Dec 04

A Wide Range 2×11 Drivetrain

I recently modified a mountain bike that came with a 2×11 drivetrain. It was nice, but I wanted a wider gear range. The end result was a 10/42T 11 speed cassette paired with a 40/24T 2x crankset. I can hear the cries already: “A 24×42 granny gear? That’s madness!” “You will never get shifting to work with that!” “What do you need gearing like that for?” Well it is not as crazy as it may sound.


The crankset was originally 36/24T. Now is it is 40/24T.

All I want to deal with in this blog is gear ratios. I am going to look at two things: the ratio of the front to rear gear teeth. i.e. for every rotation of the crank, how many times does the rear wheel rotate? By looking at those numbers we can compare 1x, 2x and 3x drivetrains on level ground. I also want to take one other thing into account, and that is the difference in diameter of the wheels. 29er wheels increase gearing vs 26″ wheels. How much? This is where gear inches come into play. Gear inches are how far the bike moves forward with a single revolution of the crank. Sound familiar? So we can use these two numbers together. More on this later.

Let’s start with a baseline: the classic drivetrain that was the standard of mountain biking for years until 2x, 1x and 29er’s entered the scene. And that is the following: a 3×9 drivetrain with a 11/34T cassette and a 22/32/44T crankset on a 26″ wheels. Here are high and low gear ratios:

High gear: 44/11 or 4.0
Low gear: 22/34 or .647

You can also calculate a range by dividing the high by the low numbers

Range = 4.0/.647 = 6.18

i.e, the high gear is 6.18x higher than the low gear. What good are these numbers? By themselves not much, we still have more number crunching to do. But with just this we can look at that range and compare it to a 1x drivetrain. Sram’s newest 1×12 drivetrain has a range of 500% since the cassette is 10/50T. The baseline 3×9 has a range of 618%. To put it another way, in order to get the same range in a 1x drivetrain, you would need a 10/62T cassette.


The rear was originally 11/32T. Now it is 10/42T.

As for the 2×11 combo that I put together:

High gear: 40/10 = 4.0
Low Gear: 24/42 = .571
Range: 4.0/.571 = 7.0

I don’t think a 10/70T or a 9/63T cassette is coming out anytime soon, so if you want a range like this you need to go 2x, at least for now.

Let’s have another look at wheels. Gear inches are a function of the circumference of the tire, which in turn depends on the diameter. Circumference is pi times diameter, if you remember your geometry. But since we are going to divide the numbers, we can use just the diameter. The new ISO diameters are the best numbers to use. For 29ers, the diameter is 622mm, for 26″ it is 559mm. So 29ers increase gear inches compared to 26″:

622/559 = 1.11


29er rims are 622mm at the bead. Not to be confused with the ERD of 605mm.

In other words, if the gearing is the same on a 29er and a 26″ bike, the wheel diameter would give the 29er 11% higher gearing. If we want to compare the 3×9 above to the 2×11, we should increase the gearing on the 2×11 by 11% giving us:

High gear: 40/10 = 4.0 x 1.11 = 4.44
Low Gear: 24/42 = .571 x 1.11 = .634

The range is unaffected. So while it may not seem like it, a 24/42 granny on a 29er is actually only slightly lower than 22/34 gear than on a 26″ bike (.634 vs .647). This 2×11 29er drivetrain provides a wider range of gears than our 3×9 26″ benchmark, and mostly on the higher ratios.

Of course the advantages or 1x are numerous. A drivetrain like this wide range 2X11 is not needed for most bikes. In this case it is for an adventure bike that is meant for off road use with a touring load. At the same time the bike is well suited for the road where it is a shame to be without the taller gears. You could use similar gearing on a road touring bike but with larger chainrings (say compact 34/50) and get gearing comparable to traditional 3×9 road touring triple group but with the simplicity of 2x shifting.

This is not the end of the comparison by any means. Some 3×9 groups have wider ranges with a 46T big ring or a 36T big cog. I think we will see wider gear ranges and more gears going forward for 1x drivetrains. i.e. the trend of 10/42T 11 speed to 10/50T 12 speed will continue. Shimano has patents on a 14 speed drivetrain. And what about 27.5? Now you know how to compare all of these drivetrain options.

Nov 29

Daejeon’s Expo Park / Smart City Region Ride

During a recent stay in Korea, I took the opportunity to ride one of my hotel’s loaner bikes around the neighborhood. Cycling affords an intimacy with your surroundings as well as the ability to cover ground like no other option. The neighborhood I was staying in was near the site of the 1993 World Expo, and had a lot to see.


Expo Bridge and Hanbit Tower in the distance.

Expo Bridge is an amazing bit of civil engineering. I had driven past it several times before my ride. Much to my pleasure, the bridge is for bikes and pedestrians only. It is quite photogenic, and I obliged.


There are too many good angles of this bridge for me to cover in one blog.


I am sure these swans have a significance that eluded me, but that did not keep me from snapping a pic.


The area near Expo Park were I stayed was the “Smart City” district. It was influenced by the expo area with its futuristic architecture.


Expensive workout equipment unprotected in a public place, under a freeway overpass.


Korean graffiti, in English oddly enough.


Amidst the urban and industrial setting was this farm, which looked too small to be commercial.


Korean housing. This is an impressive array of identical apartment towers. It is the kind of housing most people live in in Korea’s big cities.


A confluence of rivers and concrete.


Golf is big in Korea, I guess.

