2.1 2012 Week End Rides

2012 Weekend Training Rides

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Return to our 2012 Adventures
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2.1  2012 Weekend Training Rides

Marian and I toured in 2012, for the first time.  We transitioned from Mountain Biking day trips to multi-day cycle tours.  We changed our training program to become stronger, able to climb with very heavy loads, and ride for many hours a day, for several days in a row.

We did two practice rides.  We had been training, hard.  We finally had our bikes ready to go.  We were eager to try it. The first try was in April 2012, riding the ACA Route from San Francisco to Santa Cruz.  The second was in May 2012, were we rode from San Jose to join the ACA Route at Santa Cruz, and then cycle to Monterey.

A New Way Of Remembering

When we rode our mountain bikes, we confined ourselves to day trips.  We always, no matter how tired, had the luxury of returning to civilization.  We could, if we wished, write about our experiences at leisure.  We relied on the Garmin data recording, odd pictures, and whatever our memory recalled.

As we considered touring, even overnighters, we knew we would have to change our pattern, if we wished to record and write about our experiences.  We could, as some suggested, just go ride, and let the memories happen as they unfolded, remembering some, forgetting others.  We decided we wanted something more permanent, more reliable.

We decided to continue to use the Garmin to capture the real route, elevation changes, heart rates, times, etc.  We would always bring a camera, plus Marian’s iphone, so we could take pictures.  Picture taking has always been haphazard to us.  Sometimes, we take many pictures.  Other times, we take few.  But, with two cameras, we will undoubtedly take more.  We decided on a Kindle for note taking.  As long as we can keep the battery charged, we can take notes, refer to electronic versions of maps, lists, and contact information.  We have found that simple notes and one-liners, or a picture, are usually enough to unlock vast amounts of memory.

A Way Of Estimating Our Rides

For planning purposes, we needed a simple formula to estimate length of time to ride from one place to another.  Many web sites will automatically compute this for a rider.  But, when a rider is on the road, and the original plan fails, they must develop new estimates.  We decided on a simple formula:

Time = Distance Effects + Climbing Effects

  • Distance Effects = Distance / 10 (Assumes 10 MPH)
  • Climbing Effects = Elevation / 500 (Assumes 500 feet per hour)

The question becomes one of accuracy, and usefulness and ease of feeding parameters into it.  First, the formula tends to give a larger answer than the rider actually experiences.  We have seen the answer be higher by as much as 30 or 40%.  However, a larger answer than the real outcome is far better than a smaller answer .  If a rider must choose between having excess time at the end of a ride, or pedaling down the road as the sun goes down, found time for tourist diversions would always be most welcome..

Of the two inputs, estimated mileage is pretty direct.  Consistent estimates can be obtained on almost any website.  The more difficult number is elevation change.  We have used both TOASTER and GPSies to get elevation changes.  The elevation change numbers recorded in our Garmin corresponds much more closely with GPSies, so we use that number for planning purposes.

The ACA maps provide distance and hint at elevation changes.  The distance numbers are correct.  The elevation profiles are not to be relied on for accuracy.  While the profiles show most major hills, the rider cannot assume that they are the only ones.  And rollers and other dips and climbs are mostly notional.

Changes to Our Bikes

We purchased Marian’s Surly from Craig’s list.  The woman who sold it was a Road Biker.  Her, then, boyfriend, convinced her to try Touring.  She bought her Surly, used it on one tour to Big Sur, and put the bike in her garage,.  She never rode it again.  It is a 50 cm, and we lightly used, almost in mint condition.  We needed to make changes to the bike to make it fit Marian properly.

Marian’s Surly Changes Made Prior to June 2012
Frame Original
Fork Original
Head Set / Stem New – More height
Handlebars Original
Brake Hoods Original
Brakes Original – shoes replaced as needed
Seat Replaced with Terry
Seat Post Replaced with angle – more length
Bottom Bracket Original
Cranks Original
Rings Replaced Granny Gear with 24T
Ring Shifter Original
Ring Derailleur Original
Cogs Replaced with 12 – 34
Cog Shifter Original
Cog Derailleur Original
Front Wheel Original
Front Tire Replaced with Continental
Front Tube Replaced as Needed
Rear Wheel Original
Rear Tire Replaced with Continental
Rear Tube Replaced as Needed
Front Rack New – Craig’s List
Rear Rack Original
Handlebar Breaks New
Front Lights New
Rear Lights New
Handlebar Bag Original
Front Panniers New – REI Used Gear Sale
Rear Panniers New
Trunk Bag Original MTB
Water Bottle Cages New 3rd Cage

Marian’s bike was ready to ride.  But it wasn’t set up for her.  In an effort to get Marian into a more upright position, taking pressure off her wrists, we substituted a Salsa stem, with a steeper slope, to raise her handlebars.  We also replaced her straight Thomson Seat Post with a 15 degree cant, to move her slightly further back on the bike.  We replaced her seat with one from Terry.  With a few iterations, we got her comfortable on her bike.

