Berthoud “Touring” Saddle

The ‘ol Brooks B17 which was handed down to me from my uncle started to squeak with each turn of the cranks. Upon further inspection, I found the seat rails to be a little rusted. The squeak was most definitely a function of my fat butt, I’m also sure the fact it has been ridden on since the mid 90′s has something to do with it as well.  Either way, she’s a good saddle.  And kind.  Very kind.  But the squeaking is annoying.

My nicely broken in B17

My nicely broken in B17

I’ve heard great things about the Berthoud Saddles.  Someone told me it was the “bee’s knees.”  Boulder Bicycle at one point said they no longer saw the need to carry Brooks saddles (although, they still sell Brooks) and also offers a 6 month satisfaction guarantee.  When I first saw the $200+ price tag 4 years ago I just turned my small Asian nose in another direction.  But I was now in need of a non-annoying saddle and was in the market.

I emailed Richard to see if the things ever went on sale and he pointed me in the direction of a coupon.  And then I waited two days…….

I put the saddle on and it was great between work and home (about 16 miles one way).  On my recent 200k the saddle was a bit “rough” the last 1/3 of the ride.  Since I’ve never really gone through the purchasing and breaking in of a leather saddle, this is all new to me.

IMG_0400 IMG_0401I’ve got some things to try for accelerating the break in process…..more on that later.

Last note – the leather on the Berthoud saddle seems top notch!  And a little thinner than Brooks B17….

What saddle do you ride and how long did it take you break it in?

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“Share the Road” License Plates

My vehicle’s tags expired at the end of March, and in my passive aggressive approach to protesting the silly annual ritual of registering one’s vehicle, I procrastinated 10 days into the month.  [diatribe] I hate nothing more than having to take time off work to stand in ridiculous lines and pay money.  I get that roads just don’t make themselves, and that they cost money.  And I get that employees of the gubermints want evenings off just like me and you.  I still hate standing in lines to pay money. [/diatribe]

The silver lining in all this is I get to choose a license plate style.  The first time I moved to Colorado some 13 years ago, I was amazed at all the license plate options they had to offer up.

In Utah, I opted for a “Share the Road” plate which puts $25/year into a DOT fund for improving bikeways.  Unfortunately, vanity plates were limited to 5 characters and I could not for the life of me figure out how to get “Ancien” into that type of space.

sharetheroadWell, I no longer reside in Utah, so back to Colorado license plates.  The cannabis plate isn’t out yet, so I was back to my 2 other options of my alma mater or “Share the Road.”  My college has made some decisions lately which have made me upset and I’m sure they’ll sincerely miss my $75.  Take that old rich guys!

“Share the Road” however has done some good things – such as helping to allow bikes on the light rail and improving bikeways.  Also, they aren’t into the segregation thing, so all seems well there.  And they only wanted $25.  I think we found our winner!

Now I was confronted with Vanity or not?  What would be my vanity line – “ANCIEN” or “CAT 6″?  Could I stomach not having the little cyclist on the plate?  At the end of the day, I wanted to the cyclist guy on the plate which isn’t available in the vanity option.

share-the-road-blank-plate-670x-webAnd I would have gone with “CAT 6″ in case you are curious.

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DaVinci Maiden Voyage!

As odd this may sound, I’ve we’ve had in my our possession a $7000+ bike for almost a year and never ridden it.  Life, however, happened.  We ordered the tandem. My wife got pregnant.  Then the tandem came.  The order of the first 2 may have been reversed.  We’re not quite sure.  It’s not important.  C’est La Vie.

Regardless of how we got to where we are, we finally had an opportunity to break away and go for a ride.  It’s tough with 2 kiddos, especially when one is dependent on mama bear for nutrition.  But, we broke away for a few minutes and took the tandem for a spin.

We started out a bit rough.  My Our handlebars were wobbling all over the place – it was the speed wobbles all over again!  We pulled over and checked the wheels were properly in the dropouts.  Check.

