Getting to know Earl

Thus far 2012 has turned out to be really good for me. I made a career change from restaurant/hotel operations – to restaurant accounting/finance/consulting. Some of the major changes in my life:

  • 8 mile commute
  • rarely a late night
  • weekends off

My 8 mile round trip to the office (sitting on PCH overlooking the ocean) is all downhill from home and all uphill from work. The elevation difference is 520 feet. Two out of four weeks I am pretty much in the office, the other two I am all over the city meeting with our clients at their restaurants. For those times when I am in the office I started to commute by bike, using April, and loved it. The only drawback was the fact that I couldn’t just hop on the bike (cycling shoes, velcro bands to protect work trousers, and so on). Therefor I started looking around for a good commuter and found Earl.

All steel single speed commuting goodness

Meet Earl – a single speed, no-frills all steel commuter bike.

Compared to my 18 pound road bike this thing is a tank, however, only noticeable when lugging it up the stairs to the office. I got Earl in burnt orange, love the color (who knows, with any luck this might add to visibility on the road).Besides,  the color reminds me of my Harley Davidson days, but that is an entirely different story.

I pulled the trigger on Earl yesterday at Helen’s in Santa Monica, after taking a second test ride. Earl has a 17 freewheel cassette or can be flipped for a 16 fixed wheel. (I am riding the freewheel). I wanted to climb 26th from Broadway to San Vicente, just to assure I wouldn’t have any problems with the ‘one’ gear getting up the hill. I did not, and  returned for the purchase. George wrote up the order, threw in the usual goodies that come with a new bike and gave me a 10% discount – Thank you George!!

Today I installed my lights and then decided to get to know Earl a bit better, and while doing so, I had a ball riding this bike. I took some tools along, because I wanted to tweak saddle position and after about 10 miles, I knew I had it dialed in.

I went on a ride I have done many times before on April; from home to Manhatten Beach and back. A beautiful 40 mile loop, especially today with outrageously gorgeous  weather. The difference was the feel of the ride – “liberating” comes to mind!

The upright riding position, the absence of cycling gear, just shorts, t-shirt, sneakers – cruising along, one gear only, no shifting. This was the most fun I had on a ride in a long time. I probably exhibited a child like behavior, i.e. weaving, whistling, grinning and sometimes racing the geared bikes until I spun out.

OK, now you met Earl, he’ll be a steady commuter companion, farmers market ride, grocery store and coffee run companion. Earl will likely put a couple of more pounds on him over time (fenders, rack, etc) and after a while I am sure will have some battle bruises. But, I am sure he’ll be very low maintenance – ideal for a commuter bike.

Posted in Cycling, Exercise | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

June Lake Loop Hiking

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.  ~John Muir, 1913, in L.M. Wolfe, ed., John Muir, John of the Mountains: The Unpublished Journals of John Muir, 1938

 

 

A look back onto Silver LakeMany of you know that for me a trip to the Eastern Sierras is mandatory at least once a year. My absolute favorite destination is Gull Lake, located on the June Lake Loop. Our cousin owns a cabin and we are able to rent it with a bit of advance notice. Our prefered time is the weekend after Labor Day, the masses are gone and the majestic landscape is almost exclusively ours. The weather usually also cooperates and often the fall colors are already in full swing.
 
The Saturday after Labor Day also marks the day of the annual Eastern Sierra Fall Century ride. This is a spectacular 96 mile ride at high elevation, a ride I have done twice and plan on doing many more times (here is a bit more detail about the ride). However, coming up here is not only about cycling. The area has streams, brooks  and lakes which all offer spectacular fly fishing, especially this late in the season. 
 
I love Rush Creek for dry fly fishing and have had superb luck float tubing Silver Lake using my hand tied wooley buggers and matukas. When you are tired of cycling and fishing, you can always go hiking. There are abundend trail heads off the June Lake Loop road. Just assure you have a good trail map and always pack survival essentials. The absence of crowds will make for very limited back country interactions, and the solitude can work against you if you are not prepared. Of course, always let someone know where you go and when you are expecting to be back. 
 
 

One of my favorite trails is off the Silver Lake pack station and is called Rush Creek trail. Rush Creek follows the historic hydroelectric project, past the Agnew, Gem and Waugh Lake reservoirs, into the high elevations of the “Range of Light” area in the Ansel Adams wilderness. It joins with the John Muir Trail (a section of the Pacific Crest Trail), providing access to the entire length of the Sierra Nevada. Branching off from the Rush Creek Trail are the Spooky Meadows trail, which leads to the Clark Lakes in the Agnew Pass area, and the Gem Pass Trail which goes to the Alger Lakes and connects with Koip Peak Pass.  What I like most about this trail is that you can make it as short or as long of a hike as you want. To reach the first pass requires about a 1 1/2 hour hike, so at a minimum it is 3 hours out and back, but it can easily be a full day hike or an overnight trip. If you are ever in the area and have some time, take a day off the bike and start exploring – you will not regret it. 

