[DNF]lèche Ride Report: Prologue

The Northern California Flèche is a yearly event that follows a unique set of rules and allows teams to determine their own routes. Last year’s event proved to be a difficult but rewarding experience for our team, as our route featured a significant portion of mixed terrain riding up Fish Rock Road. This year, we joined 16 other teams in participating in the Northern California Flèche.

RouteMap

Brian did the majority of the route reconnaissance and we got some great recommendations and input from friends (s/o to Jake “the” Mann). Our final route had us starting at a military base (!!!), going through the Los Padres National Forest, winding through Greenfield –> Soledad –> Gonzales –> Salinas and then climbing through the Santa Cruz mountains before arriving in San Jose and taking an urban route back to San Francisco.

TeamCollage

The team featured our core group from last year, as no one was lured away by any rival Flèche teams (the bribes of moth eaten wool cycling jerseys were hard to resist). In addition, we were lucky enough to pick up Gabe from the rando free agents list.

01 - Bike Setup

Logistically, our plan was to have Brian and Emily drive the team car (fittingly, a Toyota Corolla) with the bikes and gear from San Francisco to Fort Hunter Liggett. The rest of the team would take Amtrak from Oakland to Paso Robles before getting picked up from team car and heading over to our hotel within Fort Hunter Liggett.

Planning for a true one way Flèche route (rather than a loop starting from San Francisco) often takes extra time and resources, but I believe it is an essential part of the event experience. Most importantly, it allows you an extra day to bond with teammates and goof around. The camaraderie and goodwill built during this extra day are important when in the next twenty-four hours, you may be mentally and physically fragile.

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Upon arrival at Fort Hunter Liggett, we checked into our “cowboy rooms” (a.k.a. lodging with shared bathrooms) at the Hacienda Hotel. The Hacienda was formerly known as the Milpitas Ranch House and it housed the workers tending to William Hearst’s farmlands and cattle. The hotel retains many of its period correct details but also throws in modern amenities, like mini fridges and modern televisions. We enjoyed the scenery and had a quick #dinneroutside, before heading over to the hotel bar for a drink (beers on tap = Bud Light and Firestone DBA) and a few games of shuffleboard before retiring for the night.

01 - Ian Wedding

Despite all the planning and preparation that went into this ride (*SPOILER ALERT*), it turns out the rando gods deemed that we would not have a favorable next twenty four hours. The big fat DNF on my brevet report card (oh man, my parents are going to be PISSED) will be difficult to forget, but I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything. I couldn’t have asked for better teammates to ride with through the breathtaking sections as well as the mentally draining and physically exhausting ones.

The rest of the ride report will be split into portions, with each of my teammates taking the task of describing a section of the ride. Join us later for Gabe’s details of the fabled “Indians Road”.

Oh, hi.

This weekend I rounded up a couple of friends and took the train north for a little pre-birthday camping trip. Part weekend escape and part shakedown for a longer summer tour, we took the train up from Los Angeles and ventured out into Ojai (check out The Path Less Pedaled for more info).

We rode during the day and glamped as hard as we could at night. Boxed wine, bourbon, beer and firewood were pedaled into the hills for our comfort and indulgence.   While we could probably use some practice in honing our minimalist ultra-lightweight, back-country survivor skills, we decided on beer and the company of a fire. Our explorations only scratched the surface of the region, but the Ojai Valley and Los Padres National Forest have charmed me. This trip will hopefully be the first of many.

Brian’s Koga-Miyata Townie

With the hot weather approaching, I’ve been increasingly enjoying Mika, my Koga-Miyata Randonneur, set up as a city bike. The albatross bars allow me to sit up straight and take a more relaxed approach. The Deore thumb shifters are easy & predictable to use. The Suntour XC Pro provide more braking power than I need in the city. I recently threw on some Sackville Mudflaps, Acorn Handlebar bag (as a saddle bag), and the MKS Lambda Pedals, and it’s operating like a true faux Rivendell! All in all, I’m a huge fan of this bike and it’s been really great to me. I realized that I’ve never taken photos of it set up as a townie, so I got to cal train a little early one morning to snap some photos. Enjoy and Happy #fenderfriday

Koga Miyata Randonneur Commuter 4 Koga Miyata Randonneur Commuter 3 Koga Miyata Randonneur Commuter 2 Koga Miyata Randonneur Commuter 1

North St. Route Nine is the bag you want for commuting


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Curtis from North St. Bags was kind of enough to let beta test his new Route Nine Convertible Bag. As an enthusiast of bicycle backpacks, panniers, and handlebar bags, I was very excited to test out this new product. After spending 2 months of commuting everyday to the train station with the Route Nine, I can safely say that this is the best bag I’ve used for commuting to work by bike.

