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Monthly Archives: May 2013

Taste the High Country

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Steven and I rode the brand new West Rail Line to Golden, Colorado on its first day of operation.

Photo courtesy of the City of Golden

Photo courtesy of the City of Golden

That was fun.  It was even more fun to cycle to Golden and back the next day.

Golden Route

As the name implies the Clear Creek Trail follows Clear Creek from metro Denver to Golden.  We joined the trail near its mid-point as it passes through Wheat Ridge.  The trail has been upgraded over the years and now has an excellent surface for most of its length.

Photo courtesy of Remnant

Photo courtesy of Remnant

A major landmark signals your arrival at the outskirts of Golden.  The massive MillerCoors brewery.  This is just a part of it.  Steven and I were intrigued by the round structure to the left.  We don’t know what it is houses or is for.

Photo courtesy of Remnant

Photo courtesy of Remnant

Next comes the bridge across West 44th Avenue.

Golden Bridge

The trail then takes you through Vanover Park and alongside Parfet Park.

Photo courtesy of Robin Kanouse

Photo courtesy of Robin Kanouse

Then comes History Park with its late 1800s mountain ranch buildings.

We looped around the History Park and onto Washington Avenue.

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Where we parked ourselves outside Goozell Yogurt and Coffee for a treat before riding back to Wheat Ridge.

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Share The Road 2

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A recent post on the always excellent Cycling Tips blog asked the question “How far from the curb should you ride?”  Like the author I think it depends on the road and traffic conditions.

Traffic conditions that these creative “Share the Road” campaign posters from LifeCycle seek to improve.

Share the Road 1 Share the Road 2 Share the Road 3 Share the Road 4 Share the Road 5

Email at info@life-cycle.co for the hi-res posters.

I Don’t Leave Home Without Them

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For a quarter of a century the advertising campaign featuring the words “Don’t leave home without them” referred to these.

AMEX Travelers Cheques

I have never ridden with a traveler’s cheque in my jersey pocket.  I don’t know anyone who has.  All cyclists have some things that we regularly carry with us on our rides.  Some cash for example.  Or a Road ID.

There are very few items that I have with me on every ride.  I have forgotten to pack socks.  I often dispense with gloves.   I have left my mobile phone at home.  There is however one thing that I always bring with me on my rides.

Cleat covers.

I use Speedplay Zero pedals.  They were recommended to me when I bought my first road bike.  It is the only pedal system I have used since.  I like them a lot.  Like other users I have encountered the two main drawbacks with Speedplays.  Both to do with the cleats.

Speedplay Zero Cleat

When I walked in my cycling shoes the cleats got clogged up with dirt and mud.  The large metal surface area also made them quite slippery on hard floors.  I had a few near misses as I skated on concrete and the like.

It wasn’t long before I invested in a set of Coffee Shop Caps.

Coffee Shop Caps

These clip onto the cleats to keep dirt out and provide traction while walking.  I would put then on my cleats when I got off my bike, and stuff them into a jersey pocket when it was time to ride again.  My only mishap with the Coffee Shop Caps was that one fell off while I was walking around a rest area during a charity ride. I never found it, but later came across one that someone else had lost.

I found an alternative to the Speedplay branded covers while surfing the internet.

Kool Kovers Speedplay

Kool Kovers make covers for Shimano and Look cleats as well.  I haven’t tried the Kool Kovers though.  I found a better option.

My go-to cleat covers now are these Keep On Kovers.

Keep on Kovers

The big advantage of these covers is that are designed to stay on at all times.  No more muddy cleat covers in my jersey pocket.  I can clip in and out of the pedals with the covers on.  These covers still keep dirt and mud out of the cleat springs despite the opening for the pedal.  I have yet to lose a cover either.

I don’t leave home without them.  Ever.

How To Join a Bicycle To a Car

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Bike and Car

This meme promoting cycling over driving pops up in various guises on the internet.  At least one blogger recently checked to see if the sentiment holds water.  Your results will vary.

I was able to keep bike and car separate.  Well, in the beginning anyway.  When I started cycling in Houston I was able to roll out of the Commerce Towers car park onto Travis Street and pedal away.  Everywhere I wanted to get to was within cycling distance.  That is until I decided to commission a custom built bicycle from Alchemy Bicycle Company, located at that time in Austin.  As part of the process of deciding what frame material and geometry would best suit me, James Flatman wanted to see what I was riding at the time (see Jumping Into The Deep End for more).

