29 September, 2017

Fall Riding

By Scott

At the risk of being pummeled by the Internet, I'll come out and say that Fall is the best season. I think this is a very different declaration from saying green is the best color or that silver is the best color for a handlebar. (Green as a color has a huge scope, so it can go with anything, and silver is the original and best color for bars - just for what it's worth.)

Fall here is very different from where I grew up. I lived out in the west coast for almost all of my life. We moved here about 8 years back and fall has only increased in it's magnitude while living here.

The view of the corn fields after the crop has been taken in
There's the sense of calm that comes over the Mid Atlantic when that first cold front of air comes down from Canada in September. It's a bit late this year, but still, I know that I can open up the windows and not have the sticky feeling of humidity enter into the house, but rather a cool, dry breeze that reminds me of trips to lakes up north and the cool breeze of an evening ride, trying to get home before it gets really dark.

I love the seasons here in the Mid Atlantic. There are four distinct ones here. Winter isn't that long most years and rarely very severe compared to other part of North America. Fall seems to last just long enough and I've usually got enough strength built up from riding in the summer that fall becomes easier.

The trees are in the midst of starting to drop their leaves/change their colors here. It's been dry here this summer, so that affects the timing I think.

Fall is a busy time of year. My wedding anniversary is in October, as is my wife's birthday, so lots of celebrations at the beginning and end of the month. The coffeneuring challenge starts in October and that always brings about a challenge to find new places to ride to enjoy a beverage. Throw in the Philly Bike Expo at the start of November, and all the work to get the booth created and gosh, before you know it, we're getting close to Thanksgiving.

Do you agree that Fall is the best time to ride? Or is there another season that tops it for you?

25 September, 2017

'Tis the Season...For Fenders

by Igor

*cue sad puppy music* We've all seen it. Skunk tail. Mud butt. Rooster tail. Face speckles. These are all symptoms of those without fenders riding on wet roads. Thankfully, there is an answer.

This poor soul at Eurobike didn't have fenders
*cue cheerful music* In addition to a beautiful adornment for your bike, Velo Orange fenders have a full coverage design which means that you and your bike's drivetrain will stay clean of road muck and grime. Both front and rear fenders have full wrap around the width of your tires to eliminate spray in all directions.

Snakeskin is a personal favorite of mine
Our available offerings fit lots of commonly available wheel and tire combinations. We suggest having a difference of at least 10mm between your tire size and the fender's width. For example, if you're trying to cover a 650bx42mm tire, get the 52mm Zeppelin. If you're running a 700cx28mm tire, select one of our 45mm options: Smooth, Stainless, Hammered, Noir Hammered, or Facetted.

A spot of rain on Inis Oirr, Ireland
Winter is coming so enjoy those warm, summer rains while you can.

19 September, 2017

Paper or Plastic?

By Scott

Tub of memories

I've been doing some cleaning at home and I found a tub of randonneuring pins/medals from my rides in Canada and Australia (the US organizers generally charged for them, so being cheap/frugal to a fault, I don't have many US medals). I was thinking back to the rides that I did and the changes to the sport and technology since I started riding brevets back in 2003. I think the biggest change, bigger than tire size and frame material, is how we navigate around.

The old way
At the start of the BC randonneurs rides, we would get a control card, a cue sheet, and a ziplock bag to put it in. They would post the cue sheets to the club website a week or so beforehand in case you wanted to print them in a different format or size than what came standard. I'd use the supplied cues, sometimes substituting a thick freezer ziplock if spring was to be exceptionally wet.

At the successful completion of the ride, you'd get a pin from the organizer. In BC, we had a different pin design every year and each distance was a different color. We'd joke that we were pin collectors with a cycling problem.

Paper cues were all that I used for all my rides in BC for 4 years or so. Towards the end of my time living in BC, I started to see some technologically advanced folks use a GPS on their bars. Cool, but this seemed to have more work involved - creating files, downloading files, battery life - than I was prepared to deal with. 

