Wednesday, January 1, 2020

2019 year end review and this Winter's projects.


At Olmstead Point, Yosemite NP.
The year in review:

Another year has come and gone! 2019 was a pretty successful year for me, (by my modest standards)! The highlight of this year's riding was my High Sierra tour, which included climbs of Tioga and Sonora Passes. Other interesting rides included a couple of gravel road adventures  Camp Far West and beyond , Loon Lake bikehike, and the my two century rides, Three rivers century. , Foothill century. This year, I added Foresthill and Yankee Jims Road to my foothill route which made it pretty challenging.

Another significant, (to me), accomplishment was my total yearly mileage which topped 5,000 miles this year!

So it was a pretty good riding year.

Winter Projects:

K.O.M. conversion to mustache bars is finalized.


Mercian with Mustache Bars 
Winter is the time for maintenance. With the KOM Mercian, I decided to commit completely to the mustache handlebar installation. I trimmed down the brake cables to a better fit, (they had been left unchanged from the drop bar configuration). I also installed my old but relatively lightly used SunTour Barcons, handlebar-end shifters. These are basically friction shifters, but have a light ratcheting action which is useful when trimming the derailleurs. Handlebar mounted shifters are generally preferred for mustache bars for ease of access. A new tape job, in black this year, finished off the package.



The barcons did require the cable housing to hang in front of the handlebars so I removed my handlebar bag and rack, replacing them with my Carradice Pendle saddlebag. This combo rides quite nicely but I rather miss the convenience of a handlebar bag. I may have to revisit this at a later date.

With these installed, I've pretty much committed myself to the mustache bar configuration.

Finally, I replaced the SKS Longboard fenders with SKS Bluemel "Commuter" fenders which come in a 53mm width. I've liked the wider fenders on my 650b conversion so these seemed like a good idea. Like all SKS fenders these went on without drama, although I did shave off a bit on the front fender to clear the fork blades.

Just a bit shaved off to clear the fork to allow the fender to spread with no bending.
Front bag for the fixed gear:


The old Blackburn front rack on the Nishiki.
 With the front bag which was formerly mounted on the KOM now languishing, I decided to mount it on my Nishiki International fixie. To do this I used my very old Jim Blackburn front rack which needed a little twisting to get set on the bike. Now I've got a little more capacity for my fixed gear rides.

650b Mercian updates:

Just a few minor changes were made to my 650b Mercian conversion. I replaced the Campagnolo brake levers with nearly identical SunTour Superbe levers. Mostly I wanted to protect the old Campy levers from possible damage as the Superbes are little less valuable. I also felt funny about mixing Italian levers with Asian brakes. Silly, I know.

Actually, the quality of the SunTour levers seem just as high as the Campagnolo.

The Superbe Levers on the Mercian.
One final equipment note; this year I've tried some new pedals, "two-way" Shimano PD-EH500 pedals. These offer a platform surface on one side, and a SPD interface on the other. I wanted to experiment with platform to give my feet the chance to move around. I've found that I can get some foot pain when I keep feet in a fixed spot for an extended period of time.

Shimano PD-EH500 two way pedals.
I actually used these on my KOM during my Sierra tour. They worked well. The only negative I have found is that ground clearance is a little restricted when using the SPD side; the platform hangs a little lower and I did experience a pedal strike once when cornering while using the SPD side.

A new home for my bikes!

My youngest son recently returned to the West Coast and is currently staying with us. He is currently between jobs ans so was looking for something to do. We had mentioned that we wanted to have a shed set up to provide a storage site for my bikes. He jumped at this chance. He designed the shed using a CAD program he owned. We supplied the materials and bought some of the tools he needed. We agreed to pay him the same amount that we were going to pay for a store-bought shed, less the costs of the materials and tools.

It took a few weeks and we had to help here and there but generally, the shed was his product and it came out pretty nicely. I now have all of my bikes hanging, along with Shelly's. Also a couple of the grandkid's bikes are thrown in, along with our Christmas decoration storage boxes.


The new bike shed!
With the new year upon me, I have to plan my riding, I managed to avoid Iowa Hill in 2019, something I'll have to remedy in 2020. I want to do more overnight tours, I'm not sure where to at this time. As for equipment, I'd still like to get some sort of disc braked gravel bike frame, but I don't have any room left in the shed!


Saturday, October 5, 2019

High Sierra tour of 2019

On Highway 120 to Tioga Pass
I like to plan multi-day bicycle trips for the Fall. It's been a while but I had a hankering for  trip so I decided to ride over Tioga Pass, one of the High Sierra passes I hadn't yet ridden. Looking over the map it seemed that I could combine riding Highway 120 through Yosemite with an overnight stay in Sonora, followed by a climb over Sonora Pass on Highway 108. On paper, it looked like I could do it in two days.

