Saturday, September 27, 2008

Alive and well..

I'm still in Corvallis, OR. So, sorry for the lack of posts. Yesterday, we set up my girlfriend's canopy for Fall Festival, all by bike! It took three bikes. My cargo bike (for carrying cement blocks), Matt's bike with a canoe extension (to carry 10 foot poles) and Laura's bike with a BOB for everything else. Fun times. We had our own personal bike circus.

Visit my personal blog for more pics.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Epicurean Train Travel....

One last post (promise) before I hit the road for the next week. I just dug up some photos from my 2007 Oregon coast tour to share some of the train photos. I really really enjoy taking the train. Most of my friends balk when I tell them it takes 32 hours to take the train from LA to Portland, but speed is not always the point my friend!

I wrote an article for the local weekly all about bike trips mixed with train travel here.

For one, you can take more than 3oz of liquid with you! You can take a bike on board for a nominal cost ($10), compared to an airplane ($150+). You actually SEE the countryside. Depending on where the train goes, some rides are more scenic than others.

I can only speak for the Amtrak Surfliner and Coast Starlight trains, but those two lines are really great deals. If you have the time.

My favorite thing to do is to just sit in the lounge car, listen to music, read a book and watch the landscape unfold before you like a never-ending picture book. It's surreal really to SEE what you're traveling through like that and not just fly above it from 30,000 feet.

To make our trip tomorrow a bit more epicurean we're going to bring aboard some nice hard cheese, a sausage, some prosciutto and a loaf of bread or two.

And what does it cost? For Laura and I and our bikes to get from LA to Albany, Oregon is a princely $360! Round-trip. 'Nuff said.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Going to Oregon....

Posts are going to be a little sporadic during the next week. I'm taking a train to Corvallis, OR (well..actually to Albany, then riding the bikes to Corvallis). My girlfriend got into a big art fair there (Fall Festival), so we're taking the show on the road.

I'll be taking snaps and video of the trip. If you're curious to see how a car-free couple can transport themselves form one state to another, stay tuned.

If any readers are from Corvallis or thereabouts and a)need some photography b)want to buy me a beer or c)need some photography and will buy me a beer afterwards, you can email me :)

I'm bringing the Bilenky, so it'll be hard to miss.

Minnehaha Video Tour

Thought I'd make a quickie video to show how much stuff you can put in a Minnehaha Small Saddlebag.

Quick list:

2 tire levers
1 multi-
1 patch kit
1 Sigg Aluminum case (lunch)
2 tubes in boxes
1 wool bike polo jersey from Earth Wind Rider
1 Topeak mini-pump

Pretty darn good for a small bag.

The Tale of Two Pedals

Rambling Preamble

I thought it would be timely to do a post on pedals since our current poll is about pedals ( the should play if you haven't already).

I'm going to take a look at two pedals (and two shoes as well). The thing about pedals, I have discovered, is the shoe type is just as important. Maybe that's one reason one person likes a certain type of pedal and another hates it. There are a lot of variables involved and unless you're using the same exact pedal/shoe/misc combination, it's hard to make any conclusive statements.

First, a little about my personal pedal history. When I started cycling I used typical cheap platform pedals with a rubber platform. Nothing too thrilling. I then tried clips and straps. Better, but I could never get the hang of tightening down the strap while on the move.

THEN, I graduated to big-boy pedals. The ones with shoes with funny cleats and funny looking pedals. As a cyclist, it was a momentous occasion. I was part of the brotherhood of the serious cyclist (sans spandex and shaving legs...I wasn't THAT serious.) There was a certain pride walking around making the clicking sound with your cleats. People would look down at my shoes and make some remark about how serious I was into cycling.

Yes. The tappa-tappa-tappa was a sure sign of cycling gravitas.

Anyways, for about three years that's all I wore. Literally. I had to change my cleats every three months because I rode in them, did groceries in them and on occasion slept in them. The point is, I loved my clipless shoes/sandals.

One fateful ride made me re-evaluate all that. My girlfriend and I did a short three day tour in the central coast and we hit some of the steepest roads we've ever seen. I had a hard time clipping in on these steep roads with a loaded bike and for the first time was reduced to walking my bike up a hill. To make it worse, one particular hill was steep AND rocky (Refugio Road from the Solvang side, if you want to know). The short bits we could ride were heavily rutted with large rocks and I would get bounced off the bike and couldn't clip out fast enough. More walking (I hate walking).

