Sunday, November 30, 2008

I'm Back!...and some snaps!

Beer. Good beer. The reason for our trip. We ended up visiting all the Pizza Ports!

Got back a few hours ago from our bike adventure this weekend. It was an awesome trip and one that I would highly recommend for So. Cal locals. We ended up visiting all the Pizza Ports in Southern California.

The trip was also a test of the Ortlieb Shuttle Bike as a piece of touring luggage (more on that later) and the Canon G10 as a touring camera. I'll write more about both after I get some rest :) For now, here are some snaps from the trip!

Check out my Flickr Set for more.

Laura climbing up Del Dios Highway, a popular route for roadies.

Pulled off the side of the road to take in the view.

A view from Del Dios Highway...lots o climbing.

The start of our journey on the Blue Line. By the trip was through we had ridden a Metro train, a MetroLink train and an Amtrak train! The great Los Angeles train hat trick.

The hike and bike at San Clemente.

Riding through San Onofre.

Chuck, the owner of Pacific Coast Cycles in Oceanside. A must stop for epicurean cyclists. The only shop I've been to where there was a Gilles Berthoud bag, TA cranks and Honjo Fenders in the store!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Anyone doing tours this holiday season?

The holidays mean days off. Days off means days on the bike, which logically translates to an excuse/reason to bike tour! Laura and I have been itching to hit the road but time constraints and that thing called "money" sometimes puts a kink in our plans. But we're determined, so this Turkey Day weekend we're doing a multi-modal credit-card tour.

The first leg is to get to my parents house in Sunland from Long Beach. This translates to taking a few trains and braving the San Fernando Valley streets. I've never ridden there before so hopefully they have improved since the last time I lived in the "valley."

The second leg is doing that trip in reverse. Sunland to Long Beach, then taking a bus from Long Beach to Laguna Beach. From Laguna we're riding to San Clemente where our hotel is and where Pizza Port is. Pizza Port is a craft brewer that makes some awesome beer. Hands down some of my favorite brews. If you see it at your local beverage purveyor, be sure to grab a bottle or three.

The next day we're off to Oceanside (through Camp Pendleton) then inland to Escondido to stop at Stone Brewery (another great beer maker). Sense a theme here?

The following day is a short day of exploring N. San Diego then back to Oceanside where we'll catch the Amtrak to Anaheim, then ride home from there.

Have bike (and suitcase), will travel.

Since this tour is a CC (credit-card) tour, we won't be carrying camping equipment. I'll be testing out the Ortlieb Shuttle Bike on this tour, which should be great since we're expecting rain. Some people see rain, I see an opportunity to test and play with my waterproof gear :)

Happy Turkey Day to all! This might be my last post for a few days. Thanks again to all you readers!

We're covering a bit of land this weekend, without once stepping foot in a car.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Canon G10 Update...

I've had the Canon G10 for all of 3 days now and I've been having great fun with it. It is definitely not without its limitations, but it is a capable camera and I feel good with my decision of going with the G10 over the Lumix LX3.

The biggest limitation of the camera, for me, is the ISO. I find that anything over 200 ISO in color is mostly unusable. 400 in BW is even pushing it. I also wish that the lens was a little wider with a 2.0 max. aperture, but in the end that wasn't an absolute deal breaker.

It's greatest strengths are in usability. The knobs and rear thumb-wheel make for relatively quick setting changes without too much menu digging. In its native state it suffers from the same slowish focus/lock/shoot sluggishness, BUT there are ways to speed things up.

In order to make my Canon G10 more Leica-like in speed, I set the Review to OFF so it doesn't show me the photo I just took right after I take it (that alone shaves off 2 seconds). I also set the focus manually to approximate distances (employing zone focusing / hyper-focus for the Leica-philes). Since the sensor is small it has a greater depth of field and if you get your subjects within a foot you'll be fine.

Another setting you should turn off is MF Safety. This keeps the camera from engaging auto focus to check your manual focus. I also set the shooting to multiple continuous frames so in low light I can take a sequence and improve my chances of a shot in focus.

