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2016 BP MS150

BP MS150 2106 Logo

Logo courtesy of National MS Society

There was a reunion of good friends at the 2016 BP MS150 charity ride from Houston to Austin.  Friends who had ridden together in the 2011 and 2013 editions of the event.

Tom travelled from New Jersey.  I probably had the longest trip of all the participants.  I met Tom in Austin early in the week.  Tom rented a bicycle in Austin, and I brought my Ritchey BreakAway.  We had decided to rent a Dodge Grand Caravan for the drive to Houston.  It was probably a bit more than we needed, but I have to say I enjoyed being able to wheel both our bicycles upright into the rear of the van.  And still have plenty of room for suitcases.

We spent the rest of the week in Houston catching up with friends, eating too much, and doing the Thursday evening 6:30 ride.  I miss that “Two minutes” call

The weather forecasts in the days leading up to the ride weekend had not been favourable.  A broad and heavy band of rain was expected to sweep through Austin on Sunday.

By Friday the prospects for bad weather on Sunday had worsened, as the doppler radar images showed.  The organisers took the only option open to them given those forecasts.  Day 2 of the ride was cancelled.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Weather

Team Hess quickly told its riders that the Day 1 evening arrangements at La Grange would continue as planned.  We could enjoy the barbecue dinner and spend the night at the VFW Hall if we wished.  The live concert at the fairgrounds would go on as well.  So it wasn’t all bad news.

Skip, Barbara, Tom, Dane and I started as we usually do, from the entrance of the Omni Westside Hotel.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 StartOthers started, under threatening skies, from one of the three official start points at Tully Stadium in Houston, Rhodes Stadium in Katy, or Waller Stadium in Waller.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Start Clouds

Photograph courtesy of MarathonFOTO.com

The weather may have put paid to Day 2 of this year’s ride, but in exchange we had excellent conditions on Day 1.  The overcast skies meant that it was fairly warm at the start.  Those same clouds shielded us from the worst of the sun as the day progressed.

The wind was kind to us this year also, blowing us toward Austin rather than back to Houston, as has often been the case in the past.

I thought it would rain at one point.  A few light sprinkles prompted me to put on my rain jacket, but it was a false alarm, and my rain jacket came off again ten minutes later.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Route

The route was unchanged from previous years.  We skipped the first rest stop in favour of the second stop in the MHWirth parking lot, 36km / 22mi into the ride.

We then rode non-stop to lunch at Belleville.  Belleville is at the halfway point between the Omni Westside Hotel and La Grange.  The Hess volunteers took excellent care of us at the lunch stop.  They made sure we were well watered and fed before we headed back out onto the road.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Lunch 2

Tom and I always visit the rest stop at Industry to say hello to the West End Bicycles guys manning their customary service tent.  So far it has been social visits only to the West End tent.  I can recall only one puncture between the five of us over the three MS150 rides I have done.

Others are not so lucky.  The West End tent is always busy attending to the mechanical woes that have befallen unfortunate riders.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Industry

After Industry comes one of the highlights of Day 1.  Riding into Fayetteville.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Fayetteville Banner

Photograph courtesy of MarathonFOTO.com

It seems like the entire population of 262 line the sides of the road to watch the ride go by.  Cowbells, bubbles, music, and lots of clapping and cheering.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Fayetteville Crowd

Photograph courtesy of MarathonFOTO.com

Again this year there was an amazing spread of home-baked cookies and cakes on offer at Ye Ole Garage on the corner of West Fayette Street and North Rusk Street.  A highly anticipated stop after 127km / 79mi of riding.

Kudos to the lady who does all the baking (I wish I knew her name).  She accepts donations from sugar-sated riders.  This year the collection went to a local school.

Even the Ye Ole Garage rest room maintains the theme.

