Saturday, November 29, 2008

How to ride faster...

Over 20 years ago a friend of mine, Mark Langton, who was an editor with Mountain & City Biking called to say that he was down in Escondido, CA (where I lived at the time) visiting the Specialized mountain bike team training camp and would I and my roommates like to take Team Stumpjumper on a mountain bike ride. Well, duh.

So they met at our house and left to tackle the hills of what we called at the time, Elfin Forest. It has since been changed considerably, but the area still has fun riding. The team comprised of Ned Overend, Lisa Muhich, Daryl Price, Elladee Brown, and Paul Thomasburg. I think Sara Ballantyne was a member as well, but might not have been on the ride.

So, we are riding along and get to what was always a pretty nasty descent. It would have been nasty even if we were on suspension bikes, but this was the days prior to any suspension. My buddy Seth and I took the lead on the way down and in one of the hairiest parts, Paul Thomasburg blew by both of us like we were standing still. Bear in mind that this section of trail had what we both considered only one line down. By passing both of us, Paul was using a line that neither of us would have ever considered. What he saw and how he interpreted it is what makes the fastest riders fast. They have the ability to see the trail unlike mere mortals.

Needless to say, I remain impressed with his ability over 20 years later. I've gotten to ride with other riders of his caliber including Mike King and John Tomac and it's their ability to read a trail, process that information, and convert it all into downhill speed that separates the men from the boys.

So, what made me think of all that. I read a bit on about vision control. If you want to be fast descender on or off-road, you need to read that bit.

(What's playing: Arlo Guthrie Last Train)

Friday, November 28, 2008

What's in the stand...

When it rains, it pours. These two Moots YBB bikes found their way to the shop for some repairs. What are the chances that on any one day, two of them would come in. As you can see from the photo, there probably couldn't be two more different builds. Gotta make it work for you.

(What's playing: Miles Davis All Blues)

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Sometimes you go out early to scare the sprinter teams...

The words of famous hard-man Jens Voigt. Thanks to Belgium Knee Warmers for putting this up on their blog. Fabulous clips and now I have to order Overcoming.

Part 1

Part II

(What's playing: The Dears Money Babies)

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Bike thieves suck...

Thieves cut two cables to get this one bike out of a bunch in a bike rack near Golden Gate Park. The bike is the custom Steve Potts 29"er that i built up back in January. It's the owner's pride and joy. If anyone hears about this bike, please contact me or the owner through the craigslist ad and get him off his old Cannondale and back on his Potts. Here's a craigslist ad for info on the stolen bike.

(updated: serial number of the frame is 057731 and the seat tube size is 16.5")

Here's the parts spec.
Marzocchi Marathon fork
King rasta headset
Thomson stem and seat post
Titec Hellbent bars
Ergon grips
King disc hubs
Velocity rims
Crank Bros. crankset
SRAM XO twist shifter w/ X9 rear derailleur
Avid BB7 disc brakes
Salsa rasta colored quick releases
Selle An-Atomica saddle

(What's playing: John Coltrane My Favorite Things)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Limantour Road to Coast Trail to Inverness Ridge...

The spectacular weather we had over the weekend held out for one more day so I could take advantage of it on my day off. Pulled the cross bike down and headed up Limantour Road to the Coast Trail and then back up to Inverness Ridge Trail. It's mid-November and the temperature, in town, topped out at 78 degrees. Perfect day for a ride.

I stopped at a pull-out on the way up Limantour Rd. and took a couple photos of the newly created Giacomini Wetlands. You can see the newly flooded area and what it looked like previously in the photo on the sign. The circled area is the same.
From Ride Photos

Better shot.
From Ride Photos

Coast Trail - probably could have ridden my road bike.
From Ride Photos

Saw several of these guys warming up on the trail.
From Ride Photos

Coast Trail as it follows the coast line south.
From Ride Photos

Lunch spot with the beach all to myself.
From Ride Photos

Heading north with a view across Drake's Bay.
From Ride Photos

Up on Inverness Ridge.
From Ride Photos

Only two hours but after climbing back up Limantour Road with its 20% grade, my legs were screaming. A cappuccino at Toby's helped my recovery process after the ride.

(What's playing: Fresh Air interview with Nobel Prize winner Paul Krugman)

Friday, November 14, 2008

New in the shop...

