San Diego Coast to Crest Ride. Well, Some Of It

Ken is a great guy. He is the organizer of an occasional bike overnight camp trip in San Diego, using social media to make them happen. If that sounds informal, it is. I missed Ken’s most recent trip: a ride through Carrizo Plain National Monument at the peak of California’s wildflower bloom this year. But then he organized an overnighter on the Coast to Crest Trail in San Diego, and I was able to make it to that.

The Coast to Crest Trail is an ambitious project to link together and expand an existing trail network, creating a 70 mile continuous off pavement trail from Del Mar to Julian, CA. It is not your typical bikepacking fare. It is a credit to the San Diego area to establish a trail like this amidst the urban sprawl, groomed suburban landscapes, established ranches/farms and other infrastructure. At the time I write this, it is about 2/3 done. A section of about 3 miles had just recently opened. That was enough of an excuse to organize a group and ride the whole route.

After a series of emails, Facebook messages, text messages and the like, Ken put the plan together. A group of 6 of us would shuttle or get dropped off in the lovely mountain village of Julian early on the morning of May 5. So our version of the ride was the Crest to Coast trail (reverse of Coast to Crest, get it?), which has the benefit of being a net elevation loss. But even in that direction the trail still features plenty of climbing.

Santa Ysabel Preserve was nothing less than resplendent: it was covered in far more green than usual, it streams flowed with water, and temps were ideal

After a shuttle ride from the beach I met everyone in Julian staging for the ride. The weather was wonderful, everyone was prepared, and after some introductions we were riding.

The ride started well for me, I was feeling strong and climbing better than average. I like to think my recent cross training and weight loss were showing their affects. Early in the ride we made a detour for a photo-op at an entry to a wilderness area, which means by definition bikes were not allowed. But we stopped at the entrance sign then turned around. I must be some kind of local San Diego ritual, I guess.

We wrapped up the early pavement section by turning left into the Santa Ysabel Preserve, which was nothing less than resplendent as it was covered in far more green than usual, its streams flowed with water, and temps were ideal for riding. Which was good since the route did feature some climbing there. We navigated around sandy sections, ruts and cows as we went. I reached the top of one of the early climbs in time to take pics of everyone as they passed by.

We exited Santa Ysabel and regrouped in a meeting that included Carl’s family, which was utterly charming as his young daughter held a gate open for us and made sure Dad had enough water. From there the route took us along the paved Highway 79 and Mesa Grande road. They climbed steadily and did not always offer much of a bike lane or extra space for riders. But traffic was sparse and fairly polite. The paved section ended at a classic backcountry landmark, an abandoned general store in Mesa Grande.

From the General Store we struck out on Black Canyon Road. It is a wide fast gravel road that is covered in, ironically, white gravel. It was a long steady descent that gave us views of a rocky gorge with flowing water (a big deal in these parts) alongside the road in a few places. We regrouped at our right turn onto Santa Ysabel Truck Trail and decided to take a side trip to Lake Sutherland. This is where my energy level started fading fast. The rest of the group powered up the steady climb to Sutherland dam, but I made no effort to keep up. By the time I arrived they had had their fill of the scenery and were ready to head back down. I have seen the lake several times before with the assistance of my motorcycle. It is odd how climbs seem so much bigger on the bicycle.

By the time we hit the truck trail I was needing to get off and walk over the steep sections that trail is dotted with. The group I was riding with was great though. I was not the only one that was fading. Carl and Dan, who were still going strong, did a combination of waiting and taking more challenging options to keep the group together in spite of our widely varying speeds.

Day 1 ended with us setting up a legal wild / dispersed camp on Cleveland National Forest land. Ken had gone out the night before and buried a cache of water, beer and assorted other goodies that was much appreciated by all of us when we got to the end of the day.

We spent the evening drinking, cooking, and sharing food and stories. Interestingly, the middle of our camp turned out to have a hummingbird nest in it. My plan was to camp under the tree, but after the momma hummer buzzed me a few times we saw her tiny nest I relocated my camp site. The group gave the tree and the tiny mommy a little extra space.

While sitting around the campground that night, I casually mentioned that I needed to be at LAX the next day by 5 pm. To my surprise, that remark was greeted by confused looks from everyone. Once they realized I was not joking, they all said there was no way I would be able to do Sunday’s ride and get to LAX by that time. I had looked at the ride profile and figured that day 1 would be the hard day, and day 2 would be a relatively fast descent to the beach. But I found out that day 2 was more difficult than day 1.

So I changed my plans. I would ride with the group for the first part of the day on Sunday, then break off and finish as a road ride into Solana Beach. That would give me more than enough time for my scheduled arrival at LAX.

The next morning I saw once again that we were a pretty compatible group of riders. No one got up super early, waiting around impatiently. And no one had to be awakened while we all stood around geared up and ready to ride. Nice.

Day 2 continued on the Santa Ysabel Truck Trail, and true to my plan, I said good bye to the band of merry men at Highway 78 and continued to Solana Beach on the road by myself. The route I took was gorgeous, but Rancho Santa Fe’s beautiful wood lined rural roads have zero room for cyclists. I should have made my way to a familiar route that included San Diequito Road. But the route I took did feature a lot of new scenery for me so it was good for that.

Also on the ride I encountered the famous Belgian Waffle Ride that was taking place that day. I was not impressed. I was riding in the Lake Hodges area where there were families, children, elderly, etc. The Ride is a race, and not a closed course race, but racers were mixing it up with non racers anyway, and the racers I saw had zero regard for anyone but themselves. They kept going full speed through crowded areas, yelling at other trail users to get out of their way. I didn’t see anyone get hurt and I am sure many of them posted personal records to Strava.

