Thursday, August 3, 2017

Iowa Hill, Finning Mill and Yankee Jim's.

On the dam at Sugarpine Reservior.

Back in late 2015, I explored Finning Mill Road via bicycle, (see: Iowa-Hill-ride-with-Finning-Mill ) on my Mercian. This year I wanted to try it on the Felt, "all roads" V-100.
Looking back down the American River canyon, this is where the brutal climb from the river finally tapers off.
This year's version of the ride was essentially a repeat of the 2015 ride. The Felt handled the pavement fine, including the fast descent to the American River. The 34/34 gearing came in handy on the long, steep ascent that started just past the river.


Just a bit of the flavor of these roads.

Sadly, the Iowa Hill General Store was closed on the day of my ride.
After passing Sugar Pine Reservoir I came to Finning Mill Road and then began my gravel riding for the day. This year the dirt again seemed to be in fine condition, there is some logging going on, but evidently not on the day of this ride. The road seems to have a light coat of oil sprayed on it for some of the sections and I didn't encounter any of the fine red powder that can be a problem here.

On Finning Mill Road.
Eventually I came to the end of Finning Mill at Foresthill and rode into the village of Foresthill just a few miles down the road. Here I stopped at a local park which has water and restrooms. Then, I started the descent down Yankee Jim's Road.

This is an old favorite of mine, and there were no surprises today. There was a bit of washboard but nothing really serious. The Felt took it all in stride. On the ascent back to Colfax, the day's heat was starting to be felt.

On the way back up Yankee Jims road. Notice the emerald green of the American River below the bridge.
When you reach the paved portion of Yankee Jims, you'll notice a small creek running along side. I gave in to the temptation and stopped to get a good soak and to wet my handkerchief for a bit of relief from the heat, that felt very nice!

There's a small creek along the upper part of Yankee Jims Road.
Soon I was back into the Colfax area and the truck. This is a nice little ride, (43.4 miles), with a lot of challenge. I recommend it, but also suggest it be ridden in cooler weather, say highs in the 80s rather than upper 90s!

Post ride shot, the Felt performed well.
Equipment notes.

The Felt, with it's 34/34 low gear worked well with no problems. I was running the Conti "Speedride" tires, 700X42C, (actual width is a measured 39mm on my rims.) These tires continue to impress me with their performance both on pavement and on the dirt roads.

I used a new "bike-packing" type saddlebag on this ride to carry my extra water bottle. This bag expands to a pretty huge size but also compresses to  manageable size to carry a bottle, tube and tools, etc.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The "Three Rivers" century.

On Garden Highway, at the Sacramento River.
With Summer arriving and most of my July getting booked up with non-cycling activities, I decided it was time to ride a century while my Spring training was still in my legs! I figured that doing the relatively flat and easy Garden Highway Century was within my ability. I was able to schedule my ride on a relatively mild day, with high temperatures only reaching the low 90s. Of course, it was absolutely dry.

This course takes me from Loomis, through Lincoln and onto the Garden Highway, (GH), just west of the little town of Nicolaus, and running along the Feather River. This part of the ride is relatively flat and quiet. Very little traffic was encountered on this weekday morning.

Cruising down the GH you encounter a few stretches of the roughest blacktop I've ever ridden on. The longest patch is about a mile long. 28C tires or wider are best for that stretch. Soon you arrive in Verona, which is even smaller that Nicolaus. You and the Feather River now join the Sacramento River and head south towards the city of Sacramento. Along the way you encounter the Delta King, an old paddle driven river boat now languishing on the bank of the Sacramento.

On the Garden highway, you pass the old Delta King, grounded beside the road.
Continuing down you go by the northwestern fringes of Sacramento International Airport and soon can catch a glimpse of the Sacramento skyline.

Rural Sacramento county, to the distant right, you can see the Sacramento Skyline.
Beneath the Interstate 5 overpass which bridges the Sacramento River is a nice park and boat ramp which makes a convenient lunch stop, complete with tables, water and porta-potties!

