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.
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.
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.
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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.
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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!
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.
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.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
Remove the tube from the unseated side.
Install the tubeless valve.
Remove the valve core from the valve.
Brush the loose bead with very soapy water, thick and soapy enough to make the bead slippery and sudsy.
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.
Put the hose from the bead seater over the valve and tighten the hose clamp around the valve.
Open the valve on the tank.
Press the trigger on the gauge to release air, but only for about a second, then release the trigger. The bead should seat.
If that does not seat the bead, press the trigger slightly longer.
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.
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.
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.
Reinstall the valve core.
Reinflate the tire with a floor pump.
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.
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.
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My bicycle tour of the coast of California continued into its 4th day on a Tuesday. That put me right in the heart of a work week, beyond the feeling of a mere three-day weekend, and firmly into a vacation adventure frame of mind. My ride that day would take me from Pfeiffer Big Sur campground to Kirk Creek campground, which is a bit of a spoiler since I started the day not sure where I would end it.
I made breakfast in the vestibule of my tent, once again using its protection as a great way to get an early start without stepping out into the cold. The neighboring redwoods seemed to think their needles were a good accompaniment to any recipe and I had to go to extra lengths to keep from having them as an ingredient in my omelette.
Powdered Ova Easy eggs, pre cooked chicken sausage, coffee and redwood needles. What more could you want for breakfast?
After breakfast I went to the lodge and enjoyed a fancier cup of coffee, using the meager internet/cell service and charging my electronics. Michael and Yvonne, the staff at the lodge, were wonderful. We talked about Big Sur history, cycling stories, plans for the area, coffee-making tips, etc. Michael knew a lot about the history of the area and how it had changed over time. He took me on a tour of some of the pictures in the lobby, using them to explain how the bridge and road had changed over the years, how there used to be rooms in the lodge and other great local trivia.
Michael gave me an impromptu tour of the historic photos in the lodge .
Yvonne was very friendly and enjoyed talking about my travels and life at the lodge.
Back at the campsite, my bike touring neighbor Shane had changed his plan. Originally he was going to go for a hike that day. But instead he decided to do a local ride. He was traveling with a bike trailer and wanted to leave it behind for a day. His route would take him in the same direction as I was going, then riding up the challenging Nacimiento-Fergusson Road which was near at the campground I ended up staying at that night. It was sort of implicit that we would not ride together, clearly his pace was going to be faster than mine. For non cyclists this might seem a bit strange, but cyclists speeds can vary by a wide margin and you don’t presume to ask another rider to crawl along at your pace.
Shane, my neighbor at the campground, was good to go that morning too, but would end up back at the campground at the end of the day.
We took pictures of each other before we started riding.
I departed first so I knew we would see each other out on the road. The ride out of the valley was a long steady steep grade. I was looking for the new bridge that was completed just a few months earlier after the collapse of an existing span. Its failure contributed to a situation where all roads into Big Sur became impassable and the town became isolated, creating an emergency. There are many bridges on the road, all with dates marked on them. There would only be one from the year before so I easily identified the new one. Construction was complete and the area was clear of equipment and returned to normal, all amazingly quickly.
This must be the new bridge that was built when the old one collapsed last year.
It was not long until Shane rode up effortlessly from behind. He was nice about it and slowed his pace to match mine for a while and we talked. Unfortunately, due to the long climb, I could not do a lot of talking. I think Shane could have delivered a State Of The Nation speech. Eventually we said good-bye and hoped that our paths would cross again later that day, which they did ever so briefly as we passed each other going in opposite directions.
Traffic continued to taper as I went south, more as I passed each tourist destination. By the time I passed Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park traffic was getting downright sparse. The ride that day was pure, uninterrupted, classic foggy Big Sur coastal cliffs.
Many sections of the road were next to sheer drop offs to the ocean below.
The only place for a cyclist to ride on a few sections was in the lane with cars. Fortunately traffic was low and visibility was good.
The rugged, steep cliffs afforded dramatic views mile after mile.
Big Sur revealing itself through the fog.
I could not help but park my bike here for a pic.
The road is visible on the upper left, and offered little margin for error in many places.
The occasional pocket beach.
I was not decided on where to stay that night: Plaskett Creek or Kirk Creek campground. Plaskett Creek had running water and showers that Kirk Creek lacked. But Kirk Creek is the only campground on the ocean side of Pacific Coast Highway (PCH) in the Big Sur area, offering a more intimate relationship with the coastline as you camp. And you could buy water by the gallon there, enough to drink, cook, clean and bathe.
I stopped at the little restaurant in Lucia and I was pleased to see they had expanded their small market. They way I reduced my load was to buy just enough food late in the day for that night and the next morning. Being unaware of this well situated market, I stocked up at the Big Sur Deli near the beginning of the ride and carried my supplies with me all day. The market in the remote area is good news for cyclists and hikers. They had food, ice and other vital necessities. Like a good wine selection.
I ended up deciding to camp where I always do: Kirk Creek. In the words of real estate agents everywhere: location, location, location.
Camping on the cliffs over the Pacific Ocean was an experience I did not want to pass up.