I set all these parameters and save it under the Custom Funciton 1, so when I turn the knob into C1 I'll be in street-shooter mode (aka HCB mode - for the Magnum geeks).

I'll be posting more thoughts and samples as the weeks go on.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Acorn Bags - Handlebar Bag Review

Ron of Acorn Bags was kind enough to do a short interview a few posts back.

I have owned two of his bags for a few months now and they have accompanied Laura and I on many short tours. From what we've seen, we can highly recommend them!

The handlebar bag is a well made piece of bicycle luggage. The material is a soft cotton duck. It has a bit more give than a Carradice but offers more body than a Minniehaha. The material itself is not waterproof. Don't expect to throw it in a river and keep your items dry. However, given the nature of the material it will keep things relatively dry even in an outright downpour. It would be a good idea to put things that MUST stay perfectly dry in a plastic baggie of some sort.

The handlebar bag is a good size. It should fit several maps, your wallet, some food bars, a small camera, tools, and tube with room to spare. The space is slightly compartmentalized with two small pouches facing the rider that can be opened easily while riding, two zippers that give you access to the main storage and another smaller pocket in the front. It has just enough nooks and crannies to keep organized without micromanaging where you place things.

The bag attaches to your bike via thick leather straps and a wooden dowel. These straps are great and you can tell they will last for many years to come. OR (I haven't tried this personally), you could drill and mount a VO decaleur and use it as a quick release.

When I'm not carrying a DSLR up front, this is bag I'd grab. It will fit both my Flip video camera and Canon G10 in the main compartment with plenty of room to spare. If you don't need the extra volume or lack a mini front rack to support something like the Ostrich bag, this handlebar bag is the one to get. Classy, refined and very useful.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

An epicurean point and shoot camera?

I posted a while ago, lamenting the fact that my DSLR (Nikon D300 with 17-55 2.8) was getting too burdensome on tour. Thus began many weeks of reading online, looking for the "perfect" point and shoot camera for bike touring.

(Yes, this image was taken with a point and shoot!)

I thought I had narrowed my choice to the Lumix LX3. In fact, I was ready to buy it, money in hand. It had lots of attractive features such as a Leica lens, 24mm wide angle and a fast 2.0 aperture.

Well, I went to the local independent camera store that had one (I had it on reserve) and played with it in the store. I also asked to see the Canon G10. I played with them side by side and the more I used the two, the more I gravitated towards the G10.

In fact, so much so, that I walked out the store with the G10.

The real clincher was the usability of the G10. I'm a Nikon guy. The thing I love about Nikons are that many of the controls are accessed with knobs and switches. The Canon G10 (despite being made by Canon) was very Nikon-esque this way. ISO can be changed with a knob (reminiscent of where the shutter speed dial would be placed on an old film camera), exposure compensation can also be accessed by a knob and on the back of the camera is a thumb wheel that allows you to quickly change aperture and shutter speed.

The Lumix, despite it's fast glass and wide angle, was a real displeasure (for me) to use. Lots of the controls were buried in menus. The little joystick (reminds me of the IBM ThinkPad eraser head) was usable, but not as quick as a thumb wheel. Changing ISO required fiddling with the menu and so did exposure compensation.

In the end, for me, the Canon had better controls. Both are leaf shutter cameras so I can synch my flash up to 1/2000th of a second (not something even my D300 can do!). I'm planning to use the Canon G10 on my next photo assignments to run it through its paces.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Speaking of brakes...

There's a new poll! What kind of brakes do you use on your touring bike? There's such a large choice in brakes these days, I'm curious to see what you guys use on your fully loaded tourers. Each type seems to have their own distinct advantages that it is hard to decide.

Why did you choose (factors, advantages, etc.,) the brakes you chose? Add them in the comments.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Shiny Brake Bits

Up until this year, the only brakes I really had any experience with were V-brakes and road calipers. When I built my Surly LHT, I decided to try something new and threw on some Tektro cantilever brakes (specifically, the CR720s they sell on VO). The CR720s had a fun retro, frog leg look...and the price was pretty good too.

