Monday, December 25, 2017

Tried and Liked 2017

It's tried-and-liked time again! You can find all previous editions here.


Bike blogging

Okay, I gotta say it: Ride or Pie?! has been around since 2009, and despite various threads decrying the "decline of the interesting bike blog," I still enjoy writing and reading about bike stuff in blogs. Instagram et al. are great for what they are, and many once great bike blogs have disappeared. But there are still lots of good ones out there and I have no intention of discontinuing my bloggage.

Collecting Tiles

I'm way too slow to chase KOMs on Strava. I do like bike-related challenges, though, and so I was very excited to discover Veloviewer's tile explorer. It's a little complicated to explain, but basically a map is divided into squares of a certain size, about 1.5 by 1.5 kilometers (0.93 miles). Based on your Strava data, whenever you ride through one tile, it gets added to your collection. You can aim to maximize the overall number of tiles you have collected, or even better you can try to connect the little tiles into an ever larger square of contiguous tiles. Which, of course, gets exponentially more difficult.
Collecting tiles has been a great motivator to a) ride a lot and b) ride on roads that I had never ridden before. Once you have found a good route, it's easy to just keep doing it over and over again, instead of exploring new roads.
I'm currently up to 16x16 squares. Lakes are one big obstacle to expanding your square, and I'm waiting for some larger lakes in Madison to freeze over so that I close some important holes in my collection.

Solo bike touring California

Definitely the highlight of the year! I rode for seven days through Marin, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. Ride reports here:

Front-load-only touring

Related: I'm convinved now by the concept of only having a front load on a low-trail camping bike. For my California trip, almost all of my luggage was in my handlebar bags and two large panniers attached to a lowrider rack. Worked great!

Occasional single-track mountain biking

I bought my Pugsley fat bike last year first and foremost as a winter bike. But even in Wisconsin, winter only last so long. I've come to enjoy the occasional MTB outing on the local trails. Madison has several trail systems that are within riding distance from my home. I especially like hitting the trails as a short-but-intense riding option on days when I don't really feel like riding on the roads.

Carradice on the fat bike

One problem with my fat bike was that I needed to figure out how to carry things on it. On my regular bike I either have a rear rack for panniers or a randonneur-style handlebar bag. Instead of spending money on a frame bag or similar, I figured I may as well first try what I already had: A Carradice Nelson saddle bag with a Bagman support rack. I was a little skeptical how well the Bagman would hold up on a mountain bike -- even for on-road use, the rails would occasionally slide out of the mounting block. I modded that system a while ago, replacing the tiny grub screws with more meaty regular screws, as well as filing flats onto the rails to give the screw a larger point of contact. All in all this has proven to be strong enough for mountain bike use. The Carradice bag does not noticeably impact the handling of the bike. The only exception is that I can't drop behind the saddle for steep descents. I'm cool with that.

Carradice Nelson on my Pugsie


The cold season was the perfect time to give my Gunnar Roadie a facelift. The notorious quality of Waterford paint jobs of yesteryear had left me with a frame with a lot of spots where the paint had chipped or scratched. Waterford will repaint your bike (and from what I know, their paint quality is much better nowadays), but the price is steep. Based on multiple recommendations from the iBOB list, I decided to have the frame powdercoated by Groody Bros. in Kansas City. I can highly recommend them: Communication was great (all via email), you can choose from any powder color imaginable (you order the powder from any supplier you like and have it shipped to Groody), the price was right, and the quality was excellent. I also used the opportunity to get the chainstays dimpled to improve tire clearance. And having a matching frame, fork, and steam is great. Because I rode the bike so much, including a lot of gravel, I never had the opportunity for a glamour photo shoot. Hopefully next year.

Have I mentioned that I like pink?


My Gunnar wasn't the only bike that got a new color. In fall I used the Spray.Bike paint products to give it an awesome new paint job. Read the full report here.

Pari Moto and Compass tires

I have ridden enough on both 38mm Pari Motos as well as 42mm Compass tires. With some patience, you can pick up a Pari Moto for less than $30 shipped. That's less than half of what Compass tires with regular casing cost, and I don't think that Compass tires last twice as long as the Pari Motos. One day I'll spring for a Compass Extralights, but I just can't get myself to spend that much money on a tire when cheaper options as good as the Pari Moto are available.