It is possible to ride a bicycle from Houston to Austin (See Austin Or Bust, 2011 BP MS150, 2013 BP MS150 Day One and 2013 BP MS150 Day Two).  But not there and back in a day, and certainly not together with my biker chick.  The hybrid bike made the trip in the trunk of the car.  Which was only possible because the car had fold-down rear seats.  The resulting space was deep enough to accommodate the bike as long as the front wheel was removed.  Most importantly the trunk lid closed without squashing anything.

C Class Boot

I mulled over the idea of getting a bike rack on that first trip to Austin with the Trek in the trunk.  There would be a custom road bike to transport to Houston in a month or so. I decided to get a Saris Bones 2.  It looked simple enough to attach and remove, and would fold down into a relatively compact form for storage.

Saris Bones 2 Bike Rack

This rack attaches to the rear of the car via a series of hooks and straps.  Once the rubber feet are properly positioned and the buckle straps tightened the rack sits very securely on the car.  Ratcheting straps lock bikes to the adjustable arms.  An unexpected bonus was that the buckle straps are long enough so that the ends can be used to tie down the wheels and handle bars to stop them spinning and swaying.

Saris Bones 2 on Car

Once I linked up with the West End Six Thirty cycling group the Saris Bones 2 got more and more use.  We had to drive to get to any sort of hill, and to get to the start of some of the organized rides we signed up for.

The Saris, and the car, came with us to the Netherlands.  The rack sat unused for a year.  All my rides started at the entrance of our apartment building.  Even the starting points of the first few organized events I did were within riding distance of home.  Then I did the Ronde van Vlaanderen with Eugene (see I’ll See Your JZC and Raise You an RvV!).  That involved a drive to Sint-Denijs-Westrem in Belgium.

The Saris came out of storage to carry our bikes.  As we drove south I noticed that I was the only one with a Saris or similar bike rack.  All the other cars had either a rack on the roof or a tow-hitch mounted rack on the back.  Complete with a turn signal and brake light bar and number plate.   It turned out that my bike rack was illegal because the bicycles obscured the car’s turn signals, brake lights and number plate.  I was also told not to worry too much about it.  This being the bicycle-crazy Netherlands, the police would likely turn a blind eye.  Which may have been the case as I got back to Den Haag without being stopped.  I didn’t test my luck any further.  I went back to putting my bike in the trunk.

I did consider a tow hitch mounted rack like this one.  I had taken the car to the local dealership for a routine service.  They had a rack and light bar on sale for something like €200.  Which was a great price.  The catch was that our car didn’t have a tow hitch and ball mount.  The dealership was of course happy to install the required hardware.   I was not happy to pay the €1,500 for that to be done.  My bikes would continue to make do with being hauled around in the trunk.

C CLass Tow Hitch Bike Rack

The following year I made a return trip to the Ronde van Vlaanderen, this time with Richard.  He had a Thule roof rack.  We decided his compact car might be a bit small for both of us and our stuff.  Which meant moving his roof rack onto my car.

A clever part of the Thule design is the huge number of fitting kits available.  The racks, load bars and feet are standard.  The fitting kits contain custom pads and brackets that fit the specific contours of a vehicle’s roof, or attach to an existing roof rail.  The standard feet attach to the brackets.

Thule feet

Naturally the fitting kit for Richard’s car didn’t fit my car.  A quick trip to Richard’s local Thule dealer solved that problem.  Thule makes fitting kits for vehicles from over eighty manufacturers.  A Thule 3049 Fixpoint Fit Kit was all I needed to attach Richard’s roof rack to my car.

I was so impressed with Richard’s Thule roof rack that I decided to get one.  That led to the “Het is niet mogelijk” moment that I retell whenever I can.  I went to a shop, which shall remain nameless to protect the guilty, that sells Thule products.  I told the salesperson what I wanted:  two Thule Outride 561 bike carriers, a pair of Thule 960 Wingbars, and four Thule Rapid System 753 feet.  He asked me what car I had, and consulted his computer.  A few seconds later he uttered that most-frustrating of Dutch phrases.  “That is not possible.”

“But it is,” I protested.  “I had that exact configuration on my car a few weeks ago.”

“Nee.  Het is niet mogelijk.”

There is no point arguing when faced with that phrase.  All you can do is admit defeat and move on to plan B.  In my case that was to go to the second Thule dealer on my list, A & P Verhuur Service, where it was possible to purchase what I wanted.

