Last week, I left Seattle for a 4-day trek down the coast to the Bay area for a special ride with folks from Rivendell and the RBW Owners Bunch .
I left on Thursday around 3:30pm, and after some initial slow traffic out of Seattle, hit Portland around 7:30pm to pick up some guys from last year’s Seattle/Portland Riv Rumble.
I also met the infamous Coconut Bill and Hugh Smitham from SoCal! Both were up in Portlandia scoping out a future. Hugh grabbed a ride with us on his return south, so we had a full truck of bikes and bike nerds!
Around 2:30am we ran out of steam just south of Shasta (northern California) and pulled into a rest stop to… well… rest?
We unrolled the bedrolls and slept under a tree until I felt some rain drops around 5am and sounded the alarm. A quick pack up in the cloudburst revived us enough to make it all the way down to Rivendell World Headquarters by around 10am. It was Aaron’s first time to HQ, so he rode every bike model they had (OK, Andy and I rode a few, as well). Vince was great in accommodating us making us some tasty espresso, and helping with the bike fitting.
This is where we parted ways with Hugh, who was going to meet up with some pals at Samuel P Taylor State Park on Friday night. Andy, Aaron, and I had other plans, however. We had to ditch the truck (Thanks Tommy!) in San Leandro, and BART back to Walnut Creek for a special ride with Tommy, Manny and friends up to Shell Ridge for a bit of guerilla camping under the stars. This was a serious blast, and actually an inaugural S24O for me and my Hunqapillar. I finally got to load ‘er up and ride up some hills!
Manny (Manuel Acosta) is an active list member who is known for his photography of the local Rivendell riding grounds around the bay area (Shell Ridge, Mt. Diablo, China Camp), and his amazing adventures on his summers off with pals (he is a teacher). He certainly lived up to his reputation – a natural ride leader with boundless energy and enthusiasm. He welcomed all of us like old friends, and took us on some amazing trails in Shell Ridge, an area a mile away from Rivendell HQ. His Sam Hillborne is an amazing testament to hard use and beausage (beautiful usage), as well. He’s done everything from camping/touring to mountain bike racing to 300k brevets on this thing. Talk about versatility!
We camped out on a flat hilltop in the wind-burned dry grass.
A few of us followed Manny and the locals for some mountain biking around the area, and I found out how much fun a fully rigid bike is on these trails. Even with a large basket on front, and a big back bag! Tire note – the Clement MSOs ripped it! No issues with traction or flats all weekend – and plenty of sharp objects and dusty washouts were traversed. The Albastache bars were spot on for this sort of riding, as well.
At this point, I was pretty popped, so sleep came quickly. We had a great breeze, and a few folks stayed up chatting into the night, but the SEA/PDX crew crashed hard.
The next morning we had some coffee and a few dry bits of food, and headed back down to the BART station to rendezvous with folks in San Francisco for ride up to China Camp, the official site of the Entmoot. Here we loaded up on some breaky and hardy bits to bring camping, and also met the next level of the list contingent. Lots of amazing people came together for this ride. All sizes and shapes! Manny (5′er) rode Amit’s (6’7″?) Bombadil, and there was much laughing.
After the full assembly and some photos, we headed off to cross the Golden Gate, and rode north through Sausalito, Larkspur, and San Rafael, before arriving at our destination. This was a fun ride – easy, low-key, and allowed us to really see the north bay area. Lots of bikes, and all were met with Manny ringing his bell, and Amit ringing and waving! This caught on to the whole group. We definitely looked a bit out of place from the lycra crowd, but everyone was friendly.
At China Camp, we found five folks from Rivendell, including Grant Petersen himself, as well as Rich Lesnik (wheelbuilder) joining us for the overnight. We got ourselves unpacked and situated, and just walked around talking and meeting all the great folks we had gotten to know only through their list posts. It’s really amazing how cool this group of folks is in person!