I learned afterward that most of the site of the expo is being demolished. The process was underway while I was there. Hanbit Tower, Expo Bridge and parts of the rail system will remain, however. 23 years is a good run, I guess, and it is like Korean culture to move forward. They do stay in touch with their past and seem to keep a good balance between progress and history. I hope that Expo Bridge and Hanbit Tower, impractical though they may be, remain a symbol of forward thinking in Korea.

Sep 24

Interbike 2016 Report

I decided to make a short visit to Interbike this year. They have customer appreciation day now, and I am appreciated I guess. This is not meant to be some exhaustive industry report of Interbike, you can get that from various magazines and such. This was just me having fun. I made the decision to go at the last minute and I am cheap, so I stayed at Primm Valley because it is the best way to get low room rates on short notice. It is on the way from Southern California and only about 30 minutes from the strip.


Buffalo Bill’s needs a little sprucing up

Primm ain’t what is used to be, let’s just say it needs a little maintenance. It does not seem as popular as it once was. As Vegas becomes more and more outrageous I am guessing that fewer visitors want to stay this far from the action. I did not ride the coaster or monorail but…


Kind of weird to find something like this in Primm Valley now

I spent some time looking at the Bonnie and Clyde display, which is at Whiskey Pete’s. I DID mention that this was not a professional Interbike report, didn’t I?


The big entrance

But I made it to the show.


My current n+1. Which may end up being an n-1 after I own it. But I doubt it.

The Salsa Cutthroat is my current object of desire. I don’t get every bike that I lust after unfortunately. If I get one, it will be blogged on here, worry not.

Inter E Bike

Overall impressions of Interbike? The eBike section of Interbike was huge and the show floor was segregated so the eBike stuff was all together. Sorry, no eBike pics. Someone seems to think eBikes are going to be big. I have dabbled with them and we will see. The technology will continue to improve because they will benefit from advances made by electric cars. I have not seen many eBikes in use on the streets or trail. They can be pretty stealthy but I can usually spot them. The premise of eBikes as basic transportation is a good one. They could help people in the USA cope with zoning policies, urban sprawl or rural areas that separate homes from jobs from retail by such great distances.


I will take one of each


I never thought of taking a spear and flippers with me on my bikepacking trip. Blackburn is just one step ahead of me. Or not.


I have no idea what they were selling at this booth. I ask permission before taking model pics, BTW, a policy that is always well received.


Mountain Bike Hall of Fame Inductees Chris Chance, Gary Sjoquist, Joe Breeze and Charlie Kelley

You never know who you will meet at Interbike. I ran into these guys while I was visiting the Mountain Bike Hall Of Fame booth. I was just having casual conversation with them then I started reading their badges and got a nice surpirse. They were all friendly and approachable. It was great fun. Chris Chance showed up with a beautiful 90’s vintage bike equipped with authentic and marvelously restored components. Charlie has published a book, “Fat Tire Flyer”.

I enjoy checking out Interbike. It is fun meeting the people and seeing the stuff, and it makes me want to ride that much more when I get back.

Sep 17

Chino Hills Overnighter / Bikepacking / Sub-48 Trip Part 2

This is a continuation of my previous blog entry about this ride, located here, as you might guess by the title. If you are scrolling down the blog you probably want to skip down and read in order. This picks up in the middle of day 1 of a two day ride. This was my route, or at least, without giving away too much of a spoiler, what I planned for my route to be:


Clickable if you want more detail or to download a GPX file.

The climb up Black Star Canyon Road would be the big challenge in the whole route. I had considered skirting around it and going into Santiago Regional Park, but decided to take on the big climb instead. I wanted to go to Sierra Peak and down Coal Canyon Road, which is a section I had not ridden before.


The long and winding dirt road

Black Star Canyon Road is popular among mountain bike racers as a training route. You can identify them by their sponsor jerseys, super thin and fit physiques and high end, light weight bikes. I am not in that category of rider, just to set the record straight. I did not want to overdo it and get too exhausted or overheat on the climb. There seemed to be some disagreement about what the temps were that day. My Strava download and my Garmin computer differed by quite a bit. I would place the temps in the lower 90 degree F range. I drank generously from my 3 liter Camelbak and took breaks in the few shady breezy spots.


Looking down on the previous picture from higher on the road


A view from a ridge


Making Main Divide

The last section of Black Star Canyon Road before it ends at Main Divide gets much steeper than the rest of the road, the opposite of how I would design it, but I am not in charge of these things. The views from there were worth it.

Next came Sierra Peak, which I had never been to before. The elevation profile for the section of the ride from Main Divide to Sierra Peak showed some climbing but a lot of ups and downs rather than a steady climb. GPX tracks do not count that kind of climbing very accurately and sure enough the ride to Sierra Peak added up to more total climbing than my GPX route said it would. So I ended up doing a little bike pushing. Not so much as to make a significant delay in my schedule, and the descent afterwards was very much worth it.


A view of the 91 / 241 freeway interchange.

The route down from Sierra Peak to the 91 freeway wilderness undercrossing and the Santa Ana River Trail (SART) was a fast fire road. Those seeking technical riding will be disappointed, but there is very little singletrack that leads down from Main Divide. Partway down the descent a sign welcomed me to Chino Hills State Park. It is a section of the park that is disjoint from the rest of the park. It is part of a wildlife corridor through the area.