The whole the time, I was wishing for just some nice platforms so I could put a foot down without having to twist out. Anyway, that led me to take a closer look at SOPs.

Finally, the Pedals!
For your consideration, two pedals that I have been riding in the last few months. One is the Rivendell Grip King (aka MKS Touring Lambda) and the old standby, the MKS Touring Pedal.

First, let's take a look at the Grip King. From an aerial view, they look like battle axes. They have quite a bit of surface area that runs the length of the foot. This makes it great for shoes that aren't necessarily super stiff (like my Merrel's in the picture). The platform is long and wide enough to provide lots of support. They are also really hard to miss when you're trying to find the pedal.

Another advantage of the big surface area of the pedal is that you can move your foot around to different positions. This helps with climbing when you want to relieve and stress other leg muscles by moving your feet.

On climbs when you are standing, the big surface area of the platform makes it feel like a Stair Master. You can stomp confidently up the hill without fear of falling off.

The grip is provided by these dimpled round surfaces that bite into your shoe. I find them great when dry, but when your shoes are wet or there is sand and dirt they do get a bit slick.

Here comes another caveat. The Grip King's are excellent with shoes with a standard size toe-box and some tread for the dimples to grip into (like my Merrels or your Chucks).

Unfortunately, my favorite touring shoe at the moment are a pair of Keen H2s and they have really WIDE toe-box. Suddenly, the big surface area isn't so big and I feel a bit like sliding off the side of the pedal (you can really see it in the picture).

I have toured with this combination and it's still good. Don't get me wrong. But it's somehow less perfect than if I was using the pedal with a regular shoe.

The Good Ol' Rat Trap
The other SOP pedal I use are the very non-sexy MKS Touring Pedals. Your eyes will tear up with boredom just looking at them. Whereas the Grip Kings looked like a cool Medieval weapon, the touring pedals look like...pedals.

But boy are they great!

They are toe-clippable, but I run them as a pure SOP pedal. The grip from the pedal comes from the serrations. These are great. They never clog up and always "bite" into your shoe. I have always thought that if they don't bite enough, you could take a file to them and give the serrations more of a point (haven't done it, but I'm pretty sure it would work).

As you can see in these pictures, the MKS Touring Pedals are wide enough to provide good contact with both my Merrel's and Keen sandals. With the Keen's, there's no feeling of slipping off the side of the pedals like I sometimes get with the GKs.

That being said, the Touring Pedals don't offer as much support along the whole length of the foot! Really soft sole shoes will not be as comfortable. Also, there is less usable surface area, so moving your foot around the pedal to work different muscles isn't as comfortable or easy.


Both the Grip Kings and Touring Pedals are excellent pedals....depending on your shoe.

Grip Kings will work excellently with most shoes, except those with really wide toe-boxes. Touring Pedals will work with almost all shoes (even wide toe-box shoes) but for best performace/comfort a shoe with a stiff sole is preferred.

As far as grippiness, I would give the Touring Pedals a slight advantage because of the uncloggable serrations. However, the GKs come close by providing more surface area and better overall foot support.

The GKs come out on top when it come to providing more pedal positions for your feet as well as providing nice platforms for stomping up hills.

As you can see, there's no clear winner. They're both darn good and one may be slightly better under certain circumstances.

Friday, September 19, 2008

You say tomato, I say...

Well the results are in for the 2nd poll, which was meant to just satisfy a curiosity and not to point the "accusatory mispronunciation finger."

Perhaps not as decisive and nose-turning as the pronunciation of Bianchi (Bee AHN kee, or Bee-AHN-chee). The pronunciation of panniers does lead to some minor campsite squabbles and uncomfortable blank looks at bike shops when members of separate pronunciation camps try to communicate.

19% (21 votes) pronounce it the French way...Pan-NEE-yay
54% (59 votes) pronounce it the 'Merican way..Pan-yers
26% (29 votes) pronounce it some way that is not rooted in any known linguistic logic (just kidding) PA-neers

Sadly, when I walk in to most bike shops around my area, it doesn't matter how I pronounce it since they don't know/carry panniers.

