Thursday, July 17, 2014

Thursday Night Trail Riding (Happy 100th Post!)

A bit of envelope pushing at Wakefield Park for some evening trail riding.  My friend Jonathan is a serious mountain biker and we've been musing about hitting up this park which happens to be roughly in between our two homes for some time now.  Call it a Polar Vortex miracle but we finally pulled the trigger this week and settled on Thursday.  Great night to be outside, the vortex has removed the typical mid-summer humidity and heat from the region and left us a warm but very comfortable setting.

The ride gave my my first real opportunity to test out the new bosco handlebar setup for the MB-5 as you see here.  While I hadn't gotten the bike out for a serious test my friend Ryan's son had borrowed it for a scout trip and he apparently had a great time with it.  He also left it with two broken rear wheel spokes, a flat tire and a busted shift cable but all of these were easily fixable.  I had a 'spare' 135mm, 26" wheel w/ 7 spd freewheel laying around by chance and managed to get the bike back in tip top condition Wednesday night in prep for the ride.

No pictures from the ride itself I'm afraid, suffice it to say that we were out for about 1 1/2 hours returning to the vehicles around 9PM as it started to get dark.  I was fully prepared to be left in Jonathan's dust both from a conditioning, experience and equipment perspective.  Aside from his significant mountain bike saddle time he was riding a cool double suspension bike (carbon?) that sported a hydraulic button operated seatpost lower-er-er...  pretty spiffy!   The MB-5 looked a bit antiquated but it aquited itself extremely well.  
I believe that Wakefield is considered to be a very easy mountain biking course, i.e. not to 'technical'.  But it had some thrilling rides as far as I was concerned, I"d been there several times before but this time I had the benefit of merely following Jonathan's lead as he picked our route through a web of ~8 miles of single track, double track, slaloming descents, some mild bumps, creek crossings and wooded trails along a creek.

I managed to stay on the bike for the most part, no catastrophic instances in any case.  I was thrilled at the leverage and comfort that the 55cm Bosco Bar's gave me, the 2.1" knobbies picked up second hand last year worked great giving me just a bit more grip especially on some of the wide embankments in the slalom section.  I did my share of hoping off the bike to walk in several steep sections and found that I would very easily 'wheelie' the bike when ascending.  I also had plenty of brake squeal.  The only immediate equipment change I'd make on the MB5 is to replace the brake pads.

I'm anxious to get back out on the trails sometime soon!



Sunday, June 29, 2014

Introducing..... (drumroll please).... Mr. Burley (or the tandem to be named later)




Still working on the name, but this is one winter project finally ready for prime time!  It was actually the week before Thanksgiving that I noticed a tempting price on a Burley Bossa Nova tandem, black, set up in the road style.  Erika and I ventured out into a cold and rainy night to Springfield to go check it out.  The previous owner had a garage full of amazing bikes and was getting rid of the Burley as it was a seldom used 'back up' tandem.  The fit seemed close enough and a quick solo ride in the rain (Erika was to smart for this) and we had bought ourselves a fancy road style tandem.

My plan was to attack a full rebuild over the course of Jan-Feb-Mar and emerge phoenix-like in the spring with a very new-to-us and customized build.  Needless to say this didn't materialize.  We did get out for an odd warm day, I think it was in December.  Our destination was Port City Brewery which we had already visited via tandem and it was a really successful trip until I decided to push our luck and try to go home a new way, one fateful wrong turn and we ended up on a potholed 6 lane intermediate street (Rt 236 for the locals) near Landmark Mall.  It was harrowing w/ the road condition, speed of traffic and we ended up hitting a big hole and blowing out the rear tire.  Unpatchable and with no 27 1/4" tubes handy we had to phone our friend Sara for a humiliating but much needed emergency pick up.

Between the early misadventure, the incredibly persistent cold and wet winter and a plethora of other projects I never got around to tuning up the tandem though I did acquire some parts slowly and ended up disassembling the cockpits as I mused about the build.  I was also intimidated by a couple new-to-me systems on the bike, namely; eccentric bottom brackets, internal cable routing and a hub drag brake.  In the end, Sheldon Brown and youtube came to my assistance and I got the bike together as you see here.  I'll let the photo's and captions take you through it but here are some highlights of the build;