I got these Redline Conquest cross bikes in recently. These are pretty sweet bikes for $1195. Nice attention to detail. Smart 9-speed drivetrain (more on the reason I like this in a bit), good mud clearance, good looking blue paint - and white bar tape (very PRO). In short these are perfect if one wants to get into 'cross racing or if one simply wants to tackle mixed terrain rides.

The bike.
Cross gearing. The bolt circle is 110 so this could be easily modified down to a 34 or up to a 52 or 53 (not that that combination would shift well...).
No frills Tektro brakes for reliable stops and Maxxis Raze tires.
Tiagra 9-speed shifters (105 rear derailleur), in-line brake levers, Ritchey bar/stem, and (did I mention this already?) white bar tape.
Lest you forget the name of your bike.
Ritchey wheelset.
Mud clearance.
Very smart spec with a chain watcher.
Okay, now why is 9-speed a good spec? Well, it allows you to choose from any mountain bike cog set if you find that the stock 25t cog doesn't give you a low enough gear. The 25 is plenty for 'cross racing, but if you are undertaking an arduous 10mile dirt road climb. The 9-speed Tiagra shifter is also fully compatible with any Shimano mountain bike rear derailleur if you find yourself wanting an 11-34 cogset.

(What's playing: Fresh Air podcast and an interview with Steve Martin)

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Don't leave gramma in the car this weekend...

Straight off the presses "Special Weather Statement," it's going to be a scorcher this weekend. Sounds like it's time to take advantage of the weather and go long and far on your bike this weekend.




(What's playing: Lucinda Williams Right in Time)

Redline Mono-9 sale...

To make room for other bikes I want to carry, I need to sell the Redline Mono-9 bikes that I've got left. These are really nice 29" wheel bikes with a rigid fork, SRAM X-9 shifter/derailleur, single 32t chainring with guard, Maxxis Ignitor 2.1 tires on WTB rims, Ritchey Pro bar/stem/seatpost topped by a WTB Rocket V seat. This is the kind of bike that doesn't need any kind of an upgrade as it comes out of the box.
So, if you live in the Bay Area and have been looking for a Redline Mono-9, I got your new bike right here. I've got every size: 15", 17", 19", 21" in the metallic slate gray paint. They are 2008 model year bikes, but share the exact specification as the 2009 bike. Price: $895 + tax. Get one while the gittin's good. This is the same bike as the Redline model that is also called the D460.

And I have one Redline Monocog Flight 29 single-speed bike left: 19" yours for $750.
(What's playing: KWMR Fish Tales)

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Only one year?...

Emanuele Sella received his punishment for doping at this year's Giro 'd Italia. One year? That's a slap on the wrist. Maybe it's just me but if you dope with EPO/CERA, which is a clear form of instant go-juice, and win a race or stage as dominantly as Sella did, the ban should be life-time. This wasn't the case of a racer trying to juice up just to stay with the pack. This was a case of a racer doping with the clear intent of winning stages. The fact that these racers doped with CERA, which they thought was untraceable, is further evidence that they were thumbing their noses at the racing bodies and their racing brethren, and they need to be treated differently. They need to be banned from racing, working with racing teams, coaching racers, all aspects of racing for life. No exceptions.

This would also mean the handing out of life-time bans to Ricardo Ricco (winner of two stages at the TdF and three at the Giro), Leonardo Piepoli (winner of stage 10 of the TdF), Stefan Shumacher (winner of two TdF stages and a yellow jersey wearer), Bernhard Kohl (winner of the climber's jersey at the TdF). These guys knowingly doped with the expectation of winning.

I am in agreement with the Gianni Bugno and the Italian cycling association's letter to the UCI. Ban for life.

(What's playing: KWMR Wake up West Marin and How to Ram a Car Out of Your Way - seriously! Read about this useful tip here. )

Friday, November 7, 2008

Black Mountain Cycles at

Arleigh was nice enough to post a bit about my 650B frames over at Thanks, Arleigh! Now I need to get the hustle on to get the frames done and here. The timing of when information is released vs. availability is a tough one to manage. I hope I can over-achieve on my goals.

(What's playing: Wilco I Must Be High)

Good news...

