Friday, December 17, 2010

Rainy days mean winter bike projects

Between a flurry of work winding down to the end of the year, a few other projects and the rain lately I've managed to squeak-in a few hours on some back burner projects. In the last few years it seems like it's been very difficult to find good vintage steel bike frames ripe for rebuilding, they can be overpriced, garage sale/thrift store turn-overs, and/or not worth the trouble. On ones that you might come across, that appear less than optimal, well if you have lemons, make lemonade!

Take French Peugeot bikes for example. Although Peugeot is an established name in France, unfortunately most of what they imported to the US during the bike boom in the 70s onward, with a few exceptions was pretty much standard production fair. Many with steel cottered cranks and other run-of-the-mill components with the possible exception of MAFAC racer center-pulls. The now obsolete French threading on these bikes makes them more of a challenge. But despite their quirks, old French production bikes are still usable.

One of the reasons why better vintage steel bikes and frames are harder to find these days is partly due the popularity of single speed and fixed gear track style bikes ridden on the street.

For roadies who happen to like more than one gear, this can be frustrating. Granted, older heavier steel frames being what they are, a single-speed or fixed gear conversion, if your riding mostly on flat terrain can make sense. I commute regularly by bike and CalTrain and single speed and fixed gear bikes are very popular. They're relatively light, simple, require less maintenance and look cool. They're like a lightweight streetfighter, when you just want to get to where your going on flat terrain with no frills,

Previously while working in SOMA SF for a small boutique design firm (translation: sweat shop), I commuted by bike and CalTrain on a metallic blue Fuji I'd rebuilt as a single speed. Needing to get to CalTrain in a somewhat timely manner, I geared it 50x16. Not great for starting out (knee torque) but this old steel bike would fly once you got going. I sold it to a guy in Portland. That was one sweet bike.

Back to the common French bike, with these bikes, you can get French cups for current sealed Bottom brackets and there are a few repro french headsets around. You can always change the fork so you can use a more current diameter quill stem—French stems are a few millimeters smaller, similar to older Schwinn or BMX.

So if you can find something in the way of French bikes for a good price. Go forth and make use of it! —© 2010 VeloTouriste

Monday, December 6, 2010

Totally wired.

Yesterday spent a few hours mounting a dynamo generator and lighting on my vintage commute bike. I mounted a Sanyo bottom bracket dynamo that mounts to the chainstays infront of the the rear fender. I mounted a front Lumotec halogen 2.4w headlight to a bracket that attaches to the fork crown/brake assembly. For the rear I mounted a Soubitez .4w light to a stainless tab that attaches to the rear fender. The rear light is now situated behind the rear rack. The Sanyo has less drag than sidewall dynamos. The halogen light isn't great but will do until I upgrade to an LED light. Having a generator lighting set-up on the bike makes it completely functional anytime which is great, without having to worry about batteries for lights.

© 2010 Velotouriste

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Under the wire bead.

I recently removed the tires on a vintage 650B wheelset from a vintage 1950s Pelissier randonneur bike I've been working on. The tires were "Dunlop Balon Leger" with sidewalls completely toast. The tires were difficult to remove, I ended up cutting the beads with a pair of brake cable cutters. Much to my surprise, tire beads had multi-strand wires, each about the size of one mondern wire bead. The rims had cloth rim strips woven in a tubular style. The rims also have a very interesting profile, but with non-hook bead rim edges making them only suitable for lower pressures.

© 2010 Velotouriste

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fall Sonoma rides

This weekend, did two leisurely rides with my girlfriend in Sonoma County. Although my gf has done a few triathlons, she doesn't ride as much as myself, so when we do rides I try to find a reasonable route. My solution: I ride a vintage touring bike with pannier bags. It's a good compromise. We enjoy the day and I get my fill as far as riding with my handicapped loaded touring bike. I set her up with a very nice vintage Bridgestone RB-1 with a Nitto riser stem that's easier on her back as far as riding position.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The best rides are those you discover

I've had a few exceptional rides this year I hadn't done before, that when I did were a discovery. They were rides that I'd thought about, checked the general route and the terrain, but didn't really know what it would be like. On rides like this, I've been the most motivated. Although, I come prepared on these rides I often start and say to myself, "can I do this?", "will the weather be ok?". When you do the ride and it all works out, it is an awesome experience.

Get out of your environment and take rides you wouldn't normally do, the rewards and experience are great.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

The right tool for the right job…

If you've ever changed a chainring on a crankset yourself, you'll know this can be an awkward task. You have to use an allen wrench plus a separate wrench for the slotted bolt on the opposite side. For tightening, while you can position the back wrench so it holds against one of the crank arms, it can be tricky since there's nothing to hold the back wrench in place against the slotted bolt. If you're not careful when tightening, you can easily cut yourself, especially if you try to tighten the allen key towards the chainring teeth. VAR in France used to make a tool for this that makes installing or removing chainrings easier…and with less bleeding, the VAR #352.

I recently acquired a vintage version of one of these. Though the way it's made may be slightly crude by today's standards, the VAR 352 is a cleverly designed tool, complete with a spring loaded arm that holds the built-in allen key in place.

Merci VAR

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sonora Pass ride

Growing up in California, my family would go camping in various parts of the state every summer. We had a few regular favorite spots: north of Truckee in the Tahoe National Forest. Near Mt. Shasta and Lower Twin Lakes, south of Bridgeport. I distinctly remember as a teenager riding in the back of my dad’s 3/4 ton truck that had a minimal shell (with only plywood platform bunks), going up Sonora pass that was incredibly steep in places and seemed to go on and on. That memory still lingers in my mind. Like most teenagers as I got older, I became less interested in camping, especially with my parents. But they continued to return to Twin Lakes in the fall—while I stayed with my grandmother.