Our second launch was just as hairy as the first.  This time the 4 couplers were blamed as we pulled over I checked over those.  All were tight.  We were now out of the neighborhood and faced with either getting on the “main” road or turning around.

We spotted a car around the bend and we let it pass, no more were on the horizon.  We shoved off taking up the whole lane, but we quickly got it straightened out and got more “right.”

Things were progressing and lining out.  Since DaVinci Tandems come with ICS, I had to let my wife know to try and pedal in sync with me as close as possible.  Of course, my “slow” cadence was too fast for her.

We swerved down the road and with each pedal stroke got smoother and smoother.  On the way back we even made the 180 degree turn and up the hill.  Another successful turn was made off the main road into our neighborhood.  And the icing on the cake, we made it up the hill to our house.

7.5 miles, 30 mins and we were able to successfully tack up the road.  Things are smoothing out.  My wife is working on her pedal stroke, but we know my steering is really the culprit. ;)

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Shimergo – 1000′s of miles later.

I recently overhauled the handlebars on my commuter with a “drop” type bar, “road” disc brakes and campagnolo ergo “brifters” (on my shimano drivetrain).  Below are the series of posts covering this.

  1. What is Shimergo?
  2. Luxy Handlebars
  3. Avid BB7 Road Brakes
  4. Campagnolo Veloce 10 spd Powershift Ergos
  5. Final Thoughts – 1000 miles

Since my initial conversion, I’ve added 2 bikes with a shimergo setup.  That should just about sum up what I think about running Campy shifters with Shimano drivetrains.  Money was “saved,” street cred was given by the 1% of cyclists who understand this is possible and I’m a converted man to “Brifters.”

The Veloce on my commuter are great.  I wouldn’t change anything about them, and for the price, they get me where I need to be.  The shifting of the front derailleur is a little wonky sometimes, but I manage.  Every tool has a job – and for the price and use of my commuter, the Veloce is the correct tool.  For me.

The DaVinci Tandem sports Chorus – which has the QS Micro and shifts the front derailleur like a dream.  Of course, the DaVinci tandem has 4 front chain rings.  Boo-ya!  And the Chorus handles it just fine.  The DaVinci also has Shusterman’s modified Sram X9.  If you’re following along, that’s 36 gears!

The Circle A got “converted” from bar ends to Chorus as well.  I run a compact double up front and there are no issues there.  I love the ability to trim.  I run an 8spd out back, 11-32, with an Ultegra long cage (GS).  I hit all my gears, shifting is crisp and immediate.

Makes one wonder how they lived without it…

A quick note on Chorus QS shifters/brake levers.  You can save ~$100 (+/- depending on the day) buying from reputable dealers in the UK.  And that’s delivered to your door step.  We all know what I think about ordering from across the pond.  Let your conscious, or lack thereof, dictate what you do.

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GPS & Randonneuring – Part Deux

3 years ago, I wrote a post titled “GPS & Randonneuring.”  I have learned a lot in the last couple of years.  This is probably one of many updates, and I’ll continue to to update as I learn more information and technology evolves. 

GPS Units
There are limitations to the types of GPS units you can use.  While there are work arounds to just about any issue, my recommendation is to get a unit that has one of the following features: 1) batteries which can be changed or 2) a unit which can be charged AND still remain on.  The following is a list of Garmin units which meet either of the above criteria.

The difference between units with the “t” and those without is the “t” models come with preloaded maps.  I don’t recommend you buy these models.

Essentially, any handheld or cycling specific Garmin unit can be used.  While I would like to pretend price isn’t a factor, it is for many people, myself included.  The prices listed in the table above are “Sticker Price.”  Shop around.  I bought my Edge 800 off of ebay for $295 shipped – refurb, factory sealed, 1 yr warranty and another year warranty from my credit card.  I rode with a guy the other day who picked up a nice Edge 800, used from ebay for $250.  It is usually more cost efficient to download open source maps and purchase the HRM and speed/cadence separately from a place like Amazon.  All in, I was at $380 for GPS, maps, HRM “premium” strap and speed/cadence sensor.  The sticker price on that bundle is $650.