Benefits of a convertible pannier

The biggest benefit of having the a convertible pannier was being able to stay highly mobile when I parked my bike on the train or went into the grocery store. All the while, being able to arrive anywhere on a bike without a sweaty back. Why choose between a backpack or a pannier when you can have both?

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Wearing the Bag

The first immediate thing I noticed about the Route Nine bag is that it was comfortable to wear. North Street uses a seat belt style strap that has a similar tightening mechanism to my favorite messenger bag company: Bailey Works. It is incredibly easy to use. All you have to do is pull on the loose end and it tightens. You can even tighten the strap with just one hand (important if you’re riding a bike or holding a beer). Also the mesh pad at the bottom of the bag is very comfortable on the back. When I went camping, I used the bag for a short 2.5 mile hike and did not have any issues with it as a bag.

Mounting the Bag

The trickiest part about North Street’s Route Nine bag was learning how to use the type of hook strap system. I’ve used Axiom’s hook & bungee system for about 2 years and now I use Ortlieb’s QL2 system for now 2 years, and I find these both very safe, secure and easy to put on. However, the beta version of the Route Nine Bag that I used reminded me of the older style Jandd panniers with just a non stretchy strap and a manual way to tighten the pannier to the rack. I initially thought this was a major flaw in the pannier’s design, but learning how to secure the pannier to the rack twice I was able to do it quickly without any problems.

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Bag Size

The size of the Route Nine is a perfect size for commuting to work. It’s not at all bulky, but can fit all the essentials plus more. On a normal work day I carry: 15″ Macbook Pro (in a neoprene case), charger, headphones, iPad, sketch books, Klean Kanteen thermos and some other little do-dads. When this is already in my bag, I can still fit some groceries or an extra change of clothes in the bag with no problem.

Bag Design

The Route Nine has an enjoyable functional look to it. As a messenger bag, it reminded me of a Chrome roll top bag I once owned. I didn’t feel awkward at all carry into a store as I sometimes do with having multiple Ortlieb panniers hanging from my neck. The reflective paneling is large and visible to cars. This is a nice touch considering that this pannier will probably used for commuting in the city at all times of the day. I found the cordura style texture of the bag to be very nice and and casual as well as completely waterproof. Like other North St. Bags, the Route Nine keeps your stuff dry during a down pour. I was fortunate enough to test it in the rain multiple times and my valuable and electronics have always stayed dry.

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I liked the design so much, that I drew it one day on the train

Summary

If you’re looking for a bag that holds just the right amount of stuff that will look good on and off the bike, the North St. Route Nine is an amazing option. The pannier mounting system could be updated for a little faster mounting, but I think the pros outweigh the cons hands down. It is stylish, durable, comfortable to wear, easy to use, and made in USA! Great job on the bag Curtis.

UPDATE: 

Use coupon code: NSBboyz for 15% off (good until 4/30/14)!

Stuff

h2o

At long last I have joined the front bag brethren. No longer shall  I be subjected to unpackable jackets, sweat drenched arm warmers, moist plastic bags and the dreaded smushed banana. I am now free from the ever shifting overstuffed jersey. The confines of jersey pockets will no longer limit my stuff bringing ability for I am rando. All thanks to one newly installed repaired Nitto M-12 front rack supporting a lovely olive Acorn Boxy Rando Bag with matching Roll Bag.