Over the years, I’d forgotten about Sonora pass, but in the last ten years, after my own two sons had grown up, I'd gotten back into cycling and started to camp again more as well. In the last few years I explored parts of the Sierras in areas I hadn’t been to before, like the Markleeville area—camping at Grover Hot Springs park, a spectacular campground about 30 miles south of Lake Tahoe. This is close to some very popular mountain passes such as Monitor pass on Highway 89 and Ebbetts pass on Highway 4 among others. Last June my girlfriend and I camped at Grover, brought bikes and did a few rides in the area including Monitor Pass, Ebbetts Pass and Blue Lakes road. We went in early June, before the droves of cyclists arrive in July preparing for the annual Tour of the California Alps, also known as the “Death Ride”.

Anyone who is remotely interested in traditional cycling as a sport can appreciate the early race heroes and legendary climbs of European grand tours in races like the Tour de France, The Giro D’Italia, the Tour of Switzerland and La Vuelta a España. This year marked the 100th anniversary of the introduction of the Pyrenées stages in the Tour de France, so it’s no coincidence that mountain passes can beckon current cyclists, no matter what caliber, myself included.

At 9,620 ft, Sonora pass is the second highest highway pass in California, next to Tioga pass by about 350ft. It's one of the steeper passes in the Sierras and where it's situated is less traveled than other Sierra passes that have attained more popularity due to an almost cult-level status of annual major group ride events (that help their local economy in a good way).

Last June, after camping in Markeleeville and driving back over Sonora pass, riding this pass by bicycle was on my mind for some time. Taking two days off from my work, I decided to ride Sonora pass right after Labor day weekend to avoid the crowds after the weekend that traditionally signals the end of the summer season. On September 6, Labor day, I left late in the day, drove to Strawberry in the foothills just above Pinecrest and stayed at the Strawberry Inn.

The next morning was clear and beautiful. I debated driving the 20 miles up to Dardanelle near the base of the where the pass starts, or riding from Strawberry. I decided to ride from Strawberry to get some miles in before the climb and take in the environment.

I rode a 56cm Ebisu All-Purpose bicycle that I set up with one of their custom small front racks, and geared with a Sugino compact double crankset with 48 and 33 TA Specialités Alize chainrings in front and a 9-speed 12-34 Shimano XTR titanium cassette in the back. The Ebisu weight as set-up with the steel custom short front rack and Panaracer Pasela TG 700x32 tires: just over 23 lbs.

The Ebisu is a touring style bike with room for fenders and has cantilever brakes. It’s designed in a way that handles completely neutral even with a loaded bag on a front rack, you never feel as though you are having to fight the bike as you’re riding like you do with a bike not designed for riding with a front load. Based on an illustration in a French VAR (tool/accessory) catalog, I made a simple decaleur support for my handlebar bag from a piece of aluminum round that loops over the bars and then tied the front of the bag to the rack with nylon cord. This worked great and the bag didn't shift at all during the ride.

Here's what I brought: (about 9.5 lbs. including the handlebar bag)

Fleece jacket (in stuff sack strapped to seat)
Cliff bars + 3 Gels (not pictured)
Berthoud GB2286 handlebar bag
Dried berries
Toolkit/Tire gauge
Swiss knife
Spare cables
2 mini stretch cords
4 spare 700x32 tubes
Razor, toothbrush, toothpaste, sun screen, first aid, etc.
Lightweight button-up shirt
Gore Tex ultralight rain shell
Spare folding tire (Grand Bois Cypres)
Archival Clothing waxed cotton musette
Olympus XA 35mm, Nikon digital camera
2 large water bottles (really needed 4)
Patagonia lightweight pants
Pearl Izumi insulated long tights
Puma Klim rock climbing shoes
Woolywear merino LS wool top
Garmin Edge 205 GPS
1 pair wool socks
1 pair boxer briefs
Bike hat
Tool bag (strapped to seatpost w/2 tubes)
Cel phone (not pictured)

Photos from the ride.

Tuesday, after breakfast of oatmeal and coffee at the Strawberry Inn, my ride got off to a pretty good but relatively late start at 8:45 am. The rush of the sun filtering through the pine trees, the clean air combined with the beautiful forested road made me excited for the ride ahead. But at 5,000 feet I could already feel the altitude. I used plain water the first day and realized only later that , combined with the altitude and the heat, I would go through more water than expected. Hwy 108 from Strawberry is a long gradual climb with a few descents then climbing gradually upward up to Dardanelle where the ups and downs become more prominent while following the middle fork of the Stanislaus river. Near Kennedy Meadow you enter a rocky corridor and a meadow where horseback riding is popular.

I stopped at Dardanelle cabin resort only to find a for sale sign in front and the store apparently closed. Flags were posted in front along with a banner stating “Celebrate Labor Day Weekend with us”. A woman inside the store confirmed they were closed. The Dardanelle resort seems like a step back in time with it’s green painted cabins, of a time, when resorts like this made the mountains more accessible. As I rode away, I thought about how it's probably harder for traditional cabin resorts like this to stay viable, now that most anyone can drive into campsites nearby with RVs, with most of all the comforts of home. Fortunately I’d brought energy bars and gels, not exactly what I’d prefer for lunch, but ok.

On the way up to Dardanelle I could see the elevation gaining on the GPS. At 6000ft the pavement got better it seemed like I was hovering around 7,000ft for a while then, to my surprise a sudden drop after Dardenelle and having to back up again, but this time, much steeper. Around 4 miles into the climb it gets really steep, like your standing up and going ok, this is really going up. I used to ride in the east bay in Oakland and a favorite local steep climb was going up Elverton road to Grizzly peak boulevard. When it got really steep, we would traverse back and forth across the fall line. I hadn’t done this in years, but the memory came back at once and I relied on this trick towards the top of the the first big steep (while keeping an eye and ear out for cars as I crossed the road dividing line) that ends up going through this narrow portal of tall igneous looking rocks on either side of the road.