In this post, Laffeaux asked to update what my insurance company came back with for a premium based on my selling frames with my name on them. First, it makes one wonder why there should be a difference in the first place. I mean, what really is the difference between a frame I sell with my name on it or a frame I sell with someone else's name on it? Yeah, I know there reasons because of liability and who exactly is putting their neck on the insurance liability line, but...

So, as I mentioned, there's good news. My insurance premium would only be increased by $141 for the remainder of the policy. That's about $280 more for the year. Not bad. I had almost relegated myself to having them come back with some outrageous number. Full steam ahead!

(added: My small volume definitely contributed to this small increase. Larger companies whose sales are much higher than mine have a much higher exposure risk and, therefore, higher rates. As it was, this change increased my rates by 11%.)

(What's playing: Barrio Vibes on KWMR)

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Riding feast season is over...

Riding here between July and September is good for the stomach. That's when the blackberries and huckleberries are ripe for the picking. There's nothing quite like stuffing your mug with blackberries during a ride. So sweet. We've even got some in the yard that are perfect for grazing on after a ride.

But alas, the season is over. The blackberries are shriveled and the huckleberries are gone. We've got (as does probably every other resident here) a nice tube of huckleberries in the freezer waiting for the next time we make pancakes. Huckleberries are fantastic in pancakes with genuine maple syrup and real butter.

Shriveled blackberries


(What's playing: Neko Case Tightly)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Surprise visit....

I had a very nice surprise visit a couple of weeks ago. My old friend John and his wife walked through the door one Saturday and were able to spend some time. We hadn't seen each other in several years. John and I are the same body types - tall and thin. I call us twin sons of different mothers (after a Dan Fogleberg/Tim Weisberg album name).

We worked together at Pacific Coast Cycles in the 80s and rode together many mornings on the road. In 1989, we decided to do a tour on bikes. Initially, we talked about a California coast tour but ended up just "going for it" and riding cross-country. We decided on Boston as a destination because he had a friend who lived there - and well, where else are you going to go to get genuine Boston clam chowder?

So, one morning in June, 1989, we met a big group of friends at the bike shop, rode a block over to the beach, dipped our wheels in the Pacific Ocean and headed east. That first day was pure hell. We had put in a lot of miles on the road together. We were both pretty fast riders and did some racing as well. That first day kicked our asses. It was very hot and the air quality was not so good. We pulled into our first campground wondering if it would be okay to ride home the next day. We were so beat and bonked and our lungs were seared by the smog that I'm not sure if we really ate any dinner. This was the insult to the injury we received earlier when, after leaving a gas station where we bought cold drinks, John lost his wallet. First day and this happens - not a good sign. In it were his credit cards and many hundreds of dollars in cash.

The next morning we woke up feeling pretty darn good. John had some cash stashed in his bag and the credit card company was located in Vegas, which we were going to be riding through, and said he could pick up a replacement in a few days. Alright!

So on we pedaled, up and over Big Bear into the heat of the Mojave Desert. We camped one night in Baker, CA - the home of the world's largest thermometer which told us it was 117 degrees at 5:00 in the afternoon. Blistering heat, but we rode through it.

We made it to Vegas and the headquarters of the credit card company. John went in to get his replacement (not and easy thing to do when he also lost his driver's license and had no ID) while I waited outside in their fountain. Yes, in.

Fresh credit card in hand, we left Vegas on Interstate 15 through the Virgin River narrows, into St. George and then on into Zion National Park. From there we went over to Bryce Canyon and then up and over to Moab. In Moab, we stayed at a private campground owned by Hank Barlow, the editor of Mountain Bike for the Adventure magazine (which was to become the Rodale publication Mountain Bike). Hank took us up into the La Sal Mountains for some mountain bike riding and that sparked our interest in riding our loaded touring rigs up and over those mountains into Colorado.

After another day in Moab (this was about July 1 and it was roaring hot in Southern Utah) spent riding Slickrock, we loaded up and headed up and over Geyser Pass. Coming down the eastern flanks, we had some impressively steep descents but we finally made it to Paradox, CO. A little more riding on the road and we were back on some logging road riding into Montrose, CO. Some more road riding up to Delta, CO and over to Paonia and we were back on the dirt heading over Kebler Pass (elev. 10,007 ft.) into Crested Butte where we met up with a bunch of friends who were in CB for the annual Fat Tire Festival.

