool CM-5 chain scrubber (no, not the Performance/Spin Doctor lookalike), but after that treatment the chain and cogs look pretty neat again. Until the next ride, of course.

Other maintenance: re-adjust rear fender to avoid rubbing.

Odo Wolfgang: 3117 km

Sunday, January 17, 2010

How to: Embedding maps with a GPS track and geotagged photos

On my other, mostly inactive blog I've posted a tutorial for creating embedded maps with GPS tracks and geotagged images. Not quite sure why I didn't post this here, and thus I at least wanted to link to the post.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Salt's bad for Wolfgang's health

One of the annoying side effects of riding your bike in the winter is the havoc wreaked by salt. I have full fenders, a mud flap, I'm relatively good in rinsing down Wolfgang more or less every day, but nonetheless the mix of salt, dirt, and grime gets everywhere on the bike and causes various kinds of problem. My chain, even though lubed frequently looks pretty rusty and a couple days ago I noticed that the right arm of my rear cantis no longer properly sprung back after braking and thus rubbed on the rim all the time. My initial repair attempts, involving no disassembly but a bunch of WD-40, were unsuccessful and so I had to take off the brake yesterday. I couldn't find instructions for completely taking apart the Tektro Oryx but I managed to disassemble the arm enough to get a bunch of oil into the right places. I would have preferred to take it apart completely and re-grease it, but at least for now the brake is functional again. I think in April I'll take a day or so and completely overhaul Wolfgang. So far I haven't noticed any permanent damage from the salt, but I'm sure cleaning everything and re-greasing the bottom bracket or hubs wouldn't be a bad idea after several months of calcium chloride showers.

On a completely unrelated note: I finally drank the Kool-Aid and ordered a Brooks B17 Imperial saddle. I don't really like the idea of riding on a dead cow's skin, but if the saddle is really as fantastic as almost everyone believes, I suppose I (and my butt) can live with it.

And on another unrelated note: my accomplice has a blog now, too. And I think it's supposed to be somewhat bike-related. So go check it out, non-existent reader!

Odo Wolfgang: 3016 km
Odo Gunnar: 45 minutes on the trainer

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Cycling and sexism

Good observations about cycling and sexism by Elly Blue on BikePortland. I definitely won't read the comments that will certainly soon start popping up there. Not good for my blood pressure.
If I had a pedal wrench...
Hate sexism, love cycling!

Edit: Okay, of course I couldn't resist reading the comments. And I'll take everything back: the vast majority of them is not as bad as I expected. A lot of them are actually very insightful.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Ride canceled

Plan for today: ride to Auburn and back (about 115 km). Not so much:


Friday, January 8, 2010

New dynamo front wheel

As a Christmas present for my accomplice, I wanted to build up a generator front wheel for her Fuji Touring. I bought the Shimano LX generator hub from Germany for a pretty good price and got a Mavic A319 front wheel and DT Swiss Champion 2.0 290 mm spokes from my LBS. Last night I finally built up the wheel and it went pretty well. It's definitely easier the second time, and my tensiometer helped a lot, too. Once I find a cheap Ultegra hub on ebay, I'll build a new front wheel for Gunnar...

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Gunnar's weight

I ain't no weight weenie but I nonetheless wanted to add the weight the previous post about Gunnar. With the addition of Shimano PD-M520 pedals, two bottle cages, and changing the tires to 23mm Michelin Krylions I ended up at about 10.3 kg (measured with bathroom scale). I had hoped to reach the 10 kg mark, but I suppose with a 62cm steel frame that's not easy.

Snow, cold

Surprise, surprise! It's still friggin' cold here. Nonetheless, I decided to ride out to Glenn's in order to get the spokes for my accomplice's generator front wheel and some parts for Gunnar. As usual on Monday, Glenn had invited people for a snowshoe outing and I thought I'd give it a try. Usually it takes me about 30 minutes to ride out there, and I estimated that the bad weather would maybe slow me down by 10 minutes max. Well, not so much. While in downtown all roads were cleared, up on the hill the roads got more and more snowy. Mt. Pleasant Road, low traffic and very steep, was completely covered in fresh snow and I had to walk a good deal of it. Just not enough traction with my Ritchey 'cross tires. In the end it took me 50 minutes to ascend to the heights of Mt. Pleasant, and I arrived half an hour late for snowshoeing.

The ride back was a bit faster, but actually much less pleasant. On the way up, my body had produced copious amounts of heat but on the way back I was freezing. My new MEC lobster gloves did not really cut it, probably exacerbated by the fact that I had to brake hard constantly while going down Mt. Pleasant.

Purchased items:
  • DT Champion 2.0 spokes and nipples
  • 2 Velocity VeloCage bottle cages
  • Shimano PD-M424 pedals (to allow both clipless and normal riding for the winter)
  • 2 700cx23 tubes

Odo Wolfgang:2956 km

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Gunnar is ready for a ride

Okay, I've finally finished building up Gunnar and have had a chance to take some pictures for your (and my) enjoyment. Isn't he a beauty? Due to poor weather and salty roads I haven't had a chance to take him for a ride but hopefully it'll get better soon.

Now the nerd facts:

Gunnar Roadie 2002 62 cm frame
Shimano 105 ST-5600 brifters
Shimano Dura-Ace BR-7700 brakes
Shimano 105 RD-5600 rear derailleur
Shimano Ultegra FD-6500 front derailleur, clamp-on
SRAM PG-1070 12-27 10 speed cassette
SRAM 1050 chain
Selle Italia Flite Gel Flow saddle
Bontrager Select 27.2mm seat post
Powerdrive BC1.37x24t 68mm shell bottom bracket
FSA Gossamer 50/34 compact cranks
3T Forgie stem, aluminum, 120mm
3T Forgie bar, aluminum, 44cm
Cane Creek S2 headset
Mavic Cosmos 28 spoke rear wheel
Alex DA-16/Shimano Deore front wheel

Some of the components, like the front wheel will probably be replaced in the near future and I still need pedals, but my main goal was to get to a functional and affordable quality build ASAP. And in that I've certainly succeeded.

Ideas for 2010

New Year's resolutions are silly, ideas for the new year aren't. So here they are:
  • a 200k
  • a metric century a month
  • 2-day tour Ithaca-Lake Ontario-Ithaca (could also be done as a 200k)

  • 7 or more day bike tour, location to be determined (Pacific coast? around Lake Ontario? Italian Alps?)
  • higher annual kilometrage than last year (i.e. >3500 km)
  • make into the second round at the 2010 Cascadilla Hill Climb (no, I'm not competitive at all!!)
  • go on Sunday Rides with the FLCC
  • find a way to prevent my numbness problems
Odo Wolfgang: 2932 km
Odo Gunnar: 10 m on the trainer (more details will follow shortly)