I booked a room in Sonora and planned to have a camp site on Hwy 120 below Tioga Pass for three nights. This would allow me to leave my truck there while I made the ride. The weather proved to be a little dodgy, I had to put everything off one day due to an early season storm system passing through Northern California and brushing the Yosemite area. Watching the weather forecasts proved to be a nerve-wracking experience because it seemed like the only bad weather was to occur around the time of my planned trip!

Anyway, the day arrived and I made the long trip to Lee Vining and found a great campsite at Lower Lee Vining Campground, a USFS campground on Highway 120, about 12 miles below the summit of Tioga Pass. I set up a tent and had dinner and looked around the campground. This is a nice site, although it is a "dry" one, you have to bring your own water to this campground.

That night I watched a movie on my tablet, ("Air Strike" a Chinese movie with Bruce Willis, if you aren't interested in Chinese air warfare in the early days of WWII, don't bother!), then went to sleep.

The next morning I hit the road at around 7:30, starting the long grind up to Tioga Summit. At first, things were pretty routine, just a long slog up the grade. It gradually became a little breezy, then downright windy. As I approached a gap in the mountains approaching Ellery Lake the wind gusts and grade combined to make things downright difficult! At one point on a steep curve a gust hit me in just a way that I was moved into the gravel shoulder and the next thing I flopped over to the ground! Well, that was interesting! I got up and back on the bike and the wind seemed to relent a bit. Soon I was on a slightly less steep section and things got back to normal.


On the way up Tioga Pass on Hwy 120.
At Ellery Lake
It wasn't long after Ellery Lake that I reached the Park entrance and Tioga Summit. It's too bad they don't have a nice summit marker there, just the entrance kiosk...

Made it! At the Park entrance.
Then I biked through the northern half of Yosemite NP. Lots of interesting scenery. Being Fall, the traffic wasn't too troublesome, but there was definitely a good number of people about.

Along 120 in the Park.
I paused at Olmstead Point to take in the extraordinary view...in the distance you could see the back side of Half Dome.

The Mercian at Olmstead Point; that's Half Dome in the distance.
Then it was just a ride in the park! But this park consisted of a continuous series of tough climbs and swift descents. I could see this would be a tough ride in either direction! I had considered making my return ride from Sonora back through the Park but I now rejected that plan because it seemed like it would be simply too hard a ride!

I eventually left the Park and continued on Hwy 120, finally reaching Groveland after 4:00 pm, man, this was taking a long time!

Finally, Groveland!
The climb out of Groveland was rewarded with the impressive view from the top of Old Priest Road. Old Priest road, in the picture below, is the narrow and steep road on the left, while the modern road is on the right. I took the modern road and it was hoot! I was lucky to hit it when there was virtually no traffic so I was able to really hit the downhill with gusto! The Mercian was handling very well with the saddlebag/handlebar bag combination so I was able to let it go. MapMyRide indicated a top speed of 45mph on this stretch.

Past Groveland is Priest Summit. Old Priest Road is on the left.
Of course, all good things must come to an end and so did this descent, at Moccasin. After that it was a gentle climb to a cutoff on Jacksonville Road which took me to Jamestown. This was a tedious climbing stretch but it cut off quite a few miles from taking the Hwy 120 route. I finally reached my hotel in Sonora as it was getting quite dark! It had been a long day, 12 hours and 122 miles! That night I found I had very little appetite which was a little worrying, but I forced myself to eat some dinner and have a pint of Sierra Nevada; that I could do!

The next morning I had breakfast and headed out. The nice thing about the hotel I chose was that it was on the east side of Sonora so it was easy to get out of town and onto Highway 108, the road up Sonora Pass. I had no illusions about this day's ride; it would be a lot of hard climbing. The only other time I had climbed Sonora Pass, I had stayed the night in a cabin at Dardanelle and had a relatively short ride to the hard part. This time I would have to do a lot more climbing.

On Highway 108 to Sonora Pass.
It was a tough ride but in many respects, I preferred riding 108 to riding through Yosemite. Generally the road was in better condition and seemed to have more shoulders. It was also much less traveled, traffic was way less. The scenery is still very beautiful although at Dardanelle a fire had destroyed the cabins I had stayed at last time, that was sad to see.