Some of these units seem to have frivolous features.  I don’t need a camera on my GPS unit or a QWERTY keyboard.  But, if these things are important to you for any reason and you already have the unit, you can still use it for cycling.

I’ll let you settle what weight and size are important to you.  We all have various opinions on it.  I will say, I used to ride with GPSMAP 60CSx.  I enjoy the compactness of the Edge 800.  Not a weight consideration, as I seemingly have an infinite number of ounces to lose around my waist, but I like how the Edge 800 sits nice and clean on my dashboard.


For units which utilize maps – all but the Edge 200, Edge 500 and eTREX 10 – DO NOT BUY THE MAPS FROM GARMIN.  This differs from the advice I gave 2 year ago, and you may do as you please with your money.  But my suggestion to anyone who doesn’t wipe their butt with greenbacks, DO NOT BUY MAPS FROM GARMIN.

My suggestion is to download OPEN SOURCE MAPS.  If you don’t trust the OPEN SOURCE MAPS go ahead lay down the cash for Garmin’s version.  I trust OPEN SOURCE MAPS, and programs like Ride With GPS (hereafter known as: RWGPS) use OPEN SOURCE MAPS.  Pick a map from list, I’m in the US and I use this set of maps by Dave.

Cheaper than Garmin, but still $25, RWGPS w/ send you a microSD card with maps already installed, so all you have to do is slip it into your GPS unit, select the maps and you are ready to go.  Below is my step by step process and notes on saving some moolah.

  1. Buy a microSD card.  I use Amazon a lot, and ended up spending $4 on a 4gb Kingston microSD card (which came with a SD card adapter).  You may want to check on the size limitation your GPS unit has for microSD cards.  And if you get too big, it will bog down the speed of your unit.  4GB, in my mind, is perfect.  You can get an entire map of the US, but it doesn’t affect speed noticeably.
  2. Download your maps.  This will be painfully slow (took about 2 hours for a 4GB download here at my work).  I suggest you use a bitTorrent downloader which not only speeds up your download, but keeps you from hogging too much bandwidth.  I use uTorrent.
  3. While your maps are downloading, you’ll need get the Garmin file structure onto your microSD card.  The easiest way to do this is insert your microSD card into your unit and turn it on.  Go into the settings and change it to write data to external memory rather than internal memory.  On the Edge 800 it is: Settings (little wrench usually in the lower right corner)->System->Data Recording->Record to->Memory Card.  I went back in changed it to internal memory right afterwards.
    Exit out and hit start, then hit the stop button.  Recording just this short period of time will have written the file structure onto your microSD card.  Power off the unit (anytime you insert the microSD or take it out, the unit should always be off) and remove the microSD card (if you will be transferring the maps to the unit using a card reader – recommended).
  4. Transferring maps by a card reader is recommended, but by no means necessary.  It is MUCH MUCH faster (15-20 mins compared to 3-4 hours for 4GB).  Simply open up the microSD card’s folder->garmin and place the .IMG file there.  Do NOT put it in the custom maps folder.  Safely remove the microSD from card reader.
  5. Insert the microSD into the unit and power it on.  You then have to go into the settings and select the map you want to use.  On the Edge 800, it is Settings->System->Map->Map Information Select Map.

Powering the Unit
Obviously, you want to start any long ride with the unit fully charged, or with fresh batteries.  Units which have replaceable batteries are, in my opinion, the easiest to manage.  With the GPSMap 60CSx I would buy cheapie batteries, throw 4 into my kit and when the current batteries died or were about to die, I would throw the old ones away and replace with 2 fresh batteries.  The downside is the GPS unit will split the track into two separate files, which requires stitching once you’re off the bike.  But navigation is not affected.  I use Basecamp for the stitching, but you can pick any of the options listed here.  I was able to get 15 hours or so of daytime use out of my 60CSx – a little less at night with the backlight.  That is the great advantage to a unit with replaceable batteries – it’s cheap and easy.