At the bottom I took a left onto SART, doubling back to take the safe way across the river. There were at least two alternate routes. One was to cross at the nearby golf course, all on pavement. The golf course does not permit this. But a lot of bikers do it anyway. So much so that Strava’s Global Heat Map reveals that to be the most popular way to cross the river. Another is to take a right turn off of SART onto an unmarked dirt path. That leads across another disjoint piece of Chino Hills State Park. That option is a bit of a mystery, I think you have to ford the river, climb up to the tracks and cross the tracks with no crossing. There are at least four tracks in deep gravel beds there. I opted instead for the sure thing, which was to take SART back to Gypsum Canyon Road. That would provide paved, sure, legal crossings of the river and the tracks at the expense of a few extra miles of riding along easy level paved roads.

That had dumped me alongside the railway, which was a bit sketchy. The gravel was deep and it was not clear whether you are allowed to be there or not. My 29 plus tires made easy work of the loose gravel. There were lots of bike tracks, but no established tail. I veered onto a dirt road that skirted the golf course along a meadow and continued into Chino Hills State Park. Again.

Lower Aliso Canyon Trail is interesting. The canyon can get windy in the evening and I faced a moderate headwind and uphill grade. The road surface had the characteristic look of a dirt road that had been polished by windblown dirt. I got close to a few large dust devils but I never rode through one.

I arrived at the campground with plenty of daylight left, which was unusual for me in my last few overnighters. The campground only had 2 other groups there. One set up camp and left. The other did not set up camp at all and left first thing the next morning. The ranger stopped at the other sites, I presume looking for registration. I had registered but the ranger never approached me. The campground has hike/bike sites, but none are designated as such. I think the policy is that if you bike in the site is free. The campground is relatively new and not used much so it looks pretty informal for now anyway. A group of mountain bikers drove through just looking and we talked about about my bikepacking set up.

The campground was nice. It had flush toilets, sinks and free showers. Being Chino Hill State Park there was not a lot of tree cover, but if you pick the right site you can have a little shade.


Not the most glamorous pic of a campsite, but it was home, and the only pic I took, so there you go.

Gear Info Section This was my first bikecamp using Provent CPAP devices. They are small valves that you tape over your nostrils to regulate your breathing. They don’t work as well as a full CPAP machine, but a CPAP machine plus battery and hoses is a huge thing to bikepack with, I have done it several times. The Provents are a game changer for me, I can travel in a whole new way now, like everyone else does, basically. I will do a review of them in the future.

I got a headlamp for this ride. I recommend them. I will be leaving my flashlight and mini lantern home next time. The headlamp and cell phone light are enough to cover all of my lighting needs, including a little night riding. I also left behind some cooking items and did not miss them even though I made my own dinner and breakfast. I washed my bike clothes and hung them to dry rather than bringing a second outfit. They did not dry all the way, but they were acceptable.

My Garmin had run out of battery power part way down Coal Canyon Road. I had my solar panel with me, ready to test it out in a real world scenario like this. But sadly I had forgotten the mini USB my Garmin requires. Fortunately my phone can navigate as well, and I had remembered the cable for it. So I pressed it into duty as my backup GPS system.


4 Corners at Chino Hills State Park, a busy place on a Saturday morning

Day 2 started with a series of short steep climbs called 3 or 4 bitches, I lost count. I lived in Yorba Linda 20+ years ago as the park was just opening so I am familiar with the general layout, but it has been a long time since I have ridden there. My route was simple. I finished that short but nasty series of climbs, then flew downhill out of the park along Telegraph Canyon, which was great fun.


At the bottom of Telegraph Canyon, the entrance to Chino Hills State Park, holding up great

Winding my way out of the the park via through the Redwood grove was very scenic if not the fastest route. I stopped at an AM/PM convenience store as my first encounter with any retail supply point since the previous morning. Remember, this was the endless suburban sprawl I was riding through. To be miles away from any kind of store for that long was an accomplishment.

This is where my day 2 delays began. I got distracted by trying to buy a USB mini cable to charge my Garmin. They are just not available at convenience stores any more. The world has moved on to micro USB. Mini USB’s have to be ordered online or at Radio Shack or something. I stopped at a few places to buy one, but no luck.

I spent time exploring El Cajon Trail, a paved dedicated bike trail in the area. This was new since I lived there and I wanted to have a look. It was a wide, well marked, fun trail. Then it was back on the road. Small problem: the rode I needed to take was under construction. And it was not the kind of construction I could just skirt around on my bike. The road was being replaced with a bridge, and the bridge was not complete. I took the marked detour around it.

At that point it was late morning and I was hungry. My meal plan for day 2 was to do what I did for day 1: live on Power Bars, gelatin blocks and gels and spend much of my eating time in the saddle. On my detour I passed this lovely establishment and I could not take it anymore. I had to stop and get some actual food. Well, actual fast food.


I gave in to temptation at got the fish taco combo

At this point I knew my delays were adding up, but I decided not to worry and just take the day as it came. It turned out to be a good attitude to have. I got back on the bike and made my way to the dirt trail option of SART, that I will refer to as dirty SART. But there was no way to get from the road to the trail at the point I had planned on, it was completely fenced off. I went back to the last cross street to see if there was a way in there, but the fencing had no gaps in it. I detoured again all the way back to Imperial Highway where I knew there was access.


No the most flattering picture of dirty SART

Dirty SART, unlike its paved brother on the other side of the river, does not have many entrances or exits. Once you are out there you are there for a long time. I had never taken dirty SART a long distance, I looked forward to seeing what it was like. Like paved SART, there are dedicated underpasses so you don’t have to stop at cross roads. But dirty SART underpasses are in the middle of the river. You also get to see more and different views of the man made wetlands maintained in the river bed in many places. Dirty SART and paved SART come together in a few places as a single paved trail.