Past Dardanelle things started to get tough. Approaching the "gates", a gap in the rock that the road goes through, the grade approaches 26 percent! At one point I stopped to catch my breath. Upon starting again, my front wheel swerved and I caught it with my toe! Down I went. This section was so steep that I had to push the bike a few yards before I could even try to mount it. I went down one more time during this ride but fortunately all this mishaps occurred while climbing, so I was going quite slow with no damage to me or my bike!

The grade continued in varying degrees of severity. I actually flopped over once more on a steep hairpin! This was getting ridiculous! To make matters worse, I had gotten the idea that the summit was 7800 feet, imagine my surprise when I passed a 9,000 foot marker!

As I continued to slog forward, the weather was getting more and more threatening. First there was an occasional spit of rain but that soon turned to a occasional flake of snow. At least it wasn't windy!

At long last I came to the summit! what a relief. I snapped a couple of pictures, then a couple of guys who were getting ready to camp up there came along and I got them to snap my picture, thanks guys!

At the top! I was getting pelted with snow pellets at this point!
In my face I think you can see some of the strain of this ride!

The strain of the ride is on my face!
Of course, now I had the pleasure of the grand descent from the summit! And it was thrilling, with lots of steep drops and wild hairpin turns. I loved it. My max speed on this day was 46 mph.

Upon reaching the bottom of the descent I realized I was really in the middle of nowhere at 5:00 pm in the evening, and with no reservations anywhere. I had to push on to Bridgeport, there was simply no place between where I was and there! I finally made it to town as darkness was falling. I actually used my new bike light! I was relieved to find a vacancy, the last room the place had as it turned out. It was a little pricey, but I definitely enjoyed the room!

That night I enjoyed a plate of spaghetti and garlic toast and the most delicious pint of Ballast Point Sculpin I ever tasted.

The next morning I started out in the chilly air. I had managed to loose my gloves the day before so I was using my extra pair of socks for mittens. The ride was now on HWY 395 from Bridgeport to Lee Vining and I had no illusions that this would be a dream ride. However, traffic wasn't too bad and I was enjoying the lonely landscapes of the Eastern Sierra. The was a seemingly endless chain of little summits to cross until finally I reached Conway Summit, 8138 feet. shortly after this was a vista point.

The final summit...?
At the vista point I was able to look down upon mono Lake and Lee Vining. What a great view!

...Yes!! Overlooking Mono Lake and Hwy 395!
The downgrade here was very  broad and well shouldered, an easy ride though I didn't hit any extraordinary speeds on it. At the bottom I just rode a series of low hills up and down to the Highway 120 junction. Turning on that it was a few miles to my campsite where I started the ride.

Total mileage for the two and a half day ride was 244 miles. If the MapMyRide stats are correct, my total elevation gain for the three days was 25,000 feet with the biggest day being the climb up Sonora Pass which amounted to 11,400 feet. Maximum elevation was 9,962 feet while climbing Tioga Pass!

The final picture taken as I turned onto the road to Lower Lee Vining Campground, looking up at Tioga!
Equipment Notes




I rode my King of Mercia Touring model on this ride. The gearing was the most important feature on a ride of the nature, mine consisted of a "wide-range" double, 26/46 chainrings up front and a 12/28 8 speed cassette on back which gave me a satisfactory gear range. I didn't have any serious issues with the drivetrain.

In fact I had virtually no mechanical issues, at least I thought that much before I got home. No Flats at all, (I put a fresh 700X32 Pasella on the rear before the ride). About a week after this ride, however, after a short day ride at home, I noticed my rear brake wasn't centered. It turned out the brake was fine, the wheel was a bit out of true. It turned out that I had actually broken a spoke on the rear wheel on the drive side at the head! I don't know when this happened but suppose it occurred during the climbing, probably on Sonora Pass!

My baggage was carried in a Carradice Camper saddlebag supported by a "Bagman" saddlebag support. In addition, a Velo Orange Rando Bag up front carried food and light gear. The bike handles superbly in this configuration.

This was a very challenging ride. I don't know if I'll ever be able to tackle something like it again! The grades on both passes were really taxing. But I won't be forgetting this ride any time soon, and that's the whole point, isn't it?

Monday, September 2, 2019

My Foothill Century-2019 edition.

At Foresthill.

The time had arrived for me to do my annual century ride through the foothills of the Central Sierra Nevada Mountains. Normally I would plan a route through Auburn and continuing to Meadow Vista and then to either Grass Valley or Colfax. This year bridge replacement on Bowman Road made my route through Auburn more complicated than usual so I decided to change the route and add a few more miles at the same time. I hoped I could stretch out the distance to an even 200 kilometers or 124.25 miles!