From Sheldon Brown:

Contrary to popular belief, "pannier" is not a French word, and should not be pronounced as one. The normal English pronunciation is: "PAN-yer".

"Pannier" is, in fact derived from a French word: "panier", a basket (more specifically, a bread basket, from "pain", the French word for "bread."

If you want to HEAR it spoken, click on the little speaker icon on this link from

In other news...check out the new poll. What kind of pedals do you use?

Some Stuff I've Eaten While on Tour...

I have a strange thing with photographing food I eat. Can't help it. Especially if it's a particular great meal, the photo of the food just reminds me not only of the food itself, but the sights and sounds of that particular gastrological (is that word?) moment.

So here's some photos of food and how we cooked them on my very first tour a few years ago. Some friends and I cycled down about 2/3 of the Oregon coast, eating our way through the state. At least I did.

What are some of your most memorable touring meals? (One of mine...not pictured here, was eating Tillamook bubblegum ice-cream at 9:30am for breakfast at this small gasoline station store.)

We used two small Trangia burners to cook most of the food on tour. Refueling with this stuff in a yellow bottle called HEET.

Always a good idea to pick up some locally roasted beans.

The best part of the trip was that there was free food along the roads :)

How I usually make my coffee in the AM. Gold cone filter in a cup holder. Got mine at a local Peet's before we left. It makes a great cup of coffee with no paper filters to toss out.

Fresh oysters. 'Nuff said.

Laura and I stumbled upon this small bakery while getting lost. It was fortuitous because we ended up buying this AMAZING loaf of freshly baked bread that lasted for 3 days! It was huge and dense and tasty.

Dressing up some ordinary chili with some Tillamook extra sharp cheddar.

Fresh wild salmon cooking on a camp grill. Does it get better than that?

Sure. Some local berry/chipotle marinade bought at a small coffee shop drizzled on with a titanium spork :)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Riding in the hills...

Some of the best roads are through canyons or in the mountains. Great views, fresh air and camping! But how to ride in those twisty canyon roads? I recently did a ride through Azusa Canyon in the San Gabriels and it's the sort of road that's hilly and has some twists and turns. A few stretches on an Oregon coast tour were like that as well. It's the sort of roads that if your mother knew you were riding on a bike, she'd probably have a heart attack.

I stumbled upon this video (actually made by a LAB instructor that I know) that shows some good riding techniques in narrow canyon roads. He made it in response to the accident in Mandville Canyon here in Los Angeles to show that it can be ridden safely without mass anarchy.

Worth a look. Some good techniques that I generally practice like taking the lane on fast downhills to discourage passing and trying to keep a good sight line at all times.

Any other canyon road aficionados? What techniques do you guys employ when you ride roads like these?

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Funny Name...Nice Bag

I posted my review of the Minnehaha Small Saddlebag over at Check it out!

In short, it's a great bag for the money.

It's nice to see another bag manufacturer producing more classic looking bags. Compared to a Carradice, the material seems a hair thinner and a bit floppier. Not deal breakers, just something to consider. Also the leather straps could be a bit thicker, but considering the loads the small saddlebar bag will carry, it shouldn't be too much of an issue. I'm not sure about it's waterproofness (it doesn't seem to be coated), so I probably wouldn't take it out if I knew I was going to be hit with a lot of rain.

All that said, it is a very roomy bag with good over-stuffability that won't break your bank so you'll have some money to go touring :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Pre-Crazy Guy...

If you're a bike tourist and have access to the internet, there is no doubt that you've probably stumbled upon CrazyGuyOnABike. If you haven't, you're in for a treat. Check it out NOW!

CGOAB is a great bike touring resource. It's also home to many a bike touring ride reports and blogs. Everything from rides around the block to rides around the world.

Featured on the site now is a great post called "The Joys of Cycling In the 1950's." It's got some great vintage touring photos and some neat shots of old stoves and cooking kits!

A nice rack...but doesn't work for me..

I have a Nitto M-12 rack that is pretty much brand new that I purchased from Velo-Orange a few weeks ago. I bought it for my Surly, but it won't fit on my 52cm 26inch version.

Should work fine on 700C bikes. Let me know if you want it by emailing me.

I'll sell it to US buyers for $50 (includes shipping) via PayPal.