Tubus Logo Classic stainless steel rear rack

To repaint my Cross-Check, I needed to strip down the frame. I already knew that the aluminum rear rack was badly rusted in place. But I had at least some hope that I may be able to salvage the rack. Not so much, and so I had the opportunity to upgrade from the unsightly Jandd rack to a Tubus. For a bike that gets ridden year-round, a stainless rack seemed ideal. I opted for the Tubus Logo Classic in stainless steel. Ordering directly from Germany, it wasn't too expensive, and I'm very happy with its looks and functionality. Having the second set of rails to hook up panniers is great.

Antritt podcast

If you understand German, I highly recommend the monthly Antritt podcast. It's the first and only bike podcast that has ever appealed to me. It's professionally produced and has a great mix of topics, ranging from history to policy and bike tech.


Velo Orange cranks

One of the lessons from my California tour was that I needed lower gearing for my SOMA Grand Randonneur. In my search for a cheap sub-compact crank, I was offered an early-generation Velo Orange set. Sadly, I have not been able to make that crank work: After several attempts of buying ever wider bottom brackets, I ended up with a set-up that works, kind of. With a 122mm bottom bracket, the cranks clear the chain stays, but with so little room to spare that they do rub on hard efforts. Filing the ends of the crank made it slightly better, but I can still make them rub. And with a 122mm bottom bracket, the chainline is less than ideal. I'm not sure if the design of my cranks is different from the current generation VO cranks or if it's a quirk of the Grand Randonneur, but I definitely need to come up with a different solution.
Not enough clearance

Brooks Cambium

Many people love their Cambium saddles; I do not. The saddle is okay-but-not-great in terms of comfort for a bike that rarely sees rides longer than 3 hours. But the saddle doesn't age well. In its current state, the top looks ratty. For a saddle with an MSRP of $160, that is not for me.

Panaracer Pasela

The unbelted version of the Pasela is generally well liked as an affordable tire with decent rolling resistance and comfort. A while back I had picked up a pair of NOS Paselas in 32mm width at a garage sale. After my Vittoria Randonneur Hyper had worn through, I finally put the Paselas on—and didn't like them. They felt stiffer than the Vittorias, and the sidewalls showed signs of disintegration quickly. After less than a year on the bike, one of the sidewalls failed. I'm done with Paselas.


Drop bar Bar Mitts

Last year I wrote that I really liked my drop-bar-specific Bar Mitts. Since then I have discovered that they do have one problem: By allowing for only hand position, my hands go numb after about 45 minutes of riding. It's a relatively small trade-off and my hands go back to normal with a brief stop. It's also possible that choosing a different size (I think when I bought mine they only came in one size) or a different handlebar shape would alleviate the issue.

Philips Saferide condensation issues

After singing the praises of the generator-hub-powered Philips Saferide front light last year, I have sad news to report: A few weeks ago I noticed that the light beam looked different. And then the standlight failed as well, with the light turning itself off whenever I stopped. On closer inspection I noticed that moisture has gotten into the light. For now I've replaced the Philips with a BUMM light from one of my other bikes. I'll see if maybe I can get the moisture out of the light, but I'm not very hopeful.

Friday, November 24, 2017

#coffeeneuring, the final ride: Bradbury's Coffee

It was the last day of the coffeeneuring challenge, and I wanted to get one final ride in. On a recommendation from my friend Kevin, I picked Bradbury's Coffee near the State Capitol as my destination. The plan was to have coffee there and then loop around Lake Mendota. Tired legs from the previous day and the bitterly cold wind made me reconsider—and then I also heard back from someone who was selling a tandem on Craigslist. So I hung out at Mother Fools for a while and then checked out the tandem. Sadly, it was sold to someone else in the end.
Pretty ice on the Lakeshore Path
The excellent "featured espresso." Expensive, but worth it.
Bradbury's is a small place, and it was busy on a Sunday

Extreme manspreading: The guy took up three seats and refused to give up any of them

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

#coffeneuring, Bike Bingo, and a side of cyclocross

Coffeeneuring season is over, and I have a few ride reports to catch up on. This one is from late October. Madison Bike Bingo was still going on and so I combined getting a stamp from Manna Cafe with seeing a cyclocross race, and checking out a new-to-me coffee shop, What's Brew'N, in Sun Prairie. I also added a few roads to my collection.