The road into Solana Beach finally sprouted a bike lane, and I descended into the cool sunny beach town where my car was waiting safely in the parking lot where I had left it. Mission complete.

This ride was, among other things, a shakedown for my tour starting June 15 in northern California, including redwood country, Pacific Coast Highway and San Francisco. I presumed that if my bike and I could deal with an off road ride, then we could deal with a road tour. And deal we did. I look forward to that ride now feeling well prepared. And to the next local ride with a bunch of new friends.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
06:19:51 02:36:32 25.23 9.67 36.24 1,712.60
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Lunch Ride’

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
04:45:39 03:31:07 36.02 10.24 33.11 1,886.48
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Lunch Ride’

5+ Ways to Make a Super Wide Range 11 Speed Drop Bar Drivetrain – Only 1 With an Adapter!

There are classes of drop bar bikes that some riders prefer with a wider range of gearing than a standard road or mountain bike group offers. Road tandems, touring/trekking bikes, gravel/adventure bikes, to name a few, can be ridden in a wide enough range of conditions that it can be good to have a big gear nearly as big as a roadie 53/11 and a small gear nearly as small as a mountain bike granny. That is a big ask, to be sure. Not all bike frames can handle that, let alone their components.


It can be good to have a big gear nearly as big as a roadie 53/11 and a small gear nearly as small as a mountain bike granny. That is a big ask, to be sure.

Before going any farther, I admit to being a Shimano biased amateur bike mechanic. I will touch on SRAM a little. Campy does not make an MTB group so they don’t really play in this arena. So I may miss some options, but I am pretty sure this covers most of the bases. If not, please feel free to let me know.

In the distant past there were various ways to make a wide range drop bar group. A triple road group, i.e. with a 3 chainring crankset, was one way. Mixing and matching road and mountain bike components could also be part of the solution. These options worked great up through 9 speed Shimano. Starting with 10 speed, Shimano began to break this compatibility between its road and mountain groups. Road bike 10 speed shifters did not work with 10 speed mountain bike derailleurs anymore. They could work with a 9 speed MTB rear derailleur, but that meant using older components in the mix. When Shimano went 11 speed, compatibility was nearly gone. No road shifters worked with any MTB derailleurs, and high end triple road groups were gone too. Admittedly the loss of road triple was not a big blow: it was possible to get the same range with new 2×11 speed groups. This was all happening at a time when gravel/adventure bikes were rising in popularity. It seemed that component makers were caught off guard .

In order to understand compatibility between shifters, derailleurs and gears (cogs/chainrings), it is helpful to break down compatibility into three categories: cable pull, gear capacity and max gearing.

Cable Pull This is the amount of cable movement needed move a derailleur enough to shift one gear. The amount of cable pull that a derailleur needs and the amount that the shifter delivers must be the same. If not, derailleurs will position the chain centered on the gears.

Gear Capacity This is the sum of the range of gears of the cassette and the crankset. For example, a compact 50/34T crankset has a range of 16T. An 11/28T cassette has a range of 17T. Together they have a range of 33T. A wide range drivetrain will have a greater capacity. The chain must be long enough to wrap around the big/big gear combo. When you shift that chain into small/small, there is chain slack to take up. The wider the gear range, the more slack must be taken up. It is the job of the rear derailleur to handle that. The cage (the plates that connect the derailleur pulleys), must be longer to take up more chain slack. Long cages slow down shifting, add weight, and stick out to interfere with the world, so you don’t want a longer cage than needed. Shimano makes 3 cage lengths: SS or short, GS or medium, and SGS or long. In general, SS is for tight ratio road race bikes. GS is for normal 2x gearing, and SGS is for 2x wide range or 3x gear ranges. In the current lineup Shimano offers SS and GS for road and GS and SGS for mountain. They have never offered an SGS rear derailleur for a current 11 speed road group, and that limits the gear range of drop bar groups.

Max Gear Size and Range Rear derailleurs have limits on the max size cog they can handle. SRAM’s commonplace 42T big cog will not work with older derailleurs, for example. The mech simply cannot pivot out far enough to reach the bigger cogs. Sometimes you can make move them out farther with adapters or by using long “b tension” bolts. But that can mean the derailleur will not be able to get close to the small cogs and compromise shifting in that range. Front derailleurs are a little different. The curvature of the shifting plates is designed for different sizes of chainrings. Shimano’s road derailleurs accommodate this. For example with the newest Ultegra R8000 band mount front derailleur is offered in L (large) and M/S (Medium/Small) options.

Other Compatibility I am going to focus on shifter/derailleur/gear compatibility, but that is not the whole picture. As if it were not enough to get the components all working together on paper, they must all work together when bolted onto a frame and under power. Putting a modern road bike crank a mountain bike may not go well. Integrated spindles may not be wide enough. That can be solved sometimes be using older BBs / cranksets where the spindle was part of the BB, like good ol’ square taper or Octalink. Putting a road bike crankset on a mountain bike may work at the bottom bracket, but the frame may not have enough clearance for the rings or a good place to mount the front derailleur. Road front derailleurs are bottom pull only, so keep that in mind. Chainline is another matter. The width of the spacing of the bike at the rear may move the cassette inboard or outboard far enough to make cross chaining even worse than normal and even affect 2 or 3 gears at the extremes. If you start to consider plus side tires or fatbikes, you may have tire clearance between the chain and frame to consider.