My first encounter with the many homeless camps along the trail

My last delay happened as I rode through Anaheim. I was amazed and saddened by a huge increase in the number of homeless people living along the trail. The population had increased from a handful to thousands. I stopped to take a lot of pictures. I thought it was worth it to trade a little riding time for a little photojournalism. I have a separate blog entry dedicated to what I saw as I passed through that area.


ARTIC station, Anaheim

After passing through Anaheim I evaluated my schedule. I may have been able to complete my route that day, but due to the many delays I would be finishing after dark and I would be super tired due the extra riding and stopping and starting. It takes its toll. I consulted the train schedule and sure enough there was a train on a good schedule from the Anaheim station back to Irvine where I was parked. As luck would have it the train was delayed about an hour, but I hung around and caught the train.

Was I disappointed? Not really. Part of being adventurous and exploring is being willing to deal with unexpected change. Some changes are out of your control and some changes you make yourself. I felt compelled to take a closer look at the homeless situation which cost me time and I had to adapt.

In the end I did not ride the route I posted at the top of this blog. But I updated that route based on my experience with this ride and I look forward to doing it again in the future.

Sep 10

Chino Hills Overnighter / Bikepacking / Sub-48 Trip Part 1

The time had come for another overnighter bikepacking camp trip. I added a day to my Labor Day weekend and made it a Friday/Saturday schedule. There aren’t a lot of options for overnighters in Southern California due to the paucity of campgrounds in this urban sprawl. The local Cleveland National Forest does not allow wild camping, i.e. you cannot just pitch your tent anywhere. Driving out of civilization is a long drive and then you mostly end up in the desert, not the best option in late August / early September for camping and epic riding. One of the campgrounds available is in Chino Hills State Park, so I chose that as my overnight location.


Clickable if you want more detail or to download a GPX file.

A summary of my route, day 1: From the Irvine Transit Center, pavement to Seranno Creek Trail. Whiting Ranch Regional Park. Santiago Canyon Road. Black Star Canyon Road to Main Divide. Leonard Road past Sierra Peak to Coal Canyon Road. Under to the 91 freeway wilderness undercrossing. Santa Ana River Trail to Gypsum Canyon. West along the tracks to Lower Aliso Canyon Trail in Chino Hills State Park to the campground. I was pretty happy with that route, it has a minimum of pavement and visits several parks in one trip. If Limestone were open you could ride that instead of some of Santiago Road.


My steed was good to go. I was happy with how small I managed to make my load.

I parked at the Irvine Transit Center. Transit stations are one of the places where overnight parking is legal and most of them are free. By making a train station your starting point other people can take the train to meet you for the ride. On this trip I was on my own, however.


“Miles to go before I sleep”


I cannot ride past the Mother Ship without snapping a pic.


The entrance to Seranno Creek Trail.

Serrano Creek Trail is surprisingly fun given how suburban it is. The trail follows a creek bed through a developed area. The creek bed has been kept mostly natural. i.e. it has not been paved or lined with rocks much at all. It winds behind neighborhoods and industrial parks with dedicated picnic tables, bridges, tunnels, wooden fences, street crossings, etc. along the way. I remember when the trail was established and how difficult it was to create it. I don’t know if there are plans to extend it, but I hope they do as well as create more trails like it.


Goodbye civilization.

I was only a few miles in when I stopped at this Circle K. I did not need anything but I knew this would be the last nearby retail for about 24 hours. So but I stopped to buy some token item, fine tune my load and experience air conditioning. It was already getting pretty hot that day.


Whiting Ranch, lovely as ever.


The same road leading off the other direction, looking remarkably similar.

Whiting Ranch is very familiar to me, but not in the direction I was taking it. I knew that I would be going the opposite direction of most mountain bikers, and some of that along single track, so I was careful and willing to pull over, which I only had to do once or twice. The park was not very busy on a Friday morning.


4 Corners, a much busier place during the weekend


Looking back on my climb. I had come up the lower trail.

Whiting was a taste of the climbing to come for the day. The weight of my bikepacking load made its presence felt more than I had hoped it would. Rather than power through the major climb of Whiting Road, I got off and pushed a few short sections. I did it to pace myself. I had sized up the total elevation gain I had to make that day. That, combined with my load and the heat, was going to make day one pretty tough. The next day would be more miles but less climbing. I wanted to do the ride without pushing myself to the limit the whole way.


Updated entrance to Black Star Canyon.

I rode the short section of Santiago Canyon Road to Black Star Canyon Road. The gate at Black Star had been updated since I visited last, which was a long time ago, so this may not be anything new. The lower paved section of the road is now part of the Orange County Parks system. This helps extend and protect a wildlife corridor on public lands.


Welcome committee

As if to prove the wildlife corridor is working, I was greeted in the first few hundred yards after entering the park by this lone deer.

My ride report will continue in the next installment of my blog!

Sep 04

Increase In Homeless Population Along The Santa Ana River Trail in Orange County

On my last overnight tour around Southern California I took the Santa Ana River Trail dirt option. The dirt trail runs along the opposite side of the river as the paved tail for most of the route.


Some parts of it are more scenic than others. This would be one of the others.

I will post a write up of the full trip next, but I first wanted to focus on the homeless population along the trail. I have ridden the trail since the 1980s. Homeless people have always been present along the trail but in small numbers and hidden away. You had to be looking to see their shelters and I never saw a single homeless person out while riding the trail. I would consider them briefly as I rode by and I hoped and prayed that they would get help, though I knew it was more complicated than that.

