Sunday, October 12, 2014

Coffeeneuring 2014

Coffeeneuring  is a tongue-in-cheek variation on randonneuring:  a short, leisurely ride to enjoy a hot drink, documented in photography rather than receipts and signatures.  This is my second year of participation.  Last year I kept individual rides in separate posts, then added a consolidated post at the conclusion of the series.  This year I think I'll just build one integrated post.

Ride 1, October 5 2014 (2 miles)

My first coffeeneuring ride was a "ride to the ride" for a permanent brevet from Market of Choice.  Since I had my usual quota of coffee before leaving the house, and since my stomach didn't like the idea of hot chocolate, I elected to have a cup of tea (which I find often soothes an unhappy stomach on rides).  

I wasn't expecting much.  To my surprise, the tea was really, really good.  They spooned a bit of loose leaf tea from a sealed jar into a cylinder of some sort of fiber, then twisted a knot in the cylinder to form a tea bag.  Lately I have not been a very discerning tea drinker, settling for Twinings in tea bags.  The tea at MoC was so much better than what I have been drinking that I decided I need to get some supplies to make better tea. 

Ride 2, October 12, 2014 (4 miles)

My second ride is most in the spirit of coffeeneuring.  Cyndi rode with me to Market of Choice to get bread and milk, and to inquire about supplies for the tea I had enjoyed on my prior visit.  We got the tea but they didn't have the DIY bags in stock.  Since I had already coffeeneured there, we stopped at Friendly Street Market on the way back home for hot chocolate.  Hot cocoa, actually, which is not quite the same ... but it was a nice environment, and I really like how the outdoor seating and improvements to the cafĂ© have made Friendly even more of a neighborhood institution.  

Ride 3, October 18, 2014 (8 miles)

Hideaway Bakery make the best bread in town in their big wood-burning oven.  They also make nice cakes and pastries, and the coffee was good --- notably better than when I coffeeneured here last year.  Cyndi drove to meet me, and my daughter Adrian rode over. 

We each had caffé latte, and shared a piece of chocolate cake.

Hideaway has pretty good bicycle parking. It's on the other side of the building from the cafe and bakery, but visible enough to seem reasonably safe.

After coffee, I rode along with Adrian to her home to deliver a few jars of applesauce, and saw a couple fawns on the way back.


On the way home, I stopped at Arriving by Bike (a transportation-oriented bike shop in Eugene) to check on long sleeve wool jerseys and lights.  I didn't find what I wanted in a jersey, but they had the B&M Eyc in stock.  I called Cyndi, who brought her bike down to have an Eyc installed.   After riding home, I swapped her front wheel for one with a generator hub, from my old Salsa rando, so now Cyndi should have a good light system. 

Ride 4, October 18, 2014  (~4 miles)

John Pearch rode my permanent populaire from Florence today, and I rode down to meet him at the conclusion. Although he was at a Starbucks inside Albertsons grocery, I elected not to get my drink there but instead to look for something a little better after helping him find some fast food in the area.  (He ended up at Fisherman's Market for fish and chips; I hope it was good.)  I cruised toward center town looking for something reasonable.  I was headed vaguely in the direction of Barn Light when I caught sight of the library and remembered that Eugene Public Library has a cafe.  It was open, and gave me a good excuse to brag about out our excellent library.

I had a hot chocolate. I think it was pretty good, but unfortunately I didn't drink much before I accidentally set the paper cup down on the lid and spilled the rest.

The library is quite bicycle friendly.  I leaned my bike against the window because I didn't have a lock with me, but there is quite a bit of bicycle parking.   Eugene is the sort of place where you needn't feel weird about walking around with a helmet on.  (In truth I don't feel weird walking around with a helmet pretty much anywhere, but that's me.)

