Friday, January 2, 2015

Heart Rate Monitor Recommendation

I've been using heart rate monitors on the bike for years. Most of that time I was using the entry level plastic strap version that came with my Garmin 305. Prior to that I used the entry level Polar HRM. These two were nearly indestructible and worked most of the time and just needed a CR2032 battery replaced every year or so.

One day I though I would treat myself, and bought the Garmin Premium Soft Strap. It was, as advertized, much more comfortable. However, after about a month, it started cutting out mid-ride. Heart rate readings got progressively worse and worse. I changed the battery and followed all the suggestions in the garmin heart rate monitor troubleshooting guide, with no luck.

I was convinced the electronics failed, so I replaced it with another identical soft strap. It worked for a month before it too succumbed to the same symptoms: cutting out and giving false reading after progressively shorter intervals. My next step was to take DC Rainmaker's advice and use a Polar strap with the Garmin monitor. This worked great for about 3 months and then it too started cutting out. It would consistently cut out on long descents if the strap dried out at all, never reestablishing a connection.

At this point, I gave up on using a heart rate monitor at all and kissed my Strava Suffer Scores goodbye. I just didn't want to go back to the hard plastic "cheap" heart rate strap, even if it did just *work*.


I saw a couple positive reviews of the Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor so I decided to give heart rate monitors one last try. The Wahoo TICKR has been working great for three months without even a hiccup. This model supports both ANT+ and Bluetooth, so it works with both my iPhone and my Garmin 510.

I'll post a followup if I have any problems.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Ride Every Road: Sunnyvale

Once I started this project, the OCD kicked in and I knew i was going to finish. It was just a matter of how quickly I could finish. However, I kept finding myself wondering: "Why am I doing this?"

I think the initial seed was hearing about my co-worker Jen's walking every street in Berkeley, CA project. Impressive, but not for me. Some time later, Richard of Cyclelicious fame, posted about his plan to ride every road in Santa Cruz. Interesting, but no thanks. Then I saw Bret Lobree's Ride All of San Francisco project. Full-on crazy, no way I'm doing that.

Fast forward a few months, and I'm looking to do an easy, flat, recovery ride near home. That was the day I was hooked.

Initially, my plan was to just chip away at the goal starting by varying my bike commute across town. I picked up roads along my usual routes to and from work. The parts of Sunnyvale farther North and East took some dedicated rides.

My rules were that I would ride any road I legally could, plus any bike paths. I would skip townhouses, apartment complexes, driveways, and parking lots. My rule of thumb was if the street name ended in "Terrace," I would skip it. Initially I was ignoring trailer parks as well, but somewhere along the line, trailer parks became fair game. 

Progress was slow. Eventually I resorted to dedicated sorties every weekend to new regions of Sunnyvale. Here is the result:

The only roads that I know I missed are behind the locked (and guarded) gates of Lockheed Martin in North Sunnyvale. So unless someone can get me a visitor's pass to bike around the Lockheed campus, that part of the map will stay dark.

From my years of riding in the area, I'm already close to completing Los Altos Hills (see my Strava Heatmap) so I might do that next.

Thanks to Jonathan O'Keeffe for his excellent multiple ride mapping utility.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring Classic 2014

After Last years sunny and dirt free Spring Classic 2013 I had to give this ride another go. This year there was dirt, steep climbs, and dirty steep climbs.

Ran with two Garmins. The new 510 for data and my old 500 because it can do turn by turn directions with a .tcx file. The turn by turn directions were both a blessing and a curse. The 500 was constantly beeping "off course" and "course found." I did manage to stumble into a screen that only showed distances to the next few turns instead of the useless map screen. This was a big help.

I managed to stay on course the whole way, with a little help from the Garmin and a ton of help of my fellow riders. Big shout out to Kari (or maybe another SuperPro rider) and the other rider who shouted at me to turn onto Grabtown gulch trail. Thankfully I was riding with Patrick who new the trails in Big Basin to make the correct turn onto Johansen trail.

The trails were steep, a little muddy, and beautiful. They required plenty of walking, and I made a point of riding a much as possible, even if it was stupid slow. Riding was faster thank walking. This ride would have been nearly impossible without mountain bike shoes.

Again my Challenge Biancha Strada tires were perfect. Virtually no speed penalty on the flat pavement, only a marginal weight penalty, and they had a wide enough footprint to handle the mud and trails. More traction would have been welcome, but it was enough. The tires were clearly superior to those riding 700x25c road tires.

Check Point 2 had virtually no food when I got there. I took the last banana and the last peanut butter pretzel. Or about 120 calories. This was not good. Plenty of coke, but that just fucks me up. I should have stopped in La Honda for food, but I was doing 30+mph and by the time thought seriously about it, it was too late. The ride to CP3 was a slow one. I ate all of my emergency food: two caffeinated gels (190 calories and about 4 cups of coffee worth of caffeine) and rode as slow as possible and hopes of burning fat, not carbs.