BP MS150 2016 Day 1 Ye Ole Garage

Photograph courtesy of Dane Schiller

After covering about 160km / 100mi, we all pulled into the fairgrounds at La Grange, accompanied by lots of whoops and cheers.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 La Grange

Photograph courtesy of MarathonFOTO.com

It was a good day for the five of us.  We all rode well, had a lot of fun, and stayed safe.  So it was smiles all around, despite the cancellation of Day 2.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Finish

Photograph courtesy of MarathonFOTO.com

Tom and I stayed overnight at La Grange with a diminished number of other Team Hess riders.  The transport options were such that Barbara, Dane and Skip, and many others, headed back to Houston that evening.

The Team Hess volunteers did their usual outstanding job of looking after us at La Grange. They gave us plenty to eat and drink, including a delicious barbecue dinner.  There was a very nice shower truck reserved for our use.  A masseuse was on site for us.

Can you blame me for wanting to come back and ride with Team Hess every year?

The BP MS150 organisers did very well with the last-minute need to move people, bicycles and bags from La Grange back to Houston on Saturday evening, and again on Sunday morning.

Tom and I, along with many others, were on the morning bus to Austin.

BP MS150 2016 Austin Bus

Our bikes were delayed, which caused us a bit of concern, but they did eventually arrive in Austin.  Even though we weren’t able to ride on Day 2, we posed for an Austin Glory photograph in front of the State Capitol.  The customary closing to the BP MS150.

BP MS150 2106 Day 1 Austin

We are already planning for 2017.

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Graphic courtesy of National MS Society

 

An Abridged History

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June has been a quiet month for riding.  The weather, weekend travel, illness and idleness have all kept me off my bikes.  I started 2015 with aspirations to average 1,000km a month.  So far I am 150km per month short of that goal.  Nevertheless 2015 is shaping up to be one of my better years for cycling.

I consider my first day as an avid cyclist to be Sunday January 31st, 2010.  That was the day Big Bill B guided me on a 53km loop around Houston, including a food stop at Carter & Cooley Company Delicatessen in The Heights.

It was the first time I rode with a Garmin cycling computer on my handlebar, which allowed me to commit this and all future rides to that collective memory that is the internet.  I am a bit of a ride data geek.  I started feeding that habit with Garmin Connect.  After a few years I supplemented that with Ride With GPS, and very soon after Strava was added to the mix.  Lately Veloviewer has joined the party.

Why so many tracking apps?  In my case, mostly because they each provide different ways to view my ride data.  Ride With GPS provides nice summaries by month or year.  I can see what my buddies have been up to in Strava.  Veloviewer makes annual comparisons easy.  Charts like these ones provide the grist for this post.

Charts courtesy of Veloviewer

Charts courtesy of Veloviewer

Between January and the end of April 2010 I rode in and around Houston.  Those rides included my first century ride, The Space Race, and my first BP MS150.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

My biker chick had started her new job in Den Haag, The Netherlands, in April.  So my bike spent May in a container, along with our other possessions, on a ship bound for Europe.

I spent the rest of the year exploring the bike paths around Den Haag.

I logged 2,831kms in 2010.  My average ride distance was 59kms.  My average ride time was 2 hours 28 minutes.

In 2011 my total distance covered jumped to 6,886kms.  My average distance went up slightly to 63kms.  The average ride length went up in tandem to 2 hours 33 minutes.

Much of that increase in total distance ridden is testament to the outstanding cycling infrastructure in The Netherlands.  You can’t help but get on your bicycle in a country where the riding in so safe, convenient, and scenic.

In 2012 my mileage again jumped significantly over the previous year.  To 11,019kms.  The average distance stayed almost the same at 62.25kms.  I picked up speed though, with my rides averaging 2 hours 29 minutes.

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Almost all of my riding over these two years was in The Netherlands.  I did occasionally venture further afield.  I made my first extended cycling trip in 2011.  I went to Ninove in Belgium, to ride in the Ronde van Vlaanderen sportif.

In 2012 I did the Ronde van Vlaanderen again, which started and ended this time in Oudernaarde.  I also took two trips to Maastricht, for the UCI World Championships and the Amstel Gold sportifs.

