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.

Cycle Tour Morro Strand to Santa Maria: From The Beach To The Farm

Day 5 of my 8 day tour would be a long ride through a wide variety of California terrain, but it started with me fixing my kitchen.  Quick backstory: I thought my fuel canister and was empty after very little use, so I pitched it and bought a new one. I was pretty excited about cooking bacon for breakfast and I set up the stove with a new full canister. But to my dismay I still got no flame. There was not much that could go wrong with my simple little titanium camping stove. After turning it on and off a few times I blew air through the small tube that goes from the canister to the stove. That fixed it. The canister that I threw away probably still had a lot of fuel left. More on my stove when I review it in a separate blog, but I was able to forgive it and I still give it a thumbs up.

The bacon cooked up fine once I got my stove working again.

As I was breaking camp I met Colette who was car camping next to me. And by car camping, I mean sleeping in her Honda Civic. She was a wonderful woman who had a heavy French accent even after living in the USA for 45 years. She adventured a lot and often alone.

She shared a great story with me: she had a daughter who never called (nope, I have never heard that one before). One of the few times she did call was while Colette was out adventuring. Colette came home to find police all around her property, investigating the missing persons report that her daughter had filed on Colette when she could not reach her mother. Her daughter had panicked and presumed the worst. It only showed how little she knew about how her mother lived. I was not sure if the story was a comedy or tragedy, but Colette told it well.

And before I could ask her, Colette said she thought it was silly that women were so afraid of travel and adventuring alone. She had done it all her life and had only one incident where she thought someone was following her, but she wasn’t sure and nothing came of it.

Colette was a seasoned adventurer and a great storyteller.

I finished packing and took some time to explore the beach were I was camping. It was a mix of sandy bluffs, rugged ground cover and shifting wetlands. It was very photogenic under the morning clouds. I returned to my bike, brushed off the sand and started my ride on the dedicated bike trails around Morro Bay.

The beach that I was camping on was a complex, beautiful dune ecosystem

 

A view back where I had ridden the day before.

 

My home for a day: RVs and the neighborhood that overlooked the campground and beach. 

 

A tree covered trail through Morro Bay.

 

There was a fairly extensive network of trails in the area.

I followed the official Pacific Coast Route. From Morro Bay it turned inland and became a divided highway. Even the most scenic route can’t avoid some amount of highway riding. The steady uphill grade went on for miles and ended in the beautiful town of San Luis Obispo. I stopped for a coffee in a cute business district.

I chose to get a coffee at from those other guys.

 

San Luis Obispo is referred to as SLO, and has a charm all its own.

After SLO I rode back to the coast, sort of by surprise, I had not looked at my route that much and was not expecting any ocean views. The greater Pismo Beach area is a classic eclectic group of beach towns and the ride through them was fun and easy. The downtown pier area was under construction while I was there. I wound my way through it and across Pismo Creek, which formed a wetlands in the middle of town.

The coast along Pismo Beach had a little of everything, including suburbia with a view.

 

The coast wraps around to form San Luis Obispo Bay.

 

Pismo Creek meanders through town, creating a coastal wetlands that the area has grown up around.

Next is a route recommendation for Pacific Coast Route riders.  As you leave Pismo Beach and ride through Arroyo Grande, stay on the marked route.  There is a sign that points you down Halcyon Road as an alternate route.  It cuts a corner off the route and saves you some distance so it is very tempting. Halcyon looks great at first but it ends with no shoulder, very steep, and very busy. I have taken that cut off twice now due to that sign, and I think it is a bad idea.

Resist the temptation to cut a corner on Halcyon Road.

But I survived Halcyon Road and the rest of the day was farm country roads. I shared the road with huge farm trucks, slow tractors and clumps of dirt  while negotiating small shoulders and rough pavement. The scenery was classic rural farmland with open fields, storage silos, heavy farming equipment and the like. It was an abrupt change from previous days’ riding along the coast.

Much of the day looked like this.

My ride that day ended in Santa Maria.  It is the big city in a farming area, so it reminded me of where I grew up. I stopped for supplies and made my way to the hotel I where would be stay that night, the only night I would spend at a hotel during my 8 day tour. I could not believe how happy I was to see it, I was ready for a little extra comfort that night.

When I called ahead to make reservations, the concierge assured me that it was okay to bring my bike right into the hotel and into my room. They said they got a lot of cyclists there that were riding the coastal route. I could see why: the nearest campground is pretty far away in Lompoc and did not fit my schedule. The Radisson is only a few bucks more than the bargain motels, so I splurged. I was happy I did.