What camera do you use?

I'm becoming less and less enamored with carrying a DSLR on bicycle trips. My current camera that I take with me is usually a D200 or D300 with a 17-55mm and 12-24mm lens.

For one, they're not cheap to replace. They're also not light. A single camera and lens takes up ALL the room in my Ostrich handlebar bag. When I'm tired, I'm less inclined to take it out of the handlebar bag and out of it's separate case to take photos.

What I would really really want would be a digital Leica, but one that is full frame and doesn't have the problems the current one has. That won't happen for a few years, I think (hopefully Leica will still be around).

The things my "dream" touring camera would have are:

-full frame if possible...though not an ABSOLUTE deal breaker.
-small and compact like a P&S
-fast lenses (2.0/2.8) and wide angle (24mm or wider!)
-good high ISO quality...the images have to hold up to atleast ISO 400! if not 800
-the ability to shoot RAW
-the ability to take a longer lens on occasion to get narrow depth of field
-rugged enough to last a tour
-good battery life
-good shutter lag response
-analogish controls so I'm not digging in the menu

Interesting enough, DPreview just showed a preview of the new Leica D-Lux 4 and it looks rather promising.

What cameras are you using? Are you happy with them? Any suggestions for anything close? I'm almost considering getting a Nikon D50 and a 18-200...a smallish but high quality kit.

A very long S24O...

I'm tired and am still recovering from my adventure this past weekend. You can check the map out here.

I'll write a longer trip report but here's the Cliff Note version.

-Riding from the ocean to the mounts in Los Angeles is possible. I rode the entire length of the San Gabriel River Trail and rode into Angeles National Forest. Woohoo! Something I never thought I could do.
-The SGRT is pretty boring. Hot. Flat. Nothing to see. After a while I lost count of how many graffiti covered bridges I saw.
-Mountains are big! Really! You should see for yourself. I don't think I've ever ridden in mountains proper but they're HUGE. The scale of things is amazing.
-Water is heavy. There was no water (other than questionable creek water) so I brought along a Steri-Pen and a gallon jug, in addition to three 27oz bottles.
-Always check your sausage. I grabbed what I thought was salami from a deli. It turned out to be spicy chorizzo, which is good but does not play well with your stomach and ass when you're on the bike for 6+ hours.
-I should have brought a sleeping bag. I've been spoiled not carrying a sleeping bag these summer months but it was considerably colder in the mountains than it is at the coast (duh!). I put on every piece of clothing I had and slept in the fetal position trying to keep warm.
-Bring more than one patch kit. I managed to run over these onerous prickly things that would give me multiple punctures per flat! I went through my two spare tubes and used up my patches! One more patch and I would have been hitching home from the mountains.
-Mosquitoes suck.I came home looking like a leper with about a half dozen bites on each arm and legs. The one that sucks the most is the bite near my eye that is causing my eye-lid to swell.
-Avoid mauling stories before you go into the woods. I was at a bar the night before and Joel, who was there, told me of some horrific story about his friend who was camping in Yosemite. His friend was camping and a bear ambled through. Someone scared it away with a gun or something. A few hours later, they were woken up by someone banging pots and pans. Apparently, the bear found its way to another camp. The pots and pans didn't work because the next minute he was screaming bloody hell and then it stopped. From across the valley they heard the last blood curdling cries. The ranger confirmed the next morning that someone was mauled to death.

I think the story colored my whole adventure a little because I was a bit antsy. It was my first time sleeping in the woods by myself.

I'm a grown man of 30 and I feel like a Cub Scout :)

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Glossary of (Humorous) Terms...

I thought it would be fun to create a glossary of terms for the site so we're all speaking the same language, so to speak. It's mostly in jest with some occasional facts thrown in. It may or may not fly, but let's give it a shot. If you have any ideas put them in the comments section and we'll start compiling a list.

Wool - A magical fiber shorn from animals known as "sheep". Wool has many magical properties that defy physics such as the ability to keep you cool when it is hot while simultaneously keeping you warm when it is cold. Explanations of this vary but the most widely accepted is that sheep are the domesticated pets of faerie-like creatures known as "Elves" that reside in a magical land known as "Rivendell" which until recently was not thought to exist. Turns out Rivendell is located in Walnut Creek, not too far off from a citadel known as "San Francisco."