I was lined up to do a demo of harlequin bar wrapping with some bars that Joe Bunik brought along, but I had to try to catch Manny and his cohorts, who had taken off on another mountain biking trek in the hills surrounding China Camp. This riding really reminded me of the trails in Seattle, only much, much dryer! I never did catch them, but I passed a couple guys climbing the ridge in full gear on dual suspension bikes. I’m sure they were surprised by my helmetless, sandle-wearing, basket/bagged Hunqa thundering by them up the ridge. After dusting up my legs, I returned to camp and had some dinner, meeting more folks in the process, including Hugh who had returned from the other state park. I had some great chats with Grant P about his new HAR racks and bags, and Rich Lesnick who had started his career at Boeing in Seattle. Then it was time for the bar wrapping session with Joe.
This was interrupted (hope you got the bars done, Joe!) by an amazing raffle that the Riv folks held for the Entmooters. We all got a patch commemorating the event, and several of us were lucky enough to win some cool gear including soaps, bags, and even a hatchet! I came out of it with a reflective triangle for the Hunq.
We had to hit the trail early the next morning so as to make the 9am ferry out of Larkspur. I was up pretty early, so brewed up a few shots of coffee on the Trangia. Great stove, BTW. Roger checked out my Seattle beans and compared the roast to his home-roasted batches. Wow – coffee and bike geekery is a common thread here.
I got a couple of last goodbyes and photos with the folks that made this all happen.
After some rejuvenating beverages, we headed on out for a fine morning ride back to the ferry and civilization. S48O complete!
The ride back up to Portlandia and Seattle was fairly uneventful, although more could be written about this adventure as it involved cleanup and lunch bought by Tommy’s dad when we returned to the truck, a three-hour last stop at Bike, Book, and Hatchet, and a search for a good liquor store where I could find some nice Islays, and other strange drinks for Aaron (??). We had a beautiful sunset on the way past Shasta – it always seems to be a picturesque place when I go through this part of the country.
We made it to within 90 miles before I became bleary-eyed and had to stop at another rest stop for some shut-eye. Up to Andy’s early and a goodbye breakfast at Bertie-Lou’s (um, yum!). Great trip! I really can see this becoming an annual trek.
Backdrop: in 1994, Grant Petersen left Bridgestone when they folded their US bicycle operation, and started a small mail-order bicycle business that he named after a backpack company and elf city of literary fame. The business slowly grew with like-minded cyclists who feel steel, leather, lugs, and Grant’s relaxed geometry exemplifies a quality ride. As the internet became popular around the same timeframe, a newsgroup was formed and dedicated to discussions of Rivendell bikes and ethics. This branched out of the original iBOB list (Bridgestone Owners Bunch) that had quite a following. RBW was born, and has blossomed into 2000+ users. It’s a real community of like-minded, friendly folks from around the world.
My folks are visiting Washington this summer to escape the heat of Arizona. My mom had a bike with her (an older Japanese Soma from the 80s), but my dad was out of luck. I happened to have a pretty good solution in the Miyata that I had relegated to “lunch ride” bike. The cockpit wasn’t going to work, however. Way too hunched over for a 72-year-old. The genius of Rivendell’s Bosco bars came to the rescue. I showed him an Albatross setup, as well, but he wanted the higher bars. After an interesting start launching off the driveway wall, he was underway. I lowered the seat a bit, but otherwise the bike fit him just right. Look at that upright position he’s able to get on a laid out ’88 downhill MTB large frame! Not bad!
I’ll miss this one this summer, but will make due with the alternates. I’m glad this bike is still finding a home with someone who will be able to enjoy it. It deserves to be ridden for a few more decades. Lugged steel!
After my brief flirtation with a bigger tire on my Hilsen, I’m back to the real original version. Jack Brown 33.3s. They actually measure just under 34mm, so only 3 or 4 mm smaller than the Barlows. Who knew! They feel great, and I don’t have as much toe overlap with this setup.