While I set up camp I met Tom and Michael. Tom was not a cyclist, but he was using the hike or bike area legally to get a first-come-first-served campsite the next day. He was a sustainability engineer. I was very curious about what that meant, and he answered my questions. I learned a lot about his perspective and good stewardship of the environment even for big engineering projects.
Tom was meeting a group of other sustainability engineers who camped together at Kirk Creek every year. One of their college professors had started the annual event years ago. He had since passed away but the tradition carried on in his memory. The professor used to easily catch fish from the ocean on the shore below the campground during the trip to feed everyone, something that is not realistic anymore. The location and the changes in it in just a couple of decades served as inspiration to Tom’s and his fellow engineers.
Michael was a gifted musician traveling by bike with his guitar. He had arrived by descending the steep and twisty Nacimiento-Fergusson road and would continue to the north. He and Tom played guitar duets, we sang, I provided wine and whiskey and we watched for whales breaching in the ocean. You know, your every day chance meeting of strangers.
Michael and Tom, in concert at Kirk Creek.
The performance was worth more than one picture.
I got free internet from a guy who was traveling in his huge solar electric Mercedes Sprinter with a Hughes Gen 5 Internet dish set up on a tripod outside. He had pitched a sign that said “Internet Cafe”. I asked him how much and he said it was a free, and he gave me his WiFi password. The van was a beauty and we talked about how it worked. He told me that had done an electric conversion on an old Chevy van and when Mercedes saw it they hired him to help them develop a solar electric Sprinter. The big beast was part of his compensation.
I went to prepare dinner that night but the flame on my camp stove fizzed out. I worked around it by changing my menu. I presumed, mistakenly, that the butane canister for my stove was empty, even though I had only used it a few times. More details on that in the next blog. I asked a few other campers if they had an extra butane canister. No one did, but every one I asked offered to lend me their stoves, which was wonderful. I planned to stop in Cambria the next day and buy a new fuel canister. In the mean time I threw out the canister I had, which I later realized was a mistake.
I climbed into my tent early as usual, falling asleep to the sound of the ocean crashing against the cliffs below. I slept well in the fog of the coast, surrounded by fellow adventurers.
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Bike Shirt (bīk SHərt) noun: A shirt suitable for cycling, styled like a casual shirt with a collar, made with technical fabrics and features helpful to cyclists.
Why bother with a nerdy definition? It distinguishes bike shirts from bike jerseys, tech tees and wing suits. Many companies that make them call them jerseys but I think they need their own name. It also distinguishes them from fashion wear that is usually all cotton and not cut for cycling. I started wearing bike shirts for commuting and touring, but now I find that I like them for almost all of my riding. I am doing a survey of shirts I bought with my money (that is why you see all men’s shirts here. Of course there are women’s shirts, too). No one asked me to review them. Because, well frankly, no one cares what I think. But that has never stopped me before, so here goes.
The Zoic District is a good example of a bike shirt. It looks like a casual button down, but au contraire! It is very much a piece of riding gear.
Bike shirts make it easier to get off your bike, socially speaking. You can go to a party, sit down at a restaurant, get groceries or walk into the office and not get the same old questions and funny looks from non-cyclists. Even if you want to change clothes eventually, you can take your time and stay in your riding clothes for a while longer. Ironically their slight dressiness can give a more relaxed look while you are riding. It is like making a statement that you always ride your bike, even when you need to look a little nicer, no big deal
Bike shirts: they are not just for hipsters anymore. You can mix and match with technical and not so technical clothes and gear.
Bike shirts are defined by fit and fabrics in addition to the collar. They should give you room to move around, esp across the shoulders when your arms are forward in a riding position. They should be shorter than a tuck in shirt. And while I prefer 100% synthetic fabrics for their ability to handle sweat, some cotton blends are acceptable. Synthetics seem to be getting more cotton like and comfortable every year. And most of the fabrics used have a UPF sun protection rating, which is the equivalent of SPF but for clothes instead of sunblock.
There are many other features you might find on a bike shirt. The shirts I like all have snaps that are styled like buttons. It is easier to snap and unsnap and as you ride for air flow adjustments. And if you crash or hit something, snaps come undone instead of tearing off. Extra pockets, usually with zippers and often hidden to maintain the casual look, are handy. A mesh yoke across the shoulders can allow the shirt to move around by sliding across the mesh instead of your skin. Pleats can provide freedom of movement. Reflective material, media cable ports, mesh panels and vents are all options you might find on a bike shirt as well.
Hiking shirts often fit the bill, and sometimes a fashion brand will surprise and make a shirt that works. I will review a bunch here. I have worn all of these shirts on multiple rides.
And while it is obvious, let me say it here in black and white: you must wear casual style shorts or pants as an outer layer with a cycling shirt. A cycling shirt and Lycra only shorts combo is just, no. I wear shorts OVER technical riding shorts, that is OK, But no “Lycra lower” look, please.
