Tuesday, December 30, 2008

New Years Resolutions

(EDIT: This will be the last post for a few days...going on a quickie tour up the central coast! Hoping to come back with some more great pics and tips for you all! I'll be back the 3rd so Happy New year to all you faithful readers!)

It's that time again.

Anyone have any bicycling resolutions this year?

Bikehugger had a great one:

be more tolerant of Triathletes, as they’re 1/3 cyclists.

For me, I really hear the road calling this year. I've been half-dreaming of doing a cross-country trip and this year feels like it is the year. At the very least, I hope to do a mini bike tour every month. I also want to combine my different passions (photography, touring and writing) into something that will make some (more) money.

Anyone else?

Adventure bound....my bedroom in a bag

Laura and I are heading out on our last adventure of this year and our first adventure of next year :)

It's going to be sort of a "greatest hits" ride. About 70% of the ride we've ridden before, but they're some of our favorite bits of riding and camping. Some highlights will be camping at Refugio hike/bike (which I think is THE best hike/bike spot in Central-So.Cal), riding Santa Rosa road (a great road from our very first tour), Alisal road into Solvang (steep, rocky, narrow but oh what great fun!).

I'm also definitely excited about the new bits we'll get to ride too like Harris Grade, Gaviota Pass, Price Canyon road and the list goes on!

I started packing about a week ago :) Here's what the "bedroom" looks like and is more or less what I carry on most tours. Except during the summer months along the coast, I'll usually forgo the sleeping bag and just take the cotton sleep sack.

I'm carrying an REI inflatable sleeping pad (purchased before our Oregon trip almost two years ago), a down sleeping bag, cotton sleep sack (purchased 9 years ago for my European backpacking trip after college), Thermarest folding pillow. The gear is expensive if you buy everything at once. I've been fortunate to slowly piece together a pretty respectable touring kit over the last few years (hey it's still all cheaper than a car!).

Amazingly, everything fits into one Ortlieb Bike Packer Plus, which I highly recommend. And if you're going to get one, I highly recommend getting it from Wayne at TheTouringStore.com. He's friendly, personable (sort of like Peter White and Riv, you get one-on-one treatment over the phone) and he's got the best prices in town (no tax, no shipping). I've purchased a few tubus racks and lots of Ortlieb gear from him in the past.

I like to try to carry everything into dedicated bags since it facilitates taking trains and buses. Once we get to our start location via train, I'll probably take my sleeping pad and stick it in the space between my seat and Carradice, opening up some room in the Ortlieb for some food.

So that's the bedroom. What do you guys carry and how do you pack it?

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Mystery Tool revealed!

Kudos to Okiecyclist and Doug. The tooth-like implement is indeed a freewheel removal tool, a sort of bench vise on the go. You place the freewheel tool on one end, screw in the skewer (hence the threaded hole) and use the other end to grip a fence, pipe, table or even your handlebars (recommended as last resort). Then you simply turn your wheel to break the freewheel free!

Why would you use this tool in this day and age? Well, many still use freewheels. A Phil Wood rear freewheel hub is about 1/3 the price of the cassette hub equivalent and with that you could build a dishless wheel where you don't have to worry about carrying different length spokes for the rear. In fact, you could build a rear and front wheel that use the same exact length spokes.

Among the other interesting tools that Chris carries in his Ur-BikeBurrito are faucet keys. You may come upon a spigot that has been disabled. If you were in a pinch for water and you had these faucet keys you could turn on the water with no problem.

You may also notice a wine bottle cork that can be used as stopper in the bottom of your seatpost where you could carry spokes or emergency cash.

He also carries a small saw and files for on the road machining. Of course, if you're traveling on well trafficked roads with towns every few miles, it might not be necessary to carry all these things. But for adventure touring where you're sure to be puttering along a dirt road, 70 to 100 miles from a small town, these things are good to carry for interesting eventualities.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Tea for Two

The day was beautiful today and I proposed a bicycle ride through the (imagined) French countryside with a tea stop at the halfway point. While riding through Long Beach isn't the most rustic and Old World of settings, the goal of riding somewhere to light up a stove and make some tea added a bit more fun to a simple "out and back" ride.

We packed up a Trangia stove, a pot, two tea bags, two mugs, some fuel, bread, crackers, cheese and some cured meat. Everything fit in my Carradice Camper.

We rode for about 40 minutes and stopped by the beach, set up the stove and were drinking tea in about 9 minutes. We had a light lunch and rode home.