 

Posted in Century, Cycling, Eastern Sierras, epicRides, Hiking | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Latigo Canyon – a New Year’s ride

Originally I declined to participate in a ride for Monday, January 2nd with my good friend @roadchickie, which was to take place somewhere in Santa Clarita. My mind was elsewhere, but once I realized that everyone was still on a Holiday on Monday and none of my anticipated events would occur, I changed my mind. (yes, men can do that too!)
As it turns out @roadchickie had to bail out of her ride plans, so @M2Tiguy and I connected for a ride up the coast to Latigo Canyon from Santa Monica. You should follow the bail out link above for a good story and an amazing blog banner picture. Continue reading

Posted in Garmin Edge 705, scattante, Training | Tagged , , , ,

The battle of the earbuds

The following is a run down of three different earbuds and my likes and dislikes about them. The entire article will only be useful to you if you believe in wearing earbuds while riding. If you are in the camp of “I never wear earbuds while riding” reading on might prove as a waste of your time. If you enjoy listening to music or podcasts on occasion like I do, you might find  my experience helpful.

Here are the three products with links to their respective websites

Apple in-ear headphones – average cost ~ $70

One good earbud – average cost ~ $30

ZAGGsmartbuds – average cost ~ $50

You will notice that all three have one thing in common: they are in-ear buds. For some reason my ears cannot accomodate the traditional earbuds you get with every phone purchase (like the ones in the header picture), they simple will not hold.

By the way, everyone in the world is putting out the “BEST of this and that”, and this little write up is not meant to establish the “BEST of” (clearly I am lacking a lot of other good brands to do that), it is simply geared to share the good and the ugly of every day use.

Apple in-ear-buds

Let’s start with Apple’s in-ear buds. This was my first purchase  several years back to replace the standard ear phones which came with the iPhone.

Pro: 3 different sizes of interchangeable ear buds, excellent quality volume controls, pause/stop music and call pickup, build-in microphone. High quality craftsmanship.

Con: pricy, cord easily tangles

Overall I really liked these and if I had not accidentally washed and dried them with my jersey, I likely would still use them. I guess the wash and rinse cycle was too much for the volume control switch. I am not faulting the product, clearly they are not designed to be tumbled in sudsy water for half an hour.

One good earbud

One Good Earbud – this was my second purchase about a year ago. I was really drawn to the fact that this company runs a stereo feed into the one earbud. I like the fact that my left ear is always tuned to the traffic coming up behind me, while still enjoying very good sound quality in my right ear.

Pro: 3 different sizes interchangeable earbuds, playback, stop/pause, call pickup, build-in microphone. The fact that only one ear is tuned to music/pod cast and the other one is tuned to traffic, while having very good sound quality makes this product stand out.

Con: controls do not feel as high quality as Apple’s, but in fairness the One good earbud is $40 less expensive. After about one year of wear (mostly in the car) the housing holding the earbud is separating from it. I am pretty sure crazy glue will fix that, but I did not expect it and I am a bit disappointed. Cord tangles easily.

ZAGGsmartbuds

ZAGGsmartbuds are my most recent earbuds. I got these little beauties as a bonus during one of the Christmas online promo’s when I purchased the ZAGGfolio for my iPad. In other words, the price WAS really right. What sets these earbuds aside is the unique tangle free cord design (more on that in just a bit) and a great sound quality.

Pro:3 different sizes of interchangeable ear buds,  quality volume control, pause/stop music and call pickup, build-in microphone. Tangle free cord with a specific slider alignement called ‘Hangin’ Tight’, which really proves perfect for cyclists. (no dropping your earbud into the chain rings).

Hangin' Tight slider design

Con: volume control could use a bit more resistance when adjusting. In the beginning I almost blew out my eardrums a couple of times before I got used to how easily the volume slider moves.

SUMMARY:

For me, the ZAGGsmartbuds are the one’s I like best. They deliver excellent sound, are secure and don’t tangle up. At the $50 price point they also are a very good value. ZAGG is very active on Twitter @ZAGGdaily and FB, and they often run specials where you can pick these up at a fraction of the normal price.