This day as I was riding along I encountered a much larger group than I had seen before. I presumed it was because I was on the dirt side of the trail and I had a better angle on some of their hiding places.

022homeless01 023homeless15

The people living in the river bed alarmed me. They were pretty vulnerable down there. When it rains this winter they will have to move. They could lose what little they have and could be in danger. Their presence there was illegal and it would be well known to local authorities, charities and emergency agencies. I did think it odd that people were out and around rather than staying out of sight. What I didn’t realize is that I had encountered the tip of the iceberg.

023homeless02 023homeless03

The number of homeless communities I saw grew as I rode, even on the paved side of the trail, their numbers adding up to the thousands along a stretch of a few miles.

023homeless04 023homeless05

The bike trail was crowded to the edges in many places with people, tents, their belongings and volunteer workers.



I was flooded with mixed emotions. What had happened to cause such a dramatic increase in the number of homeless people? This was not the usual reclusive homeless population. They were out and about, taking out their garbage and I presume using the many parks and facilities along the trail for their daily needs. Some were being very active, even playing team games in the sand. Given what I was used to along the trail, it was a surreal experience.

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Their presence there made riding the bike trail at a fast pace dangerous. Not because I was afraid of being attacked. Although there was a lot of angry chatter and shouting emanating from many of the tents. Locals were using the trail without looking for cyclists, standing across the trail, and storing their belongings on the trail itself. It had the look of establishing territory and discouraging other trail users from being there. And it was working. It was the Saturday morning of Labor Day weekend. Usually the trail would be crowded with groups of cyclists. But today there were eerily few riders on the trail. And many of them were homeless people wandering down the trail slowly, on the wrong side, etc.

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I hope that this is not a long term trend for the river trail. Many communities have worked hard to improve the trail for cyclists and equestrians, adding rest rooms, lighting, landscaping, benches,etc. The trail serves as a transportation corridor. The new transit center in Anaheim, ARTIC, is located adjacent to the bike trial, in an obvious effort to support cyclists for commuting and travel. I later read about the situation to learn what was happening. A quick web search helped me understand the causes. My heart goes out to these people, I hope they can get out of this situation quickly.023homeless12 023homeless13

Part of my mixed emotions about this are as a cyclist, however. Why is a cycling trail one of the places that the homeless end up going at a time like this? There are other areas: shopping areas, school campuses, wilderness areas, golf courses (like the one along the trail), government facilities (which are being used, too), etc. Their presence is illegal in all of these places, so that is not a reason for using the bike trail. I feel that cyclists are once again being treated as second class citizens and their concerns are less than other groups.

023homeless14Yes, I know it sounds selfish and I do have a hard time balancing my mixed feelings about the situation. If this is a relatively short term phenomenon, and the homeless population dwindles or is relocated quickly, then it will be one of those one time things. But from the looks of it, with volunteers bringing in supplies and residents coming out in the open to form communities and take over the area, it looks just as likely that the Santa Ana River Trail as a cycling destination will be diminished for a long time, perhaps permanently.

Aug 14

Panoramas With a Chance of Heat Exhaustion

I have been off the bike a while due to an infection (I prefer to skip the details about that, thank you), a twisted ankle, work schedule, wah, wah, wah, I know. So when I was finally able to get back on the bike I did what I usually do. I go too big rather than take it easy. I got so excited I didn’t sleep well, I didn’t check the weather forecast or other small details I normally do. It all just adds to the adventure I guess. By the end of the day, the route I rode was not what I had planned. BTW, I don’t know what is up with the Elapsed Time number, Strava is messed up.


Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
15:19:59 04:20:42 29.65 6.82 28.86 2,913.39
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

The day did not start off well. My fat bike/29 plus had one of its bottom bracket bearings seize up. This is not as terrible as it sounds. I ride my fat bike on ocean beaches. I have managed to beat back the effects of corrosion with all kinds of tricks, but my drive side BB bearings still live short lives. So I have a few cheap BBs around (expensive ones die just as fast, sadly), and I have gotten good at replacing them. 15 minute delay and I was out the door. The morning was sunny and cool and did not give any hint of the wave of heat that was to come.

I returned to a canyon that has no name I can find on a map, so I will call it Oso Creek Canyon, it is a network of trails that is more popular among equestrians than mountain bikers, but I find it perfect for my rigid 29 plus. The riding is not technical and the horses have turned some sections into deep, loose soil, but my plus tires negotiate it with no problem. This time I climbed out of the canyon on a trail I have never tried before. It rose above the beautiful campus of Saddleback Church which is nested at the northern end of the riding area.


I love the contrast of the freeway and singletrack

Zig zagging my way up the canyon was not as difficult as I thought. Unfortunately the only descent I could find was along paved roads. Not the best reward for my singletrack climbing efforts, but I hope to fine tune the route now that I have ridden it.

I am very familiar with Aliso Woods and put in a big loop of the park. Someone has made a Strava segment of the route all the way from the parking lot to Top Of The World, the highest point in the park. It is a Cat 3 climb, which was surprising: that is bigger than I would have categorized it. The air quality was exceptional, affording awesome views in every direction.


A great view all the way to Saddleback Peak


Riding off the back of the park affords some nice ocean views

I personally do not have a problem with the discomfort of riding in the heat. But it would seem there can be a big discrepancy between your perception of something and your body’s reaction to it. While I personally felt invigorated by all the sunshine and warmth, my body was shutting down, and it took a while before I realized what was happening and tied the two together and ultimately did something about it. Weird, huh?

