Thursday, December 6, 2012

Mount Baldy ride this Sunday: All Are Invited!

Above: That's me on GMR in 2001. The road was snowed over that year, so a few of us just pushed our bikes and kept on going, and had a fantastic adventure! But this Sunday I am hoping and planning to ride the whole way! I was riding my 1994 Bridgestone RB-1 that day; this weekend I will ride my Rivendell Roadeo.

Please join me on a road ride to Mt. Baldy this Sunday, December 9! This is one of Southern California's absolutely best rides, and was also the first real ride I ever did, when I got my first road bike at age 14 in 1982! We will depart at 845am from Classic Coffee at 148 N. Glendora Ave. Glendora, CA 91741. (Or meet us en route, at the top of Glendora Avenue, at the intersection with Sierra Madre, at 900am.)

It's a 40 mile ride with lots of climbing in the first half: figure 3.5 hours total. The route will be: up Glendora Mountain Road (GMR), continue across Glendora Ridge Route to Baldy Village, then down the front of the mountain and bike across to Glendora via San Dimas. 

Pre- and post-ride refreshments at the above-mentioned Classic Coffee in the Glendora Village.

Rain / snow cancels. Bring warm clothes, food, drink, and bike repair needs. The ride is unsupported and all are on their own. Any further updates will be posted to my Twitter feed:

Map of route (or here):

View Larger Map

Friday, May 25, 2012

Rough Riding Mt. Diablo with Sean Virnig of Rawland Cycles

This was multi-surface cycling at it best, in the backyard playground of two of cycling most's innovative and exciting bicycle brands: Rivendell Bicycles of Walnut Creek, CA and Rawland Cycles of Danville, CA.

I rode with Sean Virnig, founder and designer of Rawland Cycles and we both rode the Rawland rSogn model. Both bikes have 650B wheels: Sean had Pacenti Quasi-Moto 2.0" (with small knobbies), while I rode smooth-treaded Grand Bois Hetre tyres, 42mm wide.

This was a fantastic mix of paved road, single track, and fire road: Rough Rider Paradise! Nearly ever rider we encountered off-road commented favorably or asked questions about our bikes. The folks at Rawland, and at Rivendell, are really lucky to have this outdoor multi-surface paradise right in their backyards. What a great region for fun and adventure, as well as testing new designs and equipment!

It was a pleasure to ride with Sean, who, along with his family, is now a California resident. I had ridden many times on Mt. Diablo with Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycles in nearby Walnut Creek, but this was my first time to ascend the mountain from the south side, which is where Danville is located.

Sean honored me by wearing his Rough Riders jersey, which was really neat! Sean and I last rode together during the Rough Riders Rally in Marin County in July, 2010, at which event his Drakkar model won "Best Of Show" at the Rough Riders Shindig. Now hopefully we'll be able to ride together more often.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Rough Riding the Santa Monica Mountains: Ride Planned for May 27

You're Invited: Multi-Surface Semi-Epic Ride in the Santa Monica Mountains on Sunday, May 27

I'm planning to string together a bunch of trails, fire roads, and paved roads in the Santa Monica Mountains for a nice adventure ride on the Sunday of Memorial Weekend. You are welcome to join in the fun, so please help spread the word. The emphasis will be on quieter, more remote trails and as few paved roads as possible, to avoid holiday weekend traffic. Stay tuned to this webpage for further details.

Route: It's about 50 miles with about 7500 feet of elevation gain, so figure 5-6 hours. There will be some bail-out options for those who want to do less. We'll start on the edge of The Valley and head up high from there, enjoying views such as those featured on this previous semi-epic ride preview and post-ride report from the same region.