Manna Cafe was very busy on a Sunday morning and it took me a while to get my Bike Bingo stamp

At the race in Sun Prairie. There was a fierce cold wind, which prevented me from staying there very long
The giraffe is always watching
The kids enjoyed throwing balls at riders in the sand pit

What's Brew'N is your typical suburban coffee shop

Inspirational posters and knick-knacks for sale...

...and rather mediocre coffee.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

#coffeneuring 2017: Cranksgiving

Yesterday I had the opportunity to combine a coffeeneuring ride with Cranksgiving. Cranksgiving is a combination of a food drive and an alley cat bike race. You get a manifesto with a number of supermarkets and items that you have to buy at each of them. The event started in 1999 in New York City, and as I learned from Jon Kendziera of Jonny Cycle, a veteran of the Madison bike scene, Madison had a couple Cranksgivings in the early 2000s. After a long hiatus, the event made it back to Madison.

Thanks to one of the sponsors, Cafe Domestique, there was good coffee at the start/finish at Revolution Cycles, allowing me to check off another coffeeneuring ride on the final weekend.

The alley cat was great fun, despite strong winds. My knowledge of the street and path network in Madison paid off and I finished second (in spite of a mishap where I lost my manifest and had to backtrace my route to find it again...). Sorry, not too many pictures, as I was too busy racing :)
A last minute tire change was in order... The Panaracer Paselas have been a real disappointment 

Start/finish at Revolution Cycles

Tasty Intelligentsia coffee, courtesy of Cafe Domestique

Le Mans-style start, with people placing their bikes on a green space and running there from the start location
Awards ceremony (Photo credit: Billy Calkins)

Friday, November 17, 2017

#coffeneuring 2017 #coffeeoutside at Donald County Park

Another gray coffeeneuring trip, this time to Donald County Park near Mount Horeb. With temperatures not much above freezing, #coffeeoutside was a somewhat cold affair. 

Townhall Road is one of my favorite roads around Madison, and it does indeed have a town hall
Military Ridge Trail at Neptune

Donald Rock
Ice Age Trail just outside of Madison

One of my favorite sounds

To combine the pleasurable with the useful, I checked out some new bike infrastructure on the west side and shot video footage for Madison Bikes.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

#coffeeneuring 2017: #coffeeoutside at Lake Kegonsa State Park

It was a dark and stormy night. Okay, it wasn't quite dark yet, and the wind was strong but didn't quite qualify as "stormy." After a slow Sunday I overcame the urge to just spend the rest of the day on the couch and went on another coffeeneuring excursion. My destination was Lake Kegonsa State Park, via Lower Yahara River Trail.

Wingra Park, with lots of geese

We haven't had much sun lately

New bike repair station in McFarland

Cute "Fish Tales" Little Free Library at a boat landing

Much of Lake Kegonsa is surrounded by private property. Public access is rare, and even the state park has little frontage on the water.

Lake Kegonsa State Park

On the menu: Just Coffee Humdinger, ground with a Zassenhaus Santiago and brewed with my Bialetti

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

#coffeneuring 2017: Stone Creek Coffee

My 2017 coffeeneuring season started slow: Instead of doing a 200-kilometer brevet, I let the weather forecast change my plans. Heavy rain was forecast all day, and so I snuck out early to ride to Stone Creek Coffee on Madison's east side. I had been to their Milwaukee location before, which is very pretentious but does serve great coffee. The pourover coffee I had here in Madison in contrast was mediocre. I suspect they may not have given it enough time to brew.
24 kilometers total distance, and lots of rain indeed.

It was football game day.

Marching band practice, as per usual with lots of bikes

Lakefront path

Stone Creek Coffee on East Washington Ave

My not-so-great pourover

Bathroom wall decoration

Made a detour to Batch Bakehouse to get a bingo stamp and tasty baked goods

Grey, grey, grey