About this time the powermeter stopped registering. Same thing happened during the tainthammer. Last month I assumed the battery in the powertap was dead, but as it turns out it wasn't. So this day, I rebooted the Garmin 510 and I had a power reading again. Woot!

Finally arrived at at CP4. They had food: toasted cheese sandwitches. I just stood there in a non-verbal state eating toasted cheese after toasted cheese, and drank half a can of beer ( for the electrolytes ) until I felt some strength come back. While I was waiting there was some talk about bailing out and getting into the broom wagon. I considered riding out to HW 1 and taking the flat route to the finish.

Then Patrick rolled into CP4. I knew then I was going to finish the whole route. Patrick knew the trails so at least I wouldn't get lost in the woods. We only had a little confusion about directions on Johansen trail, and made all the correct turns. Patrick got a flat right at the RR cars and had it quickly patched. Seemed like we were at the next check point in no time.

CP5 had French fries. These were GOOD. I needed the salt. Another half can of beer (for the electrolytes) and some ammusing banter with the drunk aid station worker and we were ready to ride to the finish.

At this point there was only about 4 miles of climbing and then it was all downhill, and that was mostly true. The uphill was Jamison Creek Rd, and that was a bear of a climb. Putting that climb at mile 99 in a 115 mile ride? Just Psycho. Then 15 miles of rollers and a nice decent into Santa Cruz.

Finished at the Ibis factory where there was cold beer and some hot food.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Tainthammer 2014

When you sign up for a ride called the Tainthammer, you might have an idea of what you're in for:
A 133 blast of base miles across unpaved farm roads and the roughest roads we could find in the California Central Valley. Less than 400 ft of climbing in the entire 133 miles.

Rough roads were an understatement. Road conditions varied from pavement, busted up pavement, packed dirt, gravel, wash boarded dirt road, sand, mud, badly wash boarded and muddy, soupy mud, and quagmire. There were the occasional farm dogs that gave chase.  There was even a rattle snake curled up in the middle of the road. I thought I hallucinated the rattler until several other riders said they saw it too.

From my Strava ride report:
Most physically demanding ride, ever.
Powertap stopped working around mile 90. Heart rate monitor got stuck on on 120 bpm shortly thereafter. I wonder if the Garmin's ANT+ got wedged.
Rode with the lead group at until just past the first aid station and then found myself in the gutter at 200% FTP and threw in the towel and dropped back. Rode the rest of the way with Ammon and soon there after added Alan. Without them I would have been easily tempted to shortcut the course. As it is we made one minor wrong turn and ended up in Los Banos adding a few extra miles.
Speedplay pedals were a really, really, *really* bad idea. I ended up wasting a lot of time trying to get mud, sand, rocks, and manure out of the cleats. Miles of not being able to click in and times when I could not click out. When you're teetering in 3" deep mud and you can't get out of you cleats, you find that little extra to keep going.
Plenty of farm dogs gave chase. Most were just being "playful" but there were a couple close calls.
I am absolutely amazed at Murphy Mack's ability to find that many miles of totally crap roads. An absolutely diabolical course

Post mortem:

Front fork
Mud clogged cassette
Would I do it again? Maybe. With mountain bike pedals and no front fender it would be tempting. The fun factor is there. However the cost in bike parts was very high. This ride destroyed the drivetrain on my bike. 

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Murph's 2013 Spring Classic

I first heard about the Spring Classic on the SF2G mailing list. After reading some of the EPIC ride report from the 2012 ride to Santa Cruz, I instantly knew I wanted to be a part of the next one. I had much trepidation about this ride. There were so many unknowns: the route, the weather, and the off road portions. I spent more time than I'd like to admit second guessing which bike, tires, and gear I should run. Fast forward to a few days before the event and the email arrives with start and finish locations. Surprise, the route isn't even starting in San Francisco. Good news, a late call says no dirt. So the choice is simple: take the good road bike with 25c tires.

The start: Trummer Pils Brewery in Berkeley. Weather is already warming up before the 9am start time. Start gets pushed back to about 9:25 I wisely ditch my full fingered gloves and leg warmers in the car. They would have stayed in my pockets the whole time. Just perfect weather... A some quick instructions we're promenading through Berkeley behind the pace car for a neutral start. The car peals off just before Marin Ave, and IT IS ON!

Marin Ave is was total madness. 0.8 miles with an average of 16% grade. several sections of 20-25% grade. This at about 1.5 miles into the ride. I managed to ride straight up, many others were zig-zagging all over the road. Sometimes into traffic. This completely shattered the pack and strung everyone out.