Just Beyond where the road bends left is a lookout that over looks the valley. The rock portal is like a welcome gate to what’s in store. The road climbs further and starts to wind more and gets steeper and steeper. About the point you get to Chipmunk flat it seems to level off a bit on the left is a sheer rock wall and a meadow to the right is the Stainslaus it’s unbelievably gorgeous. Then the road ascends up an towering canyon. You truly feel like an ant next to the steep mountain wall to that bowls around you on the right as you go up, around the point where there is a guardrail next to the river I had to stop. After riding about 27 miles, I had already gone through a bottle and a half of water. While I was stopped a European couple coming down the the pass in a rental car with Colorado plates slowed and warned me that it was really steep (YES!) and are you ok, need anything? First I said I’m ok, then realizing I only had half a bottle left, said, yes, do you have any water? They obliged and handed me two *ice cold* bottles of water. they were Danish, I thanked them profusely and they wished me well. Recharged, I climbed on.

A while back I had looked for profiles of the pass, I found some online indicating the grades, but they were really crude. So based on the data I redrew these. as a result the image of the profile of the pass in my mind I remembered more and I knew, ok, here’s the first really steep part and was able to mentally prepare for the really steep section further up. Climbing and doing longer rides I would learn is a kind of mindset you do really have to psych yourself of for it. For me doing the profiles, helped a bit.

In the steepest part of the upper section of the climb where I’d stopped, despite the clear sunny weather, there were sudden intense gusts of wind on the way up in some places this happened as well where you couldn’t quite tell whether it was a car coming or just the wind. In other places there wasn’t a sound, it’s so peaceful.

Once past the steeps it levels off somewhat in a fantastic section along the river with green all around wind blowing the aspen trees with leaves shimmering in the breeze as the sun reflects off them in the wind. Gradually the climb rises making it’s way to the summit. The summit isn’t nearly as dramatic as the climb going up but there a great view and of course there are the signs marking the summit that everyone stands next to to make a photo.

When I arrived at the summit, a guy had parked an SUV almost in front of the sign on the left of the road. We talked for a bit, he'd gone running along the summit. He offered to make a photo with my camera and I obliged. My digital has this habit of cutting out after a few seconds to save power, which is what happened when he made the photo. I was so into the moment being there, I didn’t event think to check the shot he’d made. I had a ways to go and was on my way—not thinking about that photo, only later would I find out to my disappointment.

Going down the east side I immediately noticed how fast I was going, at first I thought maybe it’s the thin air, but it was most likely a tailwind. The rolling terrain of the east side is extremely fun to descend. At one point there is a switchback with an absolutely breathtaking view of Leavitt meadow surrounded by mountains. This made my jaw drop when I saw this earlier in the summer and and it was equally memorable on this day, especially when riding a bicycle to get there. When you ride far you definitely are able to connect more the surroundings and the environment—you're able to hear things more easily you can’t when you’re in a car: birds, insects, trees in the wind, the wind itself and the lack of sounds besides yopur own breathing when it can be so peacefully quiet in places. It can definitely be mesmerizing.

Once dropping into the valley the road loops up and down passing a pack horse facility and the Leavitt meadow campground, finally leveling off, the road extends for a long while passing the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare training center on the northern edge of the of the meadow, as the road extends to a wider open terrain. 4 miles further I reached the junction at Hwy 395 where I turned right heading south to Bishop. I was really starting to feel the effects of the climb, the altitude and the distance now. Worse, I was running out of water. I had a Clif bar and started the grade towards Devils gate on a busy highway with semi trucks and not much shoulder. Throughout the ride I kept an eye on the road looking for glass to avoid. While stopping I would check my tires or if I started hearing a clicking sound while riding I would stop and check. One time I did find a small piece of glass lodged in the tire. It never hurts to check and in this case this bit of glass never went through and I removed it before it became a potential problem.

After riding 50 miles with another 17 to go I was starting to feel it after the hard climb. This is where you have to knuckle down on the mindset thing, you realize this is really a remote area: “ok, this is now going to be harder”. On the grade to Devil’s gate, I noticed a house that seemed to situated in the middle of nowhere on the left hillside close to the road. Two men where standing in front of a truck talking. OK, water might make this easier so I dismounted walked up the gravel driveway and asked. When I talked my voice sounded different, a little parched. Jim the homeowner obliged by filling my two bottles and was completely cool, surprised I’d ridden so far. I was soon on my way again and now was feeling a lot better. Once over the Devil’s Gate summit (not much of a summit as the overall grade isn’t actually that much elevation gain) the road started to descend a bit and I was able to gain some speed the wind was picking up as well though and kept my hands clenched on the drops negotiating a very narrow shoulder in some sections, in others there was a recently paved wide shoulder but separated from the road my a kind of machined section about 10 inches wide with curved successive chunks taken out of the strip creating a very bumpy ride if you ride on this. I was frequently negotiating riding on the wide shoulder that had fresh patches of tar in places and riding on the narrower margin along the white line that was closer to traffic where I didn’t want to be.

The expanse of this remote area is amazing with huge rock formations appearing in places seemingly out of nowhere. I saw a monument along the road commemorating John Fremont who had taken this route in the early days, I saw sheep grazing across the road in an immense valley in the late afternoon sun. I kept looking at my GPS that I’d set to have the distance as the largest number on the display and this was very helpful, I really wanted to get to Bridgeport 12 miles to go 8 miles then at about 6 miles I could see the town in the distance, but it looked way left. It turns out the road veered sharply to the left as it did wind now behind me I was going faster. The GPS indicated the batteries were almost out, I raced to try to get to Bridgeport before the batteries died. At about 5:15, over 7 hours after I started, I rolled in to Bridgeport... and ready to eat something other than energy bars and dried fruit!

After a block or so, I arrived at the Bridgeport Inn. I put my bike on the porch and checked in. It's a vintage building with a restaurant, bar and a victorian style living room with a wood burning stove on one side, a PC in one corner of the room seemed out of place, but an available modern convenience. There was a newer ground level motel structure with many units in the parking lot behind the original building where my room was. When they asked for my car license plate it was nice to say "no car".