Ride 5, October 25, 2014 (4.25 miles)

Picked up five pounds of cranberries fresh from Bandon from a friend-of-a-friend, then stopped at 16 Tons on the way home.  They are serving micro-roast coffees from Water Avenue Coffees in Portland.   According to the server, they get a delivery once a week.   I ordered hot chocolate.  (OK, I guess I am a little snobbish about coffee ... I will drink almost anything in a pinch, but if fresh roast is your thing, a week old doesn't cut it.)  The hot chocolate was ok, but not better than the cup I got at the public library last week.  I should probably have at least tried 16 Tons' coffee to give it a fair chance, but as usual I had a couple coffees in me before leaving home  (currently drinking an interesting blend of Kenya Nyeri Karogoto AB and monsooned Malabar, which is excellent in espresso).  I really do like 16 Tons as a place for beer and cider on tap.  I'll try their coffee another time.
Nice weather for napping

Ride 6, October 26, 2014 (21 miles)

Macbeth and Fox Hollow is a popular short training loop in the area, but at my pace today I can't call it training.  Moseying.  I went out over Bailey Hill, then Lorane to Macbeth, and down Fox Hollow.  And of course that means nothing at all unless you happen to know the roads around Eugene, but for a Eugene recreational rider that is a complete description of the route.

Earlier today the rain was quite impressive, and yesterday was windy.  This afternoon, though, it was lovely.  I decided to stop for a few more pictures than usual.

LeBleu, just off Macbeth near the top

I turned off on LeBleu (near the top of Macbeth) just for this view ... I always love the afternoon sun through the trees.
Sheep and alpaca on Fox Hollow.  The sheep are wearing blankets because they have been recently shorn.  The alpaca look short-haired as well, but seem to be doing fine without blankets. 

At Allan Brothers I had a choice of three hot chocolates:  semi-sweet, Mexican, or white chocolate.  I chose semi-sweet.  It was probably the best hot chocolate of the series so far, although the hot chocolate at the library was close.  Allan Brothers wins out for making better whipped cream.

Ride 7 Verboort Populaire aftermath (2.5 miles)

My normal rule is to avoid driving to a ride that is shorter than my drive, but I occasionally have reason to make exceptions.  I discovered that I had fulfilled all the requirements for a "RUSA Cup" award  (every distanced of calendered RUSA event from 100k to 1200k in a 2-year period, totaling at least 5000k) except for the shortest, a 100k populaire.  So, off to ride the Verboort Populaire, a 100km (63 mile) triangle from Forest Grove to Vernonia and back to Verboort, timed to coincide with the annual Verboort Sausage Festival.

(Banks-Vernonia trail, photo by Keith Moore)
It's a lovely ride, and I haven't done it in a few years, so it was a pleasure despite spending more time in the car than on the bike.  But the stop at Black Bear Coffee in Vernonia does not count as coffeeneuring ... you can't coffeeneur while participating in another event.    

Fortunately the ride starts in Forest Grove and ends in Verboort, about 2.5 miles away.  Just far enough to coffeeneur if you ride back to your parked car after the populaire.  So: Hot tea and a sausage with sauerkraut on a bun.  Also, good company and a festive atmosphere. 

(Verboort Sausage Festival, photo by Keith Moore)

Ride 8:  MacBeth and Fox Hollow to Vero, Sunday Nov 16

This is my extra credit ride ... just in case!   Or just because.

We're having a cold spell in Eugene, and in paranoia of ice I didn't even commute by bicycle Thursday and Friday.  By Sunday it had been a few days since rain, so I figured roads would be clear, and took a short training ride (but at a less-than-training pace) up MacBeth and down Fox Hollow.

I had been to Vero earlier in coffeeneuring season with Bill Alsup, but on a weekday ... coffeeneuring for him because he was on vacation, but not for me.  So, back to Vero to make it official (or rather "official"), and to check out their hot chocolate.   Worthwhile!

Hot chocolate at Vero Espresso
Total distance: 20 miles, give or take a mile.  Temperatures between 25.4 (at Bill's Bench, top of Fox Hollow) to 35 or so downtown.  Really glad I went in the counter-clockwise direction, so the ice was all in slow-speed climbs, rather than descents.