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Heat map courtesy of Strava

In October 2012 my biker chick and I returned to Kuala Lumpur.  My bikes (by this time I had two) followed soon after by air freight.  So it wasn’t long before I was immersing myself in the relatively new and booming road cycling scene in Malaysia.

Cycling in Kuala Lumpur reminds me a lot of cycling in Houston.  You share the roads with traffic.  Sometimes a lot of traffic.  City riding is best done at night, when the roads, or motorcycle lanes where provided, are quieter.  The popular daytime cycling routes are mostly outside the city.

In 2013 I started venturing further afield.  Century rides in various cities around the country become a regular activity, including one international road trip to Hatyai in Thailand.

Despite the number of century rides, my mileage in 2013 was only 7,102kms.  My rides had become shorter, averaging 49kms and 1 hour 58 minutes per ride.  I remember that tropical rainstorms had a lot to do with curtailing riding time in 2013.

The downward trend continued in 2014.  I had four months of enforced time off my bikes because of a crash, and two unrelated surgeries.  Those breaks from cycling resulted in only 3,918kms ridden.  My average ride was surprisingly long though, at 66kms and 2 hours 35 minutes.

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Heat map courtesy of Strava

Almost all of my cycling since the end of 2012 has been in Malaysia.  The exceptions were in 2013, when I flew to the United States to ride in the BP MS150 from Houston to Austin, and to ride in the 5 Boros Ride in New York City.  In between those rides I visited an old friend in Denver, where  I managed to squeeze in a few rides as well.  I came home with bicycle number three.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

That bicycle is a Ritchey Breakaway.  It came with me to Melbourne in December 2013.  My last cycling trip away from home to date.

Heat map courtesy of Strave

Heat map courtesy of Strava

2015 looks good so far.  I am up to 5,078kms as at the end of June.  My average ride length for the year is 71kms.  I must be a bit fitter than I was last year too.  I am riding on average 5kms further this year as compared to last, but my average time is the saddle is only 3 minutes more, at 2 hours 38 minutes.

I’m hoping to take at least one cycling trip outside Malaysia this year.  And I am looking forward to staying healthy and spending as much time as possible riding.

JFK Quote 3

Kilo Months

I started keeping track of my rides in January 2010.  I had a new road bike, and an even newer Garmin Edge 705 cycle computer.  Uploading the details to the Garmin Connect web site after every ride became standard practice.   That year I rode 3,173 kilometers.

The heat map below shows where I rode for the first six months of 2010.  The most-ridden routes are depicted in red.  Click on the heat map to open the image in a new window.  You will see that most of my kilometers were accrued on the West End Tuesday and Thursday evening rides, and the Sunday Taco rides through Houston.

2010 Heat Map

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

I had some big rides outside metro Houston:  The Humble Lions Club Ride, The Space Race, and the BP MS150.  But I didn’t have a kilo month, which is my term for riding more than 1,000 kilometers in a month.

In mid-2010 I moved with my biker chick to The Netherlands.  The excellent cycling infrastructure there gave me more opportunity to ride, albeit on my own as I didn’t connect with a cycling group until the following year.

I started riding with the Not Possibles in March 2011.  The Saturday and occasional weekday rides with them boosted the distance I rode in 2011 to 6,985 kilometers.  In 2012 that number increased to 11,054 kilometers.  Almost of those kilometers were around Den Haag, with the 2011 and 2012 Ronde van Vlaanderen sportives, and the 2012 UCI World Championships sportive in Belgium thrown in for good measure.

Heat map courtesy of Strave

Heat Map courtesy of Strave

I racked up my first kilo month in August 2011.  The fine summer weather allowed me to ride eighteen times that month for a total of 1,085 kilometers.

Somewhat surprisingly I didn’t have another kilo month until January 2012, when I rode 1,091 kilometers.  I then had four more kilo months that year.  March, and three in a row from June to August.  My Not Possibles friends and I had a good summer that year.  My biggest ever kilo month was in July, when I rode 1,718 kilometers.  I had the luxury of being able to go on twenty five rides that month.