Fortunately, amidst all of the turmoil of ever changing bike drivetrain technology, there is usually a way for us outliers to make a group that gives us all of the features we want.

So for the options below, let’s presume you have the other compatibility issues sorted, i.e. just look at shifter/derailleur/gear compatibility. I have built bikes using options 1-4 below, so I know they work. The drivetrain I make is a SRAM XD 10/42T cassette paired with a 16T spread crankset: 24/40T or 26/42T, so a gear capacity of 48T.

#1: Make a Franken-derailleur. Hack a Shimano 105 5800 rear derailleur and a Shimano LX T670-SGS rear derailleur. This is documented well here. Remove the long cage from the LX and install it on the 105 and voila, an SGS 11 speed road derailleur! That solves the cable pull and capacity issue. To solve the max gear issue you may have to use the upside down b-tension screw trick, or use a derailleur hanger extension like the Wolf Tooth Road Link. I have pored over Shimano’s exploded diagrams of various derailleurs and I cannot find any other combo that would allow an SGS cage on an 11 speed road derailleur.

Pros: Relatively simple, no adapters needed.

Cons: You may have to tear apart a derailleur in ways you never have before. You are limited to just those two derailleurs as far as I know, and they are old generation derailleurs. You get no shadow low profile or adjustable clutch, so for off road use you might get a lot of old school banging around of the derailleur. Small cog shifting feels numb and slow. And the derailleurs are a little on the heavy side, if that matters to you.

#2 SRAM To The Rescue! SRAM offers a clean solution: Their 11 speed drop bar shifters are compatible with their 10 speed mountain bike rear derailleurs and 11 speed mountain bike front derailleurs. I had SRAM Rival shifters, an X-9 10 speed clutch rear derailleur (a rare beast), and a GX 11 speed front derailleur and it worked a charm. Other combos will work. If you are not trying to make existing Shimano components work and you can go all SRAM, this is a good option.

Pros: Lots of options for components, easy compatibility, no hacking or adapters needed.

Cons: Limited to 10 speed rear derailleurs, not the latest and greatest.

#3 Cable Pull Adapters Mix Road shifters and an MTB derailleur with a cable pull adapter. I know of 2: the JTEK Shiftmate 8 / 8A, and the Wolf Tooth Tanpan. This allows you to pair a long cage SGS MTB derailleur with your road shifters.

Pros: You can use any 11 speed MTB derailleur you want which means current current models.

Cons: Adapters do add complexity to the cable routing. Surprisingly, if there are no other problems in the cable run, they do not affect shifting. But any problem, like kinks in cables, gunk or corrosion in the cables and housing, etc. will all be magnified by an adapter. I like the Tanpan better. The set screw and internal routing keeps the cable from unwinding in the adapter. The adapters are not cheap, but most of these drivetrains means some added cost.

#4: Go Electronic. Shimano allows mixing road shifters and mtb derailleurs with their Di2 groups. SRAM may allow the same, but, well, I am a Shimano guy, remember? 2nd Gen Di2 did not initially allow the mixing and matching of components, but a later firmware update added that ability. You are limited to making both derailleurs mountain bike components, i.e. you cannot use and Ultegra front derailleur and an XTR rear derailleur. I am not sure about first gen Di2 either, if you want to consider that you have some homework to do, sorry.

Pros: Di2 shifting. If you have not experienced it and you don’t have the money for it, do NOT ride Di2. Electronic shifting is not a gimmick or small evolution over mechanical shifting. It is a true game changer.

Cons: The same con as always for electronic shifting: the price. Now that we have 2nd and 3rd generation electronic shifting systems, some deals can be had on older parts or bikes if you are patient. That is how I did it.

#5 Lose the Brifter Presumed in all of these options is the use of “brifters” (combined brake shifter) and indexed shifting. If you consider bar end shifters that offer a friction mode, you open a whole new world of options. You need to keep them in friction mode all the time. That means losing the clicks in your shifting and learning to shift by feel: a skill that has been lost in the history of cycling for most. But considering the way you might want to use a bike like this, it does have its appeal. Almost any shifting problems you encounter with a friction shift bike can be overcome by your own skill, on the fly, anywhere in the world, without special tools or parts. Sounds like an adventure bike spec to me.

Pros: Eliminates the cable pull issue completely and with a simpler drivetrain.

Cons: Friction shifting is not for everyone.

#6 (ish) Hope for other options. Shimano introduced the RX800 components which bring shadow profiles and adjustable clutches to 11 speed Shimano drop bar shifting. Now if they only made an SGS version of the rear derailleur. We can hope. Shimano has also introduced 12 speed mountain bike groups, but not 12 speed for road. Yet. Perhaps when they do, the cable pull of the road shifters will be the same as the MTB derailleurs and we can have the mechanical mix and match nirvana of 9 speed. Farther out on the horizon, maybe a 1x group one day will deliver this kind of range. But we are talking about maybe a 9/60 cassette with 13 or 14 speeds (in order to get decent gear spacing). A new player on the component scene, Rotor, has introduced a 13 speed group. And Shimano has patents on 14 speed components.

So one thing is a constant going forward: change. Fortunately, amidst all of the turmoil of the ever changing bike drivetrain technology, there is usually a way for us outliers to make a group that gives us all of the features we want.

Ride For Rwanda 2019 50 Mile Route Flyover

I am going to join the Ride For Rwanda this year as I have for many years. For more info, see https://rwandaride.com. For some charity rides I participate in, I create a “virtual flyover” video using a handful of tools at my disposal like Google Earth, a video editor, some free music, etc. They are fun and easy to make, and they event coordinators always seem happy to have them. So for this year’s ride, check out the video!