On the Sacramento River, right next door to Swabbies!
After the lunch break, the ride now takes us into Sacramento and to Discovery Park and the American River Parkway! The nice thing about riding this route in this direction is that you will have ample chances for food and drink during the later parts of the ride. I've nearly run out of water doing the ride in the reverse direction.

You are now cruising along the American River, our third major river of the day!

A view of the American River from the American River Parkway.

The rest of the ride is quite a pleasant jog along the ARP, ending up at Beale's Point State Campground. I stopped at the visitor's center there and refilled my bottles one last time. There was a snack bar there too, I was a little tempted to buy an ice cold soda, but decided to hold out for a cold one at home. It was now a simple ride up Auburn-Folsom Road to King, and then King back home to Loomis.

All in all a pretty successful ride done in decent time, (under 8 hours).

Post ride bike picture, all intact except for a tweaked chain!

Equipment notes:

I rode the 1980 Mercian Olympic and was happy with the ride it afforded. I was relaxed on the bike really didn't have much discomfort. I've recently adjusted my cleats to move the ball of the foot off  the pedal spindle and that has relieved most of my foot discomfort.

I had one flat near Verona from wire in the road. On the last mile something strange happened. As I was climbing a hill and trying to shift to the small chainwheel, the chain overshifted and came off. I was able to get the chain back on the ring by shifting up but after that there was a slight skip in the chain. It seemed to be less in the large rear sprocket so I was able to finish the last short bit that way.

Getting home I examined the chain and found the inner plates of one link badly bent!  I have no idea how I could have done this by forcing the chain back on the rings, but it seems that's what happened! Replacing the damaged link fixed the problem.


Here's the twisted link!

MapMyRide screenshot of the route.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Baptism by gravel: Taking the Felt on Ponderosa Way and Yankee Jim's Road.

On the Ponderosa Way Bridge.
I related when I described purchasing my Felt V100, ( See: Felt-gravel-grinder.), that riding Ponderosa Way, ( See: Exploring-ponderosa-way ), was something of my inspiration in buying an "all-roads" style bike. So I was anxious to try the Felt on this road. At the same time, I figured it would make sense to combine that ride with Yankee Jim's Road, a road leading out of Foresthill which I've ridden several times. Both of these roads have significant stretched of dirt and gravel and offer some beautiful scenery.

I decided to combine these two rides, starting at the old park and ride besides the long departed Dingus McGee's restaurant, just off I-80. The restaurant is completely razed now, and the park and ride doesn't really look like it's being used but at least its not fenced off, it seems that you are free to use it. From here, depart and ride up the short climb to Placer Hills Road, taking a left on that road to Weimar Crossing Road. Take a left and climb into Weimar proper, a tiny village that sits off I-80. You have to take a left across the offramp to get to Weimar itself, the sign shown below should be apparent. At this point you are now on Ponderosa Way! (Turning right on Ponderosa), you will continue on this road all the way to Foresthill Road on the other side of the river.

Starting on Ponderosa Way in Weimar.

Ponderosa Way is a winding and hilly road, pretty fun going in this direction. Eventually you come to the boundary of the wonderful Auburn State Recreation Area.

Entering the State Recreation Area.
Eventually, you come to a gate at the end of the pavement. At the gate, I spied a slightly disturbing sign, stating that the road was closed at the bridge! I thought it over for a moment and decided to go for it, figuring at worst, I'd get a good gravel ride down to the bridge and maybe I could get past whatever it was that had closed the road.

Umm, may have a problem!
The descent to the river was pretty much as I remembered it, steep in places and pretty rough at times. But this time I enjoyed having some new 42C Continental Speed Ride tires and disc brakes. These two features really helped make this year's ride more enjoyable. The tires absorbed a lot of road shock and the brakes performed very well and relieved me of the fear I had of overheating my rims due to constant braking!