The Great GP, GP - GP, an abbreviation of Grant Peterson, founder of Rivendell and designer of the much coveted mythic steed known as the XO-1, a bike that is said to be simultaneously a mountain bike, touring bike, road bike and commuting bike at once, defying all modern marketing classifications. Those clever elves.

Hemp Twine - A thin ropey material that is related both to cannabis and to hops, but can get you neither high or drunk if ingested. The most typical modern use of hemp twine is to "finish off" handlebar tape. The finishing off process also generally involves a coat of shellac which is bug poop, which unlike hemp twine, will get you light-headed if inhaled deeply (don't try this at home).

SOP - SOP (Step-On Pedal) is the belief that using the cheap pedals that came with your bike and not the expensive ones that look like a pancake whisk or lollipop is technically and morally superior. It is both a brazen act of practicality and an act against conspicuous bicycle consumption.

Steel - A legendary magic alloy which lays between iron and carbon. Steel is said to absorbs bumps, bangs and vibrations. Steel has been said to be nearly indestructible. In event of a crash it can be either bent back into place, welded or unbrazed and partially replaced. Elegantly lugged or brutally TIG'ed, the steel frame can be a work of art to last a lifetime. It's density even gives an excuse for slow climbing! (thanks Hocam)

"Index" Shifting - A bicycle advancement of little note. Said to be a fashion of the time (see elliptical chainrings). It allows those with neither finesse or acumen to shift gears by virtue of a simplified "one-click equals one shift." Index shifting "systems" are highly incompatible, prone to maladjustment, are not field serviceable and often come in ugly plastic configurations.

JRA - Acronym for "just riding along." Often used to explain inexplicable, sudden, and mysterious bicycle failures which usually has nothing to do with curb jumping, wheelies and BMX tricks, honest! For example, " I was "just riding along" with some friends and my chain broke causing me to wreck my new front tri-spoke and shattering my rear Synergies."

Shameless plug...

If you live somewhere and are lucky enough to get Momentum Magazine pick up an issue! Not only does it feature some cool new bike fashions (like the Dashing Tweeds a few posts below), but it has a profile on yours truly.

When I'm not planning my next bike escape, I'm biking around the city taking photos to fund the next bike escape :) I specialize in environmental portraits and lifestyle images. I usually ride to all my shoots but am not averse to taking the train. My dream gig is for Oprah to hire me to shoot for O Magazine and I'd ride my bike from Los Angeles to Chicago (anyone know her people? just throwing it out there.)

A Local-ish Ride I want to do...

Another site I've stumbled upon while doing some trip research. Again, I don't know who the man is but he has done some neat rides that are sort of local to me. This particular ride starts from the end of the San Gabriel River trail and heads into the hills. Some of the shots are beautiful and it's hard to imagine that it's still in LA County.

Check out ride description here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Nice (glowing) Threads!

Ok. These may be a bit dandyish for some, but I personally think they're friggin cool. These were featured in the current Momentum Magazine (with a photo of Gary Fisher looking Truman Capote-ish). Check out Dashing Tweeds! Integrated into the fabric designs are reflective threads called LumaTwill.

A unique weave of wool worsted and reflective yarn LumatwillsTM appear by day only in their smart combination of colours. By night, under illumination, hidden reflective lines shine out, offering at last, an inventive and stylish solution to attire for the pedestrian, cyclist or scooter rider.

Almost all the pieces they offer are tailored for a perfect fit. Wow. If I was on the other side of the pond and had a stash of cash I wouldn't mind having a suit with some plus-fours.

The numbers are in...

We got a great response for our first poll of how old we all are!

The breakdown is as follows:

-20s - 25% with 74 votes
-30s - 36% with 106 votes
-40s - 19% with 56 votes
-50s - 15% with 44 votes
-60s- 3% with 10 votes

It looks like those in the 30s are big tourists or are discovering touring (I'm 30, for the record). Thanks everyone for participating! Any suggestions for the next poll question?

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rough Reading...

Some readers sent in a few great links that deal with rough stuff riding!

South Lakes Group - check out the photo galleries! (thanks 2whls3spds)
Rough Stuff Fellowship
Cycling Before Lyrca - Check out the bit about "pass storming." - Check out his ride with GP at Mt. Diablo.