Commuting, Riding for Charity, Mountain Biking, Vlogging, Episode 1

I like to use multiple social media formats to share my riding experiences. Blogging is great for going into details. I love capturing moments in pictures. But I also have fun making videos of my adventures. I have a YouTube channel called, shockingly, Two Wheel Lifestyle

My YouTube channel has a lot of motorcycle content on it, but I have begun to add some bicycle videos now too. BTW, I hate referring to bicycles as such, but when you talk about motorcycles and bicycles together, you can’t call either one of them bikes. Such a pain, right? 

So now that I am mixing bicycles and motorcycles on my YouTube channel, I want to mix my YouTube channel with my blog. Where will it end? The nice thing about putting my YouTube videos here is that I can write a little more about them. Yes, I could write more descriptions on YouTube, but let’s face it: people don’t go to YouTube to read. That’s what blogs are for. But a little extra eye candy in a blog might be a good thing, time will tell. So, here are my latest YouTube videos.

In this video I am using a format I am blatantly copying from motovlogger royaljordanian (“Motovlog” is an common term that is “motorcycle video log” crunched down, and self explanatory). It is not a format I plan to use all the time, but it works well for certain things. This was shot on my ride around Arroyo Trabuco in Orange County, riding my Diamondback Carbon Haanjo 7C bike, which is a drop bar gravel/adventure bike, and very much at home on fire roads and such, but can handle some singletrack as well.

I was surprised how well the mountain lion sign was captured by my Hero GoPro 7 Black, and the zoom effect was fun. The “rock quarry” was a handful on the Haanjo. They are called gravel bikes and not rock bikes for a reason. The steep rise out of the “quarry” is steeper than it looks, and I don’t always make it. This was a ride of a few hours, and it seems that whenever you ride that long you stumble across some special event somewhere. This time it was the classic/custom car parade at ONeill Regional Park. Those cars are impressive enough when you see one on display, and seeing a huge group driving around takes the experience up a notch. I also liked that I was faster than they were. Finally, the section of trail I call “The Jungle” is a great bit of singletrack, I don’t think I have ever cleaned the whole thing. So I was happy that I had the camera running when I did.

This video combines several rides. The first few are from my commute. Of all the people to cut me off, the city bus driver seems unlikely. They are usually among the most courteous drivers, which is good considering the size of their vehicles. But I managed to dispatch him shortly after being cut off, then continue to outmaneuver other cars in heavy traffic. The shadow of the semi struck me as pretty impressive while I was riding, I was happy that it translated to video pretty well. The drama of something like that is often lost when shrunken down to the screen. I was experimenting with various video formats, so they may look mismatched in this compilation, but I am settled on a resolution of 1080P 60HZ, normal wide angle for now. The GoPro makes great content at that setting.

The rest of the video is from my Multiple Sclerosis charity ride. I had a great 2 days of riding, knocking out 100 miles. I usually go for a longer distance, but this year my training was for speed not endurance, and I enjoyed keeping up a faster pace. 

Cycle Tour Carpinteria to Oxnard: The Final, Perfect Day

The last day of my tour began at the very full Carpinteria State Beach campground on a Memorial Day weekend Sunday. I had a short ride planed for that day that would take me to the Amtrak station in Oxnard where I would ride my bike right onto the train then be dropped off just a few miles from home. So I was in no hurry around the campsite that morning. I wanted to explore the boardwalk trails around the park and grab some breakfast before I loaded the bike.

Bike travel during a busy weekend means crowded roads, campgrounds and everything else. But it also means more to see and do.

It took me a while to pack because of all the activity at the campsite. Kelson and his wife were super friendly and recommended an easy dirt road alternate to the official Pacific Coast Route. The young Latino bicycle gang, as I affectionately thought of them, got up surprisingly early and were abuzz about their riding and plans. I met an older guy riding an eBike who I had to break off my conversation from. We had a lot in common and I think we could have talked all morning.

The Shakedown Of My Electrical System

I made another side trip before getting started on my main ride, stopping at a nearby plaza for supplies and enjoying a coffee at Starbucks while I charged my battery pack. My original plan was to rely on solar power and a battery pack to keep my phone and Garmin GPS charged. But the early part of my ride was too cloudy for my solar panel. And I had no good way to mount the panel, either, it kept rolling off of my bags. And I had pared away a lot of extra fabric from the panels to save weight, which left them flimsy and ready to fall apart from all of the shaking around as I rode. I also brought a nice battery pack that was designed to charge and discharge fast, using Quick Charge 3.0 (QC3.0) My phone was also QC2.0, still very fast, though my Garmin had no fast charge feature. I also brought a wall charger that could charge all 3 items – the battery, phone, and Garmin, all at once at full speed. So in about an hour I could get enough of a charge for a couple of days. There are even faster batteries coming to market now called Graphene. I even tried one and it was great, it could charge in less than 30 minutes, but it had a small capacity so I returned it (gotta love Amazon). I hope that by my next ride they will have evolved a little more. As for my solar panel, I actually threw it out a day earlier, it was about to fall apart. For tours that go through mostly civilized areas I am going to use just an external battery and charger from now on. On my 9 day tour I only had to take 2 extended breaks to charge my battery and I was never close to running out of power so I could gotten by with less charge time.

