Monday, August 3, 2009

Wheels North Swag/ Saddle Up!

So on to the product reviews...

I figure I may as well start with where I sit...make up your own jokes now.

Tom at Selle An-Atomica graciously provided us with some of his fine saddlery, of which I was a lucky recipient. The short review goes something like this; I freaking love this saddle!

The long one follows, longly...

My previous favorite mount was the venerable, and still expensive Selle Italia Flite, and I still really like it. If I were doing a short race, say, and weight was an issue, then I'd start loosing weight a couple months beforehand. Then, a week before the event, while munching on some pizza and beer, I'd resign myself to the inevitable, swap out for the Flight, and get dropped like a rock, and curse myself for not leaving the An-Atomica on so I could at least be comfortable while off the back.

Note to Tom: free advert idea..."Selle An-Atomica, because if you're gonna get dropped, you might as well be comfortable."

My model is the Titanico, in the Clydesdale model as I'm 6'2" and weigh 190lbs. It comes with the specially treated leather so I don't have to worry about treating it prior to a rainy day or whatever. Aside from the plushness, more later, this is my favorite aspect of this saddle as I am really unlikely to do the correct maintenance. That being said, if you are one of those kind of people who goes to the extent of Armor All-ing the valve caps on your wheels when you wash your car every week, sometimes twice, well, don't let my laziness discourage you from purchasing one of the fine saddles from S.A. that allow you an outlet for your OCD.

I was both surprised and pleased with the instructions and info that came with the saddle concerning upkeep and, more importantly, fit. I have heard plenty about Tom's excellent customer service, and this just proves it. It gives one the, probably very accurate, feeling that he and the company want to do everything they can to make sure you get the best chance at finding out if this is the saddle for you. Granted, it won't be the saddle for some, but then, I guess masochists exist for that very reason.

It did become the saddle for me. So I guess I'll have to tell why. First off it's way comfy. While my bike is steel, and should thus be all kinds of plush, it isn't. It's got a really short rear triangle, slightly compact geometry, and was basically built to be more aggressive. So the trade-off has been that I really feel road shocks coming up from the rear wheel. "Has-been" is the key phrase now that I have the An-Atomica installed. The hammock style really does an excellent job of eating up both the regular, small road buzz, and takes quite an edge off the big hits. If that sounds like I'm talking about a suspension fork, well, there's good reason for that. I've had other so-called "suspension" saddles before, and none come anywhere near what the An-Atomica does. Quite literally, I did not have to think about the comfort of my posterior for the entire 1100 miles to Seattle. That, in and of itself is one of the most important reasons I felt so good on this ride, the entire time.

I'd like to give some impression of how the ergo cutout helped, but I've never ridden a leather saddle before, so I really don't have a good basis for comparison. It says enough however, that I was very comfortable, and had no, um, ergonomic complaints.

One other plus would be, I guess, cargo room. There is so much rail space that you could strap on a dishwasher for a saddle bag. My huge Carradice isn't going to look so huge anymore.

Oh, right, style. Yes, this is a very stylish perch. Maybe not so much on a top of the line carbon race bike, but if you bought one of those, your sense of high-style runs in direct proportion with how many garish, over-informative decals crowd up all the tubes. If you've got the kind of money it takes to buy that 6lb rolling billboard, may I suggest that you buy a dozen An-Atomicas and give them away to your friends who have real bikes. It'd be kind of like a cycling style pollution abatement version of the carbon cap and trade solution.

Here is a picture of my bike with the An-Atomica saddle.

And here's what it looked like before I put on the An-Atomica.

There are downsides to everything. For this saddle they are but two, both dealing with the nose of the saddle, and both very livable considering all the positives. Getting down in a TT position, more forward and on the nose of the saddle is not very comfortable, at least for me, given that the nose is pretty stiff and solid. Then again, if you expect to be doing a time trial, you wouldn't be on this saddle anyway, so no worry. The second is that I kept getting my shorts stuck on the nose of the saddle when sitting back down. Granted, this is mostly due to my other saddles having a more sloping nose. Once I got a awareness of the shape of this one into muscle memory, it was an infrequent problem at best.

Somehow, at the end of the 2007 Paris-Brest-Paris, I ended up with one of Tom's cool 2007 PBP Selle An-Atomica pins. I kept it because it is cool, but I always felt a bit of a poser, or poseur if you will, since I didn't actually have one on that ride, though now I wish I had. Well, now I do, so I'm only a partial poser. I'll have to do PBP 2011 on the An-Atomica to make up for that.

