Cyclocross bikes

Image

Above see my most recent acquisition, a 2001-2003 Surly Crosscheck.  The color is “green bean green” and I picked it up the Friday before Christmas. 

The story behind this goes something like this – I have an old Bianchi Axis cyclocross rig.  I really like it  – good fit, very versatile, very useful.  It’s absolutely one of my most favorite bikes.  I liked it so much that I was starting to look for another one, with disc brakes and front rack braze-ons etc – with clearance for some bigger tires – 700 x 45 Firecross tires, precisely.  I had seen the pictures of the new Monstercross rig that Soma is putting out – due in June or July – and I had really liked it.  However, the more I drooled over it, the more I realized how expensive it was gong to be.  I was going to have probably $700 or so in just the frame and then I would need to hang parts on it after the initial investment.  Ouch!!

So – I looked at other cyclocross rigs on Craigslist and other online stores for a while – several months at least.  I didn’t want aluminum, and carbon is not a good investment for me right now.  I’m not 100% convinced of its hype, even though I own a carbon road bike.  I like the carbon, but steel does a better job of the dampening factor, in my opinion.  I saw several that caught my eye, but nothing really jumped out and screamed, “Buy me!!!”

I was looking on a local Craigslist and had searched under “cross” and several things came up, this bike being one of the more recent postings and close to my home.  I also really liked the price – I was able to get a good, light cross bike for less than the price of the Soma Wolverine frame that I was considering purchasing. While the Crosscheck doesn’t have the disc brake braze-ons that both the Wolverine and Surly Straggler possess, I’ve ridden rim brakes for years and haven’t managed to kill them, or myeself, yet.  

I’ve had the bike out on several rides and really like it. As with most steel bikes, the road vibe is pretty well minimalized.  Made from 631 Reynolds tubing, which is cold-drawn, air-hardened steel, the bike is lively and responsive without losing the vibration dampening qualities for which steel is best known. It’s fairly light overall, and is running on a Shimano 105 drive train.  The wheels are Cane Creek Cronos Cross rims, which are crazy light. It will eventually be getting a triple crank, one of my favorite saddles, and a bigger range 9-speed cassette on the back – I have in mind to take this on the fire roads of Michaux and I am going to need some hill-climbing gears for some of those roads.  Sizewise it’s really an excellent fit for me – right top tube length and a good standover height as well.  I believe it’s their size 52, which works well for my shorter arms and torso. 

Another thing I really like about the bike is its overall condition.  This lovely two-wheeled conveyance was ridden less than 500 miles by its original owner.  The gentleman from whom I purchased the bike said it was too large for him – too long in the top tube, and so he never rode it much.  The paint is in good shape as are the components.  I think the blue handlebar tape will need to go – not sure what color is going on next.  I’m debating about black, brown, or a similar green. 

I will post  a later review of overall ride quality and other imoprtant factors when I’ve had the bike for a bit longer.  Right now, I’m just excited to ride the new toy!!!

UPDATE:  bought the toy some new tires – Schwalbe Smart Sams – coming in at a knobby 40c – I thought about the Panaracer Firecross tires for this rig, but they are 45c – don’t think they would have fit in the frame.  the Smart Sams are pretty good, though.  I put some other, smaller cc tires on the Axis, and that works pretty well.  Looking forward to less snow so I can get the bike out of the shed and onto the road!

 

Vulturous Velocity on a Phine and Pheasant evening.

So, last night as I was pedaling around my usual 10-12 mile loop, I scared up a vulture from his “snack, which was located alongside the road in a black plastic bag.  The meal the vulture was consuming was an old, nasty deer carcass in a bag that someone had thrown over the side back in the winter.  The vulture wasn’t the first to gorge from that carcass – I had startled a hawk away from that bag several weeks ago.  By now, however, with the warmer weather, the carcass had really begun to smell disgusting. 

As I road past it, the bird flew up with a great whoosh of wing feathers, coming to roost in  a nearby tree, eyeing me with irritation as I pedaled by the site.  I didn’t bother to look back to see if he came back to eat some more.

I also saw a pheasant last night while out riding.  It was the first one I had seen in several years, since they have become pretty scarce in my area.  It appeared to be a young bird, as the coloring was a bit diluted looking and pale.  No, it was not a hen, since hen pheasants have almost no color to them. I was glad to see him as he strutted across the road. 

The bird life in the area is nice to see, especially after a long and cold winter.

Now go ride your bike!!!

