Sunday, May 28, 2017

the garmin works better when you turn it on

When it's Memorial Day Weekend (for many, the start of the biking season), and the weather on the Sunday is as delightful as it was this morning, while the weather for Monday's All-Paces Ride is predicted to be rainy with possible thunderstorms...

... then it's likely that a LOT of people will be out on bikes today.

Jeff H had fourteen for his ride out of Cranbury, but one left before the ride start with a flat tire (like we wouldn't have offered a tube and waited until he got it together?), so thirteen of us left. At least one didn't want a picture posted, so you might not count eleven in the pictures below. On the other hand, we met about a gazillion riders from the Jersey Shore Touring Society (they appeared to be out in force; I suspect we came across several separate groups of their riders), and perhaps an equal number of apparently unaffiliated riders, so you might count many more.

Above, Jeff H, today's leader.

Now, I use the Garmin Touring. I haven't had anywhere near the trouble with mine that Laura OLPH has with hers (see her recent Facebook rant for more), but maybe I'm less demanding. However, I did learn today, if I had not known before, that it doesn't track your route if you don't push the start button... so this ride page misses the first, oh, eighteen miles of today's ride.

We stopped at Bagel Talk in (I think) Marlboro, where about every third person in Central Jersey stopped today, most of 'em on bicycles.

Above, Gary W changes a tire with only about 25% of the usual comment-committee offering advice and criticism (Q: How many Freewheelers does it take to change a tire? A: How many do you have?). Below, one of my fellows thought he needed to commemorate my scarfing down a cookie that was big enough to alter local gravitational effects. Look at what it's doing to my neck!

Some of us started to flag on the way back, and I went back to my usual sweeping duties.Still, my average at the end was 17.2, and I was among the last back to the lot.

Later, The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I went out for the Crustacean Celebration at the Stage Left Restaurant (there are worse things than lobster at an excellent restaurant), and wept into our tap water (neither of us imbibes) over the prospects for rain at tomorrow's scheduled All-Paces ride. I might have to do some chores, instead! Imagine!

Saturday, May 27, 2017

cranbury 40 with dave h, and i meet a reader of this blog

A month ago, on a weekend when my usual ride buddies weren't going out, I went to do a ride out of Cranbury. I used to do many rides from there, but I like riding in the hills, and Cranbury rides are flat. Nonetheless, I remember writing that I should go there more often. Tom H was doing a ride for which I don't think I have and appropriate bike, and Laura OLPH didn't have one listed, so at stupid-early-o'clock, I was in Cranbury,waiting for Dave H's ride.

(Dave H led the ride on which I swept at the Spring Fling. It would KILL me to have to admit it to him, but I was looking forward to riding with him again.)

As I always do when I go to Cranford, I see folks I don't often see, like Spence, one of the club octogenarians:

Above, Jud H, who was singing the praises of a new disc brake system; below, ride leader Dave H:

Above, Winter Larry (out on a Saturday?), and Eddie H. Waving at you in the picture below is Ralph, who is twelve days away from having ridden his bike every day for a year.

This was also the maiden voyage of the new Gevenalle controls. Club president Ira S and Eddie L had apparently both read my earlier post and asked about 'em.

The fact is, I like 'em. I had to do an adjustment; the spring on the rear derailleur is extra heavy-duty, and I had to tighten the setscrew on the lever at the stop, but the shifting is crisp, and the brakes engage quickly and definitively. But I've gotten ahead of myself.

Before the ride, I broke the prescription insert for my riding glasses; I had to ride with my regular glasses (I decided decent vision was more of a priority than looking cool in my shades). I've since broken out the backup (The Excellent Wife [TEW] said, "Of COURSE Jim has a backup...."), but it's probably time to seek out another set of glasses, since Serfas no longer makes the ones I like.