Pinched this view from last year's ride, heading south to the river on Ponderosa.
I eventually got to the river, (North fork of the American), and found the bridge open! Only two pickups were down at the bottom. Crossing the bridge I met a hiker, but he didn't know anything about the closure.

Taken on the Ponderosa Way Bridge, looking east.
As I started to ride up the other side I encountered a barricade but I noticed a set of bike tire tracks passing through, so I took that as a good sign and pressed on. I soon came to one large washout at a bend in the road, but I was able to ride through it fairly easily. There were several washouts on this side of the river and I imagine these are what prompted the closure. Indeed, you could ride a bike through here easily enough, but you'd have a heck of a time trying to drive a car or truck through!

The reason for the road closure: some of these washouts stretched clear across the road.
All this meant I could look forward to no car traffic on the next few miles to Foresthill Road!

Overlooking the river canyon on the south side of the river.
I continued up the next few miles with no incident. The day was starting to warm up but this side of the river has a good amount of shade.

What the closure looked like from the other side!
I eventually came to the barricades on the other side! I was relieved that I didn't have to turn around and could now look forward to Yankee Jim's Road. Despite their width, The Speed Ride's performed pretty well on the pavement of Foresthill Road. The ride up to Foresthill was uneventful. From there, I turned north on Yankee Jim's.

On Yankee Jim's Road
Quickly dropping down this road, I was soon on the gravel again. Once again, the bike felt very comfortable on the dirt, absorbing the vibrations pretty well.

At the Yankee Jim's/Shirttail Canyon junction.

Along Yankee Jims Road.
Crossing the river again, I made the long climb back to Colfax and finished the ride. The total distance was just under 35 miles. Descending on the paved part of Ponderosa Way, I managed to hit 40 MPH!

Combining these two rides worked out well, the road closure actually was a blessing in disguise! I highly recommend this route for Sacramento area gravel riders.


Screen shot of the MapMyRide plot.
Equipment notes:


This ride was the kind of ride I bought the Felt for and I was not disappointed in it! I've made a couple of changes to the stock bike; most recently I added an 11-34T cassette giving me a 1:1 low gear. The biggest change were the tires. Installing the 700X42C Conti Speed Rides really brought this bike into its own. The tires' actual width is 39mm on my rims-a good thing too- since they really are the widest tires that would fit between the bike's chainstays!


A couple of shots showing the clearance allowed by the V100's chainstays. The Conti Speed Rides' are listed as 42C, but actually measure around 39 mm on my rims.
There is maybe 2-3 millimeters clearance on both sides back there. Plenty of room at the fork though. Anyway, I can't go any bigger, but these tires are quite wide enough for me and pretty light, and cheap! I'm going to order some spares.

The 34 tooth cassette gives me an an adequate low gear now. There was a slight problem with the drivetrain; the chain would occasionally skip in the lowest gear, but that was a derailleur adjustment issue which I have fixed.

Overall, the Felt handled very well, I am very satisfied with its performance on gravel


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Overnight bike camp up Foresthill Road.

End of the line at China Wall.
We've been enjoying a stretch of unusually nice weather in early March so I decided to try a quick overnight trip to Mumford's Trailhead up Foresthill Road.

I loaded up my Carradice Camper and V.O. handlebar bag with a minimalist supply of camping gear. This included a very lightweight sleeping bag, and REI Minimalist Bivi sack, my Therm-Rest 3/4 pad, a 6X8 tarp and a garbage bag which was split and served as a ground cloth. This would be my first trip using my Carradice Bagman support for the Camper.

I usually pick up a sandwich at Worton's Supermarket in Foresthill and take half of it to my campsite so I don't cook, no cookware is needed. I did take a backpacker's plastic fork/spoon combo for eating a small can of ravioli just in case the half sandwich wasn't enough. (And a small flask of Canadian Club!).

