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.