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Stoken with accompanying flair

To Catch a Bicycle Predator

Last week, I was able to do something that I’ve been dreaming about doing for years. I brought a bike thief to justice. The weekend before I even fist bumped with a barista that was wearing shirt with the text Bicycle Thieves Should Die. The fist bump was not because I believe that the death sentence will solve the problem of bike theft, but because I can empathize with the anger and vulnerability of losing a beloved bicycle. In 2011 my own New-ish Specialized Stumpjumper was stolen out of the Embarcadero BikeLink Locker. Yup, out of a gated bike locker! When I asked to see the ‘security footage’ of my stolen bike the footage was mysteriously lost. The obvious questions is: are bicycle thieves using Electromagnetic Pulse to disable security cameras, or is bicycle theft so prevalent and easy that an insider from BikeLink could do the job? With the footage gone, I guess I’ll never know…

Back to the story! As I walking on Oak Street, I saw someone with two bikes up against a light pole rattling the bike locked to the pole violently. Another younger gentlemen walking in the other direction was staring at fellow agitating the bicycle as well. The younger gentleman and I made eye contact as to acknowledge that we were witnessing an obvious case of bike theft.

“Hey, is that your bicycle?” he asked.

The bike thief looked up and replied “No, my friend said I could borrow it…” His voice trailed off.

The younger gentleman thought quickly and replied “Ok, well I guess you’ll explain the whole thing to the police when they get here.” He proceeded to pull out his cell phone and dialed. At this time, I was standing shoulder to shoulder taking pictures of the crime in progress.

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The thief mumbled “aww man, you don’t need to call the police.” Instead of replying to that the young gentlemen spoke loudly “Hello Officer, I’m currently witnessing a bicycle being stolen on Oak and Van ness” He went on describing the scenario.

30 seconds later, the thief rides away with a flat tire towards Franklin St. I looked at the younger gentleman, still on the phone.

“No, he just left, he headed towards Franklin.”

“No, I can’t see him anymore.”

We both left the scene feeling helpless and bitter. Should we have done anything different? I don’t know. On the train ride to work, I started taking my frustration to twitter:

 

 

 

 

While I wouldn’t guess that this suspect is the ‘professional bike thief’ type that follow their victims as they bike home and break into the garages at night, I certainly believe that SFPD is doing more on their part to curb bike theft overall. What was even more interesting to me is that without SFPD Anti Bike theft on Twitter, SF Bike Coalition, and good Samaritans, the apprehension of the thief would’ve not been possible. In all honesty, even without the other younger gentlemen initiating the conversation with the thief, I’m not sure what I would do. I guess this a good reminder as any to be the be the change you want to see.

Thanks random stranger!

 

#fauxvet 1.0 – Ride Report

Prologue
While it seems like just about everyone gushes about how great it is to live in San Francisco, I occasionally feel out of place in the city and I begin to have an inner monologue about my doubts living here. I’m not trying to be unappreciative of the Bay Area and everything it has to offer (which is a lot) but lately these thoughts have been creeping into my head. Similarly, the movie Blade Runner came to mind a lot in the days leading up to and during the #fauxvet, partly because it’s always frickin’ raining in the movie and California has been recently experiencing a much needed wet season. The film also portrays a dystopian cyberpunk future society and while I don’t think San Francisco’s tech culture has taken us quite in that direction (yet), the film also highlights important themes about what it is to be human. As I began to wonder if my concerns with the city were valid or not, I realized that it’s only human to have these doubts rather than just accepting things at face value.

But you didn’t come here to read my long winded meanderings about geography and films, now did you? JOIN US IN THE FOLLOWING CHAPTERS FOR MUCH MORE EXCITING DETAILS FROM THE BOYZ ON THE HOODS #FAUXVET!

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Chapter I
The 72 hours leading up to the #fauxvet were filled with questions about weather and terrain conditions and honestly no one really had a good answer for what mother nature held in store for us. Yet somehow at the ride start, I counted a total of 22 people who had been suckered into riding with us for the remainder of the day. My immediate feelings were surprise (WHOA PEOPLE ACTUALLY VISIT OUR BLOG!), followed by anxiety (How the hell are we going to manage all these people? Are they going to like our route? Will we be too fast or too slow? Did I wear my bibs inside out again?) and back to excitement (22 PEOPLE!!!!). I tried to shelve all of these concerns and hopefully I was able to convey to the group that a good time was to be had.

The group slowly rolled from San Francisco County and through San Mateo County, minus one Boy on the Hood, who had an “alarm clock mechanical”. This unnamed Boy on the Hood who attempted to rendezvous with the group unfortunately experienced the rare double flat en-route to catching up with us. However using his technical resourcefulness and smart phone vodoo magic, this Boy on the Hood was able to successfully meet us at the entrance to Sweeney Ridge.