Here is the intended Route:
South (uphill) on Topanga to "Top of Topanga".
Right on Summit to Summit Motorway, taking it across the summit of Old Topanga Canyon Road, then straight onto Calabasas Peak Motorway.
This drops down to Stunt Road, then ascend Stunt Road to Schueren. (Bail Out Option 1: turn right on Stunt instead and then right on Mulholland, back to the start)
Take Schueren to Piuma, and descend Piuma.
Turn right, briefly, on Malibu Canyon / Las Virgenes. (Bail Out Option 2: continue on Las Virgenes to a right on Mulholland and back to the start.)
Turn left, UPHILL at Tapia, straight up Mesa Peak Mtwy to the Backbone Trail.
Go west across the ridge on Backbone Trail, crossing the top of Corral Canyon.
Continue west on Backbone Trail, then descend Bulldog Trail.
At the bottom of Bulldog Trail, turn right and traverse east through Malibu Creek State Park. (If this seems too full of hikers, we'll instead go left and exit the Park via Malibou Lake and then Mulholland.)
At Las Virgenes, go right towards the coast to Piuma. (Bail Out Option 3: go left on Las Virgenes and right on Mulholland, back to the start.)
Turn left on Piuma, then left on Cold Canyon Road.
Continue on Cold Canyon / Dry Canyon as much as possible, otherwise Mulholland, back to Topanga Canyon and our start/finish at the Dumetz Starbucks.

Here is a RideWithGPS preview of the route (Thanks to AllRoy71!): Click

Note: On May 17 I rode a loop that featured the first ten and the final eight miles of this route with 2500 feet of elevation gain. Here is the Strava page. Based on that brief recon, I am going to raise my guesstimated elevation gain to 7,000-8,000 for the day and six hours total time. My low gear was 34x30 and I could just barely hold traction (while necessarily seated) with 650B Grand Bois Hetre tyres on the super steep uphills at 60 psi. I am probably going to run 50 psi on the 27th, at least for the dirt stretches. Here is a shot of Stunt Road in the distance and the downhill part of Calabasas Peak Motorway (fire road) which leads down to Stunt:
Down down down then up up up

Meet-Up (start/finish): 730am, Starbucks on Topanga Canyon at Dumetz: 4900 Topanga Canyon Boulevard, Woodland Hills, CA 91364: Google Map of the location.
Departure: 800am sharp.

Bring: Three water bottles and/or hydration pack, plus food, two tubes, patch kit, tools, and more. It will probably be hot out there and water only occasionally available along the way.

Note: This ride is unhosted, unsupported, and everyone who shows up is on their own. Neither we, nor anybody else, is responsible for anyone who rides. If you ride, YOU are responsible for YOU and YOUR bike. This is not an "event" - it is just a ride on dirt and paved roads for like-minded people.

Remember: We Rough Riders enjoy getting "out there" by riding roads, dirt roads, trails, and paths on whatever bike we happen to be on or have handy. Sometimes the pavement's long gone and we're still on our "road bikes" or some bike that would be commonly considered inadequate for the job - and that's just fine by us! Rough Riding is not defined by the type of bicycle or type of riding surface. Rough Riding is a state of mind, a riding style with limitless freedom and an all-pervasive sense of adventure. I will be riding my Rawland rSogn, probably with knobby tyres or possibly with treadless 42mm Grand Bois Hetres.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Keeping It Light

The author with his mascot, Gumby, during the 1987 Race Across America. What could be more fun than having my sister-in-law crawl inside my inflatable 6" tall Gumby to surprise me?

It astounds me how overly seriously so many people take their cycling and endurance sports. It's like they just literally want to suck the life and the fun out of the whole experience.

Not me!

I honestly believe I enjoy cycling, and getting "out there" under human power, more intensely, and more intently, than just about anybody. I do this largely by "keeping it light."

When I'm out on my bike, when I'm "out there," I make a point of taking everything in, all the time. Some people stare continuously at the white line, or the butt of the rider in front of them, all the time. I don't get that. I prefer constantly using my peripheral vision to soak in as much enjoyment, information, inspiration, and light as possible. Not ony is this fun and smile-inducing, but it helps me to notice little roads or trails off to the side of the road, or way off in the distance on some hillside, giving me inspiration for more places to explore. I'm also more likely to notice weather changes in the offing, or aggressive drivers, or historic markers, or viewpoints to check out. If I don't pay attention, I'm liable to miss that glimpse of wildlife along the way, or a waterfall, or a dolphin in the ocean, or a classic car in somebody's yard or driveway, or a funnily decorated mailbox, or a funny sign, or a funky café or mini-mart. I've got to take it all in!
You noticed those wild turkeys over there to the right, on the way to Lake Cuyamaca, right?