Summing up: Hot chocolate in Eugene

Although I started with (surprisingly good) tea at Market of Choice, my coffeeneuring series this year was basically a chocolateering series.  I learned that surprisingly good hot chocolate can be found in unlikely-seeming spots (Eugene Public Library, for example), while a really first-rate bar can offer sub-mediocre hot cocoa (16 Tons).   The best:

  1. Market of Choice.  I didn't log my hot chocolate at MoC above, since I had already logged a coffeeneuring visit for hot tea (also excellent), but I did have hot chocolate there as a starting control for a permanent brevet.   And, remarkably, it was the best hot chocolate I had this season:  ganache, not overly sweet, mixed into steamed whole milk.  This is a supermarket, and it's beating the socks off coffee bars in Eugene.  The only downside is that it comes in a paper cup.  
  2. Vero Espresso.  Also ganache in steamed milk, and with latte art (see last photo above).  Approaching the quality of MoC hot chocolate, but a little on the over-sweet side. 
  3. Allann Brothers.  I didn't see how it was made, but it is probably also ganache in steamed milk.  Choice of Mexican, white, or semi-sweet.  The semi-sweet is on a par with Vero, but in a paper cup (because I was in cycling gear?) and minus the latte art. 
These three are close, and well above other choices, although the Eugene Public Library comes closest.  (I believe the library is using chocolate syrup in the steamed milk, which is not as good as using ganache but much better than stirring in cocoa.) 

Not in my trial group:  Full City Coffee (I know they keep a vat of ganache for making chocolate-based drinks, but didn't get a chance to check them out this year);  Wandering Goat Coffee (generally the best coffee in town, but I have no idea about their hot chocolate).   I'll have to try them out sometime this winter. 

With this training, I think I'm well on my way to properly appreciating hot chocolate in the early morning in some little town between Paris and Brest. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Eugene to Florence: Perm populaire, point-to-point, reversible

Eugene to Florence via Triangle Lake

RUSA permanent populaire #2318 
Point-to-point, reversible, 120km (75mi).  Approx 1800' climbing.

Cue sheet: 
Registration form:
Contact (perm owner):

This 120km (75mi) route takes you from  Eugene, OR to Florence, on the Oregon coast, via Triangle Lake on Highway 36.  It begins at 18th and Chambers in southwest Eugene and follows the Fern Ridge Path to its end at Greenhill and Royal, then out Royal, Fir Butte, and Clear Lake roads across the north edge of Fern Ridge Reservoir to Lawrence and onto Highway 36 (Siuslaw Highway).   The highway is narrow but less traveled than Highway 126;   I have felt fairly safe on it in fall and spring.   There is a market at Low Pass, not too far along 36, but it is often closed when I pass early in the morning.  You will have no cell phone coverage for most of the segment on 36, from approximately Low Pass until Swiss Home, so it may be a good idea to ride with a buddy.

You will cross the coast range.  However, it is not a hard or long climb, topping out below 1100 feet.  River views just after the summit are particularly scenic.  That section of pavement is also rather rough, the more reason to slow down a bit and enjoy the view.

And what river is that?  The map says Lake Creek.  Pretty substantial for a creek.

The little town of Deadwood, at about 48 miles, is a control.   Hot food offerings at the market are meager, but the market has a restroom, and the staff are friendly.   I am partial to this market because they were helpful to me once when I was suffering from knee pain and unable to finish my ride.

Highway 36 merges into Highway 126 at Mapleton.  Mapleton is not a control, but the coffee shop in the little strip mall on your left just after the junction is nice.  It was tempting to end the route right there in Mapleton, which is a nice little town, but the point was to get to the coast ... so the last few miles are on Highway 126.  The nicest thing I can say about that section is that the shoulder is wide enough to make you feel relatively safe despite the SUVs and motor homes.  It is flat, but in summer you can count on a strong headwind.  The scenery is nice if you can sit up enough to take it in.  The river is wide and flat as it approaches the bay, and you might see osprey as well as coastal birds.