1993 (?) Burley Bossa Nova Tandem (not positive, but based on some bikepedia entries and the original build kit this seems pretty likely plus or minus a year)
27 1/4", 48H Wheels, Continental Gatorskins (32mm) (original and likely to be replaced by 700C rims)
Suntour XC Brakes and drive train (I replaced the 6 speed indexed barcon shifters w/ the old power ratchet barcons because the locking bolt for the indexed units was stripped out pretty bad)
Front cockpit - Nitto Moustache Bars (original), Shimano aero levers, suntour barcon friction shifters, newbaum's over inner tubes, Nitto Tallux stem
Stoker cockpit - Ritchey(?) Moustache bars off of the '93 XO-3 (MTB width) with Diacompe dummy levers, newbaum's over inner tubes, Nitto Technomic stem
Sakae tandem crank set (original)
Jagwire XL Racer cables
(2) Brooks Flyer sprung saddles (honey)
Baggage - Carradice large saddle wedge (courtesy of @dailyrandonneur) as a bar bag, Berthoud Saddle wedge in the rear, and a Truce small saddle wedge in the middle... room for improvement here but this setup gets us on the road for now!

Future projects:
700C wheelset (I'd love to be able to get 38mm tires on this bike but need to do some measurements/dry fittings)
Fenders (waiting for final wheelset)
Dyno lighting?  Possibly along w/ the wheelset - sensing a theme?
Front rack - I've got a sweet Bruce Gordon Mountain front rack courtesy of @OceanAirCycles that needs some work to get it mounted.
Rear rack - Erika's seat height makes it a challenge, possibly a Nitto R-14 will work
Frame bag - the frame 'cell' below Erika is huge and seems like a great spot for a big frame bag... might be useful

'Before' - Pretty much a stock Suntour XC groupset, Sakae cranks and handlebars
'After'  Great ride today to Mt Vernon on the MV Trail.  The bike was setup for that trip, our longest to date at ~27miles.


Dual Moustache Bars!  The Captain cockpit is the traditional downward configuration and the stoker bars are set up upward giving Erika a slightly more upright option.  I'll need to come back and trim the shift cable housing at some point but I left them intentionally long for now.

Bossa Nova.  The frame finishing seems like quality TIG welding work, the top and diagatube are ovalized OS tubes, the down tube is standard round OS tubing

Stoker-eye view.  The old XO-3 M-Bar's are distinctly different in shape than the current (now former) M-Bar with a longer and more pronounced straight section coming back to the bar ends and more compact 'hooks'.  So far Erika likes using the dummy levers for a stretched out posture.

Newbaum's cotton bartape over a single layer of recycled inner tube, It's not as gorgeous as cotton tape right on the bars but it makes for a bit more squish and I like the end thickness.

The internal cable routing for the two shift cables and the  drag brake was intimidating but I needn't have worried.  The  down tube passes under both BB's giving the cables unimpeded routing straight to the 'tailpipe' exit and cable routing literally couldn't have been easier.

Rear brakes crowded by the Berthoud saddle wedge that came with my Purple-Luki purchase

SIX SPEED!  With a new wheelset we'll go to 8 speed friction in all likelihood but for now the 6 speed freewheel is more than adequate.  The cassette and chain, drivetrain in general is extremely clean.

Sakae cranks are strong and clean looking  We've stayed in the middle ring *48T* I think for all of our riding so far.

Front hub, 48T is alot! :)

You may have seen these before on the blog, new home... and likely permanent home.  With the jagwire cables all adjusted nicely the right shifter worked flawlessly today.

Nice short reach Technomic stem for the stoker

Diacompe dummy levers, hoods a bit worse for wear.  They came off the XO-3 and have stayed with the bars.

True Temper Chromoly....

Burley, mimial but cool looking graphics. You get a bit of apeak here at the nut for easy fender mounting and the odd (to me) top tube bend into a Y yoke for the rear 'fork'  Also note the bolt for fender mounting.

The Phil hub drag brake, currently disconnected but I've read up on hooking it to a thumb friction shifter and putting it on the stokers bars.  That may be what we do.  It was hooked in via a cool dual cable through the right side suntour brake lever, either the cables or that lever was weak though as there was very little braking power either in the rear canti brake or this drag brake in the initial configuration.

Showing you tire clearance and the unicrown fork,  I think 700cx38's will fit don't you?!?

Same here in the chainstays and chainbridge, plenty of clearance.

The rear 'fork' may have the tightest clearance though even that is pretty darn good.


Sunday, June 22, 2014

Friday Morning Adventure

I hate to give MD any credit over VA but I do prefer the MD side of Great Falls both for the actual vista of Great Falls and for the gorgeous boardwalked hike across Olmstead Island.  I also think sunrise is more photogenic on the MD side.
Sometimes coffee outside is too small a term to describe a morning outing... Friday was such a ride!  My friend Joe and I met in Georgetown at the C&O/Capitol Crescent Trailhead at 0500 Friday morning.  So we were each already in for 10 and 3 miles respectively making for my earliest non air travel related wake up in quite some time!