I’d like to know what you wear on your long rides and comments are welcome.

Posted in Cycling

Not Los Flores Canyon again??

Since I received a message from @M2Tiguy in his best Schwarzenegger imitation (he is a natural at that) stating: “WE WILL RIDE HILLS, NO WHINING!!! – YOU CHOOSE!!” – I figured, what the heck, it may as well be my nemesis Los Flores again. The original plan was Santa Monica, Los Flores, Schueren, Stunt, Mulholland, Old Topanga, Santa Monica.

I am not going to do a ride description, since I just posted one last week. However, since this is my first serious ride with Arnold a.k.a Kurt a.k.a @M2Tiguy, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to tell the story.

The story is really about Kurt. You see, when you don’t see someone for about a year you find out that many things change. In Kurt’s case, his fitness has dramatically improved. When I saw him for the first time last week I was struck by how much weight he took off. You can’t call him lean, because that is not his body type. He is a big guy, but he is a very fit big guy. According to him he is not yet done with his goals and plans to take off a little more weight.  By the way, I am not exaggerating and for those who don’t believe open the gallery to see a side by side comparison and what 14 months of training and sensible eating can do.

September 2010 at Eastern Fall Sierra

December 2011 at Beach Ride

Back to our ride, Kurt rode from Manhattan Beach to meet me in Santa Monica and we continued from there up the coast. Sadly on the first downhill he lost his “One good Earbud“, but luckily this was the only casualty for the day. Besides, he gets to upgrade to the latest version!

To warm up the legs we decided to ride up Chautauqua road to Pacific Palisades and use Sunset to get to PCH. This road is not long (about a mile) but steep (12% to 15%). Seeing Kurt just leisurely cruise away from me put my own pathetic fitness level into perspective, and it will take a long time for me to catch up with him, if ever. You see, he takes it to the next level, i.e. cross training, weight lifting, cycle trainers etc. I don’t think I am that motivated, I just want to return to a strong fitness level which allows me to say with confidence: “let’s ride a 100″ without having to doubt my ability to finish.

Back to our ride, Los Flores as usual was/is a hard climb. I can’t even imagine riding with Kurt’s setup, i.e. a 24 in the back, but he was grinding big gears all the way up, disappearing out of my sight ever so often. I am not sure if he got bored at one time or just took pity on me and said this was too steep for his gearing and he rather turn back (this was his first time up this canyon). But he selected a bad spot for that statement, because I knew that just after the next hairpin the grade will come down from the high double digits to low double digits. By the time I reached the top, his sweat was already dried and he had a nice nap.

Schueren/Stunt intersection atop Saddle Peak mountain

I bailed out of the Stunt/Mulholland/Old Topanga route continuation, and we took Fernwood instead. Kurt also has a new toy – a great outdoor HD camera, which mounts on his stem and the following movie is a section of the Topanga downhill ride. The movie is about 9 minutes long and fun to watch, with the exception of a segment around the 8 minute 17 second mark, where a car almost takes him out. You will see how close this driver buzzed him – very scary!

Untitled from kurt schweter on Vimeo.

We rolled back into Santa Monica on a stunningly beautiful Christmas Eve day. Time on two wheels well spend with a good friend!

Merry Christmas everyone!!

Posted in Cycling, Training | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

A tale of the two stooges…

Boys will be boys, and so will a lot of middle-aged men

Following yesterday’s ride a light coffee run ride seemed the best way to go. Kurt a.k.a. @M2Tiguy and I connected last night and the plan was to meet at the bridge in Playa del Rey around 10 am. We agreed that I would contact him when I leave home. Fast forward to this morning. At around 9 am I texted him that I would be leaving in about 10 minutes. We both live about an equal distance to the bridge, Kurt is South of and I am to the North.

I rolled out on time and started out with easy spinning, trying to get my legs to cooperate, and after a mile or so it felt better. My butt however was not so happy today – amazing what a year absence does to your body. The weather was gorgeous (but chilly) and I am glad I put knee- and arm warmers on. Riding with long finger gloves also added to the comfort. About halfway to the bridge I ran into a group of Southbay Wheelmen riders at a stop light and asked them if I could jump on. None of them had a problem and I got a very nice pull all the way to my destination. We waved good bye and I thanked them, when I hear my phone ring.

The "bridge" in Playa del Rey

I couldn’t fumble my phone out quick enough and was left listening to a message: “hey, I just saw your text, I’ll leave right away……!” I returned the call to voice mail stating that I would continue South and that I will stay on the bike path, so not to miss each other.

About 7 minutes later the phone rings again:

Kurt: “Hey man, where are you?”