After my trip to the plaza I returned to the campground, packed and headed out on Kelson’s dirt road alternate. It was a great recommendation. My only disclaimer for other riders is that you must be able to handle some off road riding with your heavily laden touring bike. I am a mountain biker too, so I was fine with it.

The dirt alternate dumped me right into another segment of the ride that the locals were very excited about, and I soon found myself sharing their excitement. It was a relatively new section of dedicated bike lane starting at Rincon Road and going south for about 4 miles. Before that trail was built you had to ride on the freeway; there was no alternate route. The trail was built on the ocean side of the road with a great view all the way. And in my case the conditions also included a glorious dose of perfect sunshine, cool temperatures and a tailwind. I watched people flying down the freeway in their cars and wondered how many realized what they were driving past as they were all sealed up in their climate controlled interiors. If riding a bike could somehow be made like this all the time everywhere you went I seriously don’t think any able bodied people would ever use a car.

From there there the route wound its way along the coastal railroad and back and forth under the freeway version of the road (it is kind confusing, yes), then it stayed on the coast side for a long way, flanked on the right by a series of campgrounds/RV parks that clung to the small area between the road and the ocean. And they were all packed that day with huge RVs and people milling around them and in the mostly empty road. The road ended for motor vehicles and continued as a bike trail, delivering me to the outskirts of the city of Ventura.

Bike travel during a busy weekend means crowded roads, campgrounds and everything else. But it also means more to see and do. I met a lot more fellow bike travelers and rode past the start/finish line of a running event.

I met Trey and Hilton in Ventura. Their ride had started in Montana and they had arrived in Ventura by way of the state of Washington. Hilton was going to San Diego and Trey to Argentina. But their paths were separating just 10 miles down the road, they were clearly not looking forward to it.

I left the coast in Oxnard and headed inland toward the train station. The scenery changed from the exotic views of the coast into more familiar suburban neighborhoods, industrial parks and shopping centers. I thought it would help me ease back into reality, but if anything it had the opposite effect. My ride was ending and the reality of it came crashing in on me. My tour had a story arc all its own. I started with more insecurity than I realized. I faced an early go/no-go decision. And I shortened a couple days because I was so tired. But it ended with confidence in my touring skills, increased endurance and a state of endorphin induced euphoria. I thought I would have had my fill after all that riding, but the bigger part of me was just getting started. I finished strong and was sorry to see the ride end. I leaned my bike against a fence at the train station and reflected on the moment. I decided to designate that moment as the end of the ride so that I could make a clean break and begin the process of returning to my regular life, which I could see was going to take some time.

Part of me wanted to deal with the process by looking ahead to my next tour. I would do that in due time, but I did not let myself do that just yet. I wanted to continue to savor what was left of this adventure.

In the days that followed I had a hard time focusing on work or anything that resembled responsible adulthood. I knew that I needed to attend to things like my job, paying bills and maintaining stuff around the house. The process took time, but after a week or so I adjusted. And THEN I started to plan my next tour.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:48:25 02:17:43 28.20 12.29 22.82 367.45
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

On The Passing Of American Classic Wheels

Last week I was commuting to work on my lightweight race bike. I have a commuter bike but it was undergoing an upgrade and in pieces in my workshop. On the final leg of my ride I crossed a pedestrian plaza and came back out into a quiet parking lot. I was riding slow with my head on a swivel and WHAM! My front tire hit a newly placed concrete parking stop. I should have had a bobble head motion to go with the swivel I guess. My bars rotated down in the stem, I came unclipped and thought I was going to lay it down but I managed to coast away from it.

To order new rims I went to American Classic’s website but I found it oddly only half there.

But my beloved American Classic (AC) Sprint 350 front wheel had taken what turned out to be a fatal blow. One side of the rim was bent but otherwise it was still true, round and dished. I took it home that night and gently bent it back into shape as best I could. But under hard braking at speed I could feel the bend in the rim, there was no fixing it. It was living on borrowed time and probably dangerous to use for long.

After I got done kicking myself for not seeing a great big parking stop (for cryin’ out loud, man!) I got myself excited about replacing my non tubeless rims with new road tubeless AC rims.

To order new rims I went to American Classic’s website but I found it oddly only half there. Many links were not links and not only were the rims I wanted out of stock, everything was out of stock. I got a bad feeling in the pit of my stomach and did a web search for AC news and sadly discovered they were closing down and going out of business. The process had started 8 months ago. How had I not heard about this in any of my social media bike feeds? There is barely anything about it on the web so I wanted to weigh in on it.

AC was my favorite brand of wheels. I have owned Hurricanes, Sprint 350s, 101s and have laced up many wheels myself using their rims and hubs. Bill Shook, the main man at AC, never subscribed to proprietary integrated wheel system design. The wheels used hubs designed for standard j-bend spokes.  Even the nipples, while not completely standard, could be adjusted with a regular spoke wrench and had some nice advantages. 

I particularly liked the design of the Sprint 350 wheelset. The rim they used was the lightest of any aluminium rim I could find: 350 grams, thus the name of the wheels. But the wheels were very strong overall because they used 32 spokes. The net effect was moving the rotating mass in closer to the center of the wheel, reducing rotational inertia. Higher spoke counts also made the wheels easier to build and maintain because they gave you finer grain control over the shape of the rim.

No other wheel maker takes this approach. I know because I tried to source comparable replacement rims from different companies.  The only rims I could find were much heavier, like 100g heavier, or were drilled for a low spoke count. 

AC had a unique take on hub design as well, with high flanges, a unique, low rolling resistance engagement design and many other details.