All this, plus some extra cycling shorts, Showers Pass rain jacket, and a few other sundry items packed into my Carradice Camper and Velo Orange Handlebar Bag.

Loaded up for the trip home.
The ride up was as tough as usual. It's a long uphill slog. I always forget how much climbing this ride entails. I stopped at Worton's to get the sandwich and extra water, then continued up to China Wall. After Foresthill, it was chilly enough to need long sleeves. Not far out of Foresthill, I began to spot traces of snow in shaded ditches.

Not going any further today!
I normally ride to Mumford's Trailhead for this trip, but this year I was stopped by snow! I've gone around the closed gate in years' past, but this time the road was really covered with snow, so I decided to sleep at China Wall Staging area. This wasn't really a problem, there were a couple of cars parked there but I never did see anyone.

The next morning I coasted practically all the way back to Foresthill and had coffee and a breakfast burrito at Mega's.

Then it was the up and down of Foresthill Road back home.

The Bagman support worked well, it positions the Camper in a good spot and gives a little extra support to back up the straps' efforts in holding the bag.

I had problems with gears skipping in a couple of positions, this will require further investigation. I'm not sure what could cause this since I was using a new chain and cassette.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Felt Gravel Grinder!

My new Felt V100.

Last summer I was riding Ponderosa Way and mused that the rough surface and steep inclines would be well suited for a Gravel Bike, the bike industry's newest marketing ploy to get us to buy more bikes. Well, their insidious strategy has worked on me. The other day after visiting a local Home Depot I wandered into a nearby bike shop, Bob's Cycles of Roseville. There I found a Felt V100 on sale for less than half price, $450 versus a msrp of about a grand.

I actually resisted the temptation of immediately buying it and looked at the market for gravel bikes. It seems like there are quite a few out now. Two other candidates for my price range was the Performance Access Old Turnpike and the Mongoose Selous Sport at Nashbar, plus a host of others available in the web nowadays.



I was really liking the Performance bike, but it was rapidly disappearing. I found a 54 at a San Diego shop, but I wanted to try the 56, plus being on holiday, it would have been a little...awkward. Finally, realizing that it was $200 more than the Felt finally made me decide to wait.

Weighing all the pro's and cons of the bikes available, I decided that the Felt offered the most  pro's, with a good frame and carbon fork that seem to be shared with the other V-series Felts, including the V55 which costs up to $2,200, the Tektro discs and a decent Claris drivetrain all at a very competitive price.

When I got home I went by Bob's. The one I had tried out was gone, but they had a couple more at their Fair Oaks location. They transferred one over and the next day I was back. This bike was called a size 56, which the sales guy said was good for me. Evidently, the Felt sizing is based on effective toptube length, as opposed to seattube, as the seattube was only 52 cm's.

Looking at the reach from tip of the saddle to the handlebar, I thought I'd need a longer stem, but now that I've done a little riding, I think it fits pretty well. With those long STI brifter levers you do stretch out quite a bit. The only thing I don't care for is the large amount of seatpost showing, but that's just cosmetic. The height of the handlebars are at the same level as the saddle with no adjustment whatsoever.

Disc brakes are a new feature for me.
Of course this bike has a ton of features that I've avoided over the last 20 years or so...aluminum frame, carbon fork, STI, and disc brakes. But that was part of the reason I was interested in this bike, I wanted to sample these things.

The frame and forks are fairly straightforward, time alone will tell if they hold up well. The geometry seems pretty laid back with a headtube angle of <72 degrees. Trail is similar to my Mercian Tourer, somewhere in the low 60s. The bike handles no-handed very well, yet feels pretty nice on the twisties on Ridge Road.

