Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Sierra Bike Tour Recap

Ride summary:


8 days of bike touring
7 days self-supported
1 day kind of cheating, unloaded bike, support vehicle and crew of one
743 miles
67,300 feet of climbing give or take (that's more than Mt. Everest twice!)

The bike:
 My nine years old aluminum bike, Giant OCR1, held up fine. All original parts held up fine. Some parts I had put on the bike as "upgrades" failed:
First hitting a rock tore the casing of Vittoria Randonneur tire and the resulting bulge wore the tire through, including the protective nylon belt.
Second, the big hit probably accelerated a rear rim failure, but after two more days of riding, there were cracks in the Al rim around six spokes! This is not acceptable for wheel that is advertised as a "Clydesdale" suitable (Neuvation Cycling R28).
Third: the Neuvation saddle never felt too uncomfortable on 100 mile long one day rides, however, after three days in the saddle, this one caused me lots of pain, an irritated prostate and numbness in parts where you rather not have it.

Touring accessories:
Topeak Al rack held to the rigors of loaded touring well, no problems there. The Ortlieb panniers were just awesome, excellent attachment system, easy to load and unload, pack, carry, and yes, they are yellow and highly visible.
ACA map holder: I hit the map case with my knees every time I stood up to climb. This was annoying but I eventually got used to it. A position centered over the bars would be better (one could actually move the velcro loops), but that would restrict mounting additional devices onto the handlebar, such as GPS or a computer.
Top tube little bag: very useful for energy bars, gels and a chap stick.

The route:
The ACA Sierra Cascades route is well chosen I think given both the remoteness of SoCal mountains and overpopulated valleys in between. One could ride the route in shorter segments, stopping at nice places and use the mountain resorts and camp sites. We chose to do maximum distance we could every day and not care much where we would end up for the night. That put us at some less than desirable places, like Palmdale, which are the worst examples of California sprawl, with huge food deserts and streets absolutely not bike friendly. However, as we entered the National parks (Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Yosemite), the scenery got much more interesting, and I believe that NorCal, Oregon and Washington are probably the prettiest parts of the route. That said, seeing the big mountains, deserts and environments of Southern California first hand was a great experience for me.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

SCY Day 11: Yosemite Grand Finale

John and I met in the morning in Fish Camp, just south of the Wawona entrance to Yosemite. It was a freezing morning. Today, we used the advantage of having a support car and crew (Marketa) and traveled lightly.
We rode on Hwy 41 to Yosemite Valley and from there took Hwy 120 through the whole park towards Tioga Pass (9900 ft). The weather was sunny but very chilly and there was lots of snow on the ground.
We climbed the climbs, bundled up for the descents and enjoyed the magnificent views of the granite monoliths.
At the end of the ride, we descended from Tioga Pass to Lee Vining on a crazy long and fast downhill where our speedometers registered over 50mph.
By the time we pulled into the Lake View Lodge in Lee Vining, we covered 102 miles and climbed 11K feet.

So, Lee Vining and Mono Lake is our official finish of this trip, which I hope will one day continue further north, into Oregon and Washington.

SCT Days 9 and 10

Unfortunately, I sat out both of these days. Friday because my replacement wheel arrived too late and Saturday partly because the weather was bad (a freak snow storm hit the Sierras all the way south to Sequoia and Kings Canyon NP).
John rode both days, of course, and experienced heavy snow in Sequoia and rain a day later on his way from Squaw Valley to Fish Camp.
Marketa and I toured the national parks by car, among hundreds of other Americans who used the Memorial Day weekend to get here.
But I succeeded in putting the bike in a functional state for a Sunday ride through the Yosemite.

Friday, May 25, 2012

SCT Day 8

Update Friday 5/25: I am stuck at Three Rivers waiting for replacement wheel that Marketa secured and shipped at a ridiculous cost but FedEx is late delivering.
John continues on route so from now on, the Spot tracking is him only. If all goes well, I may be able to join him at some point over the weekend.

Update Friday 6pm: while the weather here was as pictured, John rode through sleet and snow and reached Squaw Valley safely.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

SCT Day 7

Today was probably the most scenic day so far. Starting with a gentle climb along the rapids of Kern river to Kernville and above, eventually finishing at 7000 feet among big trees in the Sequoia national forest. Then came a long winding descent back to foothills at 1500 ft, and finally 30 miles surrounded by grassy hills and cows. The golden hour caught us still with 20 miles to go so we arrived at Three Rivers way after dark.
The stressful part of today's ride was my rear wheel failure, with one spoke pulled out of the rim and many other cracks. John came up with an engineering solution that saved the day: he rode my bike standing and leaning on the handlebars for over fifty miles and I piloted his famous GDR rig loaded with some stuff from my panniers. What a guy!
We reached area with cell coverage too late to have anything shipped overnight, so Marketa came to my rescue and got me a new wheel at REI and Fedexed it at the last minute. What a girl!
So if the cycling gods are so inclined, we may be able to continue our journey tomorrow.
Today's distance: 127 miles and some ungodly elevation, hard to keep track of that, this trip is all about climbing the mountains and descending to valleys.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

SCT Day 6

UPS delivered the new tire, much nicer than the old model, the same size, 35mm being about twice as big as the old one, thank you Vittoria for consistency. The tire just barely cleared the frame but all installed and off we went at noon.
On the downhill along highway 58, we could see the amazing Tehachapi railroad loop, where long Pacific railroad trains loop around themselves.
We left the busy roads in Caliente for hours of climbing and descending through canyons and bucolic valleys where time must have stopped hundred years ago.
We arrived to Lake Isabella by 5:30 after 55 miles and over 5K climbing, feeling fresh and rested. This town seems to be another ran down sprawl, why did I expect a nice lakeside resort town in pine woods?