Fast forward three years to living in the DC area and it seemed more and more folks had GPS units. Costs had come down and it seemed half the field had little boxes squeaking and beeping at them during a ride to keep them on track. I stuck with my paper cues, still standard issue by the club, as I lacked the money to move up to a GPS unit and still felt slightly intimidated by the technology.

The new way
Looking at handlebars of other riders here in Maryland this past weekend, it seems that I am in the minority in terms of how to navigate. Folks are using their cell phones for navigation as well as journaling on Strava. There are systems to allow you to plug your phone and lights into a hub dynamo to keep them fully charged all the time, so the battery issue would appear to be a non-issue. Some events (not randonneuring) are only giving the route in gpx formats, as it is assumed that everyone is using a computer-based navigation system.

I still use paper if I need cues for a ride or a trip. Am I using the modern equivalent of carbide lights? All of Igor and Adrian's trips to Europe were navigated using cell phone apps that are available offline like maps.me and Google maps. Is this the future and I've missed it or are there folks out there still using maps and paper cue sheets, even if it is a back up to their GPS/cell phone? Let us know in the comments and if it makes you feel better, you can also write us at:

Velo Orange
1981 Moreland Parkway
Building 3
Annapolis, MD

Bonus points if you use a fountain pen.

13 September, 2017

Canti Post Sizing PSA

By Scott

Over the years, "standards" have changed for a lot of things. Wheel spacing for example - we went from 120, to 126, to 130/135 mm.  One of the little known changes relates to cantilever brakes. Over the years, the spacing between the posts has changed and can cause issues with folks trying to restore/upgrade an older bike with newer parts.

Canti Pass Hunter with modern spacing
The current standard for the width of the canti spacing is between 77 and 85 mm (centre to centre). On older bikes, (and by this I mean bikes made in the 70's and the 80's) it can be between 55 to 65 mm wide. This is where problems start to happen.

1984 Santana Tandem with older, narrow spacing
Modern canti brakes are designed around the new standard post width. This results in a brake that will sit higher above the post and be thicker then the older brakes. This means you can't use new brakes on older posts.

What can be done? Well not much unfortunately. As standards change, companies like Shimano and Dia Compe don't stock the classic spacing any more, and it's tough to convince our suppliers to make a small run of brakes that would work with the old standard. So the best that can be done is to use the older brakes, clean up and lubricate the pivot points, update the pads with new pads that have better compounds and use some simichrome to shine them up.

08 September, 2017

A Four Countries Tour

by Igor

Nothing could prepare us for the beauty of the countryside, Swiss Alps, and lakefront cities that were going to join us on our journey through Switzerland, Lichtenstein, Austria, and Germany before making our way to Eurobike.

After assembling and loading up the bikes at the Zurich airport, we eagerly set off for Zug. Exploring Zurich would have to wait until our return at the end of the tour.

The floaty, wide tires we selected were quickly looking like good decisions right off the bat. We started out by circuitously winding through unpaved and paved trails around downtown Zurich, sometimes while being egged on by bell-clad, grazing sheep.

Our first day out, the sun beat down heavily upon us with very high humidity. Luckily, there are lots of fountains with potable water. In Switzerland, fountains are safe to drink from unless it explicitly says "Kein Trinkwasser".

Once off the main road, our route became more of the same mix of gravel and paved surfaces. Since the rollerblading culture in Switzerland is alive and thriving, the paved sections were exceptionally smooth and could even be connected to traverse the country. Seriously, they have separate, labeled rollerblading routes through the country. Why did we ever stop blading in the States?!

We were only a few kilometers away from our destination in Zug, when a storm quickly approached off our starboard. It seems like racing storm clouds and sunsets are a requisite of every multi-day tour.

Luckily this storm passed quickly, and after catching golden hour, a Jazz and American Folk Music Festival, and the city's aviary we headed out to Lucerne the next morning. Single track, b-roads, and cobbles would greet us as the tarmac of the day.