The Radisson Santa Maria was a sight for sore eyes. And sore butt, legs, back, etc. I may have cried a little when I pulled in.

 

Not the usual place to park my bike, but the hotel was good with it.

I ate dinner at the nicer restaurant at the hotel with white tablecloths and everything. Such decadence! I would be back to camping and cooking soon enough. Pampering myself for a night was a wonderful change of pace and recharged me for the rest of the ride. I concluded that when I do a multi-week tour someday I will stay at hotels one or two nights a week.

I think there was chicken somewhere under all that deep-fried goodness. When in farm country, eat comfort food, I say. I had enough leftovers for breakfast, and the room had a fridge and microwave.

 

The hotel serves the airport. It is next to the tarmac and I had a view of it from my table at dinner. There was zero activity while I was there, however.

I cleaned myself and my clothes thoroughly, using the sink and tub to clean my clothes. I hung everything all over the room to dry, feeling confident they would actually get really dry that night after so many nights outside in foggy damp conditions. I must have been in “roughing it” mode, I never even thought of using the laundry at the hotel. I put all of my electronics on real wall chargers too, another luxury. And as I did on most nights, I fell asleep quickly, early and well, ready to continue my ride into Southern California wine country the next day.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
06:35:28 04:50:20 57.81 11.95 36.91 1,837.27
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Morro Strand to Santa Maria’

A DIY Bicycle Tubeless Tire Bead Seater Tank

It is time for another not-very-pretty blog about bike equipment. I made a tank that I think can seat just about any bead lock bike tire. This is an over-the-top tool but I had to go to extremes. Getting my floppy (and awesome) Big Fat Larry tires to seat had proven to be very difficult. I tried everything I could find on the web but anything that worked was very difficult. The inflation tank method I came up with seats them easily.

This is the beast in all of its, um, glory.

This is for bead lock tires and rims. Bead lock means that the bead of the tire (the part that touches the rim when installed) locks into the rim. Once locked in, the tire will stay seated even if it is deflated.

WARNING: This is a bead seater ONLY. Do NOT use this to fully inflate bike tires. The airflow is too high to control for safe tire inflation.

It is pretty simple: an air tank with a trigger release tire pressure gauge with all the Schrader valves removed. To seat a tire you remove the core from the valve on the rim and deliver a high pressure, high volume blast of air with no valves in the way.

It has two gauges but only needs one.

 

No need for fancy valves or fittings, the pipe clamps work fine.

 

It would look nicer with shorter pipe clamps I suppose.

Here is how to make one and use it safely. Get a portable air tank. Mine is 10 gallons, but a 5 gallon model would be fine and easier to handle. The tanks have a pressure gauge, a valve, and a hose with a Schrader valve. I take it to a local tire store and they fill it for me. I always offer to pay but they never accept anything for it. They never object to a tip though. The tank is rated for 125 psi and I have them put in max pressure recommended for the tires that I am using.  The fact that you could put in higher pressures than your tires are rated for is the danger of using this tank. You MUST take precautions to use it safely. Never overinflate your tires.

This is what they look like all shiny and new.

Then get a trigger tire inflator gauge. They come in many varieties,  but you are not buying it for the gauge. All you really want is the trigger operated valve to release air in a sudden burst: faster than the built in valve on the tank. You can get triggers separately but it is usually cheaper to get them as part of a gauge.

These are available online easily

Cut the Schrader valves off the ends of the hoses. Install the trigger gauge at the end of the tank hose with a hose clamp. Put a hose clamp lightly tightened around the end of the trigger gauge hose, just enough to keep it from falling off.

Standard issue stuff, available at hardware stores everywhere.

To mount the most difficult tires, seal your rim and seat one bead of the tire, then use this to seat the other bead. Here it is step by step including  all the safety precautions you must follow and all the tips I know. I need to use all these tips for my huge fat bike tires, but you may be able to skip a few steps.

  1. Mount the tire on a sealed rim with a tube so that both beads are seated.
    • The beads may make one or more cracking or popping sounds as they seat, sometimes very loud.
    • Some tire/rim combos seat silently. Inspect the bead. The bead will seat a consistent distance away from the rim all the way around.
    • This bead is not seated. The rib on the tire near the rim on the left goes under the rim on the right.

       

      This is seated properly. The rib is a consistent distance from the rim all the way around.