Once I got in the room, I took a shower, changed into the lightweight regular clothes I brought and walked around to check-out the area. Bridgeport isn't a large place, a city hall, a few motels gas stations, restaurants and other local businesses, plus one general store. Cel phone service didn't seem available, initially from my room but later I found service out in the parking lot. I used the Bridgeport Inn's (grindingly slow) PC/internet connection to email my girlfriend and son's that I'd made it ok and to check the weather for wednesday. It said it there was a 20% chance of rain.

I realized that while I'd brought a rain shell and plenty of layers, I didn't have a knit hat or cold weather gloves and that this might be a problem if the weather got sketchy. I went to the general store and stocked up on sports drink and energy bars for the next day, then stopped by the sporting goods shop next door and bought a knit hat and tried to find some fleece gloves. Being a shop catering to fisherman, all of the fleece gloves had no fingers! I found some wool gloves that would be better than my regular bike gloves. Now more prepared for tomorrow's ride, I had dinner at Rhino's restaurant nearby, a pub style place and had a steak, a salad and a beer—a little more informal that the Bridgeport Inn's quaint restaurant setting. Feeling pretty good from the day's ride, I got back to my room. The TV news was saying possible light snow in Reno, the wind outside was picking up. This might be interesting on the way back

I went to bed around 9:30 that night I was a little restless. About 15 minutes after I turned the light out, I heard a loud squeal of running water. Guests in an adjacent motel room were taking a shower. This was really loud. Then a second time for another person! I finally fell asleep.

Day 2: The Ride Back

I woke up very early wednesday morning while it was still dark, maybe it was my anticipation. I couldn't completely pack-up the night before because I'll still needed to walk around in the morning and needed to pack-up my walking shoes last, but I was pretty much set. I looked outside into the dark sky and a few trees nearby were whipping in the wind. The guy in the sports shop said the day before it was mostly just in Bridgeport where it got really windy. At 7a.m. the Bridgeport Inn restaurant wasn't open for breakfast and there was no sign it was opening anytime soon. An older guy behind the building sat in a chair looking at a Netbook, he was motel guest visiting from Pennsylvania with some friends and using the motel wi-fi connection. I asked if he could check the weather report. It still looked ok, but a small chance of rain.

I wanted to get on the road soon, but wanted breakfast first. The local Sportman's Bar & Grill opened for breakfast at 7am so I had breakfast there. Two eggs that came with a large slab of potato pancake, whole wheat toast dowsed in butter and pretty terrible coffee. But, I ate most of it, besides the buttered toast and got back to my room to get my stuff together and get on the road. I had an unusual feeling of being self contained on a bike so far away from where I started, totally different than being in a car. It felt great.

When I left at 8:00am, the motel office still wasn't open, I left the key in the room and set off. The sun had come out and cast a beautiful bright light and long shadows against the vast area around Bridgeport. To the west and southwest, there the mountains I saw while riding in the day before, but this time they were topped by somewhat ominous clouds. Once I got on the road the wind didn't seem that prominent. Hwy 395 wasn't busy at all that was welcome because the shoulder varied in width quite a bit. From either no shoulder, having to ride along a maybe 12" margin along the white line that defines the road edge to about a 7ft wide sections recently paved to the right of the highway. I welcomed this, until I saw a sign that said "Passing lane ends in 1/2 mile". It sure didn't seem wide enough for a slow traffic lane. A semi-truck blasted his horn at me at one point while crossing over the divider line to pass me, even though I could clearly hear the truck approaching behind me and wasn't in his lane. Annoying. One other time while I'd stopped briefly near the road line edge, another large truck passed very close that shook me up a bit. But the morning light and the fantastic valley scenery made up for all of this. This is truly beautiful country.

Heading north, about 10 miles above of Bridgeport I saw a flock of sheep grazing in a valley to the right, maybe the same I saw the day before, but this time, there was a sheepherder near the road. I stopped and had a brief conversation in Spanish. His name was Hilario and he was from Peru. I asked him how many sheep he had?700. How far he would walk them? 5 miles within the valley. And how many dogs? Only 3! I told him how far I'd ridden and he was surprised. He wished me well.

I was a little tired from the day before but not sore and still felt pretty good. I got uncomfortable a few times before, it seemed like certain combinations of flat terrain and gearing with less load or some wind, where I felt uncomforable in the saddle, especially when bonking, when low on water. Then this would go away once I was in gearing where I was applying more pedal force or and/or the terrain (and not to mention energy bars/fruit and water). After long rides I find my feet can swell up so I've learned to loosen up my bike shoe straps a little when they get uncomfortable and then tighten as needed when I need more foot support for a climb.

As I rode on, the sun got warmer, though it wasn't even 10:00 am. It was about 6,500 ft. elevation. It was nice having the GPS on the ride out to keep track of the distance as well as elevation, but a simple cycling computer for keeping track of distance would be fine have better battery life. There were a few clouds in the east that at times obscured the morning sun and then the conditions would change quickly cooling off with ocassional blasts of wind. By the time I got to Devil's Gate summit, the top of the slight rise in the road along 395 towards the junction at 108, I had to stop and put on a a knit hat and a windbreaker shell because it was definitely colder, even with a wool longsleeve top and wool shortsleeve jersey I was wearing. Once over the grade I passed the house where I'd gotten water the afternoon before (thanks Jim) and was happy at the descent to Hwy 108, but I wasn't able to that fast even downhill because of a headwind.

I made the left at Hwy 108 and entered the valley towards Leavitt meadow, the sun was out, but now it was really windy. I passed the Marine Warfare training base again and finally made it to the trees and the wind subsided. Now it was time for the climb. The road rolls through some low hills before passing a horse pack station and then winds around and starts to ascend.

Conditions kept changing—it would be warm one moment and then really cold the next with wind. Sometime while climbing at altitude, I found myself simultaneously being too warm (overdressed with the rain shell) and being cold (wind) at the same time that was really strange. There were dark clouds in the mountains to the west, but it didn't look like rain. The road got very steep and I passed the switchback where I'd stopped the day before. I could feel a few drops of rain. Here goes, I thought.

