Coffeeneuring Challenge Wrap Up! Controls 6 and 7. Peets Coffee and San Mateo Coffee Company.

If you have followed any of my coffeeneuring posts you might recall that the challenge MG set up was to go to seven different coffee shops over the last six weeks. It had to be at least two miles round trip. You could only go on the weekend, you could only go once per day, and you could not go to the same coffee shop twice, unless it was a chain and they were different locations. You could combine coffeeneuring with shopping, or other errand, but you could not combine it with sanctioned ride or randonneur brevet.
I had five visits under my belt, and last weekend was my final opportunity to complete the challenge. I had to go each day. This was going to be a little tough, as there were things needing doing at the house, but I could spare an hour and a half each day for a coffeeneuring trip.
Coffeeneuring Control #6 – Peet’s Coffee, downtown San Mateo California (not the same one from Control #1!)
One of the things I had to this weekend was to pick up more beans from Peet’s. Normally, I get them at my office in San Francisco, but I forgot last Friday. I always get a half pound so that I get a free regular coffee and also because the beans are fresher that way.
I set out in the early Saturday afternoon with my Salsa Casseroll, sadly now discontinued,  and got to Peets around 2:30. Surprisingly, it was rather full and there was no place to sit at first. I maneuvered my randonneur bike over to the side wall and placed my order. 
 I asked for the beans to be ground at setting #3, which is a fine grind,  so it worked best with our Aerobie coffee press at home. I got a peppermint mocha and a piece of coffee cake. After ordering, I saw that a table had opened up and went and grabbed it.
I had never been to this Peets before, and I quickly noticed that they operated at a much slower pace than the Financial District of San Francisco. It took about five minutes to get my mocha, and there was nobody in front of me. This barista would have been quickly overwhelmed at the downtown San Francisco Peets!
Anyway, when I finally got it, it was quite tasty and went well with my coffee cake.
When I was about halfway done, I ordered a regular mocha for Tanya and put it in my thermos and took it home for her. 
Coffeeneuring Control #6 complete!
Distance: 6 miles round trip.
Coffeeneuring Control #7 – San Mateo Coffee Company
Sunday, I did a quick scan on my MacBook Pro, and saw an interesting mom-and-pop store the opposite side of San Mateo from the Peets I went to the day before. It looked to be about two miles away.
I set out at 12:30 on a very sunny  and found it very easily. Nice little place, just down the block from “Vinyl Solution” which is a used record store that I haven’t popped into in 20 years. 
Thought I might as well, so pop in I did,  and thought it strange that I knew all the music until I realized that since I am old enough to remember records, most of the music would be from the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s… my time!
Making a mental note to go back when I had more time to really browse, I walked my bike down two stores to San Mateo Coffee Company.
 
I parked my bike to the side and then went to the counter and spoke to one of the co-owners. His name was Scott and I cleverly figured out he was a bike guy after noticing his shirt:
 I ordered a cup of coffee and a couple of scones, one to bring back to Tanya.
He told me he noticed my bike right away when I walked in. He said, “I could tell you like to ride in comfort after I saw your handlebar bag and Honjo fenders.” I had to tell them the fenders were actually from Velo Orange and much less expensive. He was pretty impressed with that!
The coffee was very good, a proprietary blend of theirs. I really liked it. Scott also only charged me a buck for each pastry as “We’re about to close in and they will be day-old by tomorrow anyway, so what the heck?”  Now that’s great customer service and something only a mom-and-pop would do. Pretty cool!
Scott told me that they also made sandwiches. When I asked what kind, he said “anything you want!” and showed me a little card you fill out where you check the type of meat, bread, condiments, etc. Nice build-your-own set-up.
Oh, and they have other stuff too:
Scott told me about some of the bikes he had. One that really sounded interesting was an old tandem he bought and removed the rear cranks and stoker bars, and turned into a cargo bike. Sounded like an early xtracycle. He told me he sold it to some guy that wanted to take it to Burning Man. Sounded appropriate. Sadly, he couldn’t find any pictures.
All in all, San Mateo Coffee company was a nice little place,  and absolutely worthy of another visit. I’ll have to go back and try their sandwiches soon.
Coffeeneuring Control #6 complete!
Distance: Four miles round trip.
Final thoughts on completing my first coffeeneuring challenge.
I thought it was a cool idea when I read about the coffeenneuring challenge when MG did it last year for the first time, but for whatever reason, I never did it. I think what got me moving this year was a desire to ride more. As I said in my first post about this, I had been injured last summer in a dooring incident and was wanting to try to get out and ride a bit more. I had only ridden my first 200K a year ago, and had done two more, a couple of populaires, and a Double Century (200 miles in one day) before I was hurt. I had hopes of completing a 300K, a 400K, and perhaps a 600K.  It was very disappointing to have my riding come to a halt due to my injury.
So if I wasn’t ready for Randonneuring, then Coffeeneuring would fill in! Even though it was for short distances, I found myself looking forward to the rides. And like a brevet, I discovered new things, new places, and met some cool people and experienced things that I wouldn’t have done if not for the challenge.
The regular rides also, somehow, gave me the confidence to attempt a bit more of a physical challenge when I rode up to Mt. Hamilton with my good friend Sam last weekend, Mt. Hamilton, at 4,200 feet being the highest mountain in the San Francisco Bay Area.
It was 22 miles up and 22 miles back down. I made it all the way up to the Lick Observatory at the top, slowly, but I didn’t stop except for two five minute breaks, and I did NOT walk my bike up. My ass hurt like hell, my hand hurt like hell, and I swore I would never do it again when I was done.
It was so awesome!   (Randonneurs are weird, huh?)
Bottom line is the coffeeeneuring challenge gave me the bug to try a tough ride again. Saving my receipts, watching my time. It just got me back in the mindset, and for that I am grateful.  Now to work my up for a real brevet when the season starts again next January.

