Saturday, April 29, 2006

Diablo Juniper – 31 Miles

Today was the Devil Mountain Double so I saw many small groups of ultra marathon cyclists coming down as I heade up toward the Gate. This is one of the toughest double centuries around and those riders have my highest respect. Didn’t see anyone I knew though.

JB and I left the Gate and started up in the breezy cool air. He admitted to having too many beers last night at a farewell party so I accepted his silent offer to make him suffer. The groups of riders got fewer and farther between as we rode up and we didn’t see any DMDers above the Ranches so we figured we’d seen the last riders. The last riders left the San Ramon Marriot at 6am and it’s about half an hour’s ride to South Gate from there so figuring 60 – 90 minutes to the Summit and another half hour back down the last riders would be finishing before 8:30 and that was about right.

So between the Gate and the Bump it was cool with a strong breeze but clear. Then above the Bump it got really foggy and cold, but still – it became one of those rides where you didn’t really know where you were on the Mountain because the visibility was too low. There’s lots of running water and wild flowers up there though and JB also noticed a strong smell of some plant that has the odor of redwood trees (but I can’t remember the name of it).

We were going at a pretty relaxed pace; over 25 minutes at the Upper Washout, and my heartrate was generally way below 80% but JB was struggling and I think he wished I would just drop him but I kept slowing down when I found myself too far ahead. Finally after Chainbuster I did a little time trial to finish in 48 minutes.

It was cool and foggy at the Junction too but some guys coming down from Summit Road (including one guy who worked the Summit DMD rest stop) said that it was warm and beautiful up there another 600 feet higher so I told JB we had to at least go to Juniper and we went up. Sure enough, somewhere below the Blue Oak Speedway we popped out of the clouds and were suddenly warm and the road was dry.

At Juniper we stared out over the clouds for a while and then turned back around. It was a cold, damp descent and I stopped at Junction for a while to warm up my fingers and talked to a guy in a wool jersey with a Rivendell about what it was like at the higher elevations.

Nice ride – sure beats yard work.

Last chance to sponsor me in the Tour de Cure

Friday, April 28, 2006

Product Review: Expresso Fitness Spark

My health club just got a group of these new exersize bikes and usually they’re in use but I had a chance to ride one tonight. They have some very good features and some really bad flaws.

These machines have some really great video game type graphics that allow you to ride different courses while you exersize. The handlebars steer to keep you on the road, the hills make it more difficult to pedal, there are riding companions (or not) and a pacer with a constant power output, and displays for wattage, hill grade, elapsed time, heart rate, etc. Here’s a screen shot:

I can’t stress enough how cool the graphics are – several times during my workout I felt like I needed to shift my weight back so I wouldn’t go over the bars on a steep descent! There are 20 different course to ride with varying scenery and levels of intensity. They also have television if you’d rather watch that, and pre-programmed music channels so you can plug in your headphones and race your pacer at the same time. Really outstanding work on the audio visual side of things. Also, you can race against people on the machines next to you if you do the same course.

Other nice features are the two sided pedals so you can use your SPD shoes. and there is a shift lever that allows you to change through 30 sequential gears for more speed or torque.

The mechanical interface is not nearly so well designed though. The saddle adjusts up and down and front and rear but no tilt. The handlebars don’t adjust at all and they are a funky shape like you’d see on a garage sale exercycle from the 80’s. The saddle itself seemed OK but I couldn’t get it into a position that kept my butt from falling asleep. The result was a very upright riding position which puts too much weight on your ass, limits your pedaling speed, and keeps your arms tucked in too close to your body; really really awkward… almost like a dog paddle position... you can see in that top photo how high the bars are.

And one ridiculous error - the gradients on the hills are ... well, ridiculous; I rode up one that was listed as 41% !!! That probably means nothing to most people but I've never seen anything that's steeper than 32% and I'd have to walk up anything over about 20% so that just bugs me. A grade of 15% is really really steep, there's no need to exaggerate.

