Tandem Touring – Twice as Nice

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Last weekend, I was able to fulfill one of my bike dreams of going on a tandem tour with my girlfriend. Emily, my stoker, has gone on tandem rides with me before, but nothing to this caliber of riding. The mini-tour I had planned would be for 2.5 days starting in Mountain View and finishing in San Francisco.

Day 1: The Mountain

Mountain View -> Portola Redwood State Park

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5071012

After a slow meandering through the Peninsula suburbs, we arrived at Roberts Market in Portola,CA. Roberts Market is always a good spot start or finish a ride as it has all the great fancy groceries that you would want before/after doing some serious bike riding. Here we had our 1st dinner: Pesto Chicken Sandwich with Brie.

tandem at roberts market

I’ve never done the climb up Alpine Rd., so I was very nervous about doing it fully loaded on the tandem. I could not have been more impressed and surprised. I would even say that Alpine Rd. is my favorite way to climb to Skyline Blvd from the east side!

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Quiet + Shady + Babbling brook + Reasonable Grade + Few Cars = Good climb.

Alpine Rd. starts with about 3.5 miles of gentle climbing on narrow pavement. The road meanders alongside a slow moving creek on your right so beautiful that a Lord of the Rings battle could break out at any moment. Because this road dead ends (for cars), only few cars passed us. This was helpful to us because we occasionally had to use the full width of the street to wiggle up steep sections.

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Peninsula climbs in order of my preference Alpine Rd. (east) > Kings Mountain Rd. > Old La Honda > Windy Hill Fire Road

the tandem by a long abandoned truck

Doesn’t look like this truck will be going anywhere soon

The weight of the tandem  really started to make itself known as we transitioned into the 2 miles of steeper dirt segment. I recently upgraded the tires to 38x700c Panaracer Pasela from a measly 23x700c Gatorskin, and as the long tandem frame flexed riding through the ruts of the fire road, I 100% knew that I made the right choice with tires on this bike. There was about 300 yards of pushing up the tandem up a steep single track due to a mudslide, but the rest of the 2 miles of the dirt Alpine Road was achievable for us in our granny gear.

the golden hills before our descent into Portola Redwoods State Park

the golden hills before our descent into Portola Redwoods State Park

Camping Portola Redwoods State Park

Portola Redwoods State Park has 5 hike/bike sites. We were the only ones.

 2nd dinner: Spicy Nong Shim Korean Ramen with Soft Tofu.

Day 2: Hidden Treasures

Portola Redwood State Park -> Half Moon Bay

Route: http://ridewithgps.com/routes/5079376

Breakfast was a block of day old croissant bread-pudding from La Boulange heated over a flame.

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Old Haul Road is my favorite fire road to take people to. It’s about 5 miles of relaxing fire road entrenched in the deep redwood forest. The extremely long wheelbase of the tandem felt comfortable and safe on the gentle downhill. My fat 38mm tires kept traction throughout the corners even at 15-20mph. It really felt like a long gentle roller coaster that winded through an enchanted forest.

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Beautiful views

Due to space constraints of only having four panniers for the two of us, I didn’t have much room to bring my camp coffee making supplies. We spent the better half of the morning uncaffinated. Fortunately, we were able to stop at a coffee shop in Pescadero. Downtown Local is not only the hippest coffee shop/establishment in Pescadero, it is the hippest coffee shop I’ve EVER been to. After talking to the baristas, I learned that a San Francisco couple moved to Pescadero about a year ago and couldn’t find good coffee in the neighborhood so they opened their own Sightglass brewing/antique selling/succulent growing cafe in Pescadero.

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coffee_shop

Recipe for hipness: Mid century modern couch, tables that look like they’re made from pallets, edison bulbs, antiques, succulent table centerpiece & pour over Sightglass coffee

While Old Haul Road is my personal favorite, Emily’s favorite was Cowell Ranch Road. Honestly, I’ve been wanting to bring Emily to bike on Cowell Ranch Road ever since I was introduced to it by Ian about a year ago. However, it can be exceedingly strenuous to ride over the Pennisula hills or through Pacifica to get to Cowell Ranch Road. For those of you who haven’t experienced Cowell Ranch Road, it’s a 3 mile flat gravel trail that sandwiches you between large private farm and incredible vistas of the sea cliffs. The views here are equivalent to the sweeping landscapes of Big Sur. Emily went on to name this area Little Sur.

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Cowell Trail was more beautiful than ever.

Day 3: Mavericks to SF

Half Moon Bay -> San Francisco 

On Sunday we had a warm slow ride back into San Francisco. I had the opportunity to explore the bike paths closer to the beach instead of hammering on the main road  as I’ve normally done.

While resting in Pacifica, a man asked us about what route we took from Mountain View. Somehow, he immediately recognized that I was from Los Angeles. When I asked how he knew, he told me that I kept saying “PCH” (short for Pacific Coast Highway) as opposed to “Highway 1″, which is how bay area folks call it. I guess theres more to blending in with nor cal folks than saying “hella” occasionally.