With the group fully assembled, the weather looking optimistic and the first dirt section about to begin, my anxieties began to subside. We climbed up Sweeney Ridge and I noticed myself smiling a lot more. As I looked around and admired the scenery, it seemed that many of the other riders seemed to share my sentiments.

The views from atop Sweeney Ridge were nothing short of amazing and the rains from the past week didn’t transform the terrain completely into Play-Doh. Also there were these great puddles that just couldn’t be avoided.

Chapter II
The next section of the route is a great mixed terrain alternative to taking the Highway 1 road route from Pacifica to Half Moon Bay. Sometimes people hear the term “mixed terrain” and they think of the bicycle industry’s portrayal of super tough and gnarly dirt rides/races, but sometimes they just don’t show you the other side of the spectrum, which is filled with RAINBOWS, sunshine and smiles.

From there, the ride turned into a choose your own adventure book. One group opted to head directly to the lunch spot for quicker access to sandwiches, while another group took the scenic coastal route that passed by Pillar Point Bluff, with some riders literally “soaking up the scenery” as an errant ocean wave nearly engulfed us as we rode by.

Chapter III
After a well deserved lunch break at the always dependable San Benito House, the group made its way to the Cowell Ranch trail. It’s a nice and mellow trail that takes you to a scenic overlook of the Pacific Ocean. My favorite part of riding in a large group on nice open trails like these is you can look off into the distance and see the group of riders snaking along the path. It was probably a funny sight to behold if you were just trudging along the seashore that day.

Chapter IV
We had already decided that we were skipping Purisima Creek due to the high chance of mud jammage for our fenderered friends. There was a quick stop at the Bike Hut to check out the facilities (go #biketourism!) before climbing Tunitas Creek.

Now, Tunitas Creek is a beautiful road through the redwoods and I’d like to think that people were too busy admiring the beauty of it to stop and take any photographs. However, the reality is that it’s an arse kicker of a climb and I’m sure everyone couldn’t wait for that climb to be done with. The only reward for climbing Tunitas Creek is a fast and spirited descent through Kings Mountain Road. It was only a short while after that when we were back to the suburbs of the peninsula, riding through streets with signs every block that urged drivers to exercise caution when zipping around in their cars and to think of the children in the neighborhood.

The group stopped at a Whole Foods for some liquid nourishment before the train ride back to San Francisco. However, due to bad time management and some confusing wayfinding, the group ended up scrambling to the Caltrain and unfortunately leaving behind 3 riders (Note: Boyz on the Hoods owes ONE STOKEN to each of these riders). Despite my earlier warnings in the day that the ride would have a “no-drop” policy, it was somewhat unfortunate that it was in the last stretch of the ride (in an urbanized city center no less) that we got separated. Anyways, here’s a picture of the group in happier times back at the bluffs overlooking the ocean at Cowell Ranch:

All in all, it was a very fun adventure and I’m glad everyone decided to brave the weather and hang out with a bunch of fellow bike weirdos. My own trepidations with the Bay Area still exist, but at least on this day I could smile and enjoy the benefits this region has to offer. You can check the Strava link here and also check out the #boyzonthehoods and #fauxvet hashtags for more radness.

Epilogue and also <Blade Runner Spoiler Alert!>
In the penultimate scene of Blade Runner, one of the most memorable lines in science fiction history is uttered:

All those moments will be lost in time… like tears in rain…

In the context of my choice to juxtapose the film with this ride report, this quote came to mind and it really stuck with me. Now you could interpret it in a somewhat pessimistic sense in that all the feelings and memories associated with this ride are only temporary and fleeting. BUT, given all the good vibes that I got from the group, I’m glad to say that the #fauxvet series will continue in the future, so hopefully there will be more opportunities and great adventures to share, so stay tuned for the next #fauxvet route and dates!

#fauxvet 1.0 – Rain or Shine!

A few days until the #Fauxvet 1.0 and inevitably the weather wizards “meteorologists” are calling for rain. So I’m guessing you want to know if this ride will still happen?

Well sometimes it rains, and sometime it POURS. Some of us don’t believe in the rules but since this is America, you’re welcome to believe whatever you want. Period.

FenderZones

Just keep in mind the fender zone etiquette, pack your rain jacket and be prepared for the worst!