A cue sheet was not required, from Georgetown we road about 13 miles right along the C&O till we reached Great Falls.  Being up so early we saw a ton of wildlife including just outside of Georgetown a very handsome 3 point buck, antlers still fuzzy.  He was standing on the trail facing our direction and looked completely nonplused about our presence, he never moved a muscle but looked like he was ready to lunge as we sped past him.  Another wildlife highlight was the numerous Great Blue Heron's both in the canal basin and at the falls themselves.  These birds are ubiquitous in our midatlantic wetlands but I never tire of watching them.

We made it to the Falls in just about an hour and decided to follow the rules and not take our bikes (or light my stove) on the Olmstead Island overlook.  So we set up the coffee kitchen just off the trail short of the Island trail and brewed up a fine cup of Swing's Coffee, pour over this time as the gear was smaller and lighter than my french press.  I wasn't feeling particularly hungry but we had a delicious challah loaf with some honey if we had.

The view from the Olmstead Overlook is amazing, hopefully the pictures give you a good sense of the scale.  It is easy to forget that we have access to such an incredible vista this close to downtown DC.

The ride back on to work was fairly spirited and I made it to my desk by 0800 which was the goal... alot accomplished before 0800 on a workday and an inspiring mile post for future pre-work adventures!

Joe found us a flat-ish rock and we're waiting for the pot to boil at this point.

My coffee outside kit is starting to firm up... from right to left; the esbit alcohol stove with esbit windshield, my trusty old aluminum tea pot that is blackened from many fires, the collapsible coffee cone filter holder, two cups, my REDSKINS tuperware for fresh grounds and a water bottle...  that is about it.  We also had a half a loaf of challah bread and some honey with us for snacks!

Checking out the VA side Great falls overlooks.  Dead center you can see a Great Blue Heron in flight right above the water. We probably saw 30 of these awesome birds this morning.

Joe and I at the MD side overlook.


Dramatic waterflow's around Olmstead Island

Down river towards DC

The Saluki and 'Frankie', Joe's self built (@UBI) steel, fillet brazed bike based on his Lemond road bike.

Frankie is worth a post all of her own but this close up will have to do for now.  Joe built her last fall at UBI in Portland and we built up the componenants in my garage this spring.  She is based on a mid-90's Lemond roadie that he is riding (Jealousy) but is more upright.  Right now she has a 10 speed 105 group and is his daily commuter.  He got her clear powdercoated locally so she wears the sweet brass fillet's proudly!
I'd never been this far on the C&O, this section near Great Falls has very dramatic rock faces on the far side of the canal area and is gorgeous.

Speeding home, I love the slight downhill trip leaving Great Falls.

Handlebar-eye view

A good morning on the bike...

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cherry Blossom Coffee Outside

Joe C's speedy Lemond, callsign 'Jealousy'


After two big trips this Spring/Early Summer I have a severe photo backlog to work through.  One gem I'd nearly forgotten about was our just pre-peak sunrise coffee outside at the Tidal Basin.  This was a great crowd including my wife Erika and our friends Joe and Ali.  As a photo expedition I found that I work better in smaller groups when I'm really focused on the photo making (big surprise!).  But the coffee and company was excellent.

One of Erika's shots showing the great sunrise ribbon reflecting in the Tidal Basin

Another one of Erika's w/ a close up of a nice white blooming tree

Joe's jet boil did fast work of the water boiling, making coffee for 4 was a bit more involved but the french press did a great job


Alot of buds still on the tree, this was 4/10 and the peak was probably the next day.

Bike commuting across the 14th St Bridge... looks awfully familiar!

And how could I forget our fifth member of the club, Knish's first coffee outside!

Knish keeps watch while Joe pours up a second round.

Crew guys and gals out skulling across the Potomac

Monday, June 2, 2014

Reviewing the Great Allegheny Passage (GAP)

I've thoroughly over-indulged with 60+ pictures across 6 galleries which is admittedly a lot for a three day bicycling trip.  And throughout those galleries I've focused on captioning the photo's instead of a more organized blog post or review.  So in case it is of any value for information or inspiration I'm putting together one more post to summarize my thoughts.