I had heard all sorts of nightmarish stories about how difficult canti's were to set up and adjust so I didn't really know what to expect. When I finally got them, they weren't so bad. Definitely different from V-brakes and they required an extra tool (10mm wrench), but after a few minutes they came together nicely. For me, I've learned it is best to set the position of straddle cable first (with no tension from the brakes) and THEN pinch bolt the straddle wire to the brake.

I found the stopping power was pretty good, though they were greatly improved (I'd say by 15%-20%) when I swapped the stock pads with Salmon Kool Stops. The brakes definitely cleared the wide tires and fenders with plenty of room to spare.

This brings me full circle to my Bilenky. I ordered it with V-brakes in the back because at that point I had never used canti's. The bike came and was great, though the rear brake always felt mushy. This was due to the really wide fenders in the rear. The V-brakes never fully compressed because they kept squeezing the rear fenders.

I decided a few weeks ago to put canti's on the back (the same Tektros on my Surly). This took a little more fidgeting. There was no built in center stop for the rear cable and many off the shelf cable stops wouldn't work because of the big honking Carradice SQR block on my seat post.

I ended up ordering a Surly Stainless Steel Cable Hanger from VO. It didn't quite work in the center of pinch bolts (I needed spacers and didn't want to go around hunting for some) so I set it off to the side where the head of the bolt presses it against the frame. It worked great, but threw off how the straddle cable hung because it wasn't perfectly centered. This left one brake pad constantly closer to the rim than the other.

Fortunately, the yoke that came with the Tektros had a nifty little feature that I had never used before. On either side of the yoke were two small screws that act like pinch bolts for the straddle wire. I simply centered the brakes and pinched the wire in the yoke, thus keeping the brakes always centered! It's a great elegant solution when you have "problem" brakes, or in my case a cantilever set up that isn't perfectly centered.

Anyone else have some fun brake set-ups?

Monday, November 3, 2008

The polls are closed...

Probably not the most important vote you'll cast this year (or this week...VOTE tomorrow too!) Here are the results of the handlebar poll. It looks like the drops have it.

Drops - 54% (85 votes)
Swept Back - 15% (24 votes)
Straight - 12% (19 votes)
Mustache - 8% (13 votes)
Trekking - 5% (9 votes)
H-bar - 3% (6 votes)

In the comments, it seemed that many were multi-bar users. Horses for courses. Not every bar is suited for every task so we use many types of bars. I'm particularly excited about the current crop of new handlebar options that Velo-Orange has and a shift I'm noticing to swept-backs. It's nice to see a variety of handlebar options out there these days. Something for everyone.

Review - Rivendell Silver Hupe

Most of my bikes are built with practicality in mind and can carry a load pretty well. All of them, except, for my road bike (a restored 80s Mondonico Diamond Extra). I know purist roadies will look at it as a sin to sully a road bike by mounting bags on it, but then again..I'm not a roadie.

I expanded the utility of my road bike by adding a smallish Carradice bag. Unfortunately, the bag had a tendency to rub against the tire when full of stuff. The Carradice equivalent to rug burn. For a while I used a bungee cord and wrapped it around the bottom of the bag to keep it off the tire. It wasn't very elegant and it made my bike look as if it had some strange unlevel oblong canvas tumor growing out of it.

Enter Rivendell's Silver Hupe, which is more or less a piece of wire wrapped in such a shape that it hugs the seat stays and provides a support for your saddle bags. For $30, many will be nonplussed by the fact it's just a piece of wire, but it IS the only game in town.

Simple and elegant it does its job well. I had my concerns that it wouldn't fit on my Mondonico because the clearances were so tight, but (with the help of the How-To video), I was able to get it on and it works like a charm

My first impression is that it is a lot larger than I thought it would be, which turns out to be a good thing as it will support larger bags (by support I mean it will keep it off my rear tire).

Now I can take my road bike on longer rides and carry some lunch and spare clothes with me, without worrying about burning a hole (or making the hole I already have larger) in my Carradice.

For $30, it's not bad and will add utility to bikes that otherwise can't take a rear rack.