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Behind the Ritz Carlton

Tandem name: Jean Claude Tandem

Jean Claude Tandem

Conclusion

All in all, we had an amazing trip with superb weather, delicious food, and breathtaking sites. I strongly believe that the experience we had this weekend, really flexes the strength of tandem riding. Riding together with Emily on the tandem, gave both of us the comfort and confidence that we would make it to our next destination, even with daunting 3,000 feet climbs and perilous descents. Without the concerns of physical ability, it allowed us to focus on the surroundings and really enjoy the ride.

 

#bdbsummercamp 2014

When I was a kid, my parents scoffed at the idea of paying money to send me somewhere to spend time outdoors. So I was basically deprived of the American tradition of summer camps. My childhood dreams remained unfulfilled until last year, when Box Dog Bikes started their initial #bdbsummercamp series! This year’s event proved to even be doper.

Eric, Geoff and Angus from Box Dog led a group of about 15 or so through a mixed terrain exploration of the East Bay hills. It was a great way to kick off the first official day of summer.

Bike nerd talk: This was my first camping trip with the Rawland Stag (which doesn’t have provisions for a rear rack or mid-fork braze ons), so I had to install a mid fork braze-on adapt-a-ma-jig from Tubus. I paired this with a borrowed Tubus front rack from Ian K.B. and the result was a stable handling front loaded touring machine (Jan was right). This was also my second attempt at bike camping with a hammock and this time I was able to set it up correctly, which proved for a pretty chill sleeping experience.

More people joined later in the afternoon at Lake Chabot Regional Park and it turned into the the largest bike camping gathering of bike nerds that I’ve ever been to. Seriously. Box Dog had a bunch of their bikes available at the camp site for demo and their sweet camping gear on display. Dinner was taken care of by Nick and Lindy from the Pedal Inn and they served an amazing camp meal of tofu spring rolls and pork banh mi’s.

In a day and age where it’s so easy to shop for things online at bottom barrel prices and then have drones deliver you things almost instantaneously (well not quite yet), it seems like a crazy and foolish thing to “support your local bike shop”. Also since everything is digitally consumed these days, it’s so easy for bike brands to just setup social media nonsense and gain adoring fans who live vicariously through the internet. However, I want to stress that real people and not robots (or unpaid interns) were the ones that made this camping trip possible:

1. Box Dog Bikes had a super obscure adapter piece (Tubus LM-1 mounting set) in stock in their store that I needed for the trip. Seriously, it would have taken a week for me to order that part from the internet.
2. They let me install said adapter at the shop, gave me a few pointers in the process and saved me a trip to the hardware store from buying like two bolts.
3. They organized and LED the route through some amazing mixed terrain territory. No one mentioned the words “gravel grinder”. They also led a more direct route for others who just wanted to take part in the bike camping. What a considerate group of folks!
4. Eric from Box Dog helped me setup my hammock correctly and even prevented me from throwing my straps into some poison oak. Thanks dude!
5. Lastly, the good folks Pedal Inn prepared and provided the group with real food that you could eat, you know with your mouth, rather than digital photos on Instagram that you would have to eat with your eyes.

Want more coverage? Check out the appropriately tagged numbersigns on Instagram, Manny’s flickr, or Platypus Jenny’s ride report.

Cogswell, That Ends Well

With the Sequoia finally built up to handle the rigors of mixed terrain routes, Topher and I decided to tackle his variation of the Fudmoot Flirty Fundo route.

We departed at 7am from Pasadena, in an attempt to beat the heat. Had I known the difficulties we would face later on in the day, I would have dragged my butt out of bed much earlier than the crack of dawn.

After heading up Encanto Parkway, I had to take out my sunglasses and I began to realize how “San Francisco summers” have made me intolerant of the excessive sunshine in Southern California. The short climb up to the Cogswell Dam gate entrance was worth it though because immediately afterwards, there is a paved road that is closed off to automobiles that runs along a creek.

When we reached the actual dam, it had been nearly 30 minutes since we had seen another individual and I couldn’t help recall memories of my youth and specifically the dam level in Goldeneye 007 on N-64… you know, minus the whole killing spies thing and all.

I’m not accustomed to mixed terrain riding in Southern California and big news, the weather and the terrain make things very different. Since it gets so blazing hot, the terrain is much drier and there is seemingly much deeper sand pockets everywhere.

It was about noon time when we reached the most exposed sections of our route. Topher commented that drinking from his water bottles did little to cool him down because the water had heated up significantly during the past hour. Luckily we found a small pond of water and that was refreshingly cool to the touch. Topher threw in his jersey and I followed suit, but as our jerseys slowly drifted away, I struggled to retrieve mine with a stick and almost fell into the water. Predictably, Topher was chuckling.