As I was making my way up this Cat 3 climb, I was doing what I have been doing more of lately, and that is watching my heart rate. I have been trying to ride more of the time in an aerobic zone so I burn more fat and my body will start to produce more power in that range. That means dropping my pace to a boring level. It has been paying off, BTW. But in the heat that was just not happening. No matter how slow I went, my heart rate would not drop and I could not recover. I can just picture all of the people with medical backgrounds nodding their heads right now. I was making sure I was drinking a lot so as not to dehydrate, but that alone will not stop the heat exhaustion. I was getting slightly dizzy so I got extra cautious on technical sections, even walking a few of the tough sections. I found a picnic table in the shade and managed a power nap and food, even though I did not want to eat. I woke up to a reduced heart rate, but it raced up again as soon as I started riding again. Fortunately I found some entertaining scenery along the way.


I was thinking of parking my bike at the end of the line before taking the picture

My brain became so disconnected that I crossed an intersection against a red light directly in front of a car stopped at the intersection. I looked at the light in the wrong direction, made eye contact with the driver and proceeded straight in front of them. I am guessing I looked like hell because the driver cut me a lot of slack and even gave me a very polite warning with a couple of taps on the horn. It was not until I was across the intersection that I realized what had happened. It was quite the wake up call. I proceeded with even greater caution at that point, but my climbing was not done.


My kind of gate. Open.

My plan was to continue my climb around the Oso Creek Canyon along Bluff Trail (that is what Google calls it anyway). I know my brain was still on the fritz because I was still waiting for a second wind and recovery. In retrospect that was just not going to happen. The temps were not going down and neither was my heart rate. I finally got to a point along the ridge where a sustained cool breeze helped me recover a bit. A bit farther along I got a good view of the burn area from a recent fire in the canyon.


Ironic that I was enjoying the view of a recent burn while fighting off heat exhaustion

The cool breeze must have worked because I finally realized that I needed to bail and end the ride ASAP. The bouts of tunnel vision also clued me in. The bluff trail was proving to be a major effort so I turned back. Even the fastest way out included a small climb in the direct sun that I managed to push up. From there on it was mostly downhill and fast pavement. By the time I returned to my car I was feeling a little better. I forced more fluids and managed to eat something, went home and slept and fought off minor stomach irritation. I was probably closer to a serious bout of heat exhaustion than I realized. All in all it ended fine and was a learning experience. You cannot rely on your own judgement in a situation like this because you are impaired.

I can’t wait to do it again.

Aug 09

A Morning With Big Sur PCH All To Ourselves

One of my favorite stories from my bicycle tours comes from a ride I did circa 2007. My riding buddy Joe (which may or may not be his real name) and I loaded our bikes on the Amtrak train from southern California to Salinas so that we could ride back along Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). We chose to go in the spring, before Memorial Day to avoid much of the traffic along PCH. Our route was part of the popular Pacific coast route that goes all the way from Canada to Mexico.

The train schedule brought us into Salinas late in the day. The station stop was minimal, without so much as a platform cover. Our bikes boxes were unloaded quickly and the train promptly disappeared into the waning daylight, leaving Joe and I with two disassembled bikes to put together as the sun set. I had planned the ride meticulously so I broke out my knife and mini tool that I had set out for just this task, and we made relatively short work of putting our bikes together and finding a dumpster to dispose of the bike boxes in.

We rode to the nearest hotel and checked in with at least partial riding gear on. The clerk asked us if we would be part of the “event”. I did not get details but there was a big run or ride or walk or something somewhere in the area the next day. I dismissed it figuring that would be the last we would hear of it. The area has a lot of outdoor activities and many great venues for them.

The next day we started the ride and I was very excited. I was familiar with most of our route having driven it, but riding a bike along the route was a wonderful contrast as always. As we approached PCH, detour signs, balloons and banners began to appear. It looked like the event that the clerk mentioned would be nearby somewhere. I hoped to get a look at it as we rode past. But as we approached PCH it became clear we would have a much more intimate encounter with it. The event was the Big Sur Marathon. It went between Carmel and Big Sur, which just so happened to be our route for the day. PCH was closed for the event. Along that stretch there is no alternate route. Even after all my ride preparation, I had not anticipated that.


Local car traffic was allowed through only in small occasional escorted groups. Not being part of the run, and not being able to keep up with the cars, I was not sure what we would do. The event was very popular and the bike lanes were filled to overflowing with spectators in many places. I felt uneasy about riding my bike along PCH during the marathon. But we took it a step at a time and kept going. We managed to get around the start/finish line and weave our way slowly through the spectators. As we rode, we noticed that there were other cyclists along the route, most of them there in support of the runners, and none of them had any problem making their way around the busy event. So we finally got off the shoulder and on PCH and rode it during the event with confidence.


It was wonderful and amazing riding Big Sur with no cars. But it went beyond that and into the surreal as we rode on. Our timing was more perfect than we knew. The runners and big crowds completely vanished as we rode south and the road remained closed. The event featured staffed rest stops under big canopies along the road, all of them with live music. They too were enjoying having PCH to themselves. They had turned up the music far louder than it ever would have been during the run. It echoed off the cliff walls and down the road toward us. A whole different festival atmosphere came to life. We rode from tent to tent, stopping briefly at some, waving at the musicians and everyone there. They had broken out coolers of beer and other refreshments not intended for the runners. It was easy to imagine that this is what the event was really all about: a sort of Woodstock along the cliffs of the exotic Big Sur coast. It went on for a delightfully long time.


