Archive for August 2009

 
 

Gruene and Back Again with Miss Jessica

A romantic get away with Miss Jessica. Six feet of human steel and sex appeal. A multi Iron Man finishing triathlete and road bike racer. A faux hawl euro mullet rocking woman’s CAT4 Texas Team Time Trail gold medal champion. Totally pro, super euro, very German.

I am leaving, she is leaving, we are leaving. I am about to fly out of the country and she is leaving the state. I am coming back for sure. She maybe. It takes a long time to explore the amount of territory she is looking to traverse. If we are lucky we will meet up on another continent in the not so far future. Tour de Afrique?

A bike ride south. 50 miles to Gruene, TX (pronounced green). A small town catering to tubing the river and B&Bs. Home of the Tour de Gruene time trial races in November. A chance to go on a nice ride together. A chance for me to do a final check-up ride on my Break Away with the newly installed cable disconnects and load down my black Ortlieb Velocity backpack with twice as much gear as I plan on riding with in Italy. If I don’t end up in agony, carrying the current 30-40lbs, I should be golden with a half load.

This is an approximation of our route:



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We left late. But this is a vacation. Isn’t the point to not stress about the details. The much loved Austin to Buda route on Old San Antonio road. Then through Kyle to San Marcos. We are making good smooth time. A double rail road crossing with hard edges. I pinch flat, pulling to the side of the road. Jessica u-turns to come back and almost wrecks. She had flated as well. Two pinch flats, using only two spare tubes. We work in parallel and are up and running in no time. Hunting down the local bike shop is more of a process. Four spare tubes in the bag, we continue on our way.

The Stagecoach Inn. Bluebonnet room. The inn is easily found, right off of Hunter road, 4:47pm. 2 min check-in, 10 min showers. Claw foot bath tub and walk in shower. Big bed, 8 pillows, musket above the door. Champagne glasses we fill with electrolyte mix, drained in a gulp. Then it is back on the bikes for the short ride into Gruene for an early dinner at the Gristmill. Our table over looks the Guadalupe River, two stories below. We arrived early enough to beat the rush and relax with our food. A stroll though an antique shop. Some ice cream while we watch people wander around the town. The sun is setting and we had better get back before it gets too dark on these country roads. It is 9:15pm and we are asleep.

I hear the owner sneak by the door, around 7:45am, to put our tray of coffee on the adjacent table. At 8:15 we finally get up and go outside to retrieve it. An insulated pitcher and two mugs. We drink almost finish it off before finally making our way to the main house for breakfast. Waffles and load of fresh fruit for me. Sweet strawberries, blueberries, bananas, and peaches. Orange juice and bacon. An amazing vegan breakfast for Jessica whipped up special just for her. A single layer of lettuce topped with thick slices of ripe red tomatoes. Torn leaves of basil and three massive scoops of mashed avocado. Flat bread on the side. I chose porely. I had breakfast. She had a gourmet meal. Some more lounging, this time in the porch swing before we head west.

Our return loop is through the hill country rather than taking the route most travelled. It may be longer and have more hills, but it gives us the chance to ride along the river for the first hour or two. A shade filled lane and slowly drifting water. We turn off the smooth river road and enter the land of chip seal and repaved but not restriped blacktop. Some sun ripened peaches, two for two dollars, as we turn onto Purgatory. Super sweet and deliciouse. Lunch and a nearly gallon of iced tea in Wimberley. 82 miles and a day of head winds and hills later, we pull into Austin. 3 hours there and 5 hours back. That is called taking the scenic route!

The Ritchey Break-Away

The Rapha Continental seems just barely finished and my next tour is already about to begin.. I have been sprinting these last three weeks trying to get my gear, routes, plans, everything figured out and lined up.

Hannie (Austin is his home away from Rome) is heading back to Italy for a six week stay and invited me to join. I have been to Italy before, but as a pedestrian and never with a bike or a native speaker. I jokingly said “sure, why not” until I discovered round trip tickets after taxes were only $648, after taxes, on Air France. The “sure” became a serious “yes”. Two months later, we are in the final preparations. On Monday, 8/31 at 4pm, if everything proceeds according to plan, we will be pulling out of the gate. Houston->Paris->Rome.

My plan is to do 10-15 amazing rides. Some basic routes provided by Andy Hampsten which I am working on fleshing out. A Giro route or two. A handful from the Lonely Planet Cycling Italy book which just came out. And a few random ones that seem interesting that I will wing. This is going to be a credit card tour. As much fun as it was pushing a 90lb bike down the west coast on my Vancouver BC to San Diego CA ride, I want to ride light this time around. A bike and a backpack. Enough for 2-3 days. Food from local towns. Train rides to and from the various sections.