Coffeeneuring Control #1

Big Blue in Front of Peets

I’ve been recovering from a bike accident last July, and only recently got back on the bike. I can’t handle any long distance yet, but am managing to commute at least, and am doing light shopping trips.

I really miss randonneuring, so when I saw that one of my favorite bloggers, MG from Chasing Mailboxes, was starting up her coffeeneuring challenge again this year, I had to do it!

I knew it would be a lot of fun, and I thought this would be a great way to get back, in spirit at least, to the concept of randonneuring.

The concept is simple: Go to seven different coffee shops by the middle of November, document your trip, and show proof you were there. It has to be on the weekend, and the minimum distance is two miles roundtrip.

“Big Blue,” my original commuter bike and cargo-bike in progress, inside of Peet’s.

For my first adventure, I went to my local Peet’s, the Bay Meadows location in San Mateo, CA. last Sunday 10/14/12,  a good two miles round trip, just at the mileage minimum. That distance would be easy enough on my hand.  In the spirit of the season, I had a pumpkin latte. Unbelievably delicious!

Pumpkin latte from Peet’s. Yumm!!

After finishing my drink, I headed over to Whole Foods and did a little shopping, then headed home. This was a great way to start a Sunday. Can’t wait for next weekend!

( I wonder, do I have to send in a signed receipt with my coffeeneuring brevet card?)

Yep, that ‘ol gray beard is me!

How to Have a Large Handlebar Bag with STI Shifters

STI shifters with V-brake noodle adapter

I thought I would post this, as I know many randonneurs like to have a front handlebar bag but have been dissuaded from doing so if they had STI shifters. Two reasons. First is that if your handlebars are not wide enough, the shifter levers will hit the side of the bag. The other reason is the STI shifter cables usually poke into the side of the bag, and make opening and closing the lid problematic, as well as accessing the side pockets. In fact, when I was first looking into buying my large Gilles Berthoud  bag, a few experts advised me against it.

Top view. Unobstructed access thanks to Vbrake noodle adapters.

However, Gabe at BoxDog Bikes pointed out that as long as the levers don’t hit the side of the bag when shifting, I should be ok.  Luckily, that was the case, so one hurdle down. He also suggest using a Vbrake noodle to route the cable. I didn’t end up doing that at first, as the setup was functional.

However, it wasn’t aesthetically pleasing as the cables pushed against the side of the bag, and pinched the top, ruining the clean lines.  I also had to be very careful when taking the bag on and off. Once the cable got underneath the bag, and had I not noticed it, would have affected steering significantly.

It was just  awkward opening the bag while riding, particularly on a long brevet. Closing was also tricky, as I had to push each side down again against the cable to really shut the bag properly.

So after a few months of this, I was in Huckleberry Bikes, which is where I bought my Salsa Casseroll. I mentioned Gabe’s idea to Kevan, their ace mechanic. He was intrigued and said he would like to try it. He took a Vbrake noodle, cut down part of it to make a clean angle, and installed it.

Clean front view with Vbrake noodle adapter.

In practice, it works great. I can see no downside to having this setup. I really like my STI shifters, and had come close to getting rid of them and getting down-tube shifters to accommodate my handlebar bag.

However thanks to Gabe’s original “out of the box” thinking and Kevan’s tweaks and application, I think there is no reason not to have the handlebar bag with STI shifters with this adaptation.