But eventually we saw the rest stops start to fold up their awnings. And then the first oncoming traffic appeared. Then the traffic coming up from behind us appeared. Our mystical moment in a mystical place had come to an end. But we did not have far to go to get to Big Sur village where we would spend the night. We got an early start the next morning to avoid traffic. And it worked, there were not many cars. But it was not like having Big Sur PCH to yourself as a surprise, and even if we manage to time it and do it again, it will never be like it was that first time.

Jul 30

Steampunk Tourer, Commuter, Soldier, Spy

My current multi purpose bike features some unusual component combinations that may be of interest to other bike builders. It is a fairly techy build, so warning: this post may cause eye twitches and other assorted muscle spasms in retro grouches. You have been warned.

The frame is an Airborne Carpe Diem, circa 2004. And since I have new parts on an old(ish) frame, I choose to call it my steampunk project. It is a bit of a stretch, I know, but it is my bike and I can call it whatever I like.

Airborne has since been acquired and is now making completely different bikes. But back then they were all about affordable titanium. The Carpe Diem is a light touring/cyclocross frame. It predates the current wave of adventure/gravel bikes. It does cannot handle a very wide rear tire, which keeps it out of those categories, as well as the fact that is it not suspension corrected so you can’t put your favorite RockShox on the front. Besides having an awesome name, the frame has some interesting design choices. For example, the rear dropouts have 132.5mm spacing, which is just plain showing off one of the great traits of titanium. To be specific, road bikes have 130mm spacing. Mountain bikes back then were all 135mm. Nothing was, is, or ever will be 132.5mm. But titanium can handle being pulled wider or squished in by 2.5mm. Not so much with other materials. So the Carpe Diem can be fitted with either road or mountain wheels without having to modify the dropouts or use spacers, etc.. The frame also has IS disk mount tabs in addition to canti/v-brake mounts. So a road bike/disc brake combo was possible with this frame way back in 2004, a little ahead of its time, don’t you think? The frame also features some nice tube shaping at the junctions, nice looking welds, etc. Some Lynskey/Moots/Seven/Litespeed owners are quick to point out that Airborne had some quality issues with some bike’s welds, and by all accounts it looks like they did, but I think by now it is safe to say my frame has proven to be one of the good ones.

Airborne Carpe Diem

A 12 year old frame that can now be built the way I wanted to when it was new.

Airborne Carpe Diem headtube

The top tube flattens at the head tube. The down tube does the same thing at the bottom bracket. Old school non tapered steerers must be paired with Chris King headsets, right?

I have been waiting for road integrated shifter/brake levers for hydraulic brakes to come into existence so I could install them on this bike. After a decade of waiting, Shimano’s RS685 were among the first available and I snatched up a set soon after they came out. I got mine as a “pull off” set and they came paired with BR-M447 calipers – a bit of a mismatch because the levers are Ultegra level, while the calipers are probably more like Alivio. But they are totally compatible. My white babies have awesome stopping power nonetheless. I had Avid BB7s on the front before getting these. These deliver more stopping power with less effort and great feel and modulation.

But hydros for a touring bike? Yup. “Aren’t you afraid they will fail and leave you stranded?” Nope. When was the last time you heard about hydro lines bursting or whatever? About as often as you hear of brake cables snapping. I bled these myself and they are super easy to work on. It is just a new skill you need to develop.

Airborne Carpe Diem cockpit

The long awaited shifter/brake combo with hydro brakes. Mounted on Salsa Cowchipper bars. More on those later.

Airborne Carpe Diem dropout area

IS mounts on a road bike were a little controversial when this bike came out because they were not legal for cyclocross racing. They are still not legal for UCI road races. And yes, it is safe to mix a Magura mount and rotor.

My lust for hydro drop bar brakes created a chain reaction of updates because I needed to go 11 speed to get them. That was a problem. Shimano 9 speed road and mountain bike components are highly compatible. You can pair 9 speed road or mountain triple cranksets with road or mountain cassettes with road or mountain rear derailleurs and road or mountain shifters. It is touring bike building nirvana. (Front derailleur compatibility aside). But Shimano got away from this with 10 and 11 speed. So it was SRAM to the rescue. Many of its road and mountain 10 speed components are compatible. But road hydro did not hit the scene until 11 speed, and neither SRAM nor Shimano road and mountain groups are compatible with 11 speed.

But wait, it gets worse!  Road hydro shifters are currently only available as 2x, i.e. no 3×11 road groups are out yet. So no 3×11 crankset either. There are 3×10 cranksets that would work fine if the shifters ever come into existence. This unfortunate situation is happening at the same time touring/gravel/bikepacking bikes are growing in popularity. For those kinds of bikes you want wide range gearing that you can only get by mixing road and mountain components. My fearless prediction is that this situation will be fixed with 12 speed and maybe later with 11 speed. All we really need is long cage 11 speed road rear derailleurs.

But for now the solution to this is 2 parts:

  1. An adapter known as the Shiftmate from a company called Jtek. Several other companies now make equivalents. It changes the cable pull ratio of the shifters to allow 11 speed road shifters to throw 11 speed mountain bike rear derailleurs.
  2. A great big honking pie plate sized cassette. This delivers a wide gear range with a double crankset. I use an 11/42T Sunrace cassette. Paired with and 34/50T compact road crankset, it has about the same low gear ratio as a 24T chainring paired with a 34T large cog on a 9 speed mountain bike cassette.
Airborne Carpe Diem cluster

The Jtek part, the huge 11/42T cassette and the 11 speed MTB derailleur deliver a wide range of gearing with a 2×11 drivetrain.