Simple, yet fun. Transforming some boring "base miles" into something a bit more epicurean. I highly recommend it.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Epicurean Cyclist Pop Quiz: Name That Tool

I was over at my friend Chris' house today and he was showing me the contents of his tool kit that he takes with him while on tour. Chris likes to go really off the beaten track, often times 70-100 miles from the nearest small town, which is often when things tend to break down. Thus, he prepares for everything and even carries with him things like a hack saw, brass solder and files (in case he has to do some light machining in the middle of nowhere...which he has, btw).

This particular tool was pretty striking. It is no longer produced but would prove vital if you were doing true adventure touring. It looks a bit like a giant silver tooth, doesn't it?

Can anyone guess what it is and what it does?

Three Mirrors..back to back to back!

For mirror users, this should be an interesting post. I've been doing a test of three great cycling mirrors the last few days (from L-R: Take A Look Mirror, CycleAware Reflex Mirror , Efficient Velo Tools' Safe Zone mirror).

The Take A Look and Cycle Aware mirrors are fairly common and can be purchased at many LBS's and even REI. The EVT/BicycleToolMaker Safe Zone mirror isn't so common, but it is really an interesting and great mirror.

Take A Look Mirror
The TAL mirror is the first mirror I ever owned. It's simple to use and very robust. The mirror clips on to the arms of your sunglasses and stays on with a pretty strong friction fit. From there the mirror swivels and you can also bend the arms (usually not necessary) to get it in the right spot. It is relatively light weight and after a few hours of use, you hardly notice it.

The TAL is a great mirror and really, my only gripe is that you have to be wearing sunglasses/glasses to use it. If you have dark shades and you commute at night, it either means forgoing a mirror completely or getting shades with replaceable lenses. I have lost two of these because I have a terrible habit of misplacing my sunglasses.

CycleAware Reflex Mirror
The CA mirror solved my mirrorless situation due to misplacing my sunglasses. For me, I prefer helmet mounted mirrors since I always ride with a helmet. I don't have to fiddle with changing lenses on glasses (that I have a feeling I will ultimately lose :).

With the CA mirror you have to semi-permanently adhere a ball-joint attachment to the side of your helmet. The arm (the socket end of the joint) snaps on to the adhered portion. From there, the mirror can be rotated on the joint or you can articulate the arm of the mirror or you can also articulate the little ball joint on the mirror itself.

Of the three, the CA mirror is the most easiest to finely tune. There are lots of points of adjustment, but at the same time that means lots of points of potential failure. For one, the included adhesive doesn't last very long. I usually sand down the helmet and use Super Glue and a C-clamp to make sure it doesn't pop off.

Also, over time, the various plastic ball joints wear and don't quite hold their positions like they use to. To solve this, CA, sells a replaceable parts kit for their mirror.

Another issue that some may have with the CA mirror is that it is vertically oriented and not horizontally oriented (like the TAL mirror). Going from a TAL to the CA takes some adjustment because of this, but you'll cope.

With all these issues, it is still a fine mirror and I have used one with great success for almost two years.

EVT Safe Zone Mirror

That leads us to the EVT Safe Zone Mirror. The EVT mirror is easily the largest mirror of the three. This is the HD of bicycle mirrors! You don't have to worry about orientation because it's round and it's HUGE. Now for some, me included, this can be a bit strange at first. Surely, something that big in front of your face has to cause a big blind spot. I've found in the few weeks I've been testing the mirror that your eyes adjust and you can see "through" the mirror, so to speak.

If you can get over the size and Alien-esque lock-line articulating arm, the view is fantastic!

Mounting can be a little finicky, depending on your helmet. Unlike the CA mirror that uses adhesives, the way you mount the EVT mirror is by using zip ties. There is a large spine with slots and you run ties through the slots and through the vents of your helmet. It took me about two different set-ups to find one that I liked best.

The CA allows you to place it exactly where you need it. The EVT gives you a stronger mount, but you may or may not be able to get it exactly where you want it depending on your helmet's vent pattern (won't work on Nutcase helmets).

You adjust the mirror by 1)using the palm of your hand to move the mirror 2) using your free hand to hold your helmet still. This is necessary because the articulating arm has a pretty tight friction fit. With the CA, I can usually just position it with two fingers. The EVT is a two handed affair, but this is good in the long run because the darn thing won't ever be shaken out of place. This has to be one of the most robust bicycling mirrors on the market.