 

It Was a Dark and Stormy Populaire on my 51st Birthday!

Golden Gate Bridge at the start.
photo courtesy of Stephen Stalcup.

The San Francisco Randonneurs had their first 115k populaire of the season on March 31st, which just so happens to coincide with my 51st birthday. I thought that it would be a great way to spend my birthday. Rather than having sitting around having cake and blowing out candles, I would go out on a nice, leisurely 115K. Wouldn’t that be nice? This would also be my second  event with the SF Randonneurs on my Salsa Casseroll, so I was looking forward to that as well.

Umm… yeah…

So the weather reports were already looking ugly a week out, and as it got closer to the day of the ride, they didn’t get any better. The forecast was windy and stormy for most of the morning, and continued rain in the afternoon. Wind gusts predicted up to 50 mph.

I heard this and was determined still to go. Really, because I  checked the upcoming SF Randonneur  schedule, and due to volunteer commitments, this would be my only shot at a brevet , albeit a populaire, until July. My wife wasn’t happy that I planned on riding, but I assured her that I would be careful, there would be lots of other riders, I would check in/text every so often, etc.

Originally, there were 70+ people signed up. By the time I got to the start at the Strauss statue at the  Golden Gate Bridge, there were only 40, and I barely made it to the start on time. Mainly because I had parked about three miles away at the Crissy Field visit, and as I rode from my car to the base of the hill up to the bridge, only then realizing I had left my water bottles back at my car. Went all the way back, pedalling hard, grabbed my bottles, then rode as fast as I could to the start.

Rob Hawks giving us all the heads-up on the road conditions.
Photo courtesy of Manny Acosta.

I barely got there in time to hear Rob’s pre-ride talk. I noticed there were very few riders (later found to be  approximately 40). At this point, the weather was not bad. Cloudy, threatening rain, but maybe we might be lucky…

After promising not to do stupid stuff, we all started heading across the bridge. All was quite lovely, at least until we got mid-way through Sausalito.

The rain came pretty quickly. It started slowly, but within a few minutes picked up. It got dark, the wind picked up, but it still wasn’t too bad. I ended up alongside of Bubba and Manny along the Sausalito bike path. I admired Bubba’s new bike from Black Mountain cycles, and asked him if this mythical couch was all it was cracked up to be. He assured me it was…

Bubba and Ty on the way
Photo courtesy of Manny Acosta

We rode along together for a few miles. The rain started picking up. I asked about the path through Samuel P. Taylor Park and Bubba kindly offered to take me through.

Ty following Bubba, at least until the hill climb out of Sausalito…
Photo courtesy of Manny Acosta

Once we got the the first climb out of Sausalito, I quickly realized that was not to be, as I saw Bubba and Manny go up the hill with all due speed.  My knees are not up to the challenge. My goal on the steep climbs is to at least keep peddling. They ache too much for any decent speed on the climbs. On the flats, I can go at pretty good pace and maintain it quite a while. On climbs, not so much…

As a side note, I am going to Huckleberry Bikes http://www.huckleberrybicycles.com for a long overdue bike fit next week, so perhaps that might take care of the problem.

Gradually more and more riders came up alongside, and then slowly but surely rode on past.  All in all, I was feeling good. The rain was now coming down pretty hard, and pretty much in buckets by the time I hit Kent. The wind was blowing very hard. Not sure exactly how hard, but after a pretty fun descent, I got in the downtown area, I saw a sandwich board sign next to a deli get picked up and fly straight toward me. It probably went 20 or 30 feet through the area. I thought, “I should try to get out of the way,” but as I was in the middle of that thought, the sandwich board sign flew right next to me, at most a foot away.

We kept going through the succession of nice little towns. The rain was coming down very hard at this point. I could feel the wind occasionally try to throw me to the side of the road when a particularly strong gust kicked in.

I got to Sir Francis Drake. As I got on the first climb, I started noticing a red-jacketed rider behind me. He was the only one that wasn’t passing me. I thought to myself, “That’s cool. Maybe some company for a while.”

As if sensing my thoughts, the rider yelled out, “Hey, I hope you don’t mind me following you. You and I seem to be moving at about the same speed. I was hoping you know where we are going.”

I replied that this was my third go through this route and I recognized most of the turns and he was more than welcome to ride along with me. We didn’t get around to introductions for a while after that, as we were in the middle of the climb, but I later found out that his name was Stephen and this was his first brevet.

I told him that I was by no means an expert myself. I had done one poplulaire, and two 200k’s. The first two being on my mountain bike.

For more on my first 200K click here.

