Sunday, June 27, 2010

Redwood Road/Canyon Ride

Today I did 30 mile ride with an old riding buddy on roads that used to be some of my regular rides when I lived in Oakland. Redwood Road extends along Anthony Chabot Regional Park and Chabot Lake in Castro Valley to the Oakland hills with a few roads that are springboards to Moraga and Contra Costa county. Not much has changed since I last rode here, the pavement is a little better and aside from a few weekend motorcyclists going too fast (who really should be riding at the track), not much traffic. The road meets with Pinehurst Canyon road that winds its way through cool shaded Redwood forested areas. This is spectacular ride with great terrain. I felt completely dialed in on these roads.

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On this ride it was very hot on a few sections and with a few pretty good climbs. Once reaching Skyline boulevard (the other Skyline blvd) we took a fast descent down Redwood Road, the road well paved and winding through the forest and retracing are steps after passing Pinehurst. The ride brought back many good memories of riding in this area. One thing I hadn't experienced though before, is that on this day there were thousands of lady bugs out, which was fine, becasue at first it seemed like they might be BEES! I only wish I could have taken a few home for my tomato plants.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Serious Riders

I ride fairly regularly and while on a recent camping/bike trip in the Sierras I did a couple of rides with my girlfriend where we encountered some typical racer type riders on current/new racing bikes. Racing bikes are an amazing example of what today's technology can produce for cycling. But, with few exceptions, most of these kinds of bikes are built for racing. I ride traditional chrome-moly steel lugged frame bikes some road, some touring. On this ride I took a Randonneur bike with fenders, a front rack and a handlebar bag. It's funny how riders on racing bikes respond, they are either very positive, or dismiss you and won't say anything.

Having ridden both mountain and road bikes I'm often reminded how different the vibe is on the trail on a mountain bike vs. riding on the road. Riders are generally more friendly off-road. I'm not quite sure why, but there generally seems to be a friendlier vibe with mountain bikers than road riders. Most road riders, always seem more serious. Like mountain bikers, many are ready to lend a hand if you're stopped or seem like you have a problem. "You ok? or "Have everything you need?" which is always cool, but otherwise many road cyclists seem less friendly I think because of the more competitive aspects of road cycling. The macho road racer thing. It's silly when you think about it. There are lots of riders out there and most of us are out there to have a good ride, train or get better at the kind of particular riding that we might do. Whenever I occasionally encounter road riders that seem arrogant, it bugs me, because it gives cyclists a bad name. Some club riders I've encountered can be this way, particularly when riding in large groups. Not all but enough to make me write this. When I encounter riders who are like this, I don't say anything and just keep riding.

Not everyone aspires to being Mark Cavendish, Levi Leipheimer, Lance or many of other of the great racers out there. Although I admire these racers, I'm am not one of these riders. With few exceptions, the bicycle industry seems to continue to perpetuate the myth that the only kind of cycling worth doing is racing and being like Lance Armstrong or other top riders, as showcased in manufacturer ads. This may contribute to the negative macho racer attitude factor seen on the road.

One of the best encounters I had last year while on the road, is when after a long ride, having overextended myself early in the season and ending up on Skyline boulevard completely bonked, a mountain biker just getting ready to ride getting out of his car, saw me stopped, said hello and after I mentioned my situation, generously offered me some water and energy bars. He said "hey, we're all cyclists and need to look after each other".

I was really surprised and thoroughly grateful when this happened. On rides, I now take extra energy bars and water to possibly pass the favor along to another rider in the future.

Cyclists who really love the sport, aren't trying to prove themselves by being rude or arrogant to other riders while on the road.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Vintage Schwinn touring bike

Ahh... the 1980s, this was a heyday for sport/touring road bikes. A time when the mountain bike, suspension forks, fat tires on 26" wheels and aluminum frames were mostly just a cloud on the trail. I stepped back into this time recently upon finding a vintage steel Schwinn road bike frame abandoned in a dumpster. This week I finished building it up and here it is:

Most of us, when we think of Schwinn, think of their classic fillet brazed road bikes from the 70s, or one of their cruiser style bikes. These were solid bikes, I remember my dad buying a Schwinn Varsity for himself in the 70s, for my mom, they bought a lightweight French step-through framed Jeunet. After they bought these, I remember my mom saying about the Jeunet "it has MAFAC brakes... these are really good". Vraiment ;^)

As a teenager and not having a car for a period, I started to bike more, during this time I rode my dad's heavy metal, safety lemon yellow Schwinn Varsity to work and, on my own, ventured for the first time on Shepherd Canyon road in the Oakland hills a regular route for cyclists heading out canyon towards Orinda Moraga and Mount Diablo. Once, on the way back climbing up the steep section back to Skyline blvd, I talked to a guy on a lugged bike and I remember him saying why lugs were better and how some frames were lighter and better made than others, it got me interested. A year or so later, my first road bike of my own was one I built-up from a frame a friend had sold me. I didn't know the brand, probably a Nishiki. But I learned about the parts and how to do the work on bikes as I went.

This Schwinn frame I found was not one of the traditional fillet-brazed Schwinn frames, but lugged with forged wheel drop-outs, better than the stamped steel kind on cheap bikes. So I took it home. It was a Voyageur SP from about 1982 made in Japan. It had a stuck seatpost, that was way deep. I soaked it and soaked in penetrating oil. no luck. I finally managed to have most of the post ground out by a shop. The fork was missing but I found another new one and built it up recently with a new headset and BB bearings and some used parts I had. It is now a very solid riding bike and the frame seems fairly lightweight for a 4130 double butted steel frame. In looking for more info on this bike, I learned, much to my surprise, that it was originally a touring-specific bike. It's not like the original, now, but functional. I'm trying to find a more original fork.

I seem to keep stumbling across vintage touring bikes, so I had to write about this one.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Pelissier Randonneur
(mieux vaut tard que jamais)

I got the Pelissier frame back today from having the headtube refaced and NOS Stronglight P3 headset installed, special thanks to Tom at VeloTech Cycles in Palo Alto for dealing with my ancien French velo headset despite their mainly, more modern offerings (i.e.: a 15lb. Pinarello Dogma).

Last week I got the Philippe handlebar stem back from the Valley Plating in Santa Clara who rechromed this and did a great job. The stem is steel but lightweight with brazed joints. I realize now Nitto and Ritchey clearly made their own brazed steel stems for mountain bikes modeled on French ones like the Philippe on this bike.

Still a ways way to go with some drive train details and the 650b wheel rebuild, but here are a few more photos with the original wheelset and Dunlop "Balon Leger" 650b tires (~35mm wide). Tire gumwalls are deteriorated, but they still hold air.