Dave planned a ride to Roy's in a counterclockwise direction. Prior to the ride, I overheard a rider I didn't know ask if Dave and a few of the others thought he could keep up with us; he got reassurances, and we left just after a huge C+ group left with Ira. There were a couple of hills at Back Bone Hill, and we went UP Clarksburg (which I don't think I've done), but this new rider did fine keeping up with us. We stopped at Roy's:

... where the unnecessarily-apprehensive rider turned out to be Dov, below, who's been following my blog and liking my posts. I'm a sucker for a fan!

We weren't long at Roy's when Ira's ride came in. He told me they'd already done 52 miles and might make it to 80 by the end of the ride. He might not have been entirely honest.

Above, Ira, no doubt impressing Jud with his prowess.

On the way back, one of our number hit the wall and started to lag. I've been through it, it's no fun. He was able to turn off and head for home before the rest of us got back to Cranbury.

Dov wanted the ride information at this link. (Hrmph! Like I don't ALWAYS post the ride links...)

I'm hoping for another ride tomorrow... but early indications are that the All-Paces on Monday will be a soggy affair, if it occurs at all. Alas.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

new gevenalle controls. nice.

I've had my eye on the shifting/braking system from Gevenalle for years (at least two), and, having finally gotten fed up with the shifting problems I've had with my SRAM Rival setup since my accident in 2015, I grimaced, swallowed hard, and clicked the “submit” button on my order for the group. The parts came a couple of weeks ago, and I set 'em up on the Yellow Maserati over the past few days (sheesh, I was in no shape to RIDE anywhere after that benighted century with the Hill Slugs).

I haven't done any long rides with 'em yet, just neighborhood test rides, but early indications are: I like 'em.

You'll see in the picture below: the handlebar controls are basically the levers from downtube or bar-end shifters mounted outboard of the brake levers (as opposed to the shifting levers being inside the brake levers on virtually every other brifter system, including Campagnolo, Microshift, Shimano, and SRAM). The brake levers are from Tektro (the branding is still on the hoods), and I suspect the levers are Shimano, re-branded with the Gevenalle name.

(That is NOT my bike. No camo-tape for me...)

The set is marketed for cyclocross. It's hard to shift from the drops (the lower part of a drop handlebar), but I'm led to understand there's little of that in 'cross racing. And, since there's a LOT of mud and abuse in 'cross racing, they're built with durability in mind. (In fact, the associated derailleurs are labeled BURD: Blatantly UpgradedRe-branded Derailleurs, and they're beefed-up versions of, I think, Microshift derailleurs: the chain cage on the front derailleur, for example, is steel rather than aluminum.)

 What do I like?
  • They're REALLY easy to work with. The derailleurs came with one instruction sheet that had the front installation instructions on one side, and the rear on the other. The controls came with no instructions at all, and even with my limited experience, I found I didn't need 'em.
  • Everything is out in the open (more about this later). I had to adjust the angle of my handlebar, which meant I needed to change the front brake housing, and I could do that with minimal disassembly.
  • Because the shift levers are outboard of the brake levers, there's some forgiveness in the brake adjustment. SRAM, for example, allows you to move the brake lever back a bit for riders with smaller hands. But with the shifter lever back there, the possibility exists of the shift lever hitting the handlebar before the brake engages. It's just not a problem with this setup. (Also, the Tektro levers engage with much less travel than my SRAM setup did.)
  • It's easy to shift multiple gears at a time. On a recent covered bridge ride, I noticed that the covered bridges always seem to be at the bottom of a downhill, followed quickly by an uphill (well, it's a BRIDGE, dumbass; it's over a creek or something, and you don't find those at the TOP of the hill!). So go through the bridge, and downshift like crazy. Piece of cake on these guys.
  • It may just be a factor of how new these guys are, but there aren't multiple levels of systems. All four of the manufacturers I mentioned in the third paragraph have “entry level”, “mid level”, and “high end” systems. Gevenalle has one system. And I got it, through a retailer, for less than $325.
  • Front derailleur is friction shift; rear is friction/index selectable (you need a 4mm hex wrench to change). The indexed rear shifting, once set up, is as crisp as a new potato chip. Yummy.
  • Because the rear is friction/index selectable, if I went crazy and wanted to run a nine-speed gearset on the rear (for example, if a ride were coming up and my normal ten-speed wheel was out-of-service), I could. I doubt I would, but flexibility is always a plus with me.
  • I'll BET that, if I wanted to, that I could remove the levers and replace 'em. If the day came when my ten-speed cassette was no longer available, and only eleven-speeds were, I'll bet I could just change the lever and go.
One more thing I like: With the onset of the integrated brake/shift controls (I referred to 'em as “brifters” above), there's been a bit of a “black box” thing about bike controls; you really don't know what's going on in there. That's compounded by the electronic shifting systems. This setup is the complete opposite of that. Every part of this system is visible and easy to understand. You could show it to Leonardo da Vinci, and he'd say, “Oh, wow! Cool! Sure, I get it!” (or whatever the equivalent would be in Renaissance Italian).