So the Spark gets a 7 on the Diablo Scott rating from 0 to 10. The audio video is just so cool that the time goes by a lot faster than on a spin bike, but the machinery portion needs a major redesign.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Diablo Junction from Work - 31 Miles

Adam and I left from work about 15 minutes after 5 o'clock. Bud got his bicycle stolen from the rack at work yesterday so we were all upset. The thief cut his cable lock which was a pretty good one but not as big in diameter as mine - plus I have a U-lock in conjunction with the big cable so I guess that crook took a look at my bike and decided to steal something easier - too bad for Bud but better him than me! JB was planning on meeting us there but he had already left when we got to the Gate about 5:40. Adam practically sprinted the whole 5 miles from downtown to the mountain so I was already half cooked by the time we got there just from staying close to him. It was warm but pretty windy this afternoon. Last Wednesday my Cytomax got too warm so this time I had refrigerated it almost to freezing before we left and I was really glad that I had.

Just as we were getting to the Gate we passed a small group of women with racing kit - I knew they might pass me back up but I figured I'd ride faster that way. Adam announce his intention of doing a series of 6-minute intervals. At the end of every 6 minute stomp he would mark his location and then ride back to me. (I joked "what if I'm ahead of you?) So it turned out that it pretty much took me 9 minutes to ride what he did in 6 minutes… for every single interval.
At the Upper Washout I was already at 23 minutes. Must be the headwind.

Wildlife Encounter: At Diablo Ranch there was a dead squirrel in the road and on the Diablo Ranch driveway sign there were two turkey vultures with their wings spread out just waiting for me to pass by so they could go snatch it up. The wingspan on those birds is really impressive.

Racer girls never caught up to me. JB was already at the Junction. Mark A was there with his singlespeed QuickBeam and cyclocross tires - he said he did 31m30s and Adam said he did 31m15s so that gave him some motivation. Grant came up a little later with the same setup - except he had slicks. There was a little Junction BSing and then we called an end to another Wednesday night ride. On the way down some guy passed me at Moss Landing (!) but he couldn't hold his speed and I had to slow down or race him so I backed off a little bit.

Can't stop thinking about the bastard that stole Bud's bike.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Diablo Junction

JB's been out of town all week but he e-mailed that he'd be at the Gate at 8 so I left in plenty of time to be there. It was cooler than I was expecting but I was hoping it would warm up by the time I had to come back down - I had on shorts, arm warmers, and a vest. Arrived at the Gate about 5 minutes early so I stretched and relaxed for a while. At five after, a guy with a yellow jacket that I thought might be JB rode through but it wasn't him so I put a big ass rock on the post and headed up. After sizing up the yellow jacket guy I decided I could pass him and did so. He stayed within a hundred meters or so for the longest time and I thought I might embarrass myself by getting re-passed later on but when things got tougher the gap got bigger. I also kept looking back for JB but couldn't see him.

22m with 3mtg - that means about a 44m Junction time - there was a bit of a headwind and that unmotivated me some. No wildlife, no hang gliders, the only people I passed were stopped on the side of the road. Lots of running water still, and green green grass, and tons of California Poppies I always like that. I noticed that I am less satisfied with the comfort of my saddle and shoes and I wish I had a better anatomic section on my handlebars.

44m at the Junction - a self fulfilling prophesy. I finished my Cytomax and then JB finally rode in. He saw the rock. There was a tall guy at the Junction on a pretty normal looking bike but he had the most spacers I've ever seen on a threadless headset - must have been four inches between his frame and the stem. He fiddled with it a little bit but didn't seem to have a problem, but that's a LOT of cantilevered steerer.

I'm riding the Tour de Cure in two weeks - click HERE to sponsor me… THANKS!

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Diablo Junction from Work

Jeff was trying to drum up support for tonight's ride as a training ride for the Tour de Cure (click HERE to sponsor me), but it was only him, me, Adam, and Amanda that came. Amanda got a new bike - a Specialized Allez that is a perfect match for her - she said the bike shop in San Francisco really helped her make up her mind and get her set up. Jeff got an early start so Adam, Amanda, and I left from the office at about 5:15. I've been making a more serious effort to drive less this year so I didn't have my car at work - I left my backpack in a locker, knowing I'd have to come back to get it before going home. Anyway, the three of us got to the Gate at 5:40 or so and then we all split up. Adam decided to go for a fast one and Amanda decided not to so I was in the middle. Actually Adam rode up with me for about half a mile, then turned around to re-start so he could go hard all the way.

