2018 Cycle North Carolina Coastal Ride

2018 Cycle North Carolina Coastal Ride

Our adventure started on Thursday in Washington, NC, a small town on the Inner Banks about one hour East of Raleigh. There are about 10,000 people who live in this quaint town. There was 3 days of riding scheduled (Friday, Saturday, and Sunday). The participants were divided between campers in the local park and people who stayed on hotels.

Note: If you are planning on doing this next year and want to stay in a hotel then you should book next years town very, very early. Like 2017 early.

The rides were great. Most of the rides had less than 500 feet of elevation in the whole ride. There was 3-4 rides a day ranging from 5 miles to 60-100. There was some washboard1 roads but probably less than 5 miles of the entire weekend. Though we only did 100 miles total so your mileage may vary. The rides are what you make of them. They can very challenging if you are looking to rack up a buttload of miles. One guy did 260 in the three days. We were looking to get some miles in but also relax. It has been a pretty hectic year so we were looking for some chill time.

Food stops were well stocked with plenty of cold water/Gatorade. The towns had interesting other foods like baked goods, etc.

We camped (I had mistakenly waited until January to book a hotel…) in the park.

They had laid out a grid so tents were not cramped together. They had regular facilities and porta potties and a decent but not great shower truck. They had great coffee served every morning and one pretty good food truck.

The restaurants were typical for a small town. One was dreadful (Ribeyes) but the Bank Bistro was by far the best.

We would highly recommend the coastal ride. We thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

  1. Washboard is a term for asphalt roads that a tractor has put ridges into and they stayed. With skinny tires, it is brutal on your hands.
Swift Industries Sugarloaf basket Bag

Swift Industries Sugarloaf basket Bag

I got a Sugarloaf bag back in June. I love this bag! It fits perfectly within a Wald basket (medium) with straps that hold it into the basket. They fit perfectly. I bought it for two purposes: commuting and also bike touring.

Bike Touring

I went on a S24O on the GAP back in June and used this bag. I stored my clothes in this bag. A pair of shorts, a t-shirt, my second days riding clothes and my Dopp kit. It easily held all of this. I also had a medical kit in the front pocket. It worked great.

Bike Commuting

I ride nine miles between Catonsville and Locust Point in Baltimore. It easily holds a days clothing and my lunch and still have room to spare. You could store your shoes also if needed and still have room to spare.

Final Thoughts

For either task, this is an amazing bag. It holds a decent amount of stuff. As a commuting bag it can hold all of your clothes and your lunch with room to spare. As a touring bag, it can hold 2-3 days worth of clothes with room to spare unless you are wearing a suit or something.

Review the Greater Allegheny Passage

Review the Greater Allegheny Passage

 

Back in June 2017, I went on a S240 with two friends of mine on the Greater Allegheny Passage, a bike path from Cumberland Maryland to Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. This path is a continuation of the C&O National Park that follows the Potomac from Washington DC to Cumberland so you could ride from DC to Pittsburgh along a pretty nice trail. Our plan was to ride 62 miles to Confluence PA and then return the next day.

We started in Cumberland. This is a cute town in western Maryland that has a lovely downtown courtyard area that on the Friday I was in town had a small crowd listening to a band play not half-bad rock music. I had dinner in a great little bar that had good food and a decent beer selection.

We started at the local bike shop, the Cumberland Trail Connection. This is a great little camping bike shop perfectly situated right on the trail. I got a bunch o packets of chamois butter and my compadres bought some last minutes supplies also. This should be your last stop in Cumberland before you take off. They have a great selection of gear for riding the GAP.

The trail itself is a packed cinder trail that is very well maintained. We encountered a tree that was already being dealt with when we got there. We encountered only one other bad patch the entire trip where the trail had washed out from a butt load of rain the previous week.

The trail itself is a pretty easy ride. You get on it and ride until you hit a town. You are not going to get lost in any of these towns with the possible exception of Pittsburgh. They are little towns that may have had industry at one point at time but now I am not sure how they exist for sure. They are not living high on the hog that is for sure. Basically, you are riding uphill into PA and downhill on the way back. It is an extremely minor grade in both directions. I did not really notice it on the way out and while I averaged a bit higher speed on the way back, it was pretty much the same.

There are three tunnels that were carved for the railroad that are pretty damn long. I had no trouble on the way out but in one of the two unlit tunnels on the way back I freaked a smidgeon because while I could see the end, I could not see the ground I was riding on. Still here so it ended well but it was a strange feeling.

The scenery is amazing.