I noticed how much this bike is like the “new” rando I’ve been taking on the longer rides this year. Slightly different geometry on the frames, different tire size, but really close to the same measurements at the body contact points. Here are two side by sides:
A. Homer Hilsen
I’m using the same seat, bars, and cranks. Pedals will soon be the same if I can make up my mind on the clipless of choice. There is one main difference I could feel today on my ride home. The bars on the Hilsen are 2cm above seat height. On the Routier, they are only 1cm above the seat. This was changed as soon as i got home as I’ve been plenty comfortable on the Routier this season, and the Hilsen actually felt a bit odd – like I was riding a “comfort” setting. It was not feeling quite the same in the power output. With the bars dropped, and a test ride to confirm, I now have a spare rando bike (it was actually the original brevet bike and did just fine for the past two seasons).
Now I just need to get the time to actually devote a day to a ride!
After putting 38mm tires (Compass Barlow Pass) and new fenders (VO Zeppelins) on my Hilsen, and riding them for a month or so, I have the following observations.
I am slowly coming to the realization that I like smaller, fatter wheels on road bikes, but if I’m on a 700c, 33.3mm is the most I need. On both the Hunqapillar and my Hilsen the favorite tires for pure road riding have been either Gran Bois Cypres or Rivendell Jack Brown (Greens). Both combos make the bikes feel fast, agile, and just “right”. They also do a good enough job to absorb road bumps that I don’t feel beat up even after a long (200k/300k) ride. When I have a bigger tire (35mm+) on a 700c wheel, the bike feels a bit ponderous.
I really want to like the Barlows – but they are just not Hetres, and they aren’t feeling significantly better or more comfortable than the Cypres/JBs. I don’t know if the added volume makes the toe overlap worth the bother. I also like the hammered Honjo fenders I had on this bike. They added a touch of class…
I’ve been a bit absent from posting lately. I just got back from a family spring break vacation, and it was actually somewhat bike related. Back in ’94, I took my first road trip to Southern Utah canyon country and fell in love. I had my ’92 Stumpjumper Pro with at the time, and my brother in law and I rode the famous Slickrock Trail in Moab. It was a memorable experience, and caused a few repeat visits over the next few years. My last time there was in ’97 when a friend and I rented a jeep and some bikes and did a portion of the trail in addition to jeeping around the White Rim trail in Canyonlands.
“Slickrock” is sandstone laid down during the Jurassic period (200 million years ago). This area of Utah was once a giant inland sea, as well as a desert the size of the modern Sahara. Over time the dunes and seafloor were compressed into the sandstone, and then erosion took over to sculpt the landscape into a serious wonder. The Slickrock trail is like a stroll across frozen sand dunes. Well – more like a struggle to get through them over and over again. The really cool thing about mountain biking on these is the amazing traction and grades that you can climb. The traction is like sandpaper pavement. When I was there in the ’90s, some folks were using nearly slick tires – kind of early cross tires. The knobbies only help in the fairly infrequent sandy drainage areas eroded at the bottoms of some of the rock dunes, and are as worthless on the slick rock as they are on pavement.
If you look at this picture, you can see the white painted trail on the rock. This is the only way you will find your way back to the parking lot before you pass out from lack of water! Seriously, it’s not too bad in the spring and fall. The temps were in the 70s (F) while we were there. You still need to pack water – a 64-128 oz size camelback would be the best option if you choose to do the entire trail depending on the time of year. I would also suggest bringing some energy food with – you will need it. This trail is listed as advanced/strenuous.
I only had time to do the practice loop (2 miles) this time, but I’m not in my 20′s anymore either. I can tell you that randonneuring doesn’t prepare one for slick rock. The riding here is like repetitive short burst climbs followed by short steep descents. It is really vertically focused. The whole trail is only 10.7 miles long, but it encompasses about 1000 feet of climbing. I’ve always seen plenty of varied fitness levels in the folks riding, however, and you can surely walk the trail if needed, so don’t be discouraged if you’re not in top shape.