Now, this great view and sturdy build come at a price. The EVT retails for around $40, about double the price of the other mirrors and it isn't widely available yet (the inventor encourages you to encourage your LBS to carry it). However, it should be the last helmet mirror you would ever need to buy for a long time. I'll write another longer term follow-up after a few more months of use to see if the friction fit is still as tight.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Orange stuff!

All my good friends know my favorite color is orange. I have orange shoes, I have owned 3 orange bikes, I love orange juice, etc., So I was poking around the interwebs and found some great cycling stuff in orange. All us orange aficionados can rejoice!

Orange Wool Cycling Cap with Rivendell Logo
Kucharik Green/Orange Wool Cycling Cap
Kucharik Orange Ear Warmers
Orange Kucharik Wool LS Jersey

Rapha Club Jersey

Earth, Wind and Rider
Molteni Orange and Blue (or Black) LS Wool Jersey

Walz Caps
Burnt Orange Wool cap

Swobo Orange SS Jersey
Orange Men's Merino Sunday Bobby

Surly 1x1 Frameset

Sunday, December 21, 2008

In praise of cheap locks!

Here's a bit of an EC exclusive. I was able, through a series of covert dealings in a dark garage, score some vintage 1990s cheap wheel locks from India :) Ok, perhaps it wasn't THAT covert or dramatic, but darn if it isn't nearly impossible to get these in the US!

Chris lived in India for a spell in the 1990s. Always the long-term strategist, he decided to invest in wheel-lock futures :) He purchased a few of these, knowing how difficult they are to find in the U.S. He has these mounted on almost all his bikes, even his custom Franklin touring bike, Rivendell (painted to match the bikes of course) and a Rolhoff equipped folding tandem. The obvious question, I suppose, is why would you put such admittedly cheap locks on such nice bikes?

The logic is that most of the time when you're on tour, you are always pretty close to your bike. Usually, when I stop at a restaurant or cafe, I try to get a window seat so I can watch the bikes. With that in mind, a kryptonite hexagonal chain isn't absolutely necessary. Further, when you're on tour, you're always on the move, so no one can plan to steal your bike because they know your parking pattern. Chris usually just uses the wheel lock paired with a small cable so as to deter thieves of opportunity, keeping honest people honest.

I have to admit, I was pretty skeptical at first. In practice, however, these locks are super convenient. There's no gigantic U-lock or chain to carry around. These locks are perfect for cafe/food stops where your bikes will only be left unattended momentarily.

The lock is also pretty smartly designed. When it is unlocked (the shackle is up), the lock traps the key in the key hole. You can ride over bumps or do summersaults and it won't fall out. When you push the lever to close the shackle, the key is released (best to put it in your pocket at that point).For such cheap locks, these things have surprisingly powerful springs! The first time I popped the key in to open it, I was surprised at the force the shackle opened up!

The locks come with some thin soft metal bands that wrap around the seat stays and bolt together. Not exactly what you'd call permanent, but again, it's not suppose to be the Fort Knox of locks. Some people use some strong-ish zip ties to mount them as well. Chris has drilled small holes into his frames and mounts them that way.

I'm fortunate to have two, one for my Bilenky and one on my townie 3 speed Surly Steamroller (this one will eventually be moved to my touring bike once I Mickey Mouse the fittings).

Would I use these to park a bike overnight or for several unattended hours? Heck no. But on tour, it would be a good way to provide some security without the weight of a U-Lock.

As of now, the only one that is readily available is through Clever Cycles in the form of the AXA Defender. VO announced a few weeks back that they would carry them, but they're not expected to be on sale until Feb-March. If you see one of these in your LBS' junk box, grab it! They're great and convenient locks. Just don't lose the key!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Thoughts on mortality...and travel?

Well, it has been a slow week here at EC. I took a little spill a week ago that has limited my cycling a bit. I landed on my shoulder pretty good and for a while I couldn't even raise a pint glass. I finally made it to the doctor, got the thing x-rayed and am waiting to hear the results. My feeling is that it's nothing serious, just some sore and swollen tendons.

Anyway, it was the first crash of any note in a long time and it reminded me that I'm not as tough as my bike. Flesh and bone (and tendons apparently). This sort of sent me on a thought spiral about life in general and the strange case of our mortality. We're all not very long on this earth. Now, while this may cause some to want to stay indoors and jump in bed it has made me want to go out and live life as an adventure.