Thanks for reading. Now go but one of these saddles dammit!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Wheels North; Seattle bound

Not much to report on today, possibly due to the fact that I'm posting this three days after the fact in order to catch up.
Peter, Greg, Warren and I started a little early, anxious to get the final century out of the way. Peter pulled almost the entire first 30 miles at Peter Speed, and flew past the first sag stop as Greg, Warren and I stopped for some fuel, a rest and saner, more human speeds. We worked well together and by and by found ourselves on the outskirts of our goal.
Ever attentive, and well practiced in the art of the town line sprints, Greg had the honor of taking the sprint into Seattle. I was looking for a somewhat grander sign than was presented us and was caught completely unprepared. Kudos to Dr. Ngo. The loss was worth it though for what came after.
You could feel the tension building for the possibility that the "real" Seattle sign was still forthcoming. Going up a hill, we both spied a green sign up the road and instinctively started sprinting to it, just in case. We were pretty evenly matched, so I really just had to do something. I clicked down a gear and started to pull irrevocably away, to which Greg exclaimed, much to my delight, "You gearly mother@#&*!%!"
Gearly, you see, is the epithet of the fixed gear riders to those of us with the brains enough to use a bike as it was intended. Tee-hee.
Turn out, it was just a neighborhood sign, but it was so worth it fopr that reaction.
The three opf us had aboput 2 or 3 hours to kill at the park which was the designated meeting place in order to regroup and ride the last bit together. Had some deli snacks, relaxed in the shade, did some push ups, and generally enjoyed the fact that we were pretty much done. It was kind of entertaining to see Peter and Mojo blast by twice while looking for the park. Not so much for them though, I gather.
By and by, everyone came in and we scuttled of to put this thing in the bag, which we did, arriving finally at the fabled fountain on the University of Washington campus. Smiles and champagne went round, nice words spoken from Evelyn's son and daughter, and even a phone call from her made a nice finish. Lots of photos, and a fantastic view of Mount Rainier.

Many thanks to our tireless crew; Laurie, Kim, Natalie, Alison for seeing that about all we had to do was ride. And special thanks to Steve and Eric M. for their course marking, which made following the sometimes numerous turns so much easier for us riders.

Good times. Good times.

Links to photos and videos hopefully forthcoming.


Wheels North; Misguided Mojo

Today's big event was crossing into The Great State of Washington, and the attendant, and inevitable race to the state line. There was some rumor going through the group that the line was within 6 miles of our start, out just out of town, or some other such nonsense. So, just out of town, group spinning along peacefully, Dr. Ngo's legs got the better of him, causing his mouth to say something on the order of, "Ok kids, let's get this party started".
That's really all Peter and Mojo needed to hear, and on they went, with me, Greg and Willie in tow. So everyone is all amped and practically tingling, waiting for "the bridge" whereon, halfway across resides the state line. Apparently taking on the role of the guy who knows where he is going, Mojo leans into a right turn at the base of some nondescript, and rather short bridge, and the rest of the break tears off in pursuit.
Only, it's the wrong bridge. Shame all that wasted adrenaline.
So what once was a short warm up and quick sprint to the line then settle in for the remaining 90 miles morphed into a 50 or 60 mile road race for the actual bridge, containing the actual line.
It was myself, gamely trading pulls with Mojo and Peter for a good while. Those guys being the monsters they are however, I was relegated to "hanging on for dear life" status with about 15 miles to go as they tried to drop me. So it was a minor victory for myself to get "not dropped". I figured if I killed myself to stay on, at least I'd have a ring side seat for thew sprint as they rocketed away from me on the bridge.
Coming closer to the bridge, Peter made sure that I was aware that if I went for it, soon after he would do me the favor of making sure both my legs had immediate need of casts. Or something like that.
So of course, coming up on the last traffic light before the bridge, I took off. They got got stuck at the light and it was all go for me. As promised, I stopped before the line, and filmed them coming across arm in arm.
After that, it was pretty much a group ride into Centralia, where we stayed at a local church, and had local church dinner.
Last day tomorrow.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Whhels North Day???? Land o Ports

Salem to Portland.
Today was a blissfully short day. Just perfect for leading into a rest day. At this point, whenever there are hills, or what we have come to jokingly refer to as "rollers", the group tends to split up a little. So it was today.
The road has a way of evening things out though, and so it did today. Flat tires were being handed out like party favors, and it brought us all back together for the run into town.
That is, until the killer roller coming into Portland. Steep,yes. Peter seemed to have an optimistic(to him), yet unrealistic(to me) sense of my strength when he later told me I could have stayed with him up that climb. "You just have to hurt, and make it up...keep going" Oh, right, I guess I kinda forgot about that while my legs were screaming and my lungs threatening to explode out of my chest. Thanks for the advice.