  2. For a new tire that may have creases or tend to fold up, leave it mounted overnight or take it for a few rides. That will help it hold its shape.
  3. Let the air out of the tube, unmount one bead and leave the other bead seated. It should stay seated through rest of the process.
  4. Remove the tube from the unseated side.
  5. Install the tubeless valve.
  6. Remove the valve core from the valve.
  7. Brush the loose bead with very soapy water, thick and soapy enough to make the bead slippery and sudsy.
  8. Lay the wheel on its side with the loose bead facing down, inside the  rim with the weight of the tire pushing the bead toward the rim. Laying the wheel over a bucket is a good way to do this.
  9. Put the hose from the bead seater over the valve and tighten the hose clamp around the valve.
  10. Open the valve on the tank.
  11. Press the trigger on the gauge to release air, but only for about a second, then release the trigger. The bead should seat.
  12. If that does not seat the bead, press the trigger slightly longer.
  13. It is possible for the bead to seat on some of the rim but not all the way.  Even if you get a partial bead seating, that is OK, remove the hose from the valve. That will let the air out of the tire. The bead should stay partly seated. You should be able to finish seating with a floor pump. This is safer than completely seating the bead with the tank.

    Note the valve core cleverly laid on the chuck as a reminder that you should still have the core removed at this point the process.

  14. If you cannot seat the bead with a floor pump, seat it again using the tank, but seat the bead more completely and then finish with the floor pump. The goal is to use the tank as little as possible for safety reasons. You may need to completely seat the bead with the tank, but that is pretty rare.
  15. Once the bead is fully seated, remove the floor pump or tank. This will let all the air out of the tire again. Add your favorite tubeless tire sealant through the coreless valve.
  16. Reinstall the valve core.
  17. Reinflate the tire with a floor pump.
  18. Bounce the tire around and use your favorite method to seal the sidewalls. Take it for a ride. You are done!

There are other ways to deal with hard-to-seat beads. Air compressors can deliver high pressure but in small volume. Some come with tanks like this so they can deliver high volumes, but that gets pretty pricey. There are floor pumps made to push lots of volume but nothing like a tank will deliver. There are even floor pumps like the Lezyne Overdrive that pump up a small tank and release that pressure all at once, like a mini version of this. But this is a much bigger tank. If those other solutions work for you, great, but if you are like me and needed something bigger, this tank was an affordable way to go.

Cycle Tour Kirk Creek To Morro Strand, Shuttle Around Coast Highway Closure

I awoke Wednesday morning on day 5 of my 8 day bike tour of coastal central California, greeted by the sound of the waves crashing on the cliffs below my tent at Kirk Creek campground. The morning weather was very damp fog, classic Big Sur, so my gear was pretty wet but manageable.

I was on a schedule that day. I would ride up to the closure on Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) at Gorda, closed due to the Mud Creek slide, and meet a shuttle that would take me around the closure and drop me off on the other side. It would take me about an hour to ride to Gorda. The shuttle ride would take 3 hours, then I had 45 miles of riding to finish the day. It would be fast with a big descent followed by flat roads and a good tailwind. I needed to stop in the biggest town of the day, Cambria, for supplies. My schedule would be tight but I refused to stress about it and just take it as it happened. I packed up and said good-bye to the few fellow campers that were awake that early and I was on my way.

The road from Kirk Creek to Gorda had very few cars on it, and the skies were clearing up a little.

 

As I neared Gorda the clouds broke up and let some glorious sunshine through.

My shuttle passed me a couple of miles before Gorda. The driver, Mandy recognized me from my description and pulled over. We introduced ourselves and I had her drive ahead as I rode the rest of the way. I was not going to miss the chance to ride PCH as an abandoned road.

Mandy of Central Coast Outdoors was my shuttle pilot.

Mandy was a friendly and knowledgeable host. I tried to help as much as I could but she insisted on lifting my bike onto the roof of her car, and she remarked on how light my bike was for a touring bike. She had shuttled many touring bikes as a tour guide, but she said mine was among the lightest. She probably says that to all the bikers. We agreed that we liked the lighter style better.

Yes these are dollars per gallon prices for gas, and premium is $7.399 per gallon.

Whenever I stop in Gorda I take a picture of gas prices at the pump for fun. I usually post it to Facebook and freak people out. It may be the highest price gas in the country, but I have no problem with this. Getting gas there would be expensive. And you don’t need to fill up. A few gallons will get you to more affordable gas. And simple supply and demand is a great thing. The gas station there could lower prices and people might buy more, but they may just not want to hassle with getting more gas. It is up to the vendor how they want to manage supply, and prices are a natural, bureaucracy free and easy way to control it.

No one else signed up for the shuttle so it was just Mandy and me for the ride. I learned that Mandy was in the process of stepping down from a leadership role of an environmental organization. I never got around to asking her which organization, I was too interested in hearing her talk about the various birds, deer and fish in the area and the efforts of the organization to restore and protect wildlife.

