Saturday, January 29, 2005

Diablo Junction, Blackhawk, Camino Tasajara, Danville Blvd - 34 miles

It’s been raining the last couple days and the roads were still wet but it was clear and not windy. I was on my foul weather bike and met Rick at the Gate, JB showed up a few minutes later and we set off. There was one guy who started up just before us but we never saw him, so I’m sorry for thinking he was a poser. We rode at an off-season pace until we got to the Ranches and then we took turns testing each other out. At Big Shady Oak, Rick tried to go for a flyer but JB soon caught and passed him and was the first to the Junction. Peter was coming down about the time we got there but he didn’t turn around.

We hung around there for quite a while talking to the other riders and looking at pictures in the display case. JB was having some kind of problem with his DuraAce SPD pedals but he got that worked out and just as we were leaving he realized he also had a flat front tire. He must have gone harder than we thought because then he started to take out his rear wheel to fix the flat on the front. I kidded him that it was probably a failed patch because he’s one of those guys with dozens of patches on his tubes, including the spare. He said he doesn’t have any failed patches and he found a thorn in the rubber. So we waited around a while longer and then decided to go down South Gate.

The sun was pretty bright by now and I was wishing I put the dark lenses in my Bolles. Rick said he wanted to do hole-in-the-fence but JB and I embarassed him into doing Blackhawk. We did some good drafting work on Blackhawk Road and then I won the stoplight climb. We stopped several times to change gloves or roll up arm warmers, and then I had to tighten down my brake hood so it wasn’t an aggressive ride home, but I was first up all the little sprinter hills.

Starbucks in Countrywood after the ride – thanks for the gift card Mom and Dad!

Product Review: Smartwool Hiking Socks

These are a little shorter on the ankle than I would have chosen for a winter cycling sock but that wasn't a problem. They're thicker than most bike socks I have and they felt real good inside my Cannondale MTB shoes (that I purposefully chose to be a little on the roomy side). No booties today and it wasn't as cold as last week, but these socks kept my toes happy on the uphill, the downhill, and the rollers. I suppose their true worth should be measured when they get wet but I wasn't about to test that. Anyway - they're comfy and warm and they don't itch and I give them a 9 as a cycling sock - SmartWool does have some other models so check out their website if you think you might like a different style.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Diablo Junction - 23 miles

Seems like the 8:30 start time is gaining acceptance during these cold winter mornings. I know I had no trouble hitting the snooze button a couple extra times. I haven’t ridden the mountain for a month and only have a few rides on my commute bike since Christmas – the combination of bad weather, holidays, and sickness has been keeping me off for that long.

So I roll up at 8:30 and meet up with JB and Rick. JB was on his Della Santa for only the second time since last April when he crashed it (he rode it last weekend too, when I was sick). Nicole gave herself a head start and JB asked us to guess when we would catch her. Rick said “mid-Bump” and he called it exactly right.

The fog was thick and it was pretty cold but not windy. I’m still not exactly healthy yet – I’m tempted to claim I had walking pneumonia or something but it’s probably just a really bad chest cold. After every hard effort I would cough and cough but I kept on going. Anyway, we caught Nicole at mid-Bump and it was still foggy and JB asked us to guess when we would rise out of the fog (he likes to do these polls, I’m not sure why) and Rick guessed 1200 feet, but it was probably closer to 1400 feet – right at Clavicle Cracker.

As soon as we popped out of the clouds it started to get warm and we started to get hot. We all had booties and our warmest jackets on and we certainly needed them, but near the Upper Ranch JB decided to take off his jacket so I used the opportunity to attack! I didn’t know if I could stay ahead for that long with my chest still full of sand and glue but I figured “what the hell?”. Rick didn’t come after me but didn’t stop for JB either. As I came around Chainbuster I thought I had a pretty good chance but when I got to the Ranger house JB was close and getting closer. I about killed myself that last 300 meters but I crossed the line first. Then I coughed and heaved for about 5 minutes… it was grand.

We three put on our ear jocks and glove liners and Rick even had ski gloves. Nicole never did make it to Junction, we turned around to ride her in but she had already given up and went to Mia Café for brekkie. Sure was nice to wrap my hands around a hot coffee cup.