The closing control is in Florence.  There are many choices, including grocery stores and cafes, once you reach the junction with Highway 101.   I recommend turning south (left).  After picking up a receipt to document finishing your route, you may consider riding about 5 miles south on Highway 101 to Honeyman State Park (open year round) for a shower, or even to camp in one of their $5 hiker-biker spots if you are suitably equipped.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Two Winter rides

as in, rides on my new Winter randonneuse.  It has been ridden twice, and both were 200km permanent brevets.  I'm still tuning it in.

February 1 I rode Eugene to Beaverton with Lynne and Graham, after picking up the bike two days before.  It was quite literally the first ride of more than around the block.  Ideally I would have taken a couple training rides with it first, but it would have been silly to leave the new bike home.  The weather was lovely, the course is not too challenging, and it was nice to ride with Lynne and Ross.  There were no really big climbs or descents, but several small hills.  The bike felt capable in the climbs and steady in the descents.  The gearing (compact double, 50-34/11-32) is excellent, a big improvement over the road triples on my other bikes, and the disc breaks feel great --- good modulation, and a lot less force required at the levers.  There is considerable toe overlap due to the geometry and the really big fenders, which I noticed only when taking a very sharp turn on a slow climb.

 I was sliding down the saddle toward the nose a lot, and had a lot of force on my hands against the bars with just a single layer of tape, so I took the bike in to Paul's where Alex H. brought the saddle back a bit and installed gel pads (Trek Isozone) under the tape.  The feel of the Fizik tape is great, aside from lack of padding, so Alex reinstalled the original tape over the pads.  Alex also mounted my Topeak Road Morph pump under the down-tube, using the mounts Eric provided for a third water bottle holder.  In retrospect I wish I had asked Eric for a dedicated mount for the pump ... oh well.  I'm not sure if I'll keep it under the top tube, because there is some contact between the front derailleur cable and the pump mount, although so far the action of the shifter still feels light.

Second ride, February 23, Alsea Loop, on my own.  This is a route with considerably more climbing, and corresponding descents.  The forecast said 10% chance of rain, but I must have been lucky because it rained lightly but steadily from about 2pm on.

I find that I stand to climb much more less on the Winter ... and when I do, I feel like I'm in too low a gear.  Because the gears are spaced more closely?  Because I'm taking advantage of the lower gears for climbing more?  Hard to tell ... but as much as I enjoy occasionally hammering up a short hill in training,  for long brevets it will be good to be able to stay seated more.

There is a gravel stretch on Alsea Loop. Some parts are washboard, some good packed gravel, and some are thicker loose gravel.  I often take a slight detour, about a mile longer, to avoid it.  I had planned that detour this time, but when I reached the turn, it occurred to me that I ought to give the gravel a try with my new bike and 28mm tires.  It was a noticeable improvement over my Salsa with 25mm tires.   In fact, it was fun, and the scenery on that gravel stretch is better than the paved detour.  The bike will take 32mm tires, which would be my choice for a real gravel grinder route, but even the modest step up from 25 to 28 (and modest step down in tire pressures) made a big difference.

Even after the adjustments made by Alex, I'm still sliding a bit forward on the saddle, so I'm going to tilt the nose up a little more.  I've still got a bit too much pressure on my hands and arms, although it's much better than the first ride.  I can rest my forearms on the flats in placid sections, although the bars still aren't soft enough for that to be really comfortable.  I can't ride no-hands yet.  There is clearly a wobble when peddling no-hands at about 15mph.  That's a bit disappointing, but the wobble is not as bad as on my Salsa.  I felt some wobble once in a descent, when I caught a strong cross-wind coming down the west side of Highway 34 below Mary's Peak;  otherwise it feels very sure-footed in descents.

The half-way point (or just a little past) is Alsea, on Highway 34, over the coast range west from Corvallis and Philomath.   The staff at John Boy's Mercantile are friendly, and there are tables to sit and eat.  Marginal cell coverage (I can usually text, but not talk), but there is free wi-fi in the store.  And, as it is in rural Oregon, people are not shy about talking to strangers.  A middle-aged woman and a young woman whom I took to be her daughter sat at the small table with me.   They talked mostly with each other, but then asked me a bit about my ride.  The younger woman asked where I rode from.  When I answered "Eugene", she went silent, and the look on her face told me that this was not among the plausible answers. The older woman was not phased.  She asked me about the route I took and whether there was much debris left on the road from the recent snow (which brought down lots of branches and quite a few trees).  I am curious what the younger woman thought.  Will her idea of the distances that one can ride a bicycle change?  Will she just think I must be a weirdo, and that her mother ought to be a little more careful about chatting with strangers?  Who knows.