The city of Lucerne was a marvel. The winding cobbled streets lead to medieval structures and bridges dating back to the 1400s. Markets lined the Reuss River during the day and restaurants opened their doors through the night. Nothing could beat sitting on a bench with a Vermicelle dessert and enjoying the sounds of the river running through the city.

The Swiss Museum of Transportation in Lucerne is absolutely amazing. Specifically, their automotive collection is one of the best I have ever seen. There is a small auditorium and upon request, the system will bring a car down from the wall and talk about it's design, history, and impact on the world of cars.

And you know we did the chocolate tour.

Our next destination would be St. Gallen by train. Train travel through Europe is a breeze, with stations in the majority of cities. No need to Rinko or disassemble your bike. Most regional and intercontinental (ICE) trains have a bike car, so you simply secure your bike and have a seat in the passenger area. We used a hair tie to secure the brakes, to keep our bikes in place during travel.

On a ferry, but same idea!

St. Gallen, amongst other things, is known for its meticulously maintained ancient abbey and library with literature dating to the 9th century (sorry, photos were not allowed), the university, and ridiculously good local bratwursts. The abbey's library is said to have the most perfect mix of dimensions and wood tones to be optimally warm and comforting - I'd agree. For the brats, they must be consumed with a crusty roll lest you look like a tourist. Oh, don't even think about asking for mustard, you'll get kicked out of the city.

From St. Gallen, we opted to go straight to Vaduz, Lichtenstein. The trail was mixed media galore. Large and small-stone gravel, a bit of double track, and more rollerblading routes led us towards the border crossing - a covered wooden bridge with simple markings showing which country you're crossing into.

While in Lichtenstein, we left the bikes at camp and opted to go hiking. The chairlift from Malbun took us up to the trailhead for the hike to the top of Saeris. The experience was a symphony for the senses. Fresh Alpine air, grasping rocks for scrambles, bells on livestock clanging from the valley below, clouds pouring over the mountain tops, and tasty Swiss snacks. It was basically a granola bar commercial.

Leaving Lichtenstein (fairly quickly as it is only 25km long), we doubled back and continued our journey to Friedrichschafen, Germany which would be the home of Eurobike in a couple days time. We crossed back into Switzerland, stopped in Bregenz, Austria for lunch, and finally to Friedrichschafen. Four countries in one day!

Yes, they were delicious
Our time in Friedrichschafen would only be temporary as we promptly hopped back on a train for 24 hours in Munich. I had no idea that the surfing scene in Munich would be so good!

After four busy and perpetually wet days at Eurobike we headed back to Zurich for some city exploration and final packing of our bikes and gear. Keep an eye out on the blog for more details about Eurobike and project progress.

Every time we get back from trips like these, we are always astounded by the lack of public infrastructure within our great country, the US of A. Train travel between cities is frequently prohibitively expensive if routes even exist, cohesive bicycle and public transportation infrastructure is non-existent outside of metropolitan cities, and cycling is frequently seen as an inconvenience to others.

More recently, I hear of cities in the US trying out a revamp of their city centers by preventing automobile traffic through combined blocks. Often times, these concepts are met by anger and disapproval from local business owners saying that the reduced traffic will harm their livelihood. Unsurprisingly, when it is actually tested out, opinions are turned on their heads. These areas are highly trafficked by locals and visitors. People get to experience a cityscape louder in conversation rather than tailpipes.

Here in Annapolis, we have "Dinner Under the Stars". One day a week during summer months, a portion of road on West Street gets shut down and restaurants put tables out. It really is exceptionally pleasant - especially knowing that in the morning, cars and trucks will be whizzing by on the same stretch. Many love the experience and would prefer it to be like this year-round.

I wonder if these concepts and experiments could be the beginnings of awareness and promotion of city interconnectivity, where otherwise people just drive from place to place. What does it take for this to happen? Drastically increased car taxes, gas prices going up, city center driving taxes?