Product Review: Castelli Thermolite Socks

Got two pairs of these from my brother for Christmas. They’re much thinner than I would expect in a cold weather sock, but they come up about mid-calf so they cover up that bare patch below the bottom of your tights that can appear with shorter socks. I also had booties on today so I was plenty warm, but I do remember having cold toe problems with regular socks and booties that I didn’t have today with these socks. I’ve never had special winter cycling socks before, I think partially because I was concerned that the extra thickness would make my shoes fit too tightly and that would negate the benefit of extra insulation, so these Castelli socks were comfortable and warm and fit well in my regular road shoes, and they didn’t itch at all. They also seem to be extremely well made – no stray threads or funky stitching. These guys get my highest rating – 10.

Ride to Heather Farm Park with CJ on the Giant Halfwheeler - 3 miles

Dear wife gave me this trailer cycle for Christmas and I love it. After a few rides around the neighborhood to make sure my daughter was ready, we rode the 1.5 mile journey to the park – part road, part trail.

Product Review: Giant Halfwheeler

I looked around a lot at different styles and this one had several features that made it superior to the others. First the seatpost attachment is completely quick release with no special clamp thingy that has to stay on the regular bike – so taking it on and off is painless, not like some other trailer cycles I’ve seen. It’s aluminum and light weight, it has a little splash guard for the child rider (for the rooster tail from my rear wheel), her own water bottle with cage (actually above the handlebars, not below like in that photo), the tow-bar part folds so you can put it in a vehicle easier, it's got a nice chain protector, and the tire is a decent design that rolls well. The seat height and saddle position are adjustable, and the handlebars rotate in the clamp for higher and farther away as the kid grows. It’s a nicely-painted silver with black trim and the ubiquitous orange safety flag in the back.

The pedals won’t accept toe clips and straps so I’ll be replacing those soon because CJ’s feet came off the pedals a couple of times when we went over bumps – she should learn how to use toe clips anyway, but it would have been nice if the Halfwheeler came with pedals that the toe clips could attach to. The crank takes pedals that are ½ inch threaded (kid bike/BMX standard) so the choice of replacement pedals is limited as well. Most of the trailer cycles have the same type of pedals and cranks so this isn’t really a disadvantage to the Giant model.

The attachment to the adult bike seat post isn’t *exactly* quick release – it’s a cam on a swing bolt and you have to open the skewer and then unspin it several turns to swing it open and unhinge it before the clamp opens up completely. The skewer fits into a depression in the clamp so it’s *almost* foolproof, and this seems like a good alternative but I would worry that someone who doesn’t take the time to understand how the attachment works might screw it up and have an unexpected disengagement. The quick release on the folding part works the same way.

Ours is the single-speed version but Giant does offer a 7-speed version. I originally thought I’d want the 7-speed model so we could go faster (!) but I think the other six gears are mostly lower than the gear on the single speed so they might help on climbs but they wouldn’t provide any increase in flat land velocity. There’s a version in steel too, presumably for the Rivendell fans (I don’t think it’s lugged though).

This product gets a 9 on my rating scale. I do think it’s the best of the models available (possible exception would be the Burley but that costs twice as much), but a couple of thoughtful modifications would make it even better.
If anybody could use a pair of mint-condition resin platform ½” threaded pedals for a kid’s bike, they’re yours for the shipping costs - drop me an e-mail.

UPDATE FEBRUARY 2006: I've had this Halfwheeler for a year now and I still use it a lot. I did put the toe clip pedals on (MKS) and they work great; dear daughter learned how to use them quickly and her feet don't fall off the pedals nearly as much even with the straps pretty loose. I also put a different bottle cage on since the one that came with the Halfwheeler only held a small, non-standard bottle. One thing I didn't mention before was the quick release on the boom - a very handy little device that lets you fold it for easier hauling in your car, the Halfwheeler by itself is pretty long so without this there's no way it would fit and you'd need some kind of rack attachment; most trailer cycles do NOT have the folding option. And I put some thread lock on the seatpost clamp to keep it from unscrewing out of the clamp when I'm unscrewing the quick release and have had zero problems since then. We ride this to the park, the club, the bike shops, and to Jamba Juice and dear daughter usually chooses the Halfwheeler over the automobile when given a choice to go anywhere. Be sure to check out our photo on the photos page.