Confluence, our destination, had a campground that I think was a state park. If you go there, do not get a regular campsite. They are designed for RVs I believe. That is what was mostly there. They suck for tents. However, there is a lovely bike camping area that was very nice. Showers are meh but functional and warm.

We ate at the Luck Dog Cafe and the food was surprisingly good. I know, I am a city snob but I had a great burger and a Fat Tire (well two but who is counting). After a day of cycling, it was a great feast. We also got a huge — think stoner huge — plate of cheese fries with bacon and spring onions. My compatriot got a burrito the size of a nerf football that he said was quite good also. A word of warning, the town pretty much rolls up the carpet at 9pm so you are not going to go hog wild here but after 62 miles, we were good.

As noted, the ride back was uneventful but a bit faster. I stopped at the Queen City Creamery for some great ice cream when I got back to Cumberland.

Things I liked a lot

  • The trail itself. Pretty easy, get on, ride until you get to your destination with minimal road crossings. Trail also had these cool water/tool stops where they had free water, a pump and an assortment of tools that was pretty extensive. This was a great feature!
  • Friendly people on the trail itself and in each of the towns we stopped at. People were genuinely happy to see us.
  • Rivendell Atlantis. Bike handled flawlessly on the trail
  • Swift Industries Sugarloaf basket bag was a perfect accessory. Held food and toiletries for this trip and a few other odds and ends and could have held more.
  • Bike shop was two thumbs up, way up.
  • Creamery was quite good and olde timey…
  • Downtown Cumberland was cute though it could use a few more active stores.

Recommendation

If you are looking for a S24O or longer ride to do in the mid-Atlantic region, this would be a strong candidate. It is impossible to get lost, moderately challenging and accessible to those who are not Lance Armstrong, scenic with some very friendly towns. I would give this ride two thumbs up, way up.

Review of bike packing bags

Review of bike packing bags

Oveja Negra top tube bag

Pros

  • XL is positively cavernous. Easily holds 2-5 snacks depending on size (I carry Honey Stingers and I can easily get 5), chamois cream individual packets, lip balm and iPhone 7.
  • Well built
  • Decent color selection.
  • Good looking though more MTB looking than roadie looking.

Cons

  • I notice it when I am out of the saddle or straddling the bike. Not in a fuck I hate this kind of notice it but I do notice it.

Adipura top tube bag

Pros

  • Great snack bag
  • Well built
  • Water resistant
  • Great looking. Would look good on pretty much any bike.
  • Easy to mount

Cons

  • Regular barely holds a iPhone 7 with a leather case. It does fit but the zipper barely slides by it. If you have one of those Samsung Phablets, this ain’t gonna hold it. Just saying. If I could have a do-over, I would get the extended version.
  • One color. It is a damn fine color but you got to like it since there aren’t any others…

Oveja Negra 1/2 frame bag

Pros

  • Three sizes to fit pretty much any bike.
  • Left side pocket would easily hold iPhone 7 and probably a Plus.
  • Holds way more than you think. On a GAP S24O, I was able to store extra snacks, extra chamois cream packets, pump, rain jacket, extra tubes (2), coffee and coffee kit, and tool kit.  You could also store a wine bottle in there, probably 4-6 beers, or a kitten.
  • Extremely stable on the bike.
  • I did not notice it at all when riding.

Cons

  • Mounts pretty straightforward but I would not be taking it off and putting it back on much. It can take a few minutes to mount. Not a bad design but takes a lot of straps to make it stable.

Recommendations

I would buy 2 of these three again in a heart beat and I would not hesitate to buy the Adipura XL next time since this is a bag that I think most people would store their phones.

Review of the Randi Jo Bartender bag

Review of the Randi Jo Bartender bag

 

Unquestionably, the best item I bought for my bikes this year was the Bartender bag from Randi Jo. This bag attaches to your stem and handlebars in the nook where they join together. I cannot say enough good things about this bag. It is great at carrying big and small Kleen Kanteens up to a bigly size (32oz Klean Kanteen) — not like growler size but way bigger than a bottle cage can. The bag is at a perfect height for easily reaching for a quick drink. Nancy’s bike is pretty small and has one bottle cage so it allows her to have a second bottle without cramping her riding space or putting it on her back. You could use it for other things as well if you wanted. You could hold a beer, a wine bottle, probably a classic ‘fifth’ bottle of whiskey, a bag of carrots, a couple of bananas, a pint of cherries, or a very small dog. Please note that these are or not and this is not a grocery bag.

Pros

  • Extremely well built of waxed canvas.
  • Decent color selection.
  • Holds a wide variety of bottles.
  • Pretty waterproof (hey I use insulated stainless steel bottles.  Not like they are going to melt…).
  • Mounts securely.
  • Does not appear to effect the steering.