The next section of the route was a very well shaded but also featured a rocky descent. My tires seemed to slip around quite a bit and I may have been better served with a wider or knobbier tire, but then it wouldn’t be underbiking.

Shortly afterward, I began to regret the fact that I had only brought 3 water bottles and my water supply began to run low. Topher had put some distance on me but I figured he would turn around to check back up on me eventually. With the sun beating down on me, I decided to not risk dehydration by over-exerting myself during the climb and opted for a short nap in the shade.

Topher eventually checks back in with me and he has about a quarter of a water bottle left. Luckily for us, he is also a human cactus as well as a strong rider, so he is able to make it to Redbox (not the DVD rental vending machine) and fill up on water and bring it back to my carcass.

With the re-up on water and a long descent down the 2 freeway, we are able to make it back to civilization and cell phone signal range, where we discover numerous missed calls and voicemails from concerned friends.

The end of the route also meant obligatory face stuffing with some delicious mexican food. At the end of my meal, I sat at the outdoor table drinking a bunch of electrolytes and contemplating how the Sequoia fared on this trip. I’m not sure I’m qualified to call it the best production bicycle ever, but I think it really suits the type of riding I do quite well. Currently there aren’t many production or semi-production models that offer the package of goodies that this bike from 1983 provides, and in that sense, I am glad to have been able to rescue this bike from rotting away in some basement or garage, with it’s potential unrealized and wasted.

Moral of the story, ride bikes you like, ride with friends you trust, bring lots of water, and live to ride another day!

Irving’s Specialized Sequoia

Anyone who has been in communication with me for the past two months has probably heard about my Specialized Sequoia project. If you are one of those people, I sincerely apologize for the repetition, but for those of you who haven’t, let me give you the enthralling details!

I love my Specialized Expedition and had been looking for a Specialized Sequoia for a long time, since it was also designed by Tim Neenan. Sequoia’s became increasingly hard to acquire at affordable prices when everyone and their mom started quoting Grant Petersen calling it the best production bicycle ever in their Craigslist ads. Luckily last fall, I found a rather haggard looking Sequoia frameset and called in a favor to have Topher pick up the frameset in Los Angeles (friends enabling friends?). While not as rare as some other barn finds, the Sequoia had no structural damage and seemed like a good project. My original intention was to build a lock-up/city bicycle but the possible configurations kept changing on changing in my head (Jittensha bars? 1×9? Single speed?!?!?). It wasn’t until earlier this year that I decided it would be a good idea to build this up as my speedy LA bicycle, so I would be able to ride with Luke and Topher.

Specialized Sequoia

The extraordinary amount of help I received in labor and parts from friends made the completion of this bicycle possible; Topher retrieved the frame for me, Carlin provided some nifty Shimano 105 shifters, Brian gave me some old Time ATAC pedals, Jim Santos gifted me the Shimano front derailleur and rear derailleurs, a member of SF Randonneurs donated the DA 7400/Mavic SUP front wheel, Box Dog Bikes installed the headset and cleaned out all the spiders, and Ely sold me some cranks and a brevet bag before basically building up my bicycle (in exchange for donuts). The remainder of the parts, I scavenged from bargain bins or had lying around in my own bicycle box.

After riding bikes with fenders and some sort of racks/baggage for the past 2 years, it was quite exciting to ride a bike in the #nofendersnorules club. I’ve always hated carrying things in jersey pockets, and as I’ve begun to eschew wearing bicycle jerseys over the years, the brevet bag makes things so much easier without changing the riding characteristics of the bike or requiring any fussy racks or adapters.

I also really happen to like the Vittoria Randonneur Hyper (also goes by Voyager Hyper) 700×35 tires. They are plenty comfy, measure true to width, feature a nice reflective sidewall stripe and are quite durable. It really is an intriguing tire option that seems somewhere in between (in price and quality) the Panaracer Pasela/Resist Nomad choices and the higher end Gran Bois/Compass offerings.

I didn’t notice the strange marriage of modern and vintage on this bicycle until we started working on it. While I don’t necessarily like most of SRAM’s components, and the Apex compact crankset seems well made and the GXP bottom bracket system was extremely simple to install. This was also my first time trying the newer style Shimano 5700 shifters and I like them a lot more than the older antenna style’d shifters.

I was down in Los Angeles this past weekend and took out the Sequoia for a mixed terrain metric century with Toph. Did it ride like a total hunk of junk, or did it live up to hypeman Grant Peterson’s endorsement? Stay tuned for more details on that tomorrow!

Overnight at China Camp

Ely invited Nancy and I along to a camping trip to China Camp in San Rafael with his family a few weeks ago. Considering we survived a similar trip last year, we decided to tag along.

We had a blast at the campground and Ely even made me some campground coffee! One day, I will look back fondly on this memory and remember when I knew Mr. RuthWorks before he became super famous.