That's a very quick glimpse of about 3 weeks on the road and trail. John's visit really reminded me of how fun and hard that trip was. I've got hundreds of slides from that trip and a really bad slide scanner. I managed to get it to perform some semblance of a scan to show some photos.

Here's John pointing out the obvious and sublime somewhere on the road in southwestern Utah.

Somewhere near Hanksville, UT in an area of almost nothingness. John picked the lone flower and posed.

John wasn't much of a mountain biker but made the best of having a good time on the Slickrock trail in Moab.

Even got a shot of me. Were my legs that tan - ever?

Heading up to Geyser Pass. That's Mt. Tukuhnikivatz. Say that 10 times fast.

Coming down the back side of Geyser Pass.

This is really steep!

I'm pretty sure this is heading up the Uncompahgre Plateau on our way to Montrose, CO.

Kebler Pass - it's all downhill now.

Finally we made it to Crested Butte. Those folks in the background are getting ready for a rousing round of bicycle polo.

Maybe I'll get around to scanning more slides later, or I'll have a service do it. Let's see if this slideshow thing works too.

(What's playing: KPIG radio)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

The cost of doing buisness...

Companies are not immune to the "living on a thread" concept that it seems a lot of Americans are hanging by. The image that there are many people who are a paycheck away from living on the street is not just a little scary, it's a whole lot of scary. Folks could be plugging away, carving out a niche for themselves and then, BAM!, the rug is pulled out from under their feet.

I'm not saying the following example is even related to this concept, but it illustrates just how drastic things can change. In the past couple of days, Rivendell has been hit with two potentially devastating, unexpected expenses. I'm only using Rivendell as an example because they have posted this information on their site but it can apply to any company doing business overseas and dealing in foreign currency, which could lead into a totally different tangent, but that's not a topic I'm going to touch.

When US companies work with companies based overseas, they have to negotiate which currency to use - USD, JPY, NTD, Euro... And if you are having complete bikes built for you in Taiwan, you will likely use all these forms of currency, including Swiss Francs. When the cost of the bikes is quoted by the assembly factory, it could be 6 months before they are actually produced. Six months is an eternity in today's economy as things flip-flop day-to-day. If you are good at negotiating, you can lock in a price and sign a contract that it is good for XXX days/months. Six months down the road, all the prices could be the same and everyone wins. Or the exchange rates could fluctuate and either you or the assembly factory comes out the winner or loser. You just never know. The parts are exactly the same, but because of a weak dollar and a strong foreign currency, the cost of that same part could be 20% higher. And they say gambling is bad...

So, what does all this have to do with the Rivendell mention? Last week, Grant posted this bit on the weak dollar/strong Yen. It takes about 2-3 weeks for a container from Asia to arrive in the states. Assuming it took 3 weeks for that container of Rivendell frames to arrive, it would have left port on October 8 for arrival on October 28. At that time, the JPY:USD was at about 108. Nervous time according to Rivendell's happy rate. As the ship was sailing, the Yen's strength grew and those frames (keep in mind that they were exactly the same frames as they were when they were loaded) all of a sudden were going to cost Rivendell more. It appears that the dollar bottomed out at just over 93 Yen on October 27 - that's a 14% price change just in the time it took the frames to arrive in the states. That's one of those situations were an approriately placed expletive probably seems appropriate.

And as if to add insult to injury, Rivendell's insurance rates went through the roof. Their insurance premium went from $5,000 to $20,000 - just because they sell bikes with their name on them. That's a 300% increase! I'm paying just under $2,000 a year for insurance and I do also want to sell frames with my name on it. I'm going to have to call my insurance agent tomorrow.

If there is one silver lining, it's that the frames I'm going to buy are price in US dollars. When I receive the final price, I know that's the same price I'm going to pay when they are ready to ship. Small consolation. I feel bad for Grant. That's a hard couple of pills to swallow, especially for a company such as Rivendell, which is not extravagant in their spending by any means. In an era where the big (and some smaller) bike companies have new product year launches in exotic locales and spend countless millions sponsoring teams whose riders are one momentary lapse in judgment away from dipping that needle in a vial of go juice, seeing a champion of bikes for bike folks get hit with expenses such a this is a tough one take.

(What's playing: Led Zeppelin Dancing Days)