I think it was all the Emerson that I read in high school.

"Whoso would be a man must be a nonconformist!"

"To be great is to be misunderstood!"

You get the idea.

I've always had a keen sense of my own mortality and it has shaped my life quite a bit. It is why I do what I do. Why I run my own business (and a non-traditional one at that). Hey, it's also why I love touring and the wonderful stuff I review on this site!

When you know your time is finite, you don't want to spend it doing something that is not enjoyable or doesn't captivate you. For me, that is what I love about a bicycle tour compared to my past vacations. Before touring, I would do the typical vacation of hopping on a plane or driving, getting a hotel, gorging myself silly and buying stuff -- but I never felt like I DID anything. As much money and movement there was involved, it was still a largely passive act. Life in HD but not life itself.

But with touring, man, you feel every slight curvature of the earth. You are Sisyphus and like him, every banal act engages your senses and takes on meaning. The very act from moving from A to B is an adventure in of itself.

It's also why I like some nice bike stuff :) If you only have a few good decades of riding, don't spend it on some soul-less piece of crap, that is mass produced by the millions. For me, that really is why I like stuff on Riv, VO and Acorn. Yes, the bits are expensive but you know they will be well made and with proper care, they'll last you a lifetime (and one of those is all you get).

So anyway, I didn't mean to get all morbid. Maybe I hit more than my shoulder on the way down :) My feeling is that I'm not alone in thinking this and that great deal of my readers probably feel the same? Thoughts? How many are self-employed or feel like you're forging your own path?

Friday, December 12, 2008

Shameless plug....utterly shameless...

but funny!

(Note plaid Rivendell seersucker, my favorite of their patterns...geez I can be such a geek sometimes.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Favorite Snap from Yesterday (yes...with a G10)

This has to be one of my favorite pics from yesterday. I did my BW conversion in Lightroom and added a tilt/shift effect in Photoshop. I really wanted to emphasize the smallness of the rider compared to the mountain. The rider (Chris) really gives the whole photo a sense of scale. I added the tilt/shift to make it look as if you were looking at a miniature model and also to make the rider and the road stand out more.

The photo was show with the Canon G10 I've been playing with. It has been a great P&S as long as you treat it more like a clunky rangefinder than a miniature DSLR. I am, however, also contemplating picking up an LX3 later on so I can get a 24mm angle again and also a camera I can shoot at ISO 400. I use to shoot with 2 or 3 Leicas slung around my neck when I shot film, so I guess this would be digital equivalent?

Reminders: Vote and Facebook

Just a few quick reminders. Please vote in the poll on the left (Epicurean Cyclist Award 2008) if you haven't already. Also, if you have FaceBook, join the Epicurean Cyclist group. Some great discussions going on over there!


Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A nice ride...Turnbull Canyon

My friend Chris Quint is a long time cyclist and since I've known him, he's been telling me about Turnbull Canyon and the great climbing and dirt roads. Well, today I finally took him up on his offer in hopes of finding some Rivendell-ish riding, if you know what I mean. In Los Angeles, the only dirt road you'll typically find is an unpaved driveway in the hood or an unkempt and overgrown parking lot.

We took a few buses to get from Long Beach to Whittier (had breakfast with bacon along the way) and made our way to Turnbull. What he had in mind, of course, was to forgo the regular paved road and hit some dirt fire roads. So we rode up to a white fence and hit the dirt.

This was actually the first bit of fire road riding I've done on my Surly and the new tires I got for it (Panaracer 26x1.75) so I was eager to see how it would perform. The road started straightforward enough with some hardpacked dirt that you could probably even ride with road tires.

After a few minutes, the packed dirt slowly deteriorated into more loose and less forgiving terrain. My front wheel started skating a bit trying to find traction and I had to re-correct the course with some body english. Perhaps the most difficult part was getting back on a bike in such steep loose stuff. If you got on too slow your rear wheel would spin out in the dirt. It took a bit of timing but I got a better grasp of it.

We climbed up the dirt (I was in my lowest gear most of the way...Chris was using his "mountain tamer", a 4th chainring with a 16t cog) and pushed up some parts until we reached the top that afforded great views of what seemed like ALL of Los Angeles. You could see downtown LA, the cities in the San Gabriel Valley and on a clear day, you could also see Catalina and the Hollywood sign (so Chris told me since it was so smoggy).