The Shimano Claris shifters and derailleurs are the lowest level STI, but are working well right now. That they are only 8 speed is actually a bonus for me since all my other cassettes are 8's as well. The crank is a compact road with 50/34 chainrings. Combined with the 11-32 cassette I have an adequate low gear for an unloaded tourer, but I think the 50 is not so useful. I hope to swap that out for a 46 or 48 later on, which will give me more useful gears. Strangely, all the information I have read about the V100 indicates that it should have an FSA Tempo crank, which uses a traditional square taper bottom bracket. But both V100s I've seen at Bob's had the Shimano "RS200" compact crank. Looks like it's a square taper BB. Maybe this is why the heavy discount was applied; they ran out of FSA cranks? I'm thinking of upgrading the cranks to something radical, we'll see.

I'm pretty interested in the disc brakes. They are Tektro Miras, certainly not a top of the line brake, but they seem to work pretty well for now. I look at these as good training examples that I can learn disc maintenance on, before I upgrade to something a little nicer, probably the TRP Spyres, still mechanical, but supposedly superior, with both pads pressing onto the rotor, where the Miras have one moving pad and one fixed. I really don't want to get into a hydraulic disc on a bike.

A look at the rear disc.

When I brought the Felt home, the first thing I did was install a Brooks B17, as the stock saddle didn't look great. I then removed the stock Vittoria 32c tires and installed my 37c Continental Tour Rides. The Conti's actually measure a true 35mm wide and they easily fit this frame. According to some literature I've read, Felt says a 40c will fit. Well, maybe so, if it's a narrow one!

An interesting feature on this bike are the unusually wide handlebars, the ends' width measure 49.5 cm's, while at the levers, the width is about 45! This actually feels pretty good and will no doubt be nice to have in rough conditions.

A look at the clearance with 37C (a true 35C) tire.
Next, I replaced the pedals with some old SPD's I had lying around. I added my Toepeak Roadmorph pump and a saddlebag and I was ready to roll.

I've only taken the Felt on road rides so far, but on those I felt pretty comfortable. I got used to the shifting pretty quickly, although I did have to make a couple of adjustments to the rear derailleur. The front derailleur has a "half click" trim action that seems to work quite well. I find that riding on the brake hoods is quite comfortable, but so is riding in the (slightly compact) "drops". Had I gotten a larger size, I may have been stretched out a bit too far.

Set up for riding. An interesting feature is the internal routing for brake and derailleur cables.
Back at the garage, I've adjusted the rear derailleur and the rear brake. The disc brake seems pretty simple. Right now it feels pretty effective too. I'm looking forward to taking this bike down Ponderosa Way!

Another tweak, switched saddles to the Swallow.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Mount Laguna Loop

Lenticular clouds outside Cuyamaca Lake
Our visit to San Diego County this year occurred in between rain storms. Looking at forecasts, it appeared that I would be able to have one or two good weather days in the mountains of eastern San Diego County, so I decided to bring the bike. So I brought my recently renovated 1980 Mercian Olympic. I built this bike for trips like this.

A screen shot of the ride as plotted by the "MapMyRide" phone app.
The map above shows my route as recorded by the MapMyRide app on my phone. This is a favorite ride of mine and I have done it many times and on many different bikes. This year I decided to reverse direction and rode the route in a clockwise direction. It's funny how reversing a route can change your impressions of a ride! This ride was no exception.

I drove up to the Park and Ride at the Descanso turnoff of Highway 8. This is almost always my starting point. From there I followed Highway 79 towards Cuyamaca Lake, riding through Cuyamaca Rancho State Park.

I had a relatively late start, having had to drop Shelly off in Ocean Beach, I didn't actually start riding until 11:15. It was warm enough to start in just riding shorts, but cool enough to warrant a wool jersey with a lighter long sleeve over that.

Entering Cuyamaca Rancho State Park on Highway 79.
Riding Hwy 79 in this direction offers one big advantage: You ride through the busiest and narrowest stretches of this ride early on. On this quiet weekday there was relatively little traffic and I made good time heading to Cuyamaca Lake.