I got past half way up on the climb of the eastern side of the pass when it got much colder and windier. I stopped and pulled out the fleece jacket, these are not ideal because you usually end up getting hot when riding while these are under a shell. I was still cold though with this jacket underneath and my long tights were getting wet. A few cars had passed me but not many. I was starting to have my doubts about the conditions. I had 35 miles to go after the summit and I wasn't at there yet. After another mile or so I took a break, I was getting uneasy, because of the cold, the rain combined with the wind. As much as I wanted to finish the climb of the eastern side of the pass decided I was probably safer to try to get a ride. I put my thumb out when I saw truck or van, a few went by who didn't stop. Then three campers in a light truck did stop and gave me a ride about 5-6 miles to the summit (thanks Scott!). By the time we got to the summit in was colder and the rain had turned to snow, but not sticking to the road. At the top, I thanked them and we exchange goodbyes and I gingerly made my way down the west side of the pass amidst snowflakes.

Going down the west side in wet conditions was hair-raising, in some places you feel like gravity is pulling you straight down the mountain and you're hanging by the threads of your brake cables. I pumped my brake levers to keep the pads from fading. I'd checked my cantilever brakes thoroughly before I left and I was glad that I did on the way down this side of the pass. The bike did great, but my fingers were totally numb from the the plain wool gloves and the cold making difficult to grip the levers for extended lengths of time. Around 7,500 feet the rain let up and the road dried out. I stopped again at the golden stairs rock portal and de-numbed myself in the sun that had come out from the clouds momentarily. The sidewalls of my Panaracer gumwall tires were blackened by brake residue combined and the rain. After recharging with fluids and getting the circulation back in my hands, I continued. My long tights were wet, but I wasn't as cold anymore and it was pretty much a good ride past Dardanelle and further south.

At the 26% grade sign I stopped and talked to a group of about six cyclists on newer race bikes who were on there way up. I mentioned the conditions and we had a nice chat. One guy had seen me the day before and I remember him waving to me while I was stopped at the rock portal while he drove by. One guy in the group was dressed in a short sleeve acrylic jersey and shorts and had no jacket. This was crazy. He was going to freeze. Some were going to Bridgeport. These were the only cyclists I saw both days that I rode.

Back on 108 I rode the final 30 miles dropping into fog around 6500 feet along the forested highway, the road would occasionally dip and then would climb long slow grades.You get to where you really want to be going downhill again and it keeps going up. It forces you to forge ahead. By the time I knew I was close to the finish back to Strawberry I was pushing hard, trying to break 7 hours, a slow time for this distance, even with the ride I got, but with the wind and carrying 9.5 pounds of gear. I would have a time to mark myself against next time. I rolled into Strawberry about 3:05 p.m. I was tired, but not sore.

This was a fantastic ride that if I thought too much about beforehand, probably would not have tried. I learned a few things in the process:

Pacing yourself is good. My legs never cramped on the climbs.

Bring more water (or better yet sports drink)!!! I diluted sports drink 1:2 on the way back and it worked well.

Riding solo, if the wind comes up, you have no one to share the work with.

Always be prepared for adverse conditions in the Sierras (that can change quickly).

A few more things I would bring next time:
• Cold weather/rainproof gloves
• Knit cap
• Waterproof helmet cover (also good in wind)
• Rain pants
• Rainproof shoe covers
• 1pr wool long underwear
• Fenders!
• Cycle computer rather than a GPS. Shows distance, speed etc. and has more battery life.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Bike commuting by CalTrain: Part 1

Since 2007 I have commuted to work by bicycle and/or a local SF Bay peninsula train known as CalTrain. In 2007 I rode a fantastic vintage Fuji S-12-S I rebuilt as a single speed and commuted to SOMA SF. Subsequently I've commuted to the southbay as well. Lately I've been doing this more and since the beginning of August, haven't driven to work.

Commuting by bike and train forces you to get your routine down, getting everything together, but the more you commute by bike, the easier it is. With bike commuting, I love the freedom of not having to deal with traffic or waiting forever at stoplights (well, you can wait, but if it's clear, it's an option). Having to get to the train involves a certain lower end form of riding similar to amateur stop-sign-interval training.

There are lots of kinds of people who ride CalTrain. There are usually one or sometimes two train cars that are designated specifically for bicycles. Since people are going different places it's often useful to tag your bike with your destination so other riders can know where you're going and can stack their bike next to a bike that is going either to the same stop or further down the line.

A few common bike commuting CalTrain annoyances:

Bikes with no desitination tag
Adding something to a bike to let others know where you're going is a simple thing to do. However some bike commuters are lazy or don't care.

Riders bringing unreasonably large bikes onboard.
It's often funny to watch bike commuters wrestle with large cruisers or heavy duty mountain bikes. These bikes take up more room and on a crowded train, this can matter. In this case, I appreciate single speed/fixie bikes.

Riders stacking bikes all pointed in the same direction.
It works better if you alternate bikes so they're stacked pointing in the opposite direction since they tend to fit better. CalTrain signs state this but are unreadable, if only they could be more graphic.

Passengers without bikes sitting in the bike car
Some passengers jump on the first car even though they don't have a bike even though there are 500 other seats on a train.

Cel phone talkers
Passengers who blather on and on while riding CalTrain should have their phones confiscated.

Otherwise biking and taking Caltrain is great and definitely better than driving.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Vintage MAFAC brake lever hack

Lately I've been working on (for some unexplainable reason) an ancient, precambrian Peugeot bike, a 70s "Record du Monde". Despite the name, this was a fairly low end production bike commonly sold in the US. These bikes are the antithesis of a lightweight race bike, what record they hold, besides weight, I'm not sure. They could be more aptly named "Record du Stovepipe". One redeeming feature on these however are the venerable MAFAC Racer centerpull brakes and original MAFAC levers. The levers have an older style demi rubber hood that just covers the top portion of where you rest your hand. Similar to this lever below.