The fun note of the day; Shawn "little" Ziegler getting "loose" in the sake tasting room at the lung stop.
Good stuff.

Thursday, July 16, 2009


Just a quick update post, because right now dinner is the most important thing on the agenda for 12 cyclists and crew who just traveled 1100 miles.
We are in Seattle and done riding.
That is all for now. We need to go relieve some poor, unsuspecting restaurant of all their food...

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Wheels North, Don't Pay the Ferryman

A ferry ride across the Willamette and a spot of rain punctuated today's ride, for those of us up front that is. Those trailing behind got the ferry ride too, but had the pleasure of having the skies open up on them. I'm sure they will have much more epic tales than I, but somehow I don't mind.
Warren and I were a bit ahead on the road down to the ferry landing when I looked back to see the other guys, they had acquired a friend in the form of a friendly black lab, trotting along beside them. My thought of it belonging to the ferry driver proved wrong, so I pulled it off, got him to sit, then held him there till the gate went up on the ferry, which I promptly jumped back over. I guess the dog didn't have the proper fare.
Peter was on another planet today, pulling myself, Greg, Eric and a spinning-himself-silly Warren all the way in. A bit after the ferry we were whelmed (not overwhelmed mind you) with the scent of mint, or maybe comfrey as Warren suggested. THe sweet smell in the air, the cool overcast weather, and near perfect roads conspired to make it about as perfect a moment on the bike as you can imagine.
If the ride itself was an ice cream sundae, then the cherry was the suites we were staying in at Willamette University. Four nice bedrooms per suite, very modern, comfy, and a hot shower that I, at 6'2" could stand up straight under!


The Zieglers made a beer run, and we played some hearts. With Greg and Mojo being as adept at cards as they are strong on the bike made it a particularly nice day for me, having taken the town line into Salem, and successfully sticking it to them, slyly shooting the moon in hearts.

Odd how mojo's point total kept getting lower however...

More North.

The ride thus far is taking on a recurring theme; Oregon=beautiful roads for riding, be they paved or otherwise. Thankfully though, the "otherwise has been kept to a minimum. There was another toughy climb today up to the lunch stop which included a good portion of gravel road, but somehow it didn't really matter. It was long enough to get into a groove, steep enough to make you work hard, but gorgeous enough that you didn't care.
More hot soup on top was nice since we have really made the transition to pacific northwest weather. I was actually dreading the chill of the impending descent until Laurie magically drove up, enabling me to grab my arm warmers which I stashed earlier. Mojo, Greg and I decided we'd heard enough shooting in the distance (locals being locals) and pushed off down the hill. I was glad to be "representing" in my DBC orange and blue, figuring I'd be less likely thought an animal target.
Somehow, I started feeling really good a bit after descending and took the opportunity to start motoring. I guess starting the mellow for the first few days is paying off. I can't wait to ride the Tuesday hill ride when I get home!
Our accommodations for the night were in a frat house rumored to be the very one that Animal House was filmed in. I took some photos that reminded me of some of the scenes, but I did not get the chance to fire off any lines from the movie. I'll have to check out Wikipedia to verify. The house mom (Karen) was more than nice, and one of the head brothers, (Tim) did very well by us, to the point of setting up breakfast, which made our crew's morning routine so much easier. They deserve it.
Tomorrow, off to Salem.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Wheels North Day 6 (I-5, U-5, We All-5!)

Ashland to Roseburg.

This was another epic day. Every leg of this journey has it's own something special. Today found us on I-5 for about 35 miles. Kinda sketchy, but I did find a bitchin VW badge.

Yesterdays brief stint on 5 was like a warm up for today. Yesterday we did one major pass on the highway, Siskiyou Mountain summit, which holds twin distinctions as the highest elevation on I-5 (4130ft) and the West's largest open-air urinal. Needless to say, time spent on top was limited.

Today we had pass after pass on the highway. It broke up pretty early and Warren and I fell in together. Well, backing up a bit, the adventure back story behind today was that our proposed route turned out to be a no go. We were supposed to be on a BLM road, but Eric M. said it was hard going even in the big pickup truck. I related this to Warren later, and he admitted his trepidation about the road when previewing the maps the night before. I believe his exact words were, "BLM people don't even use those roads!" 'Nuff said.

The climbs were not so bad, being graded for highway traffic, but the descents were another kettle of angry fish altogether. I chose to ride my deep profile aerodynamic wheels for the energy savings and well, hell, they're sexy!, but I paid the price in sketchiness when cross wind gusts or the vacuum from passing semis jerked my front end around. If that wasn't enough, someone at Fed Ex figured that if hauling two trailers behind a semi was efficient, then pulling three was f@#%ing genius! All I can say is we took a side trip to Buffet City every time one of those bad boys cruised by.