After taking in the view, we descended down a street called Descending which I was glad we were going downhill on because it was friggin steep! Then we found our way to Turnbull Canyon (the paved road) and went up and over one more time for good measure. While steep, it seemed easy after riding uphill on dirt roads.

All in all, it was some good riding. There seemed like there were quite a few more dirt paths to explore so I will definitely be going out there again.

For more pics, visit my Flickr Set.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A truly fine collection of bike pornography...

Nothing gets my wallet in trouble like prowling Flickr for some classy bike builds. One of my favorite streams is this one. Aside from assembling some killer bikes for himself, Adam is also the man behind ZugsterBags. While messenger bags aren't particularly my thing anymore, they are fine bags nonetheless that come in a multitude of color combinations and designs.

I know he has toyed with the idea of making a boxy rando bag, perhaps we should give him some encouragement :)

Check out the photos from his stream (if you don't have it bookmarked already).

(EDIT: I'd like to add a new acronym to the internets lexicon, NSFW....Not-Safe-For-Wallet..of which this photostream qualifies.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Epicurean Cyclist is going Web 2.0

Web two point oh!

I know, I know. The term is a little annoying, but it is what it is. I've started a Facebook group for this website. Blogger doesn't offer a whole lot of interactivity between readers (and I'm no programmer), so I started the group so we can chat and discuss more informally on the interwebs.

My goal for the group is that people will post ride reports, routes, gear reviews and meet others that are interested in the same kind of cycling. If there's some good stuff there, I'll post it on the blog. So if you're on Facebook, join the group and let's get this thing rolling!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Poll: Epicurean Cyclist award for 2008!

Playing around with the idea of doing an E.C. company of the year for 2008. What has been your favorite bike company of the year and why? Is it because they're innovative? Their stance on the environment? Their new/old innovative products? Etc., Cast your vote then give a reason why in the comments below!

G10 update....

For those of you interested in the G10, I did a "real" photoshoot with it today. You can check out some of the images on my photography blog.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Bike Burrito

I posted this on BikeCommuters.com, but I thought it might be of interest here as well.

I've been working with a local crafter, Jayme, on making what we've dubbed the Bike Burrito. It's a funky take on the classic tool roll! It's simple, classy and utilitarian. It fits your basic tools, a spare tube and even a candy bar. You can either lash it to your seat rails, or directly to a rear rack or just toss the whole thing in a pannier. When you unfold it, it gives you a nice contrasty surface to lay parts on.

Anyway, here are some pics. Visit the site and send her an email to place your order (she does custom colors too!) today.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Boxy Bag Bonanza!

I am a fan of the boxy bag and apparently, it's a good time to be a BB fan! Not only is Velo-Orange coming out with their own branded boxy bag, pictured here, but so is Rivendell and our favorite LA-native bike bag makers, Acorn Bags!

What a great time to be a cycle tourist!

Here's a quote from the Acorn site:

We pay homage to the classic boxy rando bag. Our main objective was to keep the design clean and utilitarian, while adding just a hint of style.

-The bag shown below is a prototype, but is 95% complete; the final might get a few minor adjustments.
-This is a "medium" size bag--11"W x 8"H x 6"D for the main compartment.
-Available in Tan or Black canvas.
-Note that a front rack is required for mounting.
-A decaleur can be added if you choose.
-It'll go on sale January 2.
-Price will be in the low $100's.

Image from the Acorn Bags site.

Here's a an excerpt from Rivendell:
In two weeks we'll have a new Nigel Smythe bag, the Big Box Bag. It is a big boxy squarish bag with the familiar features of other Nigel Smythe saddlebags----the quick-release buckles, the Scottish dry-hand duck fabric that's also used for Range Rover covers, the neat-as-a-button stitching, and the perfectly matching leather, from thick strap to thin trim (which you may take for granted, but is actually nearly seemingly impossible outside of the United Kingdom). It requires (practically) some kind of support beneath it, and the Top Rack or any other rack is ideal. You can strap it to those racks, and it's sans-a-wiggle.

(EDIT: The Riv bag is out but it's not a front boxy bag. Too bad, but still a nice bag nonetheless!)

It looks like there will be lots to choose from. Some other BBs I'm aware of are the Inujirushi Bags that Jitensha has on occasion.

And of course, the exquisite Gilles Berthoud handlebar bags that you can order from Wallingford Bicycles.

Any other boxy bag aficionados out there?