The original hoods for these are now collectors items and either difficult to find and/or very expensive if you find them. The ones on this bike were complete toast from weathering, but the cable adjuster inserts, a nice feature still today—especially for centerpull or cantilever brakes—were good. I was able to fit a more modern conventional brake hood on the lever. To take up the gap around the adjuster, I took a wine cork, drilled it out, cut it lengthwise into two pieces and then sanded one end of each piece into a conical shape. I then used these as insert supports around the cable adjusters, filling in the space under the top of the hood. A good workaround if you can't find the original hoods for these MAFAC levers.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Tour de France - Coors Classic Flashback

Watching France 2's coverage of the 2010 Tour the France recently — on a much better level than what's been available from Eurosport and Versus here in the states — made me think of a moment I had in San Francisco during the 1986 Coors Classic.

At the time, I was racing as an amateur category 4 and doing club rides with the Berkeley Bicycle Club. I was also riding a 1964 BMW R60/2 motorcycle then. The day of the '86 Coors prologue that ran to Coit Tower in SF, I'd ridden my BMW over to watch and maybe make a few photos.

Riding around the Northbeach area before the race start, I recognized a BBC rider who I'd ridden with, riding a current K BMW and helping as an official motorcycle with the event. I said hello and asked if they needed any help. I mentioned "I'm insured!" He got an ok and I was allowed to participate in this race as a follow motorcycle.

During the event, I distinctly remember following Andy Hampsten and few other riders on the prologue up to Coit tower. A racers's team member rode on the back passenger seat of my BMW carrying a spare bike. The R60 BMW, with it's great handling and powerful low-end torque, rode perfectly up the hill even at slower speeds towards the top. With literally a front row seat, I'll never forget the experience of following these racers as support on my vintage BMW, the same motorcycle used by press and gendarmerie for many editions of the Tour de France.

The dynamic moto-cam and other excellent video footage of the TDF on France 2 made me think of this experience again. I regret that I never made any photos that day at the Coors Prologue, but being able to participate in a bicycle race like this was a rare experience that still resonates.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Under Pressure

From VeloTouriste
I took it easy this last 4th of July weekend, the pressure to get out town, be somewhere with just about everyone else on the road simply wasn't that appealing. Instead I took a couple of local 25 mile rides. It has warmed up more, but it was still breezy monday and...local roads weren't all that crowded. I usually tend to inflate my tires up past the recommended pressure. I don't know what it is, maybe that competitive urge that seems to get beat into our heads everytime you pick-up a bicycle magazine that covers racing.

This weekend I rode with my tires at around 100psi instead. I'm running Panaracer Pasela TG tires with gum walls, meant for touring, but they are especially good for sometimes rough pavement in the hills and out to the coast. Something about running these tires at slightly lower pressure seemed to make the bike a little more responsive — just that little bit of give, making the bike ride better and overall more comfortable. I would not want to run tires much lower on paved roads, but I will definitely try this more in the future, even with no cobblestones in sight.

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.

View Larger Map

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.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Pescadero ride, TOC Stage 3, projects

It’s been a while since I’ve last posted but I’ve had a few great rides and have some updates on some bikes I’ve been working on.

We’ve had some unusually wet weather here in California due to El Niño conditions so far this year, but there were a few nice breaks in the weather in April. For a long time I’ve wanted to ride to Pescadero and back from where I live. To ride to the coast, I usually have ridden to San Gregorio, the first 15 miles rolling hills plus a good climb up to Skyline boulevard. Once over the top, mostly downhill on Highway 84 to San Gregorio, then a short climb up to Hwy 1 on the upper part of Stage road after about a mile or so on Hwy 1 a nine mile climb back via Tunitas creek road and over Kings Mountain through Woodside. About 57 miles total.

Going to Pescadero involves another climb on Pescadero road over Hayes Hill past Sam McDonald park, then mostly downhill, flat to Pescadero. Once in Pescadero you take Stage road through a beautiful valley and then climb some rolling hills to San Gregorio and then back up the amazing Tunitas redwood forest climb. I rode this April 18 on a perfect clear day. About 70 miles total, more than I’ve ridden before and well worth it. Going on longer rides definitely puts you in a different mind set, the experience of riding this far and with some climbing involved, has made me feel more confident to be able to pace myself and go farther now on rides.

Miyata commute bike
I’ve been now regularly commuting to work by bike and CalTrain. Sprinting by bike to Caltrain is great training and I’ve been commuting on an excellent vintage Miyata 310 I set-up with with tt bullhorn handlebars and lightweight components, including retrofitting current dual pivot brakes, this is an awesome commute bike.

Fuji Del Rey

A while back I rebuilt a mid 80s Fuji Del Rey frame, originally a sport touring bike, that I set up in the French randonneur style. It’s a production frame, but fairly lightweight and I recently added some aluminum fenders in hammertone finish. May 18, I took a day off and rode this bike to watch part of the Tour of California Stage 3 race (SF to Santa Cruz). I rode to the top of Pescadero road just past the 3rd "King of the Mountain" marker (a points classification). I rode along the course on Highway 84, on the way up to Skyline boulevard there was rain and in some places very heavy fog/mist. With fenders this was no problem. On the way up, some roadside fans with cowbells gave me a ring while I rode up 84 to Skyline that was cool. I had a bell too, so was able to ding them back.

Once I got over the crest of Hwy 84 at Skyline boulevard where packs of fans waited in the rain and mist, I didn’t see any riders or even fans for a number of miles until I got to La Honda. As I descended 84 the rain had cleared, now my goal was to try to reach the 3rd KOM before the racers did. I descended through La Honda, where local town folk came out for the race, then I proceeded a few miles down the road to where you make a left on Pescadero road. A few fans were there as the road climbed going towards Sam McDonald park. I was surprised to see so few riders, it seemed like most people who came to see the race only wanted to go as far as Skyline, perhaps having second thoughts because of the rain and mist.