To accomplish this I planned to ride up to Foresthill, then take Yankee Jim's Road to Colfax. From Colfax I would ride Highway 174 to Grass Valley then take the normal route from Grass Valley, that's westbound Highway 20 to Smartsville Road, then on the Wheatland and back to Loomis through Lincoln.

The first leg of the ride was through Auburn, across the Foresthill Bridge and on up to Foresthill. The long climb to Foresthill is always workout. Getting into town I stopped at Worton's for a chocolate milk and apple pie and took in the view from the picnic tables. The heading picture is from Worton's.

From Foresthill, I dropped down Yankee Jim's Road to the North Fork of the American River. After a mile or so the road turns to gravel. This year the road seems to be in pretty good shape, just a little washboard to tend with. It was very dusty at first. I took my time descending.

Pretty dusty conditions at first!
There was very little traffic on this weekday. I did encounter a couple of horseback riders but no cars on the descent. Climbing out on the north side I met only two vehicles. The road remained in good shape on the other side.

Along Yankee Jims Road

Yankee Jims Bridge over the North Fork of the American River.
I finally reached Colfax by around 11:00 am. I was beginning to see that I was in for a long day in the saddle! After getting a little mixed up in Colfax I found the way to highway 174 and was soon climbing again. I reached Cedar Ridge at a bit after noon and stopped for a soft drink and to refill my water bottles. I took a break and had a small sandwich then got back on the road heading for Grass Valley.

Lunch break at Cedar Ridge
Approaching Grass Valley you should take the left that takes you to the Empire Mine, a large State Park now. Following this road will take you directly to Highway 20 and the next leg of the route.

The rest of the ride follows my past routes...for the latest iteration see Camp Far West Road and beyond. I followed Smartsville Road and a couple of rural roads to Wheatland. There I stopped for some cold drinks and then pressed on to Lincoln and finally home. It was fairly warm, highs approaching the mid and upper 90s and I definitely felt it, with twinges of cramps at times, but I was able to make it home fine. Final mileage was 122.28 miles on MapMyRide. I was not especially fast however, with an average speed of 12 mph I spent a little over 10 hours riding!

This was a tough ride, the start up to Foresthill is a grind, and Yankee Jims Road is always fun but demanding! Not sure if I'll try it next year when Bowman Road is open again!

Equipment notes.

Well, no mechanical issues were encountered on this trip! Not even a flat this time. I also tried something to relieve my hotfoot problem. This time I used a half insole to support my arch and absolutely no other padding. not even the factory insole. This provided me a little extra room in the toe box and that seemed to do the trick! I had no pain in the ball of my right foot at all! Wonderful!

The Mercian, (My K.O.M. touring) preformed great, the mustache bars allowed me a pretty comfortable riding position. 

A little dusty after 122 miles but otherwise fine!



Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Loon Lake Bike/Hike

On Forest Service Road 13N11
I recently spent a couple of weeks camping up in El Dorado County at Loon Lake. I brought my Mercian shod with 650B tires for an occasional ride. My normal ride was out to the dam on the north side of the lake, then over to an outlook on the highway for cell service then back to camp. Barely 8 1/2 miles but it kept my legs spinning. Shelly and I were doing a lot of hiking so I wasn't worried about losing conditioning. One of our hikes started at the Loon Lake Chalet and went up to Chipmunk Butte. On this walk we would pass a Forest Service road marked 13N11 and I was curious about it. Looking at a map, I noticed it looped back to Ice House Road leading to the campground so it seemed to be a nice little circuit for riding.

Loon Lake Chalet
I decided to give the road a try on the Mercian. I hoped the 38mm(1 1/2") tires would provide sufficient grip and protection from pinch flats. In the end, I would guess I had to walk about half of the dirt section. I think a mountain bike could have done more...and a skilled rider could have perhaps ridden it all on a suspension equipped bike. Neither case applies to me! I looked at this ride as similar to those of the "Rough Stuff Fellowship" type rides the English used to do before the dawn of the mountain bike!

Start of the gravel just past the Chalet.

At the turnoff for USFS Road 13N11


Small lake along the route.

The way gets rough!

Do NOT take this turnoff!

This was one of the hiking parts!

The road follows the power lines at this point. I had to skirt around this puddle to the right.
The road finally swings away from the power lines and onto the paved Ice House Road road.
As you can see from the pictures, quite a bit of this road was very rough indeed. It was in interesting ride though. I'd like to try it with a wider tire sometime. Also, it was pretty wet this year, maybe I'll have better luck in a drier year!

Still, it was a nice little ride, but only 9.5 miles! I was surprised it was so short a distance. The bike did well, no mechanical issues, but it was definitely not the perfect bike for this ride, although it was good for that last uphill grind up Ice House Road.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Three River's Century ride, 2019 edition.