Having come from mountain biking, we were not used to the drop down bars, or the bar end shifting.  We decided to give that configuration a tryout.  But, we did want more options for braking.  We added brake levers on the handle bar, to compliment the original brakes.

The gearing on Marian’s bike was not suitable for someone of our age.  We changed out the 30T granny gear with a 26T gear, and changed the 11-30 rear cog for a 12-34 cassette.  Eventually, we would change out Marian’s rings for Mountain Bike rings 22-32-42, but that would not happen until 2013.  The changes in gearing made her Surly easier to ride on hills.  Perhaps, had the original owner made similar moves, Marian would never have gotten the bike.

A large bottle in Marian’s third bottle cage interfered with the front mud flap.  For the first trip, she did not use that cage.  On the second trip, I adjusted the bottom of the mud flap as close to the wheel as possible, and hand-picked a third cage to get the bottle as low as possible.  This reduced the interference problem.

We purchased Pat’s Surly from Craig’s list.  The man who sold it was student at Berkley.  He said he was the third or fourth owner, and really didn’t know much about the bike.  Pat looked the frame over, and decided the frame was in good shape.  For the price being asked, he was willing to replace much of the rest of the bike, which was a good thing.  However, the bike required many changes and upgrades to make the bike suitable for touring.

Pat’s Surly Changes Made Prior to June 2012
Frame Original
Fork Original
Head Set Reversed – More height
Handlebars Replaced
Brake Hoods Original
Brakes Original – shoes replaced as needed
Seat Replaced
Seat Post Replaced with Thomson
Bottom Bracket Original
Cranks Original
Rings Replaced Granny Gear with 24T
Ring Shifter Replaced with Bar-End
Ring Derailleur Original
Cogs Replaced with 12 – 34
Cog Shifter Replaced with Bar-End
Cog Derailleur Original
Front Wheel Original
Front Tire Replaced with Continental
Front Tube Replaced as Needed
Rear Wheel Original
Rear Tire Replaced with Continental
Rear Tube Replaced as Needed
Front Rack New – Craig’s List
Rear Rack Replaced
Handlebar Breaks New
Front Lights New
Rear Lights New
Handlebar Bag New
Front Panniers New – Craig’s List
Rear Panniers New – REI
Trunk Bag Original MTB
Water Bottle Cages New Third Cage

Pat’s bike was in poor condition.  Aside from the grime and grit of years of accumulation, the components were suspect.  My first concern was the wheels, which were only 32 spoke.  A close look by the local bike shop confirmed they were still serviceable, with truing.  The tires were worn out, and not even of the same make.

The front rings and crank were in good shape, but the 30T made hill climbing too hard, so a 26T replaced it.  We also replaced the worn out chain and rear cassette.  We chose a cassette with a range of 11-34.

Shifting with the tube shifters, especially on hills, was uncertain.  We substituted bar-end shifters.  The original handle bars was also replaced, since it was the wrong size for the bar end shifts.  I could have abandoned a drop down, but stayed with the concept.  I added in-line handlebar brakes, as had Marian.

Shortly before the first ride, Pat got a handlebar bag for his birthday.  Unfortunately, the new handlebar had already been installed, along with the brake handles.  The bag mount interfered with the brake cables.  It made braking with the rear brake impossible

The local bike shop mounted an axillary bar, from the handlebar.  The handlebar bag then hung from it.  However, due to the weight of the bag, the bar clamp kept slipping loose, jamming the rear brake cable.  This was unworkable in practice.  Eventually, Pat would redo everything, moving the brakes further outboard, and rewrapping the handlebars.

The seat post was generic aluminum, and the seat was out of the question.  I replaced the seat post with a Thomson, and put a new seat on it.  After turning the head set over, I was far more comfortable on the bike.

Touring bikes are no good without racks.  Since we were planning on self-supported tours, we decided we needed front and rear racks.  Marian’s bike came with a Surly rear rack.  Mine came with a Blackburn rear rack.  Neither bike had front racks.  After scouring Craig’s list, we found a pair of Surly front racks.  Finally, between the first and second tours, I gave in and bought a new Surly rack, unable to find one on Craig’s list.

t0 08 loaded bikes two days beforeWe equipped both bikes with Ortlieb Classic Rollers.  These panniers are the gold standard for touring.  We felt the water resistance and overall quality were worth the extra cost. We wound up getting Rear panniers for the front and back, more out of ignorance than design.  However, the added size does allow us to more heavily load the front of the bike than we might have otherwise done.  We try to distribute the weight as a 60 / 40 split between the front and rear.

It turned out we got the second set of panniers for each bike two days before our April ride.  We had almost no opportunity to practice with a full-up set of weights until we were actually out on the road.  Without any advance preparation, we significantly increased our bike loads, and learned how to ride with them on the road.