I was now elated to be away from work and riding on this fantastic road and charged to get to the 3rd KOM marker, that the bike race was going to come by was just another perk. I made it past the KOM at the crest of Pescadero road with about 15 minutes to spare before the race passed by. The rain had cleared and I enjoyed a sandwich overlooking the beautiful valley westward before the racers arrived and disappeared in a flash. I made a few photos and shot some video and then made my way back along 84 and West Old La Honda along pristine green hills and amazing wildflowers. This is a ride I will not soon forget.

Original Pelissier Randonneur bike project
Last saturday I picked up the Pelissier frame that local machinist Peter Johnson finished making the bottom bracket caps for. These were missing and an odd thread. Peter did a superb job on these, using some hardened aircraft aluminum for the caps. It will now be set-up with cartridge bearings and a straight spindle Phil Wood bb stainless steel axle, he included a sleeve that I will glue with Loctite to the axle before assembling to prevent it from shifting laterally.

From VeloTouriste
Next up:
1. Rechroming the steel Phillippe stem and finding a top cap or having one made.
2. Getting the NOS Stronglight P3 headset installed (no ball bearings were included, this was the way they were supplied in the '50s)
3. Rebuilding the wheelset (the original Super Champion 23mm wide 650b rims are good just weathered, front has a flat spot probably fixable when relacing. rear hub axle is bent (have a vintage replacement). The original tires were Dunlop "Balon Leger" will buy some 650b tires closest to the size of the originals.
4. Refinishing the rare LeFol Lepaon (zeppelin style) fenders as they were very weathered and pitted, it's been some work hand refinishing these.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Lightweight decaleur

Using a front handlebar bag on a randonneur style bike, a front rack supports the bag ok, but unless the bag is secured somehow at the top, it will flop around quite a bit. A "decaleur" is a rack support made specifically for this. They are sometimes tricky to set up and then you're stuck with it when you're riding without a bag.

Looking through and old VAR tool "Petit Livre Jaune" I noticed an illustration of a VAR lightweight decaleur support that loops over the bars. Inspired by this design, I made my own by bending a section of 5/16" aluminum round. I started out with a piece of a wire coat hanger to get the basic bend shape figured out and then used a tubing bender for the final shaping with the aluminum round. I filed and sanded the hook ends that fit into the opening in the back of the leather reinforcement strip of my handlebar bag, a Berthoud 2286.

I used handlebar tape for padding where the decaleur hangs off the handlebars. This mini decaleur supports the bag fairly good, strapping down the front of the bag to the rack with a piece of nylon cord makes this set-up excellent. When not riding with a bag this decaleur is easy to remove and store in the bag until it's needed.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Simple Tools

My father worked as a machinist and made a number of tools for some of his other related hobbies. Here's a small mallet he made.

He took a standard bolt and machined the handle out of a piece of aluminum, turning the cross-check pattern (knurling) on the main handle that screws onto the original bolt thread. The other end of the bolt he tapped and made the hammer end out of a piece of brass round that screws onto this. I've always admired how my dad adapted an everyday object and made it into a simple tool like this.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Maxi CAR wheelset project

A while back I bought some rare NOS vintage hubs made by Maxi CAR, the renowned French hubmaker that operated from the mid 1930s to 1999. The name Maxi-CAR comes from a consolidation of hubshell designs from Maxi with hubs using annular bearings designed by Charles-Albert Ripet (C.A.R.) of Lyon. These are beautifully made and durable hubs that were standard on many early high-end Randonneur and tandem bicycles.

Today, I tried to build up a rear bike wheel the normal way with the Maxi CAR high-low flange rear hub that has buttonhole eyelets on one side. The buttonholes allow removal and replacement of spokes with the wheel on the bike. Trying to build the wheel up the normal way, all the buttonhole spokes fell out. Next time will build-up the left, the non-button hole side first.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why Cyclists Love Super Bowl Sunday

Most cyclists love Super Bowl Sunday. Why? Because it means there is almost no traffic on local roads that they usually ride.

Today with a break in the rain and super bowl fests occupying weekend drivers, I took the opportunity for a 35 mile ride including a favorite local climb. Page Mill Road climbs approx 2,200ft to Skyline boulevard and a springboard for a number of additional ride routes. You can cross directly over Skyline to Alpine Road down a valley past a fantastic grove of old growth redwood trees near La Honda and then to Pescadero or San Gregorio on Hwy 1 at the coast.

When I started out at 10:00am it was partly cloudy with some blue sky and on the way up and slightly warm in places. But towards the top it got colder with more wind. I was prepared and brought a lightweight GoreTex shell that cut the wind and kept me warm over two layers of wool I wore. I took it easy on the climb, considering going to the coast. Near the top at Monte Bello preserve I stopped to make a photo.

After I made the above photo I noticed I had a slow leak in my rear tire. A fencepost came in handy for hanging the bike while I replaced the tube.

I couldn't find anything in the tire and discovered later it was a leak at the base of the long valve stem. Most local bike shops seem to have an annoying preference for carrying long stem presta valve tubes (48mm) more suited for high profile aero rims for racing. These longer stems can wiggle around quite a bit when you're pumping them up if you have a normal profile rim like a Mavic Open Sport that has a slightly rounded profile where the presta washer comes in contact to the rim (note to self: only buy tubes with 36mm valves + make a washer filed out so the valve stem won't move around on longer stems).

I rode a 54cm Ebisu bike that I'd recently set-up with fenders as a lightweight Randonneur. Lately I've been favoring building-up bikes with double cranks, rather than a triple to save weight, paired with a very wide-range rear cassette. For this bike I have vintage Stronglight 49D crank arms with new TA Specialités Cyclotourist chainrings in 48/34 along with a 11-34 9-speed rear cassette. The bike with fenders and a front rack weighs just under 24 lbs. Not bad for a traditional lugged steel frame bike. The Stronglight/TA crankset combination is particularly lightweight and very responsive. Although I have a current rear Shimano 105 SIS index shift compatible rear derailleur, I prefer to use vintage Campagnolo Nuovo Record downtube friction shifters.