Pearl Izumi Men’s Elite Softshell Glove

My new favorite cold weather gloves.
imagesCASONKI5

The lightweight Pearl Izumi ELITE soft-shell bike gloves deliver excellent warmth and wind protection when cycling on cool days.
•Anatomic fit maximizes finger dexterity for shifting and braking
•ELITE soft-shell fabric on back of hands provides superior wind and water protection; fabric wicks moisture and stretches well
•Warm, light and nonbulky PrimaLoft® synthetic microfiber insulation delivers great warmth while expelling moisture and allowing high dexterity
•Extended gauntlet seals over jacket cuff for superior warmth
•On the palms, strategically placed gel pads absorb shock, relieving pressure on ulnar and median nerves
•Soft synthetic leather palms grip well and stand up to everyday wear
•Silicone screened fingertips add grip
•Soft windproof fabric on the thumb gives you a gentle place to wipe your nose
•Rip-and-stick? pull tabs on wrists close Pearl Izumi ELITE soft-shell bike gloves snugly and ease removal
•Gauntlet length cuffs to ensure good coverage over or under jackets
•Reflective detailing increases your visibility in low light

Have I mentioned how much I like Sierra Trading Post? I really, really like their products and prices.

For instance – the lovely gloves displayed above.

These things are WARM!!! I’ve had them out in 30 degree weather and below and my fingers stayed toasty. STP was only selling these in a size M mens, which is what I wear.

The fit is wonderful. However, if you have big fingers or larger hands, these may not be for you. I have an average sized hand and fingers, and they are perfect for me.

I really like the dexterity I have with these. Granted, I’m not sure I could text quickly with these on, but I can pick things up, move the fingers independently, and also use the whole hand very well. The silicone on the finger ends really aids with picking small things up off the ground and the Primaloft insulation helps keep you fantastically warm without the bulk of comparable gloves. Even if your hands heat up a little, the moisture is transferred out and you don’t wind up swimming in your own sweat.

The soft-shell fabric really does break the wind without letting it through to my hands. The only other gloves I’ve had that did this well, but were somewhat lighter weight, were my Gore windstopper gloves. The fabric stretches just enough to let the gloves be comfortable.

Another feature I like is the gauntlet-style wrists. They go up under your jacket, fasten nicely with Velcro, and keep the wind out and the warmth in. You can adjust them to whatever you want, comfort-wise, over the jacket cuffs or under them, and they work nicely.

Additionally, the gel inserts in the palm are right where I like them to be. They dampen the road vibe enough to be comfortable without bulk and keep your hand from going numb from sitting on the bars. The synthetic leather palm seems to be wearing okay for now – I haven’t noticed any pilling and scraping at this point. A similar fabric is on the palms of my Gore gloves and it has also stood up well to wear and abuse.

Other things about these gloves that I like:
The soft fabric to wipe the nose with is very nice and soft – haven’t had any stiffness there and still have a soft nose. 🙂
The reflective details are nice. I only wish there were a few more of them – the ones that are there are reflective, but a few more discreet ones could be added if the deisgners so chose. The colors are also quiet – not loud – I like this, but others may feel that bright colors lend some safety value to the gloves.

Overall – excellent gloves for the money. I have been wearing them as everyday gloves too – and they are really showing me that quality products are worth what you pay.

Bottom line – if you want warm hands in really cold weather and you cycle through the winter – buy these. If you are a fair weather cyclist, these are too much glove for the temps you’ll be in; find something lighter and less expensive.

Pearl Izumi Infinity Wind Blocking Jacket

So, once again, my favorite on-line gear provider, Sierra Trading Post, has delivered something I want at an absolutely ridiculous price.

I’d been looking at these nice P.I. windblocking jackets for a bit, but didn’t want to drop the full amount of cash on them. I got on STP the other day, and there they were!!! They actually had two different styles, and a number of colors in each, so I had to do some research to figure out which one was going to work for me.

P I windblocking jacket

Here is STP’s blurb about the product.

Pearl Izumi’s Infinity Wind Blocking jacket helps you stay one step ahead of changing conditions with its wind- and water-resistant soft shell fabric and thermal-regulating fleece lining to lock in the warmth.
•Elite SoftShell Lite fabric achieves wind and water resistant through construction without using a laminate for superior breathability and protection
•ELITE Thermal Fleece Lite fabric in back and sleeves provides superior moisture transfer and insulating warmth
•Reflective details for low-light safety
•Camlock zip front with interior wind flap
•Camlock zip hand pockets
Lower, center-back zip pocket
•Cuff gaiters with thumbholes
•Asymmetrical cuffs
•Droptail hem for added coverage
•Classic Fit
•Made in China

The other style didn’t have the rear pocket and used a laminate fabric. It also had a different style of zipper and different cuff construction. This appears to be more cycling oriented, or so I hope.