With little time to prepare, we mounted the panniers.  We worried about foot / pannier clearances.  So, we positioned the rear panniers as far back as we could.  We mounted the forward panniers in front of the front axle.

We did not discover, until we started out on our first trip, that we had created an impossible stability condition.  The front wheel would swerve from side to side without warning, especially at lower speeds.  Between the two rides, we moved the forward panniers back as far as we could, creating an almost hands-free riding condition on the front wheel.  We moved the rear pannier as far forward as possible.  We were very careful about packing heavy stuff at the bottom of the panniers, as close to the bike as we could manage.

Our last issue was how to mount lights.  With racks, panniers, handlebar backs, and trunk bags, putting a front light on the handlebar, and a rear light on the seat post is unviable.  There is not enough room on the handlebar, and there is no line of sight from the seat post.

The Surly racks have mounting points, located such that there are no clearance issues, and good lines of sight.  Unfortunately, the orientation is wrong for standard lights.  Our search of the web revealed a number of custom mounts for custom lights.  We did not wish to spend the money, having perfectly good lights   at hand.

t0 06I had found no credible way to take advantage of that maddening braze-on on the end of the rack to mount a front light.  Our lights attach to horizontal bars.  The handlebar bag obscured the bar.  After a try with metal, I settled on a simple PVC structure to fasten under the forward Surly Rack.  The PVC provided a horizontal bar, secure, and out-of-the-way. with a clear view of the road.  Tie wraps hold the assembly in place.  This worked well, and we received favorable comments on the road.

t0 05The rear rack was also unsuitable to the lights we had.  Again, there was that braze-on, but I had no mounts.   I built a second PVC structure for the Rear Rack.  This assembly, held in place by tie wraps, can interfere with loading the Ortlieb’s to the rear rack.  By making the PVC a little narrower, this avoids any problems.  From time to time, the lights do slip down from the posts.  The simple remedy is to push the lights back into position.  This is manageable.

Packing For Tours

The next question, then, becomes, what to put in those panniers. One of our decisions was that, whether we were packing for a three-day tour, or a multi-week tour, the packing would be about the same.  Only if we expected dramatically different weather would we pack differently.  Since we traveled together, we could share the load.  Armed with multiple lists garnered from the net, we set about packing up.

Bags Marian
Pat
Front Left Dishes
Stove
Fuel
Rain Jacket
Rain Pants
Umbrella
Tent
Drop Cloth
Camp Sandals
Rain Jacket
Rain Pants
Umbrella
Front Right Food
Water
Dittie Bag
Bike Tools
Spare Tires
Spare Tubes
Kindle (sealed in zip lock)
Phone, Kindle, Garmin chargers (sealed in zip lock)
Spare batteries (sealed in zip lock)
Solar panel
Dittie Bag
Back Left 3 short sleeve bike jersies
3 long sleeve under jersies
3 pair bike shorts
2 sets of camp clothes
sweater
pull-over
jammies
beanie
underwear, socks
3 short sleeve bike jersies
3 long sleave under jersies
3 pair bike shorts
2 sets of camp clothes
sweater
pull-over
jammies
beanie
underwear, socks
Back Right sleeping back
sleeping sack
inflatable pillow
sleeping pad
sleeping back
sleeping sack
inflatable pillow
sleeping pad
Handlebar Bag Phone
Spare Glasses
Wallet
Flashlight
Luna Bars
Coins
Phone
Spare Glasses
Wallet
Flashlight
Luna Bars
Coins
Trunk Bag Water
Snacks
Tools
Water
Snacks
Cold Storage

Transporting Bikes

t0 01We transport our bikes with either our truck, or one of our cars.  We built a rack for the back of the truck, made from PVC.  We found the idea for the design on a Mountain Biking web site.  The design is amazingly simple, cutting PVC to standard lengths to accommodate the geometry of a front bike wheel, including front racks.  We adjusted the width to, in theory, carry three bikes.  We forgot that the cab would be very crowded with three adults in it.

t0 02Our car has a hitch mounted Thule rack.  The rack mounts to a light-weight towing package on our Sentra.  The bikes are well secured by the twin arms of the rack.  But, I have noticed an up-and-down swaying at highway speeds that was not there in the beginning.  The latching mechanism on the rack seems fool-proof.  The hitch is well secured to the frame of the car.  There is little change of dropping thousands of dollars worth of bikes.

t0 03t0 04David also has a rack, with straps for mounting to the car.  He has carried his mountain bike back and forth to Wyoming several times.  He has also carried our Surly’s to the starting points for our rides from San Francisco and Lexington Reservoir.  This simple, easy to install bike rack, is dependable and easy to store when not in use.

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Read about our ride from San Francisco to Santa Cruz
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Filed under Cycle Touring, Cycle Training, Travel

Let us know what you thought, we'd love to know. Thanks - Pat and Marian

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