U.S. Made vs Taiwanese Made

Really interesting read by Mike Varley of Black Mountain Cycles about his Taiwanese made Black Mountain Cycles Road and Monster Cross frames compared with the same U.S. made frame (by Cameron Falconer).

True story, I stopped by Black Mountain Cycles in the middle of a 200k brevet to have my brake pads replaced and said it’d be a cool control point receipt. Mike told me it wasn’t that cool because last year, a customer stopped by during a brevet, dropped off his current bike and picked up his previously ordered Black Mountain Cycles road bike and rode that to the finish.

Alpine Damn

Last year, some friends and I organized a ride to Alpine Dam with great success. We had a good turnout and fun times were had by all, so I figured with the arrival of my new Rawland Stag, an Alpine Dam redux would be a great opportunity to test my bike fit. This past saturday, we had 10 people show up at the ride start with half of the group opting for a Paradise loop, and the other half doing the full Alpine Dam loop with Carlin and I.

The weather was typical for a Bay Area summer day, but one rider from Southern California who joined our ride commented: “I don’t know how you dudes ride in that kind of weather. It was fucking miserable today!” I guess it’s all relative, as I thought it was the perfect weather throughout the day.

In this day and age of social media and online bike forums, we were given ample warning about the concentrated effort by the Fairfax Police Department to ticket cyclists. Still, the first bummer of the day resulted when Eric received a ticket… for rolling a stop sign in Fairfax. We continued on and it became drastically sunnier as we headed up to Alpine Dam.

Here is a picture of my new bike. I had made some changes to the bike fit prior to the ride, and was very satisfied with swapping to a zero setback seatpost, an 80mm stem and chopping a lot of the steerer tube off. I look forward to putting more miles on this thing and writing up a proper review.

The weather continued to drastically change throughout the ride. Right before the Seven Sisters rolling hills, it was extremely wet on the ground and there was an eerie and foggy atmosphere.

However a couple miles afterwards, it went back to loads of sunshine to compliment the rolling hills.

Bummer #2 of the day resulted when Eric went down on the descent near Panoramic Highway. This resulted in some scuffed up bib shorts, a broken shifter and a wounded ego. Somehow we were able to make it back to San Francisco without anymore mishaps, but I guess some days the bike gods just have it out for you.

#bdbsummercamp / S180

So last week after an unusually stressful few days at work, I rushed home early on a Friday afternoon and grabbed my touring bike off the rack to head over to Box Dog for their overnight camping trip. A few staff members greeted me with the usual friendly hello but gave me a funny look as I rolled in with my full touring gear. I suddenly realized in my overzealousness, I had mistakenly believed the trip was scheduled for Friday evening when it was actually planned for a Saturday evening. Whoops!

Fast forward to the actual departure time on Saturday evening, a small group of us gathered and headed to Haypress Campground. This was my first camping trip with my newly installed Wald 137 front basket zip tied to my Nitto Campee front rack. It was pretty awesome being able to load a bag of burritos and some other camping stuff directly into the basket and secure it with a cargo net.

Before leaving the city, we made a quick stop to the liquor store to pick up some thirst quenchers for the evening and a couple bags of Fritos (more on this later). It was a bit windier than usual when crossing the Golden Gate Bridge but the fifteen miles to the campground was pretty uneventful and mellow. I’ve been on the Mill Valley-Sausalito bike path a bajillion times but it was cool to discover that a short deviation from the path would lead to some awesome campground action.


We arrived at the campground just before sunset and were surrounded by a thin layer of fog and mist. After quickly setting up our campsite, we started prepping the food. The menu for dinner was a South Western regional specialty known as Frito Pie. Throw in some chili, black beans, and a can of corn, and you essentially have a Frito Pie stew going. You add Fritos to the bottom of your bowl or cup and spoon on the stew concoction, and then add in whatever toppings you want (we had green onions, cheese and some chorizo). This turned out to be seriously good eats, and I love short camping trips because you can bling out your meals.