Well and truly separated from everyone else, Warren and I did what all travelers do on the interstate...we pulled into a rest area. After spreading the word to some friendly folks, we pulled out. It was a little surreal of a thing to do on a bicycle, but then, we're kinda getting used to that.

With the noise, fumes and debris getting to us, we finally got the notion to simply jump the fence by the highway and get onto one of the frontage roads that had been teasing us for a while. Twas nice, especially for Warren who hates even driving on the highway. If anyone honestly tries to be an embodiment of the Bob Marley lyric, "my feet is my only carriage", it is Warren.

After that, we were treated to some very fine roads through the remaining hamlets running into Roseburg. I'd like to point out that, while California's straight-as-a-ruler county roads may be efficient, they are also boring as hell to ride a bike on. Someone should take a lesson from Oregon on how to add a few twists here and there. An occasional hill wouldn't hurt either.

Another stuffy high school gym to sleep in was a bit of a buzz-kill, but at least I got to relive elementary school memories by opening a bunch of windows with the big pole-with-a-hook thingy.

Pictures later, when I figure it out, and have more time,

Hasta Winnebago!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Wheels North Day 5

Yreka to Ashland.

Short day today, and a short post.

Whenever I'm out doing something out-doorsy, I seem to pine for another mode of conveyance. Out hiking a beautiful trail I will wish for my mountain bike, and other such.

So when Mt Shasta came into view today in all it's magnetic glory, I was wanting to peel off and go hike up.

Last time I saw Shasta it was at 75mph heading south on 5. This was much better, and I long for the day I'm looking down from the top.

Each days ride seems to bring something that marks it unique to this trip. Today it was riding on I-5. We were on for maybe 7 or 10 miles, and Histio must have some pull because for most of that we had our own lane!(construction) We veered off just in time for an epic, twisty descent into Ashland.


Wheels North Day 4

Weaverville to Yreka

Breakfast held a little adventure. I saved some of my previous night's pizza for breakfast because I knew I couldn't do another day of hard cycling on breakfast cereal and coffee. Before going to bed the night before, I noticed a microwave in the equipment room of the high school gym we were staying in, and I went to sleep to thoughts of not just pizza for breakfast...but WARM pizza!

So in the morning I go into the equip room (which was already open mind you) to look for an outlet to plug the nuker in. No luck. I spied a long extension but had to do a little scrambling over equipment to get to it. Got it. Plugged in the micro. Fired it up. Mmmmm, warm brekkie!

Kevin found some other cold pizza and I mentioned the microwave. After I told him what he'd have to do to use it (Mama always said put things back as I found them...) he kinda looked half at me, half off into space and said, "eh, cold is good".

We had a none too complicated course. 1 turn only. And we missed it of course. Greg didn't, and he sprinted ahead to clue us in. Safe on our way and gaining altitude from the gun. Not 2 miles and stopping for the first flat. Who needs a warm up anyway?

After a time our big climb of the day loomed. The climb I mentioned from day 2 would soon be relegated to the second hardest ever. This one had to be like 5 or 6 miles long with an average grade of 10 percent or more. In a word...ouch. In a more descriptive word...F@#*!

Our excellent crew had hot Cup O Noodles waiting on top, along with all the other usual goodies. So yeah, it was the shits going up, but it was phenomenally beautiful, and the descent was better. Warren and I have been matching well on the descents, and it's good to have someone nearby. We flew by the fixie guys like they were standing still. More to the point, they were not standing so much as sitting, the downgrade pumping their legs within moments of catastrophic cramping. Ah, but they are a special breed no?

I used to think the Napa valley was spectacular, then I rode through the Alexander valley and it became tops. This ride took us through an expanse every bit as beautiful and picturesque as that, but bigger. It was a picture perfect moment around every bend.

Thai food for dinner hit the spot. The next days route looked confusing, but at least it was short.


Wheels North Day 3

Corning to Weaverville.

As hard as yesterday was, today was as sweet. We progressed further up the central valley, soon to escape the clutches of its oppressive heat. The two main climbs were hard for sure, but I decided to take a cue of self preservation from Team W (Warren and Willie). We kept a mellow pace, stopping in what little shade was available to kick off the shoes (a la Greg) have a bite and a sip, hit the Friction Zone (good stuff! chamois creme) and basically stayed within ourselves.
Taking a breather at the base of the Hayfork Summit climb did wonders to lower our body temps before grinding up. It must have done the trick because I flew up the climb. It was about 1000 vertical feet in say, a few miles, but I hit a good rhythm and took off.
The roads were a treat. A lot of ups and downs, NOT rollers as we know them...they make 'em bigger here. Everyone was tired after the constant up and down, but the roads were so nice and the scenery so pretty that noone really much cared how tired they were. We were glad to be done and off to the showers.