Cons

  • I would not move this bag between bikes often. It mounts well but it is a bit of a pain in the ass. Not a bad design, just the nature of the attachments/space.
  • It is waxed canvas so if you are not digging that, there are many other choices that do the same thing.
  • If you are a roadie, this is going to look a bit ‘Fred’ like.

Overall Recommendation

If you are even thinking about this, pull the trigger. This is absolutely one of the best and most useful purchases I have ever made for my bike. I would give three thumbs up if I could though that would be more than a bit creepy.

Rivet Independence

Rivet Independence

 

Saddles are a funny thing. Finding the perfect one is like finding the Holy Grail… Back in February, I purchased a Rivet Independence to replace a C-15 Cambium that was too narrow. I had originally gotten the Cambium to replace a Berthoud touring saddle that was claimed to be waterproof but alas was not and was too wide and chafed my thighs.

I know, I sound like Goldilocks and the three bears…

The Independence is half-way in between the width of a B-17 and a C-15 at 160mm. I have ridden it about 500 miles since I got it.

First impressions is that it did not need to be broken in at all. It has been extremely comfortable and does not bother my thighs when in the drops. I have gone on 30+ mile rides with hot, humid weather but little rain and the saddle has been fine. I have never been pinched as I have with a Selle Anatomica (Christ that hurts…). And supposedly, this saddle is rainproof. I will update after my first ride where I get caught in the rain.

I may have found my perfect saddle. Time will tell.

Cambium Saddles

I have moved from some beautiful leather Berthoud saddles that were amazing comfortable but a bit fragile. Berthoud saddles are supposed to be weatherproof and they are to a degree. They are to a degree but theory and reality are not always aligned.

However, I live in the East (MD to be specific) and it rains here. A lot, in fact. I cannot tell you the number of times I have been caught out without a saddle cover and I begin the look for a shopping bag to cover my saddle so I don’t ruin it. I love the look and feel the Berthoud saddles and the Brooks leather saddles. I just had the hassle. It is like a manual transmission, the idea of it is way better at this point in my life than the reality.

Cambiums by Brooks are amazingly comfortable and they are completely waterproof. They come in now three sizes: the ‘normal’ C17 is the equivalent of the Brooks B-17, the C15 which is probably the equivalent of the Swift, and a new C19 which is even wider.

I have a C17 and a C15 and they are both amazingly comfortable. And two other people are now happy with my Berthoud saddles. If you are wondering about these saddles, they look pretty good (they are not a Swift with hand hammered copper rivets by any stretch) and they are incredibly comfortable to me. As with any saddle review, your mileage may vary.

Papa has a brand new bag

Recently, I ordered and received a new Swift Industries Hinterland Randoneur handlebar bag. I added a Nitto decaleur and viola i have a new setup on the bike to carry stuff that is convenient and lightweight. The bag comes in any color you want as long as you like black. For a handlebar bag, it is well thought out; it has elastic straps sewn into the inside of the bag so that you can strap small stuff to the edges and not have that shit roll around and piss you off (not that it would necessarily piss you off but you get what I am saying). It has a decent pocket in the front, slash pockets on the side, and two small pockets that would hold a smallish mobile phone. I have an iPhone 6+ and no way that is fitting in there. I put sun screen, lip balm, Scatch, and chamois cream in these pockets and it works fine for me. The top of the bag has a map pocket with a clear screen for a map — do people still use paper maps? — that allows you to interact with your mobile phone also. The main space — I have the small — holds my TiGr small bike lock, a flask when needed, tools, tube, second set of gloves (Spring is here…), different hat (Spring again), and could easily hold a jacket, a thermal layer, arm warmers, leg warmers, and a bottle of wine with some space to spare. It could hold most of that and a six pack of good beer. It definitely cannot carry the flask, the wine, and the beer but then you should probably just go to a bar eh?

Updates from previous handlebar bags

They redesigned the top ‘latch’ so that you don’t have to try to snake your hands to the clip between the small rear pockets. It is still there but even with my small hands, it is still completely inaccessible. Most bags ‘clip’ there and most are never clipped since no one can actually get in there.

The sewn in elastic is simple and damn brilliant.

You can interact with your phone via the map pocket. Works pretty well with an iPhone. Your experience may vary.

Damn this thing is light.

Fast shipping on ready made stuff. Honestly, they have a great process for made to order stuff also.

Stuff I don’t like

Not a damn thing and I can bitch about almost anything.

The company

I cannot say enough nice things about Swift Industries products. They are well made. They are great people to deal with. I have more of their products than I should admit to. They are made in the USA.