In October 2012 my biker chick and I moved home to Kuala Lumpur.   My ride frequency and average distance dropped dramatically for some months before slowly increasing again.  So it took more than a year before I had another kilo month, in September 2013.  Helped by five rides of at least 100 kilometers each.

My 2013 heat map looks a lot like my 2010 Houston heat map in that most of my rides are limited to a couple of routes.  Int his case KESAS and the Guthrie Corridor Expressway, with Putrajya and Genting Sempah thrown in for variety.  Scattered around the map are the one-off events that I rode in Johor Bahru, Kuala Terengganu, Kuantan and Penang,  My Racun buddies and I also rode to Fraser’s Hill, and I joined Dave Ern on a ride to Cameron Highlands.  You can also read about the Bike X and Broga 116 rides.

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

Heat Map courtesy of Strava

It looks like I will ride about 7,300 kilometers in 2013.  And perhaps have another kilo month this quarter.  Garmin Connect will reveal all.

By the Numbers

I bought a Garmin Edge 705 when my first road bike was delivered.  I used it initially to record where and how far I had ridden.  You can download the details of your rides to a Garmin website called Garmin Connect.  Among other things Garmin Connect displays maps showing exactly where you went on your ride, or run or hike.  It was fun to be able to show my biker chick where I had gone on my bike.

Garmin Edge 705

When I started doing longer rides with the West End group I used the speed display to help me keep a consistent pace when I took my turns at the front of the peloton.  I hadn’t bothered to install the speed sensor, or the cadence sensor for that matter.  I depended on the speed data calculated by the GPS chip. I used the heart rate monitor out of a casual interest in what my pulse rate was rather than as a training aid.

I rode solo during my first year in the Netherlands.  The “Back To Start” function came in useful on more than one occasion.  One canal, or windmill, 0r field of cows looks much like another.  No help when you are lost and 40 km / 25 mi from home.

The heart rate monitor saw some serious use once I started doing organised rides (by that I mean longer and faster than I was used to) with the Not Possibles.  By that time I had a rough idea of what my heart rate zones were.  Tracking my pulse rate helped me manage my effort so that I didn’t wear myself out before the end of the ride.

Since 31st January 2010 I have been transferring all my rides to Garmin Connect.  There are 412 rides in my account.  I took a look at all that data today.

The first set of numbers shows how much ground I have covered on my bicycles in three and a half years.  Enough to get me from Kuala Lumpur to Warsaw and back.  24,448 km / 15,191 mi.

Total KM

68% of my time since January 2010 has been spent in the Netherlands.  It follows that most of that pedaling was amongst windmills and canals.

What surprised me was the average length of my rides.

Ave KM

I hadn’t expected the average Houston ride to be slightly longer than the average Den Haag ride.  I must have done more 20 to 30 km / 12 to 18 mi rides in Holland than I thought.

I am not surprised that the average ride length has dropped in Kuala Lumpur.  I do the Damansara Heights ride fairly regularly.  That one never exceeds 16 km / 10 mi.  The Putrajaya ride tops out at just over 20 km / 12 mi.

The shorter rides in Kuala Lumpur are somewhat made up for by more frequent rides as compared to Houston and Den Haag.

Ride Frequency

I rode on average every 4 days in Houston.  In Kuala Lumpur it is every 2.6 days.  I put that down to linking up with a group of cyclists as soon as I arrived in Kuala Lumpur.  There are four or five groups rides per week in Kuala Lumpur.  There were three weekly group rides in Houston, and only one per week in Den Haag.

Elevation data is suspect.  The barometric altimeter in the Edge 705 is not accurate if it is not calibrated before every ride..  I don’t bother.  Websites like Strava and Ride With GPS allow users to overwrite GPS elevation data with data calculated using a variety of data sources and algorithms.  This “corrected” elevation data is often, but not always, more reliable.

Nevertheless, it is interesting to look at elevation data for comparative reasons.  I did expect the data to show that rides in Kuala Lumpur require the most climbing.