What you won't like:
  • Nobody else has 'em. (This is actually another reason I DO like 'em; I like bike-y weirdness.)
  • No racers you've ever heard of use 'em.
  • The shift cables are exposed, not “aero” under the tape, like most other systems.

Nonetheless, for a guy like me (old enough to collect Social Security, goes in for social riding rather than fast, does most of his own maintenance), they're just the ticket.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

glad-i-did-it dumb century

Early last week, Laura OLPH sent around an email indicating she was considering a ride to Belmar for Saturday May 20... which, if she rides from home, is a century ride (100 miles). Now, I don't like to do centuries; my ideal long-distance ride is between 70 and 80 miles... but every now and then I like to do a 100-mile day, if for no other reason than to remember why don't like to do 100-mile days.

Besides, every now and then, a guy has to do something stupid and painful, just to remind himself that he's still alive.

Laura put in that she'd stop at Mercer East (for people who wanted a total of 86 miles) and at Etra (total: 69-or-so miles), but I was in for the whole thing. It would be the last ride on that SRAM shifter setup that hasn't worked right since the crash (I'd decided to rebuild with the Gevenalle setup).

So, despite lowering skies, I showed up at Laura's at something-to-eight and we departed for Mercer Park. There's a hill over the railroad on the way there; I had trepidations about doing it on the way back with 100 miles of tiredness in my legs (Laura reminded me that there's a longer hill closer to her home, and she's right). I could not get the GPS to go right, and neither could Laura get hers (I later found I'd downloaded the wrong file format; Laura's problems, OTOH, appear to arise from sheer cussedness on the part of her device).

We got to Mercer park to find the lot taken over by some organized footrace, and no riders. We proceeded to Etra, where we found Jack H, who'd ridden there after parking among the racers at Mercer Park, and Ricky G, who'd ridden from home, and who'd wind up doing his own first century (and looking pretty damn good at it; he made it look effortless). Off we went to Belmar, following Laura's uncooperative GPS, her cue sheet, and her faulty memory, into a headwind pretty much all the way (unusual; the prevailing wind is usually from the west-ish, but we had a northeast wind all day).

The wind was supposed to peak at about 11am. That was just about the time we got to the Manasquan reservoir,  with the wide-openness so we could really feel the wind.

I've been itching to use this next sentence since it happened yesterday: The rain started shortly after we recovered our route from getting lost the first time. Now, it really wasn't bad: we went only a few yards on the wrong road, and the rain was light and brief... but it really was too good of a story not to make something of it. (We did get lost again, and recovered; I think it was the playfulness of the ride gods who decided not to make us face a bridge out this time.)

We'd stopped at about 30 miles (for Laura and me). We got to the shore south of Belmar, and as we rode up, we came across riders on a local City-To-Shore MS ride; they turned off before we got to The Usual Belmar Stop.

Glorious day, wasn't it?

The usual stop:

The girls who came out and got on the bikes in the picture above didn't look like they were going 100 miles. They looked like they had better things to do.