The news I read was that AC wanted to sell their intellectual property and Bill Shook was available for consulting. I hope some of AC’s ideas and designs are picked up by another wheelmaker.

In the end, AC was a small company compared to the other big manufacturers. Integrated designs seem to be dominating the high end wheel market which is not good for a do it yourself person like myself. While this may be the end of the road for American Classic, I hope it is not the end of Bill Shook’s designs or ideas.

Cycle Tour Refugio to Carpinteria: Santa Barbara Dreamin’

Waking up at my campsite at Refugio State Beach on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend was a nice experience. This was day 8 of my 9 day bike tour. It had only taken me a few days to shrug off the hectic life of suburbia and work and embrace a nomadic existence.  I was already starting to feel a little melancholy about the end of my ride, but I didn’t devote much time to that.

The ride through Santa Barbara was mostly world class bike lanes and classic beach scenery. 

The Hike or Bike campsite where I was staying faced a beach cove with only a narrow road between the campsites and the sand. My tent was pitched under the cover of a stand of tall trees and only a few steps away from the super clean restroom/shower building. The nearby playground had a children playing, there were dawn patrol surfers on the edge of the cove and pelicans glided low over the ocean in small groups. The low morning sun was bathing a crystal blue sky in shades of golden orange morning light. The morning was a work of art and the rest of the day would be as well.

But it was not totally perfect. Whereas previous days brought challenges of dampness and sand, Refugio greeted me with wind, including some pretty big gusts. I had to find rocks to put on my loose gear so it wouldn’t blow away. And not small rocks, either. It was not windy enough that I had to guy out my tent, but I probably should have just in case.

Nick, a local from Santa Barbara had shown up late the night before. I was out like a light by 9 pm like most nights so we hadn’t talked much. Nick said it was always windy at Refugio, but it was a windier than normal that day. As usual with fellow riders, Nick and I compared notes about how to pack and travel on bikes, our future plans and how we wished trips like this would never end.

I made breakfast, packed and started my ride.  I quickly discovered that the wind was a microclimate. As I rode up from the beach to the road above the wind died down and turned into a steady tailwind that stayed with me all day. The day just kept getting better and better!

There is a dedicated bike trail between Refugio and El Capitan State Beaches, but part of it was closed because the ground under it is falling down a cliff to the beach. I rode the closed section but don’t count on it being there in the future. At El Capitan you have to enter the freeway legally and ride the shoulder for about 7 miles until you can exit. It is a choke point for cyclists in both directions: there is no alternate route to the freeway. The tailwind helped, but I felt bad for the riders I saw on the other side of the road facing the freeway and a headwind.

Santa Barbara: A Tale Of Two Bike Trails

The ride through Santa Barbara was mostly world class bike lanes and classic beach scenery.  The Cabrillo Bike Route (CBR) is well designed and gives you a wonderful tour of Santa Barbara. But before you start CBR (coming from the north) there is a bike path on Hollister Road. Excuse me while I rant, I will get back to the awesome ride, I promise.

The bike lane on Hollister is just a big sidewalk that bikes are allowed to ride on. It is best for casual riders out for a little neighborhood spin but not useful for bike tourers, commuters, or people trying to get anywhere by bike. There are several reasons for this:

  • It is paved with concrete which is full of seams and bumpy, even when smoothed out as required by state law.
  • It is set back from the road so cyclists are less visible to drivers, especially at intersections.
  • Cars must stop in the path of cyclists in order to see cross traffic.
  • Cyclists must stop at every intersection, whether there is a sign or not, in order to be safe.
  • It is only on one side of the road so it carries two way traffic.

A better design for traveling cyclists is a combination of a dedicated sidewalk, a wide bike lane and a painted, hash marked buffer zone like we have in the area where I live. That puts cyclists on asphalt, separate from pedestrians, buffered from traffic, visible to cars at intersections and able to proceed just like cars. The sidewalk does not have to be huge because it also benefits from the bike buffer zone and pedestrians are protected from cyclists by the curb.

The world around me was slowly changing from the wide open spaces of the Big Sur coast and wine country to the crowded environs of Southern California on Memorial Day weekend.

It was not a big deal: I was only on that section for 2 miles and there was room for me on the road. I am only thread jacking my own blog because I think it is an interesting lesson for other cities thinking about expanding cycling infrastructure.

The transition to the CBR was a welcome change. The trail started by winding its way through the University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB) campus. I was there on a quiet Saturday so it was like I had the place to myself.

After making its way across UCSB, the trail continued to the pier area and along the beaches. There were lots of beach cruisers on the route, and I enjoyed riding at their pace and keeping my distance from them. The bike trail on a busy Saturday is about sightseeing, not setting a personal best time.

CBR eventually ended and I continued on a frontage road that kept me off of the freeway, but barely.  The world around me was slowly changing from the wide open spaces of the Big Sur coast and wine country to the crowded environs of Southern California on Memorial Day weekend. At first I did not like it, I felt like like all of those people were encroaching on my space. And my space had grown very large over the previous days. But I reached my destination for the night: Carpinteria State Beach, where I could relax and adjust.

As I checked into the Hike or Bike campsite I found myself getting grumpy. It was about the crowds. I sat down and readjusted my attitude. Instead of feeling hemmed in by the crowds I refocused got caught up in the excitement of being around everyone. It really is possible to control your experience of things, but sometimes you have to become your own therapist to do it.

At the campsite I met a young family from Germany who were on an extended parental leave for 2 months. They were touring in a huge RV (bigger than anything you would see in most of Europe they told me). The forced beer and salad on me which I tried to resist. But I failed. I baby sat little Philippe who let me hold him without fussing while Mom and Dad packed to leave. Even after knowing them for only a short time it was hard saying good bye as they piled into their RV. I guess I was having a more emotional day than I realized at the time.

Carpinteria State Beach was packed for Memorial Day to the surprise of no one. Kelson from Goleta was fellow cyclist who was later joined for the night by his wife and child. A group of 4 very enthusiastic Latino riders from Los Angeles were there. Dennis, a Navy Veteran joined us late and he marveled at how rare our first names were. There were so many groups that I could not meet them all. And several seemed to want to stay apart from the big group, which I could empathize with because that is how I felt when I arrived.

The campground was near the old town downtown area. I played tourist and enjoyed exploring Laughing Buddha Thrift shop.

I got some supplies for the stay. One of the things I have a hard time living without is ice. But that was easily available at nearby convenience stores so a splurged and filled up a cooler, pretending to be car camping for just a while.

I gave in and got a cooler and junk food. It was Memorial Day after all.

As usual, the physical effort and the emotional ups and downs of the day left me fulfilled and tired early in the evening. I relaxed around the campsite and introduced myself to people until after dark. The nice thing about being in a Hike or Bike campsite is everyone else has had a similar experience, and we were all ready for sleep early after a day of riding.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
05:18:12 03:36:23 40.32 11.18 30.20 1,358.27
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Cycle Tour: Santa Maria to Refugio, Southern California Wine Country?

I awoke to the luxury of a hotel room on Friday, day 7 of my 9 day tour. I was enjoying camping every other night but the hotel was a nice change of pace. My room had clean clothes hanging over every available spot and I had leftovers from the meal at the restaurant in the hotel the night before waiting in the tiny refrigerator. As much as I was enjoying the hotel, the ride ahead was beckoning and I was too excited to have a lazy morning. I had ridden the Pacific Coast Route before but this time I was taking a new route through the wine country in this area.

Central Coast Outdoors (CCO), the company that shuttled me around the Highway 1 closure, recommended riding through wine country. My reaction was “Wine country? That is farther north, right?” Wrong. There is a huge wine country south of the central coastal region and it is growing fast. And it is beautiful country to ride through.

My route that day was the longest riding day of my tour. I planned to do 60+ miles of riding and 3000+ feet of elevation gain. Fortunately I was “riding myself into shape” as fellow tourers call it and I felt ready for it. I had also changed my destination at the recommendation of Mandy from CCO. There were 3 campgrounds to choose from on my way into Santa Barbara: Giaviota, Refugio and El Capitan. I was originally going to stay at Gaviota, but I changed my destination to Refugio State Beach for that day, adding some miles to my ride.

I got an early start as usual. The weather was sunny and cool all day, perfect for riding. Santa Maria is a small town and the hotel was on its outskirts, so I was quickly riding in a rural setting. The early route centered around Foxen Canyon Road. The roads I took much of the day did not have a bike lane, but traffic was almost non existent. The few cars that passed me were happy to give me a lot of room.

In the middle of rugged back country with no gas stations, traffic lights or even intersections I encountered a wine tasting location. It was basically a nice shed set up in the front of a home. Then another. Then a huge fancy one.

The never ending row of vineyards ended as I rode into Los Olivos. It was one of many towns I rode through that I had never heard of before, but was a pleasant surprise. Not knowing if there would be another good stop, I got some important supplies for the day while I was there.

Somewhere in town the route turned into an actual official named bike lane which was a pleasant change. It wound its way along more charming back roads on its way to the mother lode of all tourism in the area: the city of Solvang. It is known for its Danish themed architecture and loads of great options for eating, drinking and sightseeing. And, for us cyclists, the annual Solvang Century ride.

I left Solvang by taking Alisal Road. It is a gorgeous narrow road out of town and it cuts off much of the riding on US-101, which is basically a freeway open to bikes. But any ride south from Solvang involves a lot of climbing. It is not shown as a through road on all maps, but Alisal does connect as a bike route to Old Coast Highway and US-101 as I write this, even if your map shows the road closed to cars. I made the big left turn to get on US-101 and I was rewarded with a long steady descent to the coast. If you look at that stretch and notice a tunnel, be aware that the tunnel is only on one side of the freeway, the northbound side, and it is an uphill grade. There was no tunnel on the southbound side where I was. I pushed past Gaviota and on to Refugio. There is a very short bridge on that section with no shoulder for bikes so you have to get out in the lane. It had loads of “Share The Road” warning signs with big pictures of bicycles on them, but I got honked at anyway, which actually amused me more than anything.

The conditions in Refugio were windy, but I found out that was pretty normal. The campground has a small store with very limited hours, i.e. it was not open at all while I was there. The shower facilities were very nice and right next to the Hike or Bike campsite. The campground was full with family reunions and large groups camping together. I was able to score some ice and get a few family history lessons about camping in Refugio.

After settling in I was joined by Nick at the Hike or Bike area. We exchanged notes about camping equipment and I let him know I thought it would be very nice to live close to all the great campgrounds in the area. It was good to know that it was not lost on Nick, who clearly enjoyed it.

As usual I was ready to go to sleep as soon as the sunset permitted it. I definitely did not wear out any of the batteries in my headlamp. Falling asleep to the sound of waves crashing on the beach after a long day of riding and great experiences seemed to be a formula for a good night’s sleep, indeed.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
08:04:26 05:47:13 67.18 11.61 36.24 3,375.98
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

A Podcast Interview About My Coastal Tour

As I have been blogging about my California coastal bike tour after the fact, my blogs apparently caught the attention of Jim Fullerton of  Adventure Bike Touring.

It is worth checking it out.

A sample of the scenery on my coastal tour.

 

Among the wide variety of content on the website is a section of Podcasts. They are interviews Jim does under the heading of “Why I Bike”. Jim is a great interviewer with a wonderful relaxed style. He reached out to me and asked me if he could interview me about my tour for one of his podcasts. I was very flattered and accepted his offer. Jim’s interview with me is located here, and I have embedded it here as well. Jim also deserves credit for some good editing. I took the interview on a day when I was distracted at work and I thought I did a pretty terrible job of responding to his questions and staying on topic. But by the time Jim did a little cutting and pasting, the interview came out much better. Thanks to Jim for that!

 

 

 

Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro Shoes: High Performance Commute/Touring Shoes? And Shoe Fit Basics

Picture the plight of  poor Pearl Izumi when it comes to marketing their X-Project shoes. These are race level, high-tech, top performing shoes. Pearl has figured out that even on a race shoe the entire sole of the shoe does not have to be so stiff that they make you walk like a penguin. X Projects soles are stiff in the center where it counts but they flex around the edges. It may not sound like a big deal, but it works well in practice. They are flex free when pedaling, but when you walk in them you look like a proper upright primate.

Pearl’s X Projects are a premium shoe to be sure

 

The cleat pocket is deep enough that your cleats don’t clank on the floor, at least while the tread is full depth. Toe cleats, not installed here, are included.

Pearl have chosen to position X Projects as a high performance shoes that are comfortable when you have to push the bike. But what racer chooses a product based on how much it helps them walk?

I tried these on and my first response was “these would be great for commuting and touring!” I wore these on my recent bike tour and they were so comfortable that I opted not to pack street shoes or sandals. Make no mistake, real casual shoes would have been more comfortable, but they were not worth the weight and space when a shoe like this was an option. I was repeatedly amazed at how versatile these were.

I was skeptical about the “BOA” adjuster dials even though they have been used on bike shoes for a long time now. They are usually reserved for high-end shoes and I have never tried them. They reel in and loosen a nylon string to adjust the shoe in lieu of laces, buckles, straps, etc. My feet swell as a ride, which is normal, so I need to adjust the fit of my shoes on long rides.  Playing around with the  BOAs at the store made them seem a bit gimmicky: change for change’s sake.

But on the trail the genius of the BOAs became clear. Compared to my existing buckle/velcro combo shoes, these could be adjusted much more easily while riding, and in smaller, more precise increments. My adjustment technique on my old shoes was sometimes to completely loosen them until I could stop and fine tune them later because it was just not possible to get a good adjustment while riding.

 

The Pro model has 2 BOA dials.

 

The black color has lots of subtle style accents but the overall effect is stealthy. Pearl also makes a bright orange option if stealth is not your thing.

Having 2 BOA adjusters is not overkill as I originally thought. The upper BOA adjusts the back of the shoe around to the heel cup. The lower one works as a toe box adjustment. And I like adjusting them independently as I ride. They don’t look like they would work that way being so close together and sharing the nylon string, but they do. Pearl opted not to make both BOAs tighten “righty tighty” style. The left BOAs are reverse threaded. So you have to think to rotate them outward to tighten them, and inward to loosen them. Or whatever works for you.

The shoes come with adjustable insoles. They are removable and have pockets where you can slide in shims of different thicknesses. There is one pocket under the arch and one under the ball of your foot (Pearl calls it the varus). They are “set and forget”, but if you wanted to make huge adjustments on long rides you could carry a shim or two with you. They are very small and make a big difference.

X Projects come with a lot of accessories. I have the shims partially installed in the liner so you can see how they work.

 

Proper Fit Is A Big Deal

I also thought the shims were gimmicks at first. These shoes were replacing my older pair of X Projects and I never used the shims on them. But the reason for that is that my old X Projects were too small for me. I made do by stretching them (see my separate blog on that), replacing the insoles with something thinner, and keeping them at the loosest setting most of the time. I had no idea how good the shoes actually were because they did not fit right. My new PROs are a whole size bigger (44 vs 43) than my previous X Projects and now all the adjustments make sense. The moral of the story is make sure your shoes fit right or you may not getting the full benefit from them even if they seem to fit OK. The adjustable insoles are such a great feature I think they could used on other kinds of athletic shoes. They would even be good for professionals who stand all day and change shoes to fight fatigue. It is a common trick. You could rearrange shims, have more options and not have to carry another pair of shoes or even insoles.

I feel like a good review should have some constructive criticism. If I had to nit pick, I would say these shoes are a little heavy for a race shoe. Pearl quotes 373g for them, but mine weighed in at 438g each. Maybe they absorbed a lot of dirt. They are heavier than my old X-Project 2.0 shoes that weigh 384g one size smaller. That weight may make them more durable, but it is too soon to say. To keep it in perspective, they are not a heavy shoe: they are on the heavy side for the way they are marketed.  And they are pretty darned pricey at $350 list, but so are all shoes in this category. I hope the flexy sole and adjustable insole trickle down to more affordable models. Pearl offers an  Elite model at $75 less that swaps out the lower BOA for a velcro strap that is farther forward on the shoe.

Alas, I have never seen Pearl market X-Projects as anything but high performance shoes. Pearl wants to keep their top of the line shoes positioned as fast, serious gear. Which they are. But between you and me, their unique features make them just as good or better for everyday riding.

Load more