Nimbus Dam, from the American River Parkway.
I've been gradually getting in shape after a slow Spring and decided it was time for an "easy" century ride. For me, that means doing my "Three River Ride", which passes along the Feather, Sacramento, and American Rivers.

I chose the King Of Mercia for this ride.
This would be the longest ride I've attempted using the mustache bars on my KOM. I was curious how I wold like them for a long ride. The forecast high temperature was "HOT", 101-104F, so I wanted to get an early start. I did manage to get away before 7 a.m. but I should have tried to start earlier! I wore a wicking T shirt under my white jersey with sun sleeves, just like the Camp Far West ride.  This combination has proven to be pretty comfortable in hot weather.

On Pleasant Grove Road
This route starts from Loomis and goes to Lincoln, via Sierra College Blvd. and Highway 193.
After Lincoln, you take Nicolaus Road, (9th Street in Lincoln), to Pleasant Grove, turn right and then take the first left which is, Nicolaus Ave. you'll stay on this road to the Garden Highway.  These are generally quiet country roads but with occasional traffic including a large truck every so often, so you need to take care. the day I rode was a weekday, so the roads were fairly quiet, and Nicolaus seemed deserted!

Quiet day in Nicolaus
Past Nicolaus, you will cross under Highway 99 and the road then becomes the Garden Highway. Here I was treated to the sight of three deer,two young bucks and a young doe, darting in front of me! Eventually, you pass River Oaks Golf Club and ascend to the levee road which you will be on until you enter Sacramento. The levee road is generally in good condition but the shoulders can be a bit narrow. On a weekday, traffic is no problem at all, but I suspect this road could be pretty busy on weekends! Near Verona there are two stretches of very bad pavement, really rough and chewed up.

Along the Feather River
After the second stretch of bad road, a little past Verona, the pavement improves. Soon you cross the Sutter-Sacramento County line and the road is very good. You can soon see Sacramento International airport.


On the Garden Highway with the Sacramento skyline in the distance.

Eventually you'll be able to make out the Sacramento Skyline and soon you're passing under the I-5 overpass. There is a small park with a boat ramp here that makes a good stopping place for a snack and a break.


After a short break I continued on the Garden Highway, heading to Sacramento. The surrounding become more suburban than rural, soon you come to Discovery Park, the start of the American River Parkway.
On the American River Parkway
The Jedediah Smith Multi-Use Trail is the path you ride when riding the Parkway. It's a wonderful trail and it takes you through stretches that seem wild while only being yards from the city! Wildlife can be seen and there are lots of places to stop along the way which have restrooms and water available. I traveled uneventfully up until just past Nimbus Dam, where the trail follows under some steep bluffs. There I was met by a literal brick wall!

Why yes, the parkway is closed at the Bluffs! Note the path around the roadblock on the right!
There is an alternative route on the south side of the river now, I've taken that before but frankly didn't care for it; at this point of the ride I'm getting tired and don't want to have to find my way through Folsom! I noticed that there was a well worn path going around the barrier, so I decided to take a chance and try to get through the blockage.

As you can see in the picture below, there was a good reason for the closure! But again, there are paths going around these blockages as well! I again walked around the debris and continued on.

...and here's why it's closed! Note again the paths around the obstacles.
Eventually I came to the second and final wall which again had a path around it. Then I was clear! I was getting close to Negro Bar and Folsom.

I was now on the final leg of the ride. From Folsom, I rode the bike trail up to Beals Point State Park and stopped there for a break and a cold soda. It was now starting to get pretty warm. The final stretch followed Auburn-Folsom Road up to King, then King to home in Loomis. Final mileage on "MapMyRide" was 101.1 miles.

Today's ride proved to me that temperatures have a lot to do with my performance on longer rides. My legs were threatening to cramp up quite a bit on the final leg and I'm pretty sure it was because of the 100+ temperatures at the end of the day.

Equipment wise, I had two issues. One I noticed while riding; shifting was getting a little unreliable between 3rd and 4th gear. It turns out that my derailleur cable had become badly frayed and had lost several strands of material! See below:

This may have affected my shifting slightly!
Replacing the cable seems to have eliminated the problem. The other issue I did not discover until I began working on the rear derailleur; I found that I had lost the bolt connecting the right rear fender stay to the frame!

Finally, the mustache bars worked out fine. I noticed a little more, or maybe just different, pressure on my hands that I compensated for by shifting hand positions. But my neck and back felt very good after the ride, no stiffness at all.