I needed a new bike. A travel bike. One that fits. My Soma Smoothie ES handled well loaded with front and rear panniers but I didn’t care much for it on its own. Maybe it was its geometry. Maybe it was due to it being a 54cm when I should be riding a 52cm. Either way, it was out. I wasn’t thrilled with the idea of taking my carbon fiber race bike either for various reasons. Plus, one problem with any of these bikes was transport. To the airport, on the plane, across Rome. A full sized bike fits in a full size bike case, which is large. It doesn’t fit in cars, gets charged oversized luggage rate (anywhere from $100 north) by the airlines, and then you have to have room to store the case at the place you are staying. I needed something meant for travel.

One thing the bike industry is, is interconnected. After the Rapha Continental tour I noticed the Ritchey Break-Away in their office from their Tour of California project. I spoke with Slate, who put me in touch with Trystan, who directed me to Nate at Ritchey Logic. Three degrees of separation. I explained my project. My past rides, my road journal, my photo documentation, my goals. That I was looking for sponsors and would they have any interest in taking a chance on someone who is not hugely established. They talked it over, decided it sounded like an exciting trip and interesting opportunity. That is how I became the proud new owner of a nice new frame, fork, bars, stem and seat post. A matched set. Wet black. A glossy finish.

When you are looking at travel bikes there really are only two styles to choose from. The Break-Away double pinch bolt/coupler system and SIS couplers. Both solve the technical problem of separating the front triangle from the back so it can fit in a drastically smaller case. The Break-Away system solves a second problem: aestehtics. Ritchey’s system is discreet. If you walked up to the bike, you probably wouldn’t even catch that it was a split frame. The seat tube collars are separated by a flush seam and the down tube is joined using a compression coupler discreetly tucked away, just above the bottom bracket, hidden by the chain rings. Elegant. The frame presents as a traditional road frame with some secret capabilities. SIS couplers, on the other hand, are installed in the top and down tubes to allow them to be split and act like re-enforced compression fittings. Bare on one side, threaded on the other with in line teeth to restrict independent rotation of the joined tubes. They work but they are heavier, very visible, and add lumps to the lines of the bike.

Once I received the frame I did some basic frame prep. Frame saver in the frame to insure that rust never forms, chased and faced the bottom bracket, and faced the head tube. I had a SRAM Rival gruppo as a spare in the event the components on my race bike were broken or damaged as happened in my wreck back in April. They came out of their boxes and onto the bike. At the end of the day I had the bars wrapped and the dérailleurs tuned. A test ride later and I remembered why I loved these wheels.  Mavic OpenPros on Ultegra hubs. Butter smooth and completely silent. I rode the same wheel set down the west coast and being able to listen to the environment with out hearing the pawls in the freehub body ratcheting while coasting is fantastic.

Frame:    Ritchey Break-Away (steel, 52cm)
Fork:     Ritchey Pro Carbon Road
Headset:  Ritchey Pro Logic
Bars:     Ritchey WCS Logic Road (alloy, 40cm, wet black)
Stem:     Ritchey WCS 4-Axis 44 (alloy, 110mm, wet black)
Seatpost: Ritchey WCS Alloy 1-Bolt (alloy, 300mm length, 27.2mm diameter, 20mm offset, wet black)
Saddle:   Fizik Arione (black)
Gruppo:   SRAM Rival (170mm cranks, 53/39 chain rings, 11-26 cassette)
Wheels:   Mavic OpenPro on Ultegra Hubs (32 spokes, 3X lacing pattern)
Pedals:   Shimano Ultegra
Cages:    Arundel Stainless Steel

Total Weight: 19lb 4oz

My friend Katrina took these photos of the bike on the back walkway of Mellow Johnny’s after the first test ride. The thumbnails are cropped, so click the image if you want to see the bike in all of its glory. You can check out her photoblog here.

and rear panniers but I didn’t care much

Tom Robertson in Missoula, MT

After I had been back in Austin for a couple of days Tom sent me some really nice (not only because I was one of the subjects in the frame) photos of the ride outside of Missoula, MT

Check them out below (all copyright Tom Robertson and used with his permission). WordPress crops the images to fit the thumbnail display so if you want to see a picture in all of its glory, click on it to be taken to a full format version.

You can see more of his work here:  http://www.tomrobertsonphoto.com and here: http://thetravelingtom.blogspot.com