Me:” approaching Dockweiler”

Kurt: “ah, so take the street that runs parallel to the path and then when you come to the turn you take a sharp right, you on whatyoumacall it street”

Me:”HUH?”

Kurt: “well you know the street we used to take”

Me: “OK – I think I know – see you shortly”

..and so I proceeded South on what I thought was the street we were talking about and by the time I hit 56th and Ocean in Manhatten Beach I called Kurt back.

Me: “so, I am at 56th and Ocean”

Kurt: “Where is that?”

Me: “Dude, I don’t know – you will down here. All I know I am South of the plant and maybe half a mile away from the pier”

Kurt: “ahh, so you must have already passed the divider when we last talked”

Me: “what divider”

Kurt: “never mind, lets meet at the pier”

And that is when we finally met up. It really was a joy to see Kurt today. We have not seen each other in over a year and I have to say he went through some changes for the better. You see, Kurt is a BIG guy, as in tall and build – AND – he lost a lot of weight in his mid section. He always had strong legs, but now they are the size of tree trunks. This combo does him well – he looks (and rides) solid. Here is a picture to proof it (make sure to zoom in)

Kurt a.k.a @M2Tiguy - great company any day

We spent a good deal of time at a coffee shop in Hermosa Beach to catch up on each other, then he rode back with me to Santa Monica, where he needed to turn around. There was a time when we were pretty evenly matched riders. It will be a while for me to return to that level, but I sure look forward to riding with Kurt.

Posted in Cycling | 2 Comments

Los Flores Canyon and I

Amazing – almost a year has passed since my last blog entry, and it was not for the lack of trying. I simply did not have anything I cared to share on this blog. I started a new job in January and it was all consuming. The chapter is closed now and I am trying to pick up the fitness pieces, which are in shambles.

Luckily I did not lose all of my friends along the way and @roadchickie was kind enough to drag my sorry butt up Stunt road last weekend. You can read a ride description on her blog http://mydogparty.blogspot.com/2011/12/i-cant-describe-my-joy.html . I am really grateful that she brought the whip with her and chased me up that hill. Reaching the top of Stunt Canyon kindled a renewed fire to get back into shape. Eleven months off the bike, no real exercise to speak off have left me soft and without power. But, I am going to change that, and since I know I already did it once, I know I will succeed.

Perfect Riding Conditions

Fast forward to today. My friend @M2Tiguy got sick earlier in the week and is floating high on medication. Our planned ride up the coast and Latigo canyon would not be. I figured earlier in the morning that I will do the ride by myself. I checked the weather earlier and it looked just about perfect. So I got my gear together, and  because I am a spoiled So Cal rider 54 degrees is cold, I packed a couple of layers, just in case.

I had every intention to ride up Latigo, but about 11 miles into the ride I approached the turn to Los Flores Canyon. I have a love/hate relationship with this canyon (you can read about it here), but then the thought occurred to me, that this would be a perfect balance to last Saturday’s ride. You see the end of the Los Flores Canyon intersects with the end of Stunt Canyon – serendipity, I had to do it. So I swung a right and let the climbing begin.

PCH - Los Flores Cyn - Fernwood Cyn - PCH loop

This is a 36 mile loop from my house with 3200 feet of climbing, most of it up Los Flores, which is mostly in the lower teens grade percentage, but has a number of sections which are in the upper teens, and a couple break the 20% grade barrier. Let me just say that there were a number of times I had to take a break and about half way up it started to rain. How did I miss that in the forecast? Of course, immediately I hear that little voice “ah, it’s raining, probably a sign to turn around”.

Ha, I did not – I challenged that little voice and when I needed a break I told myself I am doing that to snap some pictures (such a liar). In the end it worked out and I am reminded how challenging that canyon road is. Good news is, that the lower portion is repaved and has nice shiny new tarmac. At the top I decided to return via Fernwood canyon for different scenery, but the constant rain made that decent very technical. No time to take photos, just paying attention to the rode and keeping the rubber down.

My legs are toast and the hot shower felt incredible. But the best part of cycling is the way how great you feel when you come home – nothing compares to it. Below are some images from today’s ride.

about 1/3 up Los Flores - looking at the Pacific

I forgot how steep it gets

It is starting to sprinkle

Raining now and it is slick

A welcome sight - top of Los Flores LA County Fire post

The climb continues up Rambla Pacifico and Schuren

On Top - Stunt and Schuren meet - it got really dark there for a while

The Pacific Ocean and the sky blend into each other

Posted in Cycling | 5 Comments