Yes, I really do stop during my rides. It amazes me how many people just blast right over the summit of a big climb, without even stopping to enjoy the view or take photo at the summit. Seriously? Likewise for those who have ridden past some historic marker placed by the county, some historical group, or the Clampers a million times, but have never stopped to read it. I pretty much always stop for those signs. In fact, I want to find an area in California that is thickly covered in historic markers and viewpoints and then create a cycling event that specifically involves stopping at all of them! (Any suggestions?)

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 858, along Sunrise Highway on Mount Laguna.

If cycling isn't about embracing the world around us and getting to know it, why not just ride indoors on a trainer?

Naturally, I at least nod at all the other cyclists I see, and sometimes I wave at them. Amazingly, I even verbally greet those riders that I catch along the way! (I know, I know, that's so uncommon anymore. Sad.) Of course, I don't discriminate based upon their type of bike, clothes, or anything else. Anybody on two human-powered wheels is fine by me, and automatically "on my team." (I make a point of chatting it up with motorcyclists, too, treating them as fellow two-wheeled lovers of the world. Being a human is the best way to be respected by another human, I believe. However, if one slides off the pavement because they are driving their motorbike like an idiot, I will ride on by.)

When I meet somebody to go for a ride, I am actually there to ride with them. I know, call me crazy, but it's not my idea of fun to "half-wheel" a friend. The friendship, conversation, and mutual enjoyment are paramount when I ride with somebody. I also keep it light by talking a lot - generally about non-cycling stuff - with my friends when I'm riding. All that sullen silence so common in group rides is not for me. (Quite boorish, that is.)

Of course, I enjoy a silent jam with friends sometimes, too: Let our pedals do the talking! But when I really want to "train," which isn't often, I join a racing type club ride, enter a race or timed event, or I just go ride on my own and use my heartrate monitor and personal records on various stretches of road to push myself.

My late friend and mentor, Willard Bascom, said "The whole point of life is to enjoy it." By keeping it light, I do that as much and as often as possible.

Yeah, I stop to check out these kinds of signs, too. That's my Ritchey Break-Away. In this case, they explained the devastating, but natural, fire which had swept through this area of Mount Laguna.
OK, we all stop to get water at National Forest Visitors' Centers, but how about going inside? They often have neat pins, postcards, books, and maps which I'll buy during a ride. Nice volunteers, too!
Just one of many displays inside the Visitor's Center shown above, atop Mount Laguna. Want to visit this amazing Mount Laguna? Come ride our Mount Laguna Bicycle Classic in April! Info.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Racing to the Light

Above: A giant painting called "Picture Without Words" by Edward Ruscha, as currently on display at the Getty Center, the inspiration for this post. This photo of the painting is by the author.

I've been thinking about "light" a lot lately, on a multitude of levels. For example, we ultra athletes are all "racing to the light" in many ways: During our ultra challenges, we're moving forward relentlessly, through the night, towards the sunrise, the first break of dawn. Each new day brings forth new opportunities, new energy, and perhaps the day in which we'll cross our finish line.

Likewise, when we're racing eastward, as I was for nearly eleven days during the 1987 Race Across America, we're racing right into the morning sun every day. When I did that race, I'd sleep three hours a night, from about 3 or 4am to 6 or 7am*. I always went to sleep when it was still dark out, and then got up after the sunrise, to pretend, in a way, that I had slept through the whole night. After I got up, I'd get back on my bike, and start rolling eastward, usually with some oatmeal to eat while pedaling. Not worrying about my speed just yet, I'd be squinting into the new day's sun. The memory of that daily ritual is one of the strongest of the entire experience.
As I'd roll towards the light, I'd set my goals for the day: which state lines I'd cross that day, which other racers I'd pass, where I'd want to arrive by nightfall, and how many miles I wanted to ride before I finally took my three hour sleep break. That morning process of setting goals would repeat until the finish line. "The fulness of life lies in dreaming, and manifesting, the impossible dreams," wrote Sri Chinmoy.
Go east, young man: The author during the 1987 Race Across America.