Anyway, this was the first real climb out of town, and it was tough. The wind was blowing hard, the rain was pounding. At one point a large tree branch fell in our path. We were in no danger, but it was still a bit of a fright. I also had a major cramp in my left calf. It was so severe that I couldn’t pedal. It was exactly the same feeling as what I used to call a “Charley Horse” where your calf locks up in the middle of the night.

Already hurting, about to climb…
Photo courtesy of Stephen Stalcup

Anyway, I stretched it out as best I could, and was able to keep going. Stephen had passed me, and then looked back, surprised to see me so far back. As I caught up and explained what had happened, he offered to stop. I thought that was very nice of him, but I said I could continue.

My thought at the time was that it was probably due to me not eating. I had eaten on the way to the start, but that was three hours before. My cold hands made me decide to try to wait to Pt. Reyes Station. Dumb move, as I was later to discover as my calf tightened up and spasmed at least three more times before we got to the first control.

As we got near the summit, nature had a cruel trick in store for us that was to be repeated over and over for the rest of the ride. As we got close to the top, the wind increased dramatically. It was almost as if nature were putting it’s own roadblock in the way. The closer we got to the summit, the harder the wind forced against us.

After cresting the top, we started the descent down into Samuel Taylor Park. I’ve been though here twice before, and the road wasn’t great, but somehow it seemed even worse this time. I debated about taking path through the park. I hadn’t done it before, and I was pretty sure I knew where it was, but in light of the conditions, and since I had a new rider counting on me, I decided to just keep on the path.

By this point, I discovered that my 100% waterproof gloves with their seamless design, guaranteed to keep your hands completely dry were not so waterproof. Imagine that. Oh, and my Goretex trail running shoes, also waterproof…. not so much. So my feet and my hands were both sopping wet and freezing cold. Yep, fun stuff.

As I am trudging hard through the park, I hear a loud yell of “TY!” coming behind me. Who do I see but Captain Moonbeam himself, Jack Holmgren, looking very visible indeed with his Mavic vest. I also noticed he added some moonbeam patches to his riding pants. Blinky lights were very visible. I returned his greeting and  I was able to see him for quite a while as he rode past. Jack was also shepherding a new rider, who was also trying his first brevet.

After another pleasant climb and descent, we finally got into Pt. Reyes station for the first control. I spoke to my new riding buddy Stephen and recommended we try the Bovine Bakery,

Unidentified rider trying to warm-up at Bovine Bakery.
Photo courtesy of Manny Acosta

which I had yet to visit. When I had gone there the previous times, it had been jam-packed.  Well, it was worth the wait. The honey almond scone I got was the best scone I had ever tasted, and the coffee was phenomenal. Having soaking wet hands and feet probably helped.

While there, I ran into an old commuting friend from Caltrain named Benz. He was there with a couple of his friends, who were also there for their first brevet. One of them, Felicia, was visibly shaking from the cold and desperately trying to warm up with some hot soup. I felt bad for her. Clearly, she was not having a good time. It’s too bad mother nature had to act like this on a day when we are trying to get new people into the sport.

I filled out my brevet card, got my receipt and got ready to go. Stephen got going as well. Pulling those wet gloves back onto my hands was not pleasant, but as I did, I remembered that my wife Tanya had asked me to take some chemical hand warmers with me. I always thought they were a waste of space, but once I put them in my gloves, a feeling of “OH MY GOD!” came over me as my hands warmed up. It really saved me.

Stephen and I headed out of town and went towards Nicasio. We noticed we had another rider with us, and it was Kristen. She was another first-time rider. She rode with us for about an hour, and was very enthusiastic and cheerful. She even pulled duty for a while blocking the wind up front. I really appreciated it!

We got to the final control in Nicasio, where there already were some riders there, debating about how many windows were in the Guild hall. The consensus with us was four main windows, and one ticket window. I put that as an asterisk on my brevet card. I hope it was acceptable!

Eventually, we got to another climb and my old knees held me up again. She pulled ahead. She looked back, but I waved her on with the universal “We’re ok, you keep going” gesture.

The rain and wind were still going strong as we got to the last little section of Sir Francis Drake and descended back toward the succession of little towns.

Stephen and I kept going and I rarely had to check my cue sheet as it was all pretty familiar. Sure wasn’t the first time I came though last October. I must have gotten lost at least twice in each direction that time!

Finally, the rain started to let up, and I  remember passing a burger joint with probably 12 or so miles go and remarking to Stephen that the smell of that place was remarkable. He said it would probably taste phenomenal, but if we stopped it would be real hard to get moving again. I agreed, and reluctantly we kept moving.

We thought we had clean sailing, but as we started into Sausalito, Stephen got a flat. We stopped and he fixed it in pretty good time.