Thule 561 Outride with Bike

The roof rack and I made a few more road trips in the company of the Not Possibles cycling group (you can probably guess the origin of the group name).  The Thule system is easy to install and remove.  The feet and front fork attachment are lockable.  Bikes sit rock solidly  on the carriers, all the way up to the maximum rated driving speed of 130 kph / 80 mph.  The only downside is the wind noise.

The Saris and the Thule racks came with us to Kuala Lumpur.  The car stayed in the Netherlands with its new owner, together with the Thule Fit Kit.  The racks haven’t seen any use in Malaysia.  Even though I have to drive to rides in Kuala Lumpur.

My biker chick kept her car here while we were away.  I could have hung the Saris off the back of her car.  I see a few trunk-mounted racks around.  I also see too many rear-end collisions to be comfortable driving around with my bike between the rear of my car and the front of the car behind me.  So it was back to the bicycle in the trunk routine.  In the meantime I was on the lookout for a car for myself.

We live in an apartment building in Kuala Lumpur.  The apartment came with two indoor car park spots on an upper floor of the parking garage.  All very convenient, except that the headroom clearance on the ramps between floors is insufficient for bicycles on a roof rack.  That narrowed my choice of vehicle down to a hatchback with enough trunk space to fit a bicycle or two.

Which is why I drive a Perodua Myvi.  Among its most important attributes . . .

Myvi Boot Area Seats Folded

Plenty of room for bicycles.  I’ve transported two bikes with no problem.  I could pack in three or four.  This weekend I will find out if I can get the Ritchey Break-Away in the trunk without having to fold down the rear seats.

S&S Case

Where Are You Nyack?

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I was in Manhattan.  I had a bike.  Where to go?

google-knows-the-answer

The most popular ride from Manhattan Island is over the George Washington Bridge to Nyack and back.  About 70 km / 44 mi round trip from the bridge to Nyack.  Plus another 10 km / 6 mi or so from where  I was.  I looked at an online route map.  It seemed simple enough to get to the Manhattan Waterfront Greenway.  That would take me to the George Washington Bridge.  Once across the bridge it was due north to Nyack.  I thought there would be lots of cyclists whom I could follow.  This was after all the most popular ride from Manhattan Island.

Riding along the Greenway on a Saturday morning required constant vigilance.  It was a nice day, and the Greenway was clogged with pedestrians, joggers, inline skaters and tourists crossing over to heliports for joy rides over the city.  And of course with other cyclists.

Jersey Heliport

As expected I could see the George Washington Bridge up ahead, stretching across the East River.

Jersey George Washington Bridge

I didn’t expect to come across the Little Red Lighthouse under the bridge.

Jersey Bridge Lighthouse

I certainly didn’t expect to be 60 meters / 200 feet below the bridge.  Of course the climb to the bridge deck was worth it.  This is the view along the East River back towards Lower Manhattan.  The border between New York and New Jersey runs down the middle of the East River.

Jersey GWB View

There weren’t many cyclists to follow across the bridge and down into New Jersey.  I had left it too late in the morning to get started.  There was one cyclist ahead of me so I followed him.  After ten minutes I realised he wasn’t going to Nyack.  The route described online follows the river shoreline.  You can see from the route I took that I was well west of the river as I rode north.

New Jersey Route

I had lost the rider who had been ahead of me.  I saw no road signs for Nyack.  Which was okay.  The sun was shining.  The roads were good.  The towns I rolled through were pretty.  Englewood, Tenafly, Cresskill, Demarest.  There was a lot of German steel on the roads with me.  Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Porsche.  I was clearly in a wealthier part of the world.  Near the Knickerbocker Country Club I came upon little reminder of The Netherlands.

Jersey Tulips

The views continued to be lovely.  This is on the Tenakill Brook in Demarest.

Jersey Color 1

After 40 km / 25 mi I was ready for a coffee and something to eat.  As pretty as the ride was, it was time to forget about Nyack and its fabled cyclists stop, the Runcible Spoon Bakery.  I had been alternately behind and ahead of  a pair of cyclists for about fifteen minutes.  They rolled past me again as I stopped to take this picture where the road carries us back into New York.

Jersey New York State Line

I hoped that they were in need of coffee too, and knew a place where we could get some.  4 km / 2.5 mi down the road we came to Piermont, and the two gentlemen in front of me pulled up at Bunbury’s Coffee Shop.  Perfect!

Jersey Bunbury Cafe

Having tailed them for so long it was the least I could do to introduce myself.  We sat together as we drank our coffees and ate our cakes.  I had the chocolate zucchini almond bread.  Which was possibly better than Sharif’s roti canai.