Until the water sternly refused to warm up. Oh well.
Pizza and bed.


Wheels North Day 2

5 minutes before lights out to summarize a 12 hour hurt-fest...

We had, in no specific order, pain, heat, washboarded gravel roads, pain, tooth-rattling-semi-patched-fully-pot-holed farm roads, pain, the hardest climb I have done up to that point, an a-hole backwoods shop keeper, an awesome friendly backwoods other-shop keeper, and massive headwinds for the last 20 miles.

Taco Bell never tasted so good.

Everyone pretty much agreed that this was one of their hardest days on a bike. On the beat up farm road alluded to earlier, I resorted to telling Greg terrible jokes in the hope that his face would not peel back and reveal the devil. on a stiff aluminum fixie, he was not liking the road none to much.

Everyone got through it though.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Wheels North, Day One...overcooked

Santa Rosa To Winters. 60 miles. 3 climbs. On paper, not too bad.


Everyone was expecting a scorcher today, and we'd get it...eventually. Many were dressed lightly in expectation of rising mercury, but on the way to SR, the overcast and mist in Petaluma got said people, myself one, a bit nervous.
"Oh, it'll burn off" a common sentiment. Not to be. We'd have to ride out of it. Pulling into the lot to sub 60 degree temps and looking for coffee eventually found us our coffee plus warm breakfasty goodies and a restroom. We could have stayed there. But we are here for reason, so...
It was a good thing I was wearing street clothes, in direct defiance to Capt. Norris' orders to be "in chamois" and ready to roll at SR. All my warm stuff was in a truck somewhere else, but my long sleeved cotton would get the call up. Lucky.
A very short warm up, and we hit Spring Mtn. It hit back. Tough climb. About half way up it was time to loose the sweat soaked death fabric. I felt fresher instantly. In a parallel universe I'd have been on TV walking through a flowered meadow at that moment.
The descent was well worth the price of admission though. Excellent road with dappled shade, cambered turns, and twisty but not suicidally so. I got some good Flip Video footage. Then a not so quick lunch stop at Taylor's in St. Helena, but a grilled cheese in the middle of a ride is worth the time. I inadvertently caused an accident for the fixed gears when I mentioned the possibility of catching up with Greg and the guys who had left a lunch bit earlier. Randy had a good laugh inquiring whether I was that fast or just crazy. A moment later word came in of a little mishap with the fixies involving some pedals, axles, and disappearing spokes. So in the end, Randy stood corrected, admittedly humorously so.
The rest of the day consisted of me overcooking myself (try) to stay with Peter, Steve and Mojo. Bad idea. I was warned. Not so hard tomorrow.


Wheels North, Let the Madness Begin

Since PBP has waited this long to be summarized, and since my notes from it are buried, and since it's 5:10am and Warren and Amy will be picking me up in about half an hour to drop us off at WN World Headquarters for the drive to Santa Rosa, well...PBP can wait a while longer. Maybe if I turn out to have something worth sharing, enjoy it, let alone get access to a computer on this ride, I'll finish that scintillating story.
Actually, at 5am I'm just proud to have spelled scintillating right. It's almost a minor victory to not see that little red line pop up under a word.
Breakfast first. There is still a crap-ton of sticky rice and fruit left over from last night's pre-ride BBQ. When have I ever not made way too much of that? I figure that's about as different a breakfast as one could have compared to what Vic and Ray had for their day one repast. Steak and eggs maybe? Maybe they were such badasses they just slugged down a cup of scalding hot black coffee and hit the road. I suppose I'll find out since I'll be reading "Two Wheels North" as we ride. Well not AS we ride, I don't think the other guys are that slow. They'll probably kick my ass, uphill even, one gear be damned.
The DBC Team ought to be rolling into downtown Davis right now to set up the Fourth of July Criterium course. Oysh! Long day for them. Go Team! Someone told me that the category 4 race is pretty late in the day. I ruminated last night on the possibility of, after we ride into Winters today, continuing on to Davis and entering the race, just for shits and giggles. Oh, and for cramps and dry heaves too I suppose. Probably best to let that little daydream of bravado go, considering I wimped out on doing Leesville Gap Road Race yesterday. My excuse was that I was under prepared (packing for WN), but the real reason is likely that I was under prepared (actual training).
Time to get ready. Put this one in the bag. We're off!
Day one, Santa Rosa to Winters.