While I haven’t yet received it, the reviews look pretty promising and it’s from one of my favorite brands, Pearl Izumi. If it’s anything like their other products, it will be stylish and functional.

I will update the post once I have received the item and worn it a bit.

Bike Routes and the Like.

USBRS_Landing_PageU.S. Bicycle Route System: Build It. Bike It. Be a Part of It!
Donate $10 today to support the creation of a national network of bicycle routes: the U.S. Bicycle Route System (USBRS), a visionary project that will be similar to the national and international systems blossoming across the globe, such as Euro Vélo.

Routes will connect cyclists across the U.S. with cities, transportation hubs, scenic and historic destinations through existing (and new) infrastructure; routes will be numbered, mapped, and officially recognized by state and federal government agencies.

When complete, the U.S. Bicycle Route System will be the largest bike route network in the world!

More than 40 states are already working to implement U.S. Bike Routes — donate today!
http://www.razoo.com/p/usbrs2012

I realize this is a little out of date, but this is an important initiative that Adventure Cycling Association and The American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials are diligently supporting and developing. I saw that ACA had raised $50,000 this year for the USBRS and that AASHTO is providing support, in this way – “Transportation officials across the country from local to state levels are responding to the demand for bicycle infrastructure. AASHTO believes in all modes of transportation. From roads to rails, water and bikes, we are committed to all forms of transportation. We embrace the multi-modal approach, and want to assist agencies planning for multimodal travel.” (taken from http://blog.adventurecycling.org/2012/12/the-aashto-bike-guide.html#.UOHb0G_g18E)

As a cyclist, I can wholeheartedly support this initiative – and when the fund drive comes around this year in May, I will be contributing!! Hopefully, you can too.

Support this group – they are doing good things for cyclists!!!

Joining the C & O Canal Bike Patrol

I was out riding on the canal about a week and a half ago, when I encountered someone riding a recumbent and wearing a C & O Canal Bike Patrol jersey. This got my attention, because I had been wondering how to go about finding/joining such an organization. I stopped and spoke with the gentleman for about 15 minutes and he proceeded to fill me in on where I could find the information to join.

bike

Pic from the below site as well.

I went online, and found this site –
http://www.chohvip.org/bike-patrol/ – which led me to an application and correspondence from the person in charge.

Here is a description of the program from the link below-
http://www.volunteer.gov/gov/results.cfm?ID=8359
Opportunity Description:

The C & O Canal National Historical Park is seeking volunteers to participate in its Volunteer Bike Patrol program. The program operates out of the Cumberland, Williamsport, Great Falls, and Georgetown Visitor Centers. As a member of the Bike Patrol, volunteers are provided with uniforms, CPR and first aid training, and park radios. Members patrol the canal on bicycle and offer information to visitors, report hazards, and serve as resource protection stewards. Bike Patrol Volunteers are highly visible and are the most readily approached park representatives.In addition to being equipped with uniforms and radios, bike patrollers receive annual safety and CPR training. Bicycles can be provided to those interested. Volunteering is on a seasonal basis, but many members are active year-round in the Williamsport and Great Falls area.

I will be going through an orientation on January 12 and going for a ride-along that day with another bike patrol person to evaluate my bike, biking skills, and other miscellaneous knowledge. I will have to complete another ride-along later and then be prepapred to give the group 40 hours per year. I’ll post more about this ride after I’m finished with this part of the process.

This sounds like a lot of fun – I’m on the canal many hours in a year, so the 40 hour requirement won’t be an issue. I have done something similar when I hiked a lot more with the HH – we are both members of Trail Patrol – however, my membership and activity has lapsed with the introduction of more biking into my life.  I look forward to getting through the process – I like talking to others and helping people to enjoy outdoors resources.  I also don’t mind sharing my bike skills and recommendations with others as well.  I like being able to “give back” with something that I enjoy so much.

If you think you might be interested, check out the links above, and follow up with an email.  The on-line forms are easy to deal with and NPS is pretty prompt about getting back to you.  The C & O Canal is a great place to ride and it’s fun to be able to share what you know with others!!