If you buy an Edge Model, or you just don’t want to deal with the batteries, there are options to add juice to your unit.  The simplest is to buy a battery pack.  Garmin sells a version, which is way more than anyone needs to spend.  Gomadic makes a unit (AAx4) and so does Energizer (batteries x2)According to a post on this forum, not all USB cables are the same, so while it is common to see the “younger” Edge models turn off while charging, simply selecting a different cable can fix the problem.  Peter White says the same thing on his E-Werk page:

So, if you find that your GPS won’t run while charging from the E-WERK, try using the standard USB cable, and then the standard USB to Micro or Mini (whichever your device requires) cable provided with the E-WERK.

The final option is to power the unit with a dynamo hub.  Since there are limitations on the amount of volts and amps, you need to purchase either an E-Werk (Peter White is sole importer in the US, but you can always buy from overseas) or PedalPower +.  The newest is Sinewave Cycles, which I will most likely purchase.  Not only do these thing-a-ma-jigs adjust out put voltage and amps, but they also convert the AC power from the dynamo and convert to DC.  Since Voltage drops at low speeds, it is wise to use these gizmos to charge a battery, and then use the batteries to charge your unit.

As you can see when looking at a battery pack for $15-$20 vs $300-$350 and more “stuff” to carry.  My headlamp takes AA batteries, so if my battery pack does as well, at least there is some standardization.

Planning Routes
I use to advocate the use of Garmin’s BaseCamp or whatever software Garmin had on offer.  Now, my eyes have been opened to the world of RWGPS.  And many suggest BikeRouteToaster as well.  Planning routes is simple, and even bicycle specific.  And they’ll export the appropriate file for your GPS unit (if you want to write directly to the unit, you need pay for “premium”).  I select the appropriate file (TCX for the edge 800) and download to my desktop of where ever I want to temporarily save it.  When looking at a route on RWGPS, you’ll notice on the right hand side a column, and you want to click on the “export” tab.  They even have individualized directions for each cycling specific unit (Edge line of units).

CaptureOnce your route is downloaded, you then open up the file structure on for your microSD through either your GPS unit or a card reader (GPS unit works fine in this case).  The files is Garmin->Newfile.  You drop the GPX or TCX file into the “Newfile” folder.  On the “home” screen of the unit, you look for courses and select the one you want.  One last step, after you select the route you want to follow, before you hit that big green “GO!” button, I select the small wrench (“settings”).  I turn on the “Turn Guidance,” off for the “Virtual Partner” and off for the “Off Course Warnings.”

Doing this should give you turn-by-turn directions.  Your unit will beep as you get 40-50′ from a turn.  Then it will make a little louder sound as you are just about at the turn and the screen will change to a close in map to show you the navigation through the turn.  As many RBA’s will put on their website, the official cue sheet is handed out right before the ride.  If the RBA is kind of enough to draw the course up in RWGPS our lives are certainly made easier.  But, you should always verify with the cue sheet.  I like to email the RBA a few days before and get an electronic copy, I can then match against my RWGPS map and export.  I then ask the RBA at registration if the course has changed, and usually they almost always reply, “no.”  I then have a high degree of confidence, not complete trust, that the GPS is correct.

I like to use Strava to download my rides.  It’s easy to use, it gives me the data I want and best of all, free.  Those paying for a premium membership at RWGPS can download there and Garmin Connect is also a popular one.  If you have multiple files, you’ll need to “stitch” them together using Garmin’s BaseCamp or another one of these options.

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Kersey Kick 200 km Brevet

IMG_0408It’s been a while since I’ve actually done a Brevet.  2012 to be exact.  With the Frenchies leaving us all hangin’ on how preregistration is going to work for PBP 2015, my hand is forced to do a full series – 200km, 300km, 400km and 600km.  Technically I could just do the 600km, but life will be much easier if I build up to it.

Saturday was the first Brevet of the season here in the Denver area.  I was destined to finally make it to a start and not be in a rush.  I was also going to eat my standard breakfast and take a shower.  This meant, my preparations, for the first time ever, began the night before.  I gathered all my stuff up and piled it up near the garage door.  I got my water bottles out, put the powder drink in one so all I would have to do the next morning is fill them up with water.