Just after the half-way control at Alsea, I noticed a loud rattling in the back, getting louder.  This turned out to be the back fender loosening from its mount to the seat-stay bridge.  I considered just riding it home that way, but if the bolt came all the way out it might have been iffy.  Reaching the bolt head required removing the rear wheel.  That made me a little nervous, because I've never successfully removed and replaced a wheel with a disc brake before ... and I was particularly nervous because once I tried to help someone with hydraulic disc brakes change a tire, and didn't know how to open her brakes back up to get her wheel back on.  But ... no problem, actually.  I removed the wheel, tightened up the bolt, and put the wheel back on with no problems at all (which is actually just how Eric said it would work).  Getting the wheel on straight was actually a lot easier with this bike, with its vertical dropouts, as versus the insane and evil horizontal dropouts on the back of my Salsa.

The rain continued.  It varied from a very light drizzle to light rain, never a downpour, so I was able to switch from my coat to a a vest for the climb up South Fork.  The cloud cover and rain made the spring scenery a little less fantastic.  On the other hand, the traffic was almost non-existent.  Alsea Falls was very full and loud.

A few times on the climb, when I turned sharply, I felt my toe against the front fender.  I think I will learn to avoid that.  It might even help my form to avoid weaving on climbs.  There is a possibility I will go down before I completely master it.  But those fenders!  They really kept the water off my feet.  I'll probably still add the Berthoud leather mud flap front and back, but I'm not even sure I really need it in front.

South Fork becomes Alpine Road at the summit.  The descent on Alpine is steep and curly.  I would have been quite nervous coming down on my Salsa, with caliper rim brakes, because of the sensation of putting the brakes on and waiting for them to wipe the rim well enough to slow me.  A primary reason for a disc brake randonneuse was to have more confidence on wet descents.  A lot of recent articles have praised hydraulic disc brakes in this regard, but I had hopes that my older tech mechanical discs would also do the job.  They did.  There is some reduction in braking power compared to when they are dry, but they are far far better than any rim brake I have used, including road calipers, cantilevers, and v-brakes.  I could descend much faster because I had confidence that my brakes were not going to abandon me at a critical moment.  I still took the descent slower than I would in summer, because I also had to consider the wet pavement and debris, but nothing like the cautious creeping I would have done on my Salsa.  It was fun.

Having an Acorn Boxy Bag in front makes even more difference than I anticipated, compared to the Topeak handlebar bag on my Salsa.  I can open it up toss in my glove liners, or cap, or even my rain coat, rather than opening up the trunk bag.  It makes quick changes of layers much easier, which means I make the change rather than just putting up with the discomfort of wearing the wrong set of layers.

And the light ... Luxos U.  Lovely. It kept charging my GPS all day, only dropping power at food stops and once or twice on slow climbs in the dark. When night really fell, it cast a lovely wide and deep beam.  The E3 on my Supernova was already a pretty great light, but the Luxos is such a different experience.  It's a field of light, instead of a beam.  I've heard similar descriptions of the new Edelux.  The new generation of lights is a big step forward. The wired Pixeo tail-light also seems plenty bright.

Overall:  Very good experience with the new bike.  I'll continue to fiddle with saddle position and angle, and I might end up adding even more padding to the bars.  (Swapping in a carbon bar with the big flat area is not an option because of the custom "7" style stem.)  I'll keep looking for a better place to mount the pump, without resorting to zip-ties.  I might take a tumble before I get completely used to the toe overlap, but if so it will be at very low speed.  The bike has a good balance of sportiness and efficiency.  I'm looking forward to longer rides.