Back we came, heading for the Dunkin Donuts in West Freehold. Laura says the worst part of a century ride is the part between 50 and 75 miles, and she's right. This was a slog; I was grateful at the break to download a few empty calories.

Then back. We didn't stop at Etra; Ricky had ridden in from home, and just broke off to finish his way. Just before Mercer East, where Jack was parked, he went ahead, Laura and I went down to the main park road, where (she pointed out) we were able to enjoy a tailwind on the way home (probably a first for me).

Remember that hill over the railroad? I was right; it was awful. But Laura's hill, close to her house, was pretty bad too; I was tired like only a 100-mile ride gets me tired. At the end, I said my goodbyes and got in the car to come home.

Y'wanna see how we did?

I was done... and I AM done; I don't think I'll do more 100-milers. Hence, I think I'll try to stick to no more than 80+mile days. (The pedant will say that, technically, 100 miles does fit the category of 80+ miles. To which I say: piffle.)

Sunday, May 14, 2017

ghost of the main st cafe

Six months ago, as near as makes no difference, I led a ride on the last day that the Main St Cafe was going to be open. They had promised that the new place would be open in February, but construction promises are less reliable than Mr Trump, so it was only in the last few weeks that they've actually opened the PJ's Pancake house that arose from the ashes.

The Excellent Wife (TEW) has been there to visit, and when it comes to rising from the ashes of the Main St Cafe, there appears to be a mixture of phoenix and zombie. On one side, the new PJ's has mounted a pump on the retaining wall right on the corner of 27 and Laurel:

On the other hand,they've made it clear that, on weekends especially, the outdoor seating (except for two benches) is reserved for the ordering-a-sitdown-breakfast crowd.

Now, TEW was a particular partisan of the Main St Cafe, partly because of the excellence of their offerings (no argument from Very Truly Yours, Plain Jim, on that score), and partly because it was a convenient stop for some of her rides. She has done some reconnoitering, and reported back about the Italian specialties shop about two stores down. (Good heavens; is that an intruding finger in the photo below? I need to learn where the lens is on the phone camera.)

So I took a ride down there today. Here's the shizzle, between TEW's info and what I was able to gather:


TEW indicates the coffee is not to be despised (she's much more reliable about these things than I; my favorite coffee has the pink-and-orange DD label on the bag), and there is a toilet inside that is available for use. There are tables inside and out. I got there before it opened today, and saw a cabinet for muffins and such, and there was a collection of Italian chocolate (TEW says there is Polish chocolate as well; I can vouch for the palatability of Polish chocolate). They have soups for cold weather, and cold drinks for hot weather. They WON'T have the variety of excellent baked comestibles that were available at the late Main St, alas. We mourn for the greatness of the past.

Anyway, it's to be considered for future rides. I'm not sure the local Major Taylors will still be able to use the new PJ's as their departure point (as they did from the Main St Cafe for years); perhaps they'll move down the block.

Edit:  Apparently, Google's Blogger won't let me link to pictures in Google's gallery. Hrmph. Anyway, I think it's fixed.

Sunday, May 7, 2017

philly bike club danville weekend

I was NOT looking forward to this trip.

Months ago, The Excellent Wife (TEW) and I had reserved a room for the Bicycle Club of Philadelphia's (BCP) Spring-N2-Cycling weekend. I had accompanied a few members of the Princeton Freewheelers on the BCP fall, trip, and had had a great time. TEW though we could go on this weekend; she would ride her own rides, and I could go out with faster folks; we could hang out together afterwards.

But the closer the date came, the less I was looking forward to it. I'd done the Anchor House Ride years ago, and, while the ride was good, the experience was isolating for me; I don't meet people easily, and didn't on the Anchor House ride; I rode mostly alone, as I did mostly everything else that week. I'd been looking forward to that ride with great anticipation, and it turned out the anticipation was the best part of that ride; the experience, for me, was disappointing. (I don't blame the Anchor House ride. They do a great job. My isolation stemmed from my problems, not theirs.) I think I was anticipating another experience like that.