Photo Galleries:

Preview
Frostburg - The Mason Dixon Line
The Mason Dixon Line - Rockwood
Rockwood - Confluence
Confluence - Connellsville
Connellsville - Mckeesport
Mckeesport - The Point

The Itinerary:

Day 0 - Arrive in Rockwood by car, stay at the Trail Inn
Day 1 - Depart Frostburg 0830ish, arrive Rockwood at the Husky Haven Guesthouse 1300 (just before the rain)
Day 2 - Depart Rockwood 0830, lunch in Ohiopyle, arrive Connellsville at the Connellsville B&B around 1600ish
Day 3 - Depart Connellsville 0700, late lunch in Homestead, arrive The Point at 1600
Day 4 - Return to Rockwood by car to pickup other car and head home (parked at trailhead, no issues)

The Accommodations:

1. Trail Inn, Frostburg, MD. A bit pricy but right on the trail, the room was perfectly adequate and the covered balcony offered a great place to work on the bikes.  The adjacent restaurant became quite the hopping local watering hole in the evening but everyone seemed friendly.  You have to watch their hours as in the day and a night we were there wasn't always someone available.  Bike storage wasn't very good, we kept one in the room (against the rules) and the other stayed in my car for the night.  They did give us a breakfast basket that had some tasty baked goods.

2. Husky Haven Guesthouse, Rockwood, PA.  A steal of a deal!  The campground was incredibly well kept looking as well but the guesthouse is a rambler style single family home with three bedrooms, a tv sitting room, full kitchen and a covered attached deck.  Below is a basement rec room shared with the campers that includes a pool table, high speed internet access (PC) and ping pong table.  The proprietors are right next door and are very friendly. We kept the bikes locked up on the covered deck. Most highly recommended!

3. Connellsville B&B, Connellsville, PA.  Extremely convenient to the trail, the well kept and somewhat fancy large home was a very comfortable place to stay. One room has two bed's available which we got.  They have a Samsung TV system with free netflix that was much enjoyed as a late evening treat.  The breakfast the next day left alot to be desired but the proprietors were very friendly and there was covered, locked storage available for our bikes.

The Food:

As this was a 'credit card tour', we availed ourselves of packed snacks and restaurants for the whole way.

1. City Lights American Grill, Cumberland, MD.  Having a car gave us the opportunity to venture into Cumberland for a last minute trip to the hardware store and some dinner.  We had a great wine and cheese appetizer course and I think I had a ceasar salad... nice place, I'd go again.

2. The Mill Shoppes and Opera House, Rockwood, PA.  The ONLY show in town!  Well not exactly but it may as well have been.  Between the rain and tired legs we didn't make it further than the closest place to our beds.  We had lunch at the cafe in front, the potato soup and chicken dumplings were both fantastic.  We had dinner of fresh prepared pizza that night, very nice, good crust and some fun conversation with other passing cyclists.  Our breakfast attempt the next morning was aborted when it seemed the ladies running the cafe needed some serious help with pretty much everything.  Anyway, don't be in a rush at the cafe but the food was very good and the atmosphere friendly. Definitely check out the museum and performing space upstairs which is open for self guided tours.

3. The Firefly Grill, Ohiopyle, PA. Great gyro sandwich and fries that really stuck to the ribs. Nice outdoor seating area that you can bring your bike into and keep an eye on.  I'd go again.

4. El Canelo, Connellsville, PA. Typical mexican fare, no alcohol (dry county?).  Good at the end of a long day for sure.

5. TGIF, Homestead, PA.  Ribs were good, cushy seat felt fantastic...should have pushed the final 10 miles and gotten something lighter.  I wish we had found a better stop between West Newton and the Point for a final 'trail side' experience.

The Equipment:

It isn't terribly exciting to write about but the bottom line was that all of our bike related equipment worked as designed, held up very nicely and just blended in to the background of the trip.  Between my Dad and myself we had two very different bikes and a wide range of equipment.  Here are a thoughts in no particular order;

1. Wide Tires - I rode 650Bx42mm Grand Bois Hetre's (extra leger), very expensive, very nice and a wonderful tire in all conditions I found on the GAP.  A no reservations recommendation!  After I rode a demo bike at Rivendell Bike Book and Hatchet back in January I was really impressed by the Schwable Little Big Ben tires and recommended them to my Dad. His Trek did very well with the 700x38mm tires with the little bit of tred adding some nice grip.  On the GAP I think you could get away with fairly narrow (28mm ish) tires if you really wanted to, and certainly anything 32mm and up would work.  But 35+ with some cush was really comfy and felt great.