Everything went fairly smooth and I left within my predetermined time range to get me there in a reasonable time.  I arrived at 7:25 for an 8:00 start.  35 mins was great!  And I was even going to sit there and chat or patch up old tubes.

I had signed in and just about had all my stuff together when a vehicle pulled up with a beautiful Paketa tandem.  I was checking it out and one of the team members was having some difficulty with their helmet.  OH CRAP!  I didn’t remember putting my helmet in my car.  I looked around my vehicle and I couldn’t find it.  I knew I could not ride without one (unless, oddly enough, you’re riding with the French).  I told the RBA and I had figured on taking a DNS.

One is given 13.5 hours to finish a brevet, and I’ve never been pushed for time on a 200k.  Of course, I have an 11 hr and 35 min 200k time on my record.  But, it was a horrible, wet, windy and hilly ride in Austin.  It was 20-25 mins back to my house and I could probably be back by 8:30 or so to start the ride.  I returned to the RBA to ask about starting late.  I hopped in my car to drive home and I passed a Super Target and supposed a quick drive by to check out the hours would save a trip back down to the house.

Super Target opened at 8:00, and it was now 7:40.  I checked for some other nearby stores, but this one made the most sense.  I got everything ready so all I would have to do is strap on my shoes, put on my front bag and pedal away.  When Target says they’ll open at 8, they open at 8.  And with my luck, I parked on the side of the store opposite of the sporting goods.  I found a helmet, all were ugly and too small, so I picked the biggest one (which was also the most expensive) and high tailed it out of there.

Finally, I started about 18 mins late.  Which I assumed put everyone 4-6 miles ahead of me.  I never quite know how to handle mass starts at randonneuring events.  I either start out too slow or too fast.  But, I decided to adhere to the ol’ rando adage of, “ride your ride.”  And knowing I had poorly trained for this event with my longest ride this year being under 40 miles, a finish under 13.5 hours was my number one goal (although I was shooting for 10).

My legs felt great and I was humming along with my first hour average speed of 19 mph.  Of course, it was predominately downhill as we dropped almost 1000′ from the start to our mid way point.  And about an hour in I passed my first “victim.”  A guy had a flat and was pumping it up.  I asked if he needed anything and he waved me on.  A few miles later I caught up to another person and by mile 42 I had passed a 3rd.  All in all, by the first control half way through, I had passed 4 people.

I was “on call” this weekend, which meant I had to take phone calls.  One of them happened to be on the way to the 2nd control, I pulled over and got everything settled and it took about 20 mins.  Nonetheless, I breezed into the 2nd control.

Some people were leaving just as I arrived and another gentleman was changing a flat.  I ran in the store and as if some higher being was trying to tell me something, my eyes caught the ice cream section.  I settled on a Magnum Double Carmel.  I chatted with the man changing his flat and ate my ice cream.

Realizing I could break 8 hours, a feat I have never accomplished, a leg was slung and I headed down the road.  I was more than ready to have the ride over and the road seemed to be never ending.  The wind was at our backs though, and it helped to propel me towards the finish.  I texted my wife and let her know I would actually, for once, beat the time home that I had given her.

With 7 miles to go the route turned south and into the wind.  A man on a time trial bike unrelated to the Brevet looked like he was going to fall over and I quickly passed.  The uphill nature and the wind made these last couple miles a killer!  And my right foot was acting up with a case of “hot foot.”

Finally, I stumbled into the finish with an official time of 7 hours 43 mins.  I had 7 hrs 40 mins, but I went straight to my car and got out of my cycling shoes.  Of course if you subtract off my 20 min late start and phone call, I could have broken 7 if I managed my time at controls better.  Could of.  Should of.  Would of.

I’m happy with the result nonetheless.

Strava Ride Data

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Wobbles of Speed

I was out for a little training ride last Saturday when I experienced every cyclists worst nightmare at 45 mph.  No, I didn’t spontaneously combust due to my awesomeness.  Maybe that’s actually a dream….