Just up the road I passed Grant P and another Rivendell rider - Grant was on his Quickbeam but I didn't notice if it was in fixed mode. A little while after that Adam had just caught me back up and we were together when we saw Mark P coming down. Adam was really moving and I thought about doing intervals but instead just pushed the upper boundary into the anaerobic zone and tried to maintain as long as possible. I was hoping that Adam and I would hook up with the Diablo Cyclists at the Junction and then go down South Gate for a longer ride home because he also was going to return to the office first, but we were running kind of late.

Up after the Bump I saw a group of a half-dozen or so riders above me - I don't think they were together, they just happened to be bunched up. One by one I passed them as they got farther and farther apart. All except one guy in an orange vest and knickers who I never quite caught up to, and another guy who passed me from behind. Then I noticed a bunch of Diablo Cyclists coming down so I knew there wouldn't be anybody left at the Junction when I got there. I was almost at orange vest guy's wheel near Chainbuster when Adam came down to meet me. He said he did his third best time ever - sub 31, so he was sure he could crack the 30-minute barrier this year.

I underestimated how warm it was going to be and I didn't bother to refrigerate my Cytomax - won't make that mistake again.

Got to the Junction at 43'50" and that's probably my best time for the year but I'm itching to get fast again. I wasn't dogging it though; my average HR for the ride (starting at the Gate) was 172 and my max was 188! With that kind of effort and some better conditioning I'll be able to put in some good times soon. Jeff was already there so we talked for a while. I saw Grant come in and check his watch as he crossed the line so I guess he DOES care about how fast he is.

Sunday, April 16, 2006


Charity ride for diabetes, Napa: May 7.


Saturday, April 15, 2006

Up Northgate Down Southgate and Around - 35 miles

Well I missed last Saturday for sickness and last Wednesday for bad weather so I was really looking forward to this morning's ride. It was threatening to rain but maybe it would hold out long enough for a decent ride - regardless, I mounted the Belgian Beast and put on my Flemish face. For once I got out of the house early enough to make the Gate by eight even though I hit most of the lights red. No rock on the post so I stretched for a few minutes - a few riders went up while I was waiting, and then JB showed up on his Della Santa. He said his bike felt better (than his Trek 520 he's been riding) but his engine was still in bad shape. I said I've been producing enough mucus for ten sick people and then blew a giant loogie on the road. So with our excuses made we started up.

In short order we caught up to and passed one of the guys who went through the Gate while I was waiting. He was a tall rider and had a new Specialized Tarmac; it looked like a really nice bike but the unusual top tube made it look like the frame was much too small for him - may have been fine, but it looked wrong.

There's still lots of running water in the ditches up there - we have gotten a LOT of rain the last couple months. At the Bump I did a hard turn and opened a big gap on JB but then let him catch up - maybe he was having a bad day after all. Near Clavicle Cracker we saw another guy who must have started up before I got to the Gate and that's where JB made it his mission to drop me and catch him. I held on for a while but finally let him go. Both of them beat me to the Junction by a couple minutes.

We decided to go down Southgate even though there looked to be rain down there, because I wanted to end my ride at Encina Biycle Center and they don't open until 10 o'clock. On the descent, near Rock City, I was leading and then some guy passed us very fast. No problem there, but then he slowed down. I wasn't bombing the down I was just cruising and I didn't want to pass this guy back and have him think I was trying to race him, but he really slowed down and it bugged me. He kept looking back to see if I was still there so he probably thought I was using him to pace my ride but I was really wishing he'd get out of my way. We cut off at the hole in the fence and when we got onto Diablo Road, the same guy (who apparently took the road past Athenian) was just going by so I thought "Great, now he's really going to think we've marked him." After a while though he finally managed to drop us - HA!

In Alamo it started to drizzle on us and by the time we got to the trail in Walnut Creek it was really coming down. We were pretty wet when JB waved good-bye and I turned to cross the little bridge through Shadelands and the shortcut to Encina.