Jersey Bunbury Cafe Eats

It turned out that I had chosen some interesting people to follow.  One was the mayor of Englewood, who was on his first bike ride in years.  He was being pulled along by a friend who was clearly a regular cyclist.  And who knew the President of Hotvelociti Cycling Apparel, who joined our table.  I don’t often have conversations about a USD180 million light rail project, or about the 400% increase in the cost of manufacturing clothing in China, during my coffee stops.

Their advice was to skip The Runcible Spoon Bakery, which suffers from its fame by always being very crowded.  And to follow US Route 9W back to the George Washington Bridge.  What they didn’t tell me was that there is 160 meters / 525 feet of climbing in the 6 km / 3.7 mi.  It is a good thing that it was a big slice of chocolate zucchini almond bread!

I hooked up with another rider just as I got to the bridge.  He used to live in Austin, so we had something to talk about as he guided me along an alternate route to the Greenway.  I am not sure which would have been worse.  All the other people on the Greenway, or the taxis, buses and trucks along Broadway and 7th Avenue.  Riding a bike through Times Square was an experience perhaps not to be repeated.

I didn’t get to Nyack, but it was a very nice ride.  Thank you Google.

Let’s Get Ready to Rumble Part Two

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“Hill Chasers” was the second installment of Van’s Rumble Cycle Challenge.  We met at the VUBC shop at 7.30am to sign waiver forms and size up the competition.  After a safety briefing we headed off for our first look at the track.

Rumble Hill Chasers Briefing

Amril and his band of organisers had found a closed stretch of freshly-paved road not far from the VUBC shop.  All we had to do was clear away some loose stones and other rubble.  It wasn’t long before we could lay down a finish line and start racing.

Rumble Hill Chasers Course 2

We were in teams of two or three riders.  Each team’s result was determined by the time of the second rider across the finish line.  We had so much fun charging up the hill that we decided to ride the hill twice and take the average time to determine the winning team.

Rumble Hill Chasers at the Finish Line

Here we all are after our two runs.

Photo courtesy of Van's Urban Bicycle Co.

Photo courtesy of Van’s Urban Bicycle Co.

Then it was back to the VUBC shop where Ray worked out the final results.

Rumble Hill Chasers Results Calculation

Leong and his brother were a team of two, but they had enough firepower between the two of them to win overall honours.  On a mountain bike and a foldie no less.  Here are the happy winners with the event organisers:  Ray, YC, Vanessa and Amril on the right.

Photo courtesy on Van's Urban Bicycle Co.

Photo courtesy on Van’s Urban Bicycle Co.

There was also a prize for the fastest individual.  That went to a roadie.

Photo courtesy on Van's Urban Bicycle Co.

Photo courtesy on Van’s Urban Bicycle Co.

We are all now looking forward Rumble Cycle Challenge Part Three.  The Scavenger Hunt on 16th June.

Fix It Sticks

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These arrived in the post while I was riding my Ritchey Break-Away around America.

DSC02300

In February I saw an online write-up about a new design for a bicycle multitool.  The design was light, compact at 10 cm / 4 in long, and the sticks fit together in any combination to form a T-handle for your chosen bit.  The article pointed readers to a Kickstarter campaign to raise the USD18,000 that would allow Brian Davis to put his invention into production.

I owned enough multitools already.  But I am a sucker for gadgets and gizmos.  I pledged USD45.  If the fund-raising campaign was successful I would get 2 sets (4 sticks) containing a metric hex #2, #2.5 #3, #4, #5, #6, a #1 phillips and a 5mm flathead screwdriver.

963 people backed Brian to the tune of USD45,201.  So my Fix It Sticks arrived in April as promised.

A pair of these sticks has replaced the Lezyne RAP 6 in my bike tool kit.  I can generate more torque with the T-handle design of the Fix It Sticks than I can with the offset Allen keys of the RAP 6.  I also have more control over the bit because the Fix It Sticks lock together.  The Allen keys in the RAP 6 are prone to moving around because of the folding design of the tool.

You are not limited to the bits listed above.  There is a large range of other bits available on the Fix It Sticks website.  You can choose from 10 Torx bits,  3 square drive / Robertson bits, 3 Phillips bits, 3 slotted / flathead bits, 7 metric hex bits, 9 American hex bits, and a 1/4 inch socket drive.

These could become my favorite on-bike tools.  If I bought a stick with an 8mm hex bit I would have all I need to disassemble and assemble my Ritchey Break-Away too.