I started at the front and was still near the front after Marin. I hopped on a groupetto but they were super frisky, accelerating on the hills and braking on the downhills. I was still recovering from Marin Ave and I looked down and realized we were only 5 miles into a 117 mile ride and decided I wasn't going to survive this kind of riding, so I let myself get popped off the back and rode tempo to get my heart rate back to something manageable. Across Grizzly Ave and a fun decent, I was back on with this group that had grown in size. Soon after we were caught by a few more, and our numbers swelled to about 25.

This group rolled into Dublin for the first rest stop. The rest stop was already being swarmed by the first wave. I wasted too much time (30 seconds) finding a place to put my bike, filled my bottles, signed in, grabbed a bagel (which I ate as I ran to pee), grabbed a banana and a hopped on my bike. Just in time to grab the departing stragglers from the group.
Riding into Dublin
The pace had evened out a bit, we rode out through town towards Clayton.  We turned onto Morgan Territory Rd. (amazing!) that runs around the east side of Mount Diablo. About a mile or so in, someone at the front of our group spotted the pack in front of us, a couple riders attacked. I was right on his wheel and when I saw the rabbit, I too bit down on the bar tape and put in the effort to close the gap. Just as we were about to make contact the entire pack in front of us sat up to take a piss! One empty bladder later, I was at the base of the climb, totally shattered, and the pack had evaporated. It was everyone for themselves on Morgan Territory. This climb was done in survival mode (we where about 40 miles into the ride now). I made one more unscheduled stop at the top at the Morgan Territory trailhead to fill my bottles. Loosing a few minutes was better than getting dehydrated. After that a fantastic descent on smooth roads and a tailwind. I descended "conservatively" only hitting speeds of 35-40mph.

Cold Beer
Next was solo ride into Livermore to the next rest stop at about 62 miles (aka 100km). Just in time to see fragments of the earlier group finishing their beer (yes!) and shots of bourbon (really, yes.) Somehow I missed the grilled cheese sandwiches. I was in a hurry to have someone to ride with, rushing through sign in, bottles, peeing, back on the bike.... This is where I ran into Patrick  (we know each other through Strava) and I asked if he minded riding together. Maybe it was the beer he was drinking, but he said yes. I grabbed a two free GU packets and stuffed a peanut butter and jelly sandwitch into my face. I had brought Hammer nutrition Perpetum and was mixing my own, but now I was out. They had plenty of free Osmo brand drink and I filled up. No beer for me, that was the carrot that was pulling my to the finish. Beer is for finishers!

Rolled out with Patrick. At this point we had a group of 6 leaving the 2nd rest stop, but they wouldn't work with us. Patric and I pealed off from the double "paceline" and within about 3 minutes the group was shattered as no one pulled through. So Patrick and I went back to the front. Part way up Mines road the others (only 3 others at this point) pulled off to stop for some reason, and we soldiered on. Never saw them again until the finish.

Mines road had one big climb and then a series of rollers, twisting and turning though the valley that goes south out of Livermore on the east side of Mount Hamilton. Many miles, two empty water bottles, a cherry-lime GU (nasty!), and a lot of conversation later, we arrive at The Junction. No beer here as The Junction is a bar and can't complete with free beer. There was bourbon discretely hidden amongst the gels, Osmo, water, peanutbutter pretzles, and M&Ms.  No bourbon for me, bourbon is for finishers!

We're close now, this is about mile 90. Just another 27 miles to go. Just a little more climbing and then a 22 mile descent into Patterson where food and cold beer are waiting. It's still Patrick and me, riding tempo. Patrick was probably a bit stronger, neither of us was willing to test the other. At this point the battle had made us comrades in arms. The two of us against the wind and miles.
Mile 92 comes and goes and theoretically it's all downhill from here. Except Del Peurto Canyon has a killer headwind blowing straight out of the central valley and right up in our face. We're fighting to maintain 20mph downhill. We passed a couple who were doing the short course (70 miles starting on Morgan Territory Rd).

Finally through the hills I saw a semi truck moving along at speed. We were within sight of I-5 and the end of the descent. Another few miles across the flats into Patterson. Left at the McDonnalds. Right onto M Street, look for the park... Rolled into the school yard teaming with bikes, food and beer. Signing in was the only thing I did before getting a beer. Well earned and it tasted so good.

An amazing ride, I can't wait for next year.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A New Start for

I originally started the "WWW Bikelane" back in 1993. Hosted from my personal account at Purdue University. Eventually I bought the domain and hosted the website. I created the site to catalog all the interesting biking related websites on the Internet. Back before there were search engines and people would publish books with interesting websites in them.

Since those dark ages the need for topic directories, or even web directories, has passed. So I've decided to relaunch the site as a blog.