The combination of these shifters with the Shimano 105 rear derailleur provides perfect and **silent** shifting that you can adjust precisely unlike SIS systems. When you get the feel for shifting with friction levers, it's very satisfying to be able to shift almost effortlessly with no annoying clicks. To add to making the Ebisu more of a Randonnuer, I added lightweight Honjo aluminum fenders. These don't add much weight and are definitely worth it in winter and/or spring conditions. The Ebisu was extremely light for a steel bike before without the fenders, but even with them, it's totally worth it and it rides great.

Page Mill is a difficult climb in a few places, there's a few surprising drop interludes as you climb, making for a varied an interesting climb. I only used my lowest gear 34/34 a couple of times (bear with me, this is a traditional, lugged steel frame bike). When I got to Skyline boulevard the coast was looking very cold and gray and possibly rainy, so I proceeded north instead. About mile 16 I saw what looked like a dog on the side of the road running towards me. With reddish fur and a fluffy tail, I knew it was a fox and it quickly disappeared into the brush. On Skyline it's unique because in a few places you can see both west out to the coast and east to the Bay Area in places as you straddle the ridge road. I dropped down Old La Honda Road to avoid weekend traffic on hwy 84 further up. Once back in Portola valley the sun was out. Amazing the difference in climate just a few miles away. From there I took Mountain Home Road to Woodside then dropped back into suburbia via Redwood City/Menlo Park.

I'm looking forward to better weather and next time maybe riding out to the coast once again.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

An old French bike revisited

Two years ago this month I was given a vintage French bicycle project that expanded my view of bicycles and the way that I ride. At the time I was working as a graphic designer, commuting by bike & Cal train to San Francisco on a vintage metallic blue Fuji S-12-S single speed (I since sold and is now somewhere in Portland). I was working for a small boutique graphic design firm in the SOMA district, that catered to high-end clients including a prestigious local Bay Area University and some smaller upscale wineries in the Napa Valley, all from a dingy, cramped and drafty garage-level basement of a custom designed live/work building.

The last day I worked at the design studio, I met up with a friend who had said he had a bike project he thought I might be interested in. We met in SOMA and he took me to a storage place near the old Greyhound bus service facility. There, he gave me a bike frame that had been stripped of the paint and a box of parts.

It was a French bicycle with the head badge "Charles Pelissier". The frame was very light and the parts were weathered, but it seemed like an interesting project, so I couldn't refuse.

Doing some research, I found a photo of the complete bike plus a version of the original catalog. This was a randonneur bike made in the early 1950s. Charles Pelissier was a French racing cyclist, the younger brother of Henri and Francis Pelissier who also raced. His career wins included 2 national cyclocross titles and 16 stages of the Tour de France. In 1930 he set a record of 8 stage wins in one Tour de France, a record shared later with Eddy Merckx and Freddy Maertens.

I wasn't that famliar with French bikes of this era and in looking for more info on this bike, it was a revelation to learn more about the history and tradition of French Cyclo-touring bicycles. One great resource has been Jan Heine and Seattle based Bicycle Quarterly Magazine. Although this bike is no Rene Herse or Alex Singer, it's a very light weight and well made bicycle.

A few key components were missing, including the bottom bracket and most of the headset. The frame has a very unusual bottom bracket thread, larger diameter and with a finer thread pitch than standard French cups. It turns out the frame had been retrofitted with an Alex Singer bottom bracket. The Alex Singer shop in Paris, of whom Ernest Csuka recently passed, apparently had a while-you-wait retrofit where the bottom bracket shell was bored and retapped for the patented Singer bearing/cup set-up — a design that has inspired the Phil Wood bottom brackets still made today.

Over the last 2 years I've been acquiring some hard to find replacement parts, including a newer alloy square taper TA cyclotourist crank to replace the original cottered Sronglight 49A steel cranks, NOS Mafac cantilever brakes and an NOS Stronglight P3 headset. I also had the frame repainted. I recently found a machinist to make the bb cups and I'm hoping to have the Pelissier back on the road this spring. More on this follow....

Monday, January 4, 2010

Archival Clothing Musette

I got my musette from Archival Clothing in saturday's mail. A lot of thought went into the design of these and they're well constructed. Simple is good.

From velotouriste

It has a 1" web strap that is not adjustable, but is sewn to the bag at an angle, so when you have it over your shoulder, the bag rests horizontal when it's behind you. The main bag, 12-1/2" x 10-3/4", is made of waxed canvas. The wax reinforces the fabric and makes it more water and dirt resistant. The top and inside vertical seams of the bag are what is known as "taped" and have a length of fabric folded over the edges and stitched for reinforcement.

The waxed canvas on this bag brought back memories of my first jacket during my period as a motorcyclist, a Belstaff Trialmaster made of waxed cotton, very functional with big pockets with brass buttons and lightweight compared to a leather jacket–yet still looked like leather. Although waxed cotton Belstaff's are no longer made, this jacket has achieved it's place as a classic. Waxed cotton appears to be making a comeback now in the mainstream fashion realm with new jackets in this fabric being produced by J. Crew (under license with Belstaff) and new designs by Swobo.

In the age of plastic, nylon and carbon fiber, there's something about non synthetic materials that are definitely more appealing and it's nice to know independent manufacturer's like Archival Clothing are doing innovative new work using classic materials with their new musette bags.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Musette Bags

I've been looking for a good lightweight musette style bag for a while and just ordered one the new musettes from Archival Clothing in Springfield Oregon.

Previously I've managed to pick-up a few team issue musette bags used to give lunch to bike racers in competition events, (and often tossed by riders after the they go through a feed zone).

Race musettes are usually very lightweight cotton or nylon. They make a very handy extra bag if your traveling light on a road ride, easy for carrying extra food or a camera and/or stuff in a jersey pocket. I used one of these race musettes to carry a small digital camera and a few extra snacks on a climb up Monitor Pass previously that worked out well. I've been looking for something a little heavier (that will last) and Archival Clothing's musette looks good.