I actually like this gearing/drivetrain BETTER than a triple combos. 2x shifting is simpler and better than 3x. You have the option of even wider range cassettes. There are 11-46T Shimano cassettes and 10-50 SRAM cassettes. Some of those are marketed as 1x cassettes, and you may have to modify your rear derailleur to get them to work. Mostly by installing a longer B tension bolt. A few notes about my specific set up:

  1. The 50T chainring and 42T granny cog combo takes a full uncut 116 link chain to wrap around it. If you decided to use a bigger cassette or crankset you will need 2 chains. Recumbent riders are used to this, so it is not totally weird, but be aware of it.
  2. The drivetrain is quiet and shifts everywhere surprisingly quickly
  3. Setting up the Shiftmate is a little fussy. You need to set it up so that the flat section of the adapter does not rotate so far that the cable crosses it again. If you set one up you will see what I mean. AND if you ever release all of the tension on the cable you may have to carefully position the adapter wheel again. But probably not.

The Kona Project Two fork is thus named because it is a 2 pound steel fork. It comes in many configurations, this one is 700c, disc only, low rider braze ons, not suspension corrected. It holds a line well, even with a full touring load on the bike.


I have had many touring cranksets, but none of them has shifted nearly as nice as a good ol’ Ulegra compact. Builders will note that this technically gives me a bad chain line when paired with a 135mm dropout, and it does. But that only affects cross chained gear combos. Mostly.



The American Classic wheelset is actually sold as a mountain bike wheelset: 135mm rear spacing, wide rims, disc only and tubeless. Perfect for a road touring bike that can handle the width. Kenda 25c Iron Cloak protected tires complete the package. The next set of tires will be tubeless.

Overall this makes for a beefy feeling road/tourer in spite of the relatively lightweight build. The big Salsa Cowchipper bars contribute to the big feel vs. a road bike. It can handle a heavy load with no problem. Compared to full touring frames it handles a little twitchy. Compared to a road bike build it feels like a tank. It can handle light off road duty with cyclocross tires. While it may not be as flexible as the latest round of adventure bikes on the market, it is still my indestructible, unstoppable, post apocalyptic, steampunk urban guerrilla bike.

Jun 26

A Wilderness Encased In Suburbanite

In celebration of the longest day of the year I wanted to go big and change things up a little bit from the normal canyon ride I have been doing lately. So rather than leave from my house I drove to a point somewhere along the route, which allowed me to venture farther into other areas. Gear changes? I was riding my newer shoes, widened using my shoe stretcher, which I covered in a recent blog. I am liking the Pearl Project shoes a lot. I rode with them very loose most of the day as they break in, but the length and heel cup are a great fit.

Elapsed Time Moving Time Distance Average Speed Max Speed Elevation Gain
05:35:44 04:08:50 29.25 7.05 38.03 3,087.27
hours hours mi. mph mph ft.

I parked at the Sports Park off of Crown Valley Parkway, which offers great access to Arroyo Trabuco. It affords a nice view of the canyon and its contrast with the surrounding areas. The location and preservation of the canyon in stark contrast to the development around it continues to fascinate me.canyon1 canyon2 canyon3

When riding for a blog I have to balance my activity. Part of me does not want to stop. For anything. Ever. Part of me wants to make a very few, very short stops just to eat then get back on the bike. I digest food better when I stop to do it. I can eat while riding and I do sometimes. But if I want to blog I have to take a moment to look at my surroundings and compose good pics. I am thinking of getting a shoulder strap mount for the camera so I can just snap a pic while moving, but I have not worked that out yet. If I do, I will blog on how I did it.

This is along the trail that parallels O’Neill / Live Oak Canyon road. Some interesting history there, albeit not that old.plaquestopplaque plaquestop2

This is how bad asses roll in the OC. A professionally printed menacing statement (featuring an emoji) on a customized, clean, late model, low mileage Ford Focusocroll

Speaking of badasses in the OC, Cooks Corner is the cross road for all things on two wheels. There was a couple groups of cyclists as well, but they are always vastly outnumbered by the motorcyclists.cook1 cooks2

The big feature of the ride was the climb up Santiago Truck Trail, STT. It starts with a short, very steep climb up paved Modjeska Grade Road. Actually the climbing starts at Cook’s Corner. I have been riding lately to keep my heart rate down in the aerobic range based on some training methods I have been reading about. That is supposed to help you burn more fat and train your body to put out more power at lower heart rates. But it takes time and I have not been doing it for long so I cannot speak to how well that training works. But the climb up STT threw that out the window, there was no way to keep a reduced heart rate on such a long steep climb.stt1 stt2 stt3

The 29 plus did a great job as always, but it met its match an then some on the Luge. I usually do not miss the suspension much on my rigid steed due to the tire width and wheel diameter. But the steepness, length and frequent large drops on the Luge were just too punishing without suspension. And there was definitely room for improvement in my riding technique. One of the things I like about riding a rigid bike is helps you develop your riding skills. Choosing the right line, proper braking, good leaning, etc. are much  more important when you lose the squish. stt4

My initial plan was to return by the canyon all the way to my parking spot, which would have meant staying on the dirt. But as I descended the canyon my energy was getting seriously tapped out. If this were a big organized century I would have stopped to recover and pushed through it. One of the things the canyon offers is frequent “bail out” options. I was happy with the ride and how I had connected existing routes to make a new bigger one. So I climbed out of the canyon and finished up on pavement on Antonio Parkway, stopping to rest only briefly for my final food

I have yet to do justice to my commute in a blog, which I promised in a previous post. I hope to get some good pics of that as well soon.

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