2. Fenders - I installed a set of SKS Longboard Fenders on my Dad's bike the night before the trip. Just in time installs!!! Both of us were sporting longboards and neither of us had to bother worrying about the many puddles and occasional washed out sections of trail. The bikes stayed cleaner and we stayed drier and cleaner.  You really should have fenders in many conditions but for a multi day trip with unknown weather they are a must for civilized cycling in my book.

3. Camelback/Hydration Packs - I really like the convenience and ability to carry 3L of water in the camelback especially in hot conditions, unfortunately after about mid day on the second day I was loosing circulation in my arms and uncomfortable in the armpits from my pack.  It got removed and strapped to the saddle bag never to be used again.  I'm not sure what this means going forward, particularly on hot summer rides it was a lifesaver last year so I may give it another go.  My Dad carried one without complaint the full time on the trail.

4. Carradice Longflap Saddle Bag - Cool bag with plenty of previous use that I picked up used.  I've been using it commuting with a Nitto Quick Release but decided to strap it directly to the Brooks for this trip to cut down on weight and complexity.  The setback of the support loops from the seat post made attaching the stability strap (centerline) a bit difficult and overall the bag looked a bit awkward in the way it hung.  But it was very secure and I barely noticed the load I put in the bag.  I will do a follow up with pictures on the bag as I experiment with it going forward.

5. Wald 137/Sackville Medium Bag - Front storage was my typical commuting medium sized basket with Riv Sackville Shopsack Medium.  Looks like the price has gone up on these since I got mine for $40-45 but its a very nice bag designed perfectly for the Wald 137.  The only rub is the lack of compartmentalization... neither my Carradice nor the Shopsack offered any way to divide up my gear without the addition of smaller internal bags/stuff sacks.  So it's not really a complaint but I think for longer trips the lack of organization allowed by these two bags makes them less well suited for the task.  I continue to love the bungee-net cover which I still used in conjunction w/ the shopsack even though it was clipped in.  This allows an easy 'glove compartment' for jackets, gloves, cameras, snacks.  Definitely recommend having some front storage that allows quick access to that kind of stuff while on the trail.

6. The Bikes - Not a bike or frame review. I"ll just hit some common points between both my Dad's Trek and my Saluki that made them good bikes for this trip.
-The right size (for each of us)
-Tuned up/broken in (we'd ridden them and tuned up the shifting/braking performance was good and predictable)
-Plenty of storage; this was a CC tour so extreme loads were never in the picture but our bags permitted easy access to foul weather gear and adding snacks along the way.

Trail Conditions

The pictures tell the story better than I can write it... but we were on nearly all of the GAP and in some challenging rain conditions.  At worst the softness on day two cost us ~1 mph in speed. In general the trail was better maintained in MD from Frostburg to the Mason Dixon Line. There was also an excellent portion near Bueno Vista.

I think that is about all I have to contribute, I'd be happy to answer any questions either directly or in the comments.  Start planning your GAP trip soon!


Sunday, June 1, 2014

GAP Trip Gallery 6 - Mckeesport to the Point

What a weird turn of weather we had on Day 3, cold - warm - rain - warm - cool.  There is a chunk of the day not pictured due to the rain of course.  And really it was an odd day from a stop management perspective.  Our plan had been push the 25 miles to West Newton and take a decent break there, then do the 20ish miles to Mckeesport and do a relaxed lunch there.  Unfortunately neither destination offered much in the way of trailside enticement, at least not beyond the immediate area's we scoured.  Mckeesport was further marred by a significant cloudburst.  The pictures below take up just after getting soaked and drying off again.

Crossing and re-crossing the Yough R. as we depart from the immediate Mckeesport area.

Down river back towards Mckeesport, interesting lighting.

Pittsburgh Bound!  These pedestrian bridges with their ramps definitely challenged our tired legs and heads but we were getting closer and closer to turning the corner.

In Homestead we made up for our lack of dining options by overeating a rack of Ribs at TGI Fridays... I don't recommend that though it was delicious at the time.  At this point we are a mere 10 miles from the finish and it would have been better to have taken a 20 min break and continued on our way.

Crossing the Hot Metal Bridge into Pittsburgh.

There was no more stopping for pictures at this point and this is actually the 'best' shot I have of the Pittsburgh skyline.  Finish line or bust!

Speeding along the Three Rivers Heritage Trail we closed in on the Point, unfortunately the marking's for the 'GAP' to get the final mile were very poor and we ended up on sidewalks and a couple awkward street crossings.  

Destination

An amazing trip, I'm so happy to have done it with my Dad and can't wait to make another trip soon.

My little brother and step-mother documenting our arrival.  SUCCESS! :)