Shortly thereafter we hit the Sausalito bike trail and a headwind so intense that we might as well have been hill climbing. It was pretty tough. We go through it and then climbed out of Sausalito and hit the Golden Gate Bridge just as the sun came out. To all intents and purposes, it was a beautiful day. I was not expecting that view after the terrible weather we had so far.

Stephen Stalcup on the Golden Gate Bridge

The bridge was packed full of tourists and rental bikes and it was literally the hardest headwind I have ever encountered. It was like hitting a brick wall. After navigating that, we had it down to Crissy Field and rode the last couple of miles to the control.

As we pulled in, we were cheered by the volunteers and other riders that were still there. It was very gratifying and much appreciated. We checked in and turned in our brevet cards and then had some snack.

I saw Jack and Rob and said hello. Kristin was also there, looking tired but pleased and happy that she had pulled off a very big accomplishment. She and Stephen both indicated they would join RUSA and the SF Randonneurs, and I believe they both did.

Thus ended my 51st birthday brevet party! It felt a lot better than sitting around the house eating cake. With the conditions we had, this felt harder than the Two Rock 200K of a month before. Amazing how wind and weather can affect a ride…

Oh, and I did have cake when I got home. Plenty of it, in fact. But hey, I earned it!

Manny Acosta’s populaire photos: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mannyacosta/sets/72157629352076054/with/7035559409/

Stephen Stalcup’s photos: https://plus.google.com/photos/110811135563703635281/albums/5726268187154838913?authkey=CJDs4YXGvPTdlQE&banner=pwa&gpsrc=pwrd1#photos/110811135563703635281/albums/5726268187154838913?authkey=CJDs4YXGvPTdlQE

Commuter Bike Racing, or How to Feel Like a Man in Two Short Minutes!

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I have been guilty of commuter racing for some time now. I think the best part of it is that your opponent is usually unaware of the competition. It makes the inevitable victory so much sweeter…;)

But rarely do I get feedback from any of my valiant adversaries. I was fortunate enough to get such feedback this morning.

I catch a train at 6:14 am in San Mateo, California, which takes me to San Francisco, where I work. From the train station, I have about a two-mile trip to my office. Occasionally, I will engage in a friendly little race to my office. Again, the situation is usually that I come up to some carbon bike, or whatever, at a light and I think to myself “NONE SHALL PASS!” If you have ever seen the Black Knight from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” you know the voice I hear in my head.

I guess I enjoy it because I am riding my steel bike with fenders, front bag, trunk bag, and propeller helmet, and I know I they think I am  slow. I get a very rewarding, and completely underserved, ego boost when I blow by them.

So on the train this morning I engage in conversation with my new commuter friend, Kent. We’re both about the same age (I’m turning 51 this Saturday). Anyway, he noticed the Randonneurs USA logo on the back of my visibility vest, and was curious about the sport.

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Ty's RUSA visibility vest. I wear this always . Every little bit helps!

He  rides a nice carbon road bike with aero bars, and rides pretty regularly, about 40 miles every weekend, and was intrigued. I gave him my “newbie” perspective, and encouraged him to ride in the SF Randonneurs Populaire this Saturday, March 31st.  He is not sure he is quite up for that yet, but does want to learn more about it. I gave him my card, in case he has any questions, or has trouble remembering how to spell “Randonneur” when he searches for more information when he gets to his office.

So the train arrives, we both pack up, and leave separately. He was ahead of me at the first light. When I pulled away he said “Hey! I came up behind you the other day. I thought, ‘I can beat this guy, steel bike, fenders, propeller on the helmet’ … and then I couldn’t keep up! That wasn’t right!”

We both laughed and I told him that I did the same thing with my folding bike, a Bike Friday Tikit http://www.bikefriday.com/bicycles/commuter, as the smaller wheels actually accelerate faster from a stop.

I also told him that  in my opinion, carbon bikes don’t have all that much advantage in the scheme of things. He had asked me earlier if he needed to get a special bike for randonneuring and I had told him that though the classic randonneur bike is steel with fenders, there are plenty of people out there in full carbon bikes, etc.  It is really personal preference.

So yes, I am a commuter racer. I know it is silly, and I know my shrink would probably have something to say about it, but I do try to keep it safe. I don’t blow through red lights, and I don’t cut in and out of traffic. It makes it fun, and also makes the short ride at least a bit of a workout.

Funny thing, but with the randonneurs,  I’m pretty slow, a regular Lantern Rouge. But  on the wild and wooly streets of San Francisco, fighting the commuter biker wars, I’m Lance Armstrong… or maybe Bob Roll?