Wednesday, April 25, 2018

An early "3 River's century" this year.

The Delta King
With a full schedule of summer activities coming I, I felt I needed to get my cycling training going early this year. Things went so well that I decided I could attempt my anual "3 Rivers Century" in April, so off I went.

The advantage of an April century is that the heat hasn't settled over the region yet and this year was no exception, with high temps forecast in the mid 80s. The morning temperatures were cool enough to warrant some 3/4 length tights over my shorts to begin with. An undershirt, a wool jersey, "sun sleeves", and a light wind shell rounded out the rest of my ensemble. By the time I reached Nicolaus, I had shed the tights and wind shell, but I managed to keep the sleeves on all day. I never really got very hot until the last stretch up Auburn-Folsom Road in the afternoon.

My route for this ride is counter-clockwise if you examine it on a map. Departing Loomis and riding through Lincoln and continuing westward to Nicolaus to the Garden Highway. I then followed the levee road along the Feather River to Verona. This year I watched out for the confluence of the Feather and Sacramento rivers and found a good vantage point at the Verona Marina. This was the first time I've seen this, and I was surprised that the Sacramento was smaller than the Feather at this point.

Unusual view of the confluence of the Feather and Sacramento Rivers, from the Verona Marina.
Now continuing south on the Garden Highway I soon could see Sac International from a less common vantage point. After that I came to the I-5 overpass and stopped for a brief lunch stop then headed into Sacramento.

Sacramento Intl, looking Southeast from the Garden Highway.

Lunch break under Interstate 5.
Soon I was on the American River Parkway at Discovery Park. I don't always see wildlife here but today I spotted a small group of deer and a handsome Egret.

Wildlife sptted on the American River Parkway.

Again, on the American River Parkway.
Following a couple of different bike trails I made my way to Beales Point State Park and then onto Auburn Folsom road up to King, then back to home.

Another good century, with virtually no mechanical problems, not even a flat! I did notice that one of my handlebar end caps had fallen off,(!), but it was just a cheap plastic pressed-in one that was no great loss. I had no cramping this time, I think this is because of the mild temperatures and not because I'm in any better shape than in previous years!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Mods on the Felt V-100

Narrower handlebars, and gone are the interrupter brake levers.
I enjoy messing around with my bikes' during winter. My older bikes have been pretty much sorted out, however, I felt there was room for improvement on my newer Felt V100.

For starters, I wanted to upgrade the Tektro Mira disc brakes to TRP Spyres, which feature a dual pad actuation. I found a reasonably priced set on eBay and purchased them. When time came for installation I decided to get rid of the interrupter brake levers on the handlebars. I never really used them and they seemed to clutter up the cockpit. At the same time, I replaced the original, very wide bars, (46cm), with a narrower set, (42cm). The narrower bar felt more comfortable to me. The advantages of  wider bars are primarily for off road use, I haven't found them that beneficial for my more sedate gravel road travels.

Tektro TRP Spyre road discs with 160mm rotors front and back.
Installation of the Spyres was pretty simple. I did have to replace the cable housing for both brakes since I had removed the interrupters. Routing the internal rear brake cable proved to be a little work, but not terribly onerous. In use, I do like the Spyres. I do notice a little more effectiveness and their feel is a tad smoother.

The biggest change was the wheelset. I liked having the wider Conti Speed Rides, (advertised 42mm wide but actually 39mm wide, but felt that with a 700c tire, the 39mm width was really getting too close to the bike's chainstays. The solution was to switch to 650B. The reduced diameter of these wheels allows you to fit a wider tire.

I found a really inexpensive set of 650B disc wheels on Amazon. In fact the set I got was a returned set so I saved quite a bit. This was an experiment anyway, so I'm not concerned if the wheels don't last forever.

Actually, when I received them, I was pleasantly surprised by their quality. While by no means a pro level wheel, the quality of the hubs seem very close to what came on the Felt. I did add some grease and adjust the bearings and tightened the spokes and trued the wheels, so they should hold up for a while.

For tires, I selected some Panaracer Gravel Kings, sized 650X 1.75. These seem like very nice tires, they cost as much as the wheels did! After mounting, I was a little disappointed that they only measured a true 40mm wide, about 1.6 inches, quite a bit less than I was hoping, but still a little wider than the Conti's. Plus, of course, there's now a fair bit of space between the tire and the chainstay. Next time though, I'll try the 1.9" tire, if it measures a true 44mm wide or so, I think it will fit.
650B wheels with 1.75" Panaracer Gravel King tires.

Ample clearance for the 650X42 tire.  (Actual width 40mm).
Riding these new wheels I noticed something I had also discovered on a previous 650B conversion, (see my Surly Pacer 650b conversion.) The smaller wheels seem to change your gearing. This makes sense since the wheel's circumference has been reduced slightly. I find I can use higher gears for climbing. The fat tires and reduced 65 lb. pressure also gave a different feel that took me a couple of miles to get used to.

The older Ritchey seatpost provided a setback which improved my position on the bike.
One last change was a subtle one, but it has made a significant change in my riding comfort. I replaced the  original, zero setback seatpost with an old Ritchey which had a few centimeters of setback. I immediately felt an improvement in my comfort while peddling. Funny how something like that can make a big impact on you.

After a test ride, not sure about that handlebar bag yet!
So now my Felt is ready to take on Ponderosa Way, Yankee Jims Road and Finning Mill later this spring!

Monday, November 6, 2017

Changing time and installing fenders.

Mercian Olympic wearing mod'd SKS Longboards.
The first weekend in November is when we in the USA change our clocks from Daylight Savings Time back to Standard Time. The weather in Central California seems to switch to winter mode very distinctly around this time of year. So it is a convenient time for me to re-install fenders on my bikes which have gone fender-less over our long dry season.

In a previous blog post, Click here for the link to post regarding these fenders. , I had described my modification and installation of SKS Longboards on my Green Mercian. I currently have that bike in a non-operational status, so I decided to install them on my other Mercian Olympic!

Among some other modifications, I had adapted the Longboards to a Daruma type of installations under the front fork crown. So, I had to install a Daruma on this bike to mount the front fender.That was about the biggest task of the whole install! All mounting points were identical on this Olympic to the 1983 version, so things were all pretty easy.

Longboards installed, bike's ready for the winter rains.

Shot of the rear installation.

And one of the front.

Another overall view.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Grass Valley century for 2017

On Smartsville Road
Just checking in with a brief report on the second 100 mile ride of the season. It was my usual jaunt into the Nevada County foothills to Grass Valley.

On Dog Bar Road
The first day I attempted the ride I suffered 2 flats before getting to Auburn! I decided not to tempt fate so I abandoned that day. Back at home I patched both tubes and put 3 spare tubes in the handlebar bag. I also made sure the patch kit was in good condition.

The next morning I tried again. This time I was successful. I did have one flat on Smartsville road later in the ride, but that was the only mechanical issue of the ride.

The ride was uneventful. I stopped at the large gas station at Penn Valley for lunch, not even stopping in Grass Valley at all. The weather heated up quit a bit late in the ride, hitting the mid 90s.

I wore sun sleeves for the entire ride and was fairly comfortable in them. I think they are much more comfortable than laying on a coat of sun block.

I rode the Mercian KOM this ride and had no mechanical issues other than the flat.

Not a view from this ride, but this is how the KOM was set up for this ride, (except for the saddle).

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