Afterwards some people went down to the beach and others stayed by the camp and made some hot toddies. As the night winded down, I realized I had lost track of time. Only after glancing at my phone did I realize I was all tuckered out and ready to be in bed by 11:00pm.

The next morning, we woke up and prepped a quick breakfast of oatmeal and a few rounds of coffee. Trash was gathered and packing ensued, and just like that we were already heading back to the city.

We left on a Saturday evening at 6:00pm and were back in the city at noon on Sunday. I know Rivendell pioneered the S240 but I believe Box Dog Bikes may be onto something with their inadvertent S180.

Sometimes I get sick of hearing/reading all the silly stereotypes about the Bay Area and it’s nice to get away from the city and remove yourself from that cliché narrative. Although, I realize I am probably just creating a new narrative (hipster goes bike camping, reflects on life, feels redeemed, before returning to his apartment in “trendy” neighborhood) that will probably be replicated by some magazine or publication (I’ve got my eye on you Vice and The Bold Italic).

Reminiscing of Portland

It’s been two weeks since I’ve returned home from a trip to Portland with some friends and I still can’t get over my cycling infrastructure induced euphoria. I had heard so many stories from friends, the bicycle community and urban planning case studies about how Portland is such a good model for cycling and it certainly did not disappoint.

Even though I was riding a borrowed vintage single speed Monarch bicycle with a coaster brake and riding sans a helmet, I felt safer than any other major city I’ve biked in. The automobile drivers were courteous, the signage was more than adequate and the terrain was surprisingly flat.

From a city planning perspective, it seemed simple enough to just throw down bike lanes, sharrows and roundabouts everywhere and have automobile traffic adapt and react to the infrastructure rather than forcing cyclists or pedestrians into dangerous situations. Even in downtown Portland, my friends and I were amazed to discover there were streets where the bike lane was as wide as the automobile lane.

It’s frustrating that in Los Angeles and San Francisco there needs to be so many pilot programs or impact reports before any type of substantial changes to infrastructure can be made, but in the past few years many things have changed and improvements for pedestrians and cyclists are looking optimistic.

On top being able to take in all the awesome cycling infrastructure, I was also able to visit Velo Cult, which serves almost as a bicycle museum/shop, and coffee and beer garden. Definitely some interesting bicycles up in the rafters and some nice art on the walls.

While I was there, I was also able to chat with local framebuilder Joshua Bryant about the randonneuring scene in Oregon and geek out at some racks and other frame modifications he was performing in the back room.

VeloCult01

VeloCult02

All in all, it may seem like Portland is cycling mecca but I had to keep in mind that I was visiting during the lovely summertime and didn’t have to deal with the dreadful rainy seasons. Despite their shortcomings, I’ve still come to appreciate the unique cycling cultures in San Francisco and Los Angeles.

Emilee the Host

Day 4

The last day. After a whole night of soaking in what we thought was heavy rain (turns it was just really heavy fog catching on the trees above us). We rode 30 meters away from our campsite and it was bright bright sunlight. The feeling of warmth was just as quickly restored as the enjoyment of being in the outdoors. We rolled down to the house of my old co-worker, Emilee, in Mill Valley. She cooked us an amazing brunch of french toast, freshly cut fruit, and bacon. As Tanya said, “It was like we never woke up, and just dreamt all of this up.” I agreed with her. It was amazing.

Something was so magical about being in a home. I guess living in San Francisco makes me think everyone lives in an apartment with 2-3 roommates, but having a home was different. It was more than living alone. It felt warm and welcoming.

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pantoll

The Dirty Way to Pantoll

Day 3

I was super excited to take Tanya on one of my favorite climbs in the Bay Area: Old Railroad Grade. Carlin and Irving were here recently to go up for Sunday morning pancakes at West Point Inn. This time I was on this trail fully loaded to camp at Pantoll Station. For those who haven’t camped at Pantoll, it’s amazing. 1.) Hike or Bike campground is only $5 a person and it’s a nice site. 2.) It’s a nice ride up there 3.) The bathrooms are really nice 4.) There’s even a sink with incredibly high water pressure to wash your stuff 5.) They always make room for people who hike and bike in 6.)It’s at the end of my favorite hiking trail: Steep Ravine Trail 7.) It’s all downhill to Mill Valley the next morning 8.) best downhill ever!