Crossing the finish line of an epic race in the darkness feels more like denouement than climax to me, so finishing in the daylight is always a goal of mine, whenever possible. When I arrived at the Washington Monument after pedaling 3,127 miles in ten days, 23 hours, and 58 minutes, it was just shy of 2pm on a weekday. The whole city was abustle, I felt part of the energy, and the light was streaming down on me. I was alive, and all was well:

"Light" has many other meanings and connotations, as well, and I will explore them more in future posts and articles.

* During RAAM, I did not sleep the first or last nights of the race, so I slept a total of 24 hours during eleven days. Amazingly enough, that's considered a lot by RAAM standards. Many competitors get by on half that amount. I consider that stupid, self-defeating, not athletic, and, for lack of a better word, not very graceful. I definitely rode faster than I otherwise would have as a result of sleeping "so much" during my RAAM.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

My Rawland rSogn, The One Bike To Rule Them All

For the majority of my cycling career, I have longed for just one bike that would do anything and work in nearly any circumstance or setting. My slogan is "any bike, anywhere," and I live by that credo, having first brought this philosophy to the cycling world with my seminal "Mountain Bikes: Who Needs Them?" article in the the February 1993 issue of Bicycle Guide. (That article inspired a teenager named Sean Virnig to start riding his Bridgestone RB-1 in the woods near his Minnesoata home, laying the foundation for a bike company he'd later start called Rawland.)

I got to know Sean in the summer of 2010 when he and his wife Anna attended our Rough Riders Rally in Marin. Besides being the most interesting people to attend, they also won Best in Show for Sean's Rawland Drakkar bike, shown above.
Despite enjoying taking nearly any road bike down nearly any road or trail, I'd always believed that one optimal bike could really be "the one bike to rule them all." And so it is, after a 22 year quest, that I am pleased to own and ride such a mythic bicycle, the Rawland rSogn. This bike will go anywhere and do it with style and aplomb. It also has two sets of wheels for presto-chango self-reinvention.
Above: I prefer down-tube shifters in most circumstances. These are 8-speed era Dura Ace shifters which Sean had in his stash and kindly donated to me. Because these don't normally mate with modern Shimano derailleurs, the cable is attached at the rear with the Sheldon Brown routing.

Massive tyre clearance, front and rear: Above you can see the Rawland set up with 38mm wide Pacenti Pari-Moto road tyres, and below you can see it with the 2.1"/51mm wide Pacenti Quasi-Moto knobbies.
According to the Rawland Bicycles website, the rSogn is a contemporary lightweight steel all-arounder. Carrying on the success of the cantilever Sogn (cSogn), the rSogn is a reissue of this versatile all-arounder, hence the moniker. The rSogn was conceptualized and then specified through a month-long, open-forum process. Optimized for 650b wheel size without toe overlap in any tire size, the rSogn features the following elegant features many have come to appreciate, in no particular order:

• 8/5/8 standard-diameter tubing: MD and ML
• 9/6/9 standard-diameter tubing: LG and XL
• Non-heat treated tubing
• Pacenti biplane MTB crown
• Fits 58mm tires (e.g., Pacenti Neo Moto 2.3)
• 63mm rake for low trail; ideal for top-load
• Low, graceful fork bend
• Takes double-ring, spindle type cranks
• 68mm bottom bracket shell width
• 1-1/8” threadless steerer
• Stainless steel cast dropouts
• Head tube reinforcing rings
• Metal head tube badge
• Rear and front rack mounts
• Equidistance fender mounts facing the wheels
• Lowrider mounts
• Seat stay frame pump peg
• Triple water bottle mounts
• Star water bottle braze-on reinforcements
• Seatstay rack mounts
• Split brake cable stops at 10 o’clock
• Stainless steel chain hanger
• Down tube shifter mounts
• 132.5mm rear spacing for use with either 130mm or 135mm hub
• 27.2mm seat post diameter
Regarding the wheels:
The stock wheels on my rSogn are 32 hole, front and back, built by Mark at Rivendell. They have Shimano 105 hubs laced with straight gauge DT spokes to Velocity Synergy 650B rims. The tyres are 650B Pacento Quasi-Moto 2.1 (51mm) knobbies. Cassette is Shimnano HG40 8-speed 12-30. I have used these wheels with various tyres for quite a few years on various bikes and 650B conversions.
The alternative set of wheels were custom built for me by Dave Prion (below), the general manager of The Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, CA and my friend and wheel builder since the mid-80s. These are custom "event" or road wheels. The rear features a 24 hole Chris King R45 cassette hub laced with 24 butted Wheelsmith spokes to a 36 hole Velocity Synergy rim. 12 spoke holes in the rear rim are not used. The front features 18 butted Wheelsmith spokes laced between a 36 hole HB011 6-volt 3-watt dynohub and a 36 hole Velocity Synergy rim. 18 spoke holes in the front rim are not used. The tyres are Pacenti Pari-Moto 650B 38mm. Cassette is Shimano HG40 8-speed 12-28.
Here's the full build-up of the bike:
Brand Rawland rSogn 2011 (Size ML; see size chart below) Saddle height: 77cm; Reach: 80cm
Serial # M11051227
Headset Chris King
Bars Ritchey Classic Silver: 44cm width, 31.8mm O/S center section, 128mm Drop, 73mm Reach
Stem Ritchey Classic Silver, 9cm
Brk Levers Sram S500 road brake levers
Brakes Paul's Neo-Retro cantilivers with Paul's Moon Unit cable hangers, Paul's Rack Adapter bolts, and Paul's Funky Monkey front cable guide (and Nitto rear cable guide)
Saddle Berthoud Aravis, titanium rails
Post Ritchey Classic Silver, 27.2, 350mm length, 25mm Offset, 43x38mm cradle
Shifters Shimano Dura Ace 7402 8-speed down-tube
Front Der. Shimano Dura Ace 7700 (9-speed era)
Rear Der. Shimano XTR M971 (Recent 9-speed era) with JagWire inline cable adjuster
Bottom Bracket Shimano Isis
Crankarms Ritchey 175 with 34/50 rings; Arms custom polished and laser-etched by Tom at Perfect Perforations.
Pedals Ritchey Peloton (Look Delta style)
Chain Sram 8-speed
Cages Nitto R (3)
Tape Ritchey "cork"

Click here for a full slideshow of the bike with nearly 50 images.
Thanks for the amazing bike, Sean and Anna!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Pay Attention (Trust Your Gut, not always your GPS)

Out exploring yesterday, we came up on this sign. Of course, this was after coming back down the private road behind the sign that we'd accessed via a long, uphill, and unmarked trail. When we hit that road at the top of the trail, my sense of direction told me we needed to head back down and, lo and behold, we'd been on private property ever since topping out on that that road, I mean driveway. Seeing this sign, and it's admonition to not always believe one's GPS while navigating, reminded me of how we repeatedly tell people who are traveling to Death Valley for an AdventureCORPS event to NEVER follow a GPS there. We state that emphatically because people have literally died while attempting to reach Death Valley on a dirt road route, courtesy of their GPS, despite the fact that there are four excellent paved roads which lead into Death Valley. (Thankfully, none of these people were en route to joining us.)

After yesterday's excursion, there was this gem of a story on the ABC News about some Japanese tourists who literally drove into the ocean in Australia because their GPS told them to do so. Here's a photo:

Is all this dependence on technology making people just plan stupid, making them lose their sense of direction, their awareness of what just seems and feels right?

This morning's yoga class was an obvious opportunity to work on "awareness" and I really got a lot out of Garth's class, but I find it helpful - and more logical - to just be aware all the time. This is especially critical while out exploring and always while moving quickly over varying terrain, whether by foot, bicycle, or motor vehicle.

As the saying goes,
"Pay Attention!"