Bike notes from the trip: I rented full suspension 29′ers from Chile Pepper Bike Shop on the main drag in town. My rental experience was good as far as the shop goes. My personal preference for riding this trail would be to do it on a light hardtail. I had a bit more trouble climbing with the big, heavier full suspension rig, and I’m not sure the 29″ wheels helped me on that account either. I couldn’t really lock out the shocks for the climbs as they happen constantly, so I left it in the XC setting. The bike was a Giant Trance 29er.
My wife and daughter also got the same bike (daughter had size XS and we had Medium). For our more mellow rides, we chose to go on the Intrepid trail system in Dead Horse Point State Park. This is a really nice beginner/intermediate series of 3 loops of growing lengths that rides along the canyon rim.
We all had a great time, and it was cool introducing my daughter to the area that inspired so much adventure for me. I hope we planted a seed that manifests in her own adventures in the future!
Here are some links to the Slickrock and Dead Horse Intrepid trail systems:
I plan to become a stronger rider. That much is for sure. One way to do it is stop eating big fat lunches with the workmates, and go out on my bus/carpool/motorcycle days to ride intervals. I don’t really have a great bike for that, however. Wait… Maybe I do? The old Miyata RidgeRunner Team that was my Bosco’d lazy bike might fit? I’ve always sort of loved this mutt – it has a great fast, low feel to it. Awesome Compass tires that feel like 26″ Hetres!
But, there is that high bottom bracket which was made to fly over fallen logs and various obstacles on the ’88 downhill circuit. That’s the achilles heel for this bike, I fear. Then there is the obnoxious U-Brake. Hmmm – I guess this may still work for a 1-hour lunch ride slash torture session. Better than sitting barless and sad in the basement bike heap. OK – first things first. Put on an old dirt drop cockpit setup I have laying around. I hope the reach isn’t too short.
Nice! Even has the diamond tape! Not really a match, but I’ll add a little blue to the drops. There. Much better… Now about shifters. Hmmm – I could do the stem setup like I had on the clown bike?
Nope. Too much hand movement – can’t deal with that while I’m cranking up a hill at top speed, right? How about something more ergo – perhaps thumbie style?
Awww yeah – that’s more like it… Now is this a scramblin’ interval machine or what?
This sucker looks fast just standing there. Like it’s going to jump the start and kill the field. Those lugs! Those fenders! That raked cockpit! Damnnnnn. Better put some clipless pedals on this beast. Need maximum torque. Let’s put a Ti Brooks Pro on there, too. Keep the weight and comfort down – no sense getting complacent and sitting down on the ride…
Hmmm – that old V-Brake’s gotta go. No problem solver rig this time. This bike was built in the golden era of cantis. Hey – I just got a pair of CX70s for the rando bike that I didn’t need (had centerpulls). How about we try one out on the front? Crap – gotta put a cable hanger on there somewhere… Hmmm… I know I have one lying around somewhere. There we go. Got it. OK – now comes the fun part! Get it to work. It’s raining tomorrow – perfect day for a transport stage. There’s life in this old steed yet!
I rode my first permanent today. Did the 100k solo, and it couldn’t have been a nicer day. A permanent is different from an organized brevet in that it is an approved route that can be ridden on your own time of choosing. There are permanents that span from 100k to 1000k. Some are well known brevet routes.
It was interesting in that there were three controls where I bought snacks to collect receipts. Generally during a brevet, the store cashier signs and records the time on the brevet card. This was all solo with no real interactions.
Two of the controls were questions about the spot in focus. I took photos of these just in case. Not a bad experience, overall. I felt pretty good, the bike was flawless, and the weather was glorious. The ride took just over 5 hours, and I added 21 miles in transport to the start and from the finish.
Zoo Hill itself was intense. It climbs 1000 feet in a mile or so. There were amazing views, and the descent was smooth and fast. My favorite part of the ride was May Valley Road. New blacktop on a sweeping fast flat farm valley. Very picturesque!