Ave Climbing

The average for Houston surprised me at first, but upon reflection it makes sense.  Chappell Hill was within easy reach by car.  We rode quite a bit there.  Training for the hills of Austin that were to come in the BP MS150!

The Netherlands is as flat as advertised.  Cyclists are only partly joking when they say they go to a multi-storey car park to practice hill climbs.  The Dutch hide some elevation in the dunes along the coast but that is about it.  The climbing average for Den Haag is padded by a few visits to Limburg and Belgium, where there are some real hills.

Regular readers will already know that I was startled by the degree of climbing required when riding around Kuala Lumpur.

Total Climbing

It won’t be long before I surpass the number of meters I climbed whilst in the low country.

The final number is also for guidance only.  You know what I mean if you have ever looked at the “calories burned” numbers that exercise machines produce.

Bic Macs

However I won’t let details get in the way of feeling pleased with myself for burning the caloric equivalent of 1,802 Big Macs.

A milestone ahead, pardon the pun, is 25,000 km / 15,534 mi total distance.  I’ll be beyond 1,000,000 calories burned by then.  I wonder what number that would be in nasi lemak terms?

Ritchey Break-Away Road Ti / Carbon Review

Ritchey Breakaway Ti

I have had my Ritchey Break-Away for exactly two months.  We have done fifteen rides together.  I do try to be fair and alternate between my three bikes.  Although by default any rides that involve significant travel will now be on the Ritchey.  We covered 1,025 km / 635 mi.  There has been about 7,100 meters / 23,300 feet of climbing.

My other bikes are a steel framed Alchemy with carbon chain stays and fork, and a titanium framed Alchemy with carbon seat stays, chain stays and fork.  The Alchemys have identical geometries.  The Ritchey has a 56cm frame.  The tube lengths and angles of the Ritchey are as close to those of the Alchemys as dammit is to swearing.  All have SRAM group sets.  All have Ritchey carbon seat posts and cockpits.  All have Easton EA90 SLX wheels.  I like the tried and tested!

I include all that detail as a prelude to describing the differences between these bikes.  In the hope that it heads off a potential firestorm amongst all you aficionados out there around the relative virtues of steel versus titanium as a bike frame material, and the effect of tire choice, frame geometry, tube size etc. etc. on the ride quality of said bike frame materials.

The only differences that I can discern between the two Alchemys are that the titanium bike has a more ‘damped’ feel to it, and the steel bike has more flex.  A little less road chatter gets transmitted through the titanium frame.  I am no road racer but I can make the steel frame flex under pedaling load.  Not so with the titanium Alchemy.

I love the ride quality of my Alchemys.  They are very comfortable, even on the chip sealed back roads of Texas.

I love the ride quality of the Ritchey Break-Away too.  I don’t feel a difference between the titanium Alchemy and the Break-Away.  Logic tells me the Break-Away should not be as stiff as the Alchemy.  After all the Ritchey frame is in two pieces, connected at the seat tube / top tube junction and just in front of the bottom bracket.  Perhaps my senses are not tuned enough to pick up the difference.

That probably is part of the answer.  If I tested bicycles for a living my senses would be developed enough to feel some differences.  I think another part of the answer is in how well the Ritchey design eliminates flexing at the joints.

The top tube and seat tube are held in alignment by the seat post.  One bolt above the seam between the tubes and another bolt below the seam lock the tubes together.  What looks like a connection between the lower bolt and the top tube in the photograph below is actually a bracket welded to the lower bolt housing.  That bracket holds the rear brake housing stop slightly away from the top tube.

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at www.gearreview.com

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at http://www.gearreview.com

The down tube is split just ahead of the bottom bracket.  The end of the down tube has a neck that slides into the fitting at the bottom bracket.

Photo courtesy of bikeradar.com

Photo courtesy of bikeradar.com

A hinged compression clamp fits over the lips or flanges on either edge of the joint and holds the two parts of the down tube together.  The two derailleur cable couplers are visible below the down tube.