The Zoic District is shown above. The lightweight 50/50 nylon polyester fabric performs well and looks great. It has a mesh yoke with a vent flap in back for great air flow, making this a good warm weather option. The vent is positioned higher than hiking shirts to stay above your hydration pack. It is tacked into 4 sections so that if one gets pulled shut the others can stay open, and you don’t get all the flapping that comes with one big untacked vent. It features two hidden zip pockets on each side at the bottom. And all the “buttons” are snaps. All in all a nice alternative to regular cycling tops.
The mesh yoke serves multiple purposes.
These pockets are functional, I usually carry my wallet in one. And they are pretty near invisible. The plaid pattern turned at an angle down the middle of the back adds some style that is kind of a reveal when you take off your hydration pack.
The vent is high and separated into 4 sections by tacks for a great cycling specific feature.
I bought the Club Ride Vibe partly because it was available in a sportier color, but it is still muted enough to wear casually. This shirt is styled to send signals that it is a techy top. Its 97% polyester 3% spandex blend gives it a natural jersey feel. The mesh panels in the underarms aren’t see through, but the contrasting color tells you that this is no ordinary casual shirt. Also noteworthy are two zipped pockets including a low side pocket with a media port and a zipper pull that does not try to hide itself.
The Vibe has a lot of cycling specific features like a slightly longer tail than the front.
Buttons are all actually snaps, and both pockets are zipped.
The back is pretty straightforward, though the logo is reflective.
The low pocket is given away by the zipper pull. A media port in side the pocket lets you route a cable out of the pocket while it is zipped.
The Troy Lee Designs Grind shirt has a different mission than most shirts here, and like all things TLD it goes about it in it own funky way. All of the other shirts here have woven patterns. The plaids you see are created by the color of the threads in the garment. Not so with the Grind. It is a printed pattern on a very technical fabric of 91% polyester and 9% elastane for lots of stretch. My wife did a double take and spotted the print vs woven pattern right away, but I think it is cool and not everyone will have her eagle eye. It is a warmer shirt, so no vents and it has a heavier fabric, but it works in a wide range of temps due to its extra techy fabric. It uses snaps everywhere but hides most of them under a flap, showing off collar and gauntlet faux buttons for a super classy touch. Arm length was spot on for me for riding, and it is longer in back to keep you from getting a case of biker’s crack. It is tech riding gear disguised as a flannel shirt.
MOST people won’t realize this is actually not a cotton flannel shirt (I was staring at my wife just then). The 45 degree tilt of pocket pattern common with sportswear lately.
More angled plaid across the shoulder. A couple of small pleats allow you to move around on the bike.
There is a single small zipped pocket down here. just the right size for a phone. The cuff treatment puts this shirt over the top.
The Bass Trail Flex is part of Bass’ technical “Propel” series of clothing, something a little unexpected from a mostly shoe company. The blend is 60% cotton, 37% polyester and 3% Lycra. The cotton would usually rule it out completely, but it can handle short commutes fine, and amazingly 3% Lycra makes a big difference. This is a heavier fabric which gives it a sturdy feel and the cut gives you just enough room to be comfortable. Otherwise it is pretty basic, no extra pockets, mesh, vents or snaps.
Just the basics and a sturdy feeling fabric with some useful stretch
Next up is the Columbia Westerly Winds short sleeve shirt. Columbia turns over styles very quickly, you may not find this exact shirt. It is 100% polyester, thus the “omni wick” moniker. The breast pockets have dual velcro closures so they would hold on to something while you were riding. Another basic but effective shirt that does work on the bike.
It is a lighter fabric good for warmer weather.
Styling and details are basic.
Should you decide to use the breast pockets, they should keep things secure.
The Eddie Bauer Rainier Long Sleeve is similar to the Columbia in that it may differ a little from what you find when you shop. I wanted a long sleeve to contrast the Troy Lee Grind, and this surely does that with some surprising twists. It is full synthetic at 73% polyester and 27% nylon, featuring a mesh yoke and a big pleat between the shoulders. The breast pocket is flapless, closed with a hidden bit of Velcro on the inside. The tab sleeves are a useful feature, sort of like having arm warmers that you can get rid of without having to figure out where to put them.
Eddie Bauer makes mostly fashion clothes with an outdoorsy image, but they also make some pretty technical clothes like this shirt. It works well, but tends to be a little wrinkly and the cut is slightly long in front.
The mesh is not vented, which makes this a warmer shirt, but it still helps with movement and off the skin comfort.
The tab sleeves are handy. Many days I commute in the morning with the sleeves down and in the afternoon with the sleeves up.
The Orvis Short Sleeve Tech Shirt is 73% nylon 27% polyester. It features a mesh yoke and a couple of pleats across the back. I took this on my recent week-long tour, and the nice thing about this shirt is how well it resists wrinkling. I got it on a blow out price so it also wins the best value award.
The lower hem dips down more than the other shirts here, but was rarely noticeable.
A couple of pleats are nice attention to detail.
The small mesh yoke does help.
Overall these are all worthy shirts for riding. Get a technical fabric cut with room to move and a length that won’t ride up. Add a few nice to have features and you may find that getting off your bike has never been be easier.