Official NWS wind data indicated over 70 mph at Mojave today and supposedly today was calmer than yesterday. We could see the lenticularis above Tehachapi Pass behind us all day today.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

SCT: A Windy Rest Day 5

Out of Palmdale and into the wind to cross the valley towards Tehachapi. It blows and we do 6 mph on a flat road. Then we turned north and with the side wind our speed increased to 13mph! But soon we started climbing towards the ridge covered in wind turbines and found out why they built them here. The wind velocity exceeds 50 miles per hour and it seems lethal to swerve on the narrow road shoulder while being passed by eighteen wheelers.
I got too scared and decided to walk the bike up to the pass for 6 miles. At one point, I had to put the bike on the ground flat and push down on it with all my body weight and strength to prevent it from being blown down the hill.
After couple of hours of hike a bike in a hurricane, I made the summit. We descended in saddle to Tehachapi, riding at a safe speed of 15 mph down a steep hill without using brakes. These 50 or so miles took us too long to continue onto Lake Isabella so we camped at a nice hotel where I also await delivery of a new tire to replace the shredded one.

Monday, May 21, 2012

SCT Day 4

A very tough day: 115 miles with 12.6K vertical. Brutally hot weather, only getting cooler above 6000 ft. Some fantastic long descents. No civilization for 82 miles of wilderness which meant carrying 5 liters of drinks.
Near death experience in a tunnel. One flat as a result of hitting glass in that tunnel. Staying in Palmdale, a town full of beggars and drug addicts. Pizza hut never tasted this delicious.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

SCT Day 3

Today started with a long climb out of Yucaipa on a highway leading up to Big Bear Lake. We climbed for 35 miles to 8400 feet at Onyx Summit, then descended to the busy resort of Big Bear. There was more climbing out of the lake to the Rim of the World Highway. The descent on this road had amazing views of the sprawling valley below (San Bernardino?) but lack of attention was dangerous. I flatted the rear tire on a rock here.
After dropping to about 4000 ft came the cherry on the cake: a steep climb to the town of Crestline where we are staying tonight.
Short day in mileage (82) but very tall in climbing: over 9000 ft.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

SCT Day 2

From Julien to Yucaipa, 121miles and over 9000 ft climbing. Very hot and windy day, lots of traffic.
With this pace, this trip will probably be "just" Sierra Tour, no Cascades. That's perfectly fine for me.
Tomorrow we start with a 3 hr climb to Big Bear lake and ski resort.

Today's highlight: water melon at a roadside store, the shop keeper even cut it for us.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Sierra Cascades Tour Day 1

Driving to San Diego today to drop the rental car off and ride towards Tecate for official trip start.
Spot tracker link:

Ride recap: 32 miles from Chula Vista to the official map route start at Tecate / Potrero, through dry and rocky canyons around Campo, then relentless climbing to 6000 feet at Laguna Mountain. Downhill to the edge of Anza Borrego desert, more climbing then a final descent to Julien. 85 miles and over 8000 ft vertical.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Garda Sympatex MTB Marathon: Sunday Race

Here are just a few thoughts scribbled into a notepad during the week of vacationing at Lago di Ledro after the bike race. I hope to follow up with more and photos:

Started on time, actually well organized start in waves.
First 5mi on flat streets no chance for the pack to spread. Thus when the first steep cobblestone trail came, everybody walked.
great views, some riding through narrow passages in ancient towns.
Enough climbing to make it tough.
Some nice single track but very short sections.
Well marked course.

Lots of pavement and concrete surfaces.
Fast downhills in limestone loose scree, very dangerous and bad crashes happened.
Nothing salty at rest stops, all sweet stuff, even something like a rum cake.
Too many Germans :-)
No real free food in the finish area but a bruschetta and a weiss beer took care of a recovery meal.

Link to all my race pictures:  https://picasaweb.google.com/ujolina/RivaDelGardaMTBRace?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCPyzzJmrku3OugE&feat=directlink

Garda Sympatex Marathon: Friday training ride

First shake down ride in the afternoon. From our house to Rifugio Al Faggio on the road, about 1.5 miles. Found a trail paralleling the road back down into Lenzumo.
Explored a short section of unpaved road on the trail map, turned out to be unmaintained super steep and loose scree old road, non rideable. Hiked up a bit then turned around and descended.
Garda BA track up la Rocce and Malga Trat, a narrow paved road climbing steeply out of the valley.  Eventually turned into a dirt road, with patches of snow towards the top. Turned around at Malga Trat, 0.5 km from Rifugio Pernici, which according to signs was closed. 
Downhill to BB track, dirt trail, climbing to a logging site, asked the crew if the trail went down to Locca, confirmed. After another km or so of loose surface climbing, came to an abrupt end of the road on a cliff with some weird signs in blue color but no indication the trail continued. Turned around and retraced my way back down to the valley.
With no extra clothes, tools, phone or anything, just 500ml water, this was a mistake to go up the mountain onto unknown trails.
Checked the map later to find a description saying there was a short hike a bike section before the downhill to Locca resumed, to me looked like a tough hike without a bike. May try to find the other side riding the BB track from the valley today.
19 miles, about a km (3000) of climbing in 2.5 hours.
The bike rides Ok with a tendency to wash out the front wheel in loose corners, fork feels stiff even with pressure lowered, overall very XC feeling and can't really tell it is a 29er because of its quick steering.  On steep climbs, it is quite difficult to keep the front wheel straight without wandering around.  For the race, I will lower the front tire pressure, although I expect lots of sharp limestone rocks that this whole place is made of.