Photo of Laura doing a little pass storming of her own, during our ride up Refugio Rd to Refugio State Beach. It was a rock garden and practically unrideable in parts, but super fun!

Handsome bicycles...

Poking around the blogosphere, I see this mention about Handsome Cyclest from RocBike. Which led me to their Flickr photostream. Where I found this truly handsome bike!

You can tell they are fans of the XO-1, a nicely designed bike which I hope makes a comeback (looks like it will). Check out the photostream for some other great pics of the bike. This makes me hopeful that nice, stout bikes suitable for touring (and are also classically styled) are making a comeback. Wishful thinking?

On Roughing it...

I've been interested in "rough riding" or "rough stuff riding" (and the role of serendipity in touring/life) since a fateful ride during the Great Western Bike Rally, when a small band of us led by friend and touring guru, Chris Q, took us off the beaten path.

We were cycling along the recommended route when Chris pointed off to a small road that veered from the main path and meandered through a valley. "I've always wondered where that little road went," was all he said and that turned a planned and measured ride into a bit of an adventure.

The "little road" petered out and ended unceremoniously at a railroad. After some discussion between us and a random bystander (who was dumbfounded by the site of a group of cyclists contemplating whether they should or shouldn't ride along side some railroad tracks), we decided to go for it. Chris suggested we ride on the railroad ballast, reasoning that "there has to be a small service road somewhere."

So onward we went. Riding on the crushed rocks, sometimes moving forward but mostly slipping sideways. Amazingly, Chris and Michael who were on a tandem floated over the rocks (they had obviously done this before). But for myself, my girlfriend and friend Colin this was new territory! Who knew you could ride on railroad ballast? Who knew you could ride away from the prescribed path without the world imploding for that matter?

There was a service road after all.

It led to a no trespassing/ state property sign which we opted to reinterpret. Which then led to us riding behind a maximum security prison, which we rode quickly by. At that point it started to rain lightly and everything was magic.

We made it back to the prescribed route unscathed but from that ride on, everything had changed. Somehow a veil had been lifted on how I saw touring. There were ROUTES, officially sanctioned bike touring roads and there were also routes, the ones you discovered along the way that were unsigned and sometimes unpaved that turns a rote trip into something more.

When I got home I was energized and bought a Delorme and got my hands on every manner of maps looking for the hollow double lines, or alternating black and white lines which signified an "unimproved road" which really translated into small, trafficless roads to adventure.

A whole new world of bike riding had been opened to me by the simple act of wondering out load, "I wonder where that little road goes."

Monday, September 8, 2008

I showed you mine....

So it's your turn to show me yours! Post your ride in our Flickr Group and maybe write-up a little description of the bike, or your favorite component on it or anything of interest really. I'll pick one bike every week to highlight so we can ogle it with envy!

The nuts and bolts...

I've gotten a few emails about the shiny bits I put on my LHT. So here are the details:

Surly LHT 52cm (original color was green...powder coated to Coffee Tan) - $150

Handlebars: Albatross (cut off about 2 inches on ends with a pipe the picture it's flipped..currently it's right-side up)..purchased from Riv.

Handlebar tape: Brown cloth tape with a coat of amber shellac (I've recently re-wrapped it with a layer of regular black cork tape and the cloth tape on top...chunky but dampens vibrations!)

Shifters: Shimano bar-ends (recently upgraded to Silver them! Review in a future post)

Brake Levers: Tektro brake levers (has two settings to adjust for cable pull)

Stem: No name plain silver stem (120mm I believe)

Headset: Silver Cane Creek S3

Front Rack: Mark's Rack from Rivendell

Rims: Velocity Dyad (32h - front, 36h - rear) purchased from Peter White

Hubs: Front is a Shimano Dynohub...Rear is a LX 9speed

Tires: Panaracer Paselas with folding bead 26x1.25 (would like to go a touch wider)

Cassette: SRAM...not sure exactly which one, but it's a 9 speed...big cog is 32

Cranks: NOS Shimano XTR crankset (170)

Pedals: Grip King / MKS Touring Lambda pedals

Bottom Bracket: Shimano Square taper...replaced plastic cup with metal one...