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at www.gearreview.com

Photo courtesy of Jon Sharp at http://www.gearreview.com

This simple design uses just three bolts tightened to 4Nm to hold the front and rear triangles together.  Very securely I might add.  Nothing worked itself loose during my rides.  The bike tracked as expected.  There were no vibrations or unexpected wobbles.  Even at better than 65 kph / 40 mph down the relatively straight Smithville Hill during the BP MS150, and close to that on the switchback descent from Genting Sempah.

Top marks for the Ritchey Break-Away as an excellent bike to ride.

That brings me to the differentiating characteristic of this bike.  The ability to fit into a case that meets airline size specifications for checked luggage.  66 x 66 x 25.5 cm / 26 x 26 x 10 in.  The staff at the check-in counters at George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, Denver International Airport and Newark Liberty International Airport in New York City didn’t bat an eyelid when I put the case holding the Ritchey onto the weighing scales.  They tagged the case and sent it on its way without a second glance.

Speaking of weight, bike and case weigh 15 kg / 33 lb.  Well within the limit of 23 kg / 50 lb for a checked bag in economy class.

I opted for the S&S Edge Pull Butterfly Latch Hard Case.  I recommend it over the Ritchey soft case, which is universally panned in all the reviews I have read.  The hard case weighs more, but the added durability and protection is worth that extra kilo or two.

Photo courtesy of S&S Machine

Photo courtesy of S&S Machine

I recommend a set of compression members to keep external pressure from pushing the sides of the case into the packed bicycle.  These are strong enough to stop the side bowing inward under the weight of a person standing on the case.

Photo courtesy of S&S Machine

Photo courtesy of S&S Machine

I also like the TSA security net.  The net keeps the frame, wheels, compression members and whatever else you have packed together if a TSA inspector opens the lid of the case.

Photo courtesy of S&S Machine

Photo courtesy of S&S Machine

Packing the bike takes some practice.  There are a number of suggested ways to fit all the pieces into the case.  Ritchey includes an instruction sheet with the bike.  Ritchey also has step-by-step videos on their website.

I tried a variety of packing methods.  I prefer the S&S packing sequence, which is actually for an S&S coupled bike, but works very well for the Ritchey Breakaway too.  The first time it took quite a while to wrap all the tubes in the supplied pads, and to get all the pieces properly aligned in the case so that the lid would close.  The tricky bit was getting the handlebars into the case, and lining up the front wheel such that things like the bottom bracket fit between the spokes.  I get better at it each time I do it.

The Break-Away came through two domestic flights in the USA and one intercontinental flight from the USA to Asia via Europe unscathed.  Reassembly after each flight was straightforward and the bike was ready to ride right out of the case.

I have had one road trip.  Knowing that the case would not be subjected to any abuse, I didn’t use any of the supplied tube wraps, and I didn’t bother with the compression members and security net..  I also left the crank in the bottom bracket and the rear derailleur attached to the hanger.  That made packing simpler.  The bike was none the worse for it either.

A big help was the shorter steerer tube.  As delivered the steerer tube made the fork too long to fit flush against the edge of the case.  Which put the rest of the front triangle in the way of some of the other parts.  I had the steerer tube cut down.  Everything fits in the case much better now.

On road trips I can get away without any padding because the titanium frame is unpainted.  One of the few complaints about the painted steel frame is that it scuffs, scratches and chips easily.

Top marks for the Ritchey Break-Away as a bike that packs easily into an airline-friendly case.

I am delighted with my Ritchey Break-Away.  There is nothing about it that I am unhappy with.  It says a lot about the clever design and ride quality of this frame that the only weakness other reviewers have found with this bike is that the cable couplers sometimes rattle against the down tube on rough roads.

If you want a travel road bike that doesn’t compromise performance, the Ritchey Break-Away is for you.  Just be sure to get a hard case to go with it.

Flying the Colors

I thinned down my collection of cycling jerseys when we came home to Kuala Lumpur.  Among the jerseys that I kept were my local club jerseys.  The camaraderie that those jerseys represent makes them near and dear to me.