I got the speed wobbles.  AKA – speed shimmy, death wobble etc.  In case you’ve never experienced this, let me summarize it for you.  Seconds are hours.  Don’t fear death, but do think about how bad road rash sucks (but picking scabs can be fun).  Hope for a field to lay it down in and not cliffs on both sides.  Hope a vehicle doesn’t run over you if you do crash in the road.  Here’s a [fat] kid who eats it (and a stupid friend who eats it as well – unrelated to the wobbles).

“Don’t put that on youtube!”  [Snickers...]

Back to seriousness.  Speed wobbles can be a serious thing – and if you’ve ever held on for dear life, you know.  So what causes the wobbles?  No consensus has ever been made.

The Bike
Many o’ things can be wrong with your bike.  Your wheels are not coplanar, you front fork is cracked, not enough trail, too much trail, frame isn’t stiff enough, frame is too small, headset is loose, hub bearings are loose etc.  So, check everything to make sure you are nice and tight.  Certainly, you’re stuck with the steed you have until you plop down cash for a “better” breed (but I’d start with new wheels), so if your headset isn’t loose or your hub cap things, perhaps it’s the combination between bike and rider (which is the more likely possibility).

The Rider
I believe this to be the bigger culprit.  If I was 5’2″ and weighed 115 bls I bet I could crush some descents (and ascents) and not have to worry about wobbles.  My center of mass would be lower to the ground.  Sadly, I’m a foot taller and more than 100 lbs heavier.

But this is only one reason why you can buy the same bike a pro was riding and you get the wobble.  Your descending style is important.  And the pros train for it.  Me, I learned to ride a bike down the street without eating asphalt 27 years ago.  And that was the last lesson I ever had in cycling technique (and from a guy who doesn’t have the best cycling style – sorry dad).

Unfortunately, to practice dealing with the wobbles one must induce the shimmy.  This isn’t something I am too keen on doing.  Ever again.  Especially at 45 mph.  But, there are some good practices we can all put into place to keep ourselves from having the wobbles.  And we can all mentally prepare ourselves on how to deal with it.  Opposed to the situation I was in this past weekend when I was praying for the best and cleaning out my shorts.

Preventative Measures

  1. Grant at Rivendell suggests never to ride a loaded bike a high speed with no hands.  Check.
  2. Ride the drops – this naturally brings the center of mass down and forward.
  3. Have a commanding, but loose grip.  It’s easier said than done, but when you get the shimmies, do not grip the handlebars with the death grip.  I did, and it instantaneously got worse.  You want to dampen the shims, not become part of the mass which is oscillating uncontrollably.
  4. Pedals at 6 and 12, outside foot down.  Change as needed.  This is a much easier position to hold than the 3 and 9 while keeping low.
  5. Unweight your saddle, but your butt doesn’t need to fully come off.
  6. Squeeze your knees against your top tube.  The theory is this helps to dampen the shakes.  And I partially agree.  This position also causes one to shift their weight forward, which I also believes helps.
  7. Pedal.

Of course, we can’t do all of these things at once.  But, when I descend I consciously get in the drops (which gives one a more powerful braking position), focus on a loose grip, bringing my rump off the saddle a bit and either pedaling or squeezing the knees.

What do when you get the shimmies

  1. Pray.
  2. Look for rougher road.  Not like the “wake up strips” or a pot hole, but maybe you come out of the worn tire track.
  3. Brake – the trick here is not to increase your grip.  Some practice braking without giving her the ol’ death grip is warranted.  I like the rear brake as you have less power (slower and more gradual decrease in speed) and it adds some weight to your front wheel.  Braking with the front can induce the shimmy or make it worse.
  4. Stay relaxed.  You know, it’s a beautiful day out and you’re in the mountains – nothing can ruin that!
  5. Move weight forward and lower.
  6. Squeeze knees.

Don’t freak.  Work on your technique and style descending.  As Grant says, be commander of your ship.  Have a plan and be prepared to deal with it.

One last video to show you what it looks like.

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