Route: Mission -> Pantoll (the dirty way)

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It was always fun meeting people you know

It was always fun meeting people you know

Fully loaded

Fully loaded

T$ Taking a Refreshing Dip

T$ Taking a Refreshing Dip

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Cloud City

Cloud City

Beast Mode

Beast Mode

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The Long Solo Ride From Lake Chabot to Palo Alto

Day 2

It was a brisk morning in Lake Chabot. I woke to the chattering of a nearby campsite and soon came to the realization that BART was still on strike. Getting back to the city would prove to be a little more arduous than I thought it would be. I had some trails in mind to check out on the south east bay and was eager to check them out so I planned my route to go from Lake Chabot -> Castro Valley -> Hayward Shoreline Trail -> Union City -> Fremont Coyote Hill Park -> Dumbarton Bridge -> Palo Alto and Cal Train back home. I figured it would be pretty flat and chill all the way.

Route: Lake Chabot to Palo Alto

So much open space!

So much open space!

I love wooden bridges

I love wooden bridges

Overall the ride was great! Hayward Shoreline Trail was the best of them all. A long and slightly winding fire road that swept in and out from the shore characterized the trail. It went over wooden bridges and passed by a scattered benches. Mostly empty wide open space. This was the good stuff. Perfect beginner gravel grinding territory. I look forward to planning another trip with the Boyz on the Hoods and friends (girls included).

Union City to Fremont. Sucked. Felt like I was biking in the Inland Empire of Orange County. No bike lanes with cars going 40+ mph zooming by.

Smelly

Smelly

Fremont’s Coyote Hill Park started with a huge huge headwind; however, after pushing through there were really really nice rolling paved ‘single track’ that overlooked this weird salt/algae bed. Whatever the case, it was borderline intolerable with odor. I can generally tolerate entering foul bathrooms and riding through Fremont reminded me of just that. It wasn’t enough to turn me around (nor did I have a choice) but it was still disgusting. It’s a shame, the trails in Coyote Hills Park are very nice otherwise.

Dumbarton

Dumbarton Bridge is certainly the worst of all the bridges in the bay area to ride bikes on. Don’t get me wrong, the ability to cross the bridge with a bike is appreciated, but it was still the worst. To keep my rant short, I’ll just put it in list form: riddled with glass, low barriers to the very fast traffic, still smelly from Fremont, exposed to sun and wind, trucks gave off huge draft, did I mention glass everywhere? It’s obvious that nobody has ever cleaned Dumbarton Bridge. Thanks to Jack Brown Blues I made it across unscathed.
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If you’re ever in East Palo Alto eat at Back A Yard Caribbean. I was blown away with their jerk chicken, plantains and mango pineapple juice.

All in all a good day. Although I ended the day with about 50+ miles (getting lost here and there) and my hands hurt from riding my single position Albatross bars.

‘Merican Camp Vibes

 

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Day 1

Even with Bart down, Geoff from Box Dog Bikes still managed to put together an awesome mini tour. I was only able to join for the first night at Lake Chabot, but I’m glad I camped out because it was so much fun! After we ferried across to Alameda and rode through San Leandro, we arrived at a very crowded Lake Chabot. With a little more trail riding, steep dirt climbing, and a beer pit stop, we finally arrived at Honker Bay campground. We were very fortunate to secure the last available campground. It was my first time meeting Olivia and Jessie, but it really didn’t feel like it. An overstuffed burrito, 3 beers and a dragon tattoo later, it felt as if we had already become old friends. I look forward to camping again with these guys.

 

 

 

killing it

The bad ass rule breaking Olivia

The bad ass rule breaking Olivia

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Fireworks from the city

Fireworks from the city