Your ride up Hwy 79 is overshadowed by Stonewall Peak.
Eventually you wind up Hwy 79 to Paso Picacho Campground. This is the highest point of the ride on Hwy 79, from there you descend to Cuyamaca Lake.

At Paso Picacho, you are at the high point of you ride on Highway 79, it's downhill from here to Cuyamaca Lake.
I had forgotten to bring any food this time so I needed to stop at the lake's general store to pick up a really expensive Cliff bar, cookies and a Gatorade. The store also has a nice looking cafe which would be a great place to lunch if you have time.

Lake Cuyamaca is a good spot to pick up snacks and drinks if you need them.
Departing Cuyamaca Lake you continue north on Hwy 79 a few miles to the junction with County Road 1, the Sunrise Highway. In this area you cross into Anza Borrego State Park. At this point the wind was starting to pick up a bit. The picture at the heading of this post shows a lenticular cloud which indicates a strong wind flow aloft, and some of that was reaching the upper elevations! This certainly isn't unusual for this area, but another advantage of doing the ride in this direction now became evident. Instead of facing a demoralizing head wind, I had a tailwind or, at worst, a crosswind. This made this long climbing stretch a lot more tolerable. The prevailing wind direction here is from the west or northwest. This stretch also afforded a broad shoulder and very light traffic. You actually start to feel a little lonely on this part of the ride!

Coming to San Diego County Road S1, the Sunrise Highway. You're entering Anza Borrego State Park at this point.
Your ride on S1 starts in open and somewhat arid country and gradually climbs to the wooded highlands of  the Mt. Laguna region, most of which is part of the extensive Cleveland National Forest system.

You eventually climb to a point that offers really magnificent views of the desert below. I continued my habit of stopping at one particular overlook and snapping a picture of my bike with the view as a backdrop. I need to collect all of the versions of this picture I've taken.

This year the desert had a decidedly green cast to it, a result of this years abundant rainfall!

I snap this picture every time I make this ride, an overlook into the Anza Borrego Desert. The desert actually looked a little green this early in the year!
Shortly after the overlook, the radome of the Mt. Laguna USAF station came into view. Riding in this direction you can see this feature much easier. Going in the other, you have your back to it.

The USAF radar station, approaching Mt. Laguna.
The little village of Mt. Laguna is just a short ride from this point. Here there is a small store/restaurant which is open year round. There is also a Forest Service visitor's center which has water available in case you need it. This year I only needed two water bottles since the temperatures were relatively cool. In fact, it seemed a little chilly in Mt. Laguna this day and I was beginning to think about donning a windbreaker.


Descending down S1, Pine Valley and Interstate 8 is just visible to the upper right.
You have a very short and gentle climb departing Mt. Laguna then you start a long descent to Pine Valley. As I descended I noticed the temperature seemed to moderate pretty quickly so I didn't bother with the windbreaker. I warmed up nicely as I took the twisties down to the junction of S1 and "Old Hwy 80", just above Pine Valley.

At the junction of the Sunrise Highway, (SD County Road S1) , and Old Highway 80 just east of Pine Valley.
From here it was a quick descent to Pine Valley, then a pretty good climb up to Guatay.  These two places are opportunities for food and water if you need either, but now you're quite close to the end of your ride. You pass the turnoff (Hwy79) which you took earlier to go to Cuyamaca Lake, then pass through a small commercial district (a couple of cafe's and a store), then you're just about a mile to the Park and Ride.

A shot of the Mercian at the Descanso Park and Ride. Actually this was taken at the start of the ride.
This is just a wonderful ride with good roads, great scenery and enough climbing to keep you honest. I think riding this route in the clockwise direction works well, better than going in the other direction.


The gearing I used, (a compact double crank (48/34) with a 12/26 8 speed cassette), was perfect for this terrain. Total distance was just over 50 miles with an elevation gain of over 4700 feet. I managed to hit 40 MPH on the descent from Mt. Laguna, and had an average speed for just under 13 mph.

One last look and the Anza Borrego Desert.