It didn't help when the forecast for the region turned out to be rain, interspersed with brief periods of dark and damp. I had visions of sitting in a hotel room with TEW, arguing over trifles. (Might the fact that I would be turning 62 over the weekend have something to do with it?)

We packed up the car in the rain on Friday morning, and began the drive to Philadelphia. Rain and more rain. I texted Tom; he, Jack H, and Snakehead were planning to go, but Snakehead didn't get his act together, and then discovered he had work that was calling; Snakehead was out.

About 100 miles into the rainy ride, about a half-dozen idiot lights came up on the dash of the 10-year-old Prius. TEW and I had some discussions about turning back; I did some internet research, and it looked like the codes were for stuff that would allow us to proceed. I topped off the fluids and re-tightened the gas cap (a well-known subterfuge among Prius owners to clear codes), and we continued to what I thought was going to be a soggy weekend with little riding.

Except that when we got there, Tom H and Jack were getting together to do a ride; there appeared to be a break in the weather, and Tom had a 25-miler that we thought we could get in before the ran started again. We did a nasty hill at the start (we didn't have to, but you know we did it anyway), and stopped at the Montour Preserve.

And, of course, since this was a Tom ride, there was a bridge out, that we were able to get past anyway...

In our travels, we met Laura (no, not THAT Laura), who came upon us as we came to a road we couldn't pass; it was soft gravel.

We backed up and bobbled about until we got back. There were great views (the pictures don't do them justice).

... and we got back just before the rain started again.

As I was dressing, Regina found me and insisted I go out to the lot and start the car. I did. And all the offending idiot lights were gone. After that, and the ride, my mood brightened notably, much more than the weather ever did.

Saturday's weather called for clear early, with rain starting later in the morning. Tom opted for an early start; we got underway by 8 (the coffee wasn't ready at the hotel much before that... there was some disorganization at the hotel, although the skeleton staff bravely tried to soldier on). The three of us left the lot on this route, and turned around shortly after departure to find another Jack had joined us.

Laura. Jack. If there was gonna be a Snakehead, I was gonna worry.

(The other Jack:)

 Both Tom and I had put the route into our respective GPS devices (of competing brands, using different maps). About 12 miles in, we got to a place where both devices told us to turn right onto a bridge across the river... but there was no bridge. It was not that the bridge was underwater, or washed away, or under construction. There was no bridge. There was no road to the bridge, no sign that there had ever been a bridge. We proceeded to the next crossing and I, for one, practiced my swearing.

We crossed the Susquehanna.

In Catawissa, we came upon the Opera House.

And, since it WAS a covered bridge ride:

And somewhere along the way, we caught a little rain.

On the way back, we stopped at the locally-famous Heeter's Drive-In for ice cream. Perhaps it was unnecessary on this cool, rainy day, but if we hadn't gone, we would have missed the garrulous, probably borderline autistic, but very friendly fellow who expanded on bikes, motorcycles, local history, ice cream, arboreal care, and probably would have ventured into topics better left uncovered had we not left. One of the waitstaff rolled her eyes and apologized, but it was some of the best entertainment of the day. From there we tried to roll through Danville back to the hotel, but the annual street fair forced us to alter the route. We got back about fifteen minutes before the deluge.

Reports for Sunday, though, were for unrelenting rain in Danville and a break in the clouds in Central Jersey, so we left early so I could get a recovery ride in.

Both days, Regina tried to do a solo ride, but the route she picked was on a heavily-traveled road, and she missed a turn, and she turned around and went back to the hotel. Perhaps a different route, or riding with a leader?

In any case, it was a good weekend for us, and my initial foreboding turned out to have no basis. As a seer, I'm less reliable than Professor Trelawney.

A word about the hotel: they were understaffed and not ready for us. The staff bravely tried to do what they could (that was clear), but it was a failure of management to have adequate staff. I hope that, for future trips, this will not be the case (my understanding is that the BCP has used this hotel for some time). For one thing, Jack H really liked these roads!