Front Der: Used XTR front

Rear Der: Used XTR rear

Seatpost: Kalloy in the photo, recently upgraded to Velo-Orange big set-back seatpost.

Saddle: Dark Brown Brooks with copper rivets

Saddlebag: Carradice Camper Longflap, attached to Carradice SQR bracket..purchased from Peter White

Rear Rack: Tubus Cosmo (new style) purchased from Wayne at (great seller!)

Brakes: Tektro CR720 from Velo-Orange...replaced front pads with Salmon KoolStops form Riv.

Fenders: SKS 60mm (wide mothers!)

Bottle Cages: Velo-Orange

Bottles: Kleen Kanteens with sport tops form Velo-Orange

Bags: Front handlebar bag is an Ostrich Handlebar Bag, rear are Ostrich panniers...all of them from Velo-Orange.

Hope this helps! Not quite my dream bike frame-wise (Riv. Atlantis), but I've got all the components I wanted and some exra dough to go touring :)

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Ortlieb coffee filter in action!

You learn something new everyday. I have some Ortlieb gear but had no idea that they made a folding coffee filter holder! The Ortlieb product isn't a filter itself, but it does replace the hard plastic cones that paper filters fit into. Reader Shane enlightened me to this fact with a YouTube video demonstrating how he makes coffee on the road.

Thanks Shane for the submission! Anyone else want to share how they get their morning cup of Joe?

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Video sample...

I've made a quickie YouTube video of the below article for those that hate to read :) Also shows a quick video sample of the Flip with and without the lens.

Introducing the Flip Ultra Wide!

You're seeing it here first folks!

I've had my Flip Ultra for a few weeks now and I feel like I can give a good review of it. There's a lot to like and as long as you don't expect it to act like a Canon XL2 then I think you'll be okay.

What really piqued my interest about this nifty device was this post by Kirk Mastin on his. In it, he literally tapes a Flip to his pro video camera to capture the same footage and edits it the same way. The result? Well, it looked pretty darn good (for web use) when stacked upon the pro gear. The lesson is that technique/compelling content will trump technology every time.

I'm not going to go too deep into the geek spec review details, but talk about it in practical use.

All about the battery..
Firstly, I chose the Flip Ultra over the newer Mino because of the battery. The Ultra takes AA and the Mino has an internal rechargeable battery (that must be charged via USB). When I'm on a bike tour, I can't really tell when I'll run into a USB port in the wild. However, I'm pretty sure I can track down a gas station to buy some batteries.

On my recent tour (just 3.5 days), I went through 4 pairs of rechargeable AAs. I didn't run into a free standing USB port anywhere on the trip.

The form factor is pretty small and it fit (unmodified) in the breast pocket of my seersucker shirt and would also probably fit without a problem in the back pocket of a jersey. This is great if you want to record your riding, your commute or some cager doing stupid. When I ride, I use a Joby Gorillapod (the SLR model...which btw CAN"T hold up an SLR) wrapped around my handlebars. The mass of the camera is low enough that it holds it pretty steady.

Now for the fun stuff.

Making it a Flip Ultra WIDE...

The lens on the Flip is about a 38mm by most reports (yawn). It's a pretty boring/normal focal length. Not quite the length for narrow depth of field and not wide enough to make dynamic feeling wide shots.

I'm a photojournalist at heart and I see everything wide. If I could live with one lens it would probably be a 24mm.

So....I did a few things to my Flip to better accommodate MY needs.

First, I knew when I was going to edit the video I would do it in a 16:9 aspect ratio. So, I took some electrical tape, cut it in half and taped an approximate crop on the screen. No harm. No foul. Your warrantee is still good :)

BUT, I wanted the optics to be wide too. So, I bought a cheapie wide-angle lens adapter kit made for more sophisticated camcorders (the one I bought was made by Sunpak). The wide angle lens kit I bought came with a series of step-down rings. I took one of the rings and roughed it up with sandpaper (from a patch kit) and super glued it to the front of the Flip (be sure to glue it so you can still remove the battery cover!). This gave the front element some threads so I could screw on the wide angle lens!

What follows is pure awesomeness. Not quite an Oscar worthy for Technical Achievement, but close :)

Now you have a Flip Ultra that can shoot a "normal" focal length that you can convert into a wide-angle action machine. It gives your footage a bit more dynamic feel and it also mitigates the small camera shake quite a bit!