I went to Encina because my brake pads are worn out to almost nothing. I've got older Ultegra components on the Beast and I thought they may not be the standard pads anymore but the guys at Encina usually come through. I was prepared for the "we'll be happy to order that for you" response but instead they looked though their big box of brake pads trying to find a solution. They found some Dura Ace shoes at $25/pair (ouch, but maybe), and they had some generic ones that would fit my calipers but only had one pair of them. They considered opening up a box of new brakes to give me the pads from them, and didn't flinch when I suggested maybe taking some off of a new bike on the floor! But we agreed that if they did that, the guy who wanted to buy that bike would walk in 5 minutes later. So in the end, we put on the one pair of generic pads just on the rear since the front ones still have some life in them. Actually I figured I'd just bring home some pads and do it later but they installed them and adjusted the front ones while I waited (remember my bike was still dripping with rain and road grime) and only charged $5 labor. It was fun because virtually everyone in the shop was brainstorming on ideas and possibilities just to help me with some cheap brake pads. That's why I continue to send people there when they ask me about shops with good service.

Change your pads before they get this bad. Surprisingly, they still worked pretty well with not much more than a few mm of rubber left.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Diablo Junction – 23 Miles

Daylight Wasting Time has finally ended. The rainiest March in history was now over, but things haven’t changed much so far in April. My plan for today was to ride Eddy in to work, up the mountain after work leaving my backpack at the office, and then home after the ride and pick up my stuff later.

Adam talked JB and me into starting a little early so we all rolled out of the parking lot just before 5 o’clock. JB was on his touring bike with panniers so I thought if I had trouble keeping up with him then I was really in bad shape. We encountered a guy in a Pegasus jersey on Walnut Avenue and he rode with us for a while without saying anything.

At the Gate, JB decided to take off his jacket and then Pegasus guy left us. So the three of us left the line at the same time. Adam is really frisky because he just upgraded to Cat-2 and is racing the Sea Otter Classic P-1-2 circuit race alongside the likes of Gord Frasier. But we all stayed together until the double dips where JB drifted off the back. I stayed on Adam’s wheel for another half mile until I was well out of JB’s site and then I settled down into a sustainable pace, and Adam did a long interval – one of those where you pedal too big of a gear for too long. Shortly after that the Pegasus guy came back down and we all figured he was a flare.

About half way up the Bump, I saw Adam coming back down. Earlier I had joked that he could literally ride circles around JB and me with his intervals, and it seemed that was exactly his plan. He kept on going until he got to JB and then did another interval back uphill until he caught me near Clavicle Cracker and kept going for a little while before he turned around again. I hadn’t seen JB for quite a while so I was sure I wasn’t going to be humiliated and that gave me a little satisfaction, but I wanted more… I wanted to not let Adam pass me a third time so bit the reins and pounded the last couple miles.

Up near Big Shady Oak I caught sight of a few straggler Diablo Cyclists, and passed them right at Chainbuster. Right at that time Jay K was coming down and did a U-turn to ride back up with them also but when he recognized me he went with me instead. We talked about Performance Bicycles, De Ronde Van Vlaanderen, the Devil Mountain Double, and Tom Boonen. I got to the Junction with an ET of 45m… pretty bad, but better than JB who came in at 50.

At the Junction I noticed how many people had different bikes for the wet weather. Just about everyone except Adam (who had his ultrabike and race wheels; btw the only reason he didn’t pass me the third time was that he had a spoke come loose and had stopped to investigate). Diablo Cyclist Brian asked me about my Merckx because he’s been thinking about getting one of the Merckx 7-Eleven re-issued frames that are coming out. Brian asked about the head tube angle and other frame specifics but I couldn’t answer his questions – so I just told him that I really liked the way it handled and let him ride it around a bit. Brian you’re surely welcome to take it out for a long ride whenever you’d like – I’ll even put on the sew-ups for you.

On the way back home I noticed that the good old reliable Conti 2000’s had developed a sidewall split so those sew-ups may be on sooner than I expected. For now though, I put on the Conti UltraGatorSkins I got at Performance last week. Watch for the ride review on those.