Made in America or I Lost My Taillight

On a cold and crappy — but not rainy at least — Saturday, Nancy and I went on a 18-mile ride near BWI. I was trying out my new Tailrider bag and had put my Light and Motion 180 Taillight on the bag. As noted in the heading of this post, the light leaped off the bag and out of my life.

The L&M light is a great taillight. Bright, decent battery life, made in America, and better looking than your average rear light. I got it directly from L&M after I sent back my third L&M 180 Micro when the On/Off switch broke yet again. As a set of quick side notes, L&M’s Micro has a faulty on/off switch design. If you review the reviews on Amazon, this is a pretty common complaint. I would heavily recommend taking a pass on this light. However, L&M has great customer service. Each time it broke, they sent me a new one and I shipped back the broken one. I cannot say enough positive things about their customer service. So when I contacted them about the third death, they offered me the regular 180 at a decent upgrade pricing. I pulled the trigger and lived happily ever after. Until Saturday, that is.

So I have this thing where I try to buy American if given the opportunity and the price difference is not substantial. I buy American jeans, socks, shirts, sweaters/wool, and bike parts and bags. So I fire up Amazon when I get home and look for the L&M 180 light. There it is. It is a great light as I said, but is it worth a 3x markup ($89.99)? It gave me pause. So then I go to Bike Light Database and The Sweet Home. Neither recommend the L&M 180. They like it but they note its price and that there are other lights that are just as good for a lot less. As another side note, both of these sites were extremely helpful in my search.

It saddens me that an American company cannot make a great, high quality taillight in this case that is not at least somewhat competitive in price. I am not saying lose money on the deal but I should not suffer a degree of sticker shock that I felt. I ended up picking the Cyclolite Hotshot for $28.48. This is over $60 cheaper and gets as good of reviews.

I will review more adequately once I have received it from Amazon and used it a few times.

Brooks Cambium – My Take

It was time to replace the much loved but irretrievably sagging Brooks 17S. I had it transferred to my to my Soma when it was built last year. It was only 4 years old when it developed a very uncomfortable sag. It was fixed once and held up well for about a year. There are many who say Brooks leather saddles aren’t what they once were. Two summers in a row that included week long tours in the rain may have hastened it’s demise. I used a saddle cover of course but after enough days and nights of rain maybe some damage was done. I’d been curious about the Cambium for a while. Given John’s positive experience with it (see previous post) I was ready to give the C17S a try.

I’ve now ridden over 300 miles on it and overall, I like it. I agree with John that it’s amazingly shock absorbing. I didn’t find that it was easy to fit or instantly comfortable though. Part of this might be that the C17S is longer in than the B17S, which changes the feel of the contact points quite a bit. It also made it a little tricky getting the right “fore and aft” position. We couldn’t just copy the positioning of the B17S.

This saddle doesn’t break in. That’s no surprise. What you feel at first is what you get. So I had to toughen up. After a couple of weeks the bruised feeling subsided though was still not entirely gone. I think this was largely due to how long it took me to get the right seat post adjustment.

The Cambium has less height than the B17S. I read other blogs suggesting a need to raise the saddle post .5″ to compensate. That wasn’t the right adjustment for me. After fidgeting with it over a number of weeks (and having the predictable pain behind my kneecaps and then in the muscles around my knee) it dawned on me to look up how to fit the a seat post.

Grant at Rivendell Bicycle Worksg says to adjust the seat post to PBH-4″ from saddle top to the middle of the crank arm. I wasn’t entirely sure what that meant. Which way should the crank arm be positioned? My next “aha” was to check this out using my perfectly fitted ANT (thank you, Baltimore Bicycle Works!). It emerged that you position the crank arm to be parallel with the floor. I made the needed adjustment and now I think I’ve got it! It turns out not only does the right seat post height relieve knee pain and give you full use of your quads for climbing, it also relieves undue saddle pressure. I don’t know the bio-mechanics of that, just reporting the experience. Now when I hop on the ANT the B17S on it feels oddly short and lacking in support. I might end up with Cambium on it, too.

If you read John’s review you’ll see he had no fit problems with his Cambium. He just put it on the bike and he was fine from day one. So there you have it. My experience may not indicate what yours would be like in any way.

Verdict: The Cambium may never give your butt the nice custom comfort that comes with a broken-in leather saddle, but it is noticeably better at smoothing out the ride and it is comfortable when positioned properly. Rain is no problem for it. As others report repositioning yourself on it is easy even though it’s not as smooth as a leather saddle. I expect it to be more durable but won’t know about that for 4-5 years!