I used this set up for my recent trip and it worked great. I did note some possible and simple room for improvements on the Flip for action based Videography. Flip, if you're they are:

-a red indicator LIGHT on the BACK as well as the front that tells the user instantly it's recording! I found myself losing some time checking the screen and making sure the counter was red, which was a hassle while I was riding my bike.

-an INSTANT on/record setting, so you can just use the jog button to turn it on and record simultaneously. I was late for a few shots because I had to turn it on, wait for it to load, then hit the red record buton.

-the addition of a simple Mic IN would be AWESOME!

I think the Flip is a great tool for bike tourists and photojournalists. The HOLGA camera of the video world. In the right hands it can produce some great content!

Basic Black with Swobo

(This is a review I wrote some time ago for, but I think it works well here too. Besides, fall is coming soon...)

SWOBO Men’s Short Sleeve Merino Jersey

The Look

When this jersey came in, I was all oohs and ahhs. The black version of the jersey is a no nonsense sharp looking jersey. It’s classy and low-key with subtle contrast stitching to create the lines of the jersey. Restraint seems to be the guiding principal here. No giant Reese’s Pieces on this baby.

The left sleeve has SWOBO embroidered on it and that’s it. This jersey has nothing to prove but gives you a little wink to let you know you’re wearing some quality threads.

The Wool

The feel of the wool is soft right out of the bag. No breaking in or washing in necessary. I’ve owned some older wool jerseys and some early jerseys from Portland Cyclewear that really took a wash or two to get the wool soft. Not so here. The hand is smooth and plush without being overly thick.

The weight of the wool makes it pretty flexible. I did a few long rides in the jersey in temperatures ranging from the mid-50s to the upper 70-s and it performed well. Again, it really depends on your riding style. You could probably wear it lower if you hammer and keep your body-heat up. The nice thing about wool is that even if you’re sweating in it, it will keep you warm. You could also wear it into the 80’s and 90s if you have the zipper down and aren’t completely hammering.

The Fit

For me, I ordered a size larger so the fit is a little looser. I’m not a racer. I’m a commuter and a bike tourist. This really makes it flexible. The extra room lets me wear a featherweight or midweight wool baselayer underneath and coupled with some arm warmers and gloves, I’m good to go into the 40s without the bulk of a jacket.

Does this make a great commuter jersey? Heck yeah. Its flexibility with temperature, coupled with the fact it won’t stank when you get to the office is a great mix. Plus, it doesn’t look like Photoshop vomit. You can ride in the street without feeling like a big sweaty billboard.

Am I going to bring it on my next bike tour? You better believe it. You can wear wool for several days without washing and it won’t be odoriferous like your plastic tuxedo jersey. Plus, it’s black, and it won’t stain as easily :) The jersey also has pockets on the back to carry your phone or snickers for the long ride home.

Pros and Cons

-All around great jersey for racing, commuting and touring…can’t go wrong with basic black
-Stank protection…nuff said
-Soft out of the bag…no breaking-in needed
-Performs great in a wide temperature range
-Nice, understated styling you Philistines…

-Wool ain’t cheap…price may be a bit of a barrier, but this could be mitigated by the fact you don’t have to buy as many jerseys since you can wear it over and over

Get yours here.

(UPDATE: Taking a look at the link, it looks like they have added a ton of colors. So if basic black isn't your thing, there's a good chance you'll find a color that will suit you!)

Friday, September 5, 2008

A site with some good rides...

I don't know who Kirby James is or what he looks like but he has some great taste in riding! I keep stumbling upon his site when I'm researching some potential bike camping trips to do.

I've happened to ride a lot of the same roads in Ventura and SLO that he has on his site just by happenstance. They are all, for the most part, nice country roads. He has some great descriptions and photographs on his site. The site navigation is a little confusing at first but not too bad.

If you live close to any of the rides he describes, they're worth a spin.

Here is a link to his ride from Cayucos to Cambria via Old Creek and Santa Rosa Creek Road.

This photo below is a shot Laura took of me during a ride (on the route linked above). Behind me is the Whale Rock Reservoir that is described in Kirby's site.