“Club” sounds a bit formal.  “Group” is a better word.  My first cycling group was West End.  So named because our rides started outside the West End Bicycles shop on Blossom Street in Houston, Texas.  The shop owner, Daniel Murphy, told me about the group and the rides that they do.  There are Tuesday and Thursday evening rides that start at 6.30 pm, and Ted’s Taco Ride on Sunday mornings.

I met Daniel not long after I started cycling.  In my days of riding my Trek 7.5FX hybrid bike in my baggy shorts, t-shirt and tennis shoes.  My first ride with the West End group was spectacularly unsuccessful.  I got dropped within the first few kilometers.  Dropped so badly that I lost sight of everyone’s tail lights.  I didn’t know the route so I had to go home.

The next ride went much better.  Largely due to a few riders hanging back to make sure I didn’t get lost again.  I can’t thank them enough for that.

The West End group introduced me to riding further than 16km / 10mi in one go, how to change a flat tube, what to bring with me on a ride, and the culinary delights of Jax Grill and Doña Maria.

West End Bicycles sold these jerseys.  I know about Frank, the dearly-loved and sadly-departed shop cat.  I don’t know anything about the dog in the shop logo though.  I can tell you that the West End group lives up to the motto on the collar.  Fast and Friendly.

West End

There have also been a series of 6.30 jerseys.  Including this one, which I no longer have.  I donated this jersey, along with others, to an aid organization in Den Haag.  Perhaps someone is still sporting this jersey somewhere in South Holland.

Photo courtesy of West End Bicycles

Photo courtesy of West End Bicycles

It took a while to find a group to ride with in Den Haag.  All the Dutch cycling clubs that I encountered were very serious.  In the typically Dutch way they were very well-organised and had excellent facilities.  They were also geared toward the competitive rather than the recreational cyclist.  Some even required that you met a qualifying time for membership.  Ride 40km / 25mi in an hour for instance.

So a year had gone by before I heard of the Not Possibles.  A group made up largely of expatriates living in the Den Haag area.  Weather permitting, the Not Possibles meet outside the DAKA sports store in the Leidsenhage shopping center on Saturday mornings.  The route for the day often depends upon the prevailing wind, and is usually about 40 to 60km / 25 to 37mi long.

Th group was described to me as one that rode at a pace between 20 to 25kph / 12.5 to 15.5mph.  I learned on my first ride with them that this was not strictly true.  They averaged about 25kph / 15.5mph for the entire ride.  Including the slow rolling start from Leidsenhage, the stops at traffic lights and the slow rolling through built-up areas.  I spent most of my first ride with the Not Possibles frantically trying not to lose sight of the tail end of the group as it sped through the trees in the dunes.  This struggling on the first ride was becoming a bad habit.

A few months after I hooked up with the Not Possibles we decided that we needed group jerseys.  This is what we came up with.

Not Possibles

The Not Possibles introduced me to routes north, east and south of Den Haag (west was not possible because the North Sea gets in the way),  riding in the rain, harnessing a tail wind for 60km / 37mi and taking the train to get home, and the delights of apple pie and coffee at the Coffee Club.

I hooked up with a group of cyclists within a few days of arriving in Kuala Lumpur.  As soon as my bikes arrived I was off on a ride with the Racun group.  “Racun” is the Bahasa Malaysia word for “poison.”  In this case the name refers to how people are poisoned by the cycling bug.  One bike becomes two bikes becomes three bikes.  Every bright and shiny new accessory becomes a must-have.

The name is especially appropriate because the Racun group are linked to Van’s Urban Cycling Co.  Where new temptations are constantly presented.  Like the new Knog Blinder Road light.  I am not the only one in the group who is sorely tempted by this light.

The Racun group has introduced me to the world of folding bicycles, urban night rides, breakfast at Sharif Roti Canai, and orange + green apple + lychee juice.

Van’s was sold out of the original yellow and black Racun jerseys.  Fortunately for the new joiners a second batch of jerseys was made up.

Racun

The jerseys may be different, but they represent the same things.  A love of cycling, fun and friendship.  I fly these colors with pride.

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