Cross Check Resurrectio

The Cross Check holds a venerable spot in Surly’s lineup of quirky, yet practical bicycles. Ostensibly a cyclocross bike, it is sold and marketed more often as an all-rounder, capable of spirited road riding, loaded touring, and everything in between. In the bike snob circles I run, the Cross Check is known as a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none, oftentimes with emphasis on the latter.

I purchased my Cross Check in the summer of 2011 from Box Dog Bikes in San Francisco, with very little idea of what I actually wanted from a bicycle.  Since that day, the bike (named Dottie, after one of my favorite breakfast spots in my old neighborhood) has fully lived up to its reputation, seeing me through my first ever recorded ride on Strava, a handful of cyclocross races (both geared and singlespeed), several seasons of randonneuring, and a 6 day fully loaded tour. With my recently acquired Rock Lobster taking over rando and CX duties, I decided it was time yet again to rebuild Dottie, this time as a commuting/touring combo, heavily influenced by Irving’s Specialized Expedition and the Rivendell philosophy. The bike sports downtube shifters, a Sugino XD2 Wide/Low 40-26 crankset paired with an 11-32 cassette, and 42mm Continental file tread tires in case I decide to take the long way home from work and find myself on a dirt trail.

We here at Boyz on the Hoods HQ strongly believe that touring bikes and commuting bikes have the most crossover in terms of function. Comfort, carrying capacity, and a healthy disregard for a few extra grams all characterize both. Dottie meets all these criteria. Fenders for rainy days, plenty of racks for carrying capacity, and dynamo head and taillights for constant illumination mean I’m always ready to ride my bike, no matter the situation.

Of all the features of this bike, I’m most stoked about the front basket. The convenience of carrying items in a wide open basket where I can keep a close eye on my goods has improved my commuting and grocery shopping experience immeasurably. I’m no longer fumbling with panniers or dealing with a constant layer of backsweat from a backpack. As a bonus, the Nitto Randonneur bars have enough flare in the drops that the basket doesn’t get in the way of any of my typical hand positions on the bike — hoods, tops, ramps, or drops.

Dottie won’t be winning any races, but when the Big One hits, she’ll surely be my vehicle of choice for surviving the wreckage.

SFR Del Puerto Canyon 200k

The Del Puerto Canyon 200k is a favorite of many San Francisco Randonneurs and I had the pleasure of riding it last year with some good friends. This year I was the lone boy on the hood available for the ride but I still made plans to attend as it was the last sanctioned ride of the year. The situation brought back dreaded memories of high school social gatherings and college parties where I had so much anxiety about who I would socialize with during the festivities. I tried to shove back the memories of awkward social interactions and hoped for the best.

I ended up volunteering for the start control of the ride which meant catching the 5:58am train from the 24th St Mission BART station. It was nice to meet all the other generous souls who help assist in making brevets go that much smoother. With about 130 riders showing up at the start control, it was important to handle all the sign-in’s and distribute brevet cards effectively. In the midst of the madness, I saw some familiar faces and exchanged greetings but I was trying to get everyone signed up until the final minute of the ride so I totally forgot to put on gloves or a vest, and ended up riding the first 10 miles of the ride looking like a total rebel (truth be told, I was freezing).

The first quarter of the ride is pretty forgettable but it was nice to sit in the pack and chat with familiar faces. Once the pack began to separate from one another, I found myself with Manny “Unraveling Bar Tape” Acosta and Mr. Quarterly Bicycle.

Manny was his good ol’ jovial self, and we talked about life, the universe and everything. Mr. Quarterly Bicycle proved he was a scholar by pointing out the different types of trees (ghost pines, he calls em’) and birds spotted along the route. He also demonstrated that he was a gentleman by making sure to grab my wallet which had unknowingly hopped out of my box bag after the second control. Later on, he simply proved that he is just a rando hooligan.

It isn’t until the halfway mark of the ride that I think the route begins to become extraordinarily beautiful. It’s desolate, yet stunning at the same time. Of course, the hottest time of the day also had to coincide with the section with the only major climbs of the route.

By the time we reached The Junction Cafe everyone was in the mood to just hang out. Which was good, as the tiny cafe was swarmed by the group of hungry randonneurs which lead to a long wait time for food. We sat around, shared stories, and I even got some good advice from “Ol Grumpy” who told me the forgotten rule of rando is to just stop caring. It sounds simple enough, but often times during brevets I develop so much anxiety about the weather, the road conditions, the directions and the next control point, that it’s nice to just remember to mellow out.

I spent the last section of the ride with Carlos D, Stephen H, and Jack Moonbeam and before I knew it we were back at the Starbucks in Pleasanton.

It’s been two full seasons since I first started randonneuring and I realized I still have a lot to learn. One common thing I heard during the ride was that many riders mentioned reading about this pseudo brevet and expressing awe and amazement at the photos and words that accompanied the ride report. That’s all fine and dandy but I think riders need to remember that “impossible is nothing” and that just because they don’t have fancy support wagons and sponsors out the wazoo, it doesn’t make their rides any less worthy of applause. I definitely saw proof as I rode along side 130 or so riders who completed this ride and now have equally interesting stories to pass along.

Crappy photos courtesy of me, while the snazzier photos are provided courtesy of Manny Acosta