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.