We got delayed by the traffic at the “Lightning in a Bottle” music festival. Had I known that The Glitch Mob and Emancipator were there I might have considered checking it out. Mandy eventually cut around the traffic that had backed up onto the main road. But with the delay, the longish ride ahead of me, and the need to get supplies, I made the decision to have her drop me off in the lovely coastal town of Cambria rather than drive back up the coast to the other side of the slide. It cut out about 20 miles of riding, and my body was telling me that it needed an easy ride that day. The next day would be my longest day with the most climbing and didn’t want to push it. I missed part of PCH with low traffic, but I did not regret the decision to take it easy that day.

I opted to get dropped off in Cambria and continue my journey from there.

While in Cambria I needed to find another fuel canister for my stove and I wanted to stock up for dinner.  I got recommendations from Mandy about where to get what I needed.

Cambria is a pretty little village and the most civilization I had encountered in a couple of days.

The food was easy. I got the biggest deli sandwich ever at Sandy’s Deli and stashed it away for later. The fuel was another matter. I needed an isobutane canister, which have many advantages, but ease of finding replacements is not one of them. You pretty much have to go to a dedicated camping store. Though you might find one at a hardware store that has a few camping supplies, like the Cambria True Value store.  It was a large canister but I could hardly be choosy in my situation.

I came upon the tiny village of Harmony just a few miles down the road. I took Mandy’s advice and stopped there. I have passed it many times, laughing at the posted population of 18 and never thinking about stopping. It is worth it for the stunning glass shop alone. On a weekend you could also check out the dairy and ice cream truck, a pottery shop and a “visitors center” with free coffee.

This is almost all of Harmony, CA. There is a winery too.

 

The glass blowing shop featured everything from small trinkets to museum quality artwork.

 

The stork in a nest was the centerpiece of the main room. It and its nest were all glass, of course.

 

The shop was overflowing with beautiful glasswork.

 

The workshop was in the back.

 

Even the entry was full of whimsical bits of hand blown glass work.

 

Sadly the ice cream truck was closed. I was really in the mood for some right about then too.

 

I continued south. The scenery was rolling grassy hills and ocean views. Morro Rock was visible most of the time, and I featured it in many of my pictures.

You might be able to barely make out Morro Rock on the left.

 

The grasslands intermingled with coastal wetlands in many places.

 

I decided to err on the side of too many pics of Morro Rock.

 

The coast goes through a  transition in this area. It still has the rocky features like Big Sur to the north, but scaled down.

 

Like Harmony, I had driven by Cayucos many times and not stopped. Staying with my plan, I pedaled slowly through the lovely little town. It had a pier, a beach and a quaint downtown area. I stopped at the local liquor store. It can be hard to find the right size bottle of Jack Daniels when you are riding, but Paul’s Liquor Store, while simply named, had what I needed.

Ocean Avenue in Cayucos is hard to describe without saying “cute” more than once because it is so cute.

 

The beach is offers a great wrap around view of the bay. It had a natural look with driftwood, kelp and lots of footprints.

 

I moved on from Cayucos but had one last look back.

 

The homes along the beach created a gorgeous scene.

 

I arrived at my destination for the day with Morro Rock still serving sentry duty in the bay.

 

Morro Strand was an interesting campground. It did not have Hike or Bike sites, so I reserved a tent site for full price. The spot I selected was as close to the ocean as I could get, with just a low bluff between me and the bay.  It gave me some awesome scenery but it was not without issues. My campsite was 100% sand.  So it was hard to pitch my tent and keep my gear clean. And many people thought this was a nice view, including the neighborhood that was only a few hundred yards away, perched above the campground.  They looked over the campground as part of their ocean view. And many of the homes were all windows on the side facing the us.  I just pretended they weren’t there. The campground had no showers, but they did have an enclosed bathroom with flush toilets and sinks. Omitting showers seemed odd. The campground seemed to be designed for RVs with tent sites being an afterthought.

A campsite on the beach.

 

After setting up camp I rode around the area for yet more supplies and sightseeing. The summer days were long, and I found myself going down with the sun. I feel asleep early and slept well once again, ready for the next day of my tour.

An enormous deli sandwich and some locally procured wine were a great way to end the day.

 

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
01:00:30 00:55:17 9.06 9.83 31.54 744.75
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Kirk Creek to Gorda’

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
02:41:11 01:41:41 20.37 12